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Me! A Priest?
The Priesthood of the Grace Believer

by David K. Spurbeck, Sr.


Published by:

Know to Grow "in Christ" Publications
1601 Limpus Lane Forest Grove, Oregon 97116-1356

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review.

Presented here by the Bartimaeus Alliance of the Blind, Inc, under the provisions of the Chafee Amendment, 1996, and with the permission of the author.

Copyright David K. Spurbeck, Sr., 2000

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 00-192100
Library of Congress classification
Subject: Priesthood, Universal BT767.5 S68 2000
ISBN 0-9670796-1-6

Scanning editor's note: Print page numbers have been omitted from this edition as well as Hebrew and Greek fonts and visually orientated bulletin covers and diagrams.


DEDICATION

This Book is Dedicated to the Memory of My Parents

Pastor Donald E. Spurbeck
and Doris M. Spurbeck
Servants of Jesus Christ
Who Counted Their Service of Greater Value
Than Anything on Earth
A Supreme Legacy


The Table of Contents


Preface

Introduction

SECTION I The Structure Of The Priesthood Of The Believer

Chapter 1: What Is The Key Concept?
The Teaching of Scripture
The Matter of Religious Necessity
The Problem of Pastor-Dictator
The Implications for Congregational Church Government

Chapter 2: What is a Priest?
A Priest is a Priest
The Old Testament Concept of Priesthood
The New Testament Concept of Priesthood
The Requirements for a Priest

Chapter 3: Did Israel Become a Priesthood?
The Communication of the Promise
The Covenant
The Consequences of the Rebellion of Korah

Chapter 4: How Did Priesthoods Develop Historically?
Patriarchal Priests
Melchisedec
Jethro
The Aaronic Priesthood
Non-Levitical Involvement in Priestly Activities
Future Arrangements for a Priesthood
The Priesthood of the Grace Believer

Chapter 5: How Does a Person Become a Priest?
The Salvation of the Recipients of First Peter
The Sharing in the Spiritual House

Chapter 6: Am I Competent?
The Provision of Access to God
The Way of Access
The Direction of the Access
The Attitude of the Believer
The Proximity of the Access
The Approaches Because of Access

Chapter 7: Christ our Heavenly High Priest
The Requirements for Being a High Priest
Christ's Appointment to His Priesthood
Christ's Order for Priestly Service
The Uniqueness of Christ Compared to Aaron
Christ's Preparation for His High Priesthood
Christ's Qualifications to Be High Priest
Christ's Sacrifice as High Priest
Christ's Place for High Priestly Service
Christ's Present Work as a High Priest
Christ's Provisions in His Priesthood

Chapter 8: Priestly Potentials for the Grace Believer
What Does a Priest Do as a Priest?
Why Should a Grace Believer Function as a Priest?

SECTION II The Sacrifices Of The Believer-Priest
Chapter 1: What Is a Sacrifice?
Terms Describing Sacrifices and Offerings
Terms Describing the Giving of the Sacrifice

Chapter 2: The Old Testament Concept of Sacrifice
Sacrifices Before the Giving of the Law
The Sacrifices Under the Mosaic Law
The Sacrifices of the Grace Believer

Chapter 3: The Sacrifice of the Physical Body--Romans 12:1, 2
Paul's Exhortation to Believers
The Presentation of the Physical Body as a Sacrifice
The Characteristics of the Sacrifice
The Reasoning for Presenting the Sacrifice
The Conformity to the Legal Age
The Transformation by the Renewedness of the Mind
The Proving of the Will of God

Chapter 4: The Sacrifice of Praise--Hebrews 13:15
The Intercession of the Savior
The Identification of the Sacrifice

Chapter 5: The Sacrifice of Doing Good--Hebrews 13:16
The Character of the Sacrifice
The General Principles for the Believers Doing Good
The Dilemma in Doing Good
Doing Good in Response to Revelation
General Principles for Doing Good
Biblical Examples of Doing Good
Benefits of Doing Good

Chapter 6: The Sacrifice of Fellowship -- Hebrews 13:16
What Is Fellowship?
Why Have Fellowship?
Who Can Fellowship?
Where Can One Fellowship?
How Does One Have Fellowship?

Chapter 7: The Sacrifice of Giving - Philippians 4:18
An Analysis of the Old Testament Tithe
The Activity of the Sacrifice of Giving
The Attitude of the Believer-Priest

Chapter 8: The Sacrifice of Faith - Philippians 2:17
Directing Faith Toward God
Directing Faith for Other Believers
Directing Faith for Oneself
Directing Faith Toward the Word of God
General Principles for Directing Faith

Chapter 9: The Value of the Sacrifices
The Sacrifice is Acceptable to God
The Sacrifice Is Very Well Accepted
The Sacrifices Produce a Sweet Smelling Savor
The Sacrifices Are Logical Priestly Services
The Sacrifices Are Pleasing to God

SECTION III The Service Of The Believer-Priest
Service as a Priest
Service to God
Service as a Special Priestly Obligation
SECTION IV The Specialization Of The Believer-Priest
The Definition of Spiritual Gift
The Confusion Concerning Spiritual Gifts
The Provision of a Spiritual Gift
The Limitation to One Spiritual Gift
The Identification of the Gifts
The Utilization of the Gifts
The Specialization of the Believer-Priest
SECTION V The Sharing Of The Believer-Priest
Chapter 1: The Believer-Priest and His Bible
The Believer-Priest's Involvement with the Word of God
The Believer-Priest's Interpretation of the Word of God
The Believer- Priest's Identification with the Word of God
Chapter 2: The Believer-Priest and His God
Personal Approach to God
Personal Accountability to God
Proper Appreciation for God
Priestly Activity Toward God
Chapter 3: The Believer-Priest and His Communication
The Priestly Communication of Confession
The Priestly Communication of Intercession
The Priestly Communication of Supplication
The Priestly Communication of Praise
Chapter 4: The Believer-Priest and His Personal Life
The Believer-Priest and His Job
The Believer-Priest and His Family
The Believer-Priest and His Rest and Relaxation
Chapter 5: The Believer-Priest and the Church
The Orientation to the Equality of Believers in the Assembly
The Obligation of the Individual Believer in the Local Church
The Opportunity for the Use of the Spiritual Gift in the Church
The Operation of Congregational Government
Chapter 6: The Priesthood of the Believer and Its Implementation
Personal Involvement on an Individual Level
Practical Implementation on an Institutional Level
Potential Implications on a Personal Level
Conclusion
Appendix I - Will of God Chart
Appendix II - Spiritual Gifts Chart
Theological Definition Index
Scripture Index
Subject Index
Order Form

Spiritual Life Graphics (The graphics have been omitted from this file.)
You in Christ and Christ in You / 14
In Christ I am / 30
No Bootstraps / 46
Each One Mature / 62
He Purchased It / 260
Fruit of the Spirit / 350
Faith Definition / 390
What It Means to be a Christian / 400
Spiritual Gift and Norm / 440
Which Spiritual Gift / 488
His Way to Maturity / 512
Christ in You / 526


Preface


'Tis ground lain fallow much too long,
The blade is set to plow the row
Its depth to make the plant grow strong
Truths delved that one must know to grow

The priesthood of the grace believer is one of the most important teachings in the New Testament for the Christian's life in his present tense salvation. Yet very few Christians have any knowledge of the subject. For this reason, I put the plow to the soil to provide the information needed. In a sense, I have produced a systematic theology of the priesthood of the believer. Few systematic theologies carry a doctrine through to its practical implementation. The last part of this book is designed to provide stimulus for the believers practice in key areas of life. It is my hope that these truths will become as precious to the reader as they are to me. A dilemma that always faces a writer is how much detail to present. In a way, I have cut the furrow with some depth yet it is simple enough for the thinking young person to grasp. May I suggest that the reader skip the more technical details if they are cumbersome and focus on grace revelation materials. This material is life transforming. Why? Because God the Spirit revealed it to us in the Word of God.

The priesthood of the grace believer is a subject that is taught in much of grace revelation. It is doctrine to be believed and practiced for all true Christians. Grace revelation is revelation for the Church beginning in John 13 and ending at Revelation 3. This is doctrine for faith and practice while the rest of Scripture is for the grace believers faith but not practice. It is uniquely a New Testament doctrine that is completely distinct from Old Testament doctrine. First of all, it is a biblical distinctive for Church saints. I suppose that my early introduction was to the subject as a Baptist distinctive. My father was a Baptist pastor and I am certain that the first time I heard about the subject was from him. More important is that it is what the Bible teaches for any true Christian.

I have not seen a real theology of the priesthood of the believer in print. Several books have been written on the subject but they are very limited in their scope and approach. I have three books on the subject in my library. Two of them trace the history of the teaching. The other is a brief survey of the subject from the Bible. For many years I have had an interest in the subject. I learned more about the subject in Baptist history classes in Bible College. I carried some of the concepts into Seminary anticipating further study on the subject. Courses in Baptist history and Baptist polity at San Francisco Baptist Theological Seminary were taught by J. Richard Muntz and were further stimuli for study and a great help. His lectures and notes gave me added direction. H. LaVern Schafer dealt with elements of the subject in classes in pneumatology and ecclesiology. I appreciate their teaching in those Seminary days. The first church I served as pastor was Bethel Baptist Church in El Sobrante, California and there I began to systematize this material. I am grateful to the saints who were there during those days of ministry for their input and reactions to some of this material. When I moved to Oregon to become a faculty member at Dispensational Theological Seminary, I further organized the priesthood material for our Evening School program and continue to teach the course. I am grateful to our God for permitting me to serve as a co-pastor with H. LaVern Schafer at Valley Baptist Church of Gaston, Oregon (meeting in Cherry Grove). God has used him in his ministry in my life in both the church and the Seminary. Each Seminary faculty member is a special encouragement. These men are H. LaVern Schafer, Dale R. Spurbeck and Orin I. Bidwell. I am grateful to be a fellow yoke-fellow with each of you.

When we systematize some biblical subjects, they cut across many areas of systematic theology. The priesthood of the grace believer is no exception. We are dealing with the work of the Holy Spirit (pneumatology). The priesthood of the grace believer is the result of the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit and is a part of the possessions provided by the baptism of the Spirit. The subject links directly to important elements of Christology especially in present tense salvation because of the priestly and high priestly ministries of Christ. The doctrine of God the Father is essential for understanding who accepts the sacrifices of the believer-priest and who receives and responds to priestly communication. Priestly service itself is service to God the Father. New Testament revelation concerning the spiritual life is essential because the believer-priest functions best as a Spirit-filled believer. While the believer is a priest in the "Church which is His Body," the Universal Church, its teaching affects every area of the operation of the local gathering of believers. When these and other areas of Bible-based theology are put together in relation to the priesthood of the grace believer, these truths provide a refreshing perspective of the whole of theology.

This book is not written to be read instead of the Bible as many Christian books are. I recognize my fallibility and frailty. While I may have some good ideas and suggestions, the only thing of true value is what God says in His Word. My spiritual gift is pastor-teacher and my only authority is in the Word of God. The minute I depart from God's Word, anything I say is of no more authority or value than what any other believer might say. Because of this, there are well over 2,500 references to passages of Scripture in these pages. In some ways this may be a detriment for some readers who do not have an appetite for God's Word yet will read "biblical-theological" materials. In fact, there are many little subject studies that of themselves may provide resources for teaching and preaching. May I suggest that the reader make notes of those studies he finds interesting and useful for such opportunities. Examples of this may be potential crowns, tithe versus the sacrifice of giving, spiritual gifts, enemies of the Christian, etc. Read these pages with your Bible in hand. Just the comparison of the translation with a version will be edifying and of value. The Spirit of God can use these truths to change your life.

Though I use the King James Version in the pulpit, my primary texts for study are the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts of the original languages. Throughout these pages the translations are mine. The few citations from the King James are noted. I prefer to use the academic A.V. [Authorized Version] abbreviation for the King James Version wherever I refer to that version. The reason I prefer my own translation is that I can emphasize important truths and grammatical concepts through translation (whether primary or secondary) without spending sentences or paragraphs correcting another translation. More than enough correcting is necessary in these pages. This does permit a more efficient use of space. There are more than 500 verses translated in the text.

For those unacquainted with the author, let me tell you a bit about my qualifications for translating the text. I have taught and preached from the biblical languages as a pastor and professor for 30 years. I have taught the Hebrew language at Dispensational Theological Seminary for 24 years as well as Greek related Bible analysis courses. I have devoted my life to learning the biblical languages so that I can have a foundation for a Bible-based theology. This work is an example of a Bible-based theology.

A note is in order concerning my translation. I have the habit of keeping my translation as close to literal as possible without creating too much confusion. As a result, it may seem to be stilted and rigid in some cases. I have attempted to keep it as readable as possible and yet retain the nuances of the original languages. Sometimes it is necessary to keep it "fat" for emphasis. An example of what I mean is the translation of "to him" of the original language as an English prepositional phrase rather than to translate it "his" (a possessive personal pronoun) that would make it much easier. This may be necessary to emphasize a definite article on the noun. Normally, there are linguistic reasons for some of the cumbersome translations.

Repetition is important to the learning process. This is especially true of important truths of God's Word. I have chosen to repeat some truths several times because of their importance. Naturally, some verses are repeated because they are essential to the subject. In several instances I have repeated the translation of verses. Some of these have slight differences in the translation to emphasize certain forms or word meanings. The changes are deliberate with the purpose of clarifying a specific point.

I have included Greek and Hebrew words early in the text with transliteration in parenthesis. These are in the more technical sections that are necessary for establishing groundwork for further study. Later in the text I have chosen simply to use transliterated forms in the less technical sections. This makes it easy to consult the text in the original but is less distracting. Throughout the text there are many definitions of the original language words. Some definitions are given in the way that I have chosen to translate the words.

I have chosen to use terms that emphasize distinctions. While I use the word Christian, I prefer to use "grace believer." "Christian" is an abused term in Christendom today. Many use it to refer to those who could never be Christians as Joseph, Moses, Isaiah, and Ezekiel etc. The only anointed ones in the Old Testament were kings and prophets. The true anointed one in the technical New Testament sense is one who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit as a result of the provisions of the cross work of Christ. A grace believer is one who is saved by God by grace through faith in the dispensation of grace (from Christ's cross work to His return in the air for the Church).

The material in this book is targeted at believers who have an appetite for God's Word and a desire to grow to Christian maturity. This can involve any believer that can read and think. Our young people who attend Evening School understand these truths. I have appreciated the enthusiastic reception of those who attend our Evening School classes of these important truths. Any thinking believer can understand these truths with the illumining work of the Spirit. This is not directed to a sixth grade level but to a college level. The contents are between that of a textbook and a Christian life book. I trust that God will use it for spiritual growth in either arena.

We live in a day when there is limited knowledge of the Old Testament. Some have learned the Old Testament stories in Sunday School. Others have had the Old Testament misapplied to their lives from many sources. They generally do not understand the significance of the Mosaic law and all of its regulations. The program established for Israel by Jehovah is complicated and confusing. As a result, it is neglected. Since I am a Hebrew professor, I spend a great deal of time in the Old Testament. I have made an effort to communicate Old Testament theology and regulations so that the reader can see the differences between living under the Mosaic Law and grace. The complexities of the Law literally taken demonstrate how much of a yoke of bondage it was. There is no question that under grace we have something far better.

Because of the Old Testament contrasts in these pages, let me suggest that if you as a reader find them unimportant, don't stop reading. Skip those sections and move on to the grace material. For example, there is a section under the sacrifices of the grace believer-priest on the sacrifices of the Mosaic Law. It is easy to get bogged down there because of the technicalities. Just go to the end of the section for the introduction to the sacrifices of the grace believer-priest. Then study the chapters on the grace sacrifices and savor the flavor of grace revelation. I would like to think that the Law material is unnecessary. But as I talk with believers, I know they need to know why they don't want to live under Law. The Law is cumbersome. Grace is free. When the believer learns how to live in his position in Christ, he will want nothing to do with the yoke of bondage that is the Mosaic Law.

In a way these pages are like pecan pie. Some will devour it voraciously because they like the richness and weight of the flavor. Others will find it to rich and pick out the nuts. Others will want to nibble here and there from time to time to savor the flavor.

Inserted between some chapters are graphics that I have put on our church bulletin covers. They are pertinent to the Christian life and to the contents of these pages. They are designed to teach key truths in Scripture to the grace believer. [Omitted from this file]

I am unashamedly dispensational. I firmly believe in the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Scriptures in the original manuscripts. As a result, I believe that the Holy Spirit selected specific words from the human author's vocabulary to communicate revelation accurately and with divine precision. Because of this, I believe in a literal, grammatical, historical interpretation of Scripture. I believe that the recipients of the revelation are the owners of that revelation. If I meet the criterion for ownership, it is truth for my faith and practice. As a result, I believe that Scripture produces a theology of distinctives, divine distinctives. This produces a dispensational Bible-based theology in the traditional sense as that of the Apostle Paul, Cyrus I. Scofield and Lewis S. Chafer. I believe that was God's intention. I have no quarter with "ultradispensationalism" or "hyperdispensationalism" in any form. Their premises concerning the beginning of the Church destroy key concepts of the priesthood of the believer. This is especially true of their denial of the authority of the Petrine and Johannine epistles for the Church which is His Body. The progressive dispensationalists amaze me with their pseudo-intellectual acceptance of the premises of Reformed and Covenant theology and hermeneutics. Where they stand on the priesthood of the believer is subjective, a roll of the dice. Their attempts to integrate Old Testament theology with New Testament theology threaten to ruin the distinctive doctrine of the priesthood of the believer. Thank God that traditional dispensationalism is alive!

Our English language continues to change in its grammar and syntax. There is a popular forum that attempts to simplify. I am of the "which" generation. My word processor is of the "that" generation. Throughout these pages we have been at war. I gave in and went back and changed most of the "whichs" to "thats." Now that my radar is on for those and I have changed them, I see that my local newspaper, magazines, new books and such are still in the "which" generation. I am willing to change. I do not follow the politically correct perversion of the normal use of our language though. Throughout these pages I use the third masculine pronoun in a generic sense as has been true for centuries. "He" can apply to male or female. When I do use "she," it is for special emphasis. This is normal though there continues to be a campaign to change this element of English grammar.

Several other explanations are in order. I use terms that are theologically specific. When I use the term "spiritual," I use it in the New Testament sense of emanating things of the Holy Spirit (not the human spirit). A "grace believer' is distinguished from a law or kingdom believer as a believer who is baptized into the Body of Christ in the dispensation of grace (from the cross to the rapture). I believe that Paul is the human author of the book of Hebrews. So when I refer to the "author of Hebrews," I refer to the Apostle Paul.

Rather than to refer to the "direction" of the fruit of the Spirit, I have chosen to use the participle "directing" because I want to emphasize the action. There is a definite act of volition of a Spiritfilled believer to direct a specific part of the fruit of the Spirit. A believer learns to do this as a part of the maturation process.

"Church" may or may not be capitalized in the text. Where it is capitalized, it specifically refers to the Church Universal, the Body of Christ. I intentionally use a small "c" of Christendom in general as well as the local church.

I have dedicated these pages to the memory of my parents: Donald E. Spurbeck and Doris Kenyon Spurbeck. They both were alive when I was writing the first draft of this work. My father was a model pastor, role model, student of the Word, Bible teacher and servant of Jesus Christ. He was my spiritual father as well leading me to Christ in my childhood. He was my pastor. My mother was a godly woman and a wonderful example for life. She was the ideal pastors wife. Both were always encouraging. They were a team that served God in small churches. I thank God for their love and influence on my life and a multitude of other lives. They share with many of those in the presence of our Lord. Their parting has made the blessed hope much more blessed. Today? Perhaps!

I have many to thank for help with these pages. My wife Pat has really made this final product possible. She has kept me in focus. She has used her organizational skills to bring it to fruition. Her ability to get things done in spite of physical limitation has been amazing. Her insight keeps me out of trouble. I thank God for making us a team in His service. Few work together as well as we do. She is the love of my life and a true fellow servant of Jesus Christ. Thank you, my love! My brother Dale continues to be a special blessing. His moral support and suggestions are appreciated. What a blessing it is to serve Jesus Christ together in the Seminary. He has helped proofread a large part of this material.

Dennis Carter and his son John helped by scanning the original typed manuscript so that I could do all of the editing on the computer. I appreciate your help. It saved another major retype of the text. I also want to thank Kathy Christiansen and Jane Toney for helping with proofreading. What a team effort! All of these have offered sacrifices of doing good to our God in their help with these pages. To God is the glory!

I learned a long time ago that I am prone to making mistakes. Any errors in the text are my own and no one else's. I am thankful to our great God for His involvement in these pages. His Word works. I am grateful for so great salvation and the High Priest of the priesthood for all He has done and continues to do. What a joy it is to be "in Christ." For the work of the Divine Teacher I am thankful. Reading through these pages, I am well reminded of the illumination of the Spirit and his teaching of specific truths that were objective revelation and are now subjective revelation. I trust the ministry of the Godhead will use these pages to bring glory and honor to each Person. If you are a grace believer, God is with you!

Resting seated in the Beloved,
David K. Spurbeck Sr.
Philippians 3:10
September 2000


Introduction


Me! A priest? Yes! Every Christian is a priest according to the teaching of the New Testament (1 Pe. 2:5, 9). If a person is a believer, he is a priest. "Priest" is a word that has many connotations in the minds of different individuals in the world today. Some envision a man clothed in regal vestments, the uniform of an officiating clergyman. Others perceive a man in a clerical collar, the uniform of traditional Christendom. Others simply consider any preacher or pastor to be a priest. When thinking of those individuals who act as priests outside Christendom in the rest of the world's system of religions, one is faced with external evidences of priesthood in the priest's appearance or activity. The saffron robes and shaved head of a Buddhist monk identify him as a man in religious service. His chants and meditation sessions are considered to be a part of his service to his religion as a monk. To many an external appearance is the only way in which to identify the priest. In the Christian Church, the uniform of the New Testament priest varies extensively. It may be the business suit of the Christian banker or the overalls of the believing farmer. It may be the attire of a saintly homemaker or the nursing scrubs of a Christian nurse. Any attire from swim trunks to formal evening wear can be the dress of the New Testament believer-priest. It is not his clothing or outward appearance that makes him a priest, it is his position and activity. If a person is a true Christian, he has the potential to be functioning as a priest in all the activities of his daily life since God counts him to be a believer-priest.

Each individual is a priest without regard for external appearances or offices. There are no specific educational requirements that prepare the person to enter priestly office. A degree in theology is not necessary. In fact, it is impossible to have enough education or a proper education by which to gain admission into the priesthood. Entry into the priesthood is not gained by any rite or ritual. No ordination examination or service is necessary for participating in priestly privileges. At the moment of salvation, the believer is placed in a unique priesthood by the Holy Spirit of God and is given every right and privilege of the priesthood of all grace believers. Priestly privilege is a provision from the grace of God -- unmerited and freely given. When the New Testament speaks of the priesthood of the believer, it knows no distinction in age, gender, social position or office. God the Father sees equality in the priesthood in which there is common service that is to be performed under and through Jesus Christ, the High Priest. Because it is practical for the life of the Christian, the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer can easily be communicated to every Christian whether he chooses to apply the teaching or not. Every Christian, at some time, has the desire to please God. God has made it possible for him to be pleasing to Him in priestly service. Ignorance of the privilege prevents the believer from certain areas of activity that are pleasing to God in the provisions of grace in the priesthood. The implications of the priesthood on every level of Christian living are multifaceted. The teaching is a part of the Word of God that is understandable and usable by believing children and the oldest believing adults. God designed the doctrine to communicate with the uneducated as well as the best educated believer. He provided the type of information that appears to be written to each individual believer at his place in life. There seems to be an exclusivity of revelation to the individual believer. As the believer comprehends the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer, he appreciates its practical application to his own individual situation in life. As is true of many of the life teachings of the New Testament, when the believer studies the subject, he often provides his own illustrations for himself as he perceives the teaching as it relates to the peculiarities of his own Christian life. Because of this, the reader will practically write his own volume in his mind as he studies the doctrine from New Testament grace revelation. As he applies the truth learned, he has the privilege of making the revelation his own from Scripture.

It is time for a revival of the implementation of the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer among Christians and their churches. There no longer needs to be reluctance for being a little different as long as it is a move toward closer conformity to the revelation of Scripture. Too few believers give an accurate reflection of the revelation in their personal lives before others and God. In every era of church history, there has been a need for true believers to be living as priests. Too often an era has needed an effective priesthood only to have a few believers, who are a very small minority, living in light of the grace revelation given to Christians. It has been the exception rather than the rule for groups of believers to be seen practicing as believer-priests together. Yes, there have been a few but very few. Christendom has stood against them. Carnality is the terminal disease preventing the practice of the priesthood of the believer. Apathy propagates the malignant disease. When the vitality of the New Testament is consistently practiced in a part of Christendom, the sin nature rises to nullify its life and attempts to afflict it with complacency. If the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer is strongly practiced, it is attacked from within and without. Men make an effort to make it a doctrine that is believed but not practiced effectively. It becomes acceptable to preach and to teach the doctrine, but the implementation of the doctrine in the life of the believer is not encouraged or explained. Individual Christians must not permit religious Christendom to nullify the clear teaching of Scripture in their practice. There is no reason for true believers to avoid practicing the doctrine in spite of its limited teaching by some pastors and teachers. It has never hurt a believer to do things in God's way. He enjoys the blessing of God in the practice of the doctrine. When accurate information is provided, the believer can assimilate it. He can take it to be a challenge and master the details to the point that he makes it his own in his knowledge and practice.

The implications of the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer are supremely practical. Today, Christians have a voracious appetite for the church to be providing practical teaching from the Word of God. This sounds commendable. What is practical and what is not practical is a very subjective thing. Every believer has his own idea of what is practical. It is not unlike the teenager who is convinced that his parents have no idea how life really is. To some believers, the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer is most practical. To those who are most vocal for things practical, it will be an impractical doctrine because it does not fit their personal criteria based on their own personal beliefs and feelings. True practicality is established because God calls the doctrine practical, not the human estimate. Too many Christians want "third door on the left" practicality rather than the general principles that the Holy Spirit makes practical in specific situations. God designed Scripture in such a way as to make Scripture applicable in specific situations. The way it relates to the situation is not dependent upon human reason. It is essential for Scripture to be taken literally, for the believer to accept its one interpretation and to accept its single application. If the reader meets the criteria to be a recipient of a portion of Scripture, that passage has the potential for being ultimately practical for him. The Holy Spirit clearly shows how the passage of Scripture relates to given circumstances for the believer's practice. If the believer is living in the realm of his sin nature, he no longer meets the criteria for revelation addressed to Spirit-filled believers. Only the admonitions for carnal believers are practical for the carnal believer. He lacks the ability to live truth given to spiritual believers; and hence, he does not consider that truth to be practical. A substantial proportion of those believers who say that biblical preaching is not practical are living in the sin nature. It is true that they are absolutely incapable of applying the truths to their lives because that truth is not addressed to them in their present condition in the first place. The priesthood of the believer is a doctrine that is not for carnal believers. It is truth addressed to spiritual believers. Carnal believers do not lose their priestly position when they are carnal, but lose any ability to function as priests in service that God will count to be priestly service. God's evaluation is the final authority concerning the acceptability of priestly service. Two believers can perform the same activity in service to God, but God will accept the service of one and reject the service of the other. A carnal man can collect the Sunday morning offering with another man who is spiritual and God will count the service of the spiritual man to be priestly service while the carnal man's service will not be counted as acceptable to God. Understanding priestly service, the spiritual man enjoys the practicality of the doctrine when he takes the offering, while the carnal man has his own personal motives that are satisfied to some degree when he performs the same task. The carnal man may have any number of motives. He may be seeking acceptability by the people. He may be striving to demonstrate his personal righteousness to God or man. He may do it because it needs to be done and he can do it. The spiritual believer does it because the Spirit of God has led him to perform the task knowing that he will bring glory to God through the performance of the task.

In a sense, the study of the priesthood of the believer is a study of the believer's Christian life. He is a priest every moment of his life whether he is functioning as a priest or not. It permeates his life in its every detail. Knowledge of the priesthood of the believer does not make a believer spiritual; but when he is spiritual, it provides a practical environment in which his spirituality can flourish. A believer's knowledge of the spiritual life will give him a basis for enhancing the practicality of his priestly possession. Saints, who know the teaching of the spiritual life for grace believers, will benefit best from the understanding of the priesthood of the believer. An unbeliever will not benefit from the teaching of the priesthood -- it is family truth for Christians.

The entry requirement for the priesthood is saving faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. When a person believes in Christ through the Gospel, he is placed in a "kingdom of priests (Rev. 1:6)." 1 Corinthians 15:2-4 clearly identifies the Gospel "by [lit. through] which you are saved." The Gospel or Good News is "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures; and that He was seen...." When a person believes through the Gospel, he believes through the facts of the Gospel to a proper object -- Jesus Christ. He is saved by God by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8, 9). At the moment he receives the gift of faith to believe the Gospel to be saved, he is made a member of the priesthood of the believer by the personal work of the Holy Spirit. He is instantly inducted into the priesthood as a part of his salvation.

Someone has said that the New Testament church was a perfect democracy. Such a condition becomes more and more evident when one considers the historical development of church government in the New Testament church. A perfect equality was essential to practice Christianity in the formative years of the Church. In the absence of revelatory authority that was given to the persons who were gifted to deliver revelation from God, He only gave limited authority to any individual in the local church aside from that authority which was given to every believer. It is not until Acts six that any portion of the Church was given specific authority or official status in areas of the outworking of the program of the local church when the church chose and the apostles appointed deacons to function in the daily service for the widows in the church. Up to Acts six, the apostles were instrumental in providing authoritative instruction to the church for its democratic government. Their authority centered around the ability that their spiritual gift provided to deliver and implement revelation that had not previously been given to the Church. God had distinctly given the twelve men who were gifted as apostles to the Church with specific abilities by which He used them to provide a foundation for the Church. It is not until Acts 14:23 when elders were appointed by Paul and Barnabas that there is any mention of leadership in the local church other than deacon and apostle. How did the church function without some authorities to administer the business of the church? The church effectively functioned as a democracy which depended upon the apostles and prophets for revelatory advice. It is evident that there were failures in the democratic process as in the socialist experiment of Acts 4:32 where there had been no divine revelation given requiring such a practice. As the Church spread from Jerusalem, being driven across the Roman world by persecution, it was necessary for individual believers in a given community to rely upon one another in the meetings of the local church. Such practice was contradictory to every concept for the orderly operation of an organization in the world system. Leadership was always considered essential for the free and successful operation of any type of social entity. Even the Greeks saw the necessity for leadership in their development of representative government. Either a part or the whole of a constituency selected individuals to stand as representatives in matters of leadership. The Apostolic Church did not have elections to select local representatives but functioned as a democracy under the authority of the revelation from the apostles. The backbone of the democracy of the local church was the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer. Even after the development of the offices of the New Testament church, bishop and deacon, the democratic process continued to function to its fullest. Initially, the offices were given to provide leadership in the spiritual and physical matters of the church. To make certain that the physical tasks of the church were accomplished for the church, the office of deacon was established not so much to lead the church, but to serve the church in its menial tasks. The office of bishop was established so that the pastor-teacher gift could function to its fullest extent for the spiritual building up of the church, serving the Lord in leading the church toward its spiritual goals. Every grace believer is a priest and has an equal role in the local assembly of believers. The church was organized to be a democracy comprised of believer priests who equally participate in its decisions, development, and duties.

As Church history progressed, the church developed more and more from a democratic hierarchy comprised of all believers into a totalitarian hierarchy of a selected few. The English word "hierarchy" is derived from the Greek, and literally means "temple chief or leader." In the early Church, the local church itself was a hierarchy with no subordinates. With the secularization of the Church, more and more believers became subordinates to a few who assumed authority. As a result, the teaching of the priesthood of the believer became a doctrine that was disregarded and even held in disrepute. Substantial New Testament revelation for grace believers presents the priesthood of the believer. As a result, when one ignores the doctrine, he ignores an important part of Scripture itself. In direct proportion to the church's desire to participate in revelation given for its practice is the interest in the priesthood of the believer. There is no reason for such an essential doctrine for Christian living to be placed in a position of secondary or of no importance. It is a glorious, practical doctrine. Only the human ego has placed restraints on its implementation in the church. When hierarchical positions of leadership are established, those who assume those positions are threatened when they know that alignment with Scripture will either eliminate those positions or severely limit the authority that they can exercise. Because of the egos of such men, they have made efforts to de-emphasize and repress the implementation of the doctrine in the lives of believers. Because the priesthood of the believer limits the authority of the few, it is to the advantage of the professional church leader to keep the people in ignorance in order to retain the authority of his position. Silence maintains ignorance. Ignorance prevents personal appropriation of the fullness of the provision of God.

Recently, there has been an increase of interest in the priesthood of the believer. It is time for a revival of the doctrine in the practice of the local church. Implementation of the doctrine does not need to be based upon pragmatic motivation -- of course it works in the local church. The implementation is necessary because it is biblical and one of the provisions of God in salvation for the grace believer. A substantial body of biblical revelation establishes the details of the doctrine for the believer's practice. More messages need to be preached and more lessons taught on the subject. The silence must cease and ignorance must be put to rest. Effective teaching will be the basis for the implementation in the lives of Christians. In order to provide a systematization of the doctrine, specific and careful study is necessary. For an accurate understanding, it is necessary to use the original languages and to provide a solid linguistic basis for the theological conclusions that result. The contents of this book are designed to provide enough detail to assure adequate information for the confident, personal practice of the doctrine in the lives of Christians.

What is a priest? In order to understand the doctrine, it is necessary to understand what a priesthood is and how a priest is to function. A careful analysis of biblical priesthoods is necessary. A study of Israel's relationship to priestly activity is important because Israel, though given opportunity, did not become a priesthood, but rather had the Levitical priesthood given to the nation. If a grace believer is a priest, what is the mechanism? Scripture clearly describes the divine method by which God makes a believer a priest who has the privilege of performing service well pleasing to God. Any study of the priesthood of the believer must stop to dwell on the magnitude of Jesus Christ, the Heavenly High Priest. If a believer is a priest, how does he relate to his Heavenly High Priest? What should he be doing as a priest? Scripture clearly delineates the priestly activities that are possible for a priest's participation. What motivation does God provide to encourage the believer to function as a priest? One must evaluate the right and wrong motives of believers in relation to priestly service. The answers to these questions will be given in the chapters of this book.

The doctrine of the priesthood of the believer can be developed by the following overview of the teaching of the New Testament.

* I. The Structure of the Priesthood of the Believer

* II. The Sacrifices of the Priesthood of the Believer

* III. The Service of the Priesthood of the Believer

* IV. The Specialization of the Believer-Priest

* V. The Sharing of the Believer-Priest as a Priest

These five areas provide the basic structure of this book and the doctrine. When the believer understands the basic concepts concerning what a priest is and what he does, he has a solid foundation on which to build. Because a believer is a priest, he offers sacrifices (1 Pe. 2:5). The New Testament mentions six sacrifices for the believer in the New Testament. Sacrifice is only a part of the believer's service as a priest. The New Testament uses specific words to describe the service of the grace believer-priest. Each believer-priest has a specialization at which he excels in his service to the Lord -- his spiritual gift. The implications of priestly service carry into every aspect of the believer's life as he shares with his God, other believers and the unbeliever. May the reader carefully evaluate the Word of God as it is used and confirm that the contents of this book accurately reflect the teaching of Scripture, and then with the illumination from the Spirit of God make this truth his own in his mind and practice.

In spite of the extensive revelation of the priesthood of the believer in the New Testament, there is a dearth of study material and teaching on the subject. Most church-going Christians consider involvement in such a priesthood as either inconceivable or inappropriate. Each Christian needs to be taught the position and privileges of the believer-priest. There is no need for ignorance of such an important biblical truth. A Christian's recognition of his role as a priest gives him an awareness of the ways he can bring glory to his God through priestly service. A substantial number of the practices that are normal in Christian living relate to priestly activities. When the Christian sees the whole spectrum of New Testament teaching on the priesthood of the believer, he can then enjoy his personal, active participation knowing that the activity is a part of his priestly sacrifice or service. With knowledge and understanding, it is then possible to ask God for the wisdom (Jas. 1:5) to apply what has been learned appropriately in given situations to the glory of God.


SECTION I
The Structure of the Priesthood of the Believer

There are nearly as many priestly organizational structures as there are priesthoods in the Bible and in the religious world. Each has its own idiosyncrasies. In order to establish the characteristics and composition of the priesthood of the grace believer, it is necessary to examine not only the New Testament doctrine but also the Old Testament concepts of priesthood that provide a clear contrast to the New Testament. A person versed in the Old Testament should easily identify the similarities as well as the differences between the priesthoods of the Old Testament and that of the New Testament. Participation in the priesthood was expanded to include all grace believers rather than limited to a few who met the physical qualifications for functioning in the priestly office. A close analysis of the Aaronic priesthood will present some similarities but most noticeable will be the differences. One of the major distinctions is that the Body of Christ is a priesthood.

