Excerpts from 

God’s Remedy for Guilt

Hebrews 9:1-14

By Pastor Steven J. Cole  - June 20, 2004

  Read the entire message at http://www.fcfonline.org/content/1/sermons/062004M.pdf

Emphasis added in bold and italicized letters

Our society has thrown out guilt as a bad carryover from our Puritan past. Movie stars and celebrities not only cast off their guilt,
but also go on TV to boast about their shameful deeds. Even Christians who have fallen into sin explain how they have come to
feel good about themselves in spite of their failures. They complain about self-righteous, judgmental Christians who won’t accept their “shortcomings.”

And yet, in spite of our widespread efforts to suppress or deny guilt, we can’t quite shake it. Years ago, psychologist Eric
Fromm observed, “It is indeed amazing that in as fundamentally irreligious a culture as ours, the sense of guilt should be so widespread and deep-rooted as it is” (The Sane Society, [publisher unknown], p. 181). A cartoon hit the nail on the head. It showed a psychologist saying to his patient, “Mr. Figby, I think I can explain your feelings of guilt. You’re guilty!”

The Bible declares that all of us are guilty before the bench of God’s holy justice. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of
(Rom. 3:23). ...

...guilt is more than just a bad feeling. It is true moral culpability that alienates us from God and brings us under His decreed penalty, eternal punishment in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15). But, thankfully, the Bible also declares that God has provided a remedy for our guilt. It is vital that we understand and apply this remedy personally.

The Hebrew Christians were tempted to leave the Christian faith and return to Judaism. The author is showing them why that
would be spiritually fatal. The old covenant under Moses was inferior to the new covenant that Jesus initiated. The Levitical priests
under the old covenant were sinful, mortal men, as contrasted with Jesus, our sinless priest forever....

In our text, he shows that the old covenant sacrificial system was temporary and imperfect. It could not provide a clean
conscience for the worshipers. God designed that old system to point ahead to the superior, final sacrifice of our high priest, Christ, who offered His own blood to obtain for us eternal redemption and a clean conscience. Thus his point is that… God’s remedy for guilt is the blood of Christ....

1. God designed the old sacrificial system as a temporary, imperfect way of pointing ahead to Christ (Hebrews 9:1-10).

A. God designed the earthly tabernacle as a picture of Christ (Hebrews 9:1-5).

...the Bible only devotes two chapters to the story of creation, but it gives about 50 chapters to the tabernacle [which preceded the temple]. It was the center of Jewish worship under the old covenant.

...the design of the tabernacle and its worship was not left up to human ideas, but God revealed everything in great detail to Moses on the mountain. The whole thing was an Old Testament portrait of Jesus Christ.

The author omits any reference to the courtyard, which contained the bronze altar for sacrifices and the bronze laver or basin.
His purpose centers on the tabernacle itself, because he wants to compare and contrast it with the true tabernacle in heaven, where Jesus entered into the very presence of God.

The tabernacle was divided into two sections. The outer section, called the holy place, was about 30 long, 15 feet wide, and 15
feet high. The inner section, the Holy of Holies, was a 15-foot cube. On the left in the holy place, as the priest entered, was a solid
gold lampstand with seven branches filled with pure olive oil. Since there were no windows, this provided the only source of
light. On the right was the table that held the 12 loaves of sacred bread. Farther in, and to the center just outside the veil that divided the holy place from the Holy of Holies, was the altar of incense....

Inside the Holy of Holies was the ark of the covenant... a golden jar of manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments. The covering of the ark was called the mercy seat, or (in Greek), the place of propitiation. It was overshadowed by two cherubim of glory, so called because it was there that the glory of God’s presence was manifested (Exodus 25:22). The high priest sprinkled the blood from the sacrifices on this mercy seat. The author does not explain the symbolic meaning of any of these things, but hurries on to his point, that these things were temporary and looked ahead to Christ ...

