The Old Covenant had the children of Israel focusing on fleshly actions which kept them focusing on their sins and need for God. The New Covenant has removed our sins and allows us to focus on our personal relationship with God.
Hebrews 9:9-10, 9 It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience-- 10 concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.
Verse nine is referencing back to the tabernacle and includes a portion of the works that were involved when the tabernacle existed. The key point of understanding needed in this verse and the argument between works for righteousness verses faith in His righteousness is the conscience of the individual. Even today it does not matter how many times a person runs down to the alter or into the confessional seeking atonement for their sins, their conscience will always keep them from receiving the mental freedom necessary to walk by faith. Remember that in Hebrews 3:12 we learn the truth that an unbelieving heart is considered evil. In Hebrews 3:19 we read that is was the unbelief of the Israelites in the wilderness that kept them from entering into the Promised Land the first time.
For a better understanding of how works of righteousness will keep a Christian in bondage to the conscience of their past sins and failures, we need to review Romans 8:3-9.
“3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
As you can read from Paul’s teaching the law is week because of the flesh. The law itself is not weak because it is perfect, but the weakness of man’s flesh breaks our side of the original covenant. Remember that a covenant is only as strong as the two parties in the covenant. God’s strength never fails, but man’s strength never remains. And if you read Romans 7:13-23 you will see that the harder a person tries to live perfect the more they fall short, and the harder they resist failure the more they stumble in it. If Paul, who was one of the strongest Pharisees, could not uphold the law in his fleshly living why do Christians today think they can? As you read on in Romans 3 you are reminded that God had to send His own Son to do for us what we never could have done. Romans 5 is where we need to focus in that when you live in the flesh, which is your conscience and personal efforts, you are actually keeping you mined trained on your failures and sins. However, if you focus on Jesus and His righteousness and God’s love for you your mind is not able to keep you bound in unbelief. By focusing on Jesus you are no longer focusing on the problem which is your fleshly desires. Verse six is the foundational truth for why man can never succeed in legalistic rule driven living; your carnal mind is enmity to God. Your natural mind will never be able to understand or conform to God’s ways and will lead to spiritual death. But to be spiritually minded is to focus on Jesus and His perfect work on the cross and not your personal actions. Being spiritually minded brings you peace where you can hear from God and be led by His Spirit, and your conscience will not keep you bound in unbelief. It is no longer you having to do everything right because Jesus did it for you. Romans 8:8 should be a slap in the face to the legalist who is living by Old Testament doctrine, or worse yet man’s doctrines. If you are trying to do everything in the natural, under your own power, to present yourself as righteous to God or in man’s eyes; you cannot please God. Religion will never work, but relationship with Jesus as your Lord and Savior will never fail!
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