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Hebrews Chapters 8-10: "We Have Been Sanctified" Through the Better Sacrifice, Part 5
by Karl Kemp
1/16/2015 / Bible Studies
We continue this verse-by-verse study of Hebrews chapters 8-10 here in Part 5, starting with Heb. 9:14.
(14) how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit [[I prefer the translation in the margin of the NASB: "His eternal spirit." I believe these words speak of the eternal spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, who always existed with God the Father (and the Holy Spirit). The Sacrifice of the Lamb of God was not just offered in the dimension of the flesh (the physical) - it was offered in the eternal, spiritual dimension. This was, to say the least, a totally effective, totally worthy, voluntary Sacrifice that has the power to totally save all believers with a very full salvation that ultimately includes our being glorified and beginning to reign with the Lord Jesus, and to totally remove the devil and all who follow him from God's universe and kingdom forever (cf., e.g., John 12:31, 33; Heb. 2:14).]] offered Himself [The voluntary nature of Christ's Sacrifice is a very important feature of His all-important atoning death (cf., e.g., John 10:11-18).] without blemish to God [[The old-covenant sacrificial animals had to be without blemish in the physical dimension. The Lamb of God had to be perfect in the spiritual, eternal dimension, which included His being the unique Son of God who condescended, in the will of God, to become a man (but not just a man; He never ceased being deity, God the Son, and He was not spiritually dead), and He was totally without sin (cf., e.g., 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 7:26).]], cleanse your conscience [[The verb "cleanse" here builds on "the cleansing" of verse 13, but whereas the cleansing of verse 13 was primarily external (of the flesh), the cleansing here in verse 14 is primarily internal of the heart/conscience in the spiritual dimension. Significantly, the Greek verb ("katharizo") translated "cleanse" is frequently used of a transforming, sanctifying cleansing in the New Testament (see Acts 15:9; 2 Cor. 7:1; Eph. 5:26; Titus 2:14; James 4:8; and 1 John 1:7, 9). This is extremely important, but I find that large numbers of evangelical Christians have very little, if any, knowledge of this fact, and several similar facts. (Christians typically only speak of being cleansed of the guilt of sin.) The blood of Christ (His all-important atoning death) is a lot more powerful than many (or most) Christians realize. God hates sin, and He paid an infinite price in the incarnation and sacrifice of His Unique Son to, for one super-important thing, cleanse believers from being sinners, enabling them to walk in the righteousness and holiness of God with the victory over all sin.
Hebrews 9:9 shows that the old-covenant sacrifices could not "make the worshiper perfect in conscience." (Compare Heb. 10:2. See under Heb. 9:9 above.) The sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, by contrast, solved the sin, spiritual death, Satan problem (cf., e.g., Heb. 9:26 ["...He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself"; this included forgiveness, but "to put away sin" is a lot more than that, as we will discuss). As Heb. 10:22 says, "our hearts [have been] sprinkled clean from an evil conscience [Greek "suneidesis"; same Greek noun used in Heb. 9:9, 14 and 10:2]." The conscience being cleansed here is to be contrasted with Heb. 9:9, which mentions that the old-covenant gifts and sacrifices were not able to "make the worshipper perfect in conscience."]] from dead works [[The "dead works" were the "works" of those still in spiritual "death" ("works" of the flesh/old man; works apart from the indwelling Spirit of life and holiness who dwells in born-again Christians). All sins are dead works, but the ceremonial works of the old covenant were dead works too. Hebrews 6:1 speaks of "repentance from dead works." The "dead works" of Heb. 6:1 has essentially the same meaning as here in Heb. 9:14. It is significant that the recipients of this epistle were being tempted to return to the ceremonial works of the old covenant (cf., e.g., Heb. 13:8-16).
The idea of cleansing from the defilement of contact with physical death is included in Heb. 9:13. The cleansing of the conscience [heart, inner man] "from dead works" here in 9:14 probably builds on the cleansing from death in 9:13. The cleansing of the conscience is included in the "eternal redemption" of Heb. 9:12 and the "new-covenant" salvation mentioned in Heb. 9:15.
