Worship in Spirit and Truth
(Hebrews 9:1-5)1 Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. 2 For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. 3 And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; 4 Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaronís rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; 5 And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.
The nature of spiritual worship, even after it has been revealed in Scripture, is very rarely understood.
Apart from revelation, we do not find anywhere traces of spiritual worship. "Think of the religions of antiquity. Where do we seek and find the sanctuary of true, deep, manifold, and eloquent prayer? where the language and grammar, where the scale of all notes of supplication, typical for all humanity and all the ages? where, except in the assemblies of the worshippers of Jehovah, in the courts of that service which knew no image of the Unseen, in that temple where God, in His sublime, spiritual presence and reality, transcends all human thought, who for centuries since, and through all coming ages, fills and guides the hearts of all believers" (Nitzsch). Only Israel and the Church possess the knowledge of God; the most cultivated and learned nations were not able to rise to a pure, spiritual, and exalted conception of divinity. And the spirituality, as well as the exclusiveness of true worship, Jewish and Christian, have at first a repulsive effect on the natural man. The Greeks and Romans were not merely astonished at, but felt irritated by the worship of Christians, who without image and altar, without priests and vestments, appeared to them to be αθεοι, men without gods, influenced by what they deemed a strange superstition, the mysterious power of which they could not comprehend, when they saw how it enabled Christians to rejoice in suffering, and to meet with calm courage and hopefulness the tortures of death. It was enigmatic, and the absence of all visible symbol, of all idols and altars, still more bewildered them. When they beheld how faith in the unseen Lord was a real and mighty power in the hearts and lives of men and women, filling them with earnestness, zeal, hope, and joy, how it lifted them above the sinful pleasures of the world, the love of money, the fever of ambition, the frivolity and emptiness of a selfish life, how it enabled them to bear calmly and patiently the trials, and sufferings, and persecutions which they had to endure, and to face the cruel and excruciating death to which they were condemned, not merely with equanimity, but with the fortitude of heroes, and the radiant joy of virgins going forth to meet the Bridegroomtheir astonishment was boundless. They called it a mania, a demoniac possession, a mysterious moral epidemic, which had broken out and threatened to undermine the commonwealth. Of truth, of a real, living, and loving God, they knew nothing. They felt annoyed, that the small and insignificant Jewish nation would not adopt their gods and customs, would keep aloof from their temples, feasts, and banquets. It is narrated, that when Pompey had conquered Jerusalem, and without reverence penetrated into the interior of the temple, he proceeded into the holy of holies. There, a feeling of awe seized him, and he left all things untouched. Since that time, the Roman author says, it is known that the Jews worship something empty and vague, that cannot be seen. While the Greeks, proud of their culture and intelligence, looked down in contempt upon all other nations, and also upon Israel, the Romans, proud of their power, judged of the gods of nations by the amount of victories achieved under their protection. You may know, remarks Cicero, what is the power of the Jews and their God, by the circumstance that their land has been subjugated and divided.
Having no knowledge of objective truth, regarding all religions as equally legitimate expressions of national traditions, sentiments, and modes of thought, they were quite willing to worship, in whatever country they happened to be, according to the prevailing usage. To add Christ also to the number of their gods and heroes would have been quite in accordance with their thought. Hence they could not understand the nature of that faith and worship which had for its object the true and living, the only God, and which could not be added to or mingled with any other faith and worship. Israel and the Church claim to possess the truth, to know, love, and serve the only true and living God. Therefore they must be hated by all who do not submit themselves to the heavenly revelation. Philosophers of every age, both before and since the advent, can tolerate every system of moral and spiritual thought and worship. They can find something good, noble, and elevating in every religion; but they cannot tolerate the one only God-revealed truth in Christ Jesus.(1)The adoption of the Christian name and of Christian terminology is very superficial. Only a short time may be required to complete that process of development, or rather chemical separation, which is at present dividing true spiritual Christians, who believe God's word, and the world, who reject the counsel of God, in His incarnate Son and His cross. And again it will be seen, that of a truth against God's holy child Jesus, Pontius Pilate and the heathen and unbelieving Jews have risen, denying God and His Anointed; for Christ is against the world, and the world against Christ. Modern Paganism (often using Christian terminology) only conceals this fact. Jesus claims to be the truth, absolute, exhaustive, ultimate; He claims to be, not one of many ways, not the best of all ways, but the waythe only, exclusive, divine way of access unto the light, love, and life of God. If He was not exclusive, He would be like the others, only giving guesses at truth, and not its revelation; He cannot but assert His absolute and exclusive Mediatorship. It is this exclusiveness of Jesus (like the absolute and jealous denunciation of Jehovah against all idolatry) which is met by the bitter, though often latent and unconscious, enmity of the world. He that is not for Jesus is against Him. All they that attempt, without Him, to enter into the fold are thieves and robbers. Jesus is the truth, and in Him alone we draw near to the Father.
Apart from Revelation, men have not the idea of God as Lord, Spirit, Father. And even after the light of Scripture has appeared, God is to many only an abstract word, by which they designate a complex of perfections, rather than a real living, loving, ever-present Lord, to whom we speak and of whom we ask the blessings we need. How different from this vague life and colourless abstraction, without will and love, this incomprehensible All and Nothing is the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. To Him we can pray. Without revelation prayer is regarded not so much as asking God in order to receive from Him, but as an exercise of mind which elevates, ennobles, and comforts. It is a monologue. Worship is viewed as a representation of our ideas of divine attributes and perfections, not the recognition of God, as through revelation we know Him in His relation to us.
See how God reveals to the poor sin-convinced soulto the humblest, the most ignorant, the most guiltywhat the wise and righteous of the world can neither discover nor attain. A sinful, thoughtless, frivolous woman, living in the darkness of an ungodly life, and belonging to a race possessing only dim and imperfect knowledge of divine truth, had been drawn into conversation by a mysterious stranger, who beginning with the lowly request of a favour had brought before her in words (whose meaning she scarcely comprehended, but which roused deep longings within her soul), the misery and emptiness of the world, the existence and blessedness of a higher spiritual and divine life; and He who at first spoke as a weary traveller had gradually presented Himself as the mysterious Mediator and Dispenser of a divine and transcendent gift. But the heart and the conscience, the deepest centre of her being, had not been touched yet. Jesus then reveals Himself as the Searcher of Hearts, the Lord and Judge, who knoweth secret things. He brings before her the guilty past. The arrow is sent forth by a strong yet gentle hand; its purpose is to wound and to heal. The woman exclaims: I perceive thou art a prophet; that is, a seer, a messenger of God, one entrusted with a divine message. Brought thus unto the presence of God, realizing God, as only the sin-convinced conscience and heart do, she immediately wishes to please, worship, serve that Supreme Lord.
The question she now addresses to the Saviour is not a skilful evasion of a painful and humiliating subject; it proceeds from the depths of a wounded heart; it is the question of repentance and profound desire after God. If God is He must be worshiped. Hitherto theological disputes had no interest for her, but now she thirsts after God, the living God, and longs to come unto Him in true worship.
It was to this poor and sinful Samaritan woman that Jesus explained, in that solemn, lonely hour, the profound truths of spiritual worship. He reminds her, first of all, that the question of worship is not to be decided by man, but by God. Human thought, sentiment, traditions, cannot have authority in this highest and most sacred matter. The Samaritans, as all other nations left to themselves, have no knowledge of worship, because they know not God. True worship can only be found on the territory of revelation. In Israel God had revealed Himself, and His revelation of Himself was as the God of salvation. Because salvation is of the Jews, with them also was found true worship. True, it was for a long time under a limited, preparatory, symbolical dispensation, but at the same time real and spiritual, and the germ of the universal and free worship which has been brought in through the fulfillment in Christ Jesus.
Spirituality is not an inherent subjective quality, it is the reflection of the person worshiped; as the God so the worshipper. The words of the Saviour, "Ye worship ye know not what," have a far more extensive application than to Samaritans. The most cultivated and refined men cannot, by their reason, intuition, or learning, find God; and their conception of the supreme, ethereal and ideal as it may be, is not spiritual but carnal. But Israel knew Jehovah as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; as the God who had appeared unto their fathers with condescending, familiar, loving favour, guiding and comforting, blessing and helping, the God who had chosen them, and who had redeemed them out of Egypt to be His peculiar people, and to show forth His praise. They were called to the knowledge and service of God, that through them light and salvation should be brought to all Gentiles, even to the uttermost ends of the earth. And we await still the fulfillment of the immutable promises connected with the Abrahamic covenant when, from Israel as a centre, the light of God's salvation shall shine forth unto all nations, and all the ends of the earth shall worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
The dispensation of the law came in as an intermediate and preparatory one. One great object was to show forth by types the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, and the character of true worship. There are only two chapters of Scripture to narrate the creation of the world; but no fewer than sixteen chapters of the inspired record are devoted to the description of the tabernacle. It has been remarked, that God took only six days in the work of creation, but spent forty days with Moses in directing him to make the tabernacle. The work of grace is more glorious than the work of creation. Three times the book of Exodus gives a full account of all the parts of the tabernacle. First, when the command is given to build it; then again, when its preparation is narrated; and a third time, after it was actually erected. For the tabernacle shows forth the redemption in Christ; and the whole world was created that the glory of God should be manifested in Christ and the Church. And Scripture, by thus attaching a far greater importance to the description of the tabernacle than to the narrative of the world's creation, teaches us to contemplate the things that are unseen, to fix our thoughts and affections on the eternal and heavenly world, to lift our eyes to those heights whence descend the light and love of our blessed God.
Scripture teaches us that the tabernacle was built according to the divine revelation given unto Moses. It was according to the pattern of heavenly things beheld by him on the mount. The idea of the structure in its grand outlines, as well as the arrangements of the detail, were not of human origin. They are not to be traced to the ingenuity of Moses, or to the model of heathen sanctuaries. All things were of God, everywhere the Holy Ghost did symbolize. The tabernacle was to the believing Israelite full of symbols, showing the grace of their Redeemer God, and shadowing forth the manifold mercy of God, who forgives and sanctifies His people, who brings them into His presence, bestows upon them His blessing, and enables them to worship and serve Him with thankful and rejoicing hearts. And to us who read these chapters in the light of fulfillment, they are full of gospel instruction and comfort; unfolding the varied treasures of grace, the many aspects of Christ and His work, and of the experience of His saints.(2)
The people offered with exceeding liberality and willingness of heart all the material needed for the building, and the skill and genius of enlightened workmen prepared the various portions of the structure and the vessels. Thus according to the condescending wisdom and goodness of God, the affections and energies of His people were enlisted, and they were workers together with Him of whom and by whom are all things. When afterwards the temple was built, and the tabernacle of the wilderness was changed into a permanent and stationary house on mount Zion, the palace of the great King, whose chosen city is Jerusalem, the affection and reverence of the nation clung to it with great intensity. From the very excess of superstition and formalism into which this feeling degenerated, we can infer its original strength. And indeed, though we find in David and Solomon the most spiritual and elevated conceptions of the divine omnipresence, and of the true nature of prayer and sacrifice; though in all the prophetic writings we meet with constant warnings against a merely outward service, and a constant reference to inward purity and to the adoration and obedience of the heart, yet the temple, where God revealed His presence and His glory, where His beautiful ordinances were observed, and the most solemn transactions took place between Jehovah and His people through the appointed mediation of priests and high priest, was necessarily most sacred and endeared to every true Israelite. How touching is the description in the book of Ezra of the laying of the foundation at the rebuilding of the temple: "But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy: so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off."
The position of Israel at the time of our Lord was one of great solemnity. It was the most solemn crisis in Israel's history. The Lord whom they sought (some really, and others only in profession) came suddenly to His temple. Jesus came as a minister of the circumcision to fulfill the promises made unto the fathers. He came first as a prophet, preaching repentance; for the kingdom of God was at hand. He came to gather them. He was the last as well as the greatest messenger sent unto Jerusalem. But they did not reverence the Son. They understood not the time of their visitation. Jesus with tears predicted judgment on the beloved city, the city of the great King. "For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another: because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation." And of the temple He said, "There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down."
But between the announcement and the execution of the judgment forty years intervened. The Lord is slow to anger; He is long-suffering, and gracious. He delays judgment to gather in a remnant, and to show to the whole world the righteousness and the mercifulness of all His dealings. How important and solemn, how wide-reaching in their influence, are these forty years of the patience of God, of the further probation of Israel! Israel had hated Jesus "without cause," and with cruel hands nailed Him to the accursed tree; yet Jesus on the cross prayed, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." Israel had committed the great and culminating sin; they had rejected the Lord of glory, the Son of the Most High, yet God hath not cast away His people. The gifts and callings of God are without repentance, and the everlasting covenant shall yet be made with them, when everlasting joy and glory shall be given unto the children of Abraham. And as a pledge of this ultimate favour, in answer to the prayer of the dying Saviour, and through the preaching of the apostle Peter, three thousand were converted on the day of Pentecost, and many thousands (tens of thousands) were added unto the number of disciples. The apostle Peter preached to the men of Israel. He addressed the whole nation, delivering unto them as a nation the message that God had sent Jesus unto them first. He called upon them to turn unto the Lord, in order that the fulness of divine blessing might come upon them according to the promise. In the same patriotic spirit as the prophets, with the most tender regard for the national privileges and customs, the apostles addressed themselves unto the nation, preaching the first and second advent of Israel's Messiah and King. The apostle of the Gentiles also came as a Jew to the Jews, as under the law to those who were under the law, and in all his addresses to his people breathes the same fervent national consciousness; he declared the hope of the promise made of God unto the fathers.