There is never any indication that the Church possesses a priesthood because Scripture sees it as a priesthood itself. If a person is in the Body of Christ, he is a priest. If he is not a priest, there is absolutely no way possible for him to be in the Body of Christ. The identical process that places the believer in Christ makes him a member of the priesthood. Because of this, a study of the structure of the priesthood will involve truth that is practical for every believer. When believers recognize that they are priests, it changes their whole perspective toward one another. An understanding of the structure and composition of the priesthood encourages the believer to recognize his individual responsibility before God. He no longer has a buffer between himself and God. His pastor ceases to be the hired professional who stands between the individual and his God. One will no longer permit the local church and its programs to intervene for the believer before God. Consistent and inconsistent believers no longer give the believer excuses for his personal behavior. In effect, he stands alone before God in Christ with no human being or institution intervening. Within the structure of the priesthood, each believer has responsibility for himself. He may attempt to ignore his responsibility or dispute its legitimacy. He may accept the privilege of responsibility and enjoy all the benefits of functioning as a priest. A thorough understanding of the priesthood will enhance the believer's Christian life. The doctrine will, in many cases, give the believer a great deal more freedom in the progression of his Christian life. It is possible that the doctrine will provide a channel for activities that the believer is doing by giving them a biblical structure in which they are accomplished. Often a believer is less pressured when he learns how God sees the activity especially when it is a priestly behavior.

In order to understand the structure of the priesthood of the believer, the simple how, who, what and when questions need to be asked. The chapters in this section will attempt to find the New Testament answers to these questions as they relate to the priesthood of the believer. How does the believer become a priest? How does he function as a priest? Who is permitted or considered to be a priest? What is the believer's relationship to God in his priestly service? What activities are normal for a priest? When does a believer become a priest? When can he practice his priesthood? Scripture provides a substantial body of doctrine establishing the answers to these questions.

What is the essential concept upon which the whole doctrine is built? Scripture establishes the foundational concept. The Church is a priesthood. It is a truth that establishes a basis for every conclusion concerning the priesthood of the believer. It carries the truth to each Christian and wrests authority from the few. Naturally, there are direct implications in the government of the local church. These need to be discussed because the practical implementation of the doctrine in the local church will often revolutionize its manner of operation.

What is a priest? A careful analysis of both the Old and New Testaments will determine what a priest is from the divine perspective. It is clear in Scripture what God counts to be a priestly activity. Another important area of discussion is Israel and its relationship to priesthoods. In Exodus 19:6, the possibility that Israel would be a kingdom comprised of priests is presented. Did Israel become a priesthood as a result of the promise of God? Do Christians fulfill the requirements to become recipients of the promises to Israel? Does 1 Peter 2:9 indicate a fulfillment in the Church? A careful study of the implications of Exodus is necessary in order to understand the priesthood of the grace believer. Another important area of study is the matter of the historical development of priesthoods in the Bible. When one traces priestly activities from the Patriarchs forward, he can see not only the development of the priesthood but also the uniqueness of each priesthood.

How does one become a priest? First Peter two establishes the exact mechanics in a believer's salvation by which he becomes a priest. Becoming a priest is only a part of God's provision for the believer in Christ. As a priest, the believer has access to God that never existed before his salvation. His access to God makes his priestly privileges practical.

How does the believer-priest work with his High Priest, Jesus Christ? Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus Christ is the grace believer's High Priest who is active in His priestly ministry. One of the important aspects of the Aaronic priesthood was the role of the high priest in the operation of the priesthood in the tabernacle or temple. The grace believer has access to the heavenly temple through his High Priest. Christ has a crucial relationship to the manner in which the Christian functions in his priestly service.

When does the grace believer function as a priest? In a sense, this is just as much a part of the substance of the priesthood as any other facet. If the believer understands that he is a full-time priest, he learns that he has the exclusive opportunity to excel in his spiritual priestly service. If he responds positively, he has clear potentials available for living his Christian life.

These chapters on the substance of the priesthood of the believer are designed to give a lucid, detailed picture of the priesthood of the believer. They include an analysis of each elemental detail that will contribute to the Christian's understanding of the doctrine. As the believer is reminded that he is a priest because of the grace of God, he can rejoice in the magnificent privilege of being a priest of the order of Melchisedec to the glory of God. Scripture is clear concerning the structure of the priesthood and its uniqueness above all other priesthoods.


Chapter 1: What Is the Key Concept?


"The Church does not have a priesthood, it is a priesthood." This is the key concept that summarizes the whole doctrine of the priesthood of the believer. When the true believer understands this concept, his whole attitude should change concerning his personal relationship to God. As a member of the Body of Christ, he has every privilege that any other Christian has because he is a priest in a priesthood. Scripture never teaches that all the responsibility in the local church should fall on the shoulders of one man. Each individual believer has an obligation to be active in the local church because of his position in the Universal Church as a priest. The Church does not have a priesthood. Scripture teaches that every believer is a priest. There is no hierarchy in this priesthood. There are no higher priests between the believer and his Heavenly High Priest, Jesus Christ. There is an absolute equality in the Body of Christ (Gal. 3:27, 28) with no person having a superior position over any other Christian. The one who holds the office of bishop is just as equal as every other believer. His is not in George Orwell's "more equal than other animals are equal" position. A minority has no authority over the majority.

God designed the Church so that each individual grace believer would focus his attention upon the Head of the Church who is also the High Priest for the Church. The horizontal perspective is based upon a perpendicular perspective. The Christian is literally to be so heavenly minded that he cannot help but be earthly good. When he sees things on earth from God's perspective, he will effectively accomplish God's will on earth by the Holy Spirit's direction. If his reflective thinking is directed to his condition in Christ and the things that he has in his position in Christ (Col. 3:1-4), he sees himself as God sees him seated in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:6). The perpendicular perspective involves a thought process. In Colossians 3:2 it says, "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth [A.V.]." Many Christians think the verse ties to 1 John 2:15 and loving things above instead of loving the world system because of the A.V. translation "affection." A clearer, more literal translation is, "Set your reflective thinking on things above, not on things upon the earth ...." What is reflective thinking? It is clearly an activity of the mind. A large part of the New Testament doctrine of the Christian life involves mental activity. The confusion concerning the meaning of the verb phroneo is evident in the 29 New Testament passages where it is found in that the A.V. translates it 13 different ways. The verb carries the essential idea of intuitive thinking. It is that process by which thoughts are bounced around in the mind or permitted to gurgle through one's mental plumbing. One of the better descriptions of the word in English is the word "reflection" -- a reasoned reflection or frame of mind. Therefore, the believer is encouraged to focus his reflective thinking on things [neuter] above. A part of the reflective thinking of the believer involves his priesthood and Christ as his High Priest. Every Christian is just as accountable for his priestly attitudes and activities as any other believer. Human programs are poor substitutes for God's program for motivating Christians to be involved in His work. If a believer is a priest, he has no right to expect other Christians to be doing all the Lord's work. Because the Church is a priesthood, there is equal responsibility within the Church. If each Christian is thinking in these terms, the Lord's work would be very effective here on earth. Most Christians have the attitude that the pastor should be doing most of the Lord's work for the congregation. "Isn't that what we pay him for?" As a result, many churches have given pastors unbiblical authority and have practically disenfranchised believer-priests from practicing the privileges of the priesthood. Scripture is very clear in the matter. The Church is a priesthood of all grace believers.

One must never attempt to mold Scripture to fit doctrine or practice but rather mold doctrine and practice to fit Scripture. Ecclesiology [the doctrine of the church] is an area in which the greatest manipulation of Scripture takes place to fit doctrine and practice. Logically, the priesthood of the grace believer should dominate every facet of ecclesiology. A number of books have been written on the subject but many of them focus on how different theological systems interpret the subject so that the doctrine would best fit into their established ecclesiology. Scripture is clear when it teaches that the whole Church is a priesthood and does not possess a priesthood. Any who are in it are priests, each one being equal before God and having equal responsibilities and privileges.

The Teaching of Scripture

There is no doubt that the Church is a priesthood in Scripture. "You [pl.] also as living stones are being built up a spiritual house into a holy priesthood ... (1 Pe. 2:5)." Every part of the spiritual house is a part of the priesthood. First Peter was not written to pastors but to elect sojourners (1 Pe. 1:1 Gk.) though some among them were in the office of bishop, gifted as pastor-teachers and having the maturity of elders (1 Pe. 5:1-4 Gk.). The Church is a spiritual house that directly involves a priesthood. "But you are an elect race, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, an uniquely possessed people ... (1 Pe. 2:9)." Believers are not only participants in a normal priesthood but it is a kingly priesthood. Christ has "made us a kingdom of priests (Rev. 1:6)." At the moment of salvation, the believer becomes a part of a kingdom that is completely comprised of priests. The song of the twenty-four elders indicates that they are a kingdom and priests (Rev. 5:10). There are no grace believers who are not in the priesthood. Every Christian is in the priesthood. "The Church does not have a priesthood, it is a priesthood."

The Matter of Religious Necessity

Religion normally establishes priesthoods to provide leadership over adherents. From the very beginning of religious systems in the world system [cosmos], priests had an effective role in religious activity. They may have been seers who professed to comprehend the future and to effect changes in the future. They often functioned in prophetic office. In some cases they designed and performed religious ritual to appease the gods for protection and for the provision of benefits. When Satan organized religion in the world system, he did not organize a religious anarchy, but established leader-priests who maintained an orderly religious system. Without a priesthood, each religious system would have fragmented itself out of existence with as many segments as there were adherents. Priesthoods maintain order. Priesthoods protect the purity of doctrine. They control the ritual of the system. In most religions, the priests had great authority in both the religious community and the civil society. As a result of the priesthoods, the religious works of the flesh were channeled in an orderly fashion. Even primitive animism had a type of priesthood built around witch doctors and seers and their activities. Religions are absolutely reliant upon their priesthoods. Ancient religion was dependent upon priesthoods and gave priests positions of respect and authority in society.

Ancient Religion and Priesthood. Many of the ancient records that refer to religions are priesthood centered. This was because the priests kept the records and because their activities dominated society. Many ancient cultures were built around common religious systems. Social mores and religious mores were interdependent. In ancient Sumer, there was a priesthood. The same is true in the history of Egypt. The code of Hammarabi described a priesthood that had both male and female participants. The Epic of Gilgamish describes the giving of offerings to deities. Scripture itself describes several priesthoods of early pagan peoples.

The first reference to a pagan priest in Scripture is the reference to Joseph's father-in-law, Potiphorah, who was a priest of On, a city devoted to the worship of Ra, the sun god (Gen. 41:45, 50; 46:20). The polytheism of the Egyptians is evident in the names used. Potiphorah means "He whom Ra gave." Joseph's wife's name was Asenete meaning "One belonging to Nenth (a goddess of the Egyptians)." An organized priesthood existed in Egypt many centuries before Joseph's era as has been disclosed in the great Egyptian archaeological finds. The priests had special privileges in Egypt. They had a great influence and were landholders. During the famine in Joseph's era, the priests were the only Egyptians who retained possession of their lands while the rest of the population sold their lands to Pharaoh for food (Gen. 47:18-26). "Only the land of the priests he did not buy; for it was a statute for the priests from Pharaoh, and they ate their established portion which Pharaoh gave to them; therefore they did not sell their land (Gen. 47:22)." Pharaoh had given an allotment of food and provision for the priests who were a part of his administration. This allotment kept them alive so there was no necessity for the sale of their lands. The rest of the population gave 20% of their earnings to Pharaoh while the priests were not required to give anything since they were the only ones who possessed their own lands and were not share croppers as the rest of the population (Gen. 47:26).

Four hundred and thirty years later the Egyptian priesthood was even more developed. The ranks in the priesthood were more clearly defined by the abilities of individual priests and their resulting responsibilities. The events of the ten plagues against Egypt challenged the gods of Egypt by the miracles Jehovah performed for Israel at the hands of Moses and Aaron. "Then Pharaoh proceeded to call for the wise ones, and for the sorcers, then the magicians of Egypt, they also proceeded to do [or perform] them by their secret arts in this manner (Ex. 7:11)." These priests, who had special abilities, all were able to duplicate the miracles by demonic power. It may be that these priests held their position because they had demonstrated an ability to perform miracles by demonic powers and so were given special privileges. These men stood as the representatives of Egyptian deities in open confrontation with Jehovah, the God of Israel.

Pagan priests are not mentioned with any frequency in the early Old Testament. It is evident though that the priests were considered a valuable commodity in the land. It appears that pagan practices influenced Micah, the Ephriamite, to make a house of gods (Judg. 17:5) and to set apart one of his sons to be a priest until he hired a Levite to act as his own personal priest (Judg. 17:7, 8). The Danites ultimately took Micah's priest and gods to establish their own idolatrous worship, based on the possession of the priest (Judg. 18). This priesthood and idolatry persisted for a long period of time -- at least as long as the tabernacle remained in Shilo (Judg. 18:30, 31). With a priest, some of the Israelites were convinced that they had the right to serve whatever gods they desired. One must realize in this case that the priest did not lead them into idolatry. It was the availability of a priest that gave them the idea that they could have their own private religion. This was the era in the history of Israel when "every man did that which was right in his own eyes (Judg. 17:6; 21:25)" violating the prohibition of such behavior in the Law of Moses (Deut. 12:8).

When the Philistines captured the ark of the covenant from Israel at Eben-ezer, they placed it in the house of Dagon (1 Sam. 5:1, 2), that was a primary Philistine deity having a fish-like form (Judg. 16:23). Dagon fell off its pedestal twice before the ark. The second time it fell, the head and hands were severed from the torso before the ark, being broken upon the threshold of the idol's temple. As a result, the priests of Dagon were very careful not to step on the threshold because of the sacrilege committed to Dagon by the presence of the ark (1 Sam. 5:5). The Philistines, at least, had a priesthood for their principal deity. It may have been necessary for these priests to perform priestly service for all the deities in the Philistine polytheistic system of religion. It is also possible that there were a few who acted as separate priests to other individual deities. After seven months of suffering death and emerods (1 Sam. 5:6-12), the Philistines called on their own priests and diviners for assistance. They asked advice of these idolatrous practitioners concerning where they should send the ark of Jehovah and how it should be sent (1 Sam. 6:1, 2). The priests suggested that the ark be sent back with a trespass offering of five golden emerods and five golden mice (1 Sam. 6:3-9). The Philistines willingly accepted the advice of the priests subjecting themselves to priestly authority. The priests were well acquainted with religious procedure and provided relief for the nation by applying their knowledge.

In First Kings 18, Elijah was involved with the prophets of Baal who were functioning in priestly activity for the Israelites. The 450 prophets of Baal were performing this service in 400 groves (18:19). The prophets of Baal followed a procedure that was designed to persuade their god to give them favor. They called on the character of Baal from morning to noon in a kind of priestly intercession that turned into an exaggerated form of supplication (18:26). They leaped up and down at their altar and asked Baal to bring down fire to burn their sacrifice (18:26). They mutilated themselves (18:28) but all their priestly activity was ineffective. As a result of Jehovah's victory, all the prophets of Baal were slain. Without priestly leadership, religion becomes ineffective. For a time, the pagan religion of Baal was limited in its influence because of the disposal of the prophets or priests. In Second Chronicles 23:17, the destruction of the house of Baal and the religious fixtures was accompanied by the slaying of the priest of Baal for the same reasons.

Every major nation in the ancient world had a system of religion built around a priesthood though the priesthood may have had a variety of distinct designations. From ancient Sumer to Greece and Rome, religion was organized around priestly activities. A select group of priests served the king and the people. Some priesthoods were simple while others were far more complex having various degrees of priests who had varying levels of authority. In some ancient societies, the priests had great authority while in other societies, they had only religious authority. Generally, religion was polytheistic, having a large number of deities who received the worship of the nation. Each nation possessed its own pantheon of gods. Even the Greeks in Athens managed to cover for any god they happened to miss in their compilation of deities by erecting a monumental altar to the unknown god in Paul's day (Ac. 17:22, 23). The great nations of Egypt, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome all had their own peculiar systems of religion with distinct priesthoods. Lesser nations also had religious systems that required priesthoods. It almost appears that when two people agreed that a deity existed, one of them became a priest to that new deity. In order for religion to be organized, a priesthood is necessary. The ancients saw the necessity and normally had some sort of religious leadership that stood for adherents before the gods. A small group of select individuals became priests while the majority of the population relied on the priests for various types of religious service to their particular deities.

Priests were a religious necessity for the practice of religion in the world system. Religion has always been a channel for the religious works of the flesh (idolatry, religious superstitious awe [sorcery/witchcraft] and heresy -- Gal. 5:20). It places a control on the flesh so that religious extremes are kept in check and held to a minimum. In many ancient societies, religion and government were united, giving the priests even greater power. The same has been true of some of the modern religions. In contemporary religion as well as ancient religion, the society has a priesthood of select individuals comprising a minority of the people who are adherents.

World Religions and Priesthood. World religions have priesthoods out of religious necessity. Even Judaism and Islam, which deny the existence of any priesthood in their systems, have adapted forms of a religious hierarchy that assumes responsibilities normally allotted to priests. The rabbinical system of Judaism has nearly developed into a priesthood of a sort in some segments of Judaism. The Reb of some Hasidic communities has special standing before God and provides blessing for the people as well as interpretations of Scripture for their practice. This is less true in other segments of Judaism where the rabbi is primarily a hired teacher of the tenets of Judaism, having the same relationship to God as the rest of the synagogue or temple. Islam has priests who generally are not paid through their priestly duties. There are groups within Islam that have a very well organized group of individuals whose responsibilities involve the teaching of the Koran and other Islamic traditions. Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism and Taoism all have their priests, monasteries and nunneries for training and practicing the tenets peculiar to each of their systems. Priests are involved in a wide variety of religious activities in each of these systems. In all major religious systems, there is a minority of devotees who perform tasks on behalf of the majority of the adherents. In some systems, each male serves as a priest for a short period of time in his life, only to return to normal life after his religious conscription is completed.

Christian Adaptations. Christianity is not free from minority priesthood practices. In these areas, the Church has a priesthood rather than being a priesthood. As a result, a wide variety of forms of hierarchy has been established in the history of Christianity. Since the apostles possessed specific kinds of authority in the spiritual gift of apostle, it was considered necessary to establish apostolic succession even though Scripture indicated that the spiritual gift of apostle would cease. Another requirement was the distinguishing between pastor, elder and bishop even though Scripture incorporates all three terms to describe a single individual in the Greek of Acts 20:17, 28 and 1 Peter 5:1, 2. A pastor was given more authority than Scripture permitted. With the amalgamation of church and state under Constantine the Great in 330 A.D. came a greater amalgamation, that of church and society. The world system has always demanded forms of religious ritual and tradition. Society, with its pagan practices, expected Christianity to satisfy its appetite for religion with religious rituals and practices. Already certain idolatrous practices had directly influenced Christianity because some practices had been incorporated from heathen religions to satisfy the religious requirements of greater numbers of people who had identified with Christianity by necessity. Religion had to have an authoritarian religious hierarchy. Ordination set apart the candidate to priestly service that he could not practice without ordination. As a result, ordination became a means of grace for it changed the status of the individual by elevating him to priestly status. The priest over the people concept is not uniquely a Roman concept for both the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches practice the same basic concept. The Church of England or Episcopalian Church has retained the practice from its Roman roots. Church history tells the story of the cyclical widening and narrowing of the chasm between the priests and the people.

Similar concepts have carried into the realms of Protestantism where there has been a traditional distinction between clergy and laity. Originally "clergy" was a term used in the Roman Church but was later adopted by the Protestant Church. There are two possibilities concerning the source of the term. Some believe it comes from the Greek kleros that means "heritage or inheritance." This makes little sense since the elder was to be over the kleros in First Peter 5:3. Generally, it is considered to have been derived from the word "clerk" literally meaning a "clerkship." It had the original idea of an order or office of clerks that is evident in English literature from the 1300s forward. In the Dark Ages, the priests were primarily the only ones who knew how to read and write, and so became identified by the "clergie" title as clerks over the people because of their superior education. The people were completely reliant on priests for the reception and transmission of all information. Later it came to refer to a body of men who were set apart by ordination for priestly, religious service to the Church. "Laity" comes from the Greek word laos meaning "people." When a distinction is made between clergy and laity, the relationship a believer shares in Christ is invalidated in actual practice. A large segment of Protestantism retains the clergy-laity distinction in some way in matters of church polity and government. Today Protestantism has practically rejected the biblical concept of the priesthood of the believer and has incorporated the program of the world system designed to channel the works of the flesh into areas of propriety.

Another adaptation of the clergy-laity concept is the practice of making the pastor or board of elders rulers over the local church. Such polity also places a group of men or an individual above the rest of the church. Some feel that individual Christians are not capable of making Spirit-led decisions for the church and so leaders or a leader must make the decisions for them. In order to justify such a position, it is necessary to play apostle by applying the principles that applied only to the apostles to the leadership of the contemporary church. Actually, the church has rulers or a board of rulers over lesser subjects. Such an arrangement appeals to human appetites for having authority over others and to their personal pride, for there is no biblical authority for such practice. It also tends to eradicate the importance of the priesthood of all believers.

The Problem of Pastor-Dictator

If the Church has a priesthood, the pastor, who acts as a dictator, is assuming priestly priorities. He stands as a priest who dictates decisions for the whole congregation. It is necessary to discuss this area of church polity because many believers have been disenfranchised from priestly privilege and practice by pastors who insist that it is their right and responsibility to make all the decisions for the church. It is true that Scripture clearly distinguishes between the man who holds the office of bishop and the congregation. He has the responsibility for the spiritual leadership but not the physical leadership. He is simply one of the sheep God has permitted to be an undershepherd. He remains a sheep. He is a priest just like every other believer in the congregation. Those who are dictators are often the most vocal concerning their faith in the Word of God. Yet, in practice, they reject a major part of the revelation of Scripture. His "call" to preach is reinforced by his ordination making him the final authority for the local church. After all, if Christ is the Head of the Church Universal, then the pastor must be the head of the local church. When a man holds the office with this much authority, the church is no longer a priesthood but has a priesthood. Several consequential problems are the result of the pastor-dictator condition.

Demanded Subordination. Through his preaching and administration, the pastor-dictator expects subordination on the part of the church. Because he preaches something, he is confident that it is authoritative. As a believer-priest, every Christian has the responsibility to search the Scriptures and to see if what has been preached is true. The only authority the believer should have for believing anything is the authority that comes from God and His Word in spiritual matters. A pastor should never be threatened by truth. If he is inaccurate, he must be willing to admit his error and correct it. The only true authority the pastor has is in the presentation of the written Word of God. Any deviation from a Scriptural message is his own conclusion or conviction and cannot be authoritative. Believers should search the Scriptures to determine whether what has been said to them is presented in Scripture. Many pastor-dictators are confident that their education is so much better than that of the people in the church that no one should question their authority. In some churches, there are people who know their Bibles better than their pastors. As a result, the dictatorial pastors are threatened and attempt to remove the threat. Every Christian has the potential to learn the Bible by submitting to God's authority rather than that of man. A pastor is not to lord it over God's heritage but is to lead by example (1 Pe. 5:3).

Dictated Policy. The world system has invaded the Church with big ideas. The latest seminar or conference can bring radical changes in policy for the local church. Some men actually flaunt the constitution of the church, a legal document, for their own personal objectives. A pastor-dictator will establish a policy and the people will respond because of his authority rather than love for the Lord. It is sad to say that too many men are not equipped to evaluate their own ideas accurately and those of others from Scripture. From their perspective, Scripture just isn't practical enough to meet the needs of a modern world. Some believe that the archaic methods and provisions of Scripture are not sufficient for dealing with the new trends in a technological society.

Decision Making. Who makes the decision in the church -- the pastor or the people? Exactly what business comes before the church for action? Who decided to buy the furnace? Who decided to paint the auditorium daffodil yellow? Who changed the time of the evening service from 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.? The church has the responsibility for these kinds of decisions. If the pastor has made the decision, he has violated the authority that Scripture has given to the local church. Too many churches have poor reputations in the community because of ill-advised pastoral decisions that should have been handled by the church. The church does not decide what the man is to preach, because the Spirit of God must lead him in that matter and that is his sphere of authority as the holder of the office. The church determines its time and place for meeting (1 Cor. 11:17, 18), time and place for the Lord's table (1 Cor. 11:20, 25, 26), physical details in the ministry of the church, its officers, its messengers as representatives (1 Cor. 16:3, 4), its own missionaries (Ac. 13:1-3), and the discipline and exclusion of members (1 Cor. 5:4, 7). The pastor's areas of authority are to compliment and help the sphere of the church's authority. He is to guide it toward spiritual objectives he has set (Heb. 13:7), preach what he believes the Holy Spirit has led him to preach (2 Tim. 4:2), to have the oversight that Scripture is taught and the Gospel is preached (1 Pe. 5:1-4), to lead by example (1 Pe. 5:3; 1 Tim. 4:12) and to warn the church of spiritual danger. Scripture gives the pastor authority that comes with the office in specific spiritual areas, but he is not to usurp the authority given to the church.

Accountability. Every believer-priest is accountable directly to God and not to the pastor. A pastor-dictator forces the Christian to be accountable to the pastor, a man, before he is accountable to God. As each member does something in the church, the pastordictator ultimately determines whether the activity is acceptable to God or not. There is no room for compromise, for his will is considered to be God's will. He stands as a priest over the people. In most cases, the pastor is not accountable to anyone. He finds it easy to say he is accountable to God, yet his own concepts of the Christian life prevent him from knowing in actuality the will of God for his own personal life aside from knowing the will of God for anyone else.

Domination by a Man and His Gift. If the pastor dictates all the decisions of the church, he dominates every other believer in the church. The congregation is deprived of any role in the decisionmaking process. Young people in the church are convinced that one spiritual gift is far more important than other gifts. Sincere, young men train for the pastorate because they see the power their own pastor has, regardless of the spiritual gift they possess. All spiritual gifts are equally important and in practice a man who holds the office of bishop or overseer should be no more important than individual believers with other gifts. A believer's spiritual gift is his specialization as a believer-priest. Scripture is clear that the man who holds the office of bishop must possess the pastor-teacher gift (Ac. 20:28; 1 Pe. 5:1-3; 1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:9). Abuse of the teaching of Scripture will only deprive the people of the potential for serving the Lord in the New Testament pattern.

The Implications for Congregational Church Government

Religious tradition dictates against congregational church government. Inherently, man has always wanted someone to do all the work and make all the decisions. A priesthood or clerical system was designed to provide men who were holier than the rest of the people. These would have a better potential for knowing God and communicating with God than the people. The sinner felt incapable of approaching God personally because his own sin prevented God from accepting him. Hence, it was necessary for a qualified individual to intervene on his behalf. An individual, who was saved out of the world religious systems, naturally accepted the need for a priest or clergyman over the people. One of the great anomalies of true Christianity is that the Church doesn't have a priesthood, but it is a priesthood. One of the first things a missionary should communicate to the new convert is his role as a believer-priest. Unless he was a priest in his old religious system, the uniqueness of his priestly role in Christ will be a special blessing to him. Every believer is a priest and has direct access to God.

God did not design the priesthood of the believer out of religious necessity. He was not influenced by the priestly systems of the world system or by the Levitical priesthood. He designed the Aaronic priesthood for similar purposes as those of the religions of the world system. It was designed to channel the sin nature of the Israelites into realms that were acceptable to God. He provided New Testament believers with a totally new type of priesthood in contrast to the Aaronic priesthood. The Church is a priesthood. Since every believer is a priest, he should have an equal, active role in the government of the church. Congregational church government is built upon the reality of the priesthood of all believers. When the involvement of every believer is prohibited, the church ceases to be a New Testament church and becomes a business run by a board or a corporate head. Congregational polity emphasizes the practical implications of the priesthood of the believer with each believer sharing responsibilities for the operation of the church.

One Man -- One Vote. In matters of church business, congregational government emphasizes one man - one vote. In this way, the government of the church should be a pure democracy. The pastor has the same voting power as any other member -- no more and no less. Decisions of the majority are the decisions of the church. The vote of a Ph.D. will be cast alongside that of a person of limited education with both votes carrying equal weight. Each person is to vote in the way that he as a believer-priest believes that God would have him vote. No one has veto power over the majority decision. Some have questioned the competency of particular believers in their vote, but the equality within the priesthood will permit all who are in good standing to cast the ballot. One must remember that the wealthy man should have no more influence than the most impoverished saint in the church business meeting. It is true that at times the congregational process is cumbersome, but the participation of all believers is essential for the church to carry on in the New Testament manner. Otherwise it ceases to be a New Testament church.

Active Involvement. Congregational government encourages the active involvement of all the members in the work of the church. If the business of the church is handled in an orderly fashion, each vote cast should openly identify the member with the decisions and work of the church. If the member votes for a visitation program, he has the responsibility to support the program either by active participation or by direct encouragement. If he votes for painting the church building, he should plan to dig out his painting equipment so he can participate. When the congregation makes the decisions for the church, there should be a greater participation by the members of the congregation. If someone else makes the decisions, saints are reluctant to participate in accomplishing the task. Congregational government should improve the individual participation of each believer-priest.

Mandatory Adjustment of the Roles. Since the Church is a priesthood, the local church should consistently purge its rolls of members who are no longer active in the meetings and support of the church. People who profess to be believer-priests should be active in their attendance and participation. Members, who are inactive, should be disenfranchised from the right to vote and then be removed from membership if they persist in avoiding the work of the church. As a result, the priesthood of the believer is most effective. The active members have the privilege of exercising priestly responsibilities in the vote. Some churches have neglected to maintain an active roll; and when consequential decisions are to be made, inactive members suddenly make an appearance and invalidate the will of the active members who are attempting to serve the Lord as believer-priests in the business of the local church. The local church has the right to regulate its own membership by purging the rolls so that the serious Christian can be assured that he can practice his priesthood in the local church without external interference.

The Church does not have a priesthood, it is a priesthood. This statement summarizes the whole New Testament teaching of the priesthood of the believer. Every individual in the Body of Christ is a priest. Every single grace believer is a believer-priest. When the believer understands his role as a believer-priest, he will have absolute confidence in his God in his activity and in his communication. There should be no reluctance to be involved in the service, sacrifices and specialization within the priesthood. In order to understand the significance of priestly activity, one must learn exactly what a priest is from a biblical perspective.


Chapter 2: What Is a Priest?


A Priest Is a Priest

When the word "priest" is used, a wide assortment of concepts may cross the mind. In the Old Testament, the word "priest" has very clear meanings concerning practice. The New Testament word is based on the place of priestly activity rather than practice. It is easy to say "A priest is a priest," but what exactly is involved? The very idea of priesthood usually has the idea of representation. The priest was the representative of God to man and of man to God. He stood between God and man. In the religions of the world, men recognized that their acts of unrighteousness would have a direct influence upon their relationship to deity. As a result, they attempted to find men who were holier than they were to intervene on their behalf with their god or gods. The priests were trained to mediate for the people in all their religious obligations appeasing deity where appeasement was necessary and pleasing deity where pleasure was necessary. A priest normally was a person who had a greater degree of access to deity than the majority of the population. He simply performed religious functions from a position considered acceptable to his god or gods.

The English word "priest" evidently finds its origin in the Greek word presbuteros (elder) or the Latin presbyter. By 375 A.D., the presbyter had become a synonym for sacardos that was the general Latin term used for the Greek hiereus meaning "priest" or "temple worker." Because of the wide divergence of usage and meaning, "priest" has become a rather nebulous term. It came to have the idea of one who presided over religious services and activities, having mystical authority with God.

Scripture is not ambiguous in its words describing the priest and his activity in either the Old or New Testaments. The Old Testament Jews understood the special position of a priest.

The Old Testament Concept of Priesthood

"Priest" is an extremely important Old Testament word in that it occurs 750 times in the text. Every Israelite had a clear understanding of what a priest was by his duties in the tabernacle and temple. His duties were very much distinct from those of the rest of the Levites who also served in the religious activities of the temple. Levites, of any other family than Aaron's, did not have the privilege of offering sacrifices to Jehovah. "The Levites the priests" is a common description of Aaron's sons and their offspring. The priests were considered mediators in Levitical service.

The Derivation of "Priest." The derivation of the word translated "priest" in the Old Testament is highly in doubt. cohen has been given several concepts depending on the Hebrew root from which it is derived. Some scholars relate it to the root coon that has the idea of standing firmly before someone or something or being established before someone. If this is the true root, "priest" would designate one that stands before another in a mediatorial position. Others have accepted the same root and give it the idea of making ready, tying it to Isaiah 61:6. Other scholars relate the form to the root qahrav that describes a drawing near. In other words, the priest was the one who drew near to God. nahgash is employed of priestly types of activity in Exodus 19:22 and 30:20 by having drawn near to the divine presence, but it is highly unlikely that it relates directly to the cohen meaning. The three radicals in their arrangement are strong radicals within themselves and do not easily find their sources in other Hebrew words.

The Definition of "Priest." Every lexicon will define cohen as "priest." Such a definition is helpful for translation but is very limited for determining actual meaning. The Jewish Masoretes, who provided the vowel pointing of the Hebrew text, considered cohen to be a description of a persistent activity of the participants because they pointed the vowel form as a present active participle. The continuous action of their service is emphasized by the participle. The Levites were considered assistants for the priests in "all service of the tabernacle (Num. 18:4)." Without a priest, there was no mediatorial authority for access to deity. The priest was the one who actually used the tabernacle and temple implements in the performance of service to God. They were the workmen who did the actual work for themselves and the nation before Jehovah. Hence, a priest was a person who performed service for the nation before Jehovah designed to maintain an acceptable relationship between Jehovah, the individual and the nation. He was the one who was characterized by his active service to be a priest. In other words, he was a priest by what he was permitted to do and by his actual involvement with the task.

The Distinction Between Priests and Levites. All priests were Levites but not all Levites were priests. The whole tribe of Levi was given general responsibilities as a tribe without an inheritance. Evidently, the Levites assisted the high priest in communicating the Law and its proper application to the people of the nation. Aaron and his sons had been given the task as their duty (Lev. 10:10, 11). Levi, as a tribe, could provide judges and officers to judge the people with a righteous judgment along with the other tribes (Deut. 17:18; 31:9, 26). The Levites were the caretakers of the written Law (Deut. 31:9-13). Their specific service, in relationship to the tabernacle, was divided between the three sons of Levi: Kohath, Gershon and Merari while Aaron and his sons were involved as high priest and priests. Eleazar, the son of Aaron, was the general supervisor of all the Levites. "And the chief of the chiefs of the Levites was Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, the one who had oversight of the ones who were keeping the guard of the sanctuary (Num. 3:32)." The Levites were set apart as substitutes for the firstborn that were required by God as a result of the Passover (Num. 3:12; 8:16). They were given to Aaron and his sons. "Cause the tribe of Levi to come near and cause it to stand before Aaron the priest, and they will serve as temple servants unto him, and they will guard his charge and the charge of all the congregation before the tent of meeting, to serve the service of the tabernacle; and they will guard all the vessels of the tent of meeting and the charge of the sons of Israel, to serve the service of the tabernacle; and you will give the Levites to Aaron and to his sons; they are continually, absolutely given to him from the sons of Israel (Num. 3:6-9)." The Aaronic priests were in charge and the Levites were in temple servitude.

The duties of the Levites distinctly involved the care, service (ahvodah) and appropriate conscripted service (tsahvah) for the tabernacle or temple. The first term, ahvodah, describes the Levites as bondslaves in temple service. There was no way for them to change their status as servants in the work of Jehovah. In Numbers four, the word occurs 26 times describing Levitical activity, while the word tsahvah is found seven times in the chapter. The second term is employed to describe warfare and military service. It had the idea of absolute duty that was to be performed by virtue of one's position in life. It was most frequently used of military conscription by which the soldier had the responsibility to obey an officer to the death because he was a soldier. When the individual Levite was performing his duties for the tabernacle, he was under the orders of the priests. In the wilderness, they had responsibilities for the transportation and the protection of the tabernacle and its fixtures. They were responsible for all of the trivial but necessary details in addition to the major tasks for service to Jehovah by the priesthood. Korah's rebellion may have been a reaction to the menial duties given to him and his family as Levites by the sons of Aaron.

The Levites were to be a guard around the tabernacle to protect the sons of Israel from the anger of God. The charge is presented in Numbers one as a charge the Levites were to keep. "And the Levites will continue to encamp round about the tabernacle of the testimony, and there will not proceed to be anger upon the congregation of the sons of Israel and the Levites will guard [or keep] the charge of the tabernacle of the testimony (Num. 1:53)." They could only serve between the ages of 25 and 50. After age 50, a Levite was to continue to minister in the tent of meeting and to keep the charge; but he was no longer required to serve the service of the menial tasks required of the Levites (Num. 8:24-26).

Each of the three sons of Levi was assigned specific responsibilities for service in relation to the tabernacle (Num. 4). They were the transportation engineers, movers, assemblers, maintenance men and sanitation engineers for the tabernacle, while the priests performed the rituals. The Levites were support personnel and the priests were the stars.

Aaron had four sons; Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar (Ex. 6:23). He was a Kohathite. Nadab and Abihu died without offspring because they offered strange fire before Jehovah (Lev. 10:1-7). As a result, the priestly line was carried through Eleazar and Ithamar (Lev. 10:12).

The book of Leviticus was more the book of priestly service and legislation than instructions for Levitical activity. It was a manual telling Israel how to use the priesthood in order to please God and receive physical blessings in time. The Levites only had a subsidiary role in the required service. "Aaron and his sons" dominate the whole book as they offer the sacrifices for the people and officiate at the feasts of Jehovah. Every regulation collected in the book pivoted around priestly activity performed by Aaron and his sons. They were the interpreters of the Law and the implementers of it as Jehovah's primary persons for mediation.

