Friday, November 22, 2013

Christ our Priest

Christ our Priest

There are a couple of things we need to establish before we delve into Christ as a Priest.  We need to reestablish the fact that the sanctuary, its priest and services were a contingency plan.  God’s original plan was to make the children of Israel a nation of priests.  They refused that plan.  So God established a teaching tool so the Israelites – and the world – could learn the Gospel.   This brings us to the second point, the existence and presence of the sanctuary was as much evidence of God’s presence as it was evidence of the Israelites failure in Sinai.  The Levitical is part of that contingency plan.  Remember, God promised to make all Israel priests, only the Levites became priests, this reveals that something went wrong at Sinai.  Therefore the Aaronic priesthood is also a sign of Israel’s failure at Sinai. 

Now last week we studied Christ as our sacrifice.  This is represented by the animals sacrificed at the altar.  These all point to Christ.  For the most part, in the Levitical system the priest kills the sacrifice.  In our world he who takes the life is superior than the one killed.  None of the animals killed were resurrected.  Christ presents a dilemma to the Aaronic priesthood.  Caiphas sought to kill Christ and succeeded.  Thus, it seems Caiphas was superior.  But, when Christ is resurrected, Christ proved to be superior.  He was a better sacrifice (Hebrews 9: 23). 

When we look then at the order of services we see that the priests take the blood do what with it what they are supposed to do in the service.   The Aaronic Priests never went through the experience the animals went when killed, but Christ did.  So, when we look at Christ as a Priest, we have someone that knows how it feels to be sacrificed.  In terms of Christ being the Lamb, the Lamb became a Priest.  And, the blood He shed as a Lamb, as a Priest He applies to us, for our cleansing.  We read in Hebrews 9,

Heb 9:11 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;
Heb 9:12 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.
Heb 9:13 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:
Heb 9:14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Christ was a better sacrifice.  His blood was more effective.  He was also a better Priest.  The Priests died and needed replacing, not Christ. 

Heb 7:22 By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.
Heb 7:23 And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death:
Heb 7:24 But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.
Heb 7:25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

What does it mean that Christ lives to make intercession?  But some ask why Jesus as our High Priest has to “make intercession” for us before the Father (Heb. 7:25). The word “intercession” implies that somebody is not happy and has to be interceded with on our behalf. Christ “is at the right hand of God,” Paul says, “who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom. 8:34). John adds his insight when he compares Christ to “an advocate with the Father,” the word “advocate” being parakletos in the Greek (1 John 2:1). Vine says the word “was used in a court of justice to denote a legal assistant, counsel for the defense, who pleads another’s cause.”

In other words, Jesus is a defense lawyer pleading a case “with the Father,” John says. It seems that the Father is the Judge and that we are on trial before Him, and that we would lose our case if it weren’t for Jesus being there in our behalf. This is 100 percent true; we would indeed lose out if it were not for our divine Lawyer working on our side.

The Father, as well as the Son, hate sin. But in accordance with the agreement between them Both, Christ became the representative Adam for the human race and paid the penalty as the sinner’s Substitute and Surety, having tasted death for every man (Heb. 2:9). Thus God’s wrath against sin was experienced by Christ on His cross. He suffered the curse of God which was the condemnation of the second death. His shed blood qualifies Him as mankind’s Advocate with the Father. It makes it possible for the Father to shower his blessings of life equally on both the just and the unjust.

But who is He “pleading,” “interceding” with? Who needs to be “persuaded” to accept us? Does it make sense to say it’s the Father? Wasn’t it He who took the initiative to “so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son” for us? How could He be against us, needing Jesus to “intercede” for us? Does the Father have a club behind His back, about to let us have it, and then Jesus steps up and says, “Look, Father, at the wounds in My hands, etc. Please be nice to these people!”? No, that doesn’t make sense. The Father loves us just as much as the Son loves us! Then who is Jesus interceding with?

Is He interceding with the devil? Will he or his angels ever be persuaded to be nice to us? Hardly! Then who has to be persuaded to “accept” us, to stop condemning us? The good angels? No, they are “all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for” us, not against us (Heb. 1:14).

Then who is left who needs to be “persuaded,” interceded with to “accept” us, except we ourselves? We are the ones who need to hold our heads high, to join Paul in being “persuaded” that nothing will ever “separate us from the love of God” (Rom. 8:38, 39).

Now, For Christ to intercede between God and us, to be our mediator, He needs to identify with us.  Ellen White said, 

“… the reconciliation of man to God could be accomplished only through a mediator who was equal with God, possessed of attributes that would dignify, and declare him worthy to treat with the infinite God in man’s behalf, and also represent God to a fallen world. Man’s substitute and surety must have man’s nature, a connection with the human family whom he was to represent, and, as God’s ambassador, he must partake of the divine nature, have a connection with the Infinite, in order to manifest God to the world, and be a mediator between God and man.