But, alas! the nation resisted the counsel of God, and took no heed to the voice of the Holy Ghost, speaking to them with such clearness and love through the apostles. They counted themselves unworthy of eternal life. God, in the abundance of His love and wisdom, made Israel's unbelief the occasion of sending the gospel to the Gentiles. Still the period of mercy to Israel was prolonged. The testimony was still sent to them. The doctrine of the Church, as the body, consisting of both Jews and Gentiles, was now fully revealed; the apostle Peter, who opened the door to the Gentiles in the baptism of Cornelius, and the apostle Paul, who was specially led to the uncircumcision; the Council of Jerusalem, with reference to the relation of the Gentiles to the law of Moses; and finally, the full and explicit teaching of the Pauline Epistles;all this unveiled what had been hitherto hid, the intermediate position of the Church, when Israel as a nation was to be set aside. From the very commencement, in the parables and warnings of the Saviour, in the experience of Peter and John after Pentecost, in the first persecution of the saints, in the martyrdom of Stephen, in the opposition against the apostle Paul, the dark clouds were gathering, and the wrath to the uttermost was approaching.
Meanwhile, it was most difficult for many Jewish Christians to understand the true character of the transition period, and to enter into the spirit of the new era, which in reality had already commenced, though not actually and formally. If it is difficult at present for the Church to remember that they have not taken the place of Israel, if, as the apostle anticipated, the Church in many ages has become ignorant of the "mystery," that all Israel shall be saved, that Jesus shall reign as king over His chosen people, when all the blessings promised to Abraham and through all the prophets will be fulfilled, can we wonder that the Hebrews could not readily understand the character of the Church dispensation, while they were still, and with apostolic sanction, observing the law of Moses?
We learn from the book of Acts, and this very epistle, how much the believing Jews suffered from their countrymen. Their goods were confiscated; they had to suffer imprisonment; some were put to death; they were banished from what was most sacred and precious to them. Israel, as a nation, would not submit to the righteousness of God. They became obdurate in self-conceit, self-righteousness, and formalism. They rested with a false security in their mechanical obedience of legal enactments, and in the possession of the temple services. They were without fear, while the terrible judgment was approaching. Destruction came suddenly, unexpectedly. Even to the last moment the inhabitants of Jerusalem expected divine deliverance. They had not heard the loving voice of Him who said, "Ye daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me"; they understood not the fearful words which they had uttered, when they cried: "His blood be upon us, and upon our children."
This is, indeed, the tragedy of history. It is most melancholy to notice the enthusiasm, the intense and tenacious trust, which moved them to resist the invincible might of Rome. They could not believe that God would give up His beloved city, and the place of His sanctuary. They hoped and trusted against all hope. But the hour of God's righteous judgment had come. Jerusalem was destroyed; their house was left unto them desolate.(3)
Extremely solemn and awful is this catastrophe as the end of centuries of the most marvellous revelations and dealings of divine love, wisdom, and power. God, who revealed His truth by His Spirit to His chosen saints among Jews and Gentiles, has manifested to the whole world His counsel by the solemn judgment which descended on Jerusalem. Amid all the vicissitudes and struggles of the covenant-people, the sanctuary and the Levitical service continued; only once it had been interrupted during the Babylonian captivity. During the centuries that Israel had to live under the Roman yoke, though no Son of David sat upon the throne, the temple stood in glory, and Israel rejoiced in the beauty of its stones and in the splendour of its services. But since the rejection of Jesus, no human power has been able to restore this visible sanctuary and the sacrifices and priestly ordinances. God had spoken to His people by the voice of apostles. At last He spoke by the voice of Judgment. The destruction of the temple and the removal of the whole Levitical dispensation teaches, by actual historical demonstration, truth which the epistles set forth doctrinally. It is an anachronism to speak now of priests in the sense of sacerdotal mediators. It is an anachronism to speak of symbolic worship, of ordinances, which are figures and shadows of spiritual realities. The Levitical dispensation was given only to Israel, and to Israel only, for a certain period of their history. Since the destruction of Jerusalem, Israel is without high priest, without sacrifice, without temple. God Himself has removed the shadow, because the substance is come. God Himself has by severe judgment taken away the earthly, elementary, and fragmentary, that Israel may turn to the heavenly, eternal, and perfect.
But unto the Gentiles God never gave an Aaronic priesthood, an earthly tabernacle, a symbolical service. From the very commencement He taught them, as Jesus taught the woman of Samaria, that now all places are alike sacred, that the element in which God is worshiped is spirit and truth, that believers are children who call upon the Father, that they are a royal priesthood, who through Jesus are brought nigh unto God, who enter into the holy of holies which is above.(4)
As the apostle says so frequently to the Hebrews, "We have," we do possess the reality and substance of those things of which the unbelieving Jews boast, so may we say in these days of priestly pretension and false views of the Christian ministry and worship, We have, blessed be God, the true sanctuary, the new and consecrated way into the holy of holies, we have access by one Spirit through the blood of Jesus unto the Father. We have the real presence, even Jesus, dwelling in our hearts by faith; Jesus, where two or three are gathered in His name; Jesus making Himself known in the breaking of bread; Jesus speaking by the Holy Ghost through the Word read and preached. Where two or three are gathered together in His name, there it is not merely as if He was in the midst of them, but He Himself is with them in truth and reality, in Spirit and in power, in love and in blessing. If any man love Him, the Father and the Son will come and take up their abode with him. Jesus is our Immanuel in the heart, in the assembly, in the world. We have Christ, and in Him we have all.
How difficult is it to rise from the spirit of Paganism to the clear and bright atmosphere of the gospel! How much inclined are men to welcome everything which does not reveal to them their true condition, and bring them into the very presence of God. Priesthood, vestments, consecrated buildings, symbols, and observancesall place Christ at a great distance, and cover the true, sinful, and guilty state of the heart which has not been brought nigh by the blood of Christ. Look again at the woman of Samaria. Ignorant, guilty, degraded as she was, Jesus brought her at once into the presence of the living, loving Redeemer-God. He revealed unto her the fulness of divine love. He revealed Himself as the giver of the living water. As a free gift He declared to her salvation. The sinner believes, and as a child He is brought by Jesus unto the Father. High above all space, high above all created heavens, before the very throne of God, is the sanctuary in which we worship. Jesus presents us to the Father. We are beloved children, clothed with white robes, the garments of salvation and the robes of righteousness, we are priests unto God.
There is one expression in the teaching on worship, which the Lord gave unto the woman of Samaria, which in its simplicity and height exceeds the teaching of our epistle. Jesus said, "The Father seeketh such to worship Him." The doctrine of adoption or sonship is rather implied (Heb 2:11) than developed in this epistle. In it God is never called our Father,(5)or the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our epistle rather prepares for the higher and yet simpler view, which presents to us God as our Father in Christ Jesus, and believers as His adopted and beloved children. In this present dispensation the Father seeketh worshippers, and it is in children that He seeketh worshippers. Now we understand the full meaning of Christ's blessed and sweet word: After this manner shall ye pray, "Our Father, which art in heaven"; for the Holy Ghost, whom the ascended Saviour hath sent into our hearts, teaches and enables us to cry, in the Spirit of adoption, Abba!
The shadow has vanished; unto us the true light shineth; but Israel is still in darkness, and the world without the knowledge of God. But the day is approaching when Israel shall seek the Lord and their King David; when the idols shall be utterly abolished, and the Lord alone be exalted. Meanwhile, let us, who are gathered out of the world, and who invoke the Name of the revealed Lord, worship in Spirit, having no confidence in the flesh, but rejoicing in Christ Jesus.
The First Tabernacle.
(Hebrews 9:1-5)1 Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. 2 For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. 3 And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; 4 Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaronís rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; 5 And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.The apostle had shown (8:13) that the old covenant was ready to vanish away; yet he is anxious to show that it was given of God, and for the appointed time full of blessing and instruction. It also possessed ordinances of divine service; that is, the divine service connected with it was given of God, instituted and sanctioned as a law among Israel. But the sanctuary was "worldly," that is, visible and tangible, according to this present world, and built with materials belonging to this earthly creation.(6)
But now we worship in the heavenly sanctuary. By the destruction of the Temple, God declared unto the whole world, in the solemn language of judgment, what He had before revealed by His Spirit to His saints. They knew the mystery of the church: that during the times of the Gentiles, while Israel, on account of unbelief, is set aside as the theocratic and central nation, God gathers to Christ a people from among Jews and Gentiles, who, united in one body by one Spirit, and through the mediation of the High Priest, have access unto the Father. They possess the substance, the body, the fulness of which Israel had shadows, pictures, and manifold and imperfect emblems. Through the death of Christ, and by the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, the new covenant saints have entered into the true worship of sons. Jesus is the perfect mediator; He perfectly accomplishes mediation; He brings us nigh unto God by His Blood, He brings God nigh unto us by His Spirit.
There is no room in the Church-dispensation for anything like the Levitical priesthood and symbolism. We who believe in Jesus, who honour the adorable Lord as the one Mediator between God and man, regard with profound sorrow, dismay, and abhorrence the antichristian attempt to introduce priestly mediation between Christ and His people. Christ is the only Prophet, and of Him, and none else, the Father says to us, "Hear ye Him." Christ is the only High Priest; and because He is on the throne of God, we are to come boldly, even out of the depth of our sin and weakness; we ascend above angels and principalities into the highest heaven, and find there help in time of need. Jesus is King, and has all power in heaven and on earth; and by the Holy Ghost He energises in every saint who cleaves to Him. It is true, that in the old dispensation there were symbols. They were not man-invented, but God-given, they descended from heaven; they derived their authority from God; they originated in the divine mind; they were framed by Him, who seeth the end from the beginning, and who in the most elementary and partial revelation has regard to the harmony and organic unity of the whole. Again, these symbols were to teach, to signify, to illustrate spiritual truths. The divine word, the teaching of the prophets, and the very instinct of the godly, continually pointed away from the symbol to the reality, to the heavenly sanctuary, to the worship of the broken and the contrite heart. And last of all, they were known to be temporary, the star and moonlight to guide and cheer the faithful who waited for the sunrise, the promised redemption. What has Israel's symbolismGod-given, inspired, spiritual, heart-searching, and Christ-unfoldingto do with the inventions and institutions of men, substituted for the Word of God, and placed, not to illustrate, but to obscure the truth as it is in Jesus? Has the Church of Rome been, like the law, a schoolmaster to lead men unto Christ, to deepen the knowledge of sin, to exalt the holiness of God, to magnify His boundless grace, to point to the Lamb of God, and to the one perfect and all-sufficient Sacrifice?
What a marvellous confusion of Jewish, Pagan, and Christian elements do we see here! Jewish things which have waxed old, and vanished away; preparatory and imperfect elements which the apostle does not scruple to call beggarly now that the fulness has comerevived without divine authority, and changed and perverted to suit circumstances for which they were never intended. Pagan things, appealing to the deep-seated and time-confirmed love of idolatry, and of sensuous and mere outward performances; the Babylonian worship of the Queen of Heaven; the intercession of saints and angels, the mechanical repetition of formulas, the superstitious regard of places, seasons, and relics. Buried among these elements are some relics of Christian truth, without which this ingenious fabric could not have existed so long, and influenced so many mindsa truth which in the merciful condescension of God is blessed to sustain the life of His chosen ones in the mystical Babylon. This so-called Church, vast and imposing, opens its door wide, except to those who honour the Scriptures, and who magnify the Lord Jesus. It can forgive sins, and grant pardons and indulgences, extending the astounding assumption of jurisdiction even beyond the grave; yet it cannot bring peace to the wounded conscience, and renewal to the aching heart, because it never fully and simply declares the efficacy of the blood of Jesus, by which we obtain perfect remission, and the power of the Holy Ghost, who joins us to Christ. This community speaks of sacrifice, of altars, of priesthood, and stands between the people and the sanctuary above, the only High Priest, who by His sacrifice has entered for us into the holy of holies. And in our day this great apostasy has reached a point which we would fain regard as its culminating point, when it places the Virgin Mary by the side of the Lord Jesus as sinless and pure, and when it arrogates for man infallible authority over the heritage of God.
