Secret Service Theologian



"Christ being come an high priest of good things to come,…entered in once for all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." Hebrews 9:11,12

THE story of the Passover teaches the great truth that salvation is God’s work altogether, and that a sinner can be saved only through redemption. And it teaches the further truth that he must be saved as he is and where he is, in his ruin and helplessness and guilt. If a sinner could not be saved in his sins, salvation would be impossible, for there is no power of recovery in him. But this is only the beginning. God alone can take him out of the horrible pit and out of the miry clay. But God does do this, and He sets his feet upon a rock, and establishes his goings, and puts a new song in his mouth.

Israel was delivered from Egypt and its bondage as well as from its doom. Redemption by blood, was followed by redemption by power. With a strong hand were they brought out, and their deliverance was not complete until they stood upon the wilderness-side of the sea, and saw their enemies dead upon the shore - saw the power that had enslaved them broken.

"Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, I will sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously, the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and song, and He is become my salvation." (Exodus 15:1, 2.)

But even this does not exhaust the fullness of redemption. The words of 1 Corinthians 1:30 may serve as a heading for what is to follow, but a defect in our English translations of the passage obscures its meaning. If man were merely blind and foolish and ignorant, Divine wisdom would meet all his need. But as a sinner he stands guilty and condemned; and, more than this, sin has corrupted and defiled him, and without holiness there can be no fellowship with God. Therefore it is that, in the fullness of our salvation, Christ is made unto us not only wisdom from God, but also redemption - complete redemption, including both righteousness and sanctification. He is made unto us everything which our condition needs. He not merely saves us from death, He brings us to God.

The release of a person who stands charged with an offence, gives him neither right nor fitness to approach his Sovereign, much less to live in the palace; and no such gulf separates a king from his meanest subject as that which yawns between a sinner and a thrice-holy God. Forgiveness of sins could give neither title nor fitness to draw near to the Divine Majesty. It might ensure exemption from hell, but it certainly could give no right to heaven. But redemption is more than mere forgiveness. Christ satisfies the sinner’s need in all its variety and depth.

But, someone may demand, why should he notice these distinctions? Just because we are apt entirely to misjudge both the need and the grace that meets it, and to regard as mere matters of course the heaped-up gifts which grace has lavished on us. In this sphere nothing is a matter of course. Every added blessing should increase our wonder and deepen our worship, at the boundlessness of Divine grace, and the perfectness of the redemption that is ours in Christ.

The twelfth chapter of Exodus tells of deliverance from the doom of Egypt; and the immediate sequel tells of triumphant deliverance from the power of Egypt. This goes far beyond the conventional appreciation of the Gospel in these days of ours, and yet we learn from the nineteenth chapter that God’s attitude toward the people thus favoured and blessed was one of stern exclusion and repulsion. Warning after warning was given them not to come near to Him. They must not touch even the base of the mountain on which He was about to manifest His presence. His command to Moses was, "Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish." (Exodus 19:12, 13, 21, 24.) Moses, who typified "the Mediator of the New Covenant," might approach; but as for the people, they were warned off at the peril of their lives.

And in the twenty-fourth chapter, after the law had been given, the prohibition was repeated. "Worship ye afar off," was the Divine command even to Aaron and the elders. "Moses alone shall come near the Lord; but they shall not come nigh, neither shall the people go up with him." But now mark the amazing change that resulted from the events recorded in that chapter. "All the words of the Lord, and all the judgments" were recorded in a book. An altar was set up; and burnt-offerings were offered, and peace-offerings sacrificed. The blood of the covenant was sprinkled upon the book and upon the people - here, no doubt, as on other occasions, the elders standing for the whole congregation. And mark the sequel.

"Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and they saw the God of Israel,…and upon the nobles of the children of Israel He laid not His hand also they saw God, and did eat and drink." (Exodus 24:8-11.)

But yesterday it would have been death to them to look on God; now "they saw God," and so perfectly were they at rest in His presence that they "did eat and drink." The sceptic will ask, with a sneer, How could "the blood of calves and goats" produce a change so wonderful? But he will not sneer if you tell him that the transfer of a few bits of crumpled paper could change the condition of the recipient from pauperism to wealth.

The bank-note in itself is absolutely worthless; but it represents gold in the coffers of the Bank of England. In itself "the blood of slain beasts" was of no value whatsoever; but it represented "the precious blood of Christ," of infinitely greater worth than gold. In one day a pauper may be thus raised from penury to affluence. In one day Israel was thus established as a holy people in covenant with God. For it is by "the blood of the covenant" that the sinner is sanctified - the same blood by which the covenant is dedicated. (Hebrews 10:29.)

And what is the next scene in the great Pentateuchal drama of redemption? To the very people, who had stood in terror, beyond the bounds which shut them out from Sinai, the command is given, "Let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them." (Exodus 25:8.) The distance is infinite which separates even the best of men from God. But in Christ, and in virtue of His finished work, even the worst of men from being "far off" may be "made nigh." (Ephesians 2:13, 14.)