The cleansing of the conscience from dead works includes the forgiveness of sins (cf. Heb. 8:12), the new birth, the writing of God's laws on hearts and minds (cf. Heb. 8:10) and the transformation to a state of righteousness and holiness. Since sin has been put away (e.g., Heb. 9:26), the worshippers have no more consciousness of sins (cf., e.g., Heb. 9:9; 10:2; contrast 10:4). For Christians to have a clear conscience is a lot more than the knowledge of the forgiveness of the guilt of sin; we must also know that we have spiritual life, that we have been set free from bondage to sin and are enabled and committed to walk in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God. If we should sin, we can, and should, have a clear conscience after we have repented and been forgiven through the atoning death of Christ Jesus (cf., e.g., 1 John 2:1, 2), but we must make it top priority to avoid all sin; we must aim at that target; it is not OK to leave any room for sin. God hates sin! He paid an infinite price to give us the total victory over sin.
I'll quote a few sentences from what Gareth Lee Cockerill ("Epistle to the Hebrews" [Eerdmans, 2012], pages 400, 401) says here: "By cleansing God's people from sin the blood of Christ delivers them from the wrath of God, enables them to enter the true Sanctuary of God's presence, and empowers them to walk in obedient fellowship with him. [He has a footnote here, which I won't quote.] ... Any cleansing that does not deal with the hardened, 'evil unbelieving heart' (3:12; cf. 3:8-10) will not suffice. 'Cleansing' the conscience and 'perfecting' (v. 9 above) the conscience refer to the same reality. ... ...this cleansing [the cleansing provided by God in Christ] purges the true inner person of believers so that they can 'serve' or obey 'the living God.' Thus, the dead works so purged will be replaced by God's 'laws' (10:15-18) written on the heart, empowering the cleansed for obedient living. Christ's sacrifice achieves a true inner moral and spiritual transformation that results in an obedient life in reliance on God."
I'll quote part a small part of what F. F. Bruce ("Epistle to the Hebrews" [Eerdmans, 1964], page 207) says here: "so that men and women, emancipated from inward bondage, can worship God in spirit and in truth [cf. John 4:23]. This is the perfection which the ancient ceremonial was unable to achieve."]] to serve the living God? [[To adequately know and serve "the [Righteous and Holy] living God" we must be born again and cleansed from sin and dead works. In the ideal, we will live in an abiding state of the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God through the sufficient grace of God in Christ. God paid an infinite price to save us, and He hates sin.
I'll quote part of what John Wesley says here ("Explanatory Notes" [Schmul Publishers reprint, Wesley's date 1754], page 581): " 'purge our conscience' - Our inmost soul, 'from dead works' - From all the inward and outward works of the devil, which spring from spiritual death in the soul, and lead to death everlasting; 'to serve the living God' - In the life of faith, in perfect love, and spotless holiness!"]] (15) For this reason [For the reason that the old covenant could not dethrone spiritual death and sin (cf., e.g., Heb. 9:9, 10; 10:1-4).] He is the mediator of a new covenant [[I'll quote part of what F. Delitzsch said here ("Epistle to the Hebrews" [Klock and Klock reprint, originally published in 1871], page 99): " 'On this very account,' viz. [that is] that the blood of Christ has an inwardly purifying power, and such as was wholly wanting in the sacrifices and purification of the law, even then for this very reason He is [mediator of a new covenant]. The emphasis lies on [new], and the sentence might accordingly be thus inverted: the [covenant] of which Christ is [mediator] must therefore be a new one...."]], so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of [from] the transgressions [with the guilt and the penalties] that were committed under the first covenant [[I would translate "redemption from" with the NIV. As we have discussed, the old-covenant sacrifices (including those on the Day of Atonement) could not atone for, and take away, the rebellious, defiant transgressions with the guilt and the penalties. Much more important (even though the writer of Hebrews doesn't clearly make this super-important point) is the fact that the old covenant, with its sacrifices, etc., could not atone for, or take away, the transgression of Adam with the condemnation that includes spiritual death and bondage to sin for Adam and all of his descendants, who were born outside of the Garden of Eden (cf. Rom. 5:12-21). The atoning Sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ had no such limitations. He bore all our sins with the guilt and the penalties back to Adam and Eve and redeemed us out of the state of being spiritually dead and in bondage to sin and demons. You don't have to believe in demons to be influenced by them and in bondage to them.]], those who have been called [[I'll quote a paragraph from what I said under Romans 8:28 (in the paper on my internet site that includes Rom. 8:16-39) that deals with our being called by God. (We desperately need the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches.): It is Biblical (and important) to say that God calls all mankind to repent and to submit to the gospel in faith (e.g., Mark 16:15, 16; Luke 24:47; John 3:16-21, 36; Acts 17:30, 31; 2 Thess. 1:8, 9; 1 Tim. 2:4-7; and 1 Peter 4:17). The word "call" is used in this full sense in Matt. 22:14 (the "inviting" of Matt. 22:3-13 is the same as the "call" of 22:14). The word "call," however, is normally used in a special, limited sense in the New Testament, as it is here in Rom. 8:28, 30, of God's "calling" of His chosen/elect ones (e.g., Acts 2:39; Rom. 1:6; 9:24; 1 Cor. 1:9, 24; 1 Thess. 2:12; 2 Thess. 2:14; and Heb. 9:15; cf., e.g., Eph. 1:4; Rev. 13:8; and 17:8).
