In the previous chapter, we learned that it is the blood of sprinkling which purges our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. But now a specter rises to haunt us. If the blood of Jesus has truly purged my conscience of sin, why do I still feel guilty? Have you ever had a sin that you have confessed and placed under the blood, yet it still plagued your conscience? If you haven’t, I am sure you know someone who has. Though they’ve confessed the sin and placed it under the blood, they can’t shake the guilt. Why is that?
The short answer is that the blood must be applied in faith. We have to believe that we have been truly forgiven. Many of us are still bound by the guilt of things that God has forgotten long ago. But even when we have faith in God’s forgiveness, the smear on our conscience might still remain. The reason this occurs is usually because we have not made a full application of the blood of Jesus Christ to the sin we have confessed. A full application of the blood requires us to recognize the different ways the Lord Jesus offered Himself to God for us, and then to walk through these offerings in faith and obedience.
If we don’t fully apply the blood of Jesus Christ to our sin, then we will never be free to serve God in the way He intended. We will simply frustrate the grace of God in our lives. The Apostle Paul said that he didn’t frustrate the grace of God in his life. Paul had been a murderer. But once he was saved, he didn’t frustrate the grace of God. He had been a Pharisee of the Pharisees, but now he was free of legalism. He no longer tried to win approval from God by the works of the Law. Instead, he served God with power and a dedication that sprang from the sure knowledge that God loved him. How do you and I get there? How do we arrive at the place where we can accept God’s grace and allow it to work through us, versus trying to work for it?
When most people make their first attempt to read the Bible, they generally have to take a couple of running starts before they get off the ground—if they ever get off the ground at all. Usually they approach it like any other book and start at the beginning. It’s not long before they encounter the daunting “begats.” If they are made of stalwart stuff, they might get through chapter 5 of Genesis. But by the time they get to chapter 11, they begin to question whether reading the Bible was a good idea at all. If they are recent converts and sense that reading the Bible is what Christians do, they might stiffen the upper lip and take another stab at it. They decide to skip the genealogies and enjoy the excitement of the patriarchal narratives of Genesis and the dramatic story of the Exodus. And then they come to Leviticus! Unless they are being discipled wisely, they might throw up their hands at this point and say, “I’ll believe Jesus, but this Bible thing isn’t for me.”
This, sadly enough, happens all too often. How many people do you know who have been Christians for more than a year and have little to no understanding of the Old Testament? Jesus ran the devil off in the wilderness using only a few verses from Deuteronomy. How many of us would have the knowledge and confidence to do that? When the saints of the first century witnessed about Christ from the Scriptures, they only had the Old Testament. How would our witnessing differ if we couldn’t use Romans or the Gospel of John? Thank God that we have them, but we need to recognize that they stand on the foundation of the Torah as do all the other books in the Bible.
The Lord Jesus is the Torah incarnate. When Moses wrote the Torah, he was writing about Jesus Christ. We cannot afford to be put off by genealogies or Levitical laws. They and the narratives and the prophecies contained in the Pentateuch are vital for our faith. It is in the first five books of the Bible that all the things that Jesus Christ did for us are defined and specified. So how are we to shepherd ourselves and others to delve into the riches that are contained therein? We need to start with the New Testament Torah: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts. But then we need to go back into Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy to see how the New Covenant is the fulfillment of the Old, for without knowledge of the requirements of the Old Covenant we will not be able to fully appreciate all that Christ accomplished for us on the cross.
In the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ are contained all the sacrifices of the Old Covenant. Hebrews 9 gives reference to this sacrificial system.
9 Which [the tabernacle system] was a figure [Greek—parabole, a parable] for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;
10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.
The entire Tabernacle and its sacrificial system was a parable. This parable played itself out in the eyes of the nation of Israel for a millennium and change before Messiah appeared. Parable means to place side by side—this illustration laid next to that reality. The illustration helps to illuminate the reality; that is what a parable is. The parable of the Tabernacle was meant to illustrate and illuminate the reality of Jesus Christ. And in the Tabernacle system there were offered up “both gifts and sacrifices.” Now, we have an understandable tendency to concentrate on the sacrificial part of the parable. For instance, if I were to ask you why Jesus was sacrificed on the cross you would probably respond with, “to be the payment for our sin.” This isn’t a wrong answer, it is simply incomplete. Yes, Jesus was the payment for our sin. He was our sin sacrifice. But to receive Him as only the sin sacrifice is coming to the cross, it is not going through the cross. We should all desire to know the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. We cannot have one without the other, and to fully fellowship in His sufferings, we need to know all that Christ was offering on the cross.
Please understand, I am not minimizing nor maligning His sacrifice for our sin. It is upon the sin sacrifice and its atoning power that all the other offerings stand. But if I stop at the sin sacrifice, I will stay in a remembrance of sin, not the clearing conscience thereof. And what we are after is a blood-cleared conscience, a conscience that is healthy and alive to God, strong to discern between good and evil. And to receive this, we need to understand not only the sacrifices, but the gifts as well.