“For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”
– Hebrews 9:13-14
Naturally, each one of us has been created with a sense of justice, a sense of what is right and wrong. Over time, our sinning can erode or sear our consciences so that we don’t feel the effect or guilt of that sin anymore, thus becoming more and more enslaved to unrighteousness, serving the desires of our sinful souls, and as a result, we turn away increasingly from the living God. For the believer in Christ though, through His precious and infinitely valuable blood, our relationship to God has been restored in order that we may be drawn closer to Him and “glorify Him by enjoying Him forever.” (Piper)
What I want to focus us on in particular is how our consciences are purified from dead works so that we can give glory and honor to God. Because each of us has a natural sense of right and wrong, when we see the areas of our lives where we fall short, we naturally feel unworthy to approach God of ourselves, and really we are unworthy. The payment we need to be able to approach God is infinitely high, beyond the price we are able to pay. All of our striving and working will account for nothing because we cannot make an infinite payment for the wrong we have committed against the Lord God. His glory is infinite, and in harming His glory with our sin, we have thus committed an infinite offense, worthy of infinite punishment. Therefore our consciences are weighed down by guilt. And eventually, when we see we can’t make payment, we give up trying to pursue a right relationship with God and continue sinning, thus becoming more enslaved to sin than we were.
But in Christ, our consciences can be freed from our dead works that lead us to eternal damnation in order that we may be reconciled to God. How? In our natural state, as I said before, we cannot approach God, unless something or someone makes payment on our behalf, because we are not able to. And this is exactly what Christ has done for anyone who believes in Him and His sacrifice on the cross to bring about redemption. Because Christ is God who became man and lived a sinless life, He was qualified as the perfect sacrifice for sinners. He was qualified to make the infinite payment none of us could ever make to turn away the wrath of God. And this is exactly what He did on the cross. He died, rose again, and now sits at the right hand of God where He intercedes on behalf of those who trust Him for their salvation.
How does this purify the conscience of the believer from dead works to serve the living God? When we commit sin, our consciences constantly accuse us and point out that which is contrary to the standards God has set forth. We are weighed down with sin. It consumes us. But once you believe that Christ is the perfect sacrifice who intercedes on your behalf before God, and is in fact your very representative before the Father, this means that all of the wrong you have commited (with its due penalty, namely God’s wrath) has been removed. If Christ has canceled the debt we owe God for our sin through the work performed in His life, death, and resurrection, then we are freed in our consciences to live lives without the burden of guilt! This is radically transforming when we can live without divine guilt weighing us down. And this is the Gospel, the very thing that distinguishes Christianity from all other religions, namely salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Christ already bore the load for anyone who would believe in Him for salvation. We have nothing more we can add to His perfect, finished work. How freeing it is to have Christ take on the punishment and guilt we have stored up for our sins, and then to gain His perfect obedience and righteousness before the Father in return! What a gift.
Because of Christ taking the guilt off our shoulders through faith in His blood, freeing our consciences from the weight of guilt, we are then (and only then) able to approach God in confidence, because what could be a better payment for us than the sacrifice of God’s own Son on the cross? What amazing grace …