This epistle was written to Jewish Christians. It is not surprising, therefore, that the writer of Hebrews mentioned "the redemption from the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant [the old covenant]." For one thing it was/is important to understand that the old-covenant sacrifices did not atone for transgressions that were deliberate, defiant, with a high hand. The writer of Hebrews did not mention the Lamb of God offering redemption for the transgressions of Gentiles here; however, we can be thankful that the New Testament makes it super-clear that the Lamb of God bore all of the sins/transgressions of the Gentiles too, with the guilt and the penalties (including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin). I didn't say that Jesus died spiritually; He didn't. I wrote an article, "Did Jesus Die Spiritually?" that is on my internet site. And I dealt extensively with that topic in my paper, "Shall We Write Off Kenneth E. Hagin? Dave Hunt? How About E. W. Kenyon? that is on my internet site.]] may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. [[That is, that we may receive the "eternal inheritance" that was promised. The "eternal inheritance" starts (in a very real sense) when we are born again and inherit the first stage of eternal life (cf., e.g., John 3:16, 36; 5:24; 1 John 5:13). At the end of this age we will be born into the fullness of eternal life and glorified. (On this birth into the fullness of eternal live, see under Rev. 12:5 in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture," and my recently published e-book, "Introduction to the Mid-Week Rapture." Both books are available at amazon.com. You should read the e-book first, but the paperback book contains much information that is not included in the e-book.)]] (16) For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. [Here in verse 16 and in verse 17 the writer of Hebrews builds on the fact that the Greek noun ("diatheke") that is translated "covenant" can also be translated "will." The NIV translates "will" in both verses.] (17) For a covenant ["will" NIV] is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives. (18) Therefore even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood. [The writer goes on in verses 19-23 to show that the old covenant, the covenant of Mt. Sinai, was inaugurated with the blood of sacrificial offerings. See Ex. 24:1-8.] (19) For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law [I'll quote Ex. 24:3, "Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the LORD [Yahweh] and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, 'All the words which the LORD [Yahweh] has spoken we will do!' "], he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people [[I'll quote Ex. 24:8, "So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, 'Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD [Yahweh] has made with you in accordance with all these words.' "]], (20) saying, 'This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you.' (21) And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood. (22) And according to the Law, one may almost say [[Leviticus 5:11-13 show that if a person was too poor to offer two turtledoves or two young pigeons they could bring "the tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering" and "the priest shall make atonement for him concerning his sin which he has committed from one of these [see Lev. 5:1-4], and it will be forgiven him."]], all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness [Greek noun "aphesis"]. [[I'll quote Lev. 17:11, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement." The Greek noun "aphesis" is extremely important, but it is not adequately translated or understood by most Christians in quite a few verses of the New Testament. This noun is typically translated "forgiveness" or "remission," which is typically understood to mean forgiveness, and forgiveness is typically understood to mean the cancellation of the guilt of sin and a right (positional, legal) standing with God. There are verses in the New Testament where forgiveness, or the equivalent, is satisfactory, but there are quite a few verses where this translation is totally inadequate. I devoted a chapter in my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ," to the much fuller meaning of aphesis in quite a few super-important verses of the New Testament. I also dealt with the meaning of aphesis, but in lesser detail, in my recently published e-book, "Righteousness, Holiness, and Victory Over Sin." The e-book serves as an introduction to the paperback book and should normally be read first. (Both books are available at amazon.com.)