But I have referred to this great perversion of truth, to this apostasy, which exerts such a potent fascination, in order to remind you by contrast of the simplicity of the Gospel.(7)
They who believe in Jesus are, a royal priesthood, a chosen generation, the people who are God's peculiar portion; all whom Jesus loves, and whom He has washed from their sins in His own blood, are made by Him kings and priests unto God and His Father. So we are taught by the apostles Peter and John (1 Peter 2:5-9; Rev 1:5,6). And in our epistle we are reminded of the heavenly calling and the spiritual worship of all believers who consider with believing and simple hearts the great Apostle and High Priest of their profession.
God prepared the present dispensation of reality and substance by one of types and shadows.
Among the high and august privileges of Israel which the apostle Paul enumerates in his epistle to the Romans, and which culminate in the transcendent fact, which is also their root, "Of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is God over all," he mentions also the service, including in this expression all the divine institutions concerning worship which were given unto the people through Moses. The people whom God had chosen and redeemed were separated to be a holy nation, to draw near unto Jehovah, and to worship Him. This was the great purpose of election and redemption. Hence the God-appointed service is as important as "the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law." The word service is apt to convey an erroneous impression, because in the nominal church the character of spiritual worship has been so frequently and during protracted periods misunderstood. The service which God appointed in Israel must not be compared with ritual imposed by human authority, and arranged according to man's ingenuity or aesthetic feeling. In the tabernacle, which Moses built according to the pattern of heavenly things, shown unto him of God, everything, down to the minutest detail of number and colour, was of divine authority, and full of meaning. The Holy Ghost Himself teaches here by signs. When the apostle, after enumerating the vessels of the sanctuary, adds that he cannot now speak of them particularly,(8)he thereby establishes, or rather confirms, the truth, well known to the Hebrews, that everything in the tabernacle was of divine appointment, and was symbolic of spiritual realities.
If we understand the nature of worship, we also see that the method of worship must be given and appointed of God. Man neither knows whom or how to worship. Even the chosen and redeemed people need to be taught how to worship; and herein is only a fuller revelation of the character of God Himself. Genesis is the fundamental book, the book of election; Exodus is the book of redemption; Leviticus the book of worship. The inference which the Puritan Divines drew from the second commandment"Thou shalt not make to thyself any image"; viz., that it prohibited all methods and ceremonies in the worship of God invented and appointed by man, was not merely perfectly correct, but touched the very vital and sensitive point to which the superstition of centuries had become dead and obtuse. God taught Israel worship. The fulfillment of the types is in Christ; and now there is no other worship but worship of the forgiven and renewed believers, who through the great High Priest are before God, and know and love Him as Father.
Let us consider now the earthly tabernacle, as we are here reminded of it. The saints of old, whose souls thirsted for the living God, who could find no happiness and rest in the things of time and sense, whose hearts could not be filled with mere form, found in the ordinances of God's house their greatest delight. "How amiable are thy tabernacles, Lord God of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God." And in still stronger words: "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in His temple." And we, who live in the bright light of the gospel, shall also find it good to be here, and to contemplate the divinely-appointed images of the spiritual blessings in heavenly places. "The Holy Ghost explains to us in the New Testament the highest mysteries of eternal redemption by words which are taken from these types, and says to us, 'Know the Lord,' by unfolding to us the Person, the Sacrifice, the High Priesthood of Christ, prefigured more profoundly and completely by the types than in the prophecies, properly so called" (Stier). "Types were institutions intended to deepen, expand, and ennoble the circle of thoughts and desires, and thus heighten the moral and spiritual wants, as well as the intelligence and susceptibility of the chosen people."(9)Tyndal says: "These similitudes open Christ, and the secrets of God hid in Christ, and have more virtue and power with them than bare words, and lead a man's understanding further into the pith and marrow and spiritual understanding of the thing than all the words that can be imagined."
The apostle does not give a full description of the tabernacle. He makes no mention of the outer court, of the brazen altar, of the golden altar of incense, and other important parts. He hastens to point out that the way into the holiest was not then made manifest. His object is not to explain the meaning of the tabernacle, but to show how the tabernacle itself pointed beyond the earthly and temporary symbol.
God reveals Himself unto Israel as holy. Holiness, according to the Old Testament, is not so much one of the divine attributes, such as goodness, power, grace; but rather means the unity of all divine attributes, the very nature of God in His covenant relation to Israel. We bless His holy name, and mean thereby His forgiving grace, His healing mercy, His renewing power, His faithfulness and loving-kindness (Psalm 103). All His mighty wonders, and all the marvels of His guidance and rule, are to show forth His holiness. As in the new covenant we say God is love, so the Israelites said God is holy.
Because God is holy, His people, whom He has chosen, are by this very fact holy. There is no other holiness but that which is rooted in divine election.
But this people, chosen and redeemed, called holy, is in its actual condition ignorant, guilty, and polluted; in reality it is distant from God, and therefore God brings them nigh unto Himself. For this purpose the priesthood is chosen and the tabernacle is built.
God dwells in heaven, and therefore heaven is holy. The expression, God dwells in heaven, was well understood by Israel to refer to the manifestation of His glory, and not to any local limitation of His infinite and incomprehensible Majesty. The heaven of heavens, they acknowledged, cannot contain Him, yet is the throne of God in heaven; there His glory is beheld, and His presence adored. Now as there is in heaven the holy of holies, where God Himself is, and the heavens the holy place where God's angels are; so in the earthly tabernacle the holy of holies and the holy place are the two places where the presence, the glory, and the gracious blessing of the covenant God are vouchsafed to Israel. God condescends to reveal Himself there, and to give the blessings of His forgiving and sanctifying grace.
In the holy of holies was no light. "The Lord said that He would dwell in the thick darkness" (1 Kings 8:12). We read that clouds and darkness are about God, and yet we know that He is light, and covereth Himself with light as with a garment. But the light in which God dwelleth is dark by excess of brightness. No man can approach unto it. No man hath seen God at any time. "Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself," is the exclamation of even His worshippers, who know Him as the Holy One of Israel. Yet this God, who is infinite and incomprehensible, dwelling in light and glory ineffable, is the Holy God, whose love delights to draw His chosen people unto Himself, and to enrich them with the inexhaustible riches of His grace. From the throne of God shines forth the revelation of God. He who is the brightness of God's glory, the image of the invisible God, is sent forth, and we behold light in God's light. As God, who is light, said on the first day, "Let there be light: and there was light," so He hath given us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. How peaceful and gentle is this light. They that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death can bear and welcome it; it is the tender mercy of God, whereby the Dayspring from on high hath visited us. Yet how perfect and infinite is this light. For he that hath seen Jesus hath seen the Father. Christ is the brightness of the Father's glory; not in that He is less glorious than the Father, less unsearchable and inexhaustible, for no man knoweth the Son, but the Father, but that men can behold the glory of the Only-begotten; for the Word was made flesh, and tabernacled with us.
Of this light the candlestick, which stood in the holy place, was the significant emblem. Here we behold Jesus Christ, the Son of God incarnate, the light of the world; the Lord, upon whom was the Spirit of the Lord, anointing Him, to declare salvation unto the broken-hearted; the Messiah, who came in the sevenfold plenitude of the Holy Ghost, and who was continually revealing the Father. The light of the holy of holies, which was unapproachable, the glory of the Most High, was beheld when Jesus lived on earth, when He, who was in the bosom of the Father, came to reveal Him. But as He manifested the Father, so He also revealed the perfection of humanity; He was filled with the Spirit, and always walked in the Spirit. It is as Immanuel that He is the candlestick. He came to be a mediator, to reveal God, and to bring the light of God in our hearts. He is the light of the world in such a way, that sinful men, becoming one with Him, are also the light of the world. He is able to say unto His disciples: "Let your light so shine before men!" Our light, and yet His light, even as the branches have life, but no other life than that which the True Vine gives them. Hence in the book of Revelation we behold seven golden candlesticks, the seven churches. Christ the Lord walks in the midst of them; nay, He is the light within them. And although in that which is spiritual every part forms a complete and individual whole, yet are the seven one; even as every believer may be viewed as a temple, yet is there only one temple, one spiritual house, even Christ's, who is one with all His saints.
Wonderful light, so clear and simple that little children behold it, and rejoice; so peaceful and consoling that they who cry out of the depths salute it as the dawn of sweetest hope; so perfect and infinite that the more we contemplate it the more we desire "to know Him," and long for the day when He shall appear, and we shall know even as we are known; so high above us and so deep within us, even in the very central seat of vision, transfiguring and transforming us, nay, shining out of us into the dark world of sin and misery. "I will dwell in the thick darkness," saith God; for He is God, and through all the ages all His angels and saints shall worship Him, vailing their faces and adoring His awful majesty; but He is the Holy One who delights in mercy, in giving, in shining forth into our hearts, in filling heaven and earth with His glory. In Jesus Christ we have and are light. Oh that the waves of light out of the heavenly sanctuary would descend continually into our souls with sanctifying, gladdening, and transforming power!
But in the holy place stood also the table and the shew-bread. Jesus Christ is the light of life. Life and light; these mysterious highest blessings are inseparably connected. In Christ, as the eternal uncreated Word, was life, and the life is the light of men (John 1:3). The Word is only another name for light; it is the manifestation, the expression of that which is hidden. We behold, we hear God in the Son of His love. The Lord brings to us both life and light. There can be no spiritual light proceeding from God without life. To know Him and Jesus Christ is life eternal. Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. And there is no spiritual life without light. With God is the fountain of life, and in His light do we see light.
Bread is the symbol of life. Bread is the peculiar food of humanity. It grows out of the earth, and is the result of human labour and diligence. It is of all nourishment the most important, essential, and precious. When we combine the symbolism of earthly bread with the symbolism of the manna which God sent to the Jews in the desert, we are prepared to understand the deep teaching of our Lord who presents Himself as the living Bread, the Bread that comes down from heaven, the Bread of life. He is the Son heaven-given, the Child earth-born, the Life and the Giver of life; and through His death on the cross He became bread for all poor sinners, whose faith in Him can be so fitly compared with eating, satisfying their hunger after righteousness, and in their emptiness grasping and rejoicing in the fulness of God's redemption.
The shew-bread, or bread of presence, set before God was a type of Jesus, as the delight of His heavenly Father, who was always well pleased in Him, and satisfied with His love and obedience. The number twelve shows that for each tribe which the High Priest bore on His breast-plate, there was bread and abundance; for Jesus came that we might have life, and that abundantly. The priests, even all Christians, feed now on the true bread in the presence of God. And as in the candlestick we behold in the first place Christ, the true light; and in the second place Christ in the Church, the light of the world; so may we also behold in the twelve loaves a reference to Christ in His people. Jesus was the corn of wheat that died. Jesus was the sheaf of the first-fruits, which, on the morrow after the Sabbath, on the first day of the week, was waved before the Lord; and fifty days after His resurrection the Holy Ghost descended, and the disciples were filled with the Spirit. Then was the Church born, then the two loaves of fine flour were presented unto the Lord; for we are the first-fruits of His creatures. And thus we read also that Jesus, entering the heart, sups with us and we with Him.
The apostle does not mention the golden altar of incense symbolizing the intercession of our adorable Lord, and the presentation of our petitions by Him unto the Father. The candlestick, the table, and the golden altarlight, life, and acceptable worship, are inseparably connected. Christ Jesus, God and man, is the true Light, the true, substantial, living, and life-giving Bread, the true Intercessor. Yet so perfect is His mystical union with His believing people, according to the love of the Father, and by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, that we also are seven golden candlesticks, children of light, and light-bearers; that we also are an acceptable offering unto the Lord; and that the prayers of saints ascend as incense unto the heavenly throne.
To us it is given to understand the full meaning of these divine symbols, to behold in the one Lord Jesus Christ the manifold wisdom of God, to receive in the one unspeakable gift all the gifts of eternal blessedness. The brightness of gospel light brings us to the simplicity which is in Christ Jesus. Knowing Him, who is all, we contemplate with delight each single type, that so we may grow in adoring knowledge, and be increasingly established in the comforting and sanctifying truth. Let us, then, look also with reverence into the most holy, which was separated by a veil, itself a type, from the first tabernacle.
The apostle enumerates seven things as belonging to ittypes of seven divine and heavenly realities: (1) The golden censer; (2) The ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold; (3) The golden pot that had manna; (4) Aaron's rod that budded; (5) The tables of the covenant; (6) The cherubims of glory; (7) The mercy-seat.(10)
The apostle does not explain the meaning of these things, but he simply refers to them. His wish therefore is merely to remind us of the manifold symbols by which the solemn realities of the heavenly sanctuary were signified by the Holy Ghost.
1. In the book of Exodus (30:34-38) we read a full description of the incense, which was regarded as most holy. The golden censer containing it brings before us the intercession of our Lord at the right hand of God; this is the only perfect prevailing mediation, fragrant and delightful unto the Father, whereby all our sin-defiled and imperfect petitions, praises, and gifts are well-pleasing unto the Most High.
2. The ark of the covenant, sometimes called simply the ark, or the ark of testimony; or in the last passage where it occurs, "The holy ark," with (3) The golden pot that had manna; (4) Aaron's rod that budded; and (5) The tables of the covenant.
