Lesson 22: "As Pertaining to the Conscience" (Hebrews 9:9)
Hebrews 9:1--10:18 continued
The Book of Hebrews. Welcome to lesson #22. This is a continuation of our last lesson. We got down to about v.8 or v.9 in our discussion of ch. 9, I trust you recall. This entire discussion is a comparison (or contrast) of the old covenant (and the old Mosaic worship) with the new covenant in the Christian system and our worship today. For each item back there in the Mosaic system, the writer sees a counterpart (or converse) in the Christian system. Thus, he says (10:1), "the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things..." i.e. the things to come in the Christian system. The writer's shadow-image thought and illustration describes this idea very well, when you get his point of view. This writer knew the 0. T. in every intricate detail. There was nothing strange about this with those early Christians in and around Jerusalem (in the AD 60's). These descriptions touched them in a firsthand way much more than it does with us for the mere fact that the temple was still standing when they received this letter. Their friends and their peers were still worshipping at the temple offering those animal sacrifices prescribed in the 0. T. through the priestly element officiating there. The big feast day festivals were still being held and animal sacrifices were still being offered by the Jewish priests. OH, the old system had officially ended; but, the Jewish religious leaders didn't want to quit that old system and although the temple was destroyed in AD 70, they have continued that system even into our day, I trust you are aware. However, even back when the Mosaic system was in force, our writer says in v.9, those gifts and sacrifices "could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience."
Alright, now I want you to dwell on that thought just a minute. Be sure you get the contrast that our writer makes (here). The contrast has to do with the old system and the new system with respect to the conscience...i.e. the human conscience of those worshipping in the two different systems. In the old system, those rules that required animal sacrifices ("carnal ordinances," they're called here in v.10) did not have the same psychological effect upon their conscience as is the case with our conscience today in the new system (i.e. the Christian dispensation). Now, what's the difference? Let me ask that question again! What's the difference? Be sure you latch on to this! The old system was "imposed on them until the time of reformation" (that's the end of v.10... we looked at that verse once before). The word "reformation" means there was a change, shift, alternation, renovation, or revision of the system. This is said very carefully and very precisely. Now, the major change that took place (i.e. the principal difference in the two systems) involves the mental aspect. This major revision (here called a "reformation") was not just a matter of changing items of worship, i.e. the tabernacle, animal sacrifices and all of that. The difference is psychological. And once it is embedded in your brain, this discussion becomes much, much more meaningful. It has a bearing upon almost every aspect of our spiritual life. On the other hand, a lack of understanding (here) is responsible for a mind-set that brings on a lot of denominational error. Understanding this properly is very, very important.
Now, let's get down to the crux of the matter. First off, I want to ask you: what is conscience? What's your definition? You say it a sense of right and wrong. Well, O.K.! If you break the word up into "con" and "science," the prefix C-O-N means "against" and the word "science" means orderly or systematic. Thus, the conscience is against any orderly or systemized scheme for categorizing right and wrong. And yet, all of us have deep-seated ideas and feelings that we tend to trust and respect as pertains to right and wrong. This mechanism or this department of our nervous system (whatever it is) tends to guide us (if you will). If we are honest and if we trust this mechanism with a strong sway, then we say we have a good conscience, i.e. regardless of the outcome, even if the action we took got us in trouble and we followed our conscience then we say we have a good conscience on that matter. However, on the other hand when extenuating circumstances tug at us, and we bump up against contradictory situations, we have the ability to over-ride that mechanism and to over-rule our conscience. If we do this often and we're not loyal to our conscience, we sometimes say we have a guilty conscience or a sick conscience. But, here's the jawbreaker! Our conscience is educatable. Our conscience is programmed on the basis of experience and persuasion. If you teach a kid that it's all right to steal, but its wrong to get caught; then, his response to swindling and burglarizing will be quite different than his response would have been if his conscience was programmed correctly. Thus, here's the point, we are not born with a conscience. We are simply born with the ability and the right nervous system to develop a conscience. Normally, at least, it's part of the equipment that God gave us. God gave us the softwear, WE PROGRAM the information. Mothers and fathers and grandmas and grandpas and all of our friends and associates usually have a little part in programming our conscience in our formative years, especially. God set it up that way. You have a conscience. Our conscience has much to do with our attitudes. An attitude is a trend in behavior. We develop certain trends of behavior. Most of those Greek gentiles in the first century would