THE POWER OF THE CROSS
OUR CONSCIENCES CLEANSED FROM DEAD WORKS
The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ who, through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God. (Heb. 9: 13-14)
“The law of God given to Moses is a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that the Israelites’ behaviour reflected their status as God’s chosen people. It encompasses moral behaviour, their position as a godly example to other nations, and systematic procedures for acknowledging God’s holiness and mankind’s sinfulness. In an attempt to better understand the purpose of these laws, Jews and Christians categorize them. This has led to the distinction between moral law, ceremonial law, and judicial law.”
http://www.gotquestions.org/ceremonial-law.html (- retrieved October 2015)
According to the writer to the Hebrews, the sacrifices prescribed in the Mosaic Law could do no more than remove their guilt for transgressing the ceremonial law. Let’s look at an example. A woman has a baby – which involves the shedding of blood. There is nothing morally wrong with giving birth but, because she bled, she became ceremonially unclean because the shedding of blood was contrary to God’s perfection. She, therefore, was obligated to offer a sacrifice to remove her ceremonial impurity.
All the animal sacrifices prescribed for every condition and every transgression in the old covenant served one of two purposes; firstly, they covered ceremonial guilt but could not change the status of the worshipper. No matter how many sacrifices they offered, they could not approach God except through a priest who was their designated mediator, because of sin. Secondly, they reminded the worshipper of the barrier of sin that separated him from a holy God.
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. . . But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sin. (Heb. 10: 1; 3)
Animal sacrifices were a foreshadowing of something much better that was to come.
What are the “acts that lead to death”, to which the writer refers? Sin can be both the things we do, say or even think that transgress God’s absolute perfection and the so-called “good works” we do to try to gain God’s favour. In His mercy God intervened to change our status before Him by sending His own Son to take our place. He came under judgment for our sin and paid our debt by submitting to death although He had no guilt of His own.
Jesus was born of a human mother, but He was not conceived by a human father but by the Holy Spirit. He became the “last Adam”, without sin, but subject to our human condition in a fallen world so that he could prove His love for the Father as a son by living in perfect submission and obedience to Him. After 33 years of sinless living, He gave up His life by being executed on the cross – condemned as a criminal, but not guilty.
His death became an atoning sacrifice for all people, for all sin, for all time. He is the only human being who ever died as punishment for sin He did not commit, qualifying Him to be the Saviour of the world.
The human problem is that we are not only guilty of transgressing God’s laws and His holy nature, but we are also guilty of believing that we can balance our sin by doing “good works” which we think will satisfy God’s justice. How can a murderer hope to make amends for his crime by doing community service for a prescribed length of time? No amount of “doing good”will make up for taking a life. The law demands appropriate punishment for the crime. But we apply that kind of cock-eyed thinking to God!
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are as filthy rags . . . (Isa. 64: 6)
God demands the death of the sinner and no amount of “community service” will take away the guilt of our sin. The problem is that we are already dead because sin has killed us. So it’s not a case of balancing our bad deeds with good deeds. No amount of good deeds will bring us back to life.
But, because of His love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions . . . (Eph. 2: 4)
We have been declared “not guilty” because our debt has been paid and our sentence carried out by Jesus. We now have a clean conscience and a clean slate and can approach the Father acceptably because we have peace with God (Rom. 5: 1)
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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