The Levitical system and the blood of animal sacrifices brought only external purification. It dealt only with physical things. It had no influence over the sinful heart of man. It fulfilled an external requirement that gave one the outward appearance of purity in the community but it did not touch him where he needs it most. Unfortunately, it is often the case that acceptance by the community is all many people want. Following the religious rules, rituals and regulations of the clan helps us fit in and find acceptance. Yet, no religious behavior pleases God. I’ve often argued that the hardest thing for people to give up for Jesus is there religion. The interesting thing to me is that religion is the only thing Jesus really wants us to give up. He wants us to stop trusting in our religions and start trusting in Him and His finished work on Calvary. He is the only hope for our deliverance from the “dead works” of our religions. Hebrews 9:13-14 says, “For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 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.”

One cannot serve the living God as long as he is following religious rules and rituals. He first must be set free from religious shackles. Fruchtenbaum writes, “The author’s argument, in verses 13–14, can be summarized in five points: (1) the means of cleansing was the blood of Jesus; (2) the basis of cleansing was the voluntary death of Jesus; (3) it was without spot or blemish since there was no moral failure on His part (Peter makes the same point in 1 Peter 1:19); (4) the object was to purge the conscience from dead works; these dead works were the works of the Levitical system; works which are now dead because they have come to an end as far as God is concerned; and, (5) the goal of Jesus’ death was for the believers to serve the living God; they are not to return to the dead works of the Levitical system but to serve the living God.”[1]

Putting our faith in the full sufficiency of Jesus sets us free from our religion. Religion itself is opposed to God’s grace for it prescribes formulas, procedures and practices designed to gain favor with God which cannot be done apart from Christ. It’s either God’s grace as seen in Christ or it’s a system of works. It cannot be a combination either as many attempt to make it. All religions stand in opposition of Christ. Kent explains, “Appropriation of His merits brings to the regenerated soul true peace of conscience through the knowledge that eternal redemption has been secured. Dead works are here viewed not just as useless or inactive but as defiling and causing the need for cleansing. Involved are legalistic ceremonies which cannot impart life (cf. 6:1), seen not only as mere externals which are not defiling per se, but as the expressions of sinful hearts bent on spurning the grace of God in favor of a system of works righteousness.”[2]

[1] Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Messianic Jewish Epistles: Hebrews, James, First Peter, Second Peter, Jude, 1st ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2005), 121.

[2] Homer A. Kent Jr., The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1983), 173.