December 2nd, 2018
“The Blood of Jesus”
Aux. Text: John 6:48-58
Call to Worship: Psalm 51
Service Orientation: Nearly every religion of the world uses blood as part of their worship. To better understand Christianity we must know why God forces us to focus on blood.
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. — 1 Peter 1:18-19
Having shown how the Jewish system barred the way to God, our writer is ready to show how Jesus brings men to God. We have reached the heart of Hebrews. (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 185)
- (v. 14) First, they are “dead” works because they proceed from him who, by reason of his sinfulness, is dead toward God. The person who is dead in trespasses and sins is incapable of performing “living” works which are acceptable to God. Only when he has been turned from his self-centeredness and restored to the God-centeredness in and for which he was created–that is to say, only when he has by divine grace been “made alive together with Christ” (Eph 2:1-5)–can his works cease to be “dead” works. Second, the works of the unregenerate are “dead” because they are essentially sterile and unproductive; they yield no living harvest. How could they, since they are the mark of the person whose existence shows no regard for God who is the source of life? These are works of time, not eternity; works of lust, not love; works of the flesh, not of the Spirit (Rom 6:21; Gal 5:19ff.). Third, such works are “dead” not only because they proceed from deadness and are accompanied by deadness but also because they end in death: they lead to judgment and perdition (Rom 6:21, 23; Phil 3:19f.; Rv 21:8). These dead works which spring from deadness and lead to death speak very plainly of the disastrous nature of the human predicament and of the desperate need for the purging and liberation of the conscience from the tyranny of death (Heb 2:15)–the need, that is, for man’s renewal at the very root of his being. (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 361)
- (v. 14) In Paul’s words, we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10). “We are not cleansed by Christ,” writes Calvin, “so that we can immerse ourselves continually in fresh dirt, but in order that our purity may serve the glory of God.” (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 362)
- (v. 14) As evidence of the greatness of Christ’s sacrifice, note that all three members of the Trinity were involved–Jesus offered himself, through the eternal Spirit (referring to the Holy Spirit), to God (the Father). (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 137)
- (v. 15) There has been a great deal of discussion as to precisely what is referred to in “for this cause”: some insisting that it looks back to what has been affirmed in the previous verses, others contending that it points forward to that which is declared in the second half of this verse. Personally, we believe that both are included. There is a fullness to God’s words which is not to be found in man’s, and whenever an expression is capable of two or more meanings, warranted by the context and the analogy of faith, both should be retained. (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 496)
- (v. 15) This was the Abrahamic covenant, established, according to Paul, 430 years prior to the inauguration of the Mosaic covenant but in no sense invalidated by the interposition of the latter (Gal 3:15-18). The promise made to Abraham that in his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed was fulfilled precisely in Christ (Gal 3:16). Accordingly, the Abrahamic covenant is continuous with the new covenant, as its root, and identical with it. Thus the advent of Christ demonstrated that God was acting “to remember his holy covenant, the oath which he swore to our father Abraham” (Lk 1:72f.). The “new” covenant, therefore, not only superseded the “first” or Mosaic covenant but was also antecedent to it, and so was anything but an emergency measure. (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 365)
- (v. 15) Those who are called. This inheritance is meant for those who are called, those who actually receive the promise. It was God’s plan in this whole dispensation that everyone who is called should receive the promise. These people are those “called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28), those who obtain the inheritance “having been predestined according to the plan of his will” (Eph 1:11). (John Owen, Crossway Classic Commentaries: Hebrews, 201)
- (v. 15) Men come to the new covenant already stained with the sins committed under the old covenant, for which the old sacrificial system was powerless to atone. So, the writer to the Hebrews has a tremendous thought and says that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is retroactive. That is to say, it is effective to wipe out the sins of men committed under the old covenant and to inaugurate the fellowship promised under the new. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 106)
Background Information on the “Red” Heifer (Lv 19:1-22; Heb 9:13-14):
- The phrase “ashes of a young cow” refers to a ceremony described in Nm 19:1-10. This ceremony was performed when someone was made unclean and needed to be purified. For example, someone might become defiled by touching a dead body. In such a case, the carcass of a red heifer was burned with cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet wool; then the ashes were used with water for cleansing the person. This ceremony served to purify an unclean person; thus, it could cleanse people’s bodies from ritual defilement (literally, “to the purifying of the flesh”). A ritually defiled person, as described above, could not participate in Jewish ceremonies until he or she was cleansed (see also Mk 7:15-23; Acts 10:15; 21:28). The ceremony kept people from being cut off from God. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 137)
- Two examples are chosen from the Levitical sacrifices to be representative of the general provisions of the Mosaic law to provide for purification from sin. The first–the blood of goats and bulls–is probably a reference to the offerings on the Day of Atonement (ci. Lv 16), and the second–the ashes of a heifer–could refer to the occasional offering of a heifer (cf. Nm 19). (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 187)
- There was the sacrifice of the red heifer. This strange ritual is described in Numbers 19. Under Jewish ceremonial law, if a man touched a dead body, he was unclean. He was barred from the worship of God, and everything and everyone he touched also became unclean. To deal with this there was a prescribed method of cleansing. A red heifer was slaughtered outside the camp. The priest sprinkled the blood of the heifer before the Tabernacle seven times. The body of the beast was then burned, together with cedar and hyssop and a piece of red cloth. The resulting ashes were laid up outside the camp in a clean place and constituted a purification for sin. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 103)
- The virtue stemmed from the ashes, as they were the ashes of the heifer slain and burnt as a sin-offering. The water was used as the means of their application. Any clean person could dip a bunch of hyssop (see Ps 51:7) into it and sprinkle anything or any person who was defiled. Christ’s blood is called “sprinkled blood” (12:24) because it brings about our sanctification, as applied through faith to our souls and consciences. (John Owen, Crossway Classic Commentaries: Hebrews, 200)
- “The ashes of a heifer” point to the ceremony for purification described in Nm 19:1-10. A red heifer was killed, the carcass was burned (together with “cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet wool”), and the ashes used “in the water of cleansing; it is for purification from sin.” When anyone was ceremonially unclean because of contact with a dead body or even by entering a tent where a dead body lay (Nm 19:14), he was made clean by the use of these ashes. The verb “sanctify” is often used of the moral and spiritual process of “sanctification.” Here, however, a ritual matter is plainly in mind. The Levitical system is not dismissed as useless. It had its values and was effective within its limits. But those limits were concerned with what is outward. (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 86)
- It is apparent that included among the rites of purification practiced by the Dead Sea Sect was sprinkling with the “waters of ablution,” that is, waters with which the ashes of the red heifer had been mingled.