"Christ, the Son of God and Creator of the universe, humbled Himself beyond description to be joined together forever with the human race. As Adam was enjoined that in marriage a man would leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife, so Christ left His Father in heaven to become forever a part of the human family.

“Clothing His divinity with humanity, He came to earth to be called the Son of man and the Son of God. He was the surety for man, the ambassador for God—the surety for man to satisfy by His righteousness in man’s behalf the demands of the law, and the representative of God to make manifest His character to a fallen race.” 1SM 257

The good news of what Jesus did for the human race as revealed in the gospel alone has power to extinguish our love for sin and prepare us for entrance to our heavenly home.

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Heb. 4:15, 16

A last word: you will notice that the work in the sanctuary is performed by the Priest and High Priest, not the sinner.  Likewise, the work in the Heavenly sanctuary is performed by Christ.  This means that the work of cleansing us, the Holy Spirit’s temple, is also done by Him.  We just let Him. 

“The sinner may resist this love, may refuse to be drawn to Christ; but if he does not resist he will be drawn to Jesus ... in repentance for his sins” (Steps to Christ, p. 27). Therein is the essence of this cleansing of the sanctuary!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Christ, Our Sacrifice

Christ, Our Sacrifice

There are two aspects of sacrifice that shine out in lesson: the death and the blood.  The sanctuary had three compartments. In each of them something happened that pointed to Christ as a sacrifice.  Let’s enumerate them,

1.       Outer court – Passover (from an article in Wikipedia - )
a.       The killing took place in the court of the Temple at Jerusalem, and might be performed by a layman, although the blood had to be caught by a priest, and rows of priests with gold or silver cups in their hands stood in line from the Temple court to the altar, where the blood was sprinkled.
b.      These cups were rounded on the bottom, so that they could not be set down; for in that case the blood might coagulate.
c.       The priest who caught the blood as it dropped from the victim then handed the cup to the priest next to him, receiving from him an empty one, and the full cup was passed along the line until it reached the last priest, who sprinkled its contents on the altar. The lamb was then hung upon special hooks or sticks and skinned; but if the eve of the Passover fell on a Sabbath, the skin was removed down to the breast only.
d.      The abdomen was then cut open, and the fatty portions intended for the altar were taken out, placed in a vessel, salted, and offered by the priest on the altar, while the remaining entrails likewise were taken out and cleansed.
e.      The family would take their lamb home to roast it and eat it according to God’s ordinance. 

2.       Outer court and Holy Place -  Daily sacrifice
a.       IN this sacrifice the blood was taken in the Holy Place to be sprinkled there.
3.       Outer court and Most Holy Place – day of atonement
a.       In this sacrifice the blood is taken into the Most Holy Place. 
In summation, in each event an animal was killed and blood was shed, and sprinkled in certain part of the sanctuary.   Let us look first as the killing of the animal.
I.                    The death
In all of these sacrifices Christ is prefigured.  They were a representation of what Christ would accomplish at the Cross.  He is the lamb that was slain from the beginning to take away the sin of the World*.  How did He take Sin away?
“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24, NASB).

This verse is a reference to Isaiah 53.  Here are some excerpts,

Isa 53:4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…
Isa 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
Isa 53:6 … and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Isa 53:7 … he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, …
Isa 53:8 … he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken…
Isa 53:10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, …
Isa 53:11 … by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

 “Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. ‘With His stripes we are healed.’”—The Desire of Ages, p. 25.
It was an exchange: the priceless for the worthless trade.   He died, so we would live.  Ellen White says,
“Nothing less than the death of Christ could make His love efficacious for us. It is only because of His death that we can look with joy to His second coming. His sacrifice is the center of our hope. Upon this we must fix our faith.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 660.
Simply, in order for humanity to be saved Jesus had to die.  There was no other way.  Paul says,
Heb 2:9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

Christ’s death reconciles to God.  Paul says in Rom 5:10, “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, …” We are reconciled to live with him.  Let us read Romans

Rom 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
Rom 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Rom 6:5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:

Notice the language: baptize into Jesus, buried with Him, planted together…We were in Him, when he died and resurrected.  And, now we are in Heavenly places in Him (Ephesians 2: 6). 