The Old Testament concept of priesthood was that of a group of individuals who was acceptable and capable of approaching Jehovah for the individual or nation without being rejected by Jehovah. Mediation was necessary in the Old Testament priesthood. There was always some form of intervention for the individual whether it involved another person who was a priest or an animal that was sacrificed. Israel learned early that unqualified individuals died. A stranger [i.e. non-Levite] that came near was to be put to death (Num. 18:7). If a person came too close to the tabernacle, Jehovah could take the life Himself with fire. The priest had an elevated position in Israel because the priesthood was the only way for an Israelite to gain access to Jehovah. It would be a disaster for an offerer to bring a sacrifice and to have it refused by a priest who personally disliked the one who brought the offering. Inherently, the regulations for the sons of Aaron required an impartial participation in priestly service for the whole nation as long as the one using his service was qualified according to the regulations of the Law. The priests were responsible to make certain that civil authority implemented the penalties of the Law. Because of this, the priesthood had a great deal of civil authority as the various forms of government developed in Israel.

The New Testament Concept of Priesthood

The New Testament simplifies the idea of priesthood giving it a different concept than that carried by the Aaronic priesthood. While it is true that the Septuagint employs the same root in the Greek to translate the Hebrew cohen, it portrays its own unique description of a priesthood. The term can involve the same individuals who perform the same service as the Old Testament priests, but only the context will specifically identify those of whom it is used. In the New Testament and the Greek, the word directly describes temple service that was performed by divinely appointed individuals who were given access to God.

Its Derivation. All of the terms used of priestly service or activity of priests are derived from hieron that is the general word for temple. It is the Greek term that describes the temple and all its grounds. In referring to Herod's temple in Jerusalem, it describes the temple building with all its courts, storage areas, quarters and implements. The word naos is the Greek term used to describe the focal point of the temple, the holy of holies. This was the area to which only the high priest had access. Old Testament priests for the nation Israel were described as those who were involved in their relationship to the physical structure of the temple and to peculiar services in the temple. The Greek term was used of all kinds of priesthoods outside of the New Testament and several in the New Testament.

There are twelve terms that relate to priestly activity in the New Testament, all of which share the same root. These include persons who function in priestly roles, the priesthood as a whole, and specific elements of activity related to priestly service both positive and negative. The word hiereus "priest" is found 32 times in the New Testament. It is used of the priests who served in the Herodian temple under Law in Christ's day (15 times plus a textual problem in Lu. 20:1). The priest of Jupiter or Zeus is described by the term in Acts 14:13. Hebrews describes the Aaronic priesthood with it (7:21, 23; 9:6, 10:11) as well as the Melchisdecian (7:1, 3) or Christ's priesthood (7:11, 15, 17, 21; 8:4; 10:21). In Revelation 1:6 and 5:10, it refers to grace believer-priests, while Revelation 20:6 describes a group of tribulation saints who will be priests in the future and reign with Christ a thousand years. Hierateuma describes the priesthood of the grace believer in 1 Peter 2:5, 9 and never describes the Aaronic priesthood in the New Testament. It has a -ma suffix that describes the result of an action. Because of the work of Christ, the Father brought the priesthood into existence as a part of the believer's being in Christ. Hierateia describes the priestly office serving in the Herodian temple (Lu. 1:9) and the Levitical priesthood (Heb. 7:5). The -ia ending has the idea of quality and so describes the priestly quality of the position being translated "priest's office" in the A.V. Hierosune is a name describing the quality of priesthood (Heb. 7:11, 12) and Christ's priesthood (Heb. 7:14, 24). Hieros is a neuter noun that is found twice in the text of the New Testament. It describes things that pertain to temple or priestly service. It is used with reference to the Aaronic priests (1 Cor. 9:13) and the Old Testament things written [i.e. Scriptures] that Timothy had learned (2 Tim. 3:15). Hieroprepes is a compound noun that is translated "becometh holiness" in the A.V. In Titus 2:3, the older women are encouraged to have a behavior that is proper and fitting for temple service. The word "temple" is combined with a verb that means "to be fit, proper or becoming."

Two verbs are found built upon the temple root. Hierateuo describes the activity of a priest in the Herodian temple in its single occurrence (Lu. 1:8). Hierourgeo is translated "minister" in its single occurrence by the A.V. (Rom. 15:16). It is a compound word that literally means "to be working in temple-like activities." Some translate the term "sacrifice," but sacrifice is only a part of the significance of the term.

There are two negative terms found in Scripture that involve the word "temple." They are a noun and a verb that both compound "temple" with sulao that means "to rob or strip." The noun hierosulos is translated "robbers of churches" in Acts 19:37. In Romans 2:22, the verb is translated "commit sacrilege" in the A. V. referring to the believer's involvement with idolatry.

The most common word that relates to priestly service in the New Testament is the word archiereus, "high priest" [singular] or "chief priests" [plural]. The word "priest" is combined with arche that means "chief, first or primary." It is found 123 times in the New Testament predominantly in the Gospels and Acts of individuals involved in the service of the temple in Jerusalem. In Hebrews, it refers to the Aaronic high priest (5:1; 7:27, 28, 8:3; 9:7; 25; 13:11 and Christ's high priesthood (2:17; 3:1; 4:14, 15; 5:1, 5; 6:20; 7:26; 8:1, 3; 9:11). A neuter noun of the same combination is found in Ac. 4:6 where it refers to the relatives of the Herodian high priest, Annas. A large portion of the material referring to the priesthood in the New Testament refers to the Aaronic priesthood in its functions from Aaron into the apostolic era until the destruction of the Herodian temple in 70 A.D. It is absolutely essential for one to observe the context to determine which priesthood is involved in order to discover what the author is discussing. With a focus upon a temple-like service or activity, the New Testament word has a wide diversity of uses.

Definition. A believer who examines most lexicons and dictionaries will come to the conclusion that a priest is a priest. At least, one discovers that a priest is an individual who does things that priests do such as offer sacrifices. If a priest is a priest who acts like a priest, there is no definition given as to what a priest really is. The New Testament term simply refers to a person who is clearly identified with a temple and its services. In a general New Testament sense, a priest is a person who has been chosen by God to approach God with sacrifices and services that, when offered by a qualified individual, bring pleasure to God. This definition can apply to any priesthood that would be described by the Greek term. It is impossible to be more specific because Scripture itself is not specific in its use of the terms.

Terms that perpetually are incorporated in general definitions are mediator, representative, atonement and intercessor. It is true that under Law the priesthood was directly involved in all of these activities but that was not necessarily true of every priesthood. There is no indication that any of these terms described Melchisedec and his priesthood in the Old Testament. Without question, "intercessor" is only used of the priesthood of grace believers. Christ's work as the Heavenly High Priest took care of the other three concepts for the grace believer. Christ alone is the mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5). Christ stands as the representative of the believer. His sacrifice and His present intercession, that keeps the believer saved, are activities of the believer's Representative. Christ's cross work brought perfect, permanent satisfaction to God the Father concerning the sins of mankind as well as all other forms of unrighteousness. One must make a distinction between the basic concept of priesthood and the better concepts of priesthood in Christ.

The Distinctiveness of the Definition. The common idea in all priesthoods is the right to approach deity. That was the key factor that distinguished the priest from the normal individual. He was in a position where approach to deity was considered possible. Certainly there were times when the priest was in no condition to approach even though he was actively functioning as a priest. Because he had the right to approach, it was assumed that he had access. How close he could approach made little difference. What was important was that he believed that he had the ability to approach deity. He may have considered the deity to be a great distance away or very near. As religion developed, the priesthood became more effective with the construction of temples designed to house gods or their representations. Approach and access were much more easily understood by the hoi poloi when a house of the deity was present. As priestly activity was more thoroughly developed, approach involved extensive ritual performed by priests. The idea of access was clearly presented in the Mosaic Law and Aaronic priesthood. The tabernacle or temple was the residence of the glory of Jehovah Himself. A visible manifestation of Jehovah's glory had accompanied Israel through the wilderness until they reached Canaan. Procedures for access were clearly established within the Law.

Mediation, representation, atonement and intercession all were involved in the priest's access in the Old Testament. He mediated for the offerer. He stood between the individual and his God. The high priest acted as the representative for his own family and the whole nation. On the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) he was the only representative of the nation before Jehovah in that one event for the whole year. Under Law, the priest was necessary for there to be an atonement or covering. There was no covering for unrighteousness if the priest did not make an offering for the individual. Only the priest could communicate with God as the intercessor for the other Israelites. Hence, the Levitical priests were involved in a mediatorial ministry by which the people were drawn near to God.

Priesthood under Law always involved mediation. Because of this, the Old Testament definition of priesthood is distinct from the New Testament concept in the matter of specific ministries performed by the priests. When a nation or a people have a priesthood, it is always mediatorial with the priestly minority standing for the majority. The priests have the right of approach while the rest of the people are unqualified to approach deity. Law provided Israel with a priesthood that mediated for the nation. Under Law, the priests were those who possessed limited access to Jehovah through whom and through whose ministry the people were drawn near to God as a result of their sacrificing and service. The high priest represented both priest and people, having a nearer access to God than did the rest of the priests. The priesthood of the grace believer is a priesthood that has the right of approach or access. The priesthood is not involved in mediatorial activity nor is it acting as a representative or involved in covering any sins. Christ, the High Priest, has once and for all dealt with these areas as a result of His cross work. All mediation is accomplished. The Christian's High Priest is ascended as representative and has taken His blood and sprinkled it on the heavenly altar. The New Testament definition of believer-priest is much more simple. The believer-priest is one who has direct access to God and who has the privilege of service and sacrifice that can be acceptable to God in Christ.

The distinctiveness of the priesthoods is extremely important. Any confusion between the Aaronic priesthood of the Mosaic Law and the priesthood of the grace believer will only lead to confusion in practice. The following chart clearly gives the basic distinctions between the two priesthoods. This overview will provide a pivot point for the development of material in the following chapters. The chart shows the obvious differences between the two priesthoods from the perspective of the individual priest in each priesthood. The contrasts emphasize the great privilege the grace believer has being in the priesthood of the believer. One must be impressed with the contrast that is obvious between physical service and spiritual service. Because the grace believer has direct access to the third heaven, his priestly privilege is much more important to him. There should be no reluctance to take an active part in the priesthood. The believer is a part of the priesthood by the grace of God and is sustained in the priesthood by this same grace. A message that will be repeated frequently is that only a spiritual grace believer can actually participate in the blessings of priestly service to God.

Another factor that is evident is the fact that the Aaronic priesthood wholly dealt with matters on a physical plane while the grace believer-priest is involved with spiritual matters. The focus of Aaronic service was on accomplishing what was necessary for physical blessing for Israel here on earth. The grace believer-priest is seated and has his politics in the heavenlies. He does not have spatial limitations as did the Aaronic priest. There was only so much room on the brazen altar for physical sacrifices. Because the Christian offers spiritual sacrifices in heaven, multiple sacrifices can be offered without need for space at a specific location at an appointed time. When one compares the two priesthoods, contrasts are far more important than any similarities.


Comparison of Law and Grace Chart



 Old Testament Priesthood               New Testament Priesthood 
  Under the Mosaic Law                    Of Grace Believers

 1. By Physical Birth                   1. By Spirit Baptism
    -- one Tribe (Levi)                    -- One Body (of Christ) 
    -- one Family (Aaron)                  -- One Possession
 2. Limited Service                     2. Unlimited Service
 3. Limited Location                    3. Unlimited Places 
    (Tabernacle or temple)                 (Anywhere/heavenly)
 4. Sanctification Required             4. Sanctification Required
    -- Positional (Priesthood)             -- Position (Body of Christ) 
    -- Continual Activity                  -- Progressive
 5. Physical Sacrifices                 5. Spiritual Sacrifices
 6. Earthly High Priest (Mortal)        6. Heavenly High Priest (Immortal)
 7. Intercessors and Mediators          7. Intercessors but not Mediators
 8. Position for Physical Lifetime      8. Position for Time in Body of 
                                           Christ
 9. Males Exclusively                   9. Males and Females Equally
10. Multiple Sacrifices for            10. One Sacrifice for All 
    Unrighteousness                        Unrighteousness
11. No Potential for Spiritual         11. Potential for Spiritual 
    Maturity                               Maturity
12. National Service                   12. Individual Service
13. Included Believers and             13.  Includes only Believers
    Unbelievers
14. Earthly Service                    14. Counted as Heavenly Service
15. Physical Imperfection              15. Spiritual Carnality 
    Prevents Service                       Prevents Acceptable Service
16. Purification Required to Serve     16. Purification Required to Serve
    -- Permanent                           -- Positional 
    -- Partial                             -- Practical


The Requirements for a Priest

It is important to see the basic requirements for entering into the Aaronic priesthood and for functioning in Old Testament priestly activity. Some priests did not qualify for service but were still given the priestly stipend (Lev. 21:17-23). In Exodus, the details were given for the construction of the tabernacle (Ex. 25-27) before the establishing of the priesthood (Ex. 28-29). Exodus 28:1, 4, and 29:1 simply says that Aaron and his sons were to be acting as priests with no indication of their duties or requirements for service. In the rebellion of Korah, there is a very clear description of the responsibilities expected for a son of Aaron to be a priest. In Numbers 16:5 there were three requirements for legitimate priests: they were to belong to Jehovah, be holy and have access. Man did not establish these criteria for priestly service. God gave them and soon verified them. They belonged to him as a personal possession ["his" A.V.]. They belonged to Jehovah by His sovereign choice. The priesthood was to be a priesthood of divinely chosen ones (cf. Ex. 29:7). The same is true of the believer-priest. God chose him to be a priest as a part of his salvation. God's choice is strictly based in His desirous and determinative wills. Every priest belongs to God in the biblical sense. Israel was a chosen nation (Deut. 4:37; 7:6, 7; 14:2). Israel was a chosen people who were to offer sacrifices in a chosen place (Deut. 12:5, 11, 14, 18, 21, 26; 16:16) by a chosen priesthood (Num. 16:5, 7). The Church is also a chosen priesthood (1 Cor. 1:27, 28; Eph. 1:4; Jas. 2:5) and meets the first requirement. In relationship to the priesthood of grace believers, Christ has been chosen as a living stone that is the chief corner stone and very valuable (1 Pe. 2:4, 6). The Church is a chosen race that is a kingly priesthood (1 Pe. 2:9). God chooses the ones He desires to be in His priesthood. Men may contrive various priesthoods, but they are of no value because God does not count their activities as being acceptable priestly activities of true priests. Without divine recognition, any priesthood organized toward God is an exercise in futility. God sovereignly established the priesthood and sovereignly selects those who will be priests in the priesthood making it possible for the services and sacrifices of the priesthood to be acceptable to Him, if presented by priests conforming to Divine conditions.

The second criterion for a priesthood was that the priesthood be a holy priesthood (Num. 16:5, 7). A priesthood was a group of men set apart to God for His Service. A great deal could be said about the holiness expected of the Aaronic priesthood. Even before Aaron and his sons were set apart as priests, there was some form of priesthood. At Sinai, those who were acting as priests were to make themselves holy for Jehovah so that He would not burst forth on them (Ex. 19:22 Heb.). Not even the priests who had sanctified themselves were to touch the mountain for fear of prospective death (Ex. 19:24). Special garments were unique, setting apart the high priest (Ex. 28:2-5). In Exodus 29, there is a detailed ceremony given for the consecration or setting apart of the Aaronic priesthood. "And this is the thing [or word] that you will proceed to do to them to set them apart, to be acting as priests for me ... (Ex. 29:1)." Every part of the sanctifying process involved the priests or their place of service. They were set apart as were their clothes, the tabernacle and the altar. Leviticus eight gives additional details of the consecration of the priests. The priests were not to pervert the divine standards for holiness. When Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, offered strange fire before Jehovah (Lev. 10:1 cf. Ex. 30:9), it was an open affront to Jehovah. As a result, Jehovah sent out fire that devoured them so they died before Jehovah. "Then Moses proceeded to say unto Aaron: That is what Jehovah spoke saying; By the ones coming near to me, I will proceed to be sanctified [or set apart], and before all the people I will proceed to be glorified; then Aaron came to be silent (Lev. 10:3)." Priestly holiness involved ceremonial holiness as well as the holiness of the priestly position. "For I am Jehovah your God; and you will sanctify yourselves and you will be holy ones; for I am holy; and you will not make your souls unclean by any creeping thing that is moving upon the earth (Lev. 11:44)." The Levites were to be set apart as well because of the events of the Passover. "For each firstborn one is for me among the sons of Israel, among man and beast [sing.] in the day that I caused all the firstborn in the land of Egypt to be smitten, I have caused them to be sanctified for me. And I will proceed to take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the sons of Israel (Num. 8:17, 18 cf. Ex. 13:2; Num. 3:13)." Those who worked about the temple and tabernacle were sanctified as well as the priests.

Because the grace believer is in the Body of Christ, he is a saint (Phil. 1:1) and possesses positional sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30). The grace believer is to be practicing sanctification in his daily life (1 Pe. 1:15, 16). The believer is a part of a holy priesthood (1 Pe. 2:5) and a holy nation (1 Pe. 2:9). Both priesthoods have varying degrees of holiness.

The third criterion mentioned in Numbers 16:5 is that the priest was one who would be caused to come near to God. At Sinai, those who were acting as priests were the ones who came near (nahgash) to God (Ex. 19:22). Jehovah was the one who brought the Aaronic priests near [note the use of the waw consecutive in Num. 16:5]. No one but Aaron's seed could come near without being put to death (Num. 3:10). The bringing of an offering was considered to be a coming near, qahrav (Lev. 1:2, 3, 10; 2:1, 4, 11, 12, 13, etc.). Aaron and his sons had access that was not available to any other Israelite.

The grace believer has direct access that is much closer than that of the Aaronic priesthood. When the grace believer comes near to God, he is effectively using his position in Christ. He can be no nearer to God the Father than he is in Christ (Eph. 2:13). He is seen as seated at God the Fathers own right hand (Eph. 2:6) so that his priestly service and sacrifices are accepted by God the Father as though they were given by Christ Himself. The believer is positionally seated in the holy of holies while Aaron could not even see the holy of holies in the tabernacle under Law because of the required cloud of heavy smoke.

Any priest of God in the Bible was expected to meet the three criteria. They were chosen by God, set apart to God and were allowed to come near to God. This was true from the very beginning of priestly activity directed to God. If God did not choose to accept the sacrifices of an individual, it was absolutely worthless. If God considered a person unqualified, anything he attempted to do to please God was wasted activity. A person could try as hard as he could but would never have access to God. When someone has a priesthood, by necessity it is mediatorial, even though the priesthood itself may have access to God. When someone is a priest, he has the right of direct access. What is a priesthood? It is a select group of individuals set apart to God for the purpose of coming near to God with sacrifices and service. The development of the Aaronic priesthood resulted from Israel's lack of faith. Israel, as a nation, was offered the opportunity to become a priesthood but rejected the offer. As a result, they were given a priesthood.


Chapter 3: Did Israel Become a Priesthood?


Did Israel become a Priesthood? To some it seems to be a ridiculous question. Everyone knows that the sons of Aaron were the priests for Israel. Unfortunately, such a statement is an oversimplification because God clearly, legitimately offered Israel the opportunity to become a priesthood. Their response was that they would be willing to be a priesthood if they could do something to earn it. What God had offered freely, by grace, was something that the whole nation wanted to purchase by their own works.

The Communication of the Promise

"You saw what I did to the Egyptians, and I proceeded to lift you upon eagles' wings, and I proceeded to bring you unto me, and now if you should really hearken [i.e. listen and respond] to [lit. in] my voice, and you will guard [or keep] my covenant, then you will be for me a personal possession from all the peoples, for all the earth belongs to me. And you will proceed to be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy [or set apart] nation ... (Ex. 19:4-6a)." Israel had arrived at Sinai and had encamped there after their escape and journey from Egypt. Moses had returned to the mountain of God, Horeb or Sinai (cf. Ex. 3:1) where he had spoken with the Angel of Jehovah in the events of his burning bush experience. Moses went up into the mountain and there Jehovah gave him the message to be delivered to the sons of Israel. It was a simple and forthright message -- God had manifested His power to Israel and if they would listen to what He had to say and guard or keep His covenant, they would have the potential for being a priesthood.

The Chronicles of the Exodus. God made it clear to Israel that their arrival at Sinai was not the result of chance. There should have been no need for Jehovah to remind Israel of His power, for they had been eyewitnesses to the open exhibition of His power. He gave Moses a three-phase review of the events of the Exodus that Moses, in turn, was to share with Israel. The first thing Jehovah did in His communication with the nation was to review immediate history.

The Eyewitnesses to the Power of God. God reminded Israel that they were the eyewitnesses to His power. Using an emphatic personal pronoun, Jehovah strongly affirmed that they had seen with their own eyes what He had done to the Egyptians. They had not only been eyewitnesses to the ten plagues but also had seen the devastation of Pharaoh's army at the Red Sea. They had observed the superiority of Jehovah over all the deities of Egypt. Israel had lived in Egypt 400 years and was well acquainted with the ancient, sophisticated pantheon of Egyptian gods. They had seen Jehovah confront each of the major deities and soundly defeat each one. The primary reason for the ten plagues was to reaffirm Jehovah's superiority over every other deity rather than just to deliver Israel from Egypt. Israel had been without any direct influence from Jehovah for the whole 400 years. They needed to be taught that Jehovah, the God of their fathers, was the one, true God. Had not Jehovah hardened Pharaoh's heart, the Israelites would have left Egypt with only minimal, if any, resistance from Pharaoh. Jehovah of Israel was the all-powerful God. What had Israel seen? A survey of the plagues will demonstrate the open manifestation of Divine power over the gods of Egypt. The first plague openly confronted the River Nile as well as other water sources in Egypt by turning the water to blood (Ex. 7:14-15). The Nile itself had been worshipped as well as its fish and crocodiles. Hadi was the god of the Nile who often took on the form of a crocodile. "Egypt is the Nile." The importance of the Nile to Egypt has continued to be central throughout history. Jehovah turned all of the water of the Nile to blood. He exhibited His superiority over all the deities involved with the Nile. The second plague was the plague of frogs (Ex. 8:1-15). Frogs appeared everywhere. The Egyptian goddess Hekt was represented as having the head of a frog. The frog was one of the sacred animals of Egypt that could not be killed in the land of Egypt. Hekt was the wife of the god Khnum and was the goddess of fertility and resurrection. The third plague was the plague of the lice or gnats (Ex. 8:16-19). When Aaron smote the dust of Egypt, it all turned into these biting, stinging little insects. These insects had a very painful sting. The Egyptians considered these insects to be polluters. If anyone was stung or bitten by one, he was unclean and his prayers would not be heard. The fourth plague involved great swarms of flies or beetles (Ex. 8:20-32). Generally, the flies are identified with the disease carrying dog fly. This fly was directly related to the Egyptian god Uatchit. The fifth plague was the plague of murrain (Ex. 9:1-7) that was a disease affecting all types of livestock. Many bulls were revered as deities in Egypt. The sacred bull, Apis, was found in many of the temples and given honorable burial in a sarcophagus. A cow represented the goddess of love and beauty, Hathor. In addition to these two, many other Egyptian deities were identified with species of livestock.

The sixth plague was the plague of boils (Ex. 9:8-12) that broke out all over the bodies of human beings. Egyptian deities involved in medicine or healing, including Serapis and Imhotep, were put to the test. The seventh plague involved hail and fire (Ex. 9:13-35). The hail was accompanied with thunder and lightning, and may have been accompanied with tornado-like winds. Men and beasts were killed as well as trees and crops. Jehovah had gained a victory over the deities that controlled the weather. The eighth plague was the plague of locusts (Ex. 10:1-20). The locusts destroyed all the vegetation that remained after the destruction by the hail and fire. The power of Jehovah was manifested in the size of the great swarm, because it covered the whole land of Egypt without reprieve, destroying all that was left. The ninth plague was the plague of darkness (Ex. 10:21-29) in which the land of Egypt was covered with a very thick darkness except for the land of Goshen where Israel lived. Jehovah gained a very clear victory over the sun god Re or Ra, who was one of the most important of the Egyptian deities. The darkness was also a confrontation with the moon and star deities of the Egyptians. The tenth plague was the death of the firstborn (Ex. 11:1-12:30). All the gods that preserved and maintained life were openly confronted and defeated. Human and animal firstborn were slain. In many cases, the land of Goshen was the only part of the whole nation that was spared from the plagues. Undoubtedly, the Israelites could see the power of Jehovah manifested as they left Goshen to work or to purchase goods. The power of the gods of Egypt was evident in the fact that the Egyptians magicians, who served the gods, could perform miraculous feats similar to those accomplished by Jehovah (plagues #1 -- Ex. 7:11, 17; #2 -- Ex. 8:7 and #3 -- Ex. 8:18), but they did not have the ability to rescind their miracles. Jehovah could not only bring a plague, but He could also terminate the plague. Israel should have known that Jehovah had sufficient power to care for them as they anticipated the journey and entry into Canaan.

Another thing that Jehovah did to the Egyptians was to destroy the army of Pharaoh at the Red Sea (Ex. 14:23-31). Jehovah's power was not only manifested in opening the waters of the sea but also in closing the waters and destroying the Egyptian army. The whole of Pharaoh's army was destroyed while Israel stood on the banks and witnessed the power of God in action. "Then Jehovah proceeded to cause Israel to be saved in that day from the hand of the Egyptians, then Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the shore [lit. lip] of the sea. Then Israel proceeded to see the great hand [or power] that Jehovah had worked [or done] against the Egyptians; then the people proceeded to fear Jehovah, then they believed in Jehovah and in Moses His servant (Ex. 14:30, 31)." It is clear that Israel was an eyewitness to the manifestation of Divine power both in the plagues and in the drowning of the Egyptian army. At the Red Sea, they believed Jehovah because of the manifestation of power. At Sinai, they had opportunity to believe God; but rather than exercise faith, they were determined to do something to gain what He had already promised.

The Ease of Departure. The second review for Israel was the manner of their departure. In spite of all of Israel's complaining, Jehovah had made their departure easy. Truly, He had borne them on eagles' wings (Ex. 19:4) and had given them the opportunity to fly on their own by faith in the realm of the land promises to Abraham. When Israel left Egypt, they possessed a substantial portion of the individual wealth of Egypt (Ex. 11:2; 12:35, 36; 3:22). "They emptied out [or spoiled] the Egyptians (Ex. 12:36b)." God had provided the pillar of cloud and fire to guide the Israelites (Ex. 13:21, 22). The bones of Joseph, that they carded, were a testimony to the fact that he believed that Israel would receive the land promised to father Abraham more than 600 years earlier. God had opened the waters of the Red Sea miraculously giving them easy passage (Ex. 14:21, 22). He destroyed their Egyptian pursuers. In spite of their murmuring, He had provided food and water for more than three million people in the desert. In spite of their lack of faith in Jehovah, He had supplied all their needs. They were given a freedom to contemplate the promises made to Abraham and to believe God in His provision through the promises.

The Encampment at Sinai. God had caused Israel to come to Himself (Ex. 19:4) at Sinai. Moses had previously met the Angel of Jehovah there and He had sent Moses back to Egypt to deliver Israel from the bondage of Egypt. Moses, undoubtedly, had expected to lead the nation directly to the land covenanted for Israel because of Jehovah's purpose expressed at the burning bush (Ex. 3:8). Instead, Jehovah led the people back to Sinai where He would either reaffirm the covenants made with Abraham or make a new covenant with Israel as a nation. He brought them to Sinai to prepare them for the possession of the Promised Land. There He made Israel an offer that they could refuse, and they refused to accept it.

The Conditions of the Offer. There were two conditions given to Israel in order for them to become a priesthood as a nation. By faith, they were expected to listen and respond to Jehovah's voice and keep His covenant.

The Response to Jehovah. Obedience to Jehovah was the essential response expected of Israel. Using the verb shahma, the text emphasizes the need for Israel to really listen and to act upon exactly what they heard. The strength of the verb is intensified by its repetition with an infinitive absolute making it much more emphatic. God did not expect one act of obedience but expected continued obedience on the part of the nation [as is evident in the qal imperfect verb]. Israel was responsible to hear and respond in obedience.

The Response of Jehovah. Israel's history was built around covenants made with key people for the nation. A stipulation for Israel's becoming a priesthood was keeping or guarding a covenant. They were not only to acknowledge the existence of the covenant but were also to keep it by faith. It was a covenant that was not to be perverted or countermanded by the nation. The verb shahmar has the idea of guarding something, while permitting nothing to be added to or subtracted from it, while endeavoring to make certain that its influences upon one's life were consistently carried out. Because of the form of the verb [qal perfect], there is an indication that the keeping is to be a perpetual, completed action. It was not to be kept at the convenience of the people, but because God had commanded that it be kept. A closer analysis of the covenant involved in this passage of Scripture will follow.

The Consequences of Obedience. Obedience brought the possibility that three things would happen to Israel as a nation. They would be a people of God's possession, a kingdom of priests and an holy nation. Without obedience and the guarding of the covenant, these three things could not come to pass.

A Personal Possession. "You will be a peculiar treasure unto me above [lit. from] all the peoples (Ex. 19:5b A.V.)." The word translated "peculiar treasure" has a diversity of meanings. Essentially, it means "property, peculiarity, peculiar treasure." The term is used again in Deuteronomy 7:6 of Israel and the covenant promises that relate to the entry into the land. "For you are a holy people to Jehovah your God, Jehovah your God has chosen you to be for Him for a people of His possession from all the peoples which are upon the face of the earth." In spite of the nation's act of presumption, God still promised a limited potential under Law to be a uniquely possessed people. The idea is that Israel was uniquely God's own people. God graciously permitted this to occur for Israel to a very limited degree even though they did not meet the faith criteria (Deut. 14:2; 26:18; Psa. 135:4). Jehovah expected Israel to be closely identified with Jehovah so that other nations could see that the nation belonged to Jehovah. This will begin to be fulfilled in the Millennial Kingdom and carry into the eternal state. "And they will be mine [lit. for me], says Jehovah of hosts, in that day, when I am making my own treasure; and I will spare them [lit. upon them], as a man proceeds to spare his own son [lit. upon his own son] that is serving him (Mal. 3:17)."

A Kingdom of Priests. "And you shall be for me a kingdom of priests ... (Ex. 19:6a)." How could Israel be a kingdom of priests when they were given the Aaronic priesthood soon after their presumption at Sinai? Of the three possibilities offered, God did not graciously make Israel a kingdom of priests because they did not meet the necessary criteria. Nowhere in the Old Testament is there any indication that Israel was a kingdom of priests. Just because Israel brought sacrifices to the Aaronic priests did not make them priests. Scripture does not imply that God ever saw Israel as a priesthood. A theocratic government did not make Israel a priesthood; though in a sense, it was a kingdom. Some argue that the need for ceremonial cleansing was a proof that Israel was a priesthood. Both believing and unbelieving Israelites were considered ceremonially unclean and could not have access to the tabernacle or temple until the period of purification was completed. As a result of the cleansing, they had access to priestly service in the matter of sacrifice. Israel did not become a kingdom of priests in Exodus 19. Their priesthood, as a nation, will not be accomplished until the promises of the Abrahamic covenant concerning the land are fulfilled in the future.

A Holy Nation. "And you shall be for me ... a holy nation (Ex. 19:6b)." Israel had the potential to be an holy nation by God's grace. As a result of their presumption in Exodus 19:8, "All that the Lord hath spoken, we will do," God gave them the opportunity to prove that they could do anything God required them to do. By keeping the Mosaic Law, they were to prove that they were an holy nation. "... You will proceed to be holy ones; for I, Jehovah your God, am holy (Lev. 19:2)." Holiness was a personal responsibility that produced a national reputation. As a result of the collective holiness of the sons of Israel, Jehovah expected the uniqueness of the nation's holiness to be seen. Once again in Leviticus 20:26, Moses used the plural "holy ones" to indicate individual responsibility in the holiness for the corporate whole. "And you will be holy ones to me, for I, Jehovah, am holy; and I have begun to divide you from the peoples, with the purpose that you will be mine [lit. for me] (cf. vs. 7)." In Deuteronomy, God speaks of the future collective whole as being uniquely set apart. "For you are a holy people to Jehovah your God ... (7:6)." The absolute fulfillment of this will be accomplished when Israel enters the kingdom fulfilling the land promises to Abraham completely. Then they will be called "the holy people (Isa. 62:12)." Deuteronomy combines the idea of a unique possession and holiness together with no mention of any priesthood. "For you are an holy people to Jehovah your God, and Jehovah has chosen [lit. in] you for the purpose of being for Him a people that is uniquely His possession from [or above] all the peoples that are upon the face of the earth (14:2)." Jehovah expected the holiness and uniqueness of Israel to be evident in the keeping of the regulations and enforcement of the punishments of the Law (Deut. 13, 14). The three results are based on Israel's involvement with the land promises made to Abraham. The following chart clearly illustrates the future implications of the results if Israel had accepted God's offer and yielded to the conditions of obeying and keeping the covenant.




 Israel To Be      Promised For Israel       Land Promises of Genesis 15
                                             Abrahamic Covenant Context

 Personal          Deut. 7:6                 Deut. 7:1, 8
 Possession        Deut. 26:18               Deut. 26:15
                   Psa. 135:4                Psa. 135:12
                   Mal. 3:17                 Mal. 3:12

 Holy              Lev. 18:2                 Lev. 18:28, 29
 Nation            Lev. 20:26                Lev. 20:24
                   Deut. 7:6                 Deut. 7:1, 8


Chart reformatted below:

Israel To Be:
Personal Possession: Promised for Israel Deut. 7:6, 26:18, Psa. 135:4, Mal. 3:17
Land Promises of Genesis 15 Abrahamic Covenant in Context: Deut. 7:1, 8 Deut. 26:15 Psa. 135:12 Mal. 3:12
Holy Nation: Promised for Israel Lev. 19:2, Lev. 20:26, Deut. 7:6
Land Promises of Genesis 15 Abrahamic Covenant in Context: Lev. 18:28, 29 Lev. 20:24 Deut. 7:1, 8


It is important to identify the covenant in order to understand the implications of Exodus 19:5, 6. The identity of the covenant is the center of controversy among commentators. As the above chart notes, in most of the contexts, there is a direct connection with the land promises given to Abraham. In Genesis 15, God promised Abraham the land from the River of Egypt [the Nile] to the Euphrates River. In Genesis 17, God promised Abraham the land of Canaan with no definition of specific boundaries.

The Covenant

A careful analysis of the context clearly indicates that this is not the Law that God gave to Israel that has been identified as the Mosaic Covenant. The Law was not given until after Israel responded in Exodus 19:8. When Jehovah commissioned Moses at the burning bush, He tied the commission directly to the promises He made to Abraham in Genesis 15:18-21. "Then Jehovah proceeded to say, I have absolutely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and I have heard their cry before their [lit. his] drivers [or taskmasters], for I know their [lit. his] sorrows. Then I will proceed to come down to cause to deliver them from the hand of Egypt and to cause them [lit. him] to go up out of that land into a good and spacious land, unto a land that is flowing with milk and honey, unto the place of the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Amorite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite and the Jebusite (Ex. 3:7, 8 cf. 13:5)." The covenant that had been made with Abraham more than 600 years previously was still in effect. God had carried Israel out of Egypt renewing the land promises of the covenant. He lifted them up as an eagle would lift up a young eagle and push it out of the nest encouraging it to learn to fly. If Israel failed to fly, He would catch them and carry them back to the nest. God was attempting to encourage the nation to fly by accepting the promises of the covenants. He encouraged them to be living by the covenants made with Abraham by faith. In the events of the Exodus, Israel produced a series of acts of disobedience: before the Egyptian army (Ex. 14:10-12), at the bitter waters of Marah (15:23-24), in the wilderness of Sin (16:2, 3) and for water at Rephidim (17:2). There are no clear acts of obedience indicated in the Exodus. The only real act of obedience was toward a man and not God. Centuries before, Joseph had demanded that when the sons of Israel returned to Canaan, they were to take his bones with them (Gen. 50:25). Moses took Joseph's bones with him (Ex. 13:19) until ultimately they were buried after arrival in the land more than 40 years after their departure from Egypt (Josh. 24:32). Why did Joseph want his bones to be buried in the Promised Land? He did because he believed the promises made to Abraham and anticipated resurrection in the land promised to Abraham's seed. Israel carried his coffin as a textbook to the promises of God and the necessity of faith in His promises. Joseph absolutely believed the land promises. In the same way, Israel was expected to believe the land promises. In the Exodus, God intended to take the Israelites into the land that He had promised Abraham and to give it to them as the fulfillment of an unconditional covenant. That unconditional covenant was to be guarded by faith and in that way "kept." It was to be guarded as a precious thing by the whole nation.

As has already been seen, the covenant was the land covenant with Abraham. In Genesis 15:18-21, Jehovah cut a covenant with Abraham and his seed giving them the land from the River of Egypt to the River Euphrates soon after Abraham had delivered Lot from the five kings. In Genesis 17:8, He promised Abraham all the land of Canaan as a part of an unconditional covenant made with Abram 24 years after he departed from Haran. There is a great deal of controversy concerning the Abrahamic covenant. Some believers are convinced that Abraham was given one covenant that was reaffirmed on at least two occasions to Abraham. There is no indication in the language of Scripture that this is true. It makes a good deal more sense to see four distinct covenants with Abraham rather than one that had substantial additions on totally different occasions for several reasons. The promises of the covenants were different. The characteristics of the covenants were both conditional and unconditional. There is a wide divergence in time for the giving of the covenants with distinct signs and fulfillment. Each one is called a covenant in Scripture. They presented different central promises concerning land, seed, circumcision and a unique seed.