The lampstand pictures Christ, not here as the light of the world (because the world was not allowed into the holy place), but as the one who illumines the things of God through the Holy Spirit (the oil) to those who draw near. The table of sacred bread pictures
Christ as the sustenance of His chosen people and their communion with Him. The altar of incense shows Christ interceding for
His people in God’s presence.

The ark pictured the very presence of God. The golden jar of manna shows Christ as the daily bread of His people. Aaron’s rod
that budded shows Christ, the branch, chosen above others because He alone is life-giving. The tables of the covenant reveal
God’s holy standards. Neither the pot of manna nor Aaron’s rod existed in Solomon’s time, but the two stone tables were still there (1 Kings 8:9). The ark itself apparently disappeared when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple in 586 B.C. The later temple only contained a stone slab in the Holy of Holies.

B. God designed the ministry of the priests in the tabernacle as a picture of the work of Christ (9:6-10).

He summarizes the common activities of the priests in Hebrews 9:6. They went into the outer tabernacle to trim the lamps and to put fresh incense on the altar. Once a week they would replace the sacred loaves of bread.

But 9:7 focuses on the Holy of Holies. Only the high priest could go in there, once a year, on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus
16). He would first offer a bull for his own sins. He would enter the Holy of Holies and sprinkle the blood of the bull on the mercy
seat and in front of it. Then he would go back out and slaughter one of two goats as a sin offering for the people and take this
blood into the mercy seat. He would go back out and lay his hands on the living goat, confessing over it the sins of the people. They would lead this goat out into the wilderness and let it go.

... that old system provided a way for forgiveness for “the sins of the people committed in ignorance” (9:7). The Law stipulated that there was no sacrifice for sins of defiance (Num. 15:30-31). There is a sense, of course, in which virtually all of our sins stem from defiance toward God, but the reference in Numbers seems to refer to outrageous, blasphemous behavior that represented revolt or treason against God.  In this sense, there is a parallel in Hebrews 10:26-31, where the author strongly warns his readers against
apostasy, for which there is no sacrifice.

The annual Day of Atonement ritual would have underscored to Israel a number of vital spiritual truths. It portrayed the absolute
holiness of God and how our sin separates us from entering His presence. It showed the sin and defilement of all of the people,
including the high priest. It showed that no one dared to enter God’s holy presence without the blood of an acceptable sacrifice. It
showed that the people must approach God through the proper mediator, the high priest. It showed that if the proper sacrifice was
offered, God would be propitiated or satisfied, so that He would not judge their sins. But, as glorious as all of this ritual was, it was
inadequate, for two main reasons:

1) The old system provided limited access to God. None of the people and not even all of the priests could enter
the Holy of Holies. Only the high priest could go there, and that only once a year, with blood. It was not a cozy place where he put his feet up on the hearth and had a warm conversation with God! He had to make sure that he had the ritual down perfectly, or it would be his last trip into that sacred sanctuary!...

2) The old system provided limited efficacy of the sacrifices. The author’s bottom line is that these gifts and sacrifices
could not “make the worshiper perfect in conscience” (9:9). He does not explain exactly what that means, except that it was “a
symbol” (parable) “for the present time.”...

Second, they were temporary, “imposed until a time of reformation,” which refers to the time of Christ. The fact that the sacrifices
had to be repeated annually showed the incomplete nature of the forgiveness. It put off guilt for each year, but it had to be done
again and again.

...the Old Testament sacrificial system was not God’s complete and final provision for the guilt of our sins. It all pointed ahead to Christ.

2. The blood of Christ obtained eternal redemption and a clean conscience for us (9:11-14).

Whereas the old system provided only limited access and limited efficacy, Christ provides complete access and efficacy:

A. Christ’s blood provides complete access into the heavenly Holy of Holies (9:11-12).

...The “greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands,” refers to the “true tabernacle” in heaven (8:2), which is God’s very presence. The point is, Christ didn’t just go into an earthly Holy of Holies. He went into heaven itself, of which the earthly tabernacle was only a picture.