We have, then, a situation prevailing at the time when the Epistle to the Hebrews was written which would give particular point to the mention of the rite of sprinkling with the ashes of a heifer if the supposition is correct that the recipients of the letter were being enticed to imagine that the observance of this rite might be advantageous to them, Christians though they now professed themselves to be. Acquiescence would have amounted to a denial of the sole and total sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ for their purification. (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 364)
In a world where the only plea is “not guilty,” what possibility is there of an honest encounter with Jesus, “who died for our sins”? We can only pretend that we are sinners, and thus only pretend that we are forgiven. (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 171)
If you are a Christian, God asks you to focus on a lot of politically incorrect themes. Dying to self. Becoming a servant. And focusing on being covered with the blood of your hero?!? You might as well be wearing a hangman’s noose or an electric chair pendant around your neck whenever you wear a cross. The cross of Jesus has become so iconic that it has lost its repulsive meaning. We have done the same with the blood of Jesus. — Pastor Keith
The question to be answered is . . . Why is God obsessed with blood?
Answer: The life is in the blood. So shed blood means death. Shed blood or death was necessary to atone for sin. The shed blood of Jesus inaugurates the New Testament of God.
The Word for the Day is . . . Blood
Although the real function of the blood in the human system was not fully known until the fact of its circulation was established by William Harvey in 1615, nevertheless from the earliest times, a singular mystery has been attached to it by all peoples. Blood rites, blood ceremonies, and blood feuds are common among primitive tribes. It came to be recognized as the life principle long before its function was scientifically proved. Naturally a feeling of fear, awe, and reverence would be attached to the shedding of blood. With many uncivilized peoples scarification of the body until blood flows is practiced. Blood brotherhood or blood friendship is established by African tribes by the mutual shedding of blood and either drinking it or rubbing it on one another’s bodies. Thus and by the intertransfusion of blood by other means it was thought that a community of life and interest could be established. (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, 526)
The concept of sacrifice, the shedding of blood to satisfy a requirement made by God, seems horribly primitive and dark to many moderns. Think for a moment about “the shedding of blood” and its associations in most modern cultures of the world. The image conjures pictures of violence, murder, and war–not exactly positive, life-affirming images. (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 318)
The rite of circumcision is an OT form of blood ceremony. Apart from the probable sanitary importance of the act is the deeper meaning in the establishment of a bond of friendship between the one upon whom the act is performed and the Lord Himself. In order that Abraham might become “the friend of God” he was commanded that he should be circumcised as a token of the covenant between him and God (Gn 17:10ff.). (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, 526)
Why is God obsessed with blood?:
I- Life is in the Blood. Shedding blood means death. (Heb 9:14; see also: Gen 9:4-6; Lev 5:6; 17:11-14; Dt 12:23; Jn 6:53-54; 19:34; Heb 9:22; 1 Jn 1:7)
Since the death of Christ is sometimes considered in terms of a sacrificial ritual and continues the OT concept of the “blood of the covenant,” the emphasis is still upon the death of the victim that secured atonement for the sinner. The sacrificial blood is associated with the death of the Savior (Heb 9:14), and the author of Hebrews makes it plain that the blood is associated with death rather than life (12:24). It seems evident, therefore, that sacrifices were efficacious through the death of the victim, and that blood indicates life given up in death, not life set free. (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible Vol. 1, 627)
The word “blood” points to death (see my apostolic Preaching of the Cross, 3rd ed., ch. 3). In this context “blood” is not death in general but death seen as a sacrifice. Christ offered himself in sacrifice to God. “Unblemished” is the word used technically of animals approved for sacrifice, animals without defect of any kind. The idea of Christ as an offering to God is not popular these days and can, of course, be stated in a crude and totally unacceptable way. But we must never forget that atonement must be seen in the light of God’s demand for uprightness in a world where people sin constantly. No view of atonement can be satisfactory that does not regard the divine demand. (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 86)
And the word “blood” in this Epistle includes all that is meant by the death of Christ; the blood is the expression and embodiment of His obedience unto death, of His death for our sins, of the atonement which He made for us as the victim on the altar, as our Substitute. (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 296)
The shed blood of the animal implies life given up in death on behalf of the sinner so that he might live and not suffer the penal death of the ungodly. The OT, therefore, indicates that atonement for human sin was obtained by the death of an acceptable substitute, rather than by its life, and this emphasis, which is basic to the Old Covenant, is carried over into the NT with specific reference to the work of Jesus Christ in the New Covenant. (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible Vol. 1, 627)
Blood in the OT is the life principle, both animal (Lv 17:11) and vegetable (Dt 32:14, the “blook” of the grape). Its atoning power in the OT sacrifices foreshadows the ultimate atonement by the blood of Christ. (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, 526)
Sin is a waste of energy. Plain and simple. It’s wasting your energy on things you can’t have or can’t control. And it’s actually a double waste. After you waste your energy on things like lust and pride and anger, then you have to waste even more energy on things like guilt and shame and regret. Nothing is more de-energizing than sin. But by the same token, nothing is more re-energizing than obedience. It’s pure energy. (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 145)
Guilt causes people to flee. Freud’s theory is a massive attempt to escape his own guilt. He understands that to escape guilt he must first escape God. So much of modern thought is an attempt to escape the one who is inescapable. (R.C. Sproul, The Consequences of Ideas, 197)
All the works of natural man are done in spiritual death and can only lead to eternal death. For him there is no peace, only the frantic rubbing of his conscience with the abrasive steel wool of worthless works. But for us, peace washes over the conscience when by the Spirit we behold our heavenly Sacrifice and believe “by his wounds we are healed” (Isa 53:5). Then loving service to a living God can and will follow in daily life. (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 99)