Israel never received all the land promised in the first covenant of Genesis 15:1-21. Jehovah reminded Israel of its potential for receiving the land by faith on a number of occasions in the Old Testament. The covenant was a one-sided covenant made by Jehovah with Israel with no conditions of any sort. It assumed that Abraham's seed would be a stranger in the land, a slave, suffer 400 years of affliction, and that Abraham would die and then be resurrected to share the benefits of the covenant. The covenant was made after Abraham rescued Lot and his household. The slaying and dividing of animals and then having both parties of the covenant pass between the parts formally ratified it. It is called a covenant in Genesis 15:18 and will be fulfilled in the Millennial kingdom for Abraham's physical seed.

Twenty-four years after Abram left Haran, God made another covenant with Abraham promising him a multiple seed making him the father of nations with Jehovah as his God (Gen. 17:1-8). Abraham was 99 years old at the time. The covenant was unconditional for time (17:3-6) and eternity (17:7-8). At this time, Abram's name was changed to Abraham as a sign of the covenant. Romans 4:13, 14 indicates that this covenant will be fulfilled with Abraham and his seed in the eternal state. It is called a covenant in Genesis 17:2, 4, 7.

The conditional covenant of circumcision was given to Abraham at the same time (Gen. 17:9-22). Circumcision was required for blessing upon entry into the land. The uncircumcised person was to be cut off from the rest of the people. Acts 7:8 calls circumcision a covenant and anticipates the prospect of Israel's reception of the land. The sign of the covenant was the physical circumcision of Abraham and the males of his household. It is important to realize that the Israelites recognized that this was essential for inheriting the land with blessing when they prepared to enter the land under Joshua (Josh. 5). The third covenant with Abraham was a sign of the first covenant made with Abraham.

In Genesis 22:1-19, another unconditional covenant was made with Abraham and with a plural seed seen as a single seed (cf. Hebrew text). This covenant was made after the birth and maturation of Isaac. Abraham would have a multiple seed that was also singular by which all nations would be blessed and Abraham would have victory over his enemies. It was conditional only in the sense that it was based on Abraham's faith and obedience (22:18). Abraham was to obey God and show his faith in the sacrifice of Isaac. Jehovah swore by Himself as a sign of the covenant (22:16). The single seed is Christ as Head of the Body that is comprised of a plurality (Gal. 3:15-18). Its complete fulfillment will be in the Millennial Kingdom where nations will be blessed by the Church, the Bride of Christ. This is clearly called a covenant in Luke 1:72-74 and Acts 3:25.

The Genesis 15 covenant is clearly the covenant that was to be guarded shamar by Israel in Exodus 19:5. It is important for one to give an objective consideration of the possibility that there were really four covenants made with Abraham in his lifetime with each having a different basic concept. Careful exegesis is necessary and presents a harmonious picture of God's program for the seeds of Abraham. Hence, the first Abrahamic covenant was to be guarded by Israel by faith remembering that the multiplied seed in the second covenant would have a homeland.

Rather than accepting the promises by faith, Israel was determined to perform whatever task God provided in order to purchase the benefits already promised them unconditionally. Their response to the offer completely changed Israel's history. Moses delivered the message from Jehovah renewing the unconditional covenant and Israel responded, "All that Jehovah has spoken, we will do (Ex. 19:8)." These five Hebrew words are the major turning point in Israel's history. They were not words of faith but of presumption. They were made from a self-confidence that assumed an inherent ability to please God by works rather than to believe God's promises revealed in the covenants. Immediately, there was a separation of the nation from God. Moses could ascend Mount Sinai, but the rest of the nation and their beasts were not permitted to touch the mountain without being put to death (Ex. 19:12, 13 cf. Heb. 12:20, 21). Legalism has always separated God from His people because man attempts to prove his personal righteousness to God by it. Rather than guarding the promise of the land in the first Abrahamic covenant, Israel became imprisoned and guarded by the Mosaic Law (Gal. 3:23 Gk.) that prevented their maturing (Heb. 7:19).

The Consequences of the Rebellion of Korah

The rebellion of Korah is an excellent proof that the promises of Exodus 19:5, 6 were not fulfilled at that time. Israel did not become a uniquely possessed people, a kingdom of priests or a holy nation. Korah chose to interpret the promise and covenant at Sinai to be the Law and his erroneous interpretation cost him his life. Korah was a Levite who was joined by Dathan and Abiram, Reubenites, supported by 250 of the men of the sons of Israel to challenge the authority of Moses and Aaron (Num. 16:1-3). Korah assumed that the nation was a holy nation from the initial events at Sinai in Exodus 19. Korah and his allies assembled themselves against Moses and Aaron and said, "Too much is taken for you; for the whole congregation are, all of them, holy ones, and in their midst is Jehovah; and wherefore are you proceeding to lift yourselves up above the assembly of Jehovah (Num. 16:3)." The question of holiness was to be put to the test. Was the nation a holy nation or not? "Then he [Moses) proceeded to speak to Korah and unto all his congregation saying, In the morning, then Jehovah will proceed to make known who belongs to Him and who is the holy one, and He will cause to come near unto Himself, and the one whom He has chosen with Him, He will cause to come near unto Him (Num. 16:5)." Even though the Reubenites were involved in the initial confrontation, Moses could easily see that it was a problem with the Levites identifying them as "the sons of Levi" (16:7, 8, 10). The Levites had problems with the priesthood. "Hear now, sons of Levi, Is it too little [a small thing] for you that the God of Israel has caused you to be separated from the congregation of Israel to cause you to come near unto Himself, to serve the service of the tabernacle [or tent] of Jehovah, and to stand before the congregation, to perform religious service for them. Then He caused you to come near and all your brothers, the sons of Levi, with you and you seek also the priesthood (16:8-10)." It is interesting that the Levites considered the nation to be an holy nation but were attempting to keep the priesthood for their single tribe by taking it from the sons of Aaron and making it tribe-wide. If Korah really considered the nation to be a kingdom of priests, he would have sought the priesthood for the whole nation, essentially destroying an elitist priesthood. Evidently, he felt that the kingdom of priests in Exodus 19:6 was a kingdom of Levites, who would rule over the nation rather than have a whole nation of priests. After all, Moses and Aaron were both from the tribe of Levi.

The Reubenites, Dathan and Abiram, questioned Moses' authority to be the civil ruler of the people (Num. 16:12-15). The whole congregation of Israel sided with the rebels as they gathered at the tabernacle the next morning. The glory of Jehovah appeared to the whole congregation (16:19). Jehovah was prepared to destroy the whole nation (16:21) but accepted the intercession of Moses (16:22). Jehovah had commanded the congregation to separate from Korah, Dathan and Abiram, their families and possessions (16:24-27). As a result of the test, Moses would prove that he was not ruling Israel because of his own designs and intentions (16:28). Jehovah had arranged it. If the rebels had died a normal death, their contention would have been vindicated; but if God performed a supernatural act, Moses was vindicated. "But if Jehovah proceeds to create a new creation, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, and all that belongs to them; and they go down alive into Sheol, then you will know that these men have despised Jehovah (16:30)." The earth swallowed up the three men, their families and possessions (16:31-35), and fire came down from Jehovah and devoured the 250 men who were cohorts in the rebellion (16:36). These men were identified as sinners (16:38). The plates on the brazen altar were to be a testimony to Israel that the sons of Aaron were the priests and not the Levites or the whole nation. The plates were a memorial to the fact that at Sinai, Israel did not become a nation or kingdom of priests. Every time an offering was made, the offerer was reminded that the nation was not an holy nation, nor was it a kingdom of priests. Korah, Dathan and Abiram interpreted the covenant to be the Mosaic covenant and it cost them their earthly lives. Some contemporary Bible teachers do the same thing without such a threat by making the covenant of Exodus 19:5 to be the Mosaic covenant.

In the review of the Law before the death of Moses and the entry into Canaan, the potential for Israel's being an holy nation was reiterated. It is clear that Israel was incapable of doing this by their own efforts. God, Himself, could bring such a result. God was the sole authority. Deuteronomy 28 gives a listing of the blessings and curses that were given for Israel when she was in the land under Law. Jehovah was the only Benefactor for blessing. "Jehovah will proceed to cause you to stand for Himself for an holy people, like that which He has sworn for Himself to you; if you will proceed to keep the commandments of Jehovah your God, and you will walk in His ways, and all the peoples of the earth will see that the name of Jehovah is called upon you; and they will be afraid of you (Deut. 28:9, 10)." More than 40 years after the Law was given, Israel still was not an holy nation and was still being offered the potential, though this time, it was by a law that was impossible for the nation to keep. The Law had taken the place of dominance over the land promises made to Abraham.

Exodus 19:6 was not fulfilled in the lives of Israel through the Law. God counted Israel to be His peculiar treasure as one would count a diamond in the rough to be a treasure but He never counted them to be an holy nation. They refused to believe God's land promises made to Abraham and were incapable of corporately keeping the commandments of the Law and so could not be considered holy. In the future, Israel will actually be seen as a uniquely possessed people and a holy nation. 1 Peter 2:5, 9 and Revelation 1:6 very clearly identify the Church as a kingdom of priests. The only possible time Israel could become a kingdom of priests is in the eternal state. In the Millennial kingdom, Israel will continue to have a priesthood and will not be a priesthood. All the implications of Exodus 19:6 for Israel are future. They were promised as future in the Pentateuch and continue to be future today. Israel refused to believe the promises and did not become a priesthood. Korah, Dathan and Abiram verify the fact that it had not happened by their direct trip to Sheol as divine punishment for attempting to enlarge the priesthood.


Chapter 4: How Did Priesthoods Develop Historically?


It is helpful to understand how God has arranged priestly relationships throughout history that were acceptable to Him. When the fall of Adam deprived mankind of immediate access to God, there was a need for some means of access to God. The only method of access was solely available through Divine initiative. Human initiative of itself always established unacceptable attempts at gaining access to God. For many centuries God only accepted a few priesthoods for access while disregarding a vast majority. How many opportunities were given to men for access is uncertain, but the Old Testament record has great gaps between times of access. The great catalog of acts of faith in Hebrews 11 is filled with gaps in time. All access to God was founded on faith in His offers to grant a measure of access in a given situation. Often access was established by the presence of a huiophany [a visible manifestation of God the Son]. Access was not normally gained by sacrifice, but sacrifice was usually the response to some manifestation of the Divine Presence. This is evident in the activity of the patriarchal priests. They responded to the Presence of Jehovah and they functioned as priests.

Patriarchal Priests

Generally, priests in the patriarchal period were heads of families. The father of a family acted as a priest for the whole family. Their priestly activity was manifested in their offering sacrifices for the whole family. If there was a need on the part of a member of the household, the father or grandfather would represent the person before God as the household priest. Such a practice began very early and continued into the Davidic era. If a member of a family or the whole family desired to express their appreciation or desires to Jehovah, it was done through the head of the household. He offered sacrifices for the rest of the family. In some limited cases, they communed with the Angel of Jehovah -- Jehovah -- God the Son directly on behalf of the family exchanging necessary information that was transmitted to the household by the head of the household. When members of the family or the family itself had needs, the head of household would intercede for the family seeking Divine assistance for the family. Only the head of a patriarchal family acted as priest for the family. No other family member acted as priest until the head of the family died and the priestly office was vacated. In the ancient Orient, the family structure was a patriarchal structure. The father of the household had the final word over every living generation under him. The oldest son frequently was groomed to take leadership as it was normally passed from oldest son to oldest son from generation to generation. If God chose a family to be a recipient of His blessing, He normally accepted the priestly activity of the head of the family. This same tradition carried up to the time of the Exodus as is evident in the slaying of the Paschal lamb at Passover by the father for his household because there was no established priesthood for Israel at that time (cf. Ex. 12:3). The observation of Passover was passed on from father to his sons perpetually (Ex. 12:24). There are only a limited number of examples of fathers who acted as priests for their families. Key Old Testament figures were directly involved in the priestly activity of building altars. Offering sacrifices, purifying and consecrating themselves and their families was an essential part of their limited priestly activity.

Noah. At the end of the flood, Noah built an altar and acted as a priest for his family as the head of the family. Noah had a reputation for being righteous and offered sacrifices to Jehovah as a believer. "These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous [or just] man, he was perfect [or complete] in all his generations; Noah walked for himself with God (Gen. 6:9)." Noah was qualified to act as a priest. Because God delivered Noah and his three sons and all their wives from the flood, he had adequate reason to perform priestly service before Jehovah. As a result, Jehovah promised to retain normal cycles of life including the changing of seasons, temperatures and day and night. He made a commitment not to curse the ground again even though man had demonstrated a propensity toward evil. Not only did Jehovah bless Noah but also his sons, encouraging them to multiply (9:1), assuring them of dominion over beasts (9:2), changing their diet from a vegetarian diet (9:3), prohibiting the eating of blood (9:4) and establishing capital punishment for the killing of a man (9:5, 6). As a further affirmation of Noah's priestly service, Jehovah cut a covenant-with Noah and his seed that guaranteed that God would not judge man again with a universal flood giving the rainbow as a sign of the covenant (Gen. 9:8-17). Noah personally acted as a priest when he built an altar and offered burnt offerings that were acceptable to Jehovah at the end of the flood. Evidently, his sons did not participate directly in either activity since the emphasis is on a single person doing priestly service (Gen. 8:20). It is clear that Noah was already a believer before he constructed the ark (cf. Gen. 6:9; 1 Pe. 3:20; 2 Pe. 2:5).

Abraham. At age 75, Abram left Haran to enter the land of Canaan. When Abram arrived at Shechem, Jehovah appeared to him and promised the land to Abraham's seed (Gen. 12:7). As a result, Abram built an altar there, though there is no record of Abram's offering any sacrifice upon it (Gen. 12:7). He also built another altar at Bethel (Gen. 12:8). After he had gone to Egypt and caused trouble with Pharaoh, he returned to Canaan rich. He returned to the altar and acted as a priest calling on the name of Jehovah (Gen. 13:4). Evidently, this priestly service was rendered because of God's promise that Abram's seed would inherit the land though at this point he had no offspring. He returned to a place where he knew Jehovah had been and acted in a priestly role seeking access to Jehovah. When he located in Hebron by the oaks of Mamre, he again constructed an altar to Jehovah (Gen. 13:18). He was clearly the head of his household and acted as a priest for himself and his family. Abraham's priestly activity was limited to a few occasions and was directly related to visible, physical manifestations of Jehovah to Him. A central part of his priestly activity toward Jehovah was building altars and calling on the name of Jehovah (Gen. 12:8). Such a calling was limited because Abram only did this at great intervals of time. His call was an appeal to Jehovah to manifest His character on behalf of Abram and his family. Most of Abram's altar building was done before he became a believer in Genesis 15:4-6 (cf. Rom. 4:1-3). As a result of his act of faith concerning prodgeny, Jehovah counted his faith as righteousness. How much of the priestly role was involved in making the covenants between Jehovah and Abraham and his seed is unclear except that Jehovah counted Abraham to be acceptable and gave him temporary access. In that case, Abraham had access for a family that had not yet been born. God spoke directly to him as the father of a race of people. Abraham acted as a mediator not only for his own family but also for the city of Sodom (Gen. 18) because of his access to Jehovah. In Genesis 22, when Abraham was tested by being told to sacrifice Isaac, Jehovah counted the offering of Isaac to be an act of obedience rather than a priestly act. After Jehovah had provided the ram, it was clearly counted as priestly activity springing from Abraham's faith with a direct influence on his entire household.

Job. Job obviously acted as a priest as head of his family. Because of his concern for his children, he acted as a mediator for them (Job 1:5). This was a part of his righteous behavior (Job 1:8). Job was consistent in that he was involved in the priestly activity of sacrifice "all the days" (Job 1:5 Heb. -- "continually" A.V). Evidently, Job had some idea of what was proper priestly activity. In his speech in Job 12, he mentioned "priests" though the A.V. translates cohenim "princes" in verse 19. Job also acted as an intercessor and sacrificer for his friends after Jehovah had vindicated him as being a righteous man (Job 42:8-10). Jehovah accepted Job as one performing priestly activity. Job had access to Jehovah for himself, his family and his friends as a priest.

Isaac. Isaac acted as a priest by building an altar after the personal appearance of Jehovah (Gen. 26:24, 25). He called on the name of Jehovah as his father had as representative of the household because Jehovah had not only promised to bless Isaac but also his seed. He is clearly seen as acting as the head of his own family in priestly activity.

Jacob. Jacob followed his grandfather's example and acted as a priest building altars. He built an altar in Shechem and called it "God, the God of Israel -- El-elohe-Yisrael -- Gen. 33:20)." He built an altar on land that he planned to inhabit with his family expecting access with Jehovah. In Genesis 35, Jehovah commanded Jacob to go to Bethel and build an altar there (35:1). Jacob's immediate response was to make his whole household purify themselves and put away their strange gods (35:2). The motivation was not only the divine command but also the reminder that Jehovah had previously met with Jacob at that specific location in Genesis 28. He built an altar and called the place El-Bethel -- [God of the house of God]. He lived at that location for a period of time. He built an altar in a place where he was certain that he would have access for himself and his family because he had previously had access there. There is no record of his offering any sacrifices on the altar. Jacob had also set up a pillar at Bethel soon after his return to Canaan from Padan-Aram and had poured out drink offerings and oil upon it as a part of his priestly appreciation to Jehovah for his safe departure from Laban's household and for safe entry into the land especially in his meeting with Esau his brother.

Each of the patriarchs was acting as a priest on his own behalf or for family or friends. Their priestly service was limited in time and extent. Job seems to have been the most consistent while Abraham was the best-known family-priest. In most cases there was an altar constructed at a place where there had been a visible, physical manifestation of Jehovah. The father-priest appealed to the character of Jehovah based on the access that the father had previously had for himself and for his family. In the instances mentioned in the Old Testament, there is a limited record of the offering of sacrifices [Abraham and Job] on the altars that they constructed. In each account, the father-priest evidently had access to Jehovah. Whether any others performed the same activities toward Jehovah is not recorded in Scripture though secular records indicate that similar activities were done by idolaters to gain access to pagan deities.

Melchisedec

Though Melchisedec was a patriarchal priest, there is no indication that he only acted as a priest for his family, but he exercised priestly authority beyond the bounds of the family. He is identified as the King of Salem [or Peace] (Gen. 14:18) and the priest of the Most High God. Hence, he was both a king and a priest. He was a priest of Jehovah. His background was not given but it is evident that he was a Gentile. As a priest, he blessed Abram (Gen. 14:19, 20) and received tithes of the spoil of battle from Abraham. He was superior to Abraham having a priesthood greater than the family priesthood in which Abram was involved. He had a unique and superior priesthood (Heb. 7). More will be said about Melchisedec in the chapter on the high priestly ministry of Christ.

Jethro

Jethro was a spiritual and civil leader of Midian (Ex. 2:16; 3:1). He was a non-Israelite priest who offered sacrifices to Jehovah for his son-in-law and the nation (Ex. 18:12). There is an indication that the sacrifice offered at Sinai by Jethro was accepted by God. Hence, God was dealing with a few other people at that time other than Israel. Jethro was a prophet and a priest who not only acted for his daughters family but for a foreign nation. Israel was gathered at the place of previous access where Jehovah had met with Moses. Jethro knew about the burning bush and revelation of God there on Sinai since Moses was tending Jethro's flocks there at the time and had come to him for permission to leave his shepherding duties and go to Egypt to lead Israel out of the land. Jethro acted as a priest in the place where Jehovah had manifested Himself.

The Aaronic Priesthood

Throughout the Pentateuch, one discovers the details of the requirements for the Aaronic priesthood. A survey of the priesthood revelation will provide an idea of the practice and procedures required for the priesthood to meet God's standards for priestly activity effectively. With the presumption of Exodus 19:8, the freedom of the head of family priests was seriously restricted. There were individuals who performed priestly activities, but they were never again considered to be priests. God openly dictated rigid physical and ceremonial requirements for the priesthood. In some cases, the violation of the requirements would bring death to the individual and remove blessing from the nation. When Jehovah gave the nation a priesthood, it gladly accepted it because it had someone else who would be responsible for religious activities. In their presumption, they sent Moses before Jehovah to be their representative rather than to stand before Jehovah as a nation who believed the promises that Jehovah had made to Abraham. As a result, Jehovah gave a rigid set of regulations for the nation and for the priesthood. The regulations were inflexible and full of details. The results were simple in that obedience brought blessing in time while disobedience brought severe difficulties and penalties. A failure on the part of the priesthood could bring disaster on the whole nation. There was no electoral process for priests by which the general public could select the persons who they felt would best represent them before Jehovah. Jehovah sovereignly selected the priesthood with no possibility for any changes. The priesthood became a hereditary priesthood in which no other Israelite could participate in any way.

The Restrictions for Admission into the Priesthood. The hereditary priesthood was established early in the giving of the Law. "And you, cause your brother Aaron to come near unto me, and his sons with him, from the midst of the sons of Israel with the purpose of his being a priest to me, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar the sons of Aaron. And you will make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty, and you will proceed to speak unto all the wise ones of heart, whom I have filled with a Spirit of wisdom, and they will make Aaron's garments to sanctify him with the purpose that he will serve as a priest to me (Ex. 28:1-3)." In Exodus 28, Jehovah isolates a family from one tribe of the nation for priestly service. In order to be a priest, a person needed to be born into the proper tribe [Levi] and the proper family of the tribe [Aaron's family]. Physical birth was the only means of admission into the Aaronic priesthood. "And you will give the Levites to Aaron and to his sons; they are ones being given wholly to him from the sons of Israel. And you will proceed to appoint Aaron and his sons and they will guard their priesthood and the stranger that comes near of himself will ultimately be put to death (Num. 3:9, 10)." If a person was not born in Aaron's family, he could not be a priest.

The priesthood was further limited by gender. Only males could be priests. The Law did not permit women to function as priestesses though there is evidence that some did perform housekeeping duties for the priests. Only males, who were the sons of Aaron, could perform priestly duties and have any form of access to Jehovah.

If an offspring of the family of Aaron was born with a physical defect, he could not serve as a priest even though he was a male of the right family. He could expect to receive priestly support but could not function in the priestly office. Levitical law gave no room for question as to what defects prevented any of the seed of Aaron from participating in priestly service. "Speak unto Aaron saying: A man that is from your seed among their generations in whom comes to be a blemish, he will not begin to come near to offer the bread of his God. For any man that has in him a blemish will not begin to come near: a blind man, or a lame one, or a disfigured [lit. slit] one, or one being lengthened [i.e. too long of limbs], or a man in whom is a broken foot or a broken hand, or humpbacked, or a dwarf, or having a spot [or blemish] in his eye, or scab, or scurvy, or broken testicles. Any man who has in him blemish from the seed of Aaron, the priest, will not begin to approach to offer fire-offerings to Jehovah; a blemish is in him; he will not begin to come near to offer the bread of his God (Lev. 21:17-21)." Whether a person was born with a defect or had the defect come in his lifetime, he was not permitted to act as a priest even though he had met the hereditary requirements of the Law.

If one of Aaron's sons met all of the qualifications, he was purified both for the permanent, formal cleansing of the priesthood as a whole in its initial consecration and for individual purification for times of service. "And Aaron and his sons you will cause to come near unto the door of the tent of meeting and you will wash them in the waters (Ex. 29:4)." This was actually accomplished by Moses in Leviticus 8:6. This was a once-for-all cleansing of the priesthood before Jehovah indicating that the family of Aaron was considered clean by God and thus capable of serving as priests.

When the priests actually entered the tabernacle or temple, it was necessary for them to be cleansed at the brazen laver before they could begin their service. "And you [sing. - Moses] will make a laver of brass and its base of brass for washing, and you will put it between the tent of meeting and between the altar, and you will put water [pl.] there, and Aaron and his sons will wash their hands and their feet from it. When they go into the tent of meeting,... they will proceed to wash with water (pl.) and they will not proceed to die; and it will be for them a perpetual [or age long] statute, to him, and to his seed for their generations (Ex. 30:18-21)." One might say to the priest going to the tabernacle to serve, "Wash your hands and feet, it will save your life!" This cleansing made it possible for the priest to have a measure of access. Without proper preparation, he was considered a stranger [in this case non-Aaronic] and thus subject to death.

The Requirements for Assuming the Priesthood. Arrangements for priestly service in the land were made long before Israel actually entered the land. Priests needed adequate support because they did not have time or land to earn their support in any other way. While the other twelve tribes received land allotments, the Levites only received cities that were scattered throughout the land. Neither Shiloh nor Jerusalem was a priestly city. They performed their service in a strange city.

The Levites and the priests were supported by public taxation that was clearly mandated in the Law. The tax was a ten-percent type of tax [i.e. tithe] that was absolutely required from the whole nation (Lev. 23:10; Deut. 14:22). The priests themselves received additional support from firstfruits and the priestly portion of the offerings (Num. 18). "Then Jehovah proceeded to say unto Aaron: In their land you will not begin to receive an inheritance, and a portion will not begin to be for you among them, I am your portion and your inheritance among the sons of Israel, and to the sons of Israel, behold, I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance in exchange for their service that they are serving even the service of the tent of meeting (Num. 18:20, 21)." As Israel departed from the requirements of the Law, the priests and Levites suffered great poverty because they were totally reliant on the consistent tithe. Without a doubt, when the prophets proclaimed judgment upon the nation for the abuse of the poor, the priests and Levites were included among the poor of the land.

The physical quarters of the priests and Levites were confined to cities, rather than sharing in arable agricultural lands. In an agrarian society, this meant that they were poor and without a source of personal income; hence, they were reliant on the tax system of tithing. "At that time Jehovah caused the tribe of Levi to be separated to carry [lit. lift up] the ark of the covenant of Jehovah, to stand before Jehovah to minister to Him, and to bless His name unto this day. Therefore there is not a portion or inheritance for Levi with his brothers; Jehovah, He is his inheritance, as Jehovah your God has spoken to him (Deut. 10:8, 9)." When Israel entered Canaan under Joshua and possessed it, Levi was allocated 48 cities (Josh. 21) with the priests, the sons of Aaron, receiving thirteen cities (Josh. 21:13-19). The Levitical cities were scattered among all the inheritance of the tribes and included the six cities of refuge. One must remember that Israel had twelve sons, but in the land there were twelve tribes that received the land because Joseph received a double portion of the land giving Ephraim and Manasseh separate portions. As a result, there were actually thirteen tribes receiving allotments in Canaan.

During the Exodus and wilderness wanderings, the priests and Levites camped in close proximity to the place of their service. They were to serve wherever Jehovah chose for His name to dwell. Evidently, the priests and Levites remained near the location of the tabernacle in Shiloh until the Levitical cities were given to the sons of Levi. Then they departed from Shiloh to their own cities leaving a contingency of Levites to care for the tabernacle and of priests to perform priestly service. With the completion of Solomon's temple in Jerusalem, the center of worship was relocated. Jerusalem was not a Levitical city. Several of the Levitical cities allotted to the sons of Aaron were in the land occupied by Judah (cf. Josh. 21:13-16). This gave part of the priests easier access to the temple. Even so, they were strangers in the place of their service.

The Requirements for Administering the Priesthood. The actual activity of the priesthood is clearly defined in the Law. The priest's duties included a large number of obligations that were performed for themselves and the people. In order to effectively minister, the priest was to wear the proper garments and to be ceremonially clean. It was absolutely necessary that each priest meet the criteria for service and carefully follows the procedures established by the Law. Numbers 18:7 gives an overview of their duties, "And you and your sons with you will proceed to guard your priesthood for every thing of the altar and for the house of covering [or veil] as a service of the gift I proceed to give your priesthood, and the stranger that comes near for himself will be put to death." The basic obligation of the priests was to come near to Jehovah either by physical presence or by the presentation of sacrifices to Jehovah.

The priests acted as intercessors for the nation. It is obvious in the sacrificial procedure that they offered the offerer's sacrifice, interceding for him with Jehovah. The intercession of priests extended into the matter of communication with God. When an Israelite desired to communicate with Jehovah, he would ask the priest to intercede for him. This was a very normal part of the service of the priest. The priests were involved in numerous minor duties in addition to their major duties. The major duties consumed most of their time filling it with a significant portion of their total activities. A primary obligation for the priesthood was to provide a buffer between Israel and Jehovah. They were responsible for preventing intrusion into the tabernacle or temple of pseudo-priestly activity (cf. Num. 16:39, 40). Even kings were generally prohibited from acting as priests, though David was closely involved with Jehovah when the Ark of the Covenant arrived in Jerusalem. Because Saul offered a sacrifice at Gilgal, he lost his kingdom for his seed (1 Sam. 13:8-14). He frequently violated proper procedure. Saul's excuse for offering burnt and peace offerings was, "Now the Philistines will proceed to come down unto me to Gilgal, and I have not entreated the face of Jehovah, then I forced myself, then I offered up the burnt offering (1 Sam. 13:12)." The result of Saul's violation of the Law was clear. "Then Samuel proceeded to say unto Saul, You have acted for yourself foolishly, you have not kept the commandment of Jehovah your God that he commanded you, for now Jehovah would have established your kingdom forever, and now your kingdom will not begin to stand. Jehovah is seeking for Himself a man according to His heart, then Jehovah will proceed to command him for a prince over His people because you have not kept what Jehovah commanded you (1 Sam. 13:13, 14)." Jehovah reacted to Saul because he not only violated the priestly sphere of authority but also other commandments as well. "I have repented that I caused Saul to reign for a king, because he has turned from following [lit. after] me and he has not caused my words to stand ... (1 Sam. 15:11)."

Uzziah was a righteous and powerful king who ruled Israel 52 years. "But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up until it caused corrupt activity, then he proceeded to act treacherously against Jehovah his God, then he proceeded to go into the temple of Jehovah with the purpose of offering incense upon the altar of incense (2 Chron. 26:16)." There were 81 priests who openly confronted him with his violation of the Law and opposed him. As a result, he became angry; and while he was standing before them with a censor in his hand, leprosy appeared on his forehead and he remained a leper and an outcast from the people and the temple for the rest of his life (2 Chron. 26:17-21).

When David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, he offered sacrifices to Jehovah (2 Sam. 6:13, 17). David led the nation in some unique activity before Jehovah. He led them in music (2 Sam. 6:5). Evidently, his sacrifices were offered by priests but clearly attributed to David. David danced before Jehovah which was not a kingly or priestly activity (2 Sam. 6:14, 16). He pronounced blessing upon the nation (6:18) and his own household (6:20) that was the prerogative of the priests and rulers. David feared Jehovah because of the death of Uzzah who had reached out to steady the ark on the cart when it was being transported to Jerusalem (6:6-9). He personally communicated with Jehovah (cf. 5:19, 23). It is evident that David acted in the realm of propriety that had been established by Jehovah for him.

A list of the duties of the Aaronic priesthood required by Law includes the following. Some duties were spectacular public activities while others were a common drudgery.


 a.  The priests were to offer sacrifices which involved slaying some of
     the animals, flaying, sprinkling blood, burning appropriate parts 
     and eating the priestly portion (Lev. 1:5-17).
 b.  Priests were to prepare the showbread and put it on the table of
     showbread every Sabbath (Lev. 24:5-8).
 c.  Priests were to burn incense in the holy place every morning and
     evening (Ex. 30:7, 8).
 d.  Priests were to clean and trim the lamps and light them every 
     evening in the holy place (Ex. 27:20, 21; 30:8).
 e.  The priests were to offer perpetual morning and evening sacrifices
     (Ex. 29:38-44).
 f.  The priests were to keep the fire burning in the brazen altar
     (Lev. 6:9, 13).
 g.  The priests were to remove the ashes from the altar (Lev. 6:10, 11).
 h.  The priests were to bless the people after the daily sacrifices
     (Lev. 9:22; Num. 6:23-27).
 I.  The priests were to inspect unclean persons declaring those who 
     were unclean to be unclean and those who had been unclean that 
     were newly clean as clean (Lev. 13-15).
 j.  The priests officiated in the rites of purification of women after
     childbirth (Lev. 12).
 k.  The priests administered the oath of purgation to women accused of
     adultery by their husbands (Num. 5:11-31).
 L.  The priests were to estimate the value of things dedicated to the
     sanctuary (Lev. 27:1-33).
 m.  The priests were to blow the silver trumpets and the jubilee 
     trumpet for feasts and at times of national emergency (Num. 10:10;
     Lev. 25:9; 23:24).
 n.  The priests were to instruct the people in the Law of Moses with 
     the Levites.
 o.  The priests were to act as the Supreme Court in difficult cases 
     (Deut. 17:8-13, 19:17).

There were other details required of the priests but these give the best general idea of the requirements for the sons of Aaron under the Law. When the priests were confident that the nation was living in light of the Law, one of the most positive aspects of their ministry was the pronouncing of blessing on the people. The priestly blessing must be understood as the Israelites who received it understood it. It was a pronouncement of Jehovah's physical protection and blessing that would make Israel happy in time. "Speak unto Aaron and his sons saying: Thus you will proceed to bless the sons of Israel; say unto them; May Jehovah bless you and guard you. May Jehovah cause His face to shine unto you and may He be gracious unto you. May Jehovah lift up His face unto you, and give peace to you. And they will place my name upon the sons of Israel; and I will bless them (Num. 6:23-27)." While the priests pronounced the blessing on the people, Jehovah was the One who actually did the blessing on the condition that His character [or name] was manifested within Israel.

The Dependence Upon the High Priest. The high priest was a representative for the whole nation before Jehovah (Heb. 9:7). He was responsible to God for the people. On the Day of Atonement, he entered the Holy of Holies twice -- once for himself and his family and then for the whole nation. Every year Jehovah expected the whole nation to anticipate the acceptability of the high priest and his offerings. Had he not been accepted, the nation could only expect its national life to be a major catastrophe at least for the coming year or longer. The high priest was the administrator and organizer of the priestly service of the tabernacle or temple. He wore special garments and required special cleansing in order to serve in his office.

Non-Levitical Involvement in Priestly Activities

In a number of instances in the Old Testament under Law, there were non-Levites identified with the tabernacle or who performed activity that was normally performed by priests. It is important to recognize that even though a man brought an animal for sacrifice, the priest actually did the sacrificing and God counted it as the sacrifice of the one who brought the offering.

The Passover Lamb. in the events leading to the Exodus, the head of the household slew the lamb of the Passover and applied the blood. The animal was to be roasted and completely eaten (Ex. 12). Because the head of the household had applied the blood, many consider his action a priestly action and an exception to the priestly rules. Israel was obeying explicit divine instructions for the preservation of the lives of their firstborn. The head of household evidently only performed this activity in the original event. After the establishing of the priesthood and legal regulations for keeping the Passover, the priests slew the Passover lamb and offered it for sacrifice (Deut. 16:1-8; Lev. 23:4-8).

Joshua. Moses continued to represent Israel before Jehovah after the events of Mount Sinai. When the tent of meeting was completed, Moses met with Jehovah in the tent that was a temporary structure used until the actual tabernacle was completed. It was there Jehovah talked with Moses (Ex. 33:9-11). Joshua was not a Levite but of the tribe of Ephraim (Num. 13:8). "And Jehovah spoke unto Moses face [pl.] unto face [pl.] as a man proceeds to speak unto his friend; and he returned into the camp, but his attendant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not proceed to move from the midst of the tent (Ex. 33:11)." There is no indication what Joshua was doing while he was in the tent of meeting unless Jehovah was speaking with him as well. It may have been included in the narrative by Moses to demonstrate that Jehovah had accepted Joshua early as a leader and, hence, to reinforce Joshua's succession to Moses' position of leadership.

Gideon. Gideon was a member of the tribe of Manasseh (Judg. 6:15). Gideon had a face-to-face encounter with the Angel of Jehovah (Judg. 6:11-27). Jehovah directly instructed Gideon to bring a present or a meal offering to Him (6:18). The offering was placed on a rock and Jehovah burned the offering (6:21). As a result, Gideon built an altar to Jehovah and named the place Jehovah Shalom [Jehovah is Peace] (6:24). Then Jehovah returned and ordered Gideon to throw down his father's altar to Baal in the grove, to construct an altar to Jehovah and to offer a specific animal as a sacrifice upon it to Jehovah (6:26). He did as he was told (6:28). The people of the land reacted not because he had performed priestly duties but because he had destroyed the altar to Baal. Gideon acted as a priest by direct instruction from Jehovah. The sacrifice was one of several methods Jehovah used to draft Gideon into service as a judge.

Manoah. Samson's father, Manoah, was a Danite (Judg. 13:2). He participated in two areas of priestly activity: prayer and sacrifice. Jehovah had manifested Himself as the Angel of Jehovah to Manoah's wife promising her that she would conceive and bear a son who was to be a Nazarite. Ultimately, Manoah offered a burnt offering to Jehovah because of Jehovah's instructions (13:16, 19). A fire went up from the altar and Jehovah ascended in the fire to heaven (13:20). Manoah and his wife knew the potential for death to one who saw God, but recognized that God had received their offering (13:22, 23) instead of taking their lives. Once again a non-Levite offered a sacrifice because Jehovah had instructed him to do so.

