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The Daily Word of Righteousness
Clearing the Conscience of the Worshiper, #3
This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. (Hebrews 9:9)
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. (Hebrews 10:1,2)
What does Hebrews mean by saying "the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper"; "the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins"?
I think we can gain the biblical understanding by referring to a passage from the Book of Romans.
What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "Do not covet." But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. (Romans 7:7,8)
Paul was an observant Jew. Perhaps he had coveted another person's house or position in Israel. If he had done this, and he became aware of it, he would have gone to the Temple and made the appropriate sacrifice, confessing his sin and making an atonement for it.
According to the Word of God, which cannot ever be changed in the smallest detail, Paul was forgiven. The Book of Leviticus states he was forgiven. Paul, a follower of the Law, knew he was forgiven.
Why then was Paul troubled? Not because he was not actually forgiven when the sacrifice was made, because the Law said he was forgiven.
Why then was Paul's conscience not clear? His conscience was not clear, not because he was not forgiven but because he was still coveting. He had been forgiven for a covetous action, but the sin of coveting was still present with him.
So the defiling of the conscience, which resulted in Paul's "death," so to speak, had nothing to do with the fact that the Book of Leviticus does not mean what it states. Paul indeed was forgiven by obeying God's Word. But his conscience was not clear because the sin of covetousness still remained in his flesh. Not the guilt concerning the action he had confessed to the priest, but the sin itself.
Thus, when the Book of Hebrews speaks of the superiority of the new covenant, the writer does not mean it is superior because it offers a better forgiveness but because it has the authority and power to actually remove the sin itself; not the guilt of the sin only, but the sin itself.
To be continued.