What does "purge your conscience from dead works" mean in
Hebrews 9:14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
The expression "dead works" appear at Hebrews 9:4 and 6:1 and mean the same thing.
Dead works- Anxieties of the worldly cares.
Most people are virtually consumed by "the worries of the world"—the pressures of making a living, paying bills, getting to and from work, raising children, taking care of home, car, and other possessions. Jesus said:
Matthew 13:22 (NASB)
22 "And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the
man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the
deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful."
Whilst many others are truly busy and productive , problems from such activities rob them of their rest at night, their mind is not at rest . The wise King Solomon wrote:
Ecclesiastes 2:22-23 (NET Bible)
Painful Days and Restless Nights
22 "What does a man acquire from all his labor and from the anxiety
that accompanies his toil on earth? 23 For all day long his work
produces pain and frustration, and even at night his mind cannot
relax. This also is futile!"
Dead Works- of the flesh
Before accepting Christ, some in the first century had engaged in the dead " works of the flesh," namely, Paul wrote:
Galatians 5:19-21 (NASB)
19 "Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality,
impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife,
jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21
envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I
forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice
such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."
Unchecked, such works would have led to their spiritual death. Mercifully, though, those Christians had turned from their destructive course, repented, and been “washed clean.” They thus enjoyed a clean standing with God.
1 Corinthians 6:11 (NASB)
11 "Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were
sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus
Christ and in the Spirit of our God."
Dead works-Jews converted to Christianity:
Paul’s letter was primarily addressed to Jewish believers, many of whom had no doubt adhered strictly to the Mosaic Law before accepting Christ. Of what dead works, then, had they repented? Surely there was nothing wrong with their having followed the rituals and dietary requirements of the Law. Was not the Law "holy and righteous and good"? (Romans 7:12) Yes, but at Romans 10:2- 3, Paul said regarding the Jews:
Romans 10:2-3 (NASB)
2 "For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in
accordance with knowledge. 3 For not knowing about God’s righteousness
and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to
the righteousness of God."
Most Jews mistakenly believed that by meticulously following the Law, they could earn their salvation. Paul, explained that "a man is declared righteous, not by works of the Law, but through faith in Christ."
Galatians 2:16 (NASB)
16 "Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of
the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in
Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not
by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will
Such futile activity or "dead works" should be of great concern to a Christian in as much God will repay each one according to his works,therefore Christians should not waste time on dead works, the Psalmist wrote:
Psalm 62:12 (NASB)
12 "And loving kindness is Yours, O Lord, For You recompense a man
according to his work."
How does the blood (of Christ)purge our conscience from dead works?
We must demonstrate our appreciation of God's gift of the ransom, we can do this by getting to know more about God , the giver of the blood of Christ- "The Ransom" (John 17:3). As you read the scriptures and your knowledge about him deepens your love for Him and his Son Jesus will grow. That love for him will make you want to please him, and you can do this by harmonizing your life according to his commandments:
1 John 5:3 (NASB)
3 "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His
commandments are not burdensome".
John 3:16 (NASB)
16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
"He that exercises faith shall not perish but have everlasting life" ,James says that true faith is proved by "works."(James 2:26). One way to show our faith in Jesus , is by doing our best to imitate him, not in just in what we say, but also what we do.
John 13:15 (NASB)
15 "For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you."
How does such purging help us to serve the living God?
It helps, to scrutinize yourself regularly. From time to time, you might ask yourself questions such as: ‘Is preaching the good news and church attendance suffering because I have taken on unnecessary secular work?’ ‘Do I have time for recreation but little time for personal and Christian family study?’ ‘Do I expend much time and energy caring for material possessions but fail to care for needy ones in the church, such as the sick and the elderly?’ The answers to these questions might reveal a need on your part to give greater priority to spiritual works.
Many"dead works"(not merely sinful works of wrong doing of the fallen flesh) may not be morally wrong in themselves, however they are nonetheless dead if they do not actually add to our life now or gain us favor with God. Such works as ,excessive time spend on- TV watching- hobbies- mundane reading- etc, consume time and energy but produce no spiritual benefits, and do not help us to get closer to God . Compare Ecclesiastes 2:11.
Ecclesiastes 2:11 (NET Bible)
11 "Yet when I reflected on everything I had accomplished and on all
the effort that I had expended to accomplish it, I concluded: “All
these achievements and possessions are ultimately profitless— like
chasing the wind! There is nothing gained from them on earth.”
The one turning in faith to God through Christ Jesus, repents from all works rightly classed as “dead works,” and thereafter avoids them, his conscience thereby becoming cleansed. Hebrews 9:14.