The Men of Beth Shemesh. When the Philistines returned the Ark of the Covenant to Israel, the cows ["kine" -- A.V.] took it directly to Beth Shemesh and stopped in the field of Joshua the Beth Shemeshite (1 Sam. 6:12-14). The men of Beth Shemesh offered a burnt offering to Jehovah using the wood of the wagon, and then they offered other burnt offerings and sacrifices to Jehovah (1 Sam. 6:14, 15). Were the Beth Shemeshites in violation of the Law? No! The right people made sacrifices in the right place. The nursing cows [milch kine - A.V.] took the ark to the place of Jehovah's choice. The men of Beth Shemesh were sons of Aaron [i.e. priests], since Beth Shemesh was one of the thirteen cities allotted to the sons of Aaron in the division of the land (Josh. 21:16).

Samuel. Samuel was the son of Elkanah the Levite (1 Chron. 6:16, 26-28, 33 cf. 1 Sam. 1:1). He was not of the lineage of Aaron but of Gershom (1 Chron. 6:20, 26). Samuel was a judge and prophet. As the leader of the nation and a prophet, he offered a whole burnt offering to Jehovah at Mizpah while the ark of the covenant remained at Kirjath-jearim (1 Sam. 7:1, 2, 9, 10). This resulted in Jehovah's blessing Israel with a victory over the Philistines. It is clear that this was unusual because Jehovah responded to Samuel's appeal, "... Then Samuel proceeded to cry unto Jehovah on behalf of Israel, then Jehovah proceeded to answer him, then it came to be that Samuel was offering the burnt offering and the Philistines drew near for the battle against Israel; then Jehovah thundered with a great noise [lit. voice] in that day upon the Philistines, then they were troubled, then they were beaten before Israel (1 Sam. 7:9, 10)." It is possible that the sons of Aaron acted on Samuel's behalf, but the fact that Jehovah answered him seems to indicate that Jehovah overruled the regulations for priestly service that He had given for Israel.

Saul. Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin (1 Sam. 9:1, 2) and held the office of king but ruined his succession by usurping the priest's authority. In 1 Samuel 14:33-35 Saul acted in a righteous way. He had received a report that the people were violating the Law in that they were killing animals and eating them with their blood. Saul exercised his authority and demanded that they follow the prescribed procedure of the Law. After the people brought animals before the king and had slain them properly and had eaten, Saul built an altar to Jehovah. "Then Saul proceeded to build an altar to Jehovah; he began to build it an altar to Jehovah (1 Sam. 14:35)." There is no indication that Saul offered any sacrifice. A priest was present to act as the sacrificer and as a mediator with God (1 Sam. 14:3, 18, 19, 36).

David. 2 Samuel 6:12-18 has already been discussed. David, as king, was involved with acceptable sacrifices to Jehovah. Without a doubt, priests accompanied the ark to Jerusalem and were available to assist David, who was of the tribe of Judah, with his offering of sacrifice.

Elijah. It is highly probable that Elijah was of the tribe of Gad because he was identified as a Tishbite of the inhabitants of Gilead (1 Ki. 17:1). That was a part of the land allotted to Gad. As a prophet, in his confrontation with the prophets of Baal, he repaired the altar of Jehovah (1 Ki. 18:30-32). He had the altar and the bullock drenched with water three times. He had "done all these things at your [singular -- Jehovah's] word (1 Ki. 18:36)." Fire fell from heaven and from Jehovah and devoured the animal, altar and everything that was involved in the sacrifice proving that Jehovah had again granted a non-priest permission to offer sacrifice (1 Ki. 18:38, 39). The sacrifice made by Elijah was accepted by Jehovah.

Future Arrangements for a Priesthood

If one takes Scripture literally, he will accept the fact that there will be priestly activity in the future in the Millennial Kingdom. In Ezekiel 40:39-42, facilities are described for slaying animals for sacrifices. Provisions are made for slaying burnt, sin and trespass offerings. One of the primary reactions to a literal temple in the future is that provisions are made for sacrifices. After all, isn't the sacrifice of Christ an absolute replacement for the sacrificial system? Those who hold this position also deny that the sacrifices of the grace believer are to be taken literally as legitimate sacrifices identifying both as figures of speech. Why should there be sacrifices in the future? The sacrifices were to be given for those who wandered astray [erred] and those who were ignorant or untaught (Ezek. 45:20 cf. Zech. 8:22, 23). They will be used as a warning or a deterrent, as well as a means of reconciling the temple of God. In the Kingdom, there will be no sinners or persons who do lawlessness. "The Son of man will send forth His angels and they will collect all the things that scandalize (cf. Matt. 5) and the ones who are doing lawlessness (cf. 1 Jn. 3:4 Gk.), and will throw them into the furnace of fire, there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 13:41, 42)." Those who sin in the Kingdom are collected by angels and thrown directly into the Lake of Fire so there will be no living sinners on the face of the earth during the Kingdom. When Christ establishes the Kingdom, all individuals entering it will be believers, but their offspring can either become believers or remain unbelievers. It is from the unbelieving offspring that the sinners will come to be thrown into the Lake of Fire. One must remember the significance of each type of sacrifice in order to comprehend the reasons for sacrifice in the Millennium.

There will definitely be a priesthood. The priests will be Levites of the family of Aaron and Zadok (Ezek. 43:19) who are to approach God and to minister to Jehovah in the matter of sacrifices (43:18). The Levites will have a separate service (Ezek. 44:10-14) while the priests have their own peculiar service (Ezek. 44:15-31). There will be a special allotment of land for the priests (Ezek. 45:4) and for the Levites (Ezek. 45:5). There will be specific ordinances for priests and people for religious activity and feasts (Ezek. 46). The sacrificial system will be established with a consistent keeping of the Sabbath (Isa. 56:7; 66:20-23; Jer. 33:18; Zech. 14:16-21). The priests will serve only those people who live on the earth during that era, including resurrected patriarchal and Old Testament saints, resurrected and living tribulational believers and all the offspring born in the Kingdom. Much more could be developed from the voluminous material in Scripture describing the organization for worshipping Jehovah in the future Kingdom.

The Priesthood of the Grace Believer

God, by His grace, has provided a unique priesthood for grace believers (1 Pe. 2:5, 9). It is a spiritual priesthood that performs spiritual priestly activities for God. It is a priesthood that has direct access to God in the third heaven. The believer-priest has unlimited opportunity to function as a priest because he is not limited by time or place for his priestly service. Every believer has the potential to act as a priest without any limitation as long as he is a spiritual believer. Every other priesthood has been limited by time and place. A head of household might have offered one or two sacrifices in his long lifetime, while the grace believer can offer many sacrifices every day. A believing Israelite of the tribe of Simeon was required to go to a son of Aaron in order to have access to God. The grace believer has free, direct access. Gender, race or social status has nothing to do with a Christian's acting as a priest to God. A spiritual believer is functioning as a member of a full-time priesthood filled with privileges. The priesthood of the grace believer is absolutely unique compared to every other priesthood. God counts the activity of the Christian to be acceptable activity. By grace, the believer is a priest and by grace, he serves God as a priest.

The history of the development of the priesthoods in Scripture provides a background for the uniqueness of the priesthood in which the grace believer participates. While the Aaronic priesthood met the needs of the nation, its rigidity severely limited any potential for an individual to be close to God. Legalism had separated man from God. When the patriarchs had access to Jehovah, it was a closer access than that available through the Law. A great gap existed between God and man that was only bridged once a year on the Day of Atonement by a high priest who, when he entered the presence of Jehovah, could not see the propitiatory [i.e. "mercy seat"] upon which he sprinkled the blood. One can only imagine the difficulties encountered. The high priest entered a room filled with heavy smoke so that it would be difficult for him to focus his burning eyes on the wings of the cherubim to know where to sprinkle the blood. He would have trouble breathing because of the necessary inhalation of smoke. His access to Jehovah was no privilege. It was a difficult necessity. He not only put his own life on the line but also suffered the discomfort of being in the smoke-filled holy of holies. Every grace believer should be filled with appreciation for the ease with which he has access to God as a spiritual believer. History makes its own contrasts for present things provided in the priesthood of the grace believer. One must know how to become a priest in order to understand the benefits that accrue to him as a believer-priest. Which part of a believer's salvation makes him a priest?


Chapter 5: How Does a Person Become a Priest?


When does a Christian become a priest? How does an individual become a member of the priesthood? These two questions are easily answered from Scripture. The Christian is placed into the priesthood the instant he is saved by a direct work of the Spirit of God.

When an individual directs God-given faith toward Christ through the Gospel, he instantly becomes a believer-priest with all of the privileges of the priesthood. By believing that Christ died for his sins according to the scriptures, was buried and rose again the third day according to the scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3, 4), the individual is saved. The gospel of Jesus Christ is clearly defined and gives the information through which a person believes in Jesus Christ. An immediate benefit of Christ's work is the Christian's priestly position. Many other benefits accrue to the Christian at the moment of salvation for his benefit and the glory of God, but one of the least understood by Christians is the priesthood of the believer.

The work of the Holy Spirit that places the believer into the priesthood is the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit. At the instant of saving faith, the Spirit of God sovereignly places the individual into the Body of Christ, "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body ... (1 Cor. 12:13 A.V.)." The Holy Spirit is the instrument that accomplishes the believer's baptism into one body. As the Spirit of God, He is the "one Spirit" that has the ability to do the baptizing and is the Person of the Godhead who actually accomplishes the baptism. All grace believers are immersed into one Body. No unbeliever is a part of the Body nor is any believer omitted from the baptism of the Holy Spirit. "We all" are participants in the baptizing work of the Spirit. The spiritual condition of the Christian cannot change this participation. Paul describes the church in Corinth as a carnal church with a few spiritual believers in it, yet he includes both the carnal and the spiritual with himself in the "we."

At the instant of salvation, a point in time, the believer is placed in the Body of Christ. The verb "baptized" or "immersed" is punctiliar in the Greek and indicates a once-and-for-all, point action by which the individual is placed in Christ. No merit or action of the believer is involved in his being baptized into the Body. He is passive and not active in his immersion into the Body of Christ. Paul carefully uses the passive voice in the verb to emphasize the authority of God in the placement of the believer into Christ. The result of the baptism of the Spirit is that the individual becomes a part of the Body of Christ that is identified as "the Christ" (Gk.) in 1 Corinthians 12:12. God the Father sees the believer as one who is "in Christ" as a result. An understanding of "in Christ" truth will make the grace believer effective in his Christian life. The following outline demonstrates the relationship of 1 Corinthians 12:12, 13 to the believer.


  1.  The Contents of the Body: Many Members = One Body -- vs. 12 
                                One Body = The Christ
  2.  The Instrument of Baptism: "By One Spirit" -- vs. 13
  3.  The Persons Who Are Baptized: "we all" = Christians
  4.  The Position from Baptism of Spirit: "One Body"
  5.  The Initiative for Baptism of Spirit: God [note passive verb]
  6.  The Time of Baptism of Spirit: At Instant of Salvation [aorist verb] 

One of the results of being in Christ is being involved in the priesthood of the believer. In the Old Testament, a person entered the Aaronic priesthood by physical birth into the right family. In the New Testament, a person enters the priesthood of the grace believer by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Old Testament saint who was not of the tribe of Levi could never participate in priestly privileges for there was no way in which he could change his genealogical origins. In the New Testament, a true believer automatically becomes a priest with full franchise. The Spirit of God simply places him in Christ and he has every privilege of priesthood. Every Christian is a priest whether he knows it or not. An understanding of the implications of functioning as a priest will fill the life of the saint with multiple blessings. Ignorance of the priesthood simply deprives the Christian of the enjoyment of one of God's gracious provisions for him.

First Peter gives adequate information to demonstrate that the believer becomes a priest as a result of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

The Salvation of the Recipients of First Peter

Peter's first letter was clearly written to Christians. The contents of the letter are built upon the first chapter that demonstrates the fact that the recipients are involved in the provisions of the work of Christ on the cross. Having appropriated the benefits of the cross work, God expected the believers to respond with a manner of life worthy of so great salvation. Peter assumes that his readers would understand major terms relating to their salvation and the application of the benefits of the work of Christ in their lives. Hence, he uses the great salvation terms of election, regeneration and redemption. The readers' personal involvement with these provisions of Christ demonstrates their salvation in the first chapter.

Elect Strangers -- 1:1. Peter addresses his letter to the "elect strangers [or sojourners] of the dispersion of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia (cf. Gk.)." The unfortunate inclusion of the word "elect" in verse two in the Authorized Version creates major theological confusion. God's election is erroneously made reliant upon His foreknowledge. This is contradictory to Scripture as well as the grammar of the Greek text. "Elect" is an adjective that modifies the word "stranger" or "sojourner" in the Greek text. The word "foreknowledge" modifies "dispersion" or "scattering" so that God knew beforehand that these elect ones would be scattered or dispersed. When Peter uses the word "elect," he assumes that those who had been dispersed in the locations mentioned were strangers who were believers in that they were "elect" or "chosen" ones by God to salvation, God's sovereign selection of these assured their eternal salvation. Election is not based on foreknowledge.

God's choosing is the basis for His provision of salvation. "You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you and ordained [or appointed] you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain ... (Jn. 15:16)." Some misconstrue this to mean that one is chosen to service rather than to salvation making the fruit to be the works done by the individual believer. A careful study of the context of John 15 determines the fruit to be the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23) that would soon be available in the life of Christians after Christ's cross work was accomplished and the Church formed. Without a union with the Vine, Christ, there is no possibility that the fruit of the Spirit can be produced in the life of a human being. Salvation is essential for the Spirit of God to produce His fruit in the life of the Christian. God chooses. Every propensity of fallen man rejects His offer of salvation.

God chose believers before the foundation of the world. "Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ; according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love (Eph. 1:3, 4)." He chose the believer in Him [Christ]. Christians are in Christ because they were chosen to be in Christ. They should be living lives that match up with their position in Christ ["holy") and not with a blemish that would reflect upon Christ who is the Head of His Body, the Church. Interestingly enough, in Christ, a believer is a saint, a holy one (Phil. 1:1). He has been chosen to be holy (Eph. 1:4). He is in a holy priesthood (1 Pe. 2:5). He is a participant in a chosen [elect] generation [better "race"].

Peter writes to chosen sojourners, saved sojourners, because of God's sovereign choice. All of the chosen ones are participants in the priesthood of the believer. None of the unchosen can or will be in the priesthood.

Obedient and Blood Sprinkled -- 1:2. Peter sees the dispersion of the elect sojourners as a sovereign work of God. "To the elect sojourners of the dispersion ... according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by sanctification of the Spirit, because of obedience and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ...." "Because of obedience" is a phrase that indicates that these people were saved. Paul describes belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ as obeying the gospel (2 Thess. 1:8; Rom. 10:16). The sojourners believed that Christ died for their sins, was buried, and rose again the third day (1 Cor. 15:3, 4) -- the facts of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As a result, they were saved and God sees them as not only believing the gospel of Christ, but also as obeying the gospel of Christ.

"Because of ... the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" demonstrates the application of the blood of Christ on their behalf on the heavenly altar (Heb. 9:11-28; 12:24). The sojourners had personally appropriated the application of Christ's blood at the moment of faith unto salvation.

They Are Regenerated -- 1:3, 23. The sojourners had been "born again" or regenerated. Their regeneration gave them a new hope through the resurrection of Christ concerning an inheritance that all of their pre-salvation dreams could never have conceived. Peter assumes the fact that they had been "born from above" [lit.]. Their birth had occurred when they believed (1:3) and they rest assured that their birth is a permanent state (1:23). Spiritual conception was accomplished by the uniting of the sperm [the seed] of the Word of God to the human spirit resulting in a spiritual birth (cf. Jn. 3:5). The Word of God is constituted as a seed that will not decay or rot as other seeds might. When it is joined to the human spirit, nothing can bring about its decay and destroy its effectiveness. The weakest element in human, physical conception is the sperm or seed. Conception is often uncertain because of the corruptibility [propensity to decay] of the sperm cell. A multitude of factors can prevent conception either by destroying the sperm or by rendering it incapable of joining with the ovum. The spiritual seed, that is the Word of God, is never destroyed or rendered ineffective because God establishes and protects the environment that will result in spiritual birth. Spiritual birth or regeneration takes place in the realm of the human spirit. The sojourners were the children of God by their spiritual birth.

They Possess an Inheritance -- 1:4. Peter includes himself as one who has benefited from regeneration and so not only has a hope, but also possesses an inheritance. "Into an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and unfading, standing as kept in the heavens for you (2 Pe. 1:4)." Oh what an inheritance! It is incorruptible, not subject to spoilage or decay. It is undefiled, not polluted with anything that would mar its appearance. It is unfading, not disappearing or gradually going away. It is not an earthly inheritance for it stands as guarded and kept in heaven. The elect strangers are clearly seen as heirs to this inheritance that is being kept "for [lit. with reference to) you." The down payment, that guarantees the future possession of the inheritance by the Christian, is the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13, 14). Those who are called to salvation receive the promise of the inheritance (Heb. 9:15). This also indicates the salvation of the recipients of Peters letter.

They Are Guarded by the Power of God -- 1:5. "The ones who are being guarded by the inherent power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed at the last time." The elect strangers are ones who are kept in order to preserve them for their future tense salvation from the moment of faith in the gospel of Christ and onward. Each had appropriated the salvation in his human spirit as a result of Christ's cross work. Evidently, they were enjoying a measure of the benefits of present tense salvation as they appropriated the work of Christ in gaining victory over their spiritual enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil. The salvation, that will be revealed at the last time, is the salvation of their physical bodies (cf. Rom. 8:23), of their souls (1 Pe. 1:2-9) and of their spirits (1 Cor. 5:5) [to the full extent]. Such salvation was provided by the work of Christ and is guarded for believers until it is received at the rapture of the Church.

They Believe in Christ -- 1:7-9. "In order that the test of your faith, which is much more precious than gold that is perishing, yet being tested through fire, may be found to the praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; whom having not seen you are loving, in whom yet not seeing but believing you exult for yourselves with joy unspeakable, and having been glorified while obtaining the end of faith, even the salvation of your souls." Faith in the work of Christ is evident because their faith in Christ was thoroughly put to the test. Their faith is much more precious than gold. Interestingly enough, "the test" is a metallurgical term. It was a test to determine if there was any impurity in a metal. The object of the test was to provide data for the removal of the impurities and to make certain that the material was 100% pure. Even though the faith of the elect strangers was put to the test, it will be found to be of such a character as to bring praise and glory and honor at the appearing [or revelation] of Jesus Christ. When put to the test, God found the faith pure and it will be accepted at the coming of Christ.

The elect sojourners had not seen Christ, yet they directed their agape love toward Him (1:8). The fact that they have agape love is another proof of their salvation since only spiritual believers are able to possess such a kind of love [since Christ redefined the term in John 21]. It is a part of the fruit of the Spirit that can only be produced in the life of a believer by a direct work of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22).

Even though these Christians had not seen Christ physically, they saw Him through the eyes of faith (cf. Heb. 11:1 for definition). They rejoice as a result of their faith having a joy unspeakable and standing glorified.

Peter assures his readers that they will obtain the end of their faith that will be the salvation of their souls. A proof of God-given, Spirit-produced faith is the ultimate future salvation of the soul. Peter has complete confidence that believers who read his letter have salvation, and hence, a hope for the culmination of Christ's work in their receiving their future tense salvation at Christ's coming in the air -- the rapture.

They Have Special Salvation -- 1:9, 10. The salvation of the human soul is not actualized immediately at the moment of faith to salvation. It is a future event anticipated by the true Christian. Christ made provision for salvation, but Peter sees the application of the work of Christ as a future event to be anticipated by believers. At the moment of salvation, God saves the person in the realm of his human spirit (John 3:5, 6)

Though Peter may seem to contradict some 20th century "soul winners" who are striving to win souls today, it is clear that Scripture teaches that the saving of the soul is a future event for all believers that will occur at the appearing of Jesus Christ [read the context]. Thank God, He is the one who saves men.

Experience simply illustrates that our souls are not yet saved. The soul, the seat of emotion and volition, continues to create problems for the Christian after he is saved. Hurt feelings, emotional reactions and unwise decisions are common in every Christian's life. If the soul was saved now in actuality, the believer would not have the problems he has with his emotions and acts of will.

The content of the grace believer's salvation is distinct from that of the Old Testament prophets' salvation. Peter says that they sought out and searched out such a salvation, but could only witness the manifestation of God's grace. The earthbound, physical salvation of the Old Testament stands in extreme contrast to the heavenly citizenship of the New Testament grace believer. The prophets prophesied concerning the suffering and glory of Christ (1:11), but the revelation they gave did not apply to them but rather to the saints in the future Church.

They Were Evangelized -- 1:12. When the elect strangers were saved, they heard the gospel of Jesus Christ: Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again the third day (1 Cor. 15:3, 4). Because of this, Peter says that they were evangelized by the ones who preached the gospel ["have preached the gospel" A.V.] by the Holy Spirit sent forth from heaven. The involvement of the Holy Spirit guarantees the resulting salvation. He not only gave them faith (Eph. 2:8, 9; Phil. 1:29; 1 Cor. 3:5) to believe, but also placed them in Christ and placed them in the family of God by birth [regeneration].

They Are Called to Salvation -- 1:15. "But according to the Holy One having called you, you yourselves be holy in your manner of life." A careful study of the word "call," kaleo, in all of its forms in the New Testament exhibits the fact that it is only used of the call by God of the individual to salvation when used in a technical, theological context. God is "the one having called you" and He has an attribute with which the believer is to identify, His holiness. Because a holy God calls the person to salvation, his manner of life is to be holy. The recipients of Peter's letter had the potential in their salvation to display a kind of holiness that would please God. Verse 17 concludes that the believer should be scared to death that he might displease God during his time on this earth.

They Are Redeemed -- 1:18. "Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver or gold from your useless manner of life delivered from the fathers." The elect sojourners had an intuitive knowledge of the fact that they were redeemed. Their redemption was not with silver or gold that would ultimately decay, but with the precious blood of Christ (1:19). They were redeemed from the uselessness ["vain" A.V.] of their manner of life that had been promulgated by their fathers. The Mosaic Law held them in bondage to a useless behavior that could not please God or give them salvation. God saved all by grace through faith at all times in the history of mankind. Keeping the Mosaic Law was not necessarily an exhibition of faith. It could have been just as easily an exhibition of the human propensity to work to please God without faith. Because of their redemption, God expected Peters readers to respond by obeying the truth. Christ's perfect provision in His cross work of redemption encourages the Christian to focus his faith and hope in God (1:21).

They Believe in God -- 1:21. A belief in God the Father is a natural element in grace salvation. Because the Father was directly involved in resurrecting Christ and giving Him glory, the new Christian will also have faith in the Father. The Holy Spirit and Christ, Himself, also had roles in accomplishing the resurrection of Christ. Peter uses a form that indicates that the believer's faith is in the Godhead and not just the Father. All three persons are the logical objects of the Christian's faith.

Why is there so much discussion about the elect sojourners? It would seem obvious that if Peter were writing a letter with such important contents, he would not have sent it to unbelievers. True, but there is more to the issue than the fact that they were saved. Peter did not refer to a key element in salvation in chapter one that he picks up in chapter two. He seems to deliberately neglect the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit. He writes chapter one listing various elements of the elect sojourners salvation thinking in logical steps in light of the material that he planned to develop in the next section [chapter]. In chapter two, he discusses the results of the baptism of the Holy Spirit without making a direct reference to the baptizing work itself. He evidently assumes that his readers are familiar with the subject, so he uses a veiled reference to that work and through that reference establishes that the priesthood of the believer is a direct result of that work of the Holy Spirit.

The Sharing in the Spiritual House

"You also as living stones are built up a spiritual house into an holy priesthood (1 Pe. 2:5a)." Any careful consideration of the spiritual house draws attention to Jesus Christ, the Cornerstone, and grace believers as living stones. Understanding the whole concept of the building of God is essential for establishing how the believer becomes a priest. The importance of understanding the spiritual house is evident in that the Greek text includes an eis, [into], preposition before "holy priesthood." When a believer becomes a living stone in the building of God, he is immediately a priest. The living stones are priests and the priests are living stones. Hence, the method of admission is identical for both the spiritual house and the holy priesthood.

Christ as a Living Stone -- 1 Peter 2:4. "Since you tasted for yourselves that the Lord is kind. To whom approaching for oneself, a living stone, on the one hand having been rejected by men, on the other hand chosen by God, precious (2:3, 4)." Peter affirms the salvation of his readers when he uses the Greek first class condition in verse three assuming it to be fulfilled as a fact. It is best translated "since" instead of "if." Since it is a fact that all the readers have tasted [at the time of their salvation] that the Lord is good [or palatable or fit for use], God expected them to be growing in the realm of their present tense salvation. Peters use of "Lord" indicates that at least a few of the elect strangers had submitted themselves to the Lordship of Christ in their lives though some had not (cf. 3:15 Gk.). Living in a slave operated Roman society, some of the readers had found that the Lordship of Christ was far more palatable than that of many slaveholders who were their human masters. Though these believers were bond slaves to Christ, they had discovered the glorious freedom available in Christ.

They approached or came to the Lord (2:3) Who has the character and quality of being a living stone. The readers had come for themselves and for their own personal benefit anticipating the perfect provision of the Lord. A taste at the moment of salvation gives an insatiable appetite for more of the same. The text teaches that they tasted at a point in time in the past but are continually approaching as a result of the initial tasting.

Jesus Christ is a living stone. He is the Glorified Resurrected One who is alive today and seated at the right hand of God the Father. As an eyewitness to Christ's ascension, Peter had no doubt concerning the deity of Christ and His exalted position in the Godhead. Resurrection glory confirmed the reality of the spiritual life that inheres in Jesus Christ. That life is confirmed in His resurrection and continued in His ascension life forevermore. The spiritual house of verse five is living in that all of its components are alive with spiritual life by the power of the Godhead.

Christ as a Stone Rejected. The rejection of Christ comes to Peter's mind as he reflects on Christ, the Living Stone. Men rejected him. Who are the men who rejected Him? Who are the agents of the rejection? When was the rejection? Historians have prejudicially charged select groups for the rejection of Christ. The Jews, the Romans and the Gentiles have each been separately blamed for the rejection seen in the crucifixion of Christ. God's verdict is that all are guilty of the rejection -- everyone who has the character or quality of being human was a party to the initial rejection in some way. Peter uses a Greek form that indicates that all of humanity is in a state of being individuals who reject Christ.

In verse seven, Peter again refers to the rejection of Christ, but he is far more specific in his use of the participle. He casts blame upon the builders who rejected Christ, the Stone. Tradition held that the sound of tools working the stone for the Solomonic temple was not permitted to be heard on the temple site. Such a prohibition made it necessary for the stonemasons to carve individual stones at the quarries outside of Jerusalem. Each stone was carved to prescribed specifications so that it would perfectly fit in its place in the temple structure. The stones were transported to the temple site and ultimately placed in their designated positions. A certain stone was frequently sent by the stonemasons to the builders, but it was inevitably too large, too small, or the wrong shape so the workmen continued to send it back. As the building progressed, the builders inevitably found the stray stone in the wrong place interfering with the building progress. They tripped over it and were forced to move it over and over again. Finally, in disgust and frustration, the stone was taken to the edge of the temple mound and pushed over the side as a stone-carver's error. They considered it to be worthless debris. When the temple structure was nearly finished, the builders could not find the cornerstone -- the most important stone in the structure. Finally, someone remembered the stone dumped over the hill and the rejected stone was retrieved and placed in its designated place as the cornerstone. Whether the story is true or not, it does provide an excellent illustration of the response of the builders -- the Jewish leaders living under the Mosaic Law. Instead of looking at their rejection as a state of being (1 Pe. 2:4) as he did of humanity as a whole, Peter focuses upon the once-and-for-all rejection by the Jewish religious leaders who were attempting to build their own temple of Judaism. Christ replaced the physical temple with a spiritual temple comprised of living stones with Christ, Himself, as the Cornerstone.

Christ as the Chief Cornerstone. The Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 28:16 proclaimed the exaltation of Christ as the Head of the corner, "Therefore thus says Adonai Jehovah, Behold, I finally lay for a foundation in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a foundation that is being founded; the one who is believing will not begin to make haste." Peter's quotation of the Isaiah passage in 1 Peter 2:6 clearly gives it a Messianic interpretation. Christ also quotes the Isaiah passage identifying the builders as Jewish leaders in Matthew 21:42, 44; Mark 12:10 and Luke 20:17, 18. As a result of Christ's parable concerning the perverse, rebellious husbandmen and the Isaiah quotation, the chief priests and scribes sought to lay hands on Him because they experientially knew that He was speaking of them in the parable (Matt. 21:45, 46; Mark 12:12; Lu. 20:19). Clearly, Christ was speaking of the fact that the husbandman [Jewish leaders] had abused the Master's [God the Father's] vineyard [Israel] and ultimately took the life of his son [Christ]. The result is that the vineyard [Israel] will be turned over to other husbandmen who will tend it and produce fruit. In Matthew 21:43, Christ tells them that the kingdom of God will be taken from them and given to a nation that will bring forth its fruit. The Stone will be a source of destruction to those who fall on it or on whom it falls (Matt. 21:44).

Peter was certain that Christ was the Cornerstone from the very beginning of the Church on the day of Pentecost. When Peter healed the infirm man ["impotent" A.V.] in Acts 4:9, Peter tells of the time when Christ, the rejected Stone, was elevated to be the Head of the Corner. His proclamation concerning the power of the healing was: "Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand before you whole (4:10)." Verse 11 is a quotation of the Isaiah 28 prophecy. Christ was placed as the Head of the corner when God raised Him from among the dead ones. Resurrection day was the day that Christ assumed His proper position as Head of the Corner.

David anticipated the coming of the day in the Messianic portion of Psalm 118. With the recovery of the rejected Stone, Christ is made the Head of the Corner. The Psalmist literally says, "This is from Jehovah; it is a wonder in our eyes (118:23)." Since Peter has identified the day as the day of Christ's resurrection, it is evident that the proper response to the first day of the week by the grace believer should conform to the anticipated response prophesied by David. "This is the day that Jehovah has made; let us rejoice and let us be glad in it (118:24)." Every Sunday service should be a time of rejoicing because of Christ's resurrection and His being placed as Head of the Corner.

The believer's freedom from the bondage of the Sabbath regulations of the Mosaic Law should fill the hearts of Christians with appreciation for the work of Christ on the cross and for the confirmation of the effectiveness of His work and His deity through His resurrection. When the believer's mind is focused on the accomplishments and provisions of Christ, there is no longer need for lifeless ritualism and the guilt created by the demands of the Law. He is risen! Christian hope has a foundation and with it an inherent optimism.

Christ became the "Head of the Corner (1 Pe. 2:7)." He is not merely a stone at the corner that ties the walls together, but rather He is the Head of the Corner -- the stone that ties and holds the whole structure together. The idea of "head" is very similar to its Hebrew idea of "chief," making it most important. Several perspectives present themselves when the "Head of the Corner" metaphor is used. Some conceive Christ as the keystone that was essential in the Greek and Roman arches. Others conceive Christ as a stone tying together the wall at the top of the structure. Scripture very pointedly describes Christ as having a relationship to the foundation (Eph. 2:20). After Peter's confession, Christ predicted that He would be the Rock, petra, on which the Church would be built (Matt. 16:18 cf. 1 Cor. 10:4). The Stone ties the whole building together and is Christ. The weight of the structure rests on Him. The cohesion of the building finds its security in Christ. He guarantees its permanence. He keeps the stones of the structure together as a unity. He supports and sustains the structure. The building cannot be removed, ruined or destroyed without an open confrontation with Jesus Christ. Only He can modify the structure in any way.

Peter and Paul both describe Christ as the "Chief Corner Stone" (1 Pe. 2:6; Eph. 2:20). Peter's quotation from Isaiah 28:16 follows the Septuagint translation of "precious corner" in the Hebrew text. The word akrogoniaios translated "Chief Corner Stone" has the idea of a corner foundation stone that is the focal point of the whole structure. Christ is the most important part of the foundation upon which the Church is built. When Paul uses the same word in Ephesians 2:20, he is emphatically drawing attention to the fact that Christ exists ["being" A.V.] as a chief corner stone. The apostles and prophets were the foundation directly tied together by Christ.

Christ as a Stone of Stumbling. To the believer, Christ is the most important object of honor and worship -- He is worthy of all of the Christian's thanksgiving and praise. To the unbeliever, He is an object of derision even though He now occupies the position of prominence. He is a stone of stumbling and a great rock of scandal to the unbeliever every time he hears the Word of God (1 Pe. 2:8). "And a stone of stumbling and a rock of scandal; to the ones who are stumbling at the word, being disobedient ones; into which also they were appointed." He is disobedient in that he does not hear and obey the gospel of Christ. When he hears a word about Christ's work, he is either stumbled or scandalized by Christ's free, gracious provision since it stands in contrast to the unbeliever's personal works of human righteousness that are repulsive to God.

Paul describes the problem Israel had with Jesus Christ that made Him their national stumbling stone in Romans 9:31-33, "But Israel, that pursued a law of righteousness did not attain unto a law of righteousness. Why? Because their pursuit was not out of faith but was out of works; they stumbled at the stone of stumbling, as it stands written: Behold I place in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of scandal, and the one believing in Him will not be ashamed." The Gentiles did not pursue righteousness but many of the Gentiles apprehended righteousness even the righteousness that springs out of faith (9:30). Israel, on the other hand, diligently pursued a law of righteousness but did not arrive at or accomplish the righteousness of the Law (9:31). Why didn't they attain righteousness? Scripture's answer to that question is that it was because Israel did what they did from their own individual works rather than from faith (9:32). Israel stumbled first, and then as the Gentiles heard the gospel of Christ, they also joined the Stumblers Society having gained admission by their confidence in their own works. Peter was confident that all members would ultimately pay their dues (1 Pe. 2:8). Human confidence in human ability to please God has always separated man from God. In the Law, works were required as God accepted the presumptive challenge of Israel given to God when they said, "All that the Jehovah has spoken, we will do (Ex. 19:8)." Some have stumbled over Christ in that they see faith as a work. That which they call faith is simply presumption springing from the human spirit. Faith is not a work! "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted [or reckoned to be so) for righteousness (Rom. 4:5 A.V.)." Faith is not a work; it is the gift of God in salvation (1 Cor. 3:5; Phil. 1:29; Eph. 2:8, 9) and as an attitude of the spiritual believer (Gal. 5:22). Self-righteous human beings will always stumble over Christ and His gracious work. They are scandalized that anyone would consider their personal righteousness as unacceptable to God. Christ stumbled the leaders of Israel and their people. He stumbles all unbelievers who trip and fall on their faces only to pick themselves up and continue on in their own righteousness only to stumble again.

How does all this relate to the priesthood of the believer? The Church is the building constructed upon the foundation tied together by Christ, the Cornerstone. Peter says that the building is for the purpose of being a holy priesthood (1 Pe. 2:5). Christ holds the priesthood together as the Head of the Corner. Hence, if one is a part of the building, he is a priest.

The Church as a House. The Church is a spiritual house (1 Pe. 2:5). It is real though not physical. It exists in the mind of God as a perfect, completed reality. Each one who believes the gospel of Christ from the time of Christ's cross work until Christ's return for His Church at the rapture is a part of the House. "Household" in Hebrews reflects the relationships in the structure, "the House," in the translation of the same word. Moses was faithful in his entire household, but Christ as son over His own household is worthy of more glory (Heb. 3:1-6). The household is built up by someone. In other words, it is prepared or put in readiness by someone. The writer of Hebrews says, "We are a household [of him]." Moses was a servant in his house while Christ is a son who is fully mature with authority over His own house. Christ stands in all His heavenly authority over His house as the Son, and supporting His house as the Chief Cornerstone. Whether the house is a building [i.e. the structure] or the participants [i.e. the saints] does not change the intent of the passage. The house or household of Christ is superior to the house or household of Moses.

Hebrews 3:1 presents Christ as High Priest over His house. The grace believer has a new and living way that Christ has consecrated [or set apart] for him by His personal work (Heb. 10:20). Christ is a high priest over the house belonging to God (Heb. 10:21). The author of Hebrews also directly relates the house to the priesthood and its High Priest. The Church as a Building. The local church is not a building. It is the people who have organized to meet together that comprise the local church. When Scripture looks at the Church that is the Body of Christ, it uses the metaphor of a building. When one thinks of a house, he thinks of a building. The Church is identified as a building in 1 Corinthians 3:9 and Ephesians 2:21. When Paul said that "we are laborers together with God (1 Cor. 3:9)," he recognized the unity required for a proper labor to be pleasing to God. God does not expect the Christian to work for Him but expects him always to be a co-laborer with God. Paul goes on to use a mixed metaphor when he says, "You are God's farmland -- God's building (1 Cor. 3:9)." The Corinthian believers were a part of the building. Paul was the instrument God used for bringing the Corinthians into the building. Paul is a wise master builder because he was the one who laid the foundation. As an apostle, Paul was a direct participant in the foundation as well as the steward of the dispensation of the grace of God (Eph. 3:2; Col. 1:25). Because of his stewardship, he could say that he had laid the foundation that was Christ Jesus and He could expect everyone building upon the foundation to pay strict attention to the way they build.

The book of Ephesians uses three metaphors to describe Christ and His Church -- Body, Building and Bride.

                                                         
   |               |  Church Metaphor  |  Christ's Role  |
   |  Ephesians 1: |  Body             |  Head           |
   |  Ephesians 2: |  Building         |  Cornerstone    |
   |  Ephesians 5: |  Bride            |  Bridegroom     |

In Ephesians two, the new position of the Ephesian believers is the focus of attention. Paul's epistle has reviewed their former condition and position. Paul gives their "in Christ" relationship a place of prominence in the book. He assumes that the Ephesians know what it means to be "in Christ" and how one is placed in Christ by the baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:12, 13). With such recognition, they could easily understand the significance of all Paul's references to being "in Christ." Ephesians two refers to being "in Christ" nine times. The prepositional phrases "in Christ Jesus" (2:6, 7, 10, 13), "in himself" (2:15), "in one body" (2:16), "in whom" (2:21, 22) and "in the Lord" (2:21) assume that the readers would relate the truth to the results of the baptism of the Spirit at salvation.