The ark was a symbol that God was present among His people, that His covenant blessing was resting upon them. It was the most sacred and glorious instrument of the sanctuary; yea, the whole sanctuary was built for no other end, but to be as it were a house and habitation for the ark (Exo 26:33). Hence sanctification proceeded unto all the other parts of it; for, as Solomon observed, the places were holy whereunto the ark of God came (2 Chron 8:11). The nations took it to be the Gods that the Israelites worshiped (1 Sam 4:8). "God gave this ark that it might be a representation of Christ, and He took it away to increase the desire and expectation of the Church after Him and for Him. And as it was the glory of God to hide and cover the mysterious counsels of His will under the Old Testament, whence this ark was so hidden from the eyes of all men, so under the New Testament, it is His glory to reveal and make them open in Jesus Christ" (2 Cor 3:18Owen). It contained originally (and the apostle is not here giving an account of the actual condition of the temple, but of the original and perfect design) the manna, or the symbol of the heaven -descended, real, spiritual, and therefore hidden bread (Rev 2:17), which they who overcome shall know and taste perfectly in the Paradise of God. It contained also the rod of Aaron that budded, whereby God confirmed the election of Aaron and his sons to be priests unto Him. This is a beautiful and striking type of Him who is Priest according to the power of an endless life, of Him who was dead, and, behold, He liveth for ever more, of the Rod out of the stem of Jesse, of the Man whose name is the Branch, and who shall be a Priest upon His throne (Isa 11:1; Zech 3:8, 6:12,13). It contained also the tables of the covenant, in which God had written His holy law. These tables testified against Israel's sin and hardness of heart. And at first sight it seems strange and alarming that in the ark of merciful covenant-presence, besides the manna and the symbol of resurrection-life and unfading youth, we should behold the accusing and condemning witness of the broken law. But the law which condemns us is and ever remains holy, just, and good; and the God who justifies us is none other than the just God. Not merely is the propitiation, the covering and atoning blood, sprinkled upon the mercy-seat, but the law of God was magnified and fulfilled by Christ; as is written in the psalm, "Thy law is within my heart" (40:8). Our Advocate with the Father is Jesus Christ the righteous.
Then there were the cherubim of glory. There is no reason why we should view the cherubim as mere personifications either of divine powers or the Church. We read of them as of other celestial beings, as of the seraphim who stand before God's throne, and as of the angels or messengers whom God sends forth to do His commandments, and to minister unto the heirs of salvation. We read of them as guarding the entrance into the garden of Eden after man's fall. Afterwards in the Psalms, as the chariot of the Lord, and in the visions of Ezekiel, they appear as the representatives of creation and the mediators and agents of divine life-power in the world (Psa 18:10; Eze 1:4, etc.). In the book of Revelation also we read of them as the living beings. We may in a general way call them angels, as the apostle Peter does with evident reference to the mercy-seat. These high angelic creaturesthus mysteriously connected with the divine world-rulebehold with eager and adoring desire the glory of God in Christ Jesus, God in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, the eternal counsel of divine love fulfilled in the redemption through the blood of the Lamb. Thus the apostle teaches us, that by the church the manifold wisdom of God is shown unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places. And in harmony with this sublime truth is the song of the heavenly host on Bethlehem's plains, "Glory to God in the highest," and the majestic ascription of praise to the Lamb, which the myriads of angels offer in the vision of the apostle John, and to which the four living beings respond, Amen.
And what shall we say of the mercy-seat? Even in the holy of holies, when we have contemplated so many symbols of the most solemn character, we pause in reverential silence as we are brought to this highest manifestation of the divine presence of holiness and love. Here we behold the propitiation through faith in the blood of the Son of God; the atonement which, while it covers our sins, manifests the glory of God, and reveals to us and to all angels the depths of divine wisdom, grace, truth, the marvellous union of all His glorious perfections: God is love.
Have we come to the blood-besprinkled mercy-seat? What other position can we take than either remain outside, far from God and strangers to His love, or enter by faith, now that the veil is rent, into the holy of holies? If it is true that Jesus is the way, and that no man cometh to the Father, but by Him, can we approach, can we pray, can we adore in any other way than in and by Jesus? in any other place than in the heavenly sanctuary? We cannot go back by the works of the law into the garden of Eden. The cherub with the flaming sword guards the entrance. But even the cherubim will adore with children of Eve, guilty and fallen, when in repentance and trust we look unto the Lord our righteousness, the Lamb in the midst of the throne! A bond of more thrilling tenderness binds Jesus to us sinful men than to the angels.
Christ Entered In By His Own Blood
(Hebrews 9:7-14)7 But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: 8 The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: 9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; 10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. 11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. 13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 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 apostle, having briefly referred to the glory of the first tabernacle, contrasts now the entrance of the high priest into the holy of holies on the day of atonement and the typical sacrifice, which sanctified to the purifying of the flesh with the entrance of our Lord into heaven itself by His own blood, and the real and spiritual purification connected with Christ's one oblation. The type was necessarily imperfect; the fulfillment is perfect. The former consisted of many parts. There is a multiplicity of sacrifices, and yet, even when combined, there is still imperfection. The latter possesses a marvellous simplicity, for Christ is the one sacrifice, by whom all the purposes of God, as to our redemption, and sanctification, and future glory, are fulfilled. In the type, the purification was legal, ceremonial, provisionalit admitted the worshipper to the services of the worldly sanctuary; in the fulfillment, the conscience is purged, and we have access, continuous and for ever, unto the throne of God. In the type, the very sanctuary itself required to be cleansed by expiatory sprinklings, the sins of priests and worshippers in their relationship to the sanctuary needed atonement, and through this purification the continuance of typical sacrificial communion with God was secured; in the fulfillment, through the blood of Christ, heaven itself is the sanctuary in which we worship, and as Christ is there for ever, our acceptance and worship know no interruption or cessation. Thus the type itself, witnessing throughout of its imperfection, points to the glorious fulfillment.
The way into the holiest, access to the very presence of God, was not yet made manifest While the priests went always into the holy place, accomplishing the service of God, kindling the lamps, laying shew-bread every Sabbath-day upon the table, and offering incense on the golden altar, they were not allowed to enter into the holy of holies. Even the high priest could not enter, except once a year, on the day of atonementthat solemn and awful day, on which, divested of his golden and glorious robes, without the mitre, the embroidered vest, and the breast-plates, he entered in the garments of humility, offering for himself and for the errors of the people. Even on that day the high priest's entrance into the holy of holies was imperfect; for he was by no means to see clearly the ark of the covenant with the mercy-seat; the cloud of incense was to be a covering, lest he die.(11)
But now Christ is come, and now begins the dispensation, not again of the first tent, or of the holy place, but of that symbolized by the Most Holyof the heavenly sanctuary itselfof the worship in Spirit and in truthof entrance into the holy of holies, where the great High Priest is enthroned at the right hand of the Father. What a contrast to the Levitical dispensation!
Even in the first tent, or part of the tabernacle, the relation of the people with God was through the priesthood. The sacrifice, by which alone access could be given to sinful men, according to divine holiness, had not yet been offered; hence the conscience of the worshipper was not perfect, and his service was not in liberty. But now, through the death of Christ, believers are brought from the first tabernacle and priestly mediation into the true archetype of the earthly holy of holies, into the heavenly sanctuary itself, having the conscience perfect according to divine righteousness, and in the spirit of liberty, in the knowledge of the infinite love of God.
Hence, there is a real and great difference between believers in the new covenant dispensation and in the old. It is true that there was at all times only one way of salvation, only one righteousness through faith in the divinely-appointed Substitute provided by God for guilty sinners. But the difference between the condition of believers before the death of Christ and those after is indicated fully in this and the succeeding chapter, in harmony with the whole Pauline teaching (Rom 3:25). The law made nothing perfect.
But, as the apostle triumphantly continues, Messiah is come, the high priest of good things to come; that is, of eternal blessings which shall be fully revealed and bestowed in the ages to come, but the substance of which is ours already, even spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. He Himself is the true tabernacle. Conceived of the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, He is called from His very infancy that holy Thing or Sanctuary. This Body the Father prepared; He built it by the Holy Ghost to be the tabernacle of divine glory. The Word was made flesh, tabernacled with us, and we beheld the Son's glory. He was the Light of the world, the golden candlestick; He was the Bread of the countenance, and from His pure humanity, as well as His filial divinity (inseparably united), ascended the true incense unto God, even as afterwards He intercedes in the holy of holies. But while on earth Jesus is only the Holy Place; not yet has He entered into the very presence of God, into heaven itself. Before He can ascend to His God and our God, to His Father and our Father, He must die; His flesh is the veil, and the veil must be rent. True, His flesh also is without sin. Blessed be God, in Him was nothing but Spirit and life. He came in the weakness and in the likeness of sinful flesh, for thus it was necessary in order to bring us unto God. He learned obedience, He submitted His human will to the Father's, and in all His walk, trial, and suffering He was holy, harmless, and undefiled. But, as the apostle explains it, because man was without righteousness, inasmuch as the law could not be fulfilled in us, through the sinful weakness of the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and by a sacrifice for sin, condemned sin in the flesh. When Jesus died on the cross, then God condemned sin. When the body of Christ was broken, then God judged sinexecuted sentence on itand in the true and real sense destroyed it for evermore.
Notice how careful the apostle is to remind us in this very passage of Christ's divinity (Rom 8:3). Who is this man on the cross in the weakness of sinful flesh? Who is this man in whose sacrifice of Himself God the Judge condemns sin? He is God's own Son, eternal, infinite, all-glorious. Wonderful veil rent by God Himself! But now is Christ no longer the Holy Place, but the Most Holy, the Holy of Holies. See Him on the right hand of God; see now the throne of God a throne of grace; with His own blood He entered, and the manifestation of God between the cherubim is now God reconciled to us in Christ Jesus, our Father and covenant God. Jesus, who glorified the law, manifesting it in His person and life, and fulfilling and exhausting both its precepts and its curse, is the ark wherein the tables of the law were hid; He Himself is the mercy-seat, the propitiation, revealing the holy love of God with such brightness and perfection that angels desire to look into this mystery. He has the hidden manna by which He sustains our inner life on earth, and shall communicate to us in eternity renewed strength; and He is the rod, which, though cut off and given over unto death, budded forth in resurrection-power, and is living for ever more; thus proving Him to be the true Priest after the power of an indissoluble life. The veil is rent; Christ died on the cross; we see the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world. The darkness is past; no cloud of incense conceals the mystery; Christ has no veil on His face when for us He appears in the presence of God; and we also with open face behold the Father.
The whole throne of God is irradiated now by the sweet and peaceful light of mercy, for the Lamb who found an eternal redemption is at the right hand of God. The Father Himself loveth us; God the just and holy One hath accepted us in the Beloved. Here is what no symbol could prefigure. Jesus, both Sacrifice and Priest, has fulfilled Aaronic types, and reigns after the order of Melchisedec, while presenting us continually unto the Father, is always sympathizing with us in our infirmities and temptations, and supplying all needful strength unto us in our earthly pilgrimage and conflict.
But let us reverently consider the way by which Jesus entered, and the position which is thereby given unto all believers of God. We notice two expressions. He entered in once by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption for us, and, the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unto God.
Not without awe and trembling, and yet with deep and solemn joy, ought a Christian to speak of the precious blood of Christ. Here is the very heart, the inmost sanctuary of our faith. Marvel not, brethren, that this doctrine is at all times, both to wise Greeks and self-righteous Jews, the stumbling-block and the rock of offence. But where man's reason can see no wisdom, where the unrenewed mind doubts, cavils, and mocks, the saints of God adore, and expect to adore for ever. Here is indeed the centre of all divine revelations. With increasing clearness this mystery shines through the whole Scripture. Do we not see it in the better sacrifice of Abel? Do we not behold it on the door-posts of Israel, on the memorable night of the passover? Does it not meet us on every page of Leviticus? Do we not hear it in the solemn and emphatic declaration: "Without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin?" Does it not shine forth in all the ordinances of the tabernacle? Can we not discover it in the words of Isaiah, when he speaks of Messiah pouring out His life? and in the words of Zechariah, "They shall look unto me, whom they pierced"? Jesus the Lord declared "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you"; and on the last evening said, "This is the new testament in my blood; this is my blood, shed for the remission of sins." In like manner all the apostolic epistles assign peculiar importance as to the death of the Lord, so especially to the shedding of His precious blood; and in the culminating book of Scripture, the Apocalypse, the doctrine is asserted with peculiar solemnity. The beloved disciple ascribes glory and honour unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us a kingdom of priests unto God and His Father; and all the heavenly doxologies, the voice of celestial angels and saints, ascribe redemption to the blood of Christ; to the blood they ascribe the righteousness of the saints, as well as their triumph over sin and evil.
