Sins Committed in Ignorance- Hebrews 9:7

In Hebrews 9, the author continues on in his overall theme of the letter, which is that the New Covenant in Jesus is in every way superior to the Old Covenant. In this chapter, his focus is particularly upon the priesthood and sacrifices, and how Jesus’ priesthood and sacrifice are in every way superior to the Old Covenant priesthood and sacrifices. In verses 2-5, the author provides details of the Old Covenant tabernacle and its arrangement, which we will not focus on in this post. We will skip to verse 6, in which he begins a focus on the Old Covenant priesthood. He begins by describing what the ordinary priests did in the “outer room” (or Holy Place). This consisted of three functions: 1) the trimming of the lamps of the Menorah (to symbolize the light of God’s presence to guide His people) 2) the burning of incense on the golden altar ( to symbolize the prayers of God’s people as a fragrant aroma to Him) 3) replacing the loaves of the showbread (to symbolize the unity and communion of table fellowship). He then goes on to mention what was done only by the high priest, only in the “inner room” (or Most Holy Place), and only once per year, on the Day of Atonement. This was the place in which the sacrifice which served to atone for the people’s sin was offered, and this sacrifice consisted of blood, for “without the shedding of blood their is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). We learn here that this high priest was required to present two sacrifices, to offer blood first for his own sin, and then for the sins of the people. He first brought the blood of a bull for his own sin, then the blood of a goat for the “sins the people had committed in ignorance”. Why would the writer mention here sins “committed in ignorance”? Why not just “sins”? This provides the writer here with another way of showing how the New Covenant in Jesus is far superior to the Old. The Greek word “ignorance” here is agnoeo, used here as a noun and not a verb, referring not to an action, but rather a condition. The writer explains further in the following verses. In verse 8, we have another restatement of the overall theme of Hebrews, in that the New Covenant sacrifice was superior to the Old Covenant sacrifice, specifically here in that the Old Covenant sacrifices were not the way through which entry could be gained into the true Holy of Holies. Only the high priest could enter the tabernacle Most Holy Place, and could do so only once per year. As High Priest of the New Covenant. Jesus entered the true Most Holy Place, not with the blood of a bull for His own sin (since He had none), but with His own blood for the sins of His people. Access to the true Holy of Holies was now made available to all who trusted in Jesus as High Priest, and this access was now available anytime, not just once per year. We also learn, in verse 9, that all of the above was an “illustration for the present time”. The reason given here is that the Old Testament sacrifices were not able to “clear the conscience of the worshipper”. The Greek word translated “clear” here is teleiosai, the aorist active infinitive of teleos. The root of the word teleos refers to the accomplishing of a purpose, something is teleos when it accomplishes its purpose, when it does what it is meant to do. What is cleared here is the “conscience”, and the purpose of the conscience is to “poke” us when we do wrong, to make us aware that we have “sinned”. This, then, serves as clarification for what was meant in by “sins committed in ignorance” in verse 7. The general idea here is that the Old Testament “worship” had become a mere religious ritual, it was an external formality which had become routine. Because of this, the sin which it “atoned” for was seen as “no big deal”. This attitude produced consciences which were no longer functioning properly. They were doing things which were wrong, but their consciences had become dulled and were no longer reminding them that what they were doing was wrong. They were sinning without recognizing and understanding that what they were doing was sin, they were sinning in “ignorance”. The writer uses this to lead into the next part of his letter, in which we find another way in which the New Covenant is superior to the Old. The New Covenant no longer relies merely on conscience to make us aware of when we sin, but rather brings the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell us and convict us when we sin, and, since He is God, it is not possible for Him to not accomplish His purpose to convict us when we sin, it is now not possible for us to sin in “ignorance”.

1 Comment Jesus Christ  //  Law and Grace  //  Transformation

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