“For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow sprinkled on those who are defiled consecrated them and provided ritual purity, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.” Hebrews 9:13-14
Through chapters eight and nine of Hebrews, we have seen the author discuss the old and new covenants. Most of this discussion has come by contrasting the two covenants–by focusing on the things that the old covenant could not do and alluding to the new covenant correcting these shortcomings. With all of its regulations and rituals, the old covenant was not designed to give us salvation. Instead, the old covenant pointed us to the God who, out of grace and mercy, gives us salvation.
Beginning in Hebrews 9:11, the author tells us how the new covenant was enacted and how it fixes us. We are told very emphatically that everything has changed with Christ’s arrival, and that His coming to the world signaled the arrival of the new covenant. We see that Christ does four things: He came, He passed through the veil into the true tabernacle, He entered the Most Holy Place, and He secured eternal redemption. Christ enacted this new covenant by passing through the true heavenly tabernacle and entering directly into God’s presence in heaven. Christ’s actions–passing through the tabernacle, entering into the Most Holy Place–are the same actions performed by the high priest on the Day of Atonement. However, Christ’s actions are more significant and more powerful. The priests work in the earthly tabernacle, but Christ works in the real tabernacle in heaven. Not only that, but Christ’s work of atonement for us and the purchasing of our salvation is eternal. The author says that Christ’s actions are “once and for all,” meaning that they never need to be renewed or repeated. The same could not be said for the atonement made by the high priests since they had to repeat the same ceremony year after year.
The covenant made by Christ is eternal, and His sacrifices cleanse us of our sins. He does for us what the old covenant never could–He fixes the problem of our sinful nature. The cleansing rituals of the old covenant only gave us external relief, but they could not fix our hearts. Through the Holy Spirit, Christ purges us of our sins, and He declares us clean. He gives us new hearts and new natures that seek Him instead of seeking sin. Christ makes us alive and able to worship the living God, and Christ frees us from the dead works and rituals of the old covenant.
Christ does for us what nothing else could; He frees us from our sins and our sinful natures. Through Him, we are enabled to live as the people of God. Being washed in His blood and being transformed by Him requires our lives to reflect this change. If our lives do not reflect the transformation we have experienced, we must repent, and we must allow Him to free us from the sins to which we so foolishly cling.
Artwork: “Crucifixion,” Graham Sutherland OM, 1946