On no subject is the apostolic teaching so emphatic, so lucid, so abundant. This truth filled their hearts, and was their central thought. By the blood of Christ we who were far off were made nigh; by His blood we are justified; Christ suffered that He might sanctify us by His blood; we possess (and that for ever) redemption through His blood; His blood cleanseth us from all sin, and the Church has been purchased with this precious price (Eph 1:7, 2:13; Acts 20:28; Rom 5:9; Heb 13:12; 1 John 1:7; Rev 1:5, 5:9, etc.);
As the types teach us, the great object of the death of Christ was, that His blood might be shed. By His own blood He entered into the holy place.
And as in no single sacrifice could be adequately represented the power and efficacy of His precious blood, the apostle mentions here, not merely the blood of bulls and of goats, but also the ashes of an heifer. By the former the high priest, the priests, and the people were ceremonially purified, their iniquities and transgressions being removed, and the sanctuary cleansed for continued worship. By the other was symbolised the cleansing and vivifying power of Christ's blood, keeping us during our pilgrimage in this wilderness of sin and defilement.(12)But while these types could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience, but were given in the mercy of God for an intermediate period, and to bring in a better hope, the blood of Christ, by which He entered into the holy of holies, brings unto us eternal redemption and heavenly perfection. Here the sanctification (αγιαζει v. 13) is real.
We are separated from God the Holy One by sin, from God the living One by death. In order to bring us into communion with God, and to purge our consciences, we have to be delivered both from the guilt of sin and the defilement and power of death. Now of the types which purified unto the (typical) service, the blood of Jesus is the antitype. By the blood of Christ we are brought into the presence of the holy and living God. This is our sanctification, in which we are separated and cleansed unto the worship and service of God. We are separated from the world of sin and death, from dead works; by which we must understand everything which is not the manifestation of a divinely given and wrought life; because nothing is fit to be brought before and unto the living God unless it be living, or spiritual, or proceeding from communion with the living One.
But if we ask, Why is this blood so precious, so efficacious, so all - prevailing? the answer is, Not merely because it is innocent, pure, and sinless, the life of a perfect and holy Man laid down voluntarily, the blood of One who had perfectly fulfilled the law of God, but because Jesus through the eternal Spirit offered Himself; that is, Jesus who died was God, eternal, infinite, and according to the eternal counsel of the triune Godhead He laid down His life. To Him the Father had given to have life in Himself. He is the Lord of glorySpirit (1 Cor 2:8; 2 Cor 3:17). The Scriptures always remind us of the Godhead when they speak of the death of Jesus. The Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. God purchased the Church with His own blood. He, who died, is the Son of God in human nature. And as in Him the divine nature and the human nature are one Person, so His blood, which in His infinite love He shed on the cross, is of eternal and unspeakable value, and possesses divine power to redeem, sanctify, cleanse. The Son of God became man, and His Holy life was poured out for us and shed forth in His blood; for He "offered Himself without spot to God." That freedom from all blemish which the ceremonial law prefigured in the sacrifices, was fulfilled in absolute perfection in the Lamb of God. It was not merely short-sighted men who could not convince Him of sin; it was not merely the testimony of Judas, who betrayed Him, and of Pontius Pilate, who pronounced the unjust sentence, and of the centurion, who stood by the cross, that Jesus was innocent, and that there was no fault in Him; it was not merely the testimony of the demons, who called Him the Holy One of God. Here we have the testimony of God. Christ was the Servant, and the Elect in whom the Father delighted. And when He offered Himself as the perfectly pure and spotless Lamb, in this His act of highest obedience as Man, He possessed all the perfection and value of His divine person; for He offered Himself by the eternal Spirit, which expression refers not so much to the Holy Ghost as to His Sonship and union with the Father, to the eternal purpose and will of the Godhead. God was in Christ reconciling. The purpose of Christ in offering Himself was in divine as well as human perfection. His sacrifice therefore possesses the character of eternal, absolute perfection, absolute efficacy, and everlasting value.(13)
We who believe that Christ has entered by His own blood into the holy of holies have thereby received a fourfold assurance:
- Christ has obtained for us eternal redemption.
- We have access to God.
- Our consciences are purged by the blood of Christ to serve the living God.
- The things to come are secured to us by Him, who is the heir, and in whom even now all spiritual blessings in heavenly places are ours.
1. The redemption which Christ has obtained is eternal. The apostle uses the expression "found" redemption.(14)So Abraham answered the question of Isaac, God has provided the Lamb for the offering; so in the book of Job the messenger or angel, the interpreter or mediator, one above a thousand, reveals to afflicted and sin-convinced man God's righteousness, and saith, "Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom." Marvellous redemption, in which all divine attributes working together are revealed, so that glory is to God in the highest, and perfect peace on earth to the men of His good pleasure. God only could provide our ransom (Psa 49:6-9). The expression brings before us in a human way the wonderful wisdom of God, wherein He has abounded toward us, the marvellous plan of redemption, which, high above all created thought, originating in the divine mind, brought together mercy and truth, justice and grace in harmonious unity, and made the dark object of sin the occasion of the brightest manifestation of divine glory. Thus the Lord commends His own wisdom, and in the prophets frequently stirs up our sluggish mind to regard with wonder and astonishment His great salvation. Christ's precious blood can never lose its power, till all the chosen saints of God are gathered unto glory. It is a real redemption from the guilt and power of sin, from the curse of the law, from the wrath of God, from the bondage of Satan, and from the second death; an eternal redemption, because sin is forgiven; Satan, death, and hell are vanquished; everlasting righteousness is brought in; we are saved for evermore. Jesus has redeemed us. By dying in our stead, by bearing our sins in His own body on the tree, by satisfying all the claims which a holy God had against us, by being made a sin-offering and a curse for us, the Lord delivered us from our bondage and captivity. His blood was the ransom. Because we are redeemed according to divine righteousness, death has no sting; we are no longer through fear of death subject to bondage. Sin has no more dominion over us, for the death of Christ has set us free to the service and obedience of God. The wrath of God abideth no longer on us, for the atoning blood speaks now only of mercy and everlasting love. Satan can no longer lay anything to the charge of God's elect.
He found redemption where man would never have thought of it. He found it after His incarnation and path of obedience in the death of the cross, in the darkness of agony, and He brought it forth in brightness and beauty, glory and strength, by His resurrection from the dead.
2. We have now access to God; we are brought into the very presence of God; we enter into the holy of holies. The veil no longer conceals the counsel of God's wonderful love; sin in the flesh no longer separates us from the presence of the Most High. Very awful, and yet most blessed and sweet, is this assurance. God is very near to each one of us. Though we see Him not, yet is He nearer than the very air we breathe; for our very being and living and moving is in Him. He is very near unto us, and all our thoughts and desires are open before Him, who is the searcher of hearts. Yet, although such is the exceeding nearness of God to us, we are at an exceeding great distance from God. Who can measure the distance of the prodigal in the far country from the father's house? But we can describe that distance by one syllable, short though terriblesin. Now He by whom alone sin can be forgiven and removed is nowhere else but on the throne of Godon His right hand. With Him is forgiveness of sin. In heaven is my righteousness; in the throne of God, and nowhere else, my hope, my comfort, and my trust. He who has found and saved me, lost and guilty sheep; He who by His death has redeemed me, has taken me on His shoulder. He is no longer here. As He died unto sin once, I seek Him no longer among the dead. He is ascended. Rejoicing has He gone home, and called His friends together to rejoice over the sheep now with Him in the land of peace. Hence there is no other place for me but heaven itself. Everywhere else I see only sin and condemnation. Where can I pray or approach God without a Mediator, without the blood, without the High Priest? But the blood of Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, the interceding High Priest Jesus, is in heaven itself. Then I also must pray and worship there. I have no other hiding-place but Christ in heaven.
You who have come to Jesus, who have looked unto Him and were healed, you stand now on the other side of the cross, within the veil, in the holy of holies. You have obtained mercy. God forgave all your sins, and clothed you with Christ. In this state into which God has brought you there can henceforth be no change. Your knowledge and enjoyment of it may vary and grow, your faithfulness and service fluctuate, your experience may rise and fall; but you are always children of God, forgiven, beloved, compassed about with divine mercy, and embraced in the very love which the Father has to Jesus.
We are not like the Jewish priests, who, under the former tabernacle stayed outside the unrent veil, and never came into the presence of God; not like the believer in the old dispensation, who offered continually sacrifices, which were needed on account of his repeated sins, but which were shadows, and only procured a ceremonial cleansing in hope of the future expiation. We have been pardoned, redeemed, made righteous once for all; God beholds us in Christ His Son; we are always before God by reason of that sacrifice which has put away sin, and by reason of the presence of the Lord, whom the Father calls My Son, and who is not ashamed to call us brethren. If the blood of the passover-lamb protected the Israelites in Egypt, and secured to them perfect safety, if the blood sprinkled on the mercy-seat in the holy of holies covered Israel's transgressions of the divine law, how much more does the precious blood of Christ, by which He entered into heaven itself, and with which He there appears before God for us, cleanse us from all sin, so that we are accounted by Him holy and without blame?
For (3) to you has been given, what the old covenant saints did not possess, perfectionthe absolution and remission of sins. Your conscience has been purged and made free; once for all God has received you in Christ Jesus, has pardoned and accepted you, has invested you with everlasting righteousness. You have no conscience any longer of sin. There is no guilt on you. There is no condemnation. You have been acquitted judicially. That which in the eternal counsel was decreed for you, that which by the death and resurrection of Jesus was obtained for you, was actually and perfectly given unto you when the grace of God was exceeding abundant unto you, with faith and love, which are in Christ Jesus. Our conscience pronounces us just and accepted, even as God pronounces us just and accepted, and that for the same reason. The same blood which was sprinkled on the mercy-seat has touched and purged our consciences. We know that we have been made the righteousness of God in Him; we know that according to all the perfections of God we are forgiven and saved. No longer, therefore, is our conscience burdened or denied by the knowledge of alienation from God, and the fear of His displeasure.
But are there many such heavenly worshippers in the liberty and power of the new covenant? While we mourn over Israel's blindness, and the veil on their hearts, are we with open face beholding the glory of the Lord? Among the people who listen to the gospel, are there not many who hear and speak constantly of divine mercy and pardon, and yet never come to a full, decided, and conscious reception of the grace of God? They believe that those who are justified by faith have peace, but they themselves have no peace. As the Jews of old had continually to offer sacrifices, so they repeat continually the same petitions for pardon and acceptance, and with the same indistinct and vague consciousness as to their acceptance. The Jews were not in the full light, but it was not owing to their unbelief; but now that the true light shineth, why are souls in gloom and uncertainty; now that the summer is come, why is the heart dreary without sunshine and melody?
It is because the conscience has not been set free by the blood of Christ. In that mysterious judgment-chamber, where busy thoughts, like subtle and eager pleaders, accuse and excuse one another, a voice, whose authority we cannot dispute, declares us guilty, and the testimony of God, which is greater than our conscience, reveals to us more fully our sin and condemnation. But when we are convinced of our sin, and utter ruin and helplessness, God is revealed as a just God, and the justifier of the guilty, who believe in Jesus; the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, reveals to us the holy and perfect way in which all iniquity is pardoned and all transgression removed. And as that blood avails in heaven, so it delivers the conscience from the burden of guilt, and from the burden of all our own miserable attempts at pleasing God and lulling our fears: dead works which like a dead weight only increase our wretchedness. Now we truly turn from sin unto God. In Christ Jesus God and the sinner meet; both behold the blood of the Lord Jesus, and in the high sanctuary above and in the inmost sanctuary of the conscience there is peace.
And now it Jesus says to thee, "Be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven thee," then be of good cheer, and rest in the love of God. See how in all the epistles addressed to God's children forgiveness of sin, redemption, acceptance in Christ, are fundamental blessings and gifts, which all believers are supposed to have received by faith, and once for all.
Yet the conscience thus purged is more sensitive. We know now more of our sinfulness; for we behold sin in the light of God's love. What then? Of sin we have no conscience; but of our sinfulness and constant sinning we have. We confess our sins; we pray, "Forgive us our trespasses"; we mourn over our unfaithfulness; we behold and abhor our vileness; we have no confidence in the flesh. But we confess to the Father as children; we confess before the throne of grace, and in the hearing of the merciful and compassionate High Priest. We learn the deepest and most self-abasing lesson; to go with sin and unworthiness to infinite Love, to boundless compassion, to never-failing mercy, to the Father who loves us, to the Lord who always intercedes for us. We have been washed once for all when we came to Jesus. We need now to have our feet washed. Peter either refuses to have his feet washed by Jesus (false humility), or wishes Jesus to wash not merely his feet, but also his hands and his head (unbelief and false humility again); but when afterwards he understood the ways of God, he strengthened his brethren. For in his epistle he teaches them, that if we forget that we have been purged from our sins we become unfruitful and blind: the knowledge of our perfect and complete acceptance is the strength of obedience.
For with the conscience troubled and defiled, man has only dead works. There is no life in his feelings, prayers, words, or actions; for is he not separate from the fountain of life? But, as Martin Luther delighted to sayfor what we are always experiencing, we must express alwayswhere there is forgiveness of sin, there is life and all blessedness. We do not obtain forgiveness by good works, but through the forgiveness of sin come good works. First remove sin from the conscience, and it will also be dethroned in the heart.