Formerly, the Ephesians had been foreigners and strangers, but now they have become together-citizens [fellow citizens) of the saints and members of the household of God (Eph. 2:19). As individuals, at the moment of their faith, their whole relationship to God changed. They had become part of the household -- not second-rate members but members with full status. They had come to share equal rights and equal privileges as a part of the building. They are parts of a building that is assembled in the mind of God. Though centuries have passed, the Ephesians are just as much a part of the Building as they were the day they read the Ephesian letter in the church at Ephesus. Even so, the twentieth century believer is also a part of the same Building. Every Church believer over the centuries has his own place in the Building.

The Building's structure began upon "the foundation from [better translation] the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Cornerstone," and will continue until Christ returns for His Church. With the revelatory gifts of apostle and prophet giving revelation, the early church was built upon oral revelation confirmed by the temporary spiritual gifts that were given to protect the early, infant Church from error. With the completion of the New Testament canon (1 Cor. 13:10), the foundation had been laid. It was no longer necessary for the formative foundational gifts to continue to exist. Other stones were to be built upon that foundation.

Ephesians 2:19-22 explains that the believer who is in Christ is in the Building. Peter tells believers that they are "built up a spiritual house into an holy priesthood." The believer enters the Building by the baptism of the Holy Spirit and therefore must be a priest by the same means. It is the baptism of the Spirit that places one in Christ. Being a priest is but one of eleven possessions that accrue to the Christian in Christ. Also there are eleven positions that are counted to be the believer's at salvation when he is placed in Christ.

God planned for the Building to be a temple. The interlocking of the individual parts of the Building ultimately is to grow into a temple of God. In essence, the priesthood itself is a temple in a unique way.

The Church as a Temple. Actually, there are three types of temples of God in existence today. Just because a building bears the name "temple" does not make it a legitimate temple. The biblical concept of temple was that it was a place of God's residency and presence. The New Testament clearly identifies the temples that exist today. Two are spiritual while the third is physical. One is the temple that is the priesthood -- the Church that is Christ's Body (cf. 2 Cor. 6:16). The second spiritual temple is the heavenly temple where Christ placed His blood and where He appears in the presence of the Father for true Christians (cf. Heb. 9:11, 23, 24). The third is the physical body of the grace believer that is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). In the New Testament, there are two Greek words used that are translated "temple." As has already been mentioned, one is a general term that referred to the whole temple site with all its courts, quarters, storage barns, supply buildings as well as the temple structure itself. The other, naos is far more specific referring to the very place of God's residency among men -- the holy of holies. It is this second term that is used of all three of the contemporary temples. The personal presence of the members of the Godhead is evident in each of the temples.

There is no physical building today in which God is resident. Though some local congregations have used "temple" in their name, the building that has this sign by its door is not a true temple. "The Lord is in His holy temple" may be sung by the choir with reference to the building in which the church meets, but Scripture no longer sees a physical building as the temple of God. A local church is not a temple of God even though its members' bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit if they are true believers and even though each member is a part of the Building that is the temple of God. "In whom all the building being fitted together grows into a holy of holies in the Lord (Eph. 2:21)." As members are added to the Church, that is His Body, the Building grows into a place where the presence of God is manifested. Each Christian has his spiritual gift (1 Pe. 4:10) and his specific priestly duty and is thereby fitted together in the divinely selected position in the Temple. The unity and the orderliness of the Building should manifest great glory to God in the exhibition of His perfections. In Christ, the Church "is built together into [or for] a dwelling place of God by the Spirit (Eph. 2:22)."

Because the Building is a temple, Paul reminded the Corinthians that defilement [or pollution] of the Temple would bring Divine judgment. Paul refers to the Temple that is the Building when he says, "Don't you [plural] know that you [plural] are a holy of holies [singular] of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you [plural] (1 Cor. 3:16)." Individuals in the Corinthian church were polluting the Building so Paul warns them that God would pollute them (1 Cor. 3:17 Gk. cf. 11:30).

Evidently, the Corinthians continued to have temple polluters because Paul again calls for them to purify themselves and to avoid such pollution. After an interval of time in the Second Epistle, he asks them, "What union does the holy of holies of God have with idols? (2 Cor. 6:16)." He reminds them of their role in the Temple when he says, "For you [plural] are a holy of holies of the living God." Applying Leviticus 26:12 to the Temple, he directs their attention to the fact that the Building/Temple will have the consistent activity of the Godhead in it resulting in a close identification with God ["I will be their God"] and a new relationship to God ("and they shall be my people"] (2 Cor. 6:16).

When the grace believer was saved, he was placed in the Body of Christ that is identified in Scripture as the Building of God. He was placed in Christ by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. 1 Peter 2:5 clearly indicates that believers are living stones that are being built a spiritual house into a holy priesthood. Because of this, each believer is a part of a spiritual house that is a holy priesthood. He is in a priesthood and therefore a priest. As a priest he is qualified to have direct access to God.


Chapter 6: Am I Competent?


Is the normal Christian competent to do business with God? Is he capable of making decisions concerning his relationship to God and His Word? Does he have the competency to determine his religious affiliation and doctrinal position? Is there really such a thing as soul liberty? The immediate reaction of some individuals is that some Christians are and some are not. It is interesting how the ones who make religious judgment consider themselves competent to relate to God while they deny others the possibility. The implications of soul liberty or soul competency have widespread influences. It was the religious question of soul liberty that was one of the essential motivations for the European settlement of the American continent and the American Revolution. The question of equal rights and privileges carried beyond the Church into civil government absolutely influencing the form of government. If God counts an individual believer to be competent to approach Him, it becomes possible for people to realize that they could exercise a similar competency in secular government. The implications of soul competency carry into many areas of Christian life.

The Provision of Access to God

At the very root of soul competency is direct access to God. Without access to God, all the soul competency in the world would be of little value. God accepts the believer in Christ and counts his activity in Christ to be competent activity for the believer. Much of what is written about soul competency or theological individualism is filled with safeguards so that abuse will not result in anarchism. The New Testament safeguard is one's access to God. Because of his access to God, the individual believer is responsible to God alone for decisions he makes and relationships he establishes. God is the final, absolute critic of the competency of the individual believer. Because the Christian is considered competent, he has the right to espouse a doctrinal position but his soul liberty does not authenticate the position. In other words, just because a Christian believes something to be true does not make it true. In some areas of doctrine, there are as many positions as there are denominations. Does soul competency validate all of these doctrinal positions? Some positions are absolutely contradictory to one another and all are held by true believers. God did not design revelation to provide a divergence of doctrine, interpretation or application. Unless God explicitly gives permission to give one passage of Scripture more than one interpretation or application that He sees as valid, it is invalid and unacceptable to Him. Because the believer is seen directly before God, he should be filled with reluctance to accept man's word concerning a doctrine and objectively evaluate the doctrine as a competent spiritual individual to ascertain whether or not it is God's interpretation and application. The control over potential abuses of soul liberty is one's recognition and utilization of his direct access to God. The Christian's access is based on the baptism of the Holy Spirit by which he became a priest. Scripture is clear that the believer's access has been provided in Christ.

There are two aspects of access that are evident in Scripture: it is free and it is direct. Access on the part of the believer assumes acceptance on the part of God. For the spiritual believer, there is free access immediately available. There are no conditions that interfere with his approach to God as long as he is spiritual. The believer stands before God in Christ being seen by God the Father as one possessing the merit that is Christ's merit. No steps need to be taken nor human mediation needed to purchase the freedom of access. It is not legislated or mandated but is simply imputed to the spiritual believer. Even the carnal believer has a measure of access in that he can confess his sin for divine forgiveness at any time. He has direct access with no person or process in between. God the Father counts the believer to be in Christ at His own right hand. The result is access for one who is in a position of privilege with ready access to the Fathers ear and heart. The believer's access to God the Father is much greater than the access of a human child to a parent. Access with God does not have its basis in one's spiritual birth but in Spirit baptism. Christians may approach God as born ones coming to their Heavenly Father, but their being born again [lit. from above] is not the basis for the Father's acceptance of the believer. Because so many Christians think in terms of the father-child relationship, they attempt to reach as children from earth into the third heaven to receive a favorable response from the Father. They are attempting to relate to a Father who is far away [i.e. distant]. The other option is to bring the Father's residency to earth through His omnipresence [that is a part of His essential immensity]. As a result, these believers feel they can speak with God right here on earth. God's arrangements for access are clearly taught in Scripture. God has taken the believer to heaven in Christ so that the believer's access to God is in heaven from heaven. When the Christian feels at ease in his position in Christ as a Spirit filled believer, God the Father counts him to be serving as a priest at His own right hand. When the believer offers sacrifices, the Father sees them as coming from Christ. When the believer communicates with God, the Father hears and responds considering the communication to be coming from the Second Person. Directing His attention toward the Son, the Father relates to the individual grace believer in Christ. By Christ's work, access has been made available to the believer.

One of the purposes for Christ's death was to provide access for the believer. Peter incorporates a purpose clause to emphasize this. "Because Christ also died once concerning sins, a righteous one as a substitute for unrighteous ones, in order that He might give you access to God, on the one hand being put to death in flesh, but on the other hand being quickened in spirit (1 Pe. 3:18)." The verb prosago literally describes leading someone toward another person and so it is translated "bring" (Lu. 9:41; Acts 16:20; 1 Pe. 3:18) and "draw near" (Acts 27:27) in the Authorized Version. It means "to open a way of access" making it possible for one to be accepted and to receive the attention of another person. This term is essential for understanding the concept of access. In classical Greek, the term described the bringing of a person into the presence of another individual introducing the one to the other. Acceptance or rejection determines whether the term has negative or positive connotations. A number of scholars have linked the concept to the activity of the Oriental court in which a potentate appointed an officer who would vouch for an individual who sought audience with the ruler. Access involves more than the presence of an individual. If a person was permitted to enter the presence of a king and prohibited from speaking with him, there would be no true access. Christ has provided real access with the Father. Christ Himself is the instrument by which the access is provided and in Him there is access. Audience is always granted to the Father for the spiritual believer in Christ.

"Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace toward God through the agency of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we stand as having the access by faith into this grace in which we are in the state of standing, and we are boasting for ourselves upon a hope of the glory of God (Rom. 5:1, 2)." The grace believer is in the state of actually possessing access through Jesus Christ and His work. Because the believer has been declared or counted righteous, he has peace toward God. Without peace, there is no true access. Christ has done more than introduce the believer to the Father. He has given the Father a favorable opinion of the character of the believer because of His cross work and its application. Christ obtained peace for the believer -- peace with God confirming the reality of positive access.

Christ not only made peace for the grace believer but "He is our peace (Eph. 2:14)." The believer is brought near to God by the blood of Christ (Eph. 2:13). Christ took individuals from the Jews and the Gentiles and put them into the Body of Christ making them one new man [Christ and His Body] making peace (Eph. 2:15) reconciling both of them to God in one Body by His cross work (Eph. 2:16). "Because through Him we both are continually having access by one Spirit toward the Father (Eph. 2:18)." The access available for the believer is only functional when he is spiritual. The work of Christ has made access available for every believer but it is only effective for the spiritual believer because the Holy Spirit is the One who actually makes the access effective for the believer. Real access is only available through the activity of all three Members of the Trinity. God the Son has perfectly made the way clear for access by dealing with every possible element that would impede access. God the Holy Spirit is the Person immediately applying the work of Christ for the spiritual believer assuring approach and access. God the Father accepts the believer giving him the privilege of admittance and speech. As a result, the believer has the freedom not only to serve the Lord in His Presence but also to communicate with Him.

The mechanics of access are evident in Ephesians 3:12. The believer's being in Christ is the basis for access. Since in Christ the believer is a priest and near to God, he can have boldness and access with confidence. "In whom we are having boldness and access by confidence through faith in Him." Boldness and access share the common idea of approach. The believer can have freedom of speech in the presence of God as well as a ready access. Confidence must have its roots in faith that is centered in the facts that surround all that the Christian has in Christ. Without knowledge that in Christ he is highly favored (Eph. 1:6) and considered complete (Col. 2:9, 10), he can only have limited confidence in the matter of approach to God. When the believer is living in his position in Christ as a spiritual believer, there is nothing that can prohibit his approaching God the Father. When this is understood, it behooves the Christian to gain an experiential knowledge by living in his position; and as a result, he has a confidence that encourages his approach to God. The confidence is activated by faith that has Christ as its object [objective genitive]. Paul makes the progression clear. Faith in Christ gives the believer confidence by which he utilizes the boldness and access that he has in Christ. It is crucial for the believer to be directing his faith toward Christ through the Word of God in order to make use of His approach to God in his everyday living.

The Way of Access

"Jesus says to him, I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me (Jn. 14:6)." This familiar passage describes much more than salvation for it also clearly predicts the believer's access. Christ anticipated His going to the Father's house where there are many dwelling places and His preparing a place there for believers (14:2, 3). He promised that He would return so that He could receive the believer to Himself and thus believers would be with Him. "And where I am going you intuitively know and the way you intuitively know (Jn. 14:4)." Christ assumed that the disciples would know the place where He was going for He had just spoken of the Father's house. The prospect of access to the Father's house should have been evident since Christ had just told the disciples that He was going to prepare a place then come for them so that they could inhabit the place in His presence. But with all the clarity of the context of Christ's discourse, Thomas raised his hand like a confused student with a question. "Lord, we do not intuitively know where you are going away, or how we can intuitively know the way (14:5)." Christ is the Way for access to the Father. Only through Christ will it be possible for any human to enter the presence of the Father. A believer has the right to approach the Father only through Christ. He has no right to approach God on his own merit or worth. Christ is the Way. Christ promised to return and to take believers physically to the dwelling place He is preparing. After Christ's return for the Church, He will actually present the Church to the Father (1 Thess. 3:13). At that point, all who are in Christ will recognize the access gained by Christ whether they have experienced access in this life or not. It is clear that the way to the Father is Christ. Because of Christ's work, it is possible for the believer in Christ to have the access while on earth to the Father spiritually before he has any physical access. Christ has provided for the spiritual salvation of the human spirit and will in the future actually save the body and soul. A part of that salvation is the way of access in Christ Himself.

Under Law, the way into the presence of God was not manifested. There was no access except on the Day of Atonement. In fact, Scripture barely describes it as worthy of being identified as a way of access. "The Holy Spirit making this evident, the way of the holiest had not yet been brought to light, the first tabernacle still possessing a standing (Heb. 9:8)." Even though the high priest entered the holy of holies, the way of access had not yet been revealed. There was limited access to an earthly representation of a heavenly reality. True access was not available. It had not been revealed. By the time Hebrews was written, the Holy Spirit had made it clear that the first tabernacle was only a parable (Heb. 9:9 Gk.) of what was made available through the work of Christ. The Way had been kept a secret.

In Hebrews 10:19, a compound form of "way," eisodos, is a stronger form than the simple, short word. The eis preposition is a prefix strengthening the form to mean "the way into." The grace believer has a way, but more than that, a way into the presence of God. "Having therefore, brothers, boldness for (eis) the way into [or entrance] the holies by the blood of Jesus." Christ's presentation of His blood makes entrance possible. Entrance is gained by the physical death of Christ. Christ has bought the ticket for the believers admission into the very Holy of Holies. Whether or not the believer uses the ticket to the Holy of Holies in his life is entirely a decision he must make for himself. Undoubtedly, there are believers who have rarely, if ever, enjoyed a relationship to the heavenly holy of holies. The character of the way is evident in Hebrews 10:20. It is a way "that He inaugurated for us, a way freshly slain and living through the veil, that is His flesh." Christ inaugurated, dedicated, consecrated, instituted and initiated a new way of approach. The word "consecrate" or "inaugurate" has the root idea of "making new in." Christ, by His work, established something new. It is so new that it is identified as a freshly slain way indicating that it was a very recent event. Christ provided a living way. Both of the adjectival forms describe the way by contrasting it with the sacrificial system of the Law. Under Law, sacrifices that were freshly slain were dead and only of value for one purpose. They met the requirements of the Law accomplishing the intended purpose of the offerer who brought the sacrifice to be offered. Christ is a freshly slain and yet living sacrifice who gives free, direct access. Christ is the Way.

The Direction of the Access

Approach involves the believer's activity. He must go toward God or approach God to appropriate the access that has been provided. Some may approach assuming that they have access being filled with confidence in the revelation from Scripture. Others will come with reluctance filled with uncertainty because of their lack of knowledge of Scripture or because of their spiritual condition. The way a believer approaches God is based on his understanding of a wide spectrum of biblical revelation. Communication with God, the sufficiency of the work of Christ, and the roles of the Godhead in salvation and Christian living are essential elements for understanding the potentials for approach to God. In every dispensation, approach to God was based on faith alone.

In the chronology of the major acts of faith in the Old Testament, faith is seen as essential for approach to God. "But without faith it is impossible to be well pleasing to God even once; for it is necessary for the one who is approaching God to believe that He is and that He is the rewarder of the ones who are seeking Him (Heb. 11:6)." Any approach to God at any time was based on faith. Access to God in salvation always required faith and faith alone. Salvation in the dispensation of grace includes an initial approach to God by faith. "Wherefore He has the power to be saving into all end time the ones who are approaching God through Him, while always living with the purpose of interceding on their behalf (Heb. 7:25)." Christ is continually saving the ones who approach the Father through Him [the Way]. Not only is a believer saved at the moment of his faith in Christ, but also the intercessory ministry of Christ is saving him. When the believer approaches God through Christ in salvation, he essentially believes that Christ has made adequate provision for access to the Father. This is one of the reasons Scripture teaches that faith in Christ at salvation also involves faith concerning the Father. Salvation provides an acceptable approach to God through Christ. Christ is the Way of approach and maintains that Way. A proper relationship to Christ is the basis for the way of approach. Salvation not only provides a way of access but also involves an approach to God through Christ to be saved.

The Law could never make those who approach God mature. In Christ, there is a potential for spiritual maturity that did not exist under the Mosaic Law. No matter how righteous a man was under the Law or how well versed he was in the Law, he had no hope for spiritual maturity. If he offered every kind of sacrifice possible every day of his life, a believing Israelite could never hope to mature. Men often preach that legal principles are necessary for Christian maturity. Scripture teaches that legal principles will never cause any maturity. Great believers under the Mosaic Law were all immature believers. Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Caleb, Gideon, Samuel, David, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, Hezekiah, Isaiah and Jeremiah had no potential for spiritual maturity because the Law could not bring one of them to maturity. One wonders if the dearth of maturing Christians in the Church today is not partially due to the extensive use of character studies of Law believers in preaching and teaching. The few believers, who attempt to attain the level of righteousness of the Law believer, will always be immature Christians from God's perspective. Any Old Testament believer who approached God, whether priest or high priest, could never mature. "For the Law possessing the shadow of the good things that are coming, and not the image itself of the things, does not have the power itself ever by the same sacrifices that they are offering continually every year to make the ones who are approaching mature (Heb. 10:1)." The same principle has also been discussed in Hebrews 7:11. The means of approach was limited to an earthly representation of a heavenly reality. Even when the Shekinah glory of God was manifested, direct access was impossible. Only a few men had any access of consequence with God. Jehovah always initiated the approach for the individual. Even Moses, whose face shone with the glory of God, did not have the kind of access that the grace believer does. Moses, who had spoken with God, did not have the potential for spiritual maturation. David was identified as a man after God's own heart but could not mature spiritually. All of the wisdom given to Solomon could not bring him maturity. Not one of the Old Testament saints could even hope to possess any measure of spiritual maturity. They were not immature because of the lack of revelation but were immature because God had not provided a way for them to mature spiritually. They could not mature by keeping the law!

Legalism separated man from God. Mount Sinai is used as an illustration of the kind of approach a believing Israelite had to God. "For you [grace believers] have not approached a mount that is being handled and being burned with fire and to darkness, and to thick gloom, and to a hurricane, and the sound of the trumpet, and a voice of utterances, that the ones hearing entreated that not a single word be added to them, for they could not bear the thing accurately charged; if even a beast should happen to touch the mountain, it will be stoned, and that which appeared continually was fearful, that Moses, said, I am terrified and shaking (Heb. 12:18-21)." They could come to the foot of Mount Sinai but that was the extent of the approach no matter what accompanied the approach. They could look and listen but could not touch or come any nearer to God. When they observed the phenomena that the presence of Jehovah produced, the people and Moses were filled with extreme fear. Approach was limited by the prohibitions that were reinforced by the manifestation of Jehovah's power.

On the other hand, the recipients of the letter to the Hebrews will have access to Mount Zion. Because of Who is there and what is there, there will be a closer approach to Zion than Israel ever had to Sinai when Jehovah was there. The access one will have in the future millennial kingdom will involve a freedom to approach Zion without prohibitions. "But you have approached unto Mount Zion even the city of the living God, to a heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels in assembly, and the Church of firstborn ones that stand written in heavens, and to God the judge of all men, and to spirits of righteous ones standing as having been brought to completion, and to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that is speaking a better thing than Abel (Heb. 12:22-24)." Six groups, persons or things are seen in Zion, the city of God, that is the heavenly Jerusalem: a festive assembly of myriads of angels, the Church, God the Father, patriarchal saints from Adam to Abraham [spirits of just men], Jesus Christ and the blood of Christ. The New Jerusalem will be a place of approach. Some will dwell in the New Jerusalem while others will have access to the city and the members of the Godhead who will establish Their residence there. Israelites on earth will have better access than Gentiles living on earth because the Gentiles will be totally reliant upon the Jews to have any access to the New Jerusalem at all.

The grace believer's present access is unique. When the spiritual believer approaches his God, he approaches a throne of grace. While the throne itself does not possess grace, those who sit on it possess grace. God the Father is the God of grace. God the Son is seated on the throne at the Father's right hand and He has been the manifestation of grace in His provision of salvation and all its benefits. The Son's presence emphasizes the fact that the believer comes in grace having access by grace in the character of Christ. As the Father looks on the Christian who comes to the throne, He directs His love toward the spiritual believer and manifests that love in His gracious response to the qualified believer who has approached the throne. "Let us therefore approach with boldness to the throne of grace, in order that we may receive mercy, and that we may find grace with reference to help at a good time (Heb. 4:16)." There is a potential for receiving mercy if mercy is needed and for finding grace for help at a good time. The believer can anticipate a positive response to his approach because his approach is in Christ. A spiritual believer should not be reluctant to use his access to God. Access involves more than communication though Hebrews 4:16 does refer to communication when the believer needs mercy and grace.

The believer must be in a proper spiritual condition to approach his God. "Let us approach with a true heart by a full assurance from faith, the heart's standing as being sprinkled from a malignantly evil conscience and standing as having the body washed in clean water (Heb. 10:22)." When one approaches with a true heart, he has the ability to see things as they really are and to grasp them with his rationale as well as his emotion. There is an awareness of his coming to the Father in Christ and he has confidence that Christ's work is sufficient. A believer should not be reluctant to utilize the approach that God has provided. A spiritual believer has no excuse for avoiding approach to God because he has a proper mental attitude. His approach is by a full assurance that finds its source in faith. As the believer approaches, he comes acknowledging that the access not only exists but also is available for his use. Many believers establish a set of human criteria by which they believe that they have access without any regard for the clear teaching of Scripture. Human requirements will often directly affect the conscience of the individual believer. Conscience involves a basic comparison of what a person knows with what he does [i.e. his activity]. As long as he contradicts what he knows by his behavior, his conscience reacts and attempts to preserve his personal sense of selfintegrity. If a believer has been taught that wearing a beard is not acceptable to God and he grows a beard, his conscience will react to the situation and he may have problems concerning his access to God. A man-made teaching concerning the wearing of a beard can produce a malignantly evil conscience that attempts to place others under standards that have no support in Scripture. Whether a man wears a beard or not, does not affect his access to God and should never prevent his approach to God. In addition to this illustration there are many other things that can affect the conscience of an individual.

Conscience is only as valuable as the accuracy of the intuitive knowledge that the believer possesses. Inaccurate, non-biblical information, that affects a person's behavior, can easily produce a bad conscience when proper things are done. When the Christian has accurate biblical information and lives in light of it, his conscience will be aligned with the revealed Word of God. Whether the information is right or wrong does not make conscience a moral instrument. It is only as moral or immoral as the information it possesses. When a Christian approaches God with a malignantly evil conscience, he is filled with confusion concerning his right to access. He is uncertain as to whether God will accept him or not. In some instances, believers do not even attempt to approach God because their evil conscience says that their behavior and knowledge do not match up and God would refuse to give them the access that they seek. If the believer's heart is a true heart, it sees things as they really are. Instantly, he comprehends the uniqueness of the privilege of direct access from Scripture and approaches God filled with appreciation at such a privilege. Because of Christ's provision of the way of access, all believers are encouraged to become participants in direct approach as spiritual Christians.

Access and approach are directly related to the priesthood of the believer in 1 Peter 2:4. One of the reasons for approach is to offer up spiritual sacrifices. Approach is a positive reaction to God's goodness. "Since you have tasted for yourself that the Lord is good toward whom approaching for yourselves a living stone (1 Pe. 2:3, 4)." The believer's response to the beneficence of God is approach. It is profitable for the believer to approach God because of the good benefits that are provided to the believer-priest who approaches God. As a believer-priest comes to God, he is counted competent to have direct access. He is motivated by both what he knows and what he has previously tasted. In salvation, he has tasted and found God to be good. God has offered him the privilege of continued access with the potential for tasting more of God's provisions. He has tasted and comes back for more knowing that God has made provision for access and having no reluctance in his approach.

The Attitude of the Believer

As has already been said, access is not true access unless the believer has a biblical attitude toward his access to God. Some believers stampede the throne of grace presumptuously assuming that access demands Divine attention. As a result, these believers make unreasonable, irresponsible demands on God. Other believers are reluctant to approach God because of an attitude of timidity. Some fear God while others have no assurance that God will accept them into His presence. The attitude God expects from the believer is expressed by the word "boldness." Boldness is not brashness. It is a translation of the Greek term parresia that is derived from a root that means "speech." It has the idea of a freedom in speaking and so came to refer to boldness in speech. As a result, when the believer approaches God, he approaches with openness and a frankness coming from a confidence that in turn comes from faith (Heb. 4:16; 10:19). When the believer approaches the throne of grace, he has the assurance that in his access to God there is a Divine response to him that is not available to carnal believers or unbelievers. Boldness involves a well thought out, sensible presentation of the believer's thoughts and activities to God.

A believer's boldness has its basis in his being in Christ Jesus. "in whom we possess the boldness ... (Eph. 3:12)." Because the believer is in Christ, he should be fully assured and confident that his access relates to how God the Father sees him in Christ. The believer possesses the right of speech. Communication is possible because the Father sees him in Christ approaching in the righteousness of Christ. Paul infers that being ashamed is the opposite of boldness (Phil. 1:20). In Christ, the believer approaches his Heavenly Father with head held high and not hung down in shame. He comes with no merit of his own but in all that he has in Christ. In Christ, the believer approaches the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). An individual who steps forward to approach the throne of an earthly potentate is not normally bold. One must follow proper protocol to make an acceptable approach. He goes before an earthly ruler giving due respect to the person who holds the superior position. Down before the throne, any freedom of speech is limited. It is limited by the time allotted, by the rulers feelings and response, by other people seeking access, and by physical encumbrances. The best planned speeches are forgotten. Important requests are neglected. Self-consciousness may bring personal frustration. The throne of an earthly king is elevated on a dais so that an approaching person must look up toward the one who sits on the throne. He is separated from the ruler by the dais. The Christian is not separated from his God by a dais nor is he forced to look up in abject humiliation. He is seated on the throne of God in Christ at the Fathers right hand. He is in the position of privilege. He always has immediate access to the Father's ear and attention, and thus can come with boldness freely speaking to the Father.

When the believer understands the provisions of the work of Christ, he should have boldness to approach God. "While having therefore, brothers, boldness for the entry of the holiest by the blood of Jesus (Heb. 10:19)." When Christ's blood was applied to the heavenly altar, He made a way into the Holy of Holies possible so that the believer could enter with boldness. Boldness does not come from ignorance or haughtiness but is a confidence that springs from knowledge that adequate provision has been made so that acceptance is possible. It is not to be imagined, but to be experientially known in the life of the believer and thus appropriated in practice.

Boldness in approach to God has a definite influence on the believer's communication with God. This is especially true when the believer asks for himself, aiteo. "Beloved, if our heart does not happen to blame us, we are having confidence with God the Father, and whatever we ask for ourselves we are receiving from Him (1 Jn. 3:20, 21)." Asking communication is only made by the believer for himself. Asking is to be done in the character of Christ (Jn. 14:13, 14) and according to the desirous will of God (1 Jn. 5:14). Asking communication, when done by an abiding believer, has no uncertainty as to its answer (Jn. 15:16). When the believer asks for himself, he knows that he will certainly receive the thing asked for. The believer only needs to ask once and have the confidence that if he has asked in a proper way God will respond and provide the thing asked for. "And this is the boldness that we have toward Him, that if we ask for ourselves [middle voice] anything according to His desirous will, He is hearing us, whatever we ask for ourselves, we know that we have the things asked for that we have asked for ourselves from Him (1 Jn. 5:14, 15)." Because of the spiritual believer's access, he should have boldness when using asking communication. One must know what the will of God is in order to receive the thing he asks for in his communication. This access is unique for the grace believer. "Up until now you have not asked anything in My name; be asking, and you will receive, in order that your joy may be standing as being filled (Jn. 16:24)." No other believers before grace believers had this kind of access in communication. Boldness was not possible in Old Testament communication with God but is now available to the grace believer. A spiritual believer should be in such a condition as to approach the throne of grace with boldness feeling free to speak and share with God the Father. Boldness is a sensible, balanced attitude based in knowledge of the work of Christ and all of its provisions. A calm confidence should possess the believer in every aspect of his approach to God. God has promised to respond to the believer in His goodness.

The Proximity of the Access

Believers constantly need to be reminded of the proximity they have to God that assures access. In Christ, the believer is made near to God by the blood of Christ (Eph. 2:13). He is seated in the heavenlies in Christ (Eph. 2:6) and so is in a position of intimate nearness. It is essential for the believer to recognize the nearness that he has in Christ. Without such recognition, he cannot understand the reality of direct access to God. The better hope of the grace believer gives him the potential for practicing his position in Christ. "For the Law brought nothing to maturity, but a bringing in of a better hope, through which we are drawing near to God (Heb. 7:19)." Because of the provision of the better hope, the believer should be living in his position in Christ near to God. His reflective thinking will be focused on the Father's perspective. Since the Father sees the believer seated in Christ, He sees him as having immediate access when he appropriates his position.

If the believer knows the Father sees him in his position in Christ, he will actively draw near to God in practice. It is clearly the believer's responsibility to take the initiative and appropriate that which God has provided for him in Christ. "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you, Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double souled ones (Jas. 4:8)." Drawing near to God does not simply involve reading the Bible and praying. If the believer appropriates his position in Christ for himself, he is drawing near to God. He mentally counts it to be so because the Word of God says that he is made near to God in Christ. As he lives in light of that knowledge, the Godhead then has an effective ministry in his life.

The Approaches Because of Access

As has already been seen, access can involve the believer's communication with God (1 Jn. 3:21; 5:14). It also involves the offering of sacrifices (1 Pe. 2:4, 5) along with other elements of priestly service. The most important approach to God by the believer's access is in his daily life. Every believer has the potential to enjoy a relationship with God by which he is practically enjoying his access to God many of his waking hours. As the Christian matures, he relates to who and what he is in Christ more and more of the time. Because of the provision of Christ, he looks at himself from the Divine perspective and establishes a consistency of approach so that he maintains the possibility of instant access at any time. As a result, he can pray without ceasing -- that is to say, pray a prayer of worship without signing off or hanging up with immediate access available. Sacrifices can be offered without worrying whether they are acceptable or not. Service can be done with the assurance that it is beneficial service in God's program. God counts the believer to be free to approach Him without interference in Christ.

Soul liberty, when controlled by the believer's position in Christ, will be free from abuses that normally arise when it is taught. Because of free access, the believer is counted to be competent to approach God. He alone is accountable to God for his theological position and system of belief. Before God, he has the right to choose the local church with which he will affiliate. He can expect to reap either the benefits of his decisions or the adversities from the decisions. His freedom, competency and individualism must be controlled by his access to God. All decisions should be considered from the Divine perspective rather than the human perspective. It is evident that some decisions that the believer is free to make are not what God would desire, but who but God can confront such problems through His Word? If a decision is openly contradictory to truth given for the grace believer, the Word of God is the basis for confronting the believer by another believer. In essence, such a confrontation is to be God confronting man through His Word. Man has no authority outside the Word of God. The believer is accountable to God alone. When he chooses to unite with a local church, he submits to a form of human authority as is evidenced in the legal documents of the local church. In such a relationship, the believer's access to God supersedes his relationship to the local assembly. He has voluntarily subjected himself to the authority of the church. Ideally, a group of believers gathered together should share in the same accountability to God because of their access and the local church should stand before God as a corporate unit comprised of competent believers who have individual access to God.

"Am I competent?" Every grace believer is counted to be competent before God from a biblical perspective. No believer ever enters God's presence by his own right, but always enters in Christ. Christ is the believer's representative while he is living in Him. There is no magic formula for the believers to have access to God. Some churches have special prayers of access in their communion services; but if a believer is truly a believer, there is no need to petition God for access. Direct and free access has been provided by Christ's work giving the believer a way of approach to God with no external interference. No creed, ecclesiastical hierarchy, member of a religious sect or ceremony can gain anyone personal access to God. God Himself establishes the competency of the grace believer. Direct access assumes direct accountability. The privilege of admittance into the presence of God permits the believer to share with God knowing that in Christ, as a spiritual believer, he has God's attention. Soul competency, theological individualism and soul liberty are all based on the believer's free and direct access to God. Since Christ is the believer's High Priest, the provision of a way of access is maintained. Free access is accomplished through a unique priesthood under Christ, the High Priest.


Chapter 7: Christ Our Heavenly High Priest


One of the most practical relationships Christ has with the Christian is that of High Priest over a kingdom of priests. As our High Priest, He heads the order of Melchisedec. Being of the lineage of David and of the tribe of Judah perfectly qualifies Christ to be king but prohibited Him from being a priest of the order of Aaron of the tribe of Levi. Scripture clearly describes Christ as a high priest of the order of Melchisedec who was both priest and king. What Genesis describes concerning Melchisedec in three verses is expanded into extensive material in Hebrews 5-7. Christ's High Priestly ministry is superior to that of Aaron and is one of the better things provided under grace. Christ is a priest after the order of Melchisedec as well as the High Priest of the same order.

The Requirements for Being a High Priest

Scripture gives a list of requirements that every high priest had to meet in order to perform the services of the office. In order for Christ to be a high priest, it was necessary for Him to meet the requirements. The requirements are not optional but mandatory for one to hold the office. "For every high priest being taken from men ... (Heb. 5:1b)" identifies the fact that no high priest exists without meeting these requirements in order to be acceptable to God for service.

He Must Be of the Human Race. The high priest was to be a male of the human race. "For every high priest being taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things directed toward God ... (Heb. 5:1)." He was taken from among men to act as a substitute for men before God. Since Christ was to be a high priest, the incarnation was necessary. There were other reasons for the incarnation, but it is clear that His union with a human nature was necessary for Him to be considered a high priest for men. Because of the arrangements made in eternity past, the plan of God required that Christ take on the form and nature of man. Every high priest was taken from among men. An angel, cherub or seraph could never function as a high priest. Christ emptied Himself of a portion of His glory and took upon Himself the form of a slave to God the Father and was made in the likeness of man (Phil. 2:7). Aaron was to be taken "from the midst of the sons of Israel (Ex. 28:1)." Every high priest in the Levitical Priesthood was taken from among the sons of Israel. As the God-man, Jesus Christ functioned as a human being thereby qualifying Himself to be a high priest.

He Must Be Appointed by God. Hebrews 5:1 teaches that in order for one to be a high priest, he can only enter the office by Divine appointment. God has the absolute right to determine to whom He wants to give the privilege. The word "appoint" is the normal word used for an authoritative appointment to a particular priesthood. The purpose of the appointment was to offer gifts and sacrifices under the Law (Heb. 8:3). Christ did not make Himself to be a high priest. God the Father appointed Him to the position. The appointment of the Son was predicted in Psalm 2:7, "Let me recall concerning the decree, Jehovah has said unto me, You -- my Son; today I have appointed [or constituted or begotten] you." Hebrews 5:5 clearly relates Psalm 2:7 to Christ becoming a high priest. "So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become a high priest but the One who spoke to Him...." This is immediately followed by the quotation of Psalm 2:7. As further proof of the appointment of the Son to His high priestly position, a clear reference is made to Psalm 110:4. "As He also is saying in another or different place: You -- a priest into the age according to the order of Melchisedec (Heb. 5:6)." Christ is clearly the divinely appointed [or ordained] High Priest.