I'll use Eph. 1:7 for an example where forgiveness as cancellation of the guilt of sin for the meaning of aphesis is totally inadequate. (The use of aphesis in Col. 1:14 is very similar to its use in Eph. 1:7, and one of the most important uses of aphesis is in Heb. 10:18, which we will discuss when we come to that verse. These three verses and others are discussed in both of my books that I mentioned.) I'll quote EPHESIANS 1:7 (NASB) with some comments, "In Him we have redemption [I would translate "the redemption"; the definite article is included in the Greek; this is the super-important redemption that was prophesied in the Old Testament and is at the heart of new-covenant salvation] through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace." ((There is a lot of way-out-of-balance teaching about "grace" in our day. We must understand that God's saving grace in Christ includes the authority and power for Christians to walk in the righteousness and holiness of God. That authority and power come by God's grace as much as His forgiveness comes by His grace. (Grace means freely given, not earned; it comes as a gift.) We are not given the option to accept the grace of forgiveness while skipping the grace that enables us to live for God in His righteousness and holiness, with the victory over sin. That is a gigantic misunderstanding of what new-covenant salvation is all about. God hates sin and He paid an infinite price to set us free from bondage to sin.))
As I discuss in my two books that I mentioned above, "aphesis" should be translated "release" or the equivalent in Eph. 1:7 (as it is used twice in Luke 4:18): We are released from our trespasses with the guilt (which is the equivalent of forgiveness) and with the penalties, including being released from the major penalties of spiritual death (which results in our being born again and being indwelled by the Holy Spirit of life) and from bondage to sin (which enables us to walk in the righteousness and holiness of God with the victory over sin). Instead of "the forgiveness of trespasses" in Eph. 1:7, I would translate as follows (or the equivalent): "the release from our trespasses with the guilt and the penalties (including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin)." This makes a super-gigantic difference! Since He bore our spiritual death, we can be born again and indwelled by the Holy Spirit of life, and since He bore out bondage to sin, we can walk in the righteousness and holiness of God with the victory over all sin.
The words "being released from our trespasses with the guilt and the penalties (including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin)" follow the words "the redemption through His blood" in Eph. 1:7, and they expand on the meaning of this redemption. Redemption includes being bought out of the kingdom of sin, spiritual death, and Satan. It certainly means a whole lot more than being forgiven (using the word forgiven the way it typically is used by Christians, the cancellation of the guilt of sin). However, because of a misunderstanding regarding Eph. 1:7 (and other misunderstandings) many in our day define "redemption" as "forgiveness," which is a very serious distortion of the meaning of redemption and lends itself to the very serious error of putting most of the emphasis on being forgiven and having a right (positional, legal) standing with God based on that forgiveness, no matter how the Christian lives.
We are not doing people a favor (quite the opposite; we must know the truth to cooperate with the truth by faith; "the truth will set you free" [John 8:32]) by this wrong emphasis, which is a very serious distortion of the gospel. We need to have a super-solid faith (that must be based on what the Bible actually teaches) to appropriate and walk by God's grace in His truth, righteousness, and holiness. For one thing, the powerful enemies of the world, the flesh (the old man who wants to continue in sin), and the devil with the evil angels and multitudinous number of demons are against us, but the saving grace of God in Christ is greater than our enemies.
The context in which Eph. 1:7 is found serves as a very strong confirmation that the apostle Paul was speaking of a whole lot more than the cancellation of the guilt of sin. (So too for Col. 1:14 and Heb. 10:18 and other verses.) I already pointed out that "aphesis" expands on the meaning of "the redemption" in Eph. 1:7. (So too in Col. 1:14.) I'll quote Eph. 1:3, 4 (NKJV), which is part of the same sentence with Eph. 1:7 in the Greek: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, (4) just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, THAT WE SHOULD BE HOLY AND WITHOUT BLAME BEFORE HIM IN LOVE [my capitalization for emphasis; this is a whole lot more than begin forgiven the guilt of sin]...."
Hebrew 9:22 is different than Eph. 1:7 (and some other verses in the New Testament) in that it is dealing with cleansing and release from sins with the guilt and the penalties under the old covenant. The old-covenant sacrifices could bear and take way penalties like sicknesses and other such penalties/problems, unless the sins were defiant, committed with a high hand. Under the old covenant it was understood that God promised health, for example, to those who were faithful to the old covenant (see Ex. 15:26; 23:24-26; Deut. 7:12-16), and chapter 4 of my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin," is titled, "A Study to Show that Under the Old Covenant Sickness Was Typically Considered to Be Part of the Punishment, Penalty, Chastisement for Sin." I'll include a short paragraph from what I said on page 42 of that chapter. Typically throughout the Old Testament (but not always), whenever a sickness/plague came upon the people of Israel, the Scriptures spell out the particular sin(s) that led to that sickness/plague. The curse of sickness did not just arbitrarily come upon the sons of Israel. They had a covenant with God that covered that area.