There are three classes of men. The worst, those who do not feel sin as a burden on their conscience, but cherish it as an idol in the heart. Oh what a discovery in the eternal world, that the burden is intolerable, and that the idol is an everlasting torment! Then there are men who try to cleanse the heart, and to lead a pure life, and hope thereby to remove the burden of guilt on the conscience. Who can help loving such? But not so can you obtain either a peaceful conscience or a God-loving heart. Christ is God's righteousness for man. First the conscience is delivered, and thus the heart is renewed; and out of the renewed heart flows living obedience. "To serve the living God." It is by a constantly exercised faith in and by the power of the blood of Christ, that we now serve the living God. Being made free from sin, by the death of Christ, we became the servants of righteousness, servants to God, and have our fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life (Rom 6:22). Dead works cannot please a living God; but we walk now in newness of life, serving Him with gladness of heart.(15)The living Godit is said emphatically; for only the believer realizes God as living, present, sending down continually the influence of His grace.
Men speak of going to heaven. Go to heaven now! Not death, but faith, will take you there. Jesus is in heaven, the Son of man, who came to seek and to save that which was lost. Look up to heaven, all ye ends of the earth, poor, guilty, needy ones. Believe it, you will see there a Father, a Saviour, the Mediator of the new and eternal covenant, the blood of atonement; you will see a throne, and adore; a throne of grace, and you will rejoice. Thus you will in truth and reality belong to heaven. You will be able to say even in the present time, "My citizenship is in heaven"; for Christ is your High Priest and Lord at the right hand of God, and He ministers even now "good things," spiritual and heavenly blessings, of which the full and perfect manifestation will be the inheritance at His second coming.
Thus all depends on the character of worship. Opposed to the condition of the self-righteous or careless world, and contrasted with the condition of the Old Testament dispensation of figure, which never led believers beyond the first tabernacle or holy place, is the new covenant worship in Spirit and truth. It is with a conscience purged from sin; it is in the very presence of God; it is through the mediation of the one High Priest; it is in virtue of that same blood, in which alone is eternal redemption. In this worship only are we free, in heavenly places, and separated and delivered from this evil world.
The Mediator of the New Testament
(Hebrews 9:15-28)15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. 16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. 18 Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. 19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, 20 Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. 21 Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. 22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.The scope of the apostle's argument, from verses 15-28, is as follows:
23 It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: 25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; 26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: 28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
Christ entered with the price of an eternal redemption into the presence of God. The first effect of His entrance is, that our conscience is purged from dead works to serve the living God (v 14). The second effect is, that thereby Christ has become the Mediator of the New Testament, in order that the called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance (v 15). The death of Christ was necessary to establish this testament; for even the first covenant was "not without blood." And this blood was applied to the book and the people; to the tabernacle and the vessels of the ministry; and to "almost all things," in order to continue the approach of Israel and their service (vv 19, 21, 23). The antitype or fulfillment in the New Testament is, that our conscience has been purged; the heavenly sanctuary has been purified with better sacrifice; and after the One and perfect offering which Jesus brought once for all, no repetition of the sacrifice is possible or needed. Christ has abolished sin, and we wait now for His second coming in glory.
Jesus by His death has become the Mediator of the New Testament. It is because Jesus died that He now dispenses the gifts which He has purchased. The New Testament is in His hand. He is the Mediator, bringing us as true worshippers, unto God; and bringing the inheritance, with all its blessings and gifts, unto us.
There is perhaps no word with which we are more familiar, and which is more frequently used by us than the word "covenant" or "testament." We are in the habit of calling the sacred books of Israel and of the church, the books of the Old and New Testament. And in that precious ordinance of the Saviour, which according to His will is to be the joy of His disciples, as well as their testimony to the world until He come, we hear constantly the solemn words: "This cup is the New Testament in my blood."
Words which are frequently used are not necessarily correctly understood or rightly valued. And then our very familiarity with them is the source of danger. For the incorrect or inadequate idea, which we connect with the expression, becomes deeply fixed in our minds, and the fundamental misconception brings forth abundant and widely-ramified error. For these very familiar and constantly-recurring words express mother-ideas of primary importance.
Our only safety is a constant and diligent study of Scripture, and a conscientious adherence to the principle, that Scripture thoughts and words are to be explained and judged on Scripture territory according to the Scripture circle of truth, and the Scripture mode of viewing and expressing things. If we apply this canon to the subject before us, we shall find that the ordinary conception of a covenant as a mutual agreement is not identical with the Biblical use of the word, and also that there is an intimate connection between the idea of an inheritance bequeathed through death, or a testament and the Scripture view of covenant.
Now the first and primary idea of covenant and testament is a disposition and order of things, made of God, and shown forth in a promise or institution. For instance, we read that God established a covenant with Noah (Gen 6:9). Here is a divine promise, unconditional and immutable, based upon His sovereign grace; an order of things which it pleased Him to establish, and whereof He gave a double assurance, His word and the rainbow, seal and pledge of the covenant of His grace. Again the Lord made a covenant with Abraham. He promised to be the God of Abraham and of his seed; to give unto them the land; to give unto them the seed, in whom all families of the earth will be blessed. This covenant is also unconditional and unchangeable, it is not a mutual agreement, it does not depend on man's faithful and complete fulfillment of stipulated conditions. And as it originates entirely in the purpose of eternal wisdom and love, it is impossible that it can ever be changed or frustrated. Nothing that happens in time, and subsequent to the announcement of the covenant, can in any way interfere with its fulfillment. Neither the law, given four hundred years after, nor the awful sin of Israel in rejecting their Lord and Messiah, can alter God's covenant of grace. "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance." The Abrahamic covenant had also a twofold assurance and manifestationthe word of promise, and the ordinance of circumcision.
In this covenant the testament-nature is already apparent; for here is an inheritance, and, as the apostle explains to us (Gal 3), it was by promise, and given unto the one seed, Christ. The Abrahamic covenant, he also teaches us, was confirmed by God in Christ. And the meaning of this is evident now in the light of fulfillment. The covenant with Abraham was also a testament, and, as all testaments are, connected with death. It promised an inheritance, but an inheritance which could become ours only by the death of Jesus, in whom alone there is redemption for sinful and guilty men. But in order to bring out fully the character of the covenant of grace, the intermediate dispensation of the law was given. And here it is difficult to see both the contrast, sharp and distinct, between the old covenant and the new testament, and also to recognize the bond of connection between them; there is the antithesis, law and grace; there is the contrast, shadow and truth; but there is something which bound these two aspects together in the actual history and experience of God's ancient people.
For the promise given to Abraham, and not to Moses, was not superseded or forgotten in the giving of the law. When God dealt with Israel in the wilderness, He gave them the promise that they should be a peculiar treasure unto Him above all people; "for all the earth is mine"; and that they should possess the land as an inheritance (Exo 19:5,6, 23:30; Deut 15:4). Based upon this promise, and corresponding with the divine election and favour, is the law which God gave to His people. As He had chosen and redeemed them, so they were to be a holy people, and to walk before Him, even as in the Ten Commandments the gospel of election and redemption came first. "I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of Egypt." Hence this covenant or dispensation, although it was a covenant, not of grace and divine gifts and enablings, but of works, was connected with and based upon redemption, and it was dedicated, as the apostle emphatically says, not without blood. Both the book, or record of the covenant,(16)and all the people, were sprinkled with the blood of typical sacrifices.(17) For without blood is no remission of sins, and the promises of God can only be obtained through atonement. But we know that this is a figure of the one great sacrifice, and that therefore all the promises and blessings under the old dispensation, underlying and sustaining it, were through the prospective death of the true Mediator. When therefore the spiritual Israelite was convinced by the law of sin, both as guilt and as a condition of impurity and strengthlessness, he was comforted by the promise of the inheritance, which always was of grace, unconditional and sure, and in a righteous and holy manner through expiation.
Through the blood sprinkled by Moses on the book and people, and afterwards on the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry, they were set apart unto the holy God. The tabernacle was itself established as an ordinance of mercy in the midst of a people who had been guilty of grievous transgression (Exo 32), and the very tabernacle required to be purified by blood before the Lord could meet there with His people.
How evident is the meaning of these earthly things now, when we see the fulfillment in the heavenly and eternal things!
Jesus desired with desire to eat the passover with His disciples. It was on that night that He took the cup and blessed it, and said, "This is the cup of the new testament in my blood." He as the true Sacrificefulfillment of all the varied typeswas offered for us on Golgotha. Through His death the inheritance is obtained for us; it is of grace, and it is reserved for us in heaven, while we live even now in the enjoyment of its power and blessedness. The testator is, properly speaking, God; for we are God's heirs; but it is God in Christ, even as in the death of Christ for sinners we behold God's love. Jesus is the Heir. This is the Scripture teaching. The Lord Himself in the parable presents the last Prophet sent by God into the vineyard as high above all the servants; He is the one Son, the Only-begotten of the Father. And even His enemies draw the correct inference, that He is the Heir (Mark 12:7). This is the Son whom the Father loved from all eternity, and unto whom He hath given all things (Heb 1:3). This is He by whom the world was made, and who was appointed Heir of all things. We are joint-heirs with Christ, and the inheritance is blood-bought. But, as the types prefigure, this precious blood belongs to the heavenly sanctuary. It does not belong to earth, even as it does not open the way to an earthly temple and secure earthly blessings. It is precious, incorruptible.(18)
Jesus entered with His own blood into the holy of holies. And here is the antitype of the earthly tabernacle being sprinkled with blood. Heaven is now opened to believers; the most holy place is anointed with the blood of atonement (Dan 9:24). Our sins no longer ascend to heaven. The adversary can no longer accuse us before the throne of God. The Father, having made peace through the blood of Christ's cross, hath reconciled all things unto Himself, "whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven" (Col 1:20). So great and real is the efficacy of the precious blood of Christ.
The Saviour, who by His own blood entered into heaven itself, to appear in the presence of God for us, is the Mediator of the New Testament; as the First-born He has entered into the inheritance, and He now dispenses to us the very blessings which through His death He has purchased for us.
1. Jesus has put away sin, once for all, by the sacrifice of Himself. All that stood in the way of the infinite love of God flowing into our hearts has been removed, and that for ever, unto all who believe in Jesus. In that He died, He died unto sin once for all; and we who believe in Him are delivered out of the region of sin, of defilement, and of death.
2. The blessed Lord having entered in by His blood, we also have ascended with Him. This is implied by the apostle's saying that Christ appears now in heaven for us. In a different but harmonious light the same truth is taught in the epistle to the Ephesians. The apostles were filled with amazement when Jesus was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight; the men of Galilee stood gazing up into heaven. But when the full import of the ascension was disclosed to them, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. The beloved disciple regretted no more that he could no longer lean on the bosom of the divine Master. The apostles no longer felt that Jesus had left them, and had gone alone into the heavenly home; for they knew that they had ascended with Him, that they had died with Him, had been buried together with Him, had risen together with Him, and were seated together with Him in heavenly places.(19)
3. Hence with increasing clearness it became evident that believers are always before the Father as accepted worshippers; that in the archetype, of which the tabernacle was a picture, there was no division of the holy place and the most holy, but that all believers, as priests, are in the most holy, because Jesus Christ, the High Priest, is there "for them," and one with them.
All these truths are presented to our view and sealed to our faith in the ordinance of the Lord's Supper. We notice three very strange and sad ways in which this ordinance has been misunderstood and misused. In the first place, though it was intended to illustrate and confirm the strong and sweet bond which unites all the disciples of the One Master, it has been the occasion of dividing and separating brethren, and of substituting other bonds, not so fundamental, not so comprehensive, not so profound as the one which Christ alone acknowledges, that vital faith in Him which manifests itself in love.
Secondly, whereas the Lord's Supper was designed, by a simple illustration, to show forth spiritual mysteries, the Lord's Supper itself has been asserted to be a mystery which it is difficult to comprehend, or when comprehended to explain to others. Now, the union of Christ and the believer is indeed a mystery. Great is the mystery, exclaims the apostle. Our spiritual life, growth, and joy are rooted in Christ, in His broken body and shed blood. Here faith beholds also the communion of saints, the second advent, and our glory with Christ. But of these spiritual and unseen realities, we have in the Lord's Supper an illustration so simple, so comprehensive, that it is the easiest way of explaining to little children the gospel of our Lord. Many minds are thinking about the mystery of the sacrament, instead of thinking about the mystery of the union with Christ by faith and through the indwelling Spirit. For such the Gospel of John is most instructive, both on account of its silence as to the institution and its profound exposition of the "mystery," which in the Lord's Supper is set before us.
