13For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, 14how 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? (NASB)
One of the old country-church songs I remember my grandmother singing said, "There's power in the blood!" Of course, it was referring to the blood of Christ. How sad that so many who sang that song didn't and still don't take full advantage of that great power. They try to add their feeble will to Christ's work; make their "decision" a part of their salvation. Also, they deny the continuing strength and peace He gives in His Holy Supper as they seek to remove that very blood, shed for all, from this wonderful sacrament. We know better – at least we ought to – for the Bible does indeed teach us that the blood of Christ has great power!
In the days of the Old Testament, a red heifer – the color red signifying the inflaming and viral nature of sin – was to be slain by a priest; but not the High Priest. The High Priest was to abstain from all contact with death. Then the body and blood were to be burnt outside the camp of Israel. Some of the blood was retained and sprinkled towards the tabernacle, and also, during the process of burning, cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet wool were thrown into the fire. The ashes were gathered, kept, and stored for use by those who had become ceremonially unclean by touching the dead, and for the purification of a house, furniture, and cooking implements where a death had taken place. The ashes were mixed with water and sprinkled upon people, buildings, and other items on the third and seventh day, and thus the defilement was removed. This was God's own arrangement for the purity of His people. Only those who complied with this will of God could enjoy the liberty of approaching His courts, and sharing in the blessings of the tabernacle and priesthood.
We can't fail to see the many symbols of the sacrifice of Christ in this ceremonial purification – an animal red with sin, a Savior Who was "made to be sin"; burned outside the camp, crucified outside Jerusalem; wood, the cross; hyssop in both scenes; scarlet wool, the robe Jesus wore. Truly, this red heifer was a type of Christ. By believing what God said concerning the ashes of this animal, the people were purified. By faith in Jesus Christ and Him crucified, we too are purified!
The writer to the Hebrews had previously noted the inferior and limited effect of all the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament. So also here he moves from the blood of slain beasts to the Divine nature of our Lord, and marks out the untold value and merit of His death and the great and eternal results of the purification we receive by faith. Thus, it is Christ's sacrifice that cleanses our consciences from dead works.
Death in the Old Testament is almost always identified with pollution. A conscience defiled by dead works shows nothing more than the putrefying nature of sin, and the exclusion from God which it produces. But the precious blood of Christ, which cleanses the conscience, fills it with love, gratitude, and service toward God and others. Christ's death opens the gates of fellowship with God and brings us to His mercy-seat where we have eternal peace with Him!
It has been said, "In service there is glory!" Being purified of sin by the blood of Christ means we can now serve God. And at the end of our service is complete and total glory.
Biblical Christianity has been referred to by its critics as "a blood-thirsty religion." Indeed, the very thought of God purposely ordering the slaughter of millions of animals, and His own Son, is so disturbing, even revolting, to most modern theologians, that they completely reject the blood atonement outright; both in the Old Testament, and in the story of Jesus Christ. These are the same folks who reject hell, damnation, Jesus as the only way to heaven, and most of what the Bible clearly teaches. Thus, they forfeit the benefits that were won for them by Christ on the Cross!
Again, we know better. The Bible teaches us that God is not blood-thirsty, but in reality hungers and thirsts to love and save all people. This is only made possible by the Cross! Truly, the blood of Christ has power, the power to purify us from all sin, and the power to give us eternal glory!