Thursday, 3 January 2019
…how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Hebrews 9:14
These words contrast what was just stated in the previous verse. The author had started to pose the question, “For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh…” Now he asks a contrasting question beginning with “how much more shall the blood of Christ.”
The rites of the Old Covenant were symbolic in nature, and they were simply external rites intended to purify externally. Further, this was done with sacrificial animals. They are brute beasts, and in a completely different category than a human being. Thus, they were actually ineffectual in doing anything more than symbolically representing what lay ahead in Christ. This will be made explicit in Chapter 10. However, under the New Covenant, Christ’s blood was shed.
He was (and is) innocent, He is in the same category (being human), and He voluntarily gave Himself in exchange for the sins of others. The supremacy of Christ’s work is on a completely different level. Further, this offering was made “through the eternal Spirit.” The Greek has no definite article, and – though debated among scholars – it is most likely not speaking of the Holy Spirit, who is never designated this way in Scripture. Thus it should more likely read, “through an eternal spirit.”
The word dia, or through, is used to convey the thought that Christ offered Himself through His nature as a human being, set apart unto holiness. To understand the contrast between the animals offered and the offering of Christ, one can refer to the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3:21 –
“Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth?”
The spirit of man is contrasted to that of the animals in Ecclesiastes, and that is built upon by the author of Hebrews here by comparing the “blood of bulls and goats” (9:13) to “the blood of Christ” (9:14). To this thought is added that of the perfection of Christ as has been detailed in the gospels, explained in the epistles, and which has continued to be minutely detailed here in the book of Hebrews. It is this eternal Spirit by which Christ existed, performed His earthly role, gave His life, and was resurrected to never die again. That is contrasted to a mere animal which lives as an animal, dies as an animal, and which is then gone from the stream of existence. It is through this eternal Spirit by which Christ “offered Himself without spot to God.”
The words, “without spot,” speak of perfection. In the Mosaic Law, animals were inspected for purity. If there was any spot or blemish on them, they were not to be sacrificed for the sins of the people. However, the record of Christ’s life shows that He was (and is) perfect in all ways. Thus, the sacrifice of Himself “to God” was perfectly acceptable to accomplish the fulfillment of all of the rites and rituals which symbolically only looked forward to His perfection. This is recorded, explicitly, by Peter –
“And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” 1 Peter 1:17-19
And so, with understanding this infinite difference in the blood that is shed by Christ, we can complete the question the author is proposing. If the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more can the contrasting shed blood of Christ “cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” The answer must be “completely and wholly.” It is a one-time for all-time cleansing. Nothing can undo it, and it is fully sufficient to carry the one who receives His offering past the cherubim, through the veil, and into God’s paradise once again. All of the symbolism of the sanctuary looked forward to Christ’s coming, and His work of restoring us – once and forever – to God.
Life application: In Chapter 5 of the book of Romans, Paul says five times “much more” concerning the superlative work of Christ in regards to how it brings us near to God once again. Christ Jesus is superior to all things in all ways, including those blood sacrifices of the Old Testament. The people were outwardly cleansed by their participation in Old Covenant services, but with Christ, we are cleansed both outwardly and inwardly – from our dead works. Any sin causes separation from God and, therefore, man stands utterly condemned in the presence of pure holiness. But Christ placed Himself in the gap and presented His blood on our behalf. God accepted this and we now have complete peace with Him, if only we accept by faith what Jesus did. Are you ready to stop trying to please God on your own merits and good deeds and simply hand your life over to Christ? In Him, there is complete healing and restoration. Or, if you’ve come to Christ, are you still consciously carrying around the guilt of past sins? Let them go! We don’t want to forget where we’ve come from or the place we once were, but we also don’t need to continually bear the weight of our sins which have been washed away. Instead, have peace that Jesus Christ has truly – once and for all – cleared our guilty consciences and taken away the stains. And then… give a shout? Whoo hoo!
Lord God Almighty, we are cleansed – wholly, completely, and forever – through the shed blood of Christ. And so why, Lord, do we continually bring up our past sin which has been purified and forgiven through His work? Help us to never forget where we came from, but help us to know for sure that we are freed from what we did while we were there. In Christ, there is life anew! Let us never assume that our sins were of greater magnitude than the cleansing power of Christ. Amen.