But thirdly, the very purpose of the Lord's Supper is to show that by one great sacrifice, once for all, Christ has put away sin. As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we do show the Lord's death. It is the commemoration of the one offering by which we are perfected. Hence to speak of a repetition of the sacrifice, in any shape or form, is to contradict the essential meaning and purpose of the ordinance.(20)Christ died once upon the cross, once He entered by His own blood into the holy of holies, and by this one death and once entering in we have redemption and access unto the Father. Hence all the blessings of the New Testament are ours.
Consider the teaching of our passage in the light of the Lord's Supper. Once we were under the sentence of death on account of our guilt, the transgression of God's holy law. We had forfeited the inheritance. Christ came. He is the Son; He is the Heir. He came to save us. He came to redeem them that were under the law from the curse of the law. He redeemed us by His death on the tree, by the shedding of His precious blood.(21)This is the bread; this is the cup.
Jesus the Mediator of the New Testament gives us the inheritance; and of this inheritance we have now the substance, for we eat and drink in the presence of the Father. Yet is the inheritance still future; for the Lord's Supper points to the fulfillment. "Till I come" is the golden link between Christ's first advent and His return, when we shall be glorified together with Him. Jesus said to His disciples on the very night in which He instituted this ordinance: "I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."(22)We are to be made manifest with Christ, and reign together with Him. The promise is not fulfilled yet, "He that overcometh shall inherit all things." But when we show the death of the Lord we look forward in hope to the final salvation, which shall be brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
How solemn sound the words, "This is the new testament in My blood." This is indeed the central, the fundamental, the eternal mystery. "Thou hast redeemed us by Thy blood," we sing at the Lord's tableit will be our song in eternity. This is the new song for ever, even as it is the new testament for ever.
Blessed are we if we read Scripture, as the testament; if, as children and heirs, we see in the word the record of our inheritance, the promise of glory, as well as the assurance of our present possession of the unsearchable riches of Christ.
See here the perfection of the fulfillment (vv 24-27). As the Levitical high priest entered into the holy of holies with the blood of the sacrifice, to appear before God as the representative of Israel, so Christ by His own blood entered heaven itself for us. But not as the type is the fulfillment. The Levitical high priest entered every year; Christ once for all. Hence there is no need of a repetition of His sacrifice. Once He appeared in the end of the world, in the consummation of the ages. In the fulness of time (Gal 4:4) Jesus was made manifest to put away sin really and for ever. He was made manifest, for in the counsel of God He was, from before the foundation of the world, the Lamb; but now the time was come when He fulfilled the salvation-will of God (comp. 1 Peter 1:20). Once He bore the sins of many (Isa 53:12); as their substitute He endured that which sin deserved according to the holiness and righteousness of God. This is accomplished, and perfect; it now lies behind Him.
What then is our position? The apostle by a very significant transition speaks now of man; leaving the contrast between Jewish type and heavenly reality, he enters, strictly speaking, into the sphere of the gospel, the glad tidings for mankind. Now the contrast is Adam and Christ. The apostle's statement (vv 26-28) may be rendered more faithfully thus: But now once for all, in the conclusion of the ages, hath He been manifest to put away sin(23)by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after that judgment (or decision); thus Christ, having been once offered in order to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time without sin for the salvation of them that wait for Him.
There are two chains; the one dark and the other bright; the one pertaining to man, earth, and time, the other entirely of God, from heaven, and eternal; the one ending in eternal glory, the other in everlasting misery. The one chain is thus described by the apostolic word: "The wages of sin is death." The links are sin, death, judgment. Unto fallen and guilty man it is appointed to die, and after that the judgment. This chain is the chain of the covenant of works, the relation between the links is that of man's doing and its consequence, according to divine justice and truth. It is impossible for this sequence to be broken. The day sin entered into the world, death also entered, and death as leading to judgment. Death is not, as many, alas! deceive themselves, the transition from sin to glory: as sin leads to death, death leads to judgment. Inevitable is the connection between sin and judgment, and our death cannot sever this connection; it is, on the contrary, the intervening link. In vain do men seek to put something between death and judgment. It is on this side of the grave that we must be taken out of the region of this dark chain.
For there is another chain. It came down from heaven. It originated in the eternal wisdom and love of God. It is of God from beginning to end. Jesus came; this is the first link. Jesus died; this is the second. Jesus comes again to receive us unto Himself; this is the last. Instead of man, the Son of man, God's own Son; instead of the death of the sinner, Christ's death; and instead of judgment, the saints glorified together with Christ.
But the logic of this chain is not so apparent as of the first. Sin, death, judgmentthis is a right sequence. But the incarnation of the Son of God and the cross; the sinless, perfect Son of man and death, seem to be rather contradictions than consequences. One single word explains it, but this word is a stumbling-block to many. It is Substitution. Jesus came to die as the substitute; the just laid down His life for the unjust; the Father laid on Him the iniquity of us all. And now, sin having been taken away by His one offering of Himself once for all, we look forward to His glorious return. The first time He appeared with reference to sin; the second time He shall appearapart from the work of atonement, for it is accomplished, and they who love His appearing shall then receive the inheritance. As death is the conclusion of our earthly life, and does not lead to a repetition of the same, but to judgment; so by the death of Christ all that was connected with sin and atonement is finished, and now there is nothing before Him but His second coming. He shall come again in glory.
At the Lord's table we behold nothing but gracenot wages, but the gift of God; gospel or glad tidings, righteousness instead of guilt, life instead of death, glory instead of judgment. Instead of looking back to Adam and transgression, we remember Christ and His obedience, the obedience, even His death; instead of looking forward to judgment, we wait for the coming of the Lord, who shall give us then the full adoption and inheritance, the redemption of the body and the glory.
If we were thoroughly fixed and rooted in this apostolic "once for all," we should have perfect peace and a lively hope of the glory of God. Here is our weakness, that we do not put all our confidence in Christ, in His one and only death once for all. Though we so often say, "Christ is all," yet we have some secret feeling that Christ is not all, and that the work is not quite complete. If Christ is all, then blessed be God! He came, He died, He ascended, He will return for us. As He died for us, so His return must be for our glory.
"Christ is all," the Lord's Supper says. Nothing can be added to this bread, or mixed with this cup. "Drink ye all of it"; the blessed Saviour includes the weakest believer, encouraging the bruised reed and the smoking flax. "The blood was shed for the remission of the sins of the many." The apostle uses almost the same expression as the prophetHe was once offered to bear the sins of many.
Now we rejoice in hope. Sin is removed, and therefore faith looks back and beholds the love of God in a crucified Saviour. Hope looks forward, and beholds the Lord bringing the crown and the inheritance. And though we also have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death, we know that Christ has abolished death, He has taken away its sting, it is to us no more a link in the dark chain of sin and judgment. We have been transplanted out of the kingdom of darkness, and whether we fall asleep before the Lord's return, or are still living on earth at His advent, to us there remains now only one thing to expect: Christ appearing the second time, apart from sin, unto salvation.
Our Lord on earth came as the Prophet; after His death, and by His blood, He entered into heaven to be our Priest, and at His second coming He shall appear as King in great majesty and glory (Rev 19, 20). He who on earth was without sin, who knew no sin, and yet was made by God to be sin for us (2 Cor 5:21; Rom 8:3), shall appear unto His people waiting for His return, looking with joyful, though humble and contrite, hope to His return. For He comes unto salvation. The Coming One is the same Jesus who ascended; it is emphatically the Saviour who delivered us from the wrath to come (Acts 1:11; 1 Thess 1:10).
"Lo, I Come."
(Hebrews 10:1-7)1 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. 5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: 6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. 7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.The apostle has contrasted the high priest of the Levitical dispensation with our Lord. The one entered into the earthly, Christ into the heavenly sanctuary; the one with sacrifices which could not purge the conscience, Christ with His own blood, by which we are sanctified; the one entered every year, Christ once for all. From this sublime contrast the apostle now argues that the law itself, the whole Levitical dispensation, was not able to give perfect peace to the conscience, and access into the presence of God; for it is evident from the constantly-repeated sacrifices and offerings that the worshippers had never attained to the condition of true acceptance and sanctificationthat they had never reached a point where further sacrifice was not needed. Hence the apostle says: "For" (referring to his demonstration of the perfection of the one offering, Hebrews 9:24-28), "the law having a shadow(24) (only) of good things to come, that is, of the then future salvation, blessing and inheritance, and not the express image of the things (as we have now in Christ, who is the manifestation and the fulfilment, or body), can never with the same yearly sacrifices, which they offer regularly, make the comers there unto perfect."
The prophetic Word supplied the description of the contrast and the fulfilment. It testified of the insufficiency of the sacrifices and offerings, and spoke of the self-sacrifice, the self-devotedness of the true servant of Jehovah, the Redeemer of Israel. It is to this special aspect of Christ's offering that our attention is directed in this chapter.
He who was offered, offered Himself; in His sufferings He showed the greatest strength and most concentrated activity of self-surrender; and because thus He fulfilled the eternal will of God concerning salvation, He has perfected for ever by one offering them that are sanctified. And thus we are led back to the fundamental and central truth: Jesus is the Son of God. Obedience belongs to a servant; concurrence and co-operation are the characteristics of a son. When we think of the eternal glory of the Only-begotten, and the sufferings and obedience of Jesus, it is the divine Sonship on which our minds rest, and in which we see the sacred identity of the Lord and the servant unbroken.
It is a characteristic feature of this epistle, that it shows forth most clearly and fully the glory of Jesus exalted at the right hand of God, while at the same time it enters more deeply than most portions of the inspired record into the consoling truth of our Lord's true humanity, of the reality of His temptations and struggles, of His faith, prayers, and tears, and of His perfect sympathy with us, whom He is not ashamed to call brethren. Nowhere in Scripture do we meet with a representation of Jesus the Messiah in which His divine majesty, and His human compassion and sympathy, are so distinctly and yet harmoniously brought before us. It is for this reason, though there be many things hard to be understood in this epistle, it has always exerted a most powerful and consoling influence on the Christian, whose joy it is to confess with adoring love tbat Jesus is Lord, and to rest with peaceful assurance in the marvellous truth that the Lord, unto whom all power is given in heaven and earth, is the man Christ Jesus; "this same Jesus" of the peaceful gospels (Acts 1:11), that in the midst of the throne is the Lamb as it had been slain.
Jesus, the Messiah, the Son, by whom all worlds were made, and who is appointed Heir of all things, is now exalted high above all angels and powers; He who humbled Himself, and was obedient unto death, is for this very obedience enthroned at the right hand of God; in His humanity He has received a name above every name; angels and men adore Him, and in the heavenly sanctuary He is our royal Priest; He is the Son who abideth for ever, the Lord over His own house, the chosen people of God. It is on the divinity of our Lord that our faith and hope rest; on this rock ("thou art the Son of the living God") the Church is built. The apostle brings before us the divine glory of the exalted Messiah, asserting it in a tone of joyous triumph, and illustrating it by the most varied and abundant testimony of the ancient Scripture; he reviews all previous revelations and ordinances to exalt the Saviour; above all prophets He is the Son, the only adequate, comprehensive, and ultimate Revelation of God; above Moses, the servant, He is the Lord, the mediator of a better covenant; above Joshua, He is the only true and everlasting rest of God, in whom we also have rest here and a perfect Sabbatism hereafter; above Aaron, the true and royal priest, who after the power of an endless life is our Mediator in the heavenly sanctuary. In Him alone, and that because He is God, are all promises fulfilled, all types summed up, and all symbols substantiated. Nay, He excels them all; for His divine fulness could only be shadowed forth imperfectly even by God-appointed symbols, and by inspired prophecies. And beyond the territory of man Jesus is represented as the Mediator, by whom all worlds were created, and by whom they are still upheld; in Him, whom angels worship, both before the throne and in ministering unto the heirs of salvation, the counsels of God and the whole universe find their centre.(25)
If this view of Christ's glory, like the appearance of the exalted Saviour in the opening scene of the Apocalypse, is so bright and dazzling that it overwhelms even loving and trustful disciples, so that their souls fall prostrate before the Son of God, the same epistle unfolds to us the humanity of the Lord, and gives to us a picture so vivid and touching of His brotherhood, that not even the gospel of Luke leads us into so profound and consoling knowledge of the Son of man, the Friend of sinners, the Physician full of pity and tenderness. And while we see Jesus here taking upon Him our flesh and blood, enduring temptation, entering into all our difficulties, struggles, and sorrows; while here we have explained to us the reality of Christ's human nature, of His faith in God and dependence on Him, of His tears and conflict in Gethsemane, we are taught that He went through all these experiences in order that in His glory He may sympathize with us and succour us in all our trials; that as Man He regards now with an infinite compassion and tenderness all His disciples on earth; and that therefore, though with awe and trembling, because He is God, yet with perfect liberty and enlarged confidence, we may draw near the throne of grace, where Jesus, the God-man, is still our Brother as well as our Lord.