He Must Have Something to Be Offered. It was necessary for the high priest to not only be eligible to approach God but also to bring gifts and offerings to God. "... In order that He might offer both gifts and sacrifices on behalf of sin (Heb. 5:1c)." Because of the condition of mankind, such offerings were necessary. Man needed a mediator who would stand in his place, offering acceptable sacrifices for sins as well as for all other forms of unrighteousness. A high priest could only function in the office of sacrificer and offerer if he was appointed by God. "And because of it [human infirmity or weakness], he has the obligation, as concerning the people, so also concerning himself, to be offering concerning sins (Heb. 5:3)." There is no question that there is an adequate need for a high priest, but the question is whether there is a high priest who has the capability of presenting acceptable sacrifices and service to God. A polluted high priest could not offer an acceptable sacrifice for anyone. Christ offered Himself, giving the supreme sacrifice of His own life. He not only offered a sufficient sacrifice but also a permanent sacrifice.

He Must Have Compassion. A high priest must be capable of having sympathy for those who come to him. It was essential that he be objective while understanding the needs and problems of the human condition. The High Priest was one "Who was able to be having compassion for the ones who are ignorant, and who are being made to wander, since he also is compassed around with weakness (Heb. 5:2)." The humanity of the High Priest makes it possible for him to relate to the depraved activities of mankind whether done in ignorance or whether they are led astray even to the point of sinning. Christ meets all of the qualifications for being a sympathetic high priest even though He did not sin. "For we are not having a high priest not having the ability [or inherent power] to sympathize [or to have compassion] with our weaknesses, but having been tempted in all respects, according to our likeness without a sin principle (Heb. 4:15)." A high priest needed to relate to the deficiencies of men and understand the exact problems of men. Under Law, he had to ascertain what weakness of man was involved in an unrighteous activity so that he could advise the one who needed to bring a sacrifice as to which offering should be brought: a sin or a trespass offering. If he lacked the ability to identify with the man, he could have prescribed the wrong sacrifice. Christ experienced the whole gamut of temptation yet He did not possess a sin nature and could not have sinned though He could be tempted.

Christ, the Christian's High Priest, meets all the requirements for being a high priest. It is important for the believer to recognize the absolute sufficiency of Christ's position and activity as a high priest. After He proved that He met all the requirements for being a high priest, He was made a high priest with the Father making the appointment official. As a result, the grace believer can have confidence in his Heavenly High Priest and His ministry.

Christ's Appointment to His Priesthood

When one organizes or systematizes the doctrine of Christ [i.e. Christology], he will often arrange a section around the offices of Christ. As is normal, it is necessary to divide the inseparable for a proper analysis. The three offices of Christ are the offices of prophet, priest and king. Each one is distinct in the Bible when related to individual human beings. Under Law, one was either a priest, a king or a prophet with a distinctiveness and detachment between each office clearly maintained. It is true that there is an exception with Melchisedec who was both a priest and a king. At times in history, the offices overlapped but the distinction was normally maintained. Christ is directly involved in all three functions. As has already been seen, Christ has been appointed to the priestly office by the Father. He is also seen as a prophet in Scripture.

Peter clearly described Christ as the prophet who fulfilled the prophecy of Deuteronomy 18:15 in his message in Acts 3:20-22. "A prophet from your midst, from your brothers like unto me, Jehovah your God will cause to stand for you; unto Him you will listen (Deut. 18:15)." Christ clearly identified Himself as a prophet in Matthew 13:57 and Luke 13:33. When Christ performed the miracle of the feeding of the multitude with loaves and fishes, they identified Him as the One who fulfilled Moses' prophecy of one who would come as a prophet (Jn. 6:14). When Christ predicted the sending of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 7:37-39), many of the people responded by saying that Jesus was truly the prophet (Jn. 7:40). When Christ presented truth in words, it was counted as a part of His prophetic ministry. The acceptance or rejection of His Word as a prophet was the basis for judgment (Jn. 12:48). His words were considered the very words of the Father (Jn. 14:10) rather than His own. He began His prophetic ministry at His baptism, which was the event that officially inaugurated His three and a half year earthly ministry.

Christ is not only a priest, but He is now also the High Priest. The basis for His priestly ministry is evident in that He was appointed to be a priest of an entirely different order -- the order of Melchisedec. It is clear that Christ's priestly ministry was planned and thereby established in the decree (cf. Psa. 110:4; Psa. 2:7) even though it was actually accomplished in His earthly ministry.

Christ is seen as king in three respects. He will be the King over all of Israel because He is of the tribe of Judah and of the royal family of David (Isa. 9:6, Lu. 1:30-32) in the future. Presently, He is the Head of the kingdom that is identified as "the kingdom of His dear Son (Col. 1:13)" that involves His kingly priesthood (Heb. 7) and the kingdom of believer-priests (1 Pe. 2:9; Rev. 1:6). In the millennial kingdom, He will be "King of kings, and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16; 17:14)" as a result of His triumph in His second coming.

Christ was appointed to be a priest in the decree, but it was necessary for the plan of the Godhead to be implemented in His life. Without the incarnation, the priestly ministry of Christ would not have met the Divine standards for priesthood (Heb. 5:1). He was a priest "in the days of His flesh (Heb. 5:7)." "The days of His flesh" are clearly identified as relating to His earthly ministry. "Who in the days of His flesh offering both supplications and entreaties with evidently strong crying and tears toward the one having the power to save Him from death and being heard from His reverence (Heb. 5:7)." His earthly ministry was culminated with His death. It was officially inaugurated at His baptism (Lu. 3:22; Jn. 1:32, 33; Mk. 1:9-11; Matt. 3:13-17). Christ became the High Priest at His ascension. "Having therefore a great High Priest having gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold the confession (Heb. 4:14)." With His ascension into heaven, He showed Himself to be a qualified High Priest. Christ was a priest during His earthly ministry, but was not the High Priest until His ascension. His ascending through the heavens demonstrated His deity confirming all His qualifications. Christ did not make Himself either priest or High Priest (Heb. 5:5, 6), but the Father was the One who appointed the God-man to be involved in priestly and high priestly service. The acceptability of Christ's High Priesthood with the Father is evident in the fact that the Father permitted His humanity to be seated at His right hand in the third heaven.

Christ's Order for Priestly Service

If Jesus Christ was to serve as a priest, it was necessary for Him to be of a different order of priests than the Aaronic order of priesthood. He was born of the tribe of Judah and therefore unqualified for Levitical service. In eternity past, the Godhead was fully aware of the need for another order of acceptable priestly service. This was made possible through the order of Melchisedec. The Old Testament only has three verses that present Melchisedec in historical narrative to the reader of Scripture. In his case, there are more verses of prophecy and prophetic fulfillment describing him than the initial historical account of his existence in Genesis 14:18-20. He is mentioned in Psalm 110:4 completing the Old Testament revelation concerning him. In the New Testament, he is mentioned by name ten times with a majority of the passages referring to his order of priesthood (Heb. 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:1, 10, 11, 15, 17, 21). More consequential details are given concerning the order of the priesthood in Hebrews than anywhere else in the Bible. Melchisedec is described as the king of Salem and the priest of the Most High God (Gen. 14:18) who blessed Abram and received tithes from Abram of the spoil of battle (Gen. 14:19, 20). That is all of the revelation given in the historical account by Moses. There is no mention that an order of priests was propagated by Melchisedec or that there was any priestly succession by his physical seed. When one looks in retrospect, it appears that his whole priesthood was Divinely arranged so that Christ could function in His priestly office legitimately without being subject to question. Without the previous arrangement, it would have been difficult for anyone to see the significance of Christ's priestly office. Christ is a priest down from, kata, the order of Melchisedec (Heb. 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:11, 17, 21). The word "order," taxis, describes an arrangement of individuals that makes them a unique group. Originally, the term carried military connotations. A platoon would stand in an orderly fashion as a military unit. It was distinct from other platoons by its own orderly fashion as a special unit. Gradually, the term came to indicate that the group of whatever kind was a distinct class that kept its own order. Hence, an order of priests was governed by the rules for the priesthood making it distinct from other people and other priests. In the order of Melchisedec, there is a similarity to the Aaronic priesthood but the author of Hebrews makes it clear that the supremacy of the order of Melchisedec is far greater. The supremacy is evident in the characteristics of the order of Melchisedec.

The order of Melchisedec is not built on the matter of one's pedigree or genealogy. The history of one's family or life was of no importance. This is illustrated in the life of Melchisedec himself. "Without father, without mother, without genealogy while having neither beginning of days nor an end of life, having been made like the Son of God, abiding a priest perpetually (Heb. 7:3)." In the Genesis account, there is no record of any of the vital statistics for Melchisedec aside from his offices of priest and king. This does not teach that he was a manifestation of the pre-incarnate Son. He was made like the Son of God. The verb has the idea of more than simply being made like but more accurately means to be made like a copy of the original. The copy is based on the fact that Scripture does not reveal a genealogy for Melchisedec though undoubtedly it would have been possible to compose one if a genealogist was present in his lifetime. God the Son does not have a genealogy because He is eternal. There is no such thing as the eternal generation of God the Son found in Scripture. The Son has been the Son [also identified as the Word] sharing in the essential [pertaining to the essence) authority and rights of the Godhead. In reality, His eternality removes any possibility for a pedigree. God does not have or need a pedigree because He is God. The same is true for each Person of the Trinity. In other words, the order of Melchisedec is not based on any form of succession. The individual was considered by himself with no consideration of the contributions of other individuals toward his right to serve as a priest. God's sovereign appointment made Melchisedec a priest. There is no indication that Melchisedec was ever considered to be a high priest. Some have believed that his name is an indication that he was a high priest because it means "king of righteousness" (Heb. 7:2 cf. Hebrew). His name simply ties his priesthood with his ruling as a king evidently predicting from his birth that he was to be a kingly priest in his life.

Psalm 110:4 is the pivotal passage concerning Christ's participation in the order of Melchisedec because it is quoted three times in Hebrews. Three different verbs are employed to introduce the quotation. In Hebrews 5:6 the quotation is introduced by the conventional "he says" while in 7:17 it is "he testifies or bears witness for himself" and in 7:21 it is "The Lord swore." As the teaching of Hebrews progresses, the author uses stronger words to present the quotation beginning with the simple "he says" and ultimately reveals that an oath was made to seal the promise of Christ's priestly ministry. Scripture cannot be changed. It bears record of the certainty of the commitment made between the Father and the Son. God the Son received His priesthood because of an oath made by God the Father that was unchanging and unchangeable. The triple affirmation was given to make it clear that Christ's priestly ministry was a legitimate priestly ministry that superseded the Aaronic priesthood. In Psalm 110, it is clear that the one who was to serve as a priest would also serve as a king.

The Son's position at the right hand of the Father is presented in Psalm 110. "And Jehovah was saying to my Lord [Adonai], Sit at my right hand, until I proceed to set your enemies as a stool for your feet (Psa. 110:1)." He is in a position of power and privilege at the right hand. "The Lord upon your right hand will shatter kings in the day of His anger (Psa. 110:5)." Christ is seen in a position of power and He will also administer governmental power in activity. At the appropriate time, He will rule and have dominion in the midst of His enemies (110:2). His people will be willing in the day when His power will be revealed. They will see the beauty of holiness. The manifestation of His holiness will directly relate to His being a priest that had been confirmed by an oath (Psa. 110:4). His power as the King is evident in His judgment. "He will judge among the nations, He will fill with corpses: He has shattered the head over much land (Psa. 110:6)." Between the description of Christ as the King and His conquest is the guarantee of His priesthood after the order of Melchisedec. When Christ was seated at the Fathers right hand, He assumed the role of King and of High Priest even though He had been a priest in His earthly ministry.

Christ was more than a priest of the order of Melchisedec. He was also a high priest of the same order. Hebrews 5:10 indicates that His high priestly position was given to Him by the Father by proclamation. "Having been declared [or designated] by God a high priest according to the order of Melchisedec." The Father "spoke toward" or "declared" Christ to be a high priest. Jesus became, ginomai, a high priest (Heb. 6:20) as a result.

It is a Perpetual Priesthood. The priesthood of Melchisedec is a continuous priesthood. It is unbroken. He "... remains a priest into perpetuity [eis to dienekes -- or as an adverb -- continually] (Heb. 7:3)." An examination of the root gives a clearer picture of the duration of the priesthood. It is derived from a form of the verb diaphero that means, "to carry through." In other words, the priesthood of Melchisedec carries on. Melchisedec had been its only priest until Christ became a priest. It came through the intervening centuries becoming even more valid when Christ actually appropriated that which had been sworn by the Father. Some interpret it as an eternal priesthood because of this term and the eis ton aiona of Heb. 5:6 and 6:20. The "continually" of 7:3 does not denote eternality. In Hebrews 10:1 the phrase describes the sacrifices offered under Law as continual sacrifices. The Divine Author of Hebrews knew that the sacrifices of the Law would cease with the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by the Roman general Titus. The sacrifice of Christ was offered once for sins carrying it on until it was no longer needed (Heb. 10:12). As a sacrifice for sins, it continued as long as people sinned. After the final judgment of unbelievers at the White Throne Judgment, there will no longer be a need for the sacrifice for sins to carry over. The unbelievers will suffer punishment being incarcerated in the Lake of Fire. The Old Testament, tribulation and millennial saints will possess a new heart that will prevent them from sinning, and they will no longer possess a sin nature. Church saints will have a new heart and a glorified body possessing no sin nature. Satan and his demons will be cast into the Lake of Fire while his world system will be completely destroyed. The spiritual enemies that bring temptation will be gone so the sacrifice of Christ for sins will no longer be an immediate necessity. The aspect of His offering that carries into the distant future is that it provides a position of maturity for the grace believer [a positionally sanctified one] continually (Heb. 10:14).

A question which must be considered is the "forever," eis ton aiona, of Hebrews 5:6; 6:20; 7:17, 21, and 24. The Greek phrase simply translated means "into the age." It can refer to eternity or it can refer to an age depending on its context. A clear example of the problem is Hebrews 9:26 where the plural of aion occurs. The Authorized Version translates the term as "world," an inaccurate translation. A better translation is "upon the completion of the ages." In 11:3, the plural is again translated "world." "Through faith we are understanding the ages have been adjusted by an utterance of God...." In 6:5, the Authorized Version translates the singular aion by "world" knowing that the Greek participle translated "to come" prevents the concept of eternality. It is best translated "the coming age." In every context in which the preposition eis, article ton and noun aion occur together, one must carefully examine the details of the particular context to determine whether or not it is a reference to an age [with time limitations] or to eternity [with no time involved]. Context will always set the bounds for an accurate translation of the form. The Hebrew text of Psalm 110:4 originally employed the Hebrew combination l'olam that can also be used either way though it far more frequently refers to eternity rather than ages. Because of the Hebrew, it is evident that Christ will be a priest forever. In Hebrews 6:20, He is seen as being a high priest into the age. There will no longer be a need for Him to be a high priest at the conclusion of the legal age with the completion of Daniel's 70th week. His high priestly ministry will be phased out with the establishing of the kingdom. He will continue to remain a priest forever.

It Is a Magnificent Priesthood. "But be contemplating how magnificent this man was to whom the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth from the spoils (Heb. 7:4)." The magnificence of Melchisedec makes Christ's priesthood magnificent. Its magnificence is quantative as well as qualitative. Under Law, every person was required to give a tithe from the high priest downward. Because the sons of Levi were in the loins of Abraham, they were directly involved in the giving of tithes to Melchisedec. Even though his tithe cost him nothing, Abraham still gave to a priest whom he considered worthy of such a gift. Abraham did not offer the tithe as a payment for the bread and wine that Melchisedec provided but gave it because he was a priest; and as a result, Melchisedec gave him a blessing -- the greater blessing the lesser (Heb. 7:7). He is clearly of a different family of people. The Levitical priesthood was considered inferior and by necessity the Melchisedician priesthood was instituted (Heb. 7:11). It was a far greater priesthood than the Aaronic. In Melchisedec, the superiority of priesthood was evident, but in Christ the magnitude of the priesthood is evident. Under Christ, all Christians are priests and hence quantatively the priesthood is far greater. Christ as the God-man brought the magnificence that only deity and perfect humanity could bring to a priesthood. A comparison of Melchisedec and Aaron is easy for the differences are not great while a comparison of Christ and Aaron is difficult because of the extreme differences between the two. The magnitude of the priesthood of Melchisedec is very clear in the fact that it was a priesthood above the Mosaic Law changing the Law. God gave the Melchisedecian priesthood its magnificence. He gave the Mosaic Law and superseded it with the provisions for Christ's participation in the priesthood of Melchisedec along with grace believers. The greatness of Melchisedec gave his priesthood its own greatness, but Christ's participation exposed the priesthood in its full glory.

It Is a Powerful Priesthood. Aaron's priesthood relied upon the willingness of the nation and its leaders to obey the Law for its power. It was limited to the best the flesh could produce and suffered the limitation of power at its worst. The Law was designed by God to restrain the sin nature of each Israelite. If an Israelite had an adequate fear of Jehovah, he would attempt to live strictly within the dictates of the Mosaic Law. If he did not fear Jehovah, he persistently violated the Law so long as it was not enforced with its penalties. Only the imposition of the penalties of the Law gave power to the Aaronic priesthood. Priestly power was based on the death penalty because the threat of death was established as a control upon the sin nature.

A different kind of priest has been raised up "Who has come to be, not according to a law of fleshly commandment, but according to the power of life incapable of dissolution (Heb. 7:16)." The Mosaic Law was a law of death but the new priesthood came according to (kata) the power of life that could never be changed and is endless. The Law itself gave no hope for eternal bliss but temporal, earthly bliss. The priesthood of Melchisedec is one of power -- the power of Jesus Christ, God the Son. He provides strength rather than weakness. He provides profit rather than loss. In Him is the potential for maturation while the Law perpetuated spiritual infancy (Heb. 7:18, 19).

It Is a Superior Priesthood. As has already been seen, the priesthood of Melchisedec has its own magnificence and power that are superior. It is superior to every priesthood accepted by God or instituted by mankind. It is superior in that its sacrifice is superior. Christ's once-for-all sacrifice permanently handled every phase of unrighteousness for which other sacrifices had been offered or had not been offered. All other sacrifices were temporary stopgaps for unrighteous behavior. The best an Old Testament believer could hope for was that his sins could be sent away from him even to the extent that they would be cast into the depths of the deepest sea (Micah 7:19). The possibility of complete removal was never considered a possibility. Christ's sacrifice completely dealt with sin and every other form of unrighteousness.

Christ's priesthood is superior in that it brought a better hope (Heb. 7:19). This hope is the means by which the believer is drawn near to God. Hope is always based in something God has said in His Word. God has promised the believer an eternal relationship that focuses the hope into the future. Hope provides a confidence that God will act because He said He would act in His Word. The Christian's hope is good for tomorrow and next year but also goes into eternity future. Under Law, hope was hindered in its scope for it was limited to the physical lifetime of the individual.

Melchisedec's priesthood was superior in the fact that the Aaronic priesthood was subservient to it in Abraham. It was superior because it was based on an oath (Heb. 7:20, 21). The superiority of Melchisedec is in actuality even more evident when one considers the work of Christ that made the priesthood possible. Because of this, it is more the superiority of Christ than the superiority of Melchisedec.

It Is an Unchanging Priesthood. "And the ones on the one hand are many having become priests, because of death they were prevented from continuing; but this One through His remaining forever [lit. into the age] has an unchangeable priesthood (Heb. 7:23, 24)." It is a priesthood that will not deviate or be violated. None can supersede the priesthood. There will never be a priesthood that will be better nor will there ever be a possible intrusion that will pollute the priesthood. The characteristics that make it unique will not change. The Levitical priesthood was changed being superseded by the priesthood of Melchisedec. Because of Christ's immutability, it is not a changing priesthood. It cannot change because of the unchanged stability of the oath and the decree. The decree provides for its perpetuation. God organized it as unchanging; and hence, it will remain unchanged. It is unchanging because none can supersede, interfere, violate, change or invalidate it.

It Is a Royal Priesthood. Melchisedec was the king of Salem or peace (Heb. 7:1, 2). His name means "King of righteousness." The priesthood of Melchisedec was a royal priesthood, and whatever he desired as a priest, he could accomplish as a king. He not only had rank and authority, but also had the power of a potentate. He could rule in righteousness and maintain peace by his power. Christ is seen as the Head of a kingdom of priests (Rev. 1:5, 6). As has already been seen from Psalm 110, Christ had been prophesied as a ruling priest at the right hand of God (cf. Heb. 10:12, 13).

It Is a Non-Abrahamic Priesthood. Melchisedec was not of the same genealogy as Abraham (Heb. 7:6). He could not be counted as a Gentile for there was not yet a distinction between the seed of Abraham and Gentiles. Melchisedec has been called the priest of humanity rather than for a limited group of people in an era when the head of the household acted as a priest for his family. Melchisedec was unique. He served as a priest for Abraham who had come from a completely different family background. Acceptable priestly service was determined on an individual basis by God Himself. Melchisedec's priesthood was not a hereditary priesthood. It may even be questioned as to whether Melchisedec was a Shemite or not. He was a stranger who came from unknown roots affirming that no distinction was made as to whom he served as a priest.

It Is a Limited Priesthood. Melchisedec's priesthood had a limited number of participants. Evidently, he had no predecessors or successors. His priesthood was one man. Christ was not truly a successor to Melchisedec in a physical sense but fulfilled his priesthood to perfection in the spiritual realm. Scripture never indicates that Christ was a successor to Melchisedec. He was simply placed as a priest of the same order. Only those placed in the priesthood have the privilege of serving as priests. Grace believers are placed in the priesthood by the baptism of the Holy Spirit and so become participants in the priesthood of Melchisedec. The Levitical priesthood involved many priests and high priests who served because of their physical birth. As time progressed, there were different high priests who dominated the Levitical priesthood. The sons of Aaron became less distinct from the rest of the sons of Levi. Various individuals emphasized the multiplicity of the priesthood until in Ezekiel the priestly activities are seen to pivot around Zadok in the millennial kingdom. Because Melchisedec's priesthood is limited, it has a unique standing. Jesus Christ is the one High Priest who had been a priest, an original priest, and a group of chosen people who share the priesthood.

A great deal could be said of the contrasts between the order of Aaron and the order of Melchisedec. A simple summary comparing the priesthoods gives a clear picture of the absolute contrasts between the two. The only similarity that exists is that both performed priestly activities that were similar. The following chart gives an abbreviated picture of the important contrasts. There are thirteen major areas in which there are clear contrasts between the two priesthoods. Each order is vastly different from the other. No grace believer will ever desire to have any relationship to the Levitical priesthood because of the extreme differences between the two. Any allegiance to the Levitical priesthood deprives the Christian of knowledge of his own priestly privileges.

(Note: The following chart has been changed from parallel columns to alternating statements.)


        The Order of Melchisedec as High Priest
           The Order of Aaron as High Priest   
   1. Melchisedec: Gentile [i.e. non-Jew]
      Aaron: Only an Israelite of Tribe of Levi of Family of Aaron
   2. Melchisedec: Much Older Order of Priesthood (c. 500 years)
      Aaron: Late Order of Priesthood
   3. Melchisedec: Kingly Priesthood
      Aaron: Tribal Priesthood
   4. Melchisedec: Eternal in Quality
      Aaron: Temporary in Nature
   5. Melchisedec: Unchangeable
      Aaron: Changeable (Heb. 7:12)
   6. Melchisedec: Christ Only Successor with Grace Believers
      Aaron: Succession of Aaron's Sons
   7. Melchisedec: One Sacrifice for Unrighteousness
      Aaron: Many Sacrifices for Unrighteousness
   8. Melchisedec: Infinite Value of Christ's Blood
      Aaron: Ineffectiveness of Animal Blood
   9. Melchisedec: Not by Law but by Oath
      Aaron: Mandated in Law
  10. Melchisedec: Conferred by Solemn Oath in Decree
      Aaron: Transmitted in Heritage
  11. Melchisedec: Greater than Aaron
      Aaron: Lesser than Melchisedec
  12. Melchisedec: Blessed Abraham
      Aaron: Received Blessing in Abraham
  13. Melchisedec: Individual Qualifications
      Aaron: Ceremonial Qualifications

Christ's order of priesthood could not be Aaronic because He was born of the tribe of Judah. He is in a kingly priesthood that is absolutely unique. Its exclusivity is evident in the limited participation in the priesthood historically. Christ was a priest before He became High Priest at His ascension. Christ's activity as a priest was in conformity to the simplicity of the priesthood of Melchisedec. Christ's simple priestly activity stands in perfect juxtaposition to the rigid complexity of the Aaronic priesthood. Melchisedec's priesthood is presented in the most simplistic way possible. There is no ceremony required in the activity of Melchisedec in Genesis. His priestly activity only involved blessing and accepting a tithe. He is not seen as a priest who offered sacrifices. Because he is called a priest, one could assume that he offered sacrifices even though there is no record of such activity. It is evident that Christ only offered one sacrifice and that was substitutionary for unrighteousness. Grace believers have the potential for offering a multitude of sacrifices as participants in the same priesthood. No ceremony or restrictions limit Christ in His high priestly work. He acts as a priest and a high priest only being governed by His character and no other external requirements. He possesses absolute freedom in every aspect of His priestly activity and that freedom is absolutely consistent with His character. As a man, He became qualified to act as a priest for men. During His earthly ministry, He prepared Himself so that He could be the perfect Heavenly High Priest for the grace believer.

The Uniqueness of Christ Compared to Aaron

Since Christ is the grace believer's High Priest, it is proper to compare Him to Aaron in order to illustrate the superiority of Christ's service. Aaron's physical birth is evident. He was the brother of Moses (Ex. 4:14) and the son of Amram and Jochebed who were both of the tribe of Levi (Ex. 6:20). Aaron married Elisheba and had four sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazer and Ithamar (Ex. 6:23). Whether Aaron would have assumed the high priestly office or not is uncertain had Moses not shown reluctance to accept the leadership of Israel in Exodus four because of his claimed lack of eloquence. As a result, the leadership was shared between the two brothers with Aaron having the public limelight while Moses actually acted as a priest for Aaron. "And the anger of Jehovah glowed hot against Moses, then He proceeded to say, Is not Aaron your brother, the Levite? I know that he really does speak well, and also behold he is coming to meet you; and he will see you and be glad in his heart, and you will speak unto him, and you will place the words in his mouth and I will proceed to be with your mouth and with his mouth, and I will cause you to be instructed concerning that which you both shall proceed to do, and he will speak for you unto the people; and it will be that he will proceed to be for you for a mouth, and you will proceed to be to him for God (Ex. 4:14-16)." Moses acted as an intermediary between God and Aaron before the priesthood was instituted.

Aaron demonstrated his weakness in his leadership in the golden calf incident (Ex. 32:4) and in his rebellion against Moses' leadership (Num. 12:1-15). Aaron supported Moses in the rebellion of Korah because it involved his own priestly office (Num. 16). He was a party to Moses' sin at Meribah (Num. 20:8-13, 24) and was prohibited from entering Canaan dying on Mount Hor near the land of Edom (Num. 20:22-27). Aaron and his sons were given a position of privilege (Ex. 24:1, 9) and were given priestly responsibilities for the nation in the tabernacle (Ex. 28:1, 2) and were formally installed by a solemn act of consecration (Lev. 8). Aaron has been considered a type of Christ by some, but Hebrews clearly indicates that he is to be seen in contrast to Christ rather than compared to Christ. The areas of similarity do not permit this interpretation. It is true that both were high priests, offered sacrifice, served in tabernacles, were representatives of people and were anointed; but Scripture does not and could not call Aaron a type of Christ. Similarity is not identity.

Christ's uniqueness far surpasses that of Aaron. His conception was supernatural resulting in the virgin birth. He was born of the tribe of Judah yet He was a priest who became a high priest after a period of preparation. He was perfectly qualified to become a high priest. The superiority of Christ's high priestly ministry can easily be seen in its affect. With an utterance of His mouth, He formed the ages. He shared in the essence of God and exhibits the attributes of God. He was above all spirit beings and human beings. "God in these last days spoke to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through the agency of whom indeed He made the ages; who continually existing the radiance of the glory, and the exact expression [English "character") of His substance, while bearing all things by the utterance from His power, having by Himself made cleansing of sins, He sat down on the right hand of the greatness in high places (Heb. 1:2, 3)." The book of Hebrews begins with a description of the superiority of God the Son and carries the theme throughout the book. He is greater than angels (1:4), Adam (2:5-9), Moses (3:3), Joshua (4:8), Aaron (5:4), Abraham (6:13), Melchisedec (7:4, 25, 26), Judaism (7:19) and the sacrifices (10:5-7). Because of who He is and what His role is in the plan of God, there are a number of things that would not exist if Christ did not exist or function as a member of the Godhead. Without Him there is no creation (Heb. 1:2), Church (3:6), rest (4:9), High Priest (5:10), priesthood (7:24), new covenant (8:6), object of faith (10:19) or basis for faith (11:1). It might seem unnecessary to attempt to relate the God-man to the simple humanity of Aaron, but the distinctiveness of the two is easily seen when carefully studied. The following chart gives a general overview of the great contrasts between Christ and Aaron.


CHRIST AND AARON CHART


     Christ                                 Aaron                          
  1. Out of Tribe of Judah               1. Out of Tribe of Levi
  2. Kingly Priest                       2. Priestly Order of Succession
  3. Virgin Born - Supernatural          3. Born of Two Parents - Natural
     Birth                                  Birth
  4. Direct Divine Appointment           4. Hereditary Succession in Divine
                                            Order
  5. Immortal                            5. Mortal
  6. Eternal                             6. Temporal
  7. King of Peace                       7. priest of Penalty
  8. One Sacrifice                       8. Many Sacrifices
  9. His Own Blood                       9. Blood of Animals
 10. Entered Once for All               10. Entered Many Times
 11. Absolutely Clean                   11. Many Cleansings Necessary
 12. Made a New Covenant by His Blood   12. Made A Priest by the Old 
                                            Covenant
 13. Individual Qualifications          13. Ceremonial Qualifications
 14. For the Church of God              14. For the Nation Israel
 15. No Sin Nature                      15. Sin Nature
 16. Heavenly Intercessor               16. Earthly Intercessor            

Christ and His priesthood are better than Aaron and His priesthood. Christ was a priest without limitation while Aaron was completely limited as a human who possessed the results of the fall including a sin nature. Aaron's frailty is very evident in the golden calf incident where he attempted to pay homage to other gods as the Egyptians would by making an image to represent the deities. Aaron did not have enough sense to know that such an activity was unacceptable to Jehovah, the God of Israel. As soon as Moses was gone for any length of time, Aaron returned to the gods of Egypt. Without Moses' acting as a spokesman for God, the man who was to be the high priest was no different than any idolater of any of the Gentile nations. Christ was never limited by His humanity in His relationship to His deity. The union of humanity and deity was perfect to the degree that the limitations of His human nature were made up for by His Divine nature when it was necessary. An Israelite who approached Aaron for priestly service could never come with confidence because of Aaron's human frailty. The grace believer comes to Christ with absolute confidence knowing that He will never fail and will consistently care for His own in all His wisdom and power.

Christ's Preparation for His High Priesthood

In order for Christ to be a sympathetic high priest, it was necessary for Him to prepare for His high priesthood in the realm of His humanity. His incarnation made it possible for Him to be the High Priest for human beings. Hebrews two describes Christ as a human possessing a human nature. Man was made a little lower than the angels (2:6-8 cf. Psa. 8:4-6). "But we see Jesus, the One having been made less, a small thing alongside angels through the suffering of death with glory and honor having been crowned so that by God's grace He might taste of death on behalf of all mankind (Heb. 2:9)." Because of His humanity, He is not ashamed to call the sanctified ones, brothers (2:11-13 cf. Psa. 22:22). "Since therefore the children stand as sharing blood and flesh, He shared also Himself in the same manner the same things, in order that through death He might destroy the one having the manifest power of death, this one is the devil (Heb. 2:14)." Christ took on the seed of Abraham. Proper preparation was necessary for Him as a human so that He could be a merciful and faithful High Priest. "Whence He was obligated according to all things to become like His brothers, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the things directed toward God, with the purpose of making propitiation for the sin of the people, for in that which He has suffered being tempted, He has the power to help the ones who are being tempted (Heb. 2:17, 18)." Christ's humanity prepared Him to be a merciful high priest. When human beings suffer the results of unrighteousness, Christ will sympathize with their suffering and manifest His love in mercy for His priesthood. He is a faithful high priest because He had been a man among men and so knew the consistent need for the high priestly ministry. His close relationship in His own humanity provides the basis for the believer's confidence that Christ will function as a high priest standing for him in the very presence of God the Father.

Christ had suffered together with human beings in their weakness and was tempted just as they were tempted. A part of His preparation involved His ability to relate to human suffering and temptation. He proved in His earthly life that He was qualified to be a high priest. "For we do not have a high priest not having the ability to suffer together with [or sympathize] our weaknesses standing as one having been tempted according to all respects according to human likeness but without sin (Heb. 4:15)." Christ's temptations were real temptations from Satan and the world system. They were directed toward Christ's human nature. Temptation is not sin. Because of the union of divine and human natures [hypostatic union], it was impossible for Him to sin. Hence, he was impeccable. Impeccability does not prevent temptation, for temptation has its ultimate source in externals, but it does guarantee that sin will not be committed.

Another part of Christ's preparation was that He learned obedience. "Though continually existing as Son, He learned obedience from the things that He suffered (Heb. 5:8)." Christ perpetually had the quality of being a Son. Sonship was not related to birth but to a position of privilege and authority. In the Greek society of the New Testament era, a child became a son when it was assumed that he was capable of handling adult decisions, responsibilities and privileges. Until such a time, he was counted to be a child who had no rights or privileges even though He was the heir. He was in a period of training for adulthood under the tutelage of a slave, if the family was wealthy enough to have a skilled teaching slave. He had no more rights than the slaves until he was counted to be a mature son (huios). The Jewish procedure for bar mitzvah is similar in that it proclaims the male to be a man when he reaches a certain age and meets certain requirements. Christ was a Son with full standing and privilege as an equal Person of the Godhead. He was no less God because of the designation of Son. He was in a position of equality, intimacy and privilege. Because of Christ's authority, it was not necessary for Him to be obedient to anyone; yet in His incarnation, He took on a human nature and set aside His glory learning obedience. The very God of glory emptied Himself, taking on the form of a bond slave being in the likeness of men. He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death (Phil. 2:7, 8). Christ's learning obedience was a part of His preparation for His position as High Priest so that He could be the perfect High Priest for those He represented in the third heaven. He is the perfect sympathizer because of the lessons that He learned in His earthly sojourn. His preparation permitted Him to stand in the Presence of God the Father as the perfectly qualified representative because He possessed an experiential knowledge of the human condition and its limitations because nothing human was alien to Him except sin.

Christ's Qualifications to Be High Priest

Under the Law, the high priest was the representative of the whole nation. Of all of the sons of Aaron, he was the most important because he not only represented the nation but also the tribe of Levi, the sons of Aaron, his own household and himself. He was required to wear shoulder pieces on his shoulders with the names of the sons of Israel written on them (Ex. 28:1-11). Every time he was in the presence of Jehovah, the stones showed that he was a representative for the whole nation. "And you will place the two stones upon the shoulder pieces of the ephod for stones of remembrance [or memorial] for the sons of Israel; and Aaron shall lift up their names before Jehovah upon his two shoulders for a remembrance (Ex. 28:12)."

Aaron and every other high priest also had the names of the sons of Israel placed upon his heart. "And Aaron will lift up the names of the sons of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goes unto the holy place for a remembrance [or memorial] continually (Ex. 28:29)." Each of the twelve tribes had its name engraved on a semiprecious stone as a signet that was set in gold (Ex. 28:15-28). The high priest was qualified to represent the nation by the names of the tribes that he carried on his high priestly garments. Every time he put them on, he was reminded of the solemnity and importance of his service for the nation. He was reminded of the need for being qualified in order to serve in the high priestly office.

The most obvious physical representation of the qualification was the plate of gold that was mounted in front of the high priestly miter or turban. It was engraved with "HOLINESS TO JEHOVAH." "And it will be upon Aaron's forehead and Aaron will lift up the perversity of the holy things, that the sons of Israel will cause to set apart for all their holy gifts, and it will be upon his head continually for acceptance for them before Jehovah (Ex. 28:38)." It was absolutely necessary to have a qualified priesthood to bear the perversity of the nation and a qualified high priest to bear the perversity of the priestly family of Aaron (Num. 18:1).

Christ was qualified because He was found to be mature or complete. "And being made perfect [or mature] He became the cause [or author] of salvation for all the ones obeying Him (Heb. 5:9)." In His humanity, it was necessary for Christ to be mature or perfect. The passive verb indicates the involvement of the divine nature with the human nature making this qualification possible. He was the motivator or cause of salvation as a direct result. He could be the perfect substitute and a representative high priest as a human being. He was absolutely perfect in all of His maturity.