Furthermore, Christ didn’t take the blood of goats and calves to sprinkle on the altar. Rather, He went there “through His own
blood.” Some have erroneously taught that Jesus had to carry His blood into heaven to secure our redemption. But He didn’t go
there with His blood, but through His blood. He secured our redemption on the cross.

In contrast to going back every year, Christ “entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”

The author is showing the complete supremacy and finality of the blood of Christ over the old system. Through His death, our
guilt is atoned for once and for all, for all eternity! The penalty has been paid. There is nothing that we can add to what Christ did.

Through Him we have direct access to God!

B. Christ’s blood provides complete efficacy that cleanses our consciences (Hebrews 9:13-14)....

The Bible teaches that the conscience alone is not an infallible guide. Through repeated sin, the conscience can be defiled (Titus 1:15) and seared (1 Tim. 4:2). For example, I read that Cambodian dictator Pol Pot murdered between two and seven million of his fellow people. He ordered the murder of everyone who wore eye glasses, among many other senseless killings. Historians say that his evil deeds were even greater than those of Hitler and Stalin, if possible. Yet just before he died in 1998, he told a reporter that he had a clear conscience! It wasn’t clear; it was seared!

So our consciences need to be informed and trained through Scripture. As we learn who God is and what His holy standards are, our consciences accuse us of how sinful we are. God’s commandments, applied as Jesus did to the heart level, convict and condemn us all! None of us come close to loving God with our entire being, or to loving our fellow human beings as we love ourselves. Part of God’s work in regeneration is to bring His holy Law to bear on our hearts, so that we despair of any way of trying to justify ourselves. We stand truly guilty.

So how can our guilt be removed and our consciences be cleansed? Only through the sacrifice of an acceptable substitute. As
1 Peter 3: 18 puts it, “
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God….” Or, as
Paul put it (Rom. 3:24-25), “
being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.”

Our guilt is not removed by doing penance or good works. Our guilt is totally removed by God’s free gift through the blood of Christ. We receive this gift through faith.

“But,” you may wonder, “if it is totally by God’s grace apart from anything that we do, won’t people take advantage of His
grace by living in sin?” Paul deals extensively with this objection in Romans 6. But here our author counters it with a single phrase at the end of verse 14:

3. Christ redeems and cleanses us from dead works to serve the living God (Hebrews 9:14).

Some Christians serve God in an attempt to pacify a guilty conscience. They erroneously think, “If I do enough for Him, maybe He will forgive me.” That is a wrong motive! ...
There are three senses in which the works of those who have not trusted in the blood of Christ are dead works (from P. Hughes,
pp. 360-361):

  • First, they are dead works because the one doing them is dead in his sins, separated from the life of God.
  • Second, they are dead works because they “are essentially sterile and unproductive.” They cannot communicate spiritual life to others because they stem from a person who is spiritually dead.
  • Third, they are dead works because they end in spiritual death. A person does them thinking that they will earn him eternal life. But if eternal life could come through our good works, then Christ died needlessly! No amount of good works can qualify a person for heaven.

But once we are born again by God’s grace, we offer ourselves as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1-2), so that whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, we do it to God’s glory (1 Cor. 10:31). Our daily lives become an act of worship and praise to the living God out of gratitude (Heb. 13:15-16).

...may I transfer all my guilt to another? Has God provided an Offering for me, that I may lay my sins on His head? Then, God
willing, I will not bear them on my own soul one moment longer.” Accordingly I sought to lay my sins upon the sacred
head of Jesus.

Have you done that? If you have not, you are truly guilty before God and stand in jeopardy of His judgment. If you have, you
have applied God’s remedy for your guilt, the blood of Christ. With a clean conscience, you now can serve the living God.

© 2004 by Steven Cole. Used with permission.

 "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:8-9

  To read the entire message, please go to: http://www.fcfonline.org/content/1/sermons/062004M.pdf

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