We can all live our lives in a fashion that outwardly, we seem to be very clean and very righteous. I think this is one of the reasons that Jesus was so hard on the Pharisees. They wrongly came to the conclusion that they only needed to be cleansed outwardly. We know this because of the way they used the Law, or perhaps I should say, abused the Law.
Remember what Christ said in Him warning to them.
Matthew 23:26-28 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
The flaw of the sacrificial system is that it could not cleanse the conscious. This doesn’t mean that the system did not lead some to salvation, for it did lead many to faith as it was intended to do. The just shall live by faith.
Just as we are confronted with our sin, and believe in the atoning work of Christ, so too was the OT believer confronted by his sin and believed in the promises of the Messiah.
There were many faithful Jews that came to this realization when they were confronted with the holiness required by the Law. That drove them back to the Father and helped them see their need for salvation from Him.
Yet, the system was prone to abuse by allowing many to think of themselves as righteous without dealing with their hearts, as Jesus makes clear in His pronouncement of doom, on the Pharisees.
Romans 2:28-29 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
The point is that what is on the outside, does not save us. We need a conversion of the heart for salvation to be real, and that can only come about through Christ. All the outward trappings are nothing but trappings… the key word being “trapped.”
We need a complete washing from head to toe, and from our heart to our spirit and soul, and our conscience. This washing only comes by faith in the sacrifice of Christ, and His shed blood. It is His blood that cleanses us and our conscience through faith.
AS Brown writes:
“When the truth on this subject is understood and believed by the sinner, … the conscience is pacified and purified—the terrors and jealousies of guilt are removed. He is sweetly constrained to love Him who ‘spared not His Son, but delivered Him up’ for his salvation.”
This means that all the demands for justice have been accomplished on our behalf. When the new believer realizes the freedom we have in Christ, our obedience becomes an obedience that springs forth from our hearts. Wrath is satisfied and we are reconciled to God.
All of this has been brought about by Christ’s blood, without which, there is no forgiveness of sins. A lot has been said about the blood of both sacrifices.
Under the Old Covenant, Moses sprinkled the blood over the Israelites to deal with their ceremonial guilt, so they could serve in the temple. Jesus deals with our real guilt, so we can offer true and real service.
Under the Old Covenant, Moses also sprinkled the blood on the book of the law in order to ratify it. Under the New, Jesus sheds His own blood to ratify our salvation and fulfill the law.