There were no fishes presented on his altar, because they could not come there alive: the victim must be brought alive to the horns of the altar, or God could not receive it. We must not bring our dead faith or our dead works as an offering unto God; our prayers without emotion, our praises without gratitude, our testimonies without sincerity, our gifts without love–all these will be dead, and consequently unacceptable. We must present a living sacrifice to the living God, or we cannot hope to be accepted; and for this reason we greatly need the blood of Christ to purge our conscience from dead works. (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 234)
Through their deaths the animals were not imparting life, but giving their lives for the purpose of cleansing sin and reconciling people to God. In other words, the blood motif represents death in Scripture, and when alluding to Christ, connotes his sacrificial death on the cross, by which he “expiated our sins, propitiated our maker, turned God’s ‘no’ to us into a ‘yes;’ and so saved us.” (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 319)
In Abraham’s covenant his own blood had to be shed. Later an expiatory animal was to shed blood (Lv 5:6), but there must always be a shedding of blood. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb 9:22). The exaltation of this idea finds its highest development then in the vicarious shedding of blood by Christ Himself (1 Jn 1:7). As in the OT “blood” was used also to signify the juice of grapes; the most natural substitute for drinking blood would be the use of wine. Jesus takes advantage of this, and introduces the beautiful and significant custom (Mt 26:28) of drinking wine and eating bread as symbolic of the primitive intertransfusion of blood and flesh in a pledge of eternal friendship (cf. Ex 24:6f.; Jn 6:53-56). This is the climactic observance of blood rites recorded in the Bible. (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, 526)
The service of God is the element in which alone we can fully live. If you had a fish here upon dry land, supposing it possible that it could exist, it would lead a very unhappy life. It would scarcely be a fish at all! You could not tell of what it was capable; it would be deprived of the opportunity of developing its true self. It is not until you put it into the stream that the fish becomes really a fish and enjoys its existence.
It is just so with man. He does exist without God, but we may not venture to call that existence “life,” for he “will not see life–but the wrath of God remains on him” (Jn 3:36). If he lives in pleasure, yet he is dead while he lives. He is so constituted that to develop his manhood perfectly, as God would have it to be, he must addict himself to fellowship with God and to the service of God. (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 234-5)
II- Blood atones for sin. You sin, you die. (Heb 9:12-14; see also: Gen 2:17; Lev 16:1-25; 17:11; Num 19:1-21; Isa 53; Mt 26:28; Heb 9:22)
First Covenant with mankind – You sin, you die.
The ancient sacrifices cleansed a man’s body from ceremonial uncleanness; the sacrifice of Jesus cleansed his soul. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 104)
It was the blood of “God” incarnate (Acts 20:28). Well might the Holy Spirit call it “precious” (1 Pt 1:19). No greater price could have been paid for our redemption. How vile and accursed, then, must sin be, seeing it can only be expiated by so costly a sacrifice! (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 491)
His own blood. I know of no word in the Bible or in human speech that contains such mysteries! In it are concentrated the mysteries of the incarnation, in which our God took flesh and blood; of the obedience unto death, in which the blood was shed; of the love that passeth knowledge, that purchased us with His own blood; of the victory over every enemy, and the everlasting redemption; of the resurrection and the entrance into heaven; of the atonement and the reconciliation and the justification that came through it; of the cleansing and perfecting of the conscience, of the sprinkling of the heart and the sanctifying the people. Through that blood Christ entered once for all into heaven; through that blood we enter too, and have our home in the Holiest of All. As the Holy Spirit from heaven, dwelling in us, imparts to us the boldness the blood gives, and the love into which it opens the way, our whole inner being will be brought under its power, and the cleansing of the blood in its full extent be our experience. (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 297-8)
Under the law one could never be sure of forgiveness. The sacrifices had to be repeated, since they could “never take away sins” in any final sense, but Christ has come to secure for us by his death an eternal redemption (10:11; 9:12). It covers man’s immense needs as a sinner, tomorrow’s sins as well as those of yesterday. (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today: Hebrews, 156)
It is the blood of the Lamb who offered Himself without blemish unto God, with which our heart is brought into a divine and living contact. Self-offering, self-sacrifice, was the disposition of which the blood was the expression, and from which alone it had its worth. Where the Eternal Spirit communicates the power of the blood, He communicates this disposition. Christ humbled Himself and became obedient to death. Therefore, as the Lamb of God, who gave His blood, He was the embodiment of meekness, and humility, and submissive surrender to God’s will. It was our pride and self-will that was the very root and life of sin in us: as we are washed in the blood of the Lamb, His spirit of meekness and submissiveness and obedience will work in us, because the same Eternal Spirit, through which the blood was shed, applies it in our hearts. We know what it means to wash our clothes in water, how they are plunged into it and saturated with it, until the water carries off all defilement. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin, because the Eternal Spirit imparts the very life and power of which that precious blood-shedding was the outcome and the fruit. This is the power that cleanses the conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Not the blood only, as shed upon earth, as the first object of our faith for pardon, but the blood as shed through the Eternal Spirit, and glorified in the spirit life of heaven, brings us truly into the inner sanctuary, and empowers us to serve Him as the living God. As there was no possibility of Christ’s offering Himself without blemish to God, or of His sacrifice having such infinite worth and power, but through the Eternal Spirit, so there is no possibility of any child of Adam partaking of the power of that blood and its redemption, but through the same Eternal Spirit living and working in him as He did in Christ Jesus. (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 304-5)
During the thousand-plus years of the Old Covenant, there were more than a million animal sacrifices. So considering that each bull’s sacrifice spilled a gallon or two of blood, and each goat a quart, the Old Covenant truly rested on a sea of blood. During the Passover, for example, a trough was constructed from the Temple down into the Kidron Valley for the disposal of blood–a sacrificial plumbing system!
