“Purify our conscience from …”

We live in a world where “conscience” is rarely mentioned. If someone is accused of wrong doing, they usually do their utmost to dodge around the accusations and imply they are “innocent” – if they have to admit anything, they resort to saying something was ‘inappropriate’ – never that they told a lie! This is especially the case with politicians. This approach to the issues of life should never apply to true followers of Christ; when they truly examine their hearts and minds they will be genuinely conscious of their failings.

Our readings in the letter to the Hebrews puts all this into a balanced perspective. We read of the failures of those who lived under the Law of Moses and offered “the blood of goats and bulls … for the purification of the flesh”. But note the comparison with those who are committed to following Christ! We read, “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (9:13,14).

The next verse tell us about Christ: “… he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance …” What a wonderful picture unfolds as we see references to the “mediation” work of Jesus in chapter 8 that “the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises” (verse 6) and quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34 in the verses which follow (8-12) to show how all this was revealed in the Old Testament. Note particularly the prediction in verse 10, “I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God…” What an active conscience that creates!

Another contrast is drawn between the Old and New covenants to show the difference between the Priests in the old tabernacle with its Most Holy Place and the situation now – where “Christ has entered … into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf” (9:24). Now note the conclusion: “… so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (verse 28).