II.                  The Blood

Genesis 9: 4, Leviticus 17: 11, and Deuteronomy 12: 23 says that the life is on the blood.  Thereore any reference to blood signifies life.  When Jesus says in Mar 14:24 “This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many,” it is His life he is pouring.  We read in Hebrews 9,

Heb 9:12 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.
Heb 9:14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
Heb 9:22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

Understanding then that the blood is a reference to the life of Jesus which accomplishes our redemption, let us read the following quote from Ellen White,

The law requires righteousness,--a righteous life, a perfect character; and this man has not to give. He cannot meet the claims of God's holy law. But Christ, coming to the earth as man, lived a holy life, and developed a perfect character. These He offers as a free gift to all who will receive them. His life stands for the life of men. Thus they have remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. More than this, Christ imbues men with the attributes of God. He builds up the human character after the similitude of the divine character, a goodly fabric of spiritual strength and beauty. Thus the very righteousness of the law is fulfilled in the believer in Christ. God can "be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." Romans 3:26. {DA 762.2}

Let us then allow for His blood to cleanses us, to purge our Sin away, to transform our minds and hearts after the similitude of Christ.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Day of Atonement

The Day of Atonement

Atonement is one of those words whose meaning has changed. If we believe God’s law as an imposed law, it affects how we understand God’s Word. Many think that atonement means “satisfaction or reparation for a wrong or injury; to make amends.” Thus we draw all kinds of wrong conclusions: like Jesus had to die to appease the Father’s wrath toward our sin. Some testify that as long as they believed that distortion, His love didn’t flow in their heart. It was the truth that set them free and opened their heart to love.

 When the King James Bible was translated into English in 1611, atonement had a different meaning than we typically ascribe today. In the 16th and 17th centuries the word “one” was not only a noun but also a verb. If two people were at odds and I wanted to bring them back into friendship I might say, “I am going to one them.” I am going to bring them back into unity, into oneness. This concept quickly became known as “at-one” or “atone.” We pronounce it atone rather than at-one because that is the old English pronunciation. When you are all by yourself, you are not “all one” but “alone.” The process of uniting warring factions is, therefore, called atonement.

 We are warring with God. And, God wants peace with us. We are estranged from God, and God wants to be reunited. The root of this warring and estrangement from God is distrust of God due to trusting lies that Satan has devised about God. How does God reconcile us to Himself? By revealing in our hearts and minds the truth about Himself and removing the lies. How does He do that? Let us read Romans 5,

 Romans 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: Romans 5:6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
Romans 5:7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. Romans 5:10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
Romans 5:11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

 Justification by faith is more than a mere legal declaration, it becomes a reconciliation with God, an experience of "at-one-ment." It is now the time for a "final atonement," as Jesus ministers as High Priest on this Day of Atonement. If you don't resist the Holy Spirit, He will impart to you "the mind of Christ," the greatest joy you can have--to be totally "at-one" with Him. When the sinner hears the Good News and his heart responds and he believes, then he experiences justification by faith, which is the subjective gospel.

 The message of justification by faith is intended to create in the hearts of God's people and in His corporate church, that yearning for "at-one-ment" with Him. It was to be like a bride who gladly chooses to "forsake all others" to be with Him. It was to be the end of worldliness in the church, and of all modern idolatry--not imposed by fear but by a mature response to the love of the Bridegroom.

 In all of Hebrews' – especially chapters 9 and 10 - lofty theological acumen is one great promise! The ministry of Christ in His Most Holy Apartment in the heavenly sanctuary reveals Him as being close to us; as a true High Priest in ancient Israel who was always "for the people," always concerned for them, always revealing to them his nearness and his love, so Christ in His second apartment in the heavenly sanctuary, the Most Holy Apartment, is ministering His presence and His blessing to us as one who is described in Proverbs 18:24--He is "closer than a brother." He took on Himself the fallen, sinful nature of our father Adam so that He might reach us where we are; therefore He was "in all points tempted like as we are [tempted], yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15).

 Also, Hebrews leaves us with the assurance that all the power of the Father who brought Jesus from the dead is directed now to the unprecedented work of preparing a people, to "make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight" (13:21). Ellen White says,

 Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own. {COL 69.1}

We shall be His people. We read in Jeremiah: ““This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people”” (Jeremiah 31: 33). We also read in Ezekiel 36,

Ezekiel 36: 25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness; and from all your idols will I cleanse you.
Ezekiel 36: 26 A new heart will I give you and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
Ezekiel 36: 27 And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall heed My ordinances and do them.
Ezekiel 36: 28 And you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and you shall be My people, and I will be your God.