Why the perpetual sea of blood? For one main reason–to teach that sin demands the shedding of blood. This in no way suggests that blood itself atones for sins ex opere operato (otherwise sacrifices would have been bled rather than killed), but it does demonstrate that sin both brings and demands death. Steaming blood provided the sign–even the smell–of the Old Covenant. (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 234)
III- Jesus’ Blood inaugurates the guilt-free and conscience-liberating New Testament (covenant) of God: the promised eternal inheritance. (Heb 9:15; see also: Jer 31:31-34; Ezek 11:19; 36:26; Mt 19:29; 25:34; 26:28-29; Jn 6:48-58; 16:15; 17:10; Acts 20:32; Rom 3:23-25; 4:13-14; 5:9; 8:17, 32; 1 Cor 15:50; Gal 3:29-4:7; Eph 1:7, 14-18; 2:13; 3:6; Col 1:12-20; 3:24; 1 Tm 2:5-6; Ti 3:7; Heb 6:12-17; 9:28; 10:22; 12:24; 1 Pt 1:3-4, 18-19; 2:24; 3:9, 20-21; 1 Jn 1:7; Rv 21:7)
There were conditions imposed on the people. If they didn’t keep those conditions the covenant was broken and the deal was off. The people didn’t keep the covenant. No sooner was the compact made than they broke it. Inasmuch as their animal sacrifices could not cleanse their consciences, there was no way for them to inherit the promises God had made to them. Jesus, on the other hand, since His blood does cleanse, can bring men to God and qualify them to receive God’s promises. There are no conditions anyone has to keep under the new covenant. They have already been kept for us by Christ. (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 193-4)
What of the quality of the inheritance? It is eternal, another important word in Hebrews. It cannot waste away or be taken away. It is not exposed to the ravages of time. Hebrews was written to Christians on the verge of persecution and suffering. But, although their opponents rob them of earthly possessions and even physical life, their heavenly inheritance and eternal life were alike imperishable. Their treasures had not been laid up in the banks and repositories of the Roman world, but in the place where Jesus had told them to deposit their true riches, in heaven itself. (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today: Hebrews, 164)
Man needs not ritual cleansing, but a purified, healed and clear conscience. He wants peace with God and peace from God, and the law could not achieve this. The writer of this letter is clearly aware of man’s inmost spiritual problems. He has written earlier about the law’s inability to ease man’s troubled conscience (9:9). (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today: Hebrews, 158)
When the people sacrificed animals, God considered the people’s faith and obedience, cleansed the people from sin, and made them “ceremonially” clean and acceptable according to OT law. But Christ’s sacrifice transforms our lives and hearts and makes us clean on the inside. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 137)
Unquestionably, sin is an internal matter that issues from the heart of man. The writer of Proverbs calls the heart “the wellspring of life” (4:23). And Jesus describes the heart as the source of evils: “For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly” (Mk 7:21-22). The act of cleansing man from sin must begin with his inner being; as the author of Hebrews writes, “our consciences.” (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 251)
The writer of Hebrews deletes numerous details from the laws concerning the Day of Atonement and the ceremonial cleansings for persons declared unclean. He purposely omits these details to put in stark relief the contrast between the external observance of religious ceremonies and the inner transformation of a man cleansed by the blood of Christ. That, for him, is the difference between life in the days of the old covenant and that in the era of the new covenant. (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 253)
Then, in these words he shows that the Law is weak, that the Jews might no longer recumb on it; and he teaches them to rely on Christ, for in him is found whatever can be desired for pacifying consciences. (John Calvin, Commentaries: Hebrews, 206)
I fear that our proud sense of what we think to be our inward cleanness is simply the stupidity of our conscience. If our conscience were more sensitive and tender, it would perceive sin where now we congratulate ourselves that everything is pure. This teaching puts us into a very lowly place, but the lowlier our position the better and the safer for us, and the more shall we be able to prize the expiation by which we draw near to God. (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 229-30)
It is not contact with a dead body, or anything of a material and external nature, that conveys real defilement or interrupts true communion with God. Our Lord made it plain on a memorable occasion that no one is defiled by anything outside himself; “but the things which come out of a man are what defile him. . . For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, etc. . . . All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man” (Mk 7:15, 21, 23). It is an inward and spiritual purification that is required if heart-communion with God is to be enjoyed. (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 218)
This “redemption” is eternal, which is in contrast from Israel’s of old–after their deliverance from Egypt they became in bondage to the Philistines and others. As the blood of Christ can never lose its efficacy, so none redeemed by Him can ever again be brought under sin’s dominion. (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 491)
The interest of the NT is not in the material blood of Christ, but in His shed blood as the life violently taken from Him. Like the cross, the “blood of Christ” is simply another and even more graphic phrase for the death of Christ in its soteriological significance. According to the eucharistic words of institution the blood of Christ is a guarantee of the actualization of the new divine order. (Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the NT, 174)
The violent death of Christ establishes and assures the validity of the new divine order promised in Jer 31:31ff., according to which God writes His will on the hearts of men and forgives their sins. As the old divine order of Sinai was sealed and inaugurated by blood (Heb 9:18 ff., Ex 24:8), so the new with its gifts is established and set in force by the blood of Jesus. (Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the NT, 174)
In the Western world, this rejection of sin began with the Enlightenment. Enlightenment thinkers rejected the biblical God and quickly denied human sin as well. The French social philosopher Rousseau said, “Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains,” because society has enslaved him. Freud took this one step further and taught that humans are simply animals. The bottom line? There is no sin, no soul, no conscience; we are simply manipulated by forces beyond our control. In other words, Freud said, we are not responsible for our actions. Society or some other influence outside of ourselves compels us to do what we do. This denial of sin can lead to utopianism, whose proponents say, “Give me power, and I’ll create a good society so good people can live well.” But utopianism always leads to tyranny, as utopians Hitler, Lennin, Stalin, and Mao demonstrated. (Charles Colson, The Good Life, 248-9)
It is important to be clear that Christ’s saving work operates on quite a different level from that of the Levitical sacrifices. These were but external and material, as the author repeatedly emphasizes. But Christ was concerned with the sins that trouble the consciences of men. So his sacrifice was directed to the cleansing of conscience, something the sacrifices under the law could never do (10:2). (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 87)
Large Petitions With Thee Bring
A Prayer, by John Newton
Come, my soul, thy suit prepare:
Jesus loves to answer pray’r;
He himself has bid thee pray,
Therefore will not say thee nay.
Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring;
For his grace and pow’r are such,
None can ever ask too much.
With my burden I begin:
Lord, remove this load of sin;
Let thy blood, for sinners spilt,
Set my conscience free from guilt.
Lord, I come to thee for rest,
Take possession of my breast;
There thy blood-bo’t right maintain,
And without a rival reign.
While I am a pilgrim here,
Let thy love my spirit cheer;
As my Guide, my Guard, my Friend,
Lead me to my journey’s end.
Show me what I have to do,
Ev’ry hour my strength renew:
Let me live a life of faith,
Let me die thy people’s death.
Although you know Christ, you may still believe that you have to work hard to make yourself good enough for God. But rules and rituals have never cleansed people’s hearts. By Jesus’ blood alone we are forgiven, are freed from death’s sting and sin’s power, and can live to serve God. If you are carrying a load of guilt because you are finding that you can’t be good enough for God, take another look at Jesus’ death and what it means for you. Christ can heal your conscience and deliver you from the frustration of trying to earn God’s favor. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 136)
Take the case of the red heifer. It was not moral uncleanness that its sacrifice wiped out but the ceremonial uncleanness consequent upon touching a dead body. A man’s body might be clean ceremonially and yet his heart be torn with remorse. He might feel able to enter the tabernacle and yet far away from the presence of God. The sacrifice of Jesus takes the load of guilt from a man’s conscience. The animal sacrifices of the old covenant might well leave a man in estrangement from God; the sacrifice of Jesus shows us a God whose arms are always outstretched and in whose heart is only love. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 104)
Outward purification is useless if it does not effect some radical transformation of life. Man relies on works, but if these turn out to be dead in the sense of being invalid, because they are soiled with sin and self, the only hope is for the conscience to be purged from this awareness of failure. In 1 Pt 3:21 another statement is made which stresses the need for a clean conscience, as opposed to ritual cleansing. (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 189)
The concern which was really supreme in the minds and hearts of the people called Puritans was a concern about God–a concern to know him truly, and serve him rightly, and so to glorify him and to enjoy him. But just because this was so, they were in fact very deeply concerned about conscience, for they held that conscience was the mental organ in men through which God brought his word to bear on them. Nothing, therefore, in their estimation, was more important for any man than that his conscience should be enlightened, instructed, purged, and kept clean. (J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness, 107)
The sin offerings presented on the Day of Atonement, or at any other time, had no effect on the consciences of those on whose behalf they were brought; they served merely in an external and symbolical manner to counteract the defilement of sin. (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 214)
It is when the conscience is cleansed or perfected, the heart is cleansed and perfected too. And so it is in the heart that the power the blood had in heaven is communicated here on earth. The blood that brought Christ into God’s presence, brings us, and our whole inner being, there too. (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 301)
This is not just an objective cleansing recorded on the books of heaven for the purposes of ingress or admission. The cleansing is subjective as well; it is a conscious experience of the conscience, a happening of which the recipient is fully and joyfully aware. (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 162)
In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, a young Puritan pastor becomes sexually involved with a woman from his congregation. As the story unfolds, we find that the adulterous clergyman is able, for the most part, to keep what has happened a secret. But the guilt of it diminishes his ability to preach with passion. The fear of being publically exposed makes him a captive to mediocrity, and the brilliance that once marked his fiery messages all but disappears. He loses his concentration and finds that the tiredness that comes from sleepless nights renders him listless. It is not until he confesses his sin and finds the release that such confession brings that he is able to recover the passion and zeal for God that had formerly marked his ministry.
Conscious guilt is one thing and unconscious guilt is another. Psychologists tell us that awareness of the sin and guilt in our lives is a prerequisite to mental health. Unfortunately, most of us handle the sin in our lives by repressing it. We push the awareness of what we have done into the subconscious. Our guilt is dealt with by trying to get on with our lives as though nothing has happened, especially if we seem to have gotten away with our sin. We simply try to “forget” it–at least consciously. And after a while, we find it just doesn’t seem to bother us very much. It really amazes me when I consider the things, even the terrible things, in my own life that I have been able to consciously forget and believe will not bother me any more. (Tony Campolo, Carpe Diem, Seize the Day, 115-6)
Andrew Delbonco, in one of his books comments on an incident in one of Walker Percy’s novel’s Called Love in the Ruins.
Max is a psychiatrist for whom pleasure without guilt is the essence of the happy and enlightened life. We are modern people, we realize that we need to decide what is right or wrong for us so we should never feel guilty. We should never let other people’s standards oppress you.
But, he has a patient named Tom, who has just had an affair. And he (Max) is having trouble understanding Tom. Because Tom has said, “I don’t feel guilty about the affair. But, I am still troubled.”
At one point Max says, “Well, then, what worries you if you don’t feel guilty?”
Tom says, “That is what worries me. I don’t feel guilty.
The psychiatrist then says, “I don’t see then, what is it that is a problem? If there is no guilt after an affair, then what is the problem?”
