November 2 Esight, 2008

“How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” -Hebrews 9:14I would like you to consider things differently for a moment.

1. Sin, through the presence of God, produces an intrinsic shame and guilt that, if we were left to bear alone, would crush out our life.

2. Forgiveness, from a biblical perspective, is not preoccupied with the appeasement of any ill feelings harbored against us by the Divine.

3. Forgiveness is occupied with cleansing the conscience of the sinner from the intrinsic, life crushing shame and guilt set in motion by our sin, thus enabling us to enter into God’s presence once again.

4. Forgiveness always comes at a price to the one who has been violated.

With these thoughts in place, consider the above verse taken from the epistle to the Hebrews. The author here states one of the purposes for the shedding of Christ’s blood. Now I want to reassure you that I do believe the primary purpose of Calvary was to reveal the character of the Father. But its secondary purpose, and thus the medium through which we see God’s character, is His Divine act of forgiveness for the purpose of cleansing our consciences through the gift of repentance in response to His shed blood.

With this in mind, consider a text that has troubled far too many.

“And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.” -Hebrews 9:22

The Greek word for “remission of sins” is aphesis. It is the feminine singular nominative form of the Greek noun aphiemi. Aphiemi refers specifically to the release of a prisoner or someone who is indebted. Many have read the above verse and assumed that Calvary was purposed for the assuaging of some ill feelings being harbored toward us by the Divine. By the phrase “remission of sins” we have assumed a reference to some Divine “letting us off the hook,” so to speak. This paints a very relationally destructive picture of God, to say the least. With this picture we will, at best, be thankful for Jesus while subconsciously harboring fear, wondering what God would have done to us had Jesus not stepped forward.

This is not at all what Hebrews 9:22 is saying. The “remission of sins” is not referring to appeasing some thirst for blood harbored in an angered God. Aphiemi is talking about releasing us, and cleansing us on the level of our consciences from the life crushing guilt and shame that will cause God’s presence to us to be destructive rather than life giving. It was to “cleanse our conscience” (Hebrews 9:14) for which Christ’s blood was shed. It was in order to send sin’s intrinsic shame and guilt into “remission” that Christ died. Calvary was for the purpose of “releasing” us so we can enter into God’s divine, other-centered presence once again. Otherwise, the same glory that is life to the angels, will be death to us!

Understand, Calvary was to save you “from your sins,” (Matthew 1:21) not God. God is not the enemy, sin is! God is not the one we should fear, sin is! Yes, God loves you no matter what you do, but Sin doesn’t! Sin is intrinsically life destructive. Everything in nature functions according to God’s principle of other-centered love. Only when something turns inward does it begin to die. This is no different for us.*

The amplified version of Hebrews 9:22 is quite amazing. It recognizes these two opposing perspectives held by many in the interpretation of the verse:

“[In fact] under the Law almost everything is purified by means of blood, and without the shedding of blood there is neither release from sin and its guilt nor the remission of the due and merited punishment for sins.” -Hebrews 9:22

Notice that this version defines “remission” two ways: a release or cleansing from sin’s intrinsically destructive guilt and the Divinely imposed punishment merited by our sins. But could the punishment for our sins be more intrinsic? Could sin’s life crushing guilt and sin’s punishment be truly one and the same?

God is not saying to this world, “Serve me or I’ll kill you!” He is crying out, “You’re dying! Let me save you!”

Thoughts to ponder.

I wish you God’s best this week.

*This is not to imply that God never has nor never will take a human life. But simply looking at what these specific texts in Hebrews are communicating to us.