 Will we let Him do it?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

“Atonement: Purification Offering”

“Atonement: Purification Offering”

Last week we saw how the sanctuary was established as a result of Israel’s unbelief at Sinai.  It is imperative that we see that the Atonement Day feast – as well as the other feasts - was also created due to the Sin at Sinai.  Let us briefly look at the History.  The record shows that The Day of Atonement was established in Leviticus 23.  Therefore it was given after the Sinai incident (Exodus 19 and 20), after the building of the sanctuary (Exodus 25) and even after establishing the Levites as Priests and servants for the sanctuary (Exodus 38).  In fact, the only feast ordained before Sinai was the Passover (Exodus 12).

Now, in order to rightly understand this week’s lesson regarding forgiveness and the defilement of sin (and thus the need for the final atonement - next week’s lesson), the purification or sin offering must be seen in the context of Jesus’s choice to fully identify himself with fallen humanity. It was His complete sacrifice as the representative of humanity (substitute and surety) which is the ultimate expression of God’s love, and thus the ultimate teaching tool to break down the walls of resistance in the heart of man and cleanse from the defilement of sin.  Ellen White states,
“Christ has not been presented in connection with the law as a faithful and merciful High Priest, who was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. He has not been lifted up before the sinner as the divine sacrifice. His work as sacrifice, substitute, and surety, has been only coldly and casually dwelt upon; but this is what the sinner needs to know. It is Christ in his fullness as a sin-pardoning Saviour, that the sinner must see; for the unparalleled love of Christ, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, will bring conviction and conversion to the hardened heart. It is the divine influence that is the savor of the salt in the Christian.” 1888 Materials, p. 1076.

We will see that this is what the Atonement sacrifice was designed to do.  Now, atonement – often presented as at-one-ment - means reconciliation.  It is the process in which God and man are reconciled or made one.  In Christian Theology it is the reconciliation of God and mankind through the death of Jesus Christ.   In this service we see that this Atonement is tied to purification or cleansing of anything that separates us from God.  We call it Sin.  We call many things Sin.  Is there something more specific?  What truly alienates us from God?  What alienated Eve from God?  Ellen White says that in believing the words of Satan, “…She disbelieved the words of God, and this was what led to her fall” (Conflict and Courage, p. 15) In another quote Ellen white elaborates on this issue,

“Eve believed the words of Satan, and the belief of that falsehood in regard to God's character, changed the condition and character of both herself and husband. They were changed from good and obedient children into transgressors, and it was only by repentance toward God and faith in the promised Messiah that they could hope ever to regain the lost image of God. {RH, January 5, 1886} “

Ever since then this has been the devil’s main technique, we read again from Ellen White,
“Such has been Satan's work from the days of Adam to the present, and he has pursued it with great success. He tempts men to distrust God's love and to doubt His wisdom. He is constantly seeking to excite a spirit of irreverent curiosity, a restless, inquisitive desire to penetrate the secrets of divine wisdom and power. In their efforts to search out what God has been pleased to withhold, multitudes overlook the truths which He has revealed, and which are essential to salvation. . . .  In the judgment men will not be condemned because they conscientiously believed a lie, but because they did not believe the truth, because they neglected the opportunity of learning what is truth.” {Conflict and Courage, p. 15}
The Israelites at Sinai chose not to believe the truth, and neglected the opportunity to learn the truth.  This is why they needed this Atonement service.  So, Atonement is then the removal of those lies about God and His character from our minds and hearts.  Atonement is a renewal of trust in God and His Word.  The feast was designed to effect this change of mind in its participants.  After all, “…it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4).  The laying on of hands, the death of the animal, the blood manipulation, the burning of the fat, and the eating of the flesh of the animal were all for the purpose of bringing the sinner to understand how complete and far-reaching was the mercy of God in simultaneously giving His own life to humanity while bearing the pain and suffering that sin causes His own heart. They were to help the suppliant to enter into the experience of God rather than to create some change in the heart of God toward the sinner. It was so the sinner would, ‘… look on … whom [he] pierced [and] … mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn" (Zechariah 12:10).  A wise writer expounded on this subject,

“The Lord provided the sanctuary service to help us see exactly what He was willing to do for us. Every animal slain by the hand of the sinner was to be a miniature Calvary. It was to reveal the deep-seated enmity the sinner held against God. It was to prove that God held nothing back, not even His Son, if by any means He could get man to see the rebellion buried so deeply in his mind. The service was to be a catalyst to melt the proud and stubborn hidden unconscious sin - the will to kill God.”  D.K. Short, Then Shall the Sanctuary be Cleansed, p. 35.

What brings forgiveness to the sinner personally is the realization and acceptance that the Divine Sin-bearer has already borne and taken away the sin and guilt of the world, and has already been carrying the sinner’s personal sins at great cost to Himself. This is what the sanctuary purification offering was to teach.