Tom says, “It means you don’t have life in you.”
DelBonco comments and says, “What the psychiatrist does not understand, is that the guilt he no longer feels, is his last reassurance that there was something in the world that transcended him.” What DelBonco goes on to say is this, “If there is no guilt or shame because you decide what is right or wrong for you, because everything is relative; then, yeah, there is no guilt but there is also no meaning. Because if there is no truth, out here, above us, not created by us, sitting in judgment on us, so that we can have guilt if we do not live up to it . . . if there is no truth, if there is no right or wrong out here; then, it really doesn’t matter how we live at all because there is no meaning. There is no guilt but there is no meaning. (Tim Keller message, “By the Blood of Jesus”)
The visible, physical, and tangible are common artificial salves for a guilty conscience. How easy it is to become addicted to them! Many people suffering from the pain of guilt and the weight of sin turn to religious rituals that can quickly cross into the outright superstitious. They believe that if they surround themselves with religious images, Christian music, artwork, or “holy” people, places, and things, these will magically counteract the deep-seated pain they feel from a restless conscience. (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews,
Worship Point: Worship Christ Whose eternal redemption is so comprehensive that it has the power to set you and your conscience free. (Heb 9:15; see also: Ti\ 1:15; Heb 10:19-22; 1 Pt 3:20-21)
The blood of Christ doth indeed cleanse us to serve the living God! (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 310)
Now that sins are forgiven, we can worship truly and freely. We are not limited to external actions, but we can worship in spirit. Our worship does not need to be mediated through a priest, but we can worship God on our own with unlimited access to him. If we were not cleansed from our consciences, we might be inhibited from worshiping. But being freed from our dead works and having a clean conscience allows us to put off our guilt so we can serve and worship effectively. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 139)
The conscience alone brings a sense of guilt, which leads to fear and a dread about approaching God’s presence. It was Adam’s conscience that reduced Adam to hiding himself from God as his eyes were opened through a sense of the guilt of sin. Just as a person is unclean through contact with a dead body and so may not approach God in worship until purified, so a guilty sinner, whose conscience is affected with a sense of the guilt of sin, does not dare to approach God’s presence until sin is removed from the conscience, until “worshipers. . . no longer” feel guilty for their sins (10:2). So the cleansing of consciences from acts that lead to death removes the guilt of sin through the blood of Christ. Conscience is used to represent our whole spirits, souls, and bodies that are all to be cleansed and sanctified (1 Thess 5:23). To cleanse our consciences is to cleanse our whole being. (John Owen, Crossway Classic Commentaries: Hebrews, 201)
Guilt is to danger, what fire is to gun-powder: a man need not fear to walk among many barrels of powder, if he have no fire about him. (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 62)
On the basis of Jesus’ death, God can do what He couldn’t do before–bring men to Himself. So, whereas the Jewish covenant kept people away from God, the new covenant brings men to God. (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 193)
Get your conscience sprinkled with the blood of Christ from all guilt, and that will set your heart above all fear. It is guilt upon the conscience that softens and makes cowards of our spirits: ‘the righteous are bold as a lion.’ (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 62)
A guilty conscience is more terrified by imagined dangers, than a pure conscience is by real ones. (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 62)
This is a world of pale shadows and imperfect copies; beyond is the world of realities. The function of all worship is to bring men into contact with the eternal realities. That was what the worship of the Tabernacle was meant to do; but the earthly Tabernacle and its worship are pale copies of the real Tabernacle and its worship; and only the real Tabernacle and the real worship can give access to reality. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 102)
The worship of the ancient tabernacle was designed to bring men into the presence of God. That it could do only in the most shadowy and imperfect way. The coming of Jesus really brought men into the presence of God, because in him God entered this world of space and time in a human form and to see Jesus is to see what God is like. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 103-4)
Gospel Application: The blood of Jesus is able to set us free so we can serve God and receive the promised inheritance. His blood was offered to God Himself as a reality; not a symbol, copy, or pattern. (Heb 9:15; see also: Isa 53; Mt 26:28; Lk 22:20; Jn 6:48-58; Rom 3:21-26; 5:9; Eph 1:7; Col 1:20; Heb 8:6; 9:7, 18-22, 28; 10:4; 12:24; 13:11-12; 1 Pt 1:18-19; 2:24; 1 Jn 1:7; Rv 1:5; 5:9; 7:14)
Listen! God took our slate and He broke it in pieces and threw it away. He does not deal with his family by keeping track on a slate of how we are doing. The slate is irrelevant because of the blood of Christ.
It took over 4,000 years of the Biblical history of redemption to prepare mankind for the work of Jesus on the cross. Those who dismiss the work of Jesus as primitive and obscene without due consideration of the legal, redemptive, substitutionary, vicarious and covenant implications is a fool. He could easily be considered as one who dismisses the power of a computer because it has no fingers and toes to count. — Pastor Keith
The people of God do not serve Him in order to be forgiven but because we are forgiven. When believers serve only because they feel guilty if they don’t, it’s as though they serve with a ball and chain dragging from their ankles. There’s no love in that kind of service, only labor. There’s no joy, only obligation and drudgery. But Christians aren’t prisoners who should serve in God’s Kingdom grudgingly because of guilt. We can serve willingly because Christ’s death freed us from guilt. (Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 115)
The Christian’s whole and only status before God is in Christ. True and wonderful though this is, however, the sphere of the Christian’s existence is still here on earth. He is still beset by temptations; he is hampered by weakness and frustrated by failings; he falls short of “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13); the perfection for which he longs is not yet. He needs a holiness not his own, made available to him by the Lamb of God who has made atonement for his sins and who now interposes himself as his representative in the heavenly sanctuary. And this is the representation which Christ fulfills as he appears in the presence of God for us. (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 349)
The first step to joy is a plea for help, an acknowledgment of moral destitution, an admission of inward paucity. Those who taste God’s presence have declared spiritual bankruptcy and are aware of their spiritual crisis. Their cupboards are bare. Their pockets are empty. Their options are gone. They have long since stopped demanding justice; they are pleading for mercy.