These blessings, and the place of privilege pertaining to them, create new needs and new responsibilities. For a sinner unredeemed, and alienated from God there can be no possible need of a place of worship; but a place of worship is a necessity for one who has "obtained access" and who is called to fellowship with God. And if a place of worship, there must also be a priest. The next step, therefore, in this great "passion play" is the call of Aaron to the priesthood. Chapter 24 records the sanctification of the people; the next three chapters relate to the place of worship; and chapter 28 to the appointment of the priest.

One of the vital errors of apostate Christianity is the false position it assigns to the priestly office. A priest had no part in procuring redemption for Israel. The Passover was not a priestly sacrifice. By the head of the house it was that the lamb was killed, and its blood sprinkled on the door. And it was the head of the house who presided at the supper. In none of the paschal rites, from first to last, was there either need or room for priestly action. And the great burnt-offerings of the covenant were not priestly sacrifices. The occasional mention of priests in the earlier chapters of Exodus has suggested to some that, prior to the appointment of Aaron, the heads of houses had priestly powers. But such a suggestion is vetoed here. The language used is strikingly significant. "Young men of the children of Israel" were the offerers. (Exodus 24:5.) The inference is plain that those who killed the victims had no official position whatsoever. Moses it was, not Aaron, who sprinkled the blood; and Moses was not a priest, he was the mediator of the covenant.

Both the possibility and the need of establishing a sanctuary arose, I repeat, from the position accorded to the people in virtue of the covenant, and it was the sanctuary that created the need for a priest. Priesthood has no place until a sinner has reached the position of blessing prefigured by Exodus 24; and this is a position to which, under the religious system to which I refer, the sinner can never attain on earth. The truth should be clearly recognized that a place of worship and a priest are only for the redeemed - for those to whom Christ is made both righteousness and sanctification.

Here mark again the perfect accuracy of the types as key-pictures of Christian truth. It was, as we have seen, when Moses, the mediator of the 18 covenant, after making purification for sins, went up to God, that Aaron was appointed priest. (Exodus 24:8, 13; 28:1.) 2 And it was when the Mediator of the New Covenant, having made purification for sins, went up to the right hand of the Majesty on high, that He was "named of God" High Priest. (Hebrews 1:3; 5:10.) His priesthood began after His ascension. For outside the tribe of Levi there can be no earthly priesthood. So inviolable is this rule that it is said even of Christ Himself, "On earth, He would not be a priest at all." (Hebrews 8:4 (R. V.)) That the Lord’s priesthood dated from the ascension is clear. "Today have I begotten Thee," refers not to Bethlehem, but to the resurrection. (Hebrews 4:14; 5:5, 10.)

Our English word "priest" is sometimes used as a synonym for "presbyter"; and buildings in which Christians meet are called "places of worship." But conventional expressions of this kind must not be allowed to dim our apprehension of Divine realities. For the Christian there can be but one priest, and one place of worship, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ, and "the true tabernacle which the Lord has pitched, and not man." What constitutes a place of worship in this true sense is, not that people use it as a place of meeting, but that God dwells there.

To this was due the unique sanctity and glory of the temple in Jerusalem. And yet apostate Judaism needed to be reminded that their temple was but a "shadow" of something higher and greater. "For the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands," as the inspired words of Solomon’s dedicatory prayer, might have reminded them. "Hear Thou in heaven, Thy dwelling-place," was his oft-repeated petition, after "the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God," that house which he had "built for His dwelling for ever."

The Tabernacle and the Temple prefigured that true sanctuary to which the believer now has access, and in which Christ fulfills His priestly ministry at the throne of God. And, as the Holy Spirit expressly warns us, access to that "Holiest of all" is incompatible with the existence of an earthly shrine. (Hebrews 9:8.)

But someone will demand, perhaps: Is not the Divine presence promised wherever His people are gathered together in His Name? Most assuredly. But this only serves to confirm the truth here urged. For no virtue attaches to the place of gathering. Wherever His people meet in that Name, whether it be in a stately cathedral or in an "upper room, or in some retreat by a river-side, "where prayer is wont to be made," access "to the holiest" is assured to them, and "the holiest" is their true place of worship. Christianity, as Bishop Lightfoot, of Durham, wrote, "has no sacred days or seasons, no special sanctuaries, because every time and every place alike are holy."

And the words which follow deserves equal prominence. Still speaking of Christianity he adds: - "Above all it has no sacerdotal system. It interposes no sacrificial tribe or class between God and man, by whose intervention alone God is reconciled and man forgiven. Each individual member holds personal communion with the Divine Head. To Him immediately he is responsible, and from Him directly he obtains pardon and draws strength."
Go To Chapter Four

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