These two aspects, so marvellously and inseparably united, must always co-exist, if we are to have access unto God and communion with Him. The neglect of the doctrine of either the divinity or the humanity of the Lord Jesus is the source of all heresies, maladies, and infirmities which afflict Christendom. Unless Jesus is God, we have not seen the Father, we have not been reconciled to Him, we have not been brought nigh as His redeemed and accepted children. Nor can a soul-renewing influence be exercised except by the divine Lord, who can pour out the Holy Ghost. If Jesus is the Son of God, nothing need or can be added to His sacrifice, to His intercession, to His soul-transforming and sanctifying power. And as the Hebrew believers, if they rightly understood Christ's divinity, were thereby emancipated from all the shadows and types of the Levitical dispensation, so the subsequent introduction of human and angelic intercessors, of a so-called repetition of the sacrifice, of priestly mediation, of supplemental merits, is rooted in a defective view of the divine glory of Christ's person and all-sufficient, because infinite, value of His work.
But equally essential is it to hold fast our faith in His true humanity. Emphasizing not too strongly, but in a onesided and untrue manner, the divinity of Jesus, men fancied that His perfection, His spotless purity, His majestic holiness, stood in the way of our coming to Him with confidence, and with that free and unrestrained trustfulness which alone enables us to pour out our whole heart, Jesus seemed so majestic and glorious, so high exalted above the heavens, so holy and spotless, that men forgot His infinite mercy and tenderness, and the inexhaustible fulness of His human sympathy, and imagined that some human sinful being, better than themselves, yet imperfect, ought to intervene as mediator between themselves and Jesus; that they fancied especially to find such a mediator in the Virgin Mary, whose womanly gentleness and compassion made it easier for them to approach in their weakness and sinfulness. Oh, how little do such thoughts harmonize with the blessed gospel! How dishonouring are they both to the divinity and humanity of our Lord! This is the great mystery of godliness, that our Mediator is God, of infinite love and mercy; that He is man, perfect in His sympathy and tenderness. As if imperfect and sinful men, or any created and therefore limited angels, could ever fully know the human heart; as if finite compassion and love could ever fully fathom and heal our sorrow; as if any one but Jesus could unite perfect sympathy with the sinner, and the perfect aim and power to bring us into fellowship and harmony with God. Between Jesus, the Bridegroom of the Church, and the soul none can intervene. He alone knows what is in man; He alone loves us perfectly; He alone has the way to the heart, and power to say, "Let not your heart be troubled." Our sorrow, our sin, our need, lie too deep for human ministry.
Once, when He was still on earth, His mother Mary, whom we also in common with all generations of believers call blessed, ventured to interfere on behalf of the guests, and said, "They have no wine." But the same Lord, who as a child was subject unto Mary His mother, and as a son remembering her with gratitude and affection even on the cross, commended her to the beloved disciple, recognizes here no mediatorial position or special claim on His affection and help. Here He does not call her mother. He does not acknowledge her maternal authority. The tone of His reply appears strange and severe: "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" The evangelist John, who records this incident, was especially near the blessed virgin, and regarded her with peculiar veneration and affection. She had been committed to his care by his beloved Lord. What is the meaning of Christ's words, recorded by John? He who, even as a child, had said to Mary and to Joseph, "Know ye not that I must be about my Father s business?" and had thereby revealed to them His divine sonship and His exalted position above all men, returned with them to Nazareth, and in humility was subject to His parents, thus obeying the commandment of the Father who had sent Him. In Nazareth, as a child and youth, He doubtless always called Mary "mother," and always obeyed and honoured her. But now He had entered on His work. He had commenced His ministry, being filled with the Holy Ghost. At the marriage of Cana, Jesus appears as the Lord, as the true Bridegroom of the Church. Here He manifests His glory; here Jesus knows none but the Father, and the children whom God has given Him. "Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? He who doeth the will of my Father in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." The Lord shrinks back from Mary, because she brings her maternal authority and influence into a region to which it does not belong; she attempts to put herself by His side in the kingdom, where He is the only monarch. Jesus is Lord, and there is none in heaven or earth to share in any way or to any extent His mediatorial throne.
How plainly does this incident teach us that, highly favoured as Mary was in the kingdom of Christ, she is only one among myriads, a disciple of Jesus. Thus we find her mentioned in the Acts as one of the believers who united in prayer for the promised descent of the Spirit. In none of the epistles does she occur again. While we hear constantly of our Lord's ascension and exaltation, is there the slightest reference to her ascension? In the visions of the heavenly glory vouchsafed unto John, do we ever read of Mary as enthroned with or near the Lordas holding any peculiar position among the angels and glorified saints? We read of angels and living beings, and elders and martyrs, and multitudes with white robes; but where do we read of the Virgin Mary, of a queen of heaven, of a merciful and indulgent intercessor, appealing to the filial affection of her son? No; Jesus said unto her, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" How much more now in His exaltation is He the one and only Lord who alone is the searcher of hearts, the consolation of Israel, the healer of the wounded spirit, the Head, from whom all blessings descend to His members. It is He who gives us the oil of gladness and strengthens us with the true wine. Mary recedes from her position as mother, and from the false attitude she had assumed; her sensitive heart understands Jesus immediately; she points as a true disciple to the one Lord and Saviour, and directing all eyes and hearts exclusively to Him, utters the great word, "Whatsoever He commandeth you, do." I think we honour and revere and love the Virgin Mary more than the Romanists in their false and unscriptural devotion. Her word, "Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it," reveals to us her true greatness, her humility, her faith; her soul again magnified the Lord, and rejoiced in her Saviour. She points the whole Church away from herself to the Lord Jesus. She acknowledges Him to be the only Master. And so we rejoice in Him, the only Mediator, who is infinitely holy, infinitely merciful; of whose love all fatherly forethought and strength, all motherly tenderness, minuteness, inventive quickness, and persevering patience, all brotherly faithfulness and sympathy, are but feeble images; the man Christ Jesus, in whom is all manly and womanly perfection, the Lord who is from above, omniscient, omnipotent, all-good; we have, we need no other mediator than Christ Jesus.
But in our passage the apostle brings before us another aspect of Christ's person and work. We are reminded of the truth that Jesus is the self-subsistent and eternal Word and Son of God. We need always to go back to that fundamental and most comforting truth of the divinity of our Lord. Only the Father which is in heaven can so reveal this mystery to our minds and hearts, that with adoring love and trust we look unto Jesus. We do not worship a deified man, but God incarnate; not a perfect man, who by reason of His complete and holy humanity was exalted into a heavenly position, but the Son of God, wHo came down from heaven, and returned into the glory which He had before the foundations of the world were laid. Jesus, who was born of the Virgin Mary, who lived in obedience to the Father, who suffered and died, and is now at the right hand of the Majesty on high, came into the world, not merely sent by the Father, but by His free concurrence, accordance, and co-operation. In Bethlehem's manger the child born unto us is The Wonderful, The mighty God, The everlasting Father. The prophet of Galilee declares to his cotemporaries, "Before Abraham was I am." The grace which appeared in His death had its fountain in the everlasting love which the eternal Wisdom had to the sons of men (Prov 8). He is the Son of God from all eternity, and in that mysterious eternity before the creation of the world, in His pre-mundane glory, this mind was in the Son, that He would humble Himself, and take upon Himself the form of a servant, and obey the whole counsel of God concerning the redemption of fallen man. His whole life on earth, embracing His obedience and His death, His substitution for sinners, was His own voluntary resolve and act.
True, the Father sent Him; but such is the unity and harmony of the blessed Trinity, that it is equally true to say, the Son came. The love of Jesus, the sacrifice of Himself in our stead, the unspeakable humiliation of the Son of God, have their origin not in time but eternity, in the infinite, self-subsistent, co-equal Son of the Father. He took on Him our nature. By His own will He was made flesh. From all eternity He offered Himself to accomplish the divine will concerning our salvation, He must needs be God, to have the power of freely offering Himself; He must needs take upon Him our nature to fulfil that sacrifice. Only the Son of God could undertake the work of our redemption; only as man could He accomplish it.
It is for this reason that Scripture unveils to us the great mystery of the eternal covenant. It is not to gratify an unhallowed desire to look into things too lofty for our vision, but to show unto us the marvellous love of the eternal Son, and the true character and infinite merit of His obedience and death.
The counsel between the Father and the Son must ever remain a mystery of solemn and awful majesty. We think of eternity before creation, of that silent eternity before the word was uttered, "Let there be light"; before the angels sang together, and the morning stars shouted for joy, and faith hears even then the uncreated Word, which was with God, and was God, the voice of the Only-begotten responding to the Father's purpose, and saying, "Lo, I come." In this eternal region is the only sunshine, which is never clouded; here alone the foundation, which can never be moved. "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hands." "Therefore doth my Father love Me, because I lay down My life for the sheep." "Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me." "None shall pluck them out of My hand. I and the Father are one." What are all these consoling and precious assurances but declarations of that eternal concord between the Father and the Son, in which the Son undertook to do the salvation-will of God, comprising His incarnation, obedience, and death, on the one hand, and the Father exalting and crowning and enriching Him as the Head of the Church, and the Heir of all things. Now Jesus sees of the travail of His soul, and is satisfied; and we also rejoice; Christ's joy remains in us, and our joy is full.
Three most practical truths follow from this revelation.
1. None but the Son of God could offer unto the Father a sacrifice to please Him, and to reconcile us unto Him in a perfect manner. The burnt-offerings and sin-offerings were ordained merely as shadows and temporary types of that one offering, the self-devotedness of the Son of God to accomplish all the will of God, the counsel of salvation. It is the divine and eternal offering of Himself unto the Father, in which the incarnation and death of the Lord Jesus are rooted; it is the voluntary character of His advent and passion, and it is the divine dignity of the Mediator which render His work perfectabsolutely unique, with which nothing can be compared, and a repetition of which is impossible. Hence it is impossible to sever the doctrine of the divinity of Christ from the doctrine of His expiatory sacrifice. The character of Christ's sufferings must be utterly misunderstood, when we do not acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God, who came to lay down His life. In the death of our Lord, the Father was pleased; this sin-offering was also a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour Here was not merely punishment endured, but the doing of "God's will," the fulfilment of His eternal counsel, righteousness exalted, and divine love manifested in sufferings of infinite depth, and in the strength of perfect faith.
2. Rise from the river to its source, from the rays of light and love to the eternal origin and fount. You know the grace of the Lord Jesus, how He was poor on earth, and had not where to lay His head. Remember He who was poor had of His own free will become poor, though He was rich, the Lord of heaven and earth. You know the grace of the Lord Jesus, that He was born of a woman, and made under the law. Remember that it was Himself, of His own free will, and by His infinite power of love, who laid aside His glory, and emptied Himself. You remember His gentleness and meekness, His labour and toil, His unwearied zeal, and His undisturbed patience. He learned obedience; but remember it was the Son, co-equal with the Father, who of His own choice learned obedience. You see Him rejected and reviled, buffeted, smitten, spit upon, scourged, nailed to the cross. You say a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; remember also to say, strong and glorious Son of God, whom all the hosts of angels obey; who of thine own divine will and power bearest the sin of the world, and offerest thyself by the eternal Spirit a ransom for thy brethren. See in the life, the obedience, the agony of Jesus, the expression of that free surrender of Himself and espousal of your cause, which was accomplished in eternity in His own all-glorious and infinite divinity. Beware lest you see in Him only the faith and obedience, the sufferings and death of the Son of man; see His eternal divinity shining through and sustaining all His humanity Because His blood is the blood of the Son of God, shed freely according to the everlasting covenant, it cleanseth from all sin. Who can fathom the depth of such love, of such grace, of such sacrifice?
And lastly, this truth is revealed to us, not merely to establish our hearts in peace, and to fill us with adoring gratitude and joy, but here, marvellous to say, is held out to us a model which we are to imitate, a principle of life which we are to adopt. So wondrously are high mysteries and deep doctrines intertwined with daily duties and the transformation of our character, that the apostle Paul, when exhorting the Philippians to avoid strife and vainglory, and to brotherly love and helpfulness, ascends from our lowly earthly path unto this highest region of the eternal covenant: "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others." Then he proceeds in a sublime and profound transition: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (from all eternity): "who, being in the form of God, .... made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Blessed apostle, who was always beholding in fervent adoration and love the image of that Lord Jesus, who appeared unto him as the Lord of glory and the Saviour of the lost. Paul found it easy to serve, to stoop, to suffer, to endure reproach and mockery, to be beaten and scourged, to be hated of his brethren, and to be suspected by his fellow-disciples, to bear the burden of all the churches, and the more vehemently he loved, to be repulsed with enmity, because he remembered that the Son of God loved him before the foundations of the world were laid. Remembering the dark origin of selfishness, of disobedience, of ambition, of pride, let us rise to the celestial and eternal foundation of humility, obedience, love, self-denial, to Christ; and as we owe all to Him who loved us and washed us from our sin in His own blood, let us be not merely debtors, but also followers of Him who came, not to do His own will and to be ministered unto, who came to love and to serve, to give and to bless, to suffer and to die. He loved me! Oh, what a contrast! Let us then receive the love of Christ, and love with His love. One with Christ, let us present ourselves a living sacrifice unto the FatherI beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God!
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