“For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:13–14, KJV 1900)
Most everyone that attends a church worship experience on Sunday will clean up and put one fresh clothes. The reason for this is that on Saturday, we tend to get dirty with outside activities. It would be unthinkable to go to a church worship service wearing dirty clothes and having a noticeable and unseemly odor. So, we get cleaned up. Yet, this process of getting ready to worship only deals with the external. We rarely think about our internal condition.
Here the author of Hebrews poses a rhetorical question to bring home a point about cleanliness for our spiritual act of service. In the verses, he mentions that the blood of Christ has purged our consciences “from dead works to serve the living God.” The word, “serve” is the Greek verb, latreuo, which refers to the performance of religious rites associated with worship. The fact is that as believers in Christ, our lives are to characterize worship of the living God continually.
Worship is not something relegated to an hour on Sunday alone. Our entire lives are to characterize this work of worship. A.P. Gibbs wrote a book titled, “Worship: The Christian’s Highest Occupation.” Worship is our principal duty as believers.
Paul wrote to the Romans, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1, KJV 1900) Here the word for service is the noun latreia, which refers to the service of worship.
The words latreuo and latreia picture the service of the Levitical priests in their service to God. For them to serve God they required various ceremonial acts of cleansing. These would include sacrifices (Lev 16:14-16), washings, and an interesting act of sprinkling the ashes of a heifer on an unclean person (Num 19:1-22). These observances were to cover the defilement of them from sin and contacting anything that was considered unclean. The principle was that to serve the living God, they needed to be purified. These ordinances when followed “purified the flesh.”
The author indicates that if these things had power in purifying the flesh, the blood of Jesus’ shed in His atoning sacrifice had infinitely greater power to cleanse one from a defiled conscience. In this cleansing the believer is made pure and acceptable to God and thus, can serve the living God. Remember that we who believe are now part of a royal priesthood, called to serve the living God.
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:” (1 Peter 2:9, KJV 1900) Christ through His shed blood has purified us once and for all so that we who believe could fulfill this role.
In our lives, we all have sinned and we still do on occasion sin. We come in contact with impure things every day that have a way of making us unclean. We still fall short of the infinite holiness of God. Yet, the blood of Jesus cleanses us completely that we might offer ourselves to serve God (1 John 1:7).