As we have discussed in this paper, the difference between what the sacrifices under the old covenant and the One Sacrifice of the Lamb of God could accomplish is super-gigantic. This is to be expected, of course, when we consider the super-gigantic difference between animals and the Unique Son of God, through whom all things were created and who condescended, in the will of God the Father, to become the God-man and then to die His atoning death in our place as the Lamb of God. The old-covenant sacrifices, unlike the one Sacrifice of the Lamb of God, could not bear, and take away, the transgression of Adam with the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin that came upon all of his offspring (Rom. 5:12-21). (And, as we have discussed, the old-covenant sacrifices could not atone for the defiant transgressions of the people of Israel that were committed with a high hand.) We must, of course, submit to the gospel in faith (become believers and live as believers) in order to appropriate this salvation.
You often hear that sins were not forgiven under the old covenant, but it is clear that they were forgiven. In passage after passage in the Mosaic Law the people of Israel were told that their unintentional sins were atoned for and they were forgiven. Some refer to Heb. 9:15 to try to prove their point, but Heb. 9:15 just deals with the defiant transgressions that were committed with a high hand that were not atoned for under the old covenant. And they often refer to Heb. 10:4, but they are misunderstanding that verse. (We will come to 10:4 as we continue.) It would be reasonable to say that the reason the old-covenant sacrifices were effective to the extent they were effective was because of the fully effective Sacrifice of the Lamb of God that God knew was coming, but they were effective.
Here in Heb. 9:22 I would translate the last words, "and without shedding of blood there is no release [from sins with the defilement, guilt, and penalties]," or the equivalent. The Amplified Bible is helpful here: "[In fact], under the Law almost everything is purified by means of blood, and without the shedding of blood there is neither release from sin and its guilt nor the remission of the due and merited punishment for sins."]] (23) Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens [[referring to the tabernacle and the things associated with it, apparently including the people (cf. Ex. 24:5-8; Heb. 9:7, 13, 19-22), but speaking of the cleansing of the people that took place, for the most part, in the external dimension that did not bring about the forgiveness of the sins committed with a high hand, the new birth, or write the law on their hearts and enable them to walk in the imparted righteousness and holiness of God.]] to be cleansed with these [with the atoning sacrifices, with the blood of the sacrificial animals], but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices [Although the writer used the plural ("sacrifices") here, it seems obvious (and everyone seems to agree) that he is referring to the one all-important Sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.] than these. [[The heavenly counterpart to the earthly tabernacle (that is, heaven; the presence of God) was not unclean, but the way into heaven had to be established, prepared, opened, and sanctified (set apart for God's saving purposes) through the atoning/cleansing blood of Christ. In order to understand what is being said here we need to see that the writer is including the idea of the inauguration of the covenants in his use of the verb "cleanse" (Greek "katharizo") here (cf. Heb. 9:18). And we need to understand that even under the old covenant a lot more was taking place than removing defilement, uncleanness from the tabernacle, etc.; God supercharged (so to speak) those things and made them holy (set apart for God) and able (within the prescribed, mostly external, physical limits) to sanctify/impart holiness (cf., e.g., Matt. 23:19; Ex. 29:37).
It seems that the most important point that the writer of Hebrews wanted to make here was that the spirits, hearts, consciences, inner man of believers must be cleansed before they can have access to heaven (the presence of God). Apparently he intended the spirits, hearts, consciences, inner man of believers to be (a big) part of what he meant by "the heavenly things" here in 9:23, even as the old covenant worshippers were included in the cleansing (that was mostly external) of Heb. 9:7, 13, 19-22. (Hebrews 12:9 speaks of God as the "Father of spirits.")
Throughout Hebrews chapters 8-10 the emphasis is on cleansing, sanctifying new-covenant believers, which includes total forgiveness, the new birth, putting God's Law in their hearts and removing sin from the hearts and lives of God's people, making them righteous and holy with the imparted righteousness and holiness of God. In Ex. 24:8 Moses sprinkled the people with the sacrificial blood, but (as we have discussed) that blood did not solve the sin/spiritual death problem; it clearly did not cleanse the conscience of the worshippers from dead works to serve the living God (see Heb. 9:14; cf. 10:2); the cleansing under the old covenant was real, but it was mostly limited to the external, physical dimension.
We will continue with this important discussion under Heb. 9:23 in Part 5 of this paper.
Copyright by Karl Kemp
http://www.karlkempteachingministries.com Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.
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