They don’t brag; they beg. (Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven, 29-30)
Q13. Can we pay this debt ourselves?
- Certainly not. Actually, we increase our guilt every day (Mt 6:12; Rom 2:4-5).
14Q. Can another creature—any at all—pay this debt for us?
- No. To begin with, God will not punish another creature for what a human is guilty of (Ezek 18:4, 20; Heb 2:14-18). Besides, no mere creature can bear the weight of God’s eternal anger against sin and release others from it (Ps 49:7-9; 130:3).
“On the day of His death,” said the teacher, “messiah was arrested, beaten, bound, scourged, abused, mocked, humiliated, degraded, stripped naked, nailed to a cross, put on display as a blasphemer and a criminal, cursed, judged guilty, and condemned to death. It all happened on Friday, the sixth day. It was on the sixth day that God made man in His own image. Now it was again the sixth day. And it all happened in reverse.”
“What do you mean, ‘in reverse’?”
“On the sixth day God made man in His image. So on the sixth day. . . man made God in his image.”
“On the sixth day, the day of man’s creation, God caused man to bear the image of God, an image of glory and perfection. So on the sixth day, the day of man’s redemption, man caused God to bear the image of fallen man, as one who had fallen, as one found guilty, and as one cast out. All that was the image of man’s fallen, as one found guilty, and as one cast out. All that was the image of man’s fall. So God was judged as a blasphemer because blasphemy was the sin of man. Man passed judgment on God, because man himself was under judgment. As God had made man in the image of God’s glory, man now made God in the image of man’s guilt and degradation. As God had made Adam in His image, it was now Adam making God in the image of Adam, as one who had transgressed, under judgment and condemned to death, cursed, and separated from God. When you look at the cross, you are beholding God in the image of man.”
“Why did God allow Himself to be so abused and degraded?”
“God allowed Himself to bear the image of man, that man might again be allowed to bear the image of God.” (Jonathan Cahn, The Book of Mysteries, Day 215)
As we pointed out in our last article, to “redeem” signifies to liberate by the paying of a ransom-price: “If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (Jn 8:36). The freedom which the Christian has is, first, a legal one: he has been “redeemed from the curse of the law” (Gal 3:13). Because of this, second, he enjoys an experimental freedom from the power of sin: “sin shall not have dominion over you” (Rom 6:14). Justification and sanctification are never separated: where God imputes the righteousness of Christ, He also imparts a principle of holiness, the latter being the fruit or consequence of the former; both being necessary before we can be admitted into heaven. (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 494)
He came to live the life of man, such as God had meant Him to be, in creating Him. He gave up His will to God, He pleased not Himself but sought only God’s pleasure, He yielded His whole life that God might reveal Himself in it as He pleased: He offered Himself unto God. He took and filled the place the creature was meant to fill. And that without spot. His self-sacrifice was complete and perfect, and His blood, even as the blood of a man, was, in God’s sight, inexpressibly precious. It was the embodiment of a perfect obedience. (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 300)
Spiritual Challenge: Endeavor to wrap your head around the comprehensive, power laden, and radically transforming work of Jesus when He shed His blood before God (Heb 9:15; see also: Rom 12:1-2). Remembering that this can only be obtained by a humble, repentant, Holy Spirit led seeking of Truth. (Jn 16:13; 17:17; Rom 12:1-2; 1 Cor 6:11; Eph 3:19; 4:7-24; 5:2; Heb 9:14; 10:10, 22; 2 Pt 1:2-4; Rv 1:5)
The sacrifice of Jesus was not only the paying of a debt; it was the giving of a victory. What Jesus did puts a man right with God and what he does enables a man to stay right with God. The act of the Cross brings to men the love of God in a way that takes their terror of him away; the presence of the living Christ brings to them the power of God so that they can win a daily victory over sin. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 104)
The Spirit that was in Christ, when He shed the blood, makes us partakers of its power. His victory over sin, His perfect obedience, His access to the Father,–the soul that fully knows the cleansing of the blood in its power will know these blessings too. (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 302)
Any desire of the heart for Christ, any secret brokenness, any godly sorrow over indwelling sin, any feeble going out of self and leaning on Jesus, is the gracious work of the Holy Ghost in the soul, and must not be undervalued or unacknowledged. A truly humble view of self, is one of the most precious fruits of the Spirit: it indicates more real fruitfulness, perhaps, than any other state of mind. That ear of corn which is the most full of grain, hangs the lowest; that bough which is the most heavily laden with fruit, bends the nearest to the ground. It is no unequivocal mark of great spiritual fruitfulness in a believer, when tenderness of conscience, contrition of spirit, low thoughts of self, and high thoughts of Jesus, mark the state of his soul. (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 163)
The more guilt and shame that we have buried within ourselves, the more compelled we feel to seek relief through sin. As we fixate on our jaded motives and soiled conscience, our self-esteem sinks, and in a pernicious leap of logic, we think that we are finally learning humility.