eat almost anything...whatever tasted good and had the calories to sustain them, they ate it, it was O.K. with them, conscientiously. On the other hand, the Jews had been taught certain dietary rules... part of the Law of Moses (Deut. 14:7). Start talking about eating a nice steaming hot piece of puppy ham (even today) and everybody around you will just about puke. Someplace or another, it was programmed into me that you don't eat a dog. But, I ask you, what makes a dog any different than a cow? neither of them are sacred and both of them have digestible protein. Now, Hinduism and Christianity come into real conflict here. You see, most of our conflicts go back to that information programmed in our conscience. Thus, trends of our behavior (i.e. our attitudes) are guided by our priorities, that's another way of saying it depends upon the nature of our conscience. Our faithfulness, our loyalty, what we take serious and what we do not take serious all stems from this inner part of man, that was programmed into our nervous system. Now, all of this in the Bible is usually packed into one simple word...that word is "heart." The human heart! For example, what was Jesus saying when he gave that beatitude, in Matt. 5:8, "blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God"? Much emphasis is placed upon this in the Bible. We program our mental computers and our mental programs are no more right than the information we use to program them. The computer people have a phrase for this: GIGO! they say: "Garbage in...garbage out." It's just that simple. And don't forget, computers can be re-programmed. We can re-program our mental computer, or to say it another way, we can reshape our conscience. Now, that's not an easy thing to do. You really have to be an honest', pure hearted person to do that, when we get new or better information, what do we do with it? I learn something new...it's not what grandpa believe! PING! I toss it out. It doesn't fit my grandpa-programmed conscience. But then I learn, it is an established fact... it is right information... it is correct information ...it is the truth of the matter. Now, why did grandpa go counter to this? Well, maybe grandpa didn't have that information. Maybe you have learned something (here,) he never knew. If grandpa is still around, you might consult him on this. But, you must decide ultimately what is truth and what is error. Now, that IS NOT SAYING truth is relative...truth is NOT just whatever you want to make it. Truth is absolute! Rock solid. Truth is truth and error is error. One will not substitute for the other... don't try it! The moment you do, you are not pure in heart any longer (Matt. 5:8). You will not see God...now, that's what Jesus said!. Now, I want to ask you: is YOUR CONSCIENCE really reprogrammable? Or have you hardened your heart? Is your conscience set in concrete? Well, you might have to start with a jackhammer; but, you can re-program that thing, if needs be, and there's a lot riding on this. I think you get the point.
O.K., slip it in reverse just a minute and let's back up to Heb. 9:9, that you are probably thinking we have already passed by. What did it say? That spiritual service back there of offering gifts and sacrifices (i.e. obeying "carnal ordinances") according to the law of Moses, "could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience." Now, wait a minute! What is the writer saying? There is a difference in the way they served God and the way we serve God, as pertaining to the conscience? Then connect up v.10, this was "imposed on them until the time of reformation." Then, v.11 & 12 makes it clear, this reformation business is a reference to Jesus becoming our high priest and by his blood he entered in once into the holy place (i.e. heaven... which is defined as on the other side of the "veil," if you remember Heb. 6:19-20). Thus, the reformation is a reference to that change of covenants, i.e. from the Mosaic age to the Christian age. That transition that took place when Jesus died on the cross, that dark day when the veil of the temple was rent from top to bottom... from that day forward, there is something different about our spiritual service, "as pertaining to the conscience." Have you got it cornered? What's the difference? Have you got the question? The difference has to do with the conscience...the difference has to do with the heart and with the mind (do you remember Jere. 31:33, as quoted here in Heb. 8:10?). Or to go back to Jere. 31:33 and read it directly from the KJV, it says: "I will put my law in their INWARD PARTS..." Have you got it? Now, I'm going to skip ahead, down to the end of the chapter... I' m going to read v.28 and then read right on down in to ch. 10 about 3 verses. Get your eyes down to v.28: "Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices, which they offered year by year continually, make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? [WHY?] because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more CONSCIENCE of sins. BUT in those sacrifices there is a REMEMBRANCE again made of sins every year." Now, this is a side-light; but, they were still offering those sacrifices...the temple was still standing. The writer said: "there IS a remembrance." Can you see it in that verse? But, the point we want to get is: "there was a REMEMBRANCE again made of sins every year." It was written right into the law. They formally remembered their sins again every year. Do you remember the "scapegoat" and the blood of the other goat that was offered on the mercy seat during the big feast day in the fall of the year? (You really need to go back and read Lev. ch. 16).
Now, try to get this in focus! They offered animal sacrifices for their sins, i.e. back under the Law of Moses. When they obeyed those "carnal commandments" that was all they could do at the moment. But, they understood, their sins were not permanently removed. There was a formal remembrance of those same sins made again every fall. You see, this was in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. They understood their salvation depended upon this future event...the coming of the Messiah. And Jesus died for the sins of the world...the whole world..., i.e. those under the old covenants as well as for those of us under the new covenant. Only the blood of Jesus can take away sins. He "gave himself for our sins..." (Gal. 1:4). "He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." (I-John 2:2). You see this concept is taught all through the Bible... (in both the O.T. and the N.T.). Now, how does that connect up with conscience? You see, their sins were always on their mind. Their past sins were always on their conscience...even after offering the sacrifices that they were commanded to offer. They were conscious, that the removal of their sins depended upon the coming of the Messiah. Those sacrifices could "never take away sins." (That's Heb. 10:11). "By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight" (Rom. 3:20). "By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified" (Gal. 2:16). On the other hand, Peter said: we "offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." (I-Pet. 2:5). It is a different ball game. "Once in the end of the world [Jesus] hath... appeared to put away sins by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb. 9:26). God said: "And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more?" (Heb. 10:17). Now, when our sins are remitted, "there is no more offering for sin" (that's the next verse). Now, how are sins remitted? In baptism! That's what Peter said on pentecost, "repent, and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ [why Peter?] for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). "Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin" (Heb. 10:18). Or to say it another ways: "we are sanctified [i.e. separated from our sins] through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. 10:10). Yes, but what does this have to do with conscience? "Having a high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water" (Heb. 10:22). That pure water symbol (or analogy) is an allusion to baptism. For Peters said, "baptism...is the answer of a GOOD CONSCIENCE toward God." (I-Pet. 3:21). We die to sin in Baptism (that's Rom. 6:7). Baptism is a burial. In baptism there is a "likeness of his resurrection" (Rom. 6:5). Not only can we have our alien sins removed in Baptism, i.e. "with a true heart in full assurance of faith." Think about that phrase just a minute, (that's Heb. 10:22). Not only can our alien sins be removed by the blood of Jesus in baptism, "he loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood" (Rev. 1:5); not only, alien sins but the blood of Christ keeps on cleansing. "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins," i.e. from day to day "IF we walk in the light, as he is in the light, [if] we have fellowship one with another, [then] the blood of Jesus Christ... cleanseth us from all sin" (I-John 1:7-9). It's the only route to heaven. Because, there will be no sin in heaven (Rev. 21:27). Sin, any sin, even one sin...not remitted by the blood of Jesus Christ...will keep us out of heaven. Do you want in? Do you have a GOOD CONSCIENCE toward God (I-Pet. 3:21)? Are you walking in the light (I-John 1:7-8-9)? It does have to do with conscience! Review this and I'll be with you in lesson # 23...and have a good day.