On the contrary, a poor self-image reveals a lack of humility. Feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, inferiority, and self-hatred rivet our attention on ourselves. Humble men and women do not have a low opinion of themselves; they have no opinion of themselves, because they so rarely think about themselves. The heart of humility lies in undivided attention to God, a fascination with his beauty revealed in creation, a contemplative presence to each person who speaks to us, and a “de-selfing” of our plans, projects, ambitions, and soul. Humility is manifested in an indifference to our intellectual, emotional, and physical well-being and a carefree disregard of the image we present. No longer concerned with appearing to be good, we can move freely in the mystery of who we really are, aware of the sovereignty of God and of our absolute insufficiency and yet moved by a spirit of radical self-acceptance without self-concern. (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 120-21)
To the degree that we feel we are on a legal or performance relationship with God, to that degree our progress in sanctification is impeded. A legal mode of thinking gives indwelling sin an advantage, because nothing cuts the nerve of the desire to pursue holiness as much as a sense of guilt. On the contrary, nothing so motivates us to deal with sin in our lives as does the understanding and application of the two truths that our sins are forgiven and the dominion of sin is broken because of our union with Christ. (Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace, 108)
Conscience, the result of the fall, is the property of the race, but even after the fall, all would have been well if man had turned back to God. The conscience may be likened to a sundial, which is made for the sun even as the conscience, rightly directed, reflects God’s will. But suppose a sundial is consulted by moonlight. The dial may read ten o’clock when actually it is two o’clock. By a candle or some other light, the dial may be made to tell any hour, at the whim of the one who holds the light. Thus conscience, which man took from Satan, can be a safe guide only when it is turned toward God for His illumination. Once a man turns away his conscience from God and lets some other light shine upon it, his conscience is no longer reliable. (Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Discipline, 119)
In an attempt to soothe an uneasy conscience, ease doubts about personal worthiness, or make up for too many missteps, people turn their backs on grace to embrace a life of legalism. This is what the audience of Hebrews was guilty of in the first century. They probably thought that if they could just get back to a secure routine or a certain religious ritual, somehow they could find rest for their souls and relief for their consciences. (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews, 135)
The cleansing is for service. There was a great difference between the people in the outer court and the priests within the tabernacle. The former saw the blood sprinkled on the altar, and trusted for forgiveness; the blood was not applied to their persons. The priests were sprinkled with the blood; that gave them access to the sanctuary to serve God there. We still have outer-court Christians, who look at Calvary, and trust for forgiveness, but know nothing of the access to God which the more direct and powerful application of the blood from heaven by the Holy Spirit gives. Oh let us give ourselves to be priests, wholly separated to the service of God, wholly given up to God, for Him to work in us and through us what perishing men need,–our consecration to this service will urge us mightily to claim an ever mightier experience of the blood, because we shall feel that nothing less than a full entrance into, and a true abiding in God’s presence, can fit us for doing God’s work. The more we see and approve that the object of the cleansing must only be for service, the more shall we see and experience that the power for service is only in the cleansing. (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 309)
The “living God” cannot be served by those who are dead in sins, and therefore alienated from Him. But the sacrifice of Christ has purchased the gift of the spirit unto all for whom He died, and the Spirit renews and equips the saint for acceptable worship. (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 493)
So What?: Do you want to live a guilt free, hope filled, conscience clean, and love enveloped life? It can all be yours when you understand what Christ did with the shedding of His blood and the inauguration of the promised eternal inheritance. (Heb 9:15; see also: Rom 8:32; Gal 3:18; 1 Cor 10:16; 11:25; Ti 1:15; Heb 8:6; 9:14; 10:2, 22; 13:20; 1 Pt 3:4, 20-21)
The former priests cleaned up the outside, and even that only symbolically, imperfectly, and temporarily. But Christ cleanses from the inside, where the real problem is. He does more than cleanse the old man; He replaces it with a new man. He cleanses our conscience, but He recreates our person. In Christ, we are not cleaned-up old creatures but redeemed new creatures (2 Cor 5:17). (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 230)
. . . . when the conscience is at peace, the soul is all in good health; and so all things are enjoyed with sweetness and comfort. (J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness, 115)
You will be wounded. Just because this battle is spiritual doesn’t mean it’s not real; it is, and the wounds a man can take are in some ways more ugly than those that come in a firefight. To lose a leg is nothing compared to losing heart; to be crippled by shrapnel need not destroy your soul, but to be crippled by shame and guilt may. — John Eldredge
Some sin is objective, some subjective. Let us say that an act is objectively sinful if it disturbs shalom and makes its agent guilty. An act is subjectively sinful if its agent thinks that it is objectively sinful (whether or not it is) and purposely (or in some other accountable way) does it anyhow. Thus, even if drinking wine is not objectively sinful, it would be quite wrong for a conscientious teetotaler to drink it. Even if volunteering for infantry duty in wartime is not objectively sinful, it would be quite wrong for a conscientious pacifist to volunteer. The reason in both cases is that by flouting the deliverances of his own conscience, a person breaks trust with God. For by doing what he thinks is wrong, a person does what he thinks will grieve God, and the willingness to grieve God by one’s acts is itself grievous. Moreover, acting against one’s conscience blunts and desensitizes it; indeed, repeated thwarting of one’s conscience might eventually kill it. The subjective sinner therefore risks moral suicide. (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 21)
Our modern consumerist age is deluded to think that life consists of meeting our animal needs: eating, drinking, money, power, sex, and leisure. Charles Malik, at one time undersecretary-general of the United Nations, saw how badly this missed the real human need. In arguing for the inclusion of freedom of conscience and religion in the U.N.’s original Commission on Human Rights, he said, “All those who stress the elemental economic rights and needs of man are for the most part impressed by his sheer animal existence…This is materialism whatever else it may be called. But unless man’s proper nature, unless his mind and spirit are brought out, set apart, protected and promoted, the struggle for human rights is a sham and a mockery. (Charles Colson, The Good Life, 85)
One of the ways the ancients sometimes punished the crime of murder was to bind the victim’s corpse to the murderer so he was forced to carry about the decaying body of his victim until he himself was destroyed. It is a horrible picture, but a true portrait of what it means to bear the burden of one’s sin and guilt. It was what Paul was perhaps thinking of when he cried out, later on in Romans, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24b). Who? Paul gave the answer in the very next verse: God alone through the atonement of Jesus Christ. And what bliss to be delivered! If you can keep the image of the decaying corpse in mind, you may begin to appreciate what it means to be separated from the corrupting influence of the sin you have committed and know the joy of forgiveness. (James Montgomery Boice, An Expositional Commentary–Romans, Volume 1, 449)