Hebrews 7:26 lists five qualifications that Christ possessed to be High Priest. "For such a high priest was indeed necessary for us [or suitable], holy, not evil, not defiled, having been separated from sinners and becoming higher than the heavens (Heb. 7:26)." What an expansive set of qualifications there were for Christ's entry into His high priestly ministry at His ascension. Generally, the word hosios is translated "holy" in the Authorized Version, but it has a greater emphasis on purity than the reparation or being set apart of hagios. It describes one who is careful to maintain a proper, acceptable relationship. It is more closely related to righteousness (dikaios) than holiness. Christ carefully maintained Himself in order to retain a proper relationship to the Father. He was pure and fulfilled every requirement for entry into the Holy of Holies. He was qualified because He had no evil ["harmless" A.V.]. No one could accuse Him justly of any form of evil. He was innocent of any and all charges against Him. He could easily meet the qualifications for righteousness in His high priestly ministry. Christ was free from defilement. He bore no pollution of any sort because He was unstained. Since He was holy, He was one who stood as set apart from sinners to God. In His earthly ministry, Christ was among sinners even to the extent that the scribes and Pharisees had accused Him of being a "friend of publicans and sinners (Matt. 11:19)." In His resurrection and ascension, He was completely separated from sinners. In His ascension, He ascended higher than the heavens. He passed through the heavens (Heb. 4:14 Gk.). Christ was qualified in every phase of His existence. From His incarnation forward, in His life, He was pure and lived up to the Divine standards. In His resurrection and ascension, He proved Himself to be qualified to enter the Holy of Holies in heaven with nothing preventing Him from offering His sacrifice. He was the first human to enter into the third heaven because of His perfect qualifications. Because He was qualified, He could offer the acceptable sacrifice of Himself for every form of unrighteousness.

Christ's Sacrifice as High Priest

As High Priest, Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice. Such a sacrifice was totally unique from the sacrifices of the tabernacle and temple. "Who does not have a daily need, as the high priests to offer up sacrifices first on behalf of his own sins, then for the sins of the people; for this He did once for all offering up Himself, for the Law appoints men possessing weakness to be high priests, but the word of the oath after the Law appoints the Son who stands complete into the age (Heb. 7:27, 28)." He offered Himself in realms physical and spiritual. It is assumed that anyone who is selected to be a high priest will offer gifts and sacrifices for sins (Heb. 5:1).

As a high priest, it was not only normal for him to bring sacrifices, but he also needed to have something to offer. "For every high priest is appointed with the purpose of offering both gifts and sacrifices; whence it is necessary even for this priest to have something that he may offer (Heb. 8:3)." Without something to offer, his high priestly ministry would be ineffective because the existence of the Priesthood was to offer sacrifices and gifts to God. Christ had a sacrifice that He presented -- His own blood! "How much more the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself once and for all free from blemish to God ... (Heb. 9:14)." He offered Himself and then took His blood to heaven as a sacrifice.

Christ is the forerunner for the believer in that He entered within the heavenly veil for the Christian (Heb. 6:19, 20). He entered into the veil with His own blood and there He purchased eternal redemption. "Neither through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood He entered once for all into the holies, having found eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12)." He did this as the believer's substitute and now appears in the presence of God the Father for grace believers (Heb. 9:24).

Christ's sacrifice was effective. He appeared [or was manifested] to put away the sin nature through the sacrifice of Himself (Heb. 9:26). He completely dealt with every aspect of unrighteousness -- acts of sin, sin nature, sin guilt, transgressions and such like. He bore the sins of many (Heb. 9:28) but went far beyond that in His cross work. By the will of God, the work of Christ is applied to grace believers. The believer is sanctified or set apart through the work of Christ. "By which desirous will we are those who stand as sanctified ones through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Heb. 10:10)." Christ's offering was good for sin forever (Heb. 10:12). "For by one offering He has brought to completion into perpetuity the sanctified ones (Heb. 10:14)." The sacrifice of Christ has a permanent value as it is applied to all believers.

By His sacrifice, He established the new covenant for the Church (Heb. 9:15-22). "This is the new covenant by [instrumental] my blood ... (1 Cor. 11:25)." The new covenant affirms for the believer that Christ indwells him. Because of Christ's sacrifice, His blood keeps on cleansing believers from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9).

Christ's sacrifice as a high priest was perfect. He took his own blood into the third heaven and placed it on the altar in heaven. As a result, He provided a permanent sacrifice once for all removing the need for any other blood sacrifices for sins and other forms of unrighteousness. His sacrifice was satisfactory to God the Father and became the basis for the grace believer's salvation. He was a perfectly qualified high priest so that He could bring His perfect sacrifice into the third heaven to make a perfect provision for the believer's perfect salvation, providing reconciliation, redemption and propitiation for the believer.

Christ's Place for High Priestly Service

Christ served as a high priest in the heavenly tabernacle. The earthly tabernacle and temple were patterns of the actual heavenly tabernacle arrangement. In the heavenly tabernacle/temple, the third heaven was the Holy of Holies where God the Father focused His residency as a Person with the other Persons of the Godhead when they were not resident upon earth. The starry spaces of the second heaven were counted to be the holy place while earth and its atmosphere, the first heaven, were considered to be the temple court. Hebrews teaches that God gave specific instructions for the earthly tabernacle because it was to follow the pattern of the heavenly tabernacle. For a more detailed development of the heavenly tabernacle see the chapter on the believer's place of service.

As High Priest, Christ did more than just enter into the third heaven. He went through all three heavens and beyond as a proof of His deity. A great deal could be said about the prior ascensions of Christ between the cross work and the resurrection, but suffice it to say that Christ took His blood to heaven during the three days and nights His body was in the tomb. He entered heaven as the believer's forerunner (Heb. 6:20). He performed His service of sacrifice in the third heaven by sprinkling His blood on the heavenly altar only to return to the place of sprinkling and to be seated at the right hand of God the Father (Heb. 8:1, 2). There He functions as a priest and performs His high priestly duty for the grace believer. His priestly service is supreme over any other priestly service. "But now has obtained a more excellent priestly service, by how much even He is a mediator of a better covenant that has been ratified upon better promises (Heb. 8:6)." Not only is His place of service better but also the service itself is better. Christ entered heaven and applied His blood to the heavenly altar before His ascension, cleansing the heavenly Holy of Holies. He returned to the same place to appear in the presence of God for grace believers (Heb. 9:24). He remains seated at the right of the Father within the Holy of Holies acting on behalf of the Christian in the proper place and in a proper way.

Christ's Present Work as a High Priest

Two major aspects of Christ's work directly relate to His priestly service: His intercession and His advocacy. Both are clearly taught in Scripture, but there is a great deal of controversy as to how these are accomplished. Some believe that Christ's presence at the right hand of the Father is in itself intercession while others see His cross work as His intercession with the Father. Hebrews 7:25 clearly describes Christ's intercessory ministry. "Wherefore He has the inherent power to save to the all end time the ones who are approaching God through Him, while always living with the purpose of interceding on their behalf (Heb. 7:25)." Christ's intercession is that which keeps the believer saved to the all end time or uttermost. Christ saves on the basis of the permanence of the provisions of His cross work. He is living in the realm of His humanity. The Christian has the confidence that the Savior Himself is making intercession with the Father maintaining his salvation. Romans eight further emphasizes the same truth. "Who is the one who is condemning? Christ Jesus is the one having died but rather having been raised, who is in the right hand of God, who is also interceding on our behalf (Rom. 8:34)." When someone attempts to condemn the believer, Christ keeps the believer from being condemned. The word "condemn," katakrino, means to make a judgment and to provide a penalty for the judgment. Christ's intercessory ministry guarantees the believer's salvation keeping him saved. Because of this, the believer's salvation is as good as Christ's intercession for him. The believer can have a consistent assurance that nothing can or will separate him from the love of God and of Christ (Rom. 8:35-39).

Christ is the believer's advocate (parakletos) as high priest with God the Father. When the believer sins, Jesus Christ functions as an advocate at the Fathers right hand. "My little born ones, these things I am writing to you in order that you may not sin and if anyone happens to sin, we continually have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous and He continually is a place of satisfaction concerning our sins, but not concerning ours alone, but concerning all the world (1 Jn. 2:1, 2)." He is literally "one called alongside the Father." Whenever the believer commits an act of sin, Christ stands alongside the Father to affirm that He has already dealt with that sin in His cross work. The penalty has already been paid. One must recognize that Christ's advocacy is alongside the Father while the Holy Spirit's advocacy is alongside the believer. Essentially, 1 John 2:1, 2 tells how 1 John 1:9 is implemented. The believer sins and Christ acts as an advocate with the Father. The sinning believer confesses his sin and the Father forgives continuing the cleansing for all other forms of unrighteousness. The believer's Heavenly High Priest continues to demonstrate the effectiveness of His sacrifice -- the blood has been applied and continues to be efficacious for all believers.

While Christ is involved in His present work as High Priest, He is dwelling in light and His humanity possesses immortality. No human can enter unto the presence of God until he possesses immortality. "The one who is continually having immortality, while dwelling in unapproachable light, whom not one of men saw nor has the ability [or inherent power) to see, to whom is honor and might eternal: Amen (1 Tim. 6:16)." Christ is the High Priest who is dwelling in light as He accomplishes His priestly ministry. While seated in light at the Father's right hand, He is anticipating His kingly role that will be fulfilled in making His enemies to be His footstool, "For the rest [or henceforth] expecting until which time His enemies are placed as a footstool for His feet (Heb. 10:13)." He expects the fulfillment of the prophecies of Psalm 110 concerning His role as a kingly priest. In His human nature, He possesses the anticipation. Hence, Christ is involved in keeping the Christian saved and being an advocate when the believer sins. He continues in His effective high priestly ministry with the Father for the benefit of the Christian.

Christ's Provisions in His Priesthood

Several provisions are made for the grace believer because of Christ's priestly ministry. A major theme of the book of Hebrews is that of new and better things that Christ has made available to the grace believer in contrast to the limited provisions of the Mosaic Law. Why should a Christian have any confidence in the Mosaic Law or any other law principle when Christ supremely provided benefits that are far greater than any available under Law? Because Christ provided new and better benefits, there is no reason for any confidence in Law and its extensive limitations. Christ has provided a new covenant, a special freedom, a boldness and assurance and a potential for maturity that never existed before.

The Provision of a New Covenant. Christ, by His shed blood, provided a new covenant for the Church. It is described as being new (Matt. 26:28; Mk. 14:24; Lu. 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25; 2 Cor. 3:6; Heb. 8:8; 9:15; 12:24) and better (Heb. 7:22; 8:6). The new covenant is new in time, (kainos -- Matt. 26:28; Mk. 14:24; Lu. 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25; 2 Cor. 3:6; Heb. 8:8; 9:15) and new in kind, (neos -- Heb. 12:24). The new covenant is seen in contrast to the Law that is identified as the old covenant (2 Cor. 3:14; Heb. 8:9) or the first covenant (Heb. 9:15, 18). it is not the new covenant for Israel of Jeremiah 31:31-34 even though the passage is quoted in Hebrews 8:8-12 to illustrate the fact that it is possible to replace the Mosaic covenant.

A very common interpretation of the new covenant in Hebrews is that it is the fulfillment of the covenant that will be made with Israel in the future. In Hebrews eight, the author is very careful to include Israel and Judah as the sharers in the covenant (8:8) and to include the indicator "after those days" of future fulfillment. In Hebrews 10:16, only a portion of the passage is used omitting Israel and Judah and the reference to future fulfillment. When one reads Jeremiah, it is evident what the days are that must be fulfilled in order for the covenant to take affect. They are days of great affliction and tribulation that produce weakness and pain (Jer. 31:15-21). The new covenant with Israel makes it possible for Israel to receive the land promises of the Palestinian covenant (Deut. 29) and promised that Israel would receive a circumcised heart (Deut. 30:6). The Jeremiah covenant will be fulfilled when Christ comes back bringing forgiveness after the purging of the non-elect Jews and Gentiles.

The new covenant, seen in Hebrews, is clearly described in 2 Corinthians 3:6, "Who also made us sufficient ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of spirit, for the letter kills, but the spirit is making alive." It is evident that the new covenant is a unique covenant providing a ministry for grace believers. The Law had a glory of its own (2 Cor. 3:7-13) while the new covenant has a far greater glory. The grace believer has something written inside that is to be reflected as in a mirror [or mirrored] on the outside that is a superior glory. "But we all with a face which stands as being unveiled, beholding the glory of the Lord are being made to give an outward expression of the inward reality with reference to the same image from glory to glory even as from the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18)." The new covenant makes it possible for the indwelling Christ who was written inside the believer by the Holy Spirit to be reflected outwardly for others to see. As a result, the believer can be Christ-like. The cup that is presented at the Lord's Table service is a representation of the new covenant that is made possible by Christ's blood (1 Cor. 11:25). Every believer is a participant in the new covenant and has Christ indwelling him as his eternal life (1 Jn. 5:11, 12).

Jesus Christ is the surety of the new covenant in His priestly work. "By [lit. down from] so much indeed Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant (Heb. 7:22)." "Surety" comes from a root that means "a pledge." It describes someone who puts up a bail by life or property to make certain that something will be accomplished. Christ, Himself, is the bail bondsman who guarantees that the better covenant will be accomplished. In a sense, He guarantees His own indwelling of the grace believer. He is more than a bail bondsman in that He is also the Mediator of the covenant (Heb. 8:6; 9:15). The new covenant has been established on better promises (Heb. 8:6). As a result of Christ's mediatorial work, the believer receives his inheritance. "And therefore He is mediator of a new covenant, so that death having come to be for redemption of the transgressions upon the first covenant, the ones who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance (Heb. 9:15)." As the Covenant Maker, Christ gave His own life as a priest to inaugurate the covenant (Heb. 9:16) shedding His blood thereby establishing its permanence (Heb. 9:18). Christ made provision for His indwelling in His priestly ministry through His cross work so the sheep could show forth the Shepherd in their individual lives.

The Provision of Freedom from Fear of Death. Because of the work of Christ, the believer does not need to be filled with the fear of death that had terrorized the Old Testament believer and unbeliever alike. Death still carried its sting and was a source of fear (1 Cor. 15:54-56). Because of Christ's priestly work, the grace believer no longer needs to fear death. Satan had the power over death before Christ's triumph and the power was taken from him in a unique way. "Since therefore the children stand as sharers of blood and flesh, He Himself shared the same things, in order that through death He might destroy [or render useless] the one who possesses the visible power of death, this one is the devil, and set free these, as many as by fear of death through all of their living were continually held in slavery (Heb. 2:14, 15)." Christ has set believers free from Satan's tyranny over death and has liberated man from the sting of death.

The Provision of Boldness for the Believer. There are two ways to provide boldness to an individual. One is changing the object feared while the other is changing the reason for fear. Boldness is an expression of individual confidence whether it is personal or generated by a group. In the Greek, boldness was a freedom and a willingness to communicate to another person. Christ's high priestly ministry makes it possible to come to the throne of grace in confidence knowing that in Christ the believer can receive mercy and grace in the time of need. Because Christ is a sympathetic high priest, the believer has boldness of access to God the Father through the Son.

The Provision of Assurance. Assurance also involves the individual believer's attitude. When he recognizes the provision of Christ, he realizes that Christ's priesthood is one according to the power of an endless life (Heb. 7:16). This information should have a direct influence upon his perspective. "Let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith having our hearts sprinkled from a malignantly evil conscience and the body standing as washed in pure water (Heb. 10:22)." Assurance extends into several major areas. The believer should have assurance in the effectiveness of his own priestly ministry in an unchangeable priesthood with Christ as high priest (Heb. 7:24). He should have assurance concerning the power of the life in Christ (Heb. 7:16). Assurance should produce activity. Assurance concerning the believer's permanent salvation is the result of his recognition that Christ's high priestly ministry of intercession keeps the believer saved (Heb. 7:25; Rom. 8:34) and His advocacy deals with all the sins that the believer might commit (1 Jn. 2:1, 2). Assurance in Christ's high priestly activity will encourage the believer to utilize his direct access to the Father through Christ. Christ provided assurance by His high priestly position and activities. Every Christian should know the facts and enjoy the assurance provided in them. Christ has made confidence possible by His own perfection and work.

The Provision for a Potential for Maturity. No one could mature under the Mosaic Law. "For the Law could bring nothing to maturity, but a bringing in of a better hope through which we are drawing near to God (Heb. 7:19)." It is clear in the Authorized Version. The root is translated "full age" in Hebrews 5:14 with the idea that perfection is really maturation or completion. Priestly service itself under Law could not bring maturity to the priest (Heb. 9:9). Even a righteous believer could not bring enough gifts and sacrifices to Jehovah to make him mature (Heb. 10:1). A grace believer living by Law will never reach any level of spiritual maturity. It is possible for a grace believer living by grace principles to mature in Christ Jesus (Col. 1:28). These are the ones who have the real ability to assimilate solid food. Having accurately interpreted the Word and having been illumined by the Holy Spirit, they comprehend a large body of doctrine and can relate other truth to what the Word says for their personal benefit. "But solid/substantial food is belonging to mature ones, the ones because of their condition, while having their perceptive faculties standing as exercised toward distinguishing both good and bad (Heb. 5:14)." The author of Hebrews encourages his readers to be carried on to maturity (Heb. 6:1). Some of his readers were babes when they should have been experienced in the Word to the point that they were truly teachers (Heb. 5:12, 13). Their spiritual infancy was based in the fact that they were attempting to live by certain principles of the Law as principles for Christian living and so were babes or inarticulate babblers. When they spoke of Christian things, they could not communicate truth but simply exposed their ignorance of the Word in empty, ignorant talk. The Church of Jesus Christ must come to realize the impotence of the Law for Christian living. Many churches prevent their people from maturing because they persist in teaching the Law as a principle for life. How many young children have learned the ten commandments [the Decalogue] before they have heard of Christ's provisions for salvation by grace. Whether the churches believe in salvation by education or not, the Law holds too important a position in many churches. Christ's priestly ministry provides a totally new way for spiritual growth. Under Law, Israel was confined to spiritual diapers while grace provides the potential for spiritual adulthood to the grace believer.

Because Christ is the High Priest for the believer, there are some important provisions that make the fullness of Christian living possible. When one grasps the essentials of the provision of Christ's priestly work and ministry, it should have a positive affect on the way he lives. All of the joys of salvation can find their focus in Christ who is their Heavenly High Priest for the priesthood of the grace believer. Pastors and teachers need to learn the importance of Christ's high priestly work and communicate it to their people if they ever hope to see them mature in their Christian lives. To neglect the importance of the believer-priest and his relationship to Christ as High Priest is to deprive him of an important part of the teaching of Scripture.

The believer is a participant in a unique priesthood after the order of Melchisedec. He is in that priesthood because Christ is in that priesthood and God the Father sees the believer in Christ as a believer-priest. Christ is a kingly priest presently anticipating His ultimate victory over His enemies. He is the believer's intercessor keeping him saved by His intercessory ministry at the right hand of God the Father. He is also the High Priest standing alongside God the Father as the believer's Advocate when he sins. Christ is the perfect Priest and High Priest. He was made a priest at His baptism that initiated His earthly ministry and became High Priest at His ascension according to Scripture. During His earthly ministry, He was prepared to become a sympathetic high priest (Heb. 4:16). He was perfectly qualified to become High Priest (Heb. 2:17; 7:26). Christ did not become a high priest to assume an office for inactivity, but He is actively involved in high priestly work. May the hearts of believers be filled with thanksgiving and praise to their Heavenly High Priest!


Chapter 8: Priestly Potentials for the Grace Believer


A Christian has no right to question his involvement in the priesthood of all grace believers. He is a priest whether he likes it or not. He may not feel like a priest. He may prefer to have other individuals perform priestly service for him rather than to be actively involved in priestly activity. Some believers are ignorant of what a priest should be doing. Many of these Christians think in terms of the Old Testament tabernacle or temple with the whole system of blood sacrifices and believe that priestly activity is incomprehensible and is not worth the effort. It is necessary to describe the activities expected from a grace believer-priest in order to see the potentials that exist for his priestly activity.

What Does a Priest Do as a Priest?

Imagine the son of a chief executive officer of a major corporation being asked, "What does your father do?" He replies, "He just sits at his desk and does nothing." A child's response may be cute in its ignorance but it demonstrates a need for knowledge. "What does a priest do as a priest?" There are many potential responses evident in the churches today from both pastors and their people. "Well, a priest acts like a priest." Great answer! For all the mention there is of the priesthood of the believer in the New Testament, there is limited information concerning what a priest actually does. "If I am a priest, what are my duties, abilities and privileges?" This question should be asked by believers more often and accurate biblical answers given. There are some believers who acknowledge that Scripture does say that they are priests, but they do not consider it to be an important enough subject to discover what Scripture actually teaches concerning proper priestly activity. One of the initial points of confusion is where priestly service is performed. If Christ is in heaven, how does the believer serve in his priesthood while living on earth? Is priestly service a future activity entered by death so that the believer can serve as a priest with Jesus Christ? No, it is service done in this life on earth and presented in heaven.

The Place of Service. While more detail will be given concerning the heavenly tabernacle or temple, a brief discussion of the place of service is important so the believer can understand the significance of acting as a priest in this life. The grace believer-priest performs heavenly service from earth by priestly activities performed on earth. God has equipped each believer with all that is necessary to perform priestly service every day of his life. Wherever a Christian is, there is a potential to be acting as a priest. Priestly service has no bounds in time or space -- it can be done anywhere and at any time.

As human beings, men tend to be horizontal in their perspective. Each has an earth-bound perspective and tends to build every aspect of life on the circumstances and events that surround his earthly existence. Believers also permit the horizontal point of view to influence their thinking and behavior. One of the most difficult things for a believer to do is to set his thinking on things above. He finds it difficult to get out of the earthly thinking rut and to get into a heavenly thinking routine. It is difficult for human beings to develop a perpendicular, heavenward perspective. The believer has the potential for developing a proper direction of perspective to the degree that he is able to see things on earth as God sees them. Scripture gives extensive revelation describing how God perceives earthly life. Because He is the God of truth, He sees things as they really are. Human life is filled with multiple observations and opinions concerning what is real and what is not. The Christian serves as a priest on earth while God counts his service to be in heaven. In other words, a Christian can act as a priest on earth and in heaven at the same time. He performs a priestly service on earth that directly affects other people on earth. As a result, the recipients of priestly service benefit from the priestly activity of the individual priest as one individual benefits from another individual. The Christian who is acting as a priest knows that he has performed priestly service and can see it as work done on earth, but he can also see it as work done and presented in heaven because God counts it to be so from His perspective.

The earth's atmosphere is the court of the heavenly tabernacle. If a believer offers a sacrifice of fellowship by relating to other believers horizontally in the court, God the Father counts the fellowship to be done by a priest in Christ and is satisfied with the sacrifice offered from His own right hand. When the believer thinks in terms of God's viewpoint, his perspective is concentrated heavenward and becomes perpendicular as well as horizontal. Such an arrangement is unique to the priesthood over which Christ is the High Priest. One of the great privileges of the believer-priest in this priesthood is the privilege of sacrifice. A priestly privilege is offering acceptable sacrifices to God.

The Practice of Sacrifice. One of the great privileges of the believer-priest is the offering of spiritual sacrifices. Most Old Testament sacrifices were blood sacrifices, but the grace believer is free from the inconvenience and expense of slaying an animal for a blood sacrifice. Spiritual sacrificing for spiritual believers is a regular, frequent activity. It is not a once-a-week activity, but involves the offering of a large number of sacrifices every day as the Christian focuses his attention on the work of God around him. Six sacrifices are identified in Scripture. Only one is offered one time while the rest are offered repeatedly. When the believer understands what the sacrifices are, he will have the privilege of knowingly offering them to God and they will become a regular part of his every day activity.

Blood sacrifice has been a critical part of many of the religions of the world. Somewhere in the religious nature of man there is a desire to approach God by sacrifice. Sacrifices are made for a number of reasons. The gods are appeased and so provide benefits and protection withholding judgment and disaster. Other deities are fed by sacrifices. Some sacrifice as a means of preventing evils in life while others sacrifice so that their enemies might suffer evil. Many sacrifices are given to atone for sins. There was a time when people considered offering blood sacrifices to be limited to the underdeveloped countries of the world and never a part of civilized society, but there are contemporary reports of cults in civilized societies who practice blood sacrifice. Several years ago, authorities found nearly 50 animals tethered in a New York apartment awaiting sacrifice by a cult imported from South America and the Caribbean. They were to be offered to feed their blood to the saints.

God inaugurated a blood sacrificial system for Israel as a part of the Mosaic Law. Because man has difficulty understanding God's arrangements, He made it clear in the Law in great detail. Sacrifice for Israel was a part of the bondage of the Law. If a person violated the Law, he was to sacrifice or his human life was required. If a believer desired to express his appreciation to God, he brought a sacrifice as a means of communicating that appreciation. Physical sacrifices were given at a great expense. A portion of the givers income was slain as a sacrifice. Some sacrifices were arranged so that the poor person could give less while the wealthy person would give an animal of far greater value.

The sacrifices of the grace believer are not limited to the affordable or to the isolation of a specific location. Undoubtedly, poor believers offer more sacrifices than rich believers. In many ,ways they have more reasons to rely on God than the rich. Because of the sacrifices' spiritual nature, it is possible to offer them at any time at any place. Priestly service can be performed at home, in the car, in the grocery store, in the shop, on the job -- anywhere the believer is. Spiritual sacrifices have been offered in some of the most unique places. Some sacrifices require the presence of other believers or unbelievers, while others only require that a spiritual believer relate to his God. Spiritual sacrifices involve the rationale of the believer that in turn produces an activity of either the mind or of the body. Some sacrifices involve mental activity and may not involve physical activity at all. Others involve spiritual activities that God counts to be acceptable sacrifices. Men may call many activities sacrifices but the absolute test of the activity is whether God identifies the activity as a sacrifice or not.

Every sacrifice is offered by human beings with a hope that it will be accepted by deity. By faith, the offerer expects his deity to say, "Yes, you have offered a sacrifice, I accept it as such and am pleased with you." How does one know that any deity has accepted any sacrifice? -- by faith alone. In some religions, the adherents believe that their sacrifices are acceptable because they have been taught that it was true by way of oral tradition. Others have written records of religious practices that authenticate the offerer's sacrifice. Witch doctors or other religious authorities give authoritative guidelines for bringing acceptable sacrifices. Human beings follow these lesser authorities and bring sacrifices to their gods in accord with human regulations. The God of the Bible does not leave the Christian ignorant concerning what the sacrifices are that He finds acceptable. He gives a clear statement as to what the sacrifices are and how they are to be offered. They are identified clearly as sacrifices in Scripture. One may ask, "What are the spiritual sacrifices of the Christian?" A substantial section of this book will identify the sacrifices and how the spiritual grace believer can offer them. Are there more sacrifices than the six identified in Scripture? Without revelation, it is impossible to say there are more. God has given adequate revelation in Scripture for the believer to know what He counts to be a sacrifice. Any other activities that may be considered sacrifices are based on speculation and have no authority for being offered as sacrifices. One must be satisfied with the revelation of Scripture and avoid speculative theological conclusions not authenticated by God in His Word.

The Progression of Service. Particular activities are normal for priests and are not normal for those who are not priests. Specific priestly service is normal for the believer-priest. "He has gone into full-time Christian service" is frequently used of missionaries, pastors, evangelists and such like. It is a misnomer to consider those who make their living from the Lord's work to be in "full-time Christian service" inferring that the rest of the Christian Church is not in "full-time Christian service." The clergy-laity system has produced this error and it has carried over into many other realms of Christendom. Every Christian should be in "full-time Christian service." Many Christians are more "full-time" than their own pastors because they have learned the Christian life and live the Christian life as serving believer-priests. Professional Christian service does not necessarily mean that it is "full-time Christian service." True service is the consistent activity of the spiritual believer doing what God desires him to do. Every believer has the potential to serve his God actively as a believer-priest in consistent priestly activity.

Once again, Scripture is the final authority for the believer's service. Manuals of church procedure and pastoral theology are not necessary for understanding the believer's service as a priest. So much has been written on how to serve God that Scripture has been given a place of secondary importance in the minds of many believers. Believers become more concerned with how to handle preadolescent junior high boys who wear white leather sneakers than they are about truly being believer-priests in service. Scripture must be returned to the position of prominence as the source of revelation for priestly service. Some believers will react by saying Scripture does not provide adequate information so one must formulate arbitrary information to help with service. As a result, the word of one who serves becomes more important than the Word of the Master -- God Himself. It is true that most English translations obscure the Greek terms that relate to priestly service, but the chapters on priestly service will provide a systematic presentation of New Testament revelation. Of course, sacrifice is a major part of priestly service, but a careful consideration of the contexts in which the key words are found will develop the doctrine of priestly service in a comprehensible way.

As a believer matures, he learns what the will of God is in Scripture. A part of the will of God involves his priestly service. He will see more and more of his activity as conforming to activity that Scripture describes for priests. One of the joys of the Christian life is knowing that one's service conforms to the Word of God and that it will absolutely bring God glory through the believer. As a result, there should be real joy in the privilege of performing priestly service.

The Potentials in Specialization. The world today is a world of specialization. Every major field of endeavor has its own set of specialists. As anyone knows who has worked in areas where a measure of specialization is necessary, there are those who are truly specialists and those who think they are specialists. The true specialist not only has ability in the field above what is normal but also works at applying that ability to the job. In his work, his conclusions are built upon premises that he himself has verified through past research and experience. As a result, he is accurate in the task he is asked to perform and does it better than most others. Then there are those who say they are specialists who have neither the ability nor the expertise to do the job. Frequently, they are the best talkers while in practice they lack the very ability they say they possess. An untrained man off of the street could do the job just as well as they do. This is true in the realm of spiritual things. Specialization in the Church has existed from its founding on the Day of Pentecost. Some believer-priests are convinced that they are specialists in every area of church and Christian activity. "Some pastors who read this can identify specific people in the local church who fit into this category. People in the local church will also see pastors who fit as well. Some human egos expect themselves to be experts at everything though in practice the person is an expert in name only because he has neglected the areas in which he has real ability. Every Christian can serve as a believer-priest and offer sacrifices, but he is a specialist in only one area. His specialization can easily be in what is normal for all believer-priests, but he is given an ability over and above that which other believers possess. God did not provide a catalog of job descriptions for the believer to choose from either at salvation or at any other time in his Christian experience. God has sovereignly given each believer his area of spiritual expertise that exceeds that which is normal for all other believers.

It is difficult for some believers to accept Scripture's teaching concerning their specialization. Human pride says, "I can specialize in as many things as I want." God says, "I have given you a specialization from your salvation, use it and develop it to my glory." It is a sad condition in the Church today to see those believers who are functioning in the norm considered as having a specialty because the true specialist is doing other things. It is like a man who has a phenomenal mathematical ability, a love for engineering and a PhD. in engineering pursuing a career in botany because he likes to talk to plants even though he cannot remember their names in English let alone in Latin. It makes no sense. God has given a specialization knowing exactly what the man's makeup is. One of the greatest joys for the believer-priest is to see the active results produced by his specialization in the lives of other believers.

What is this specialization? How does one receive the specialization? It is the believer's spiritual gift that was given to him at the moment of salvation. It is well known that there are many major theological controversies concerning spiritual gifts. The theological pendulum swings from one extreme to the other and rarely stops in the middle. At one extreme are those who believe that every gift given in the early church plus a few are available to every believer today. At the other extreme are those who deny that any spiritual gifts exist today at all. In between these extremes, there is a wide variety of theological positioning. With the amount of revelation concerning spiritual gifts in Scripture, it would seem that one conclusion should be dominant, but it is not so. Because of the controversy concerning spiritual gifts, some have chosen to ignore them completely and avoid any controversy. One does not need to be a Greek scholar to understand spiritual gifts. A true, objective Greek scholar is without excuse if he chooses to disregard the grammar of the text of Scripture. Careful, consistent exegesis of Scripture provides incontrovertible conclusions concerning gifts. Many have permitted experience and emotion to provide the basis for their understanding of spiritual gifts rather than sound biblical exegesis based on objective fact. Though some gifts were revelatory in nature and limited to the early transitional church, there are nonrevelatory gifts that are extant today. One of the blessings of priestly service is using one's spiritual gift as well as living in the norm with other believers. While one believer may have the spiritual gift of giving, it does not mean that he will be the only one who gives the sacrifice of giving. In the norm, every believer gives but the one with the gift has the ability to give more and in more appropriate circumstances. As an example, most believers see their giving obligation as being met when they give in the Sunday offerings while others are giving to needs in the church in ways far more extensive than the offering and often are not even concerned about the tax deduction. Some of these are likely to have the spiritual gift of giving. When the believer-priest is using his spiritual gift, he is functioning in the realm of his specialization. Each believer has one gift and has the potential to be using that gift in helping other believers function best in the norm.

What does a priest do as a priest? First of all, the believer is to be living as a priest. He is a priest and never ceases to be a priest. He does not hang his priestly attire in a closet awaiting the next opportunity to serve as a priest. His life is a priestly life. He may live the priestly life with consistency. He may live it as the sons of Eli did or as Aaron did but it is still a priestly life whether filled with sin or filled with service and only limited sin. A priest lives as a priest -- it is his vocation. Every believer is a priest. He serves on earth, but God counts his service to be in the third heaven because he is in Christ as a believer. Sacrifice is a normal part of his activity as he learns the potentials for priestly service. Sacrifices are offered many times each day if the believer is in a proper condition. The sacrifices are spiritual in nature. He has a unique priestly service that is performed throughout his life as a spiritual believer. He has a specialization by which he exceeds the norm for priestly service and so is an expert at specific duties. His spiritual gift is his expertise. As a result, his whole life should be constantly affected by the joys of priestly service to his God.

Not only does the individual believer benefit from priestly activity, but also the whole Body of Christ. When a priest is doing priestly activities, the whole Body can benefit whether in the local church or outside of the local church. When a large number of believers are spiritual and living as priests, the whole church matures and accomplishes many things to the glory of God. Is this blind idealism in a church that is comprised of a majority of carnal believers? The doctrine encourages a greater emphasis upon biblical Christian living with believers having victory over their spiritual enemies. It is possible to see the priesthood functioning as it ought to be functioning. Many observe the church and see the priesthood as they would have seen the sons of Eli who were corrupt, immoral and sinful. What a pity! It would be a wonderful testimony to the power of God and the work of Christ if individual churches would strive to learn the spiritual life and function as units of believer-priests to the glory of God.

Why Should a Grace Believer Function as a Priest?

When the question "why?" is asked, it seeks a sufficient motivation for a person to be involved in an activity. "Is there a good enough reason for me to participate?" It requires an adequate reason that will move the individual to action. Why should a grace believer function as a priest? There is one acceptable motivation seen in Scripture. Human methods of motivation are very much like the methods of the Old Testament. They involve reward or punishment or the combination of both. The grace believer's motivation is not reward or punishment that are the expected results as a result of participation or nonparticipation.

It Is Not a Punishment Motive. The grace believer should not be functioning as a priest in fear of punishment. God does not penalize believers for failure to perform as priests. Even though God has provided everything necessary for priestly activity, He does not have a set of special penalties for neglect of priestly service, sacrifice or specialization. Some believers might be willing to act as priests if God drove them along with a bullwhip. They might react as the Canaanites did in the book of Joshua before the hornets came and moved them into action -- flight. They would act as priests if external circumstances forced them out of the sense of self-preservation. The prospect of punishment is not a motivation for being a functional believer-priest.

Rather than dealing with an activity that is not being performed, God goes to the very root of the problem when penalty is involved. A carnal believer cannot function as a priest. His carnality prohibits it. God can punish the carnality of the believer and often does. The Corinthian church experienced some of God's punishment for carnality in His chastening and scourging. "Because of this many among you are physically weak [or sick] and crippled and a number sleep (1 Cor. 11:30)." The possibility of punishment can be a motivation to move the believer from his carnal condition into spirituality. Punishment or chastening itself is designed to correct the believer so that he can live in his position in Christ. A part of his being in Christ is his being a priest. God deals with the source of the problem rather than the surface of the problem.

In the Dispensation of Grace, God generously provides all that is necessary for the Christian's life and godliness. The negative threat of Sinai has been replaced with the offer of positive grace for Christian living. Fear in the New Testament is totally different than that of the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, there was always a fear of the penalty being administered by the personal representatives of God. Under grace, the only fear that exists for a spiritual believer is the fear of displeasing God, not because of the prospect of punishment but because of love. Before a believer can ever function as a priest, he must first be a spiritual believer living in his position in Christ. Punishment is only a motivation for the carnal believer who needs to be threatened in order for him to take necessary steps to be spiritual.

It Is Not a Reward Motive. Human nature has a magnificent appetite for reward. Reward is a motivation that affects every part of the life of an individual. Good service brings the reward of a return customer and a good tip. Good service may bring a larger order. When a man opens the door for a lady, he is rewarded with a "thank you." An honest day's work brings a reward in financial remuneration and possibly a bonus. A person will frequently ask, "if I do it, what will I get out of it?" One of the reasons that people have such a great difficulty is the reward motive that permeates their lives. Some believers have the "well done thou good and faithful servant" syndrome that is also a reward motivation. How many preachers have taught that this is all the reward they need to be serving the Lord? It would be just as easy to say, "Well done thou good and faithful priest." Not one of the victors crowns possibly awarded to the believer at the Bema Seat [i.e. judgment seat] of Christ directly involves priestly activity. True, indirectly they might but there is no priestly crown given as a reward for priestly service performed. The rewarding of a victor's crown may be a motivation for priestly activity. Some believe that their reward is the content of their future tense salvation, but this is an open contradiction to the clear revelation of Scripture.

Under Law, reward was a definite motivation as well as punishment. Essentially, the Law could be summarized as "You do or do not do this and I will bless you, if you don't do this, I will punish you." The reward for Israel was physical prosperity and protection while they lived in the land. Obedience brought prosperity while disobedience brought punishment. Even the Aaronic priests suffered in a similar way -- if they neglected their priestly service, they starved to death because they made their living from the service that they performed as priests. In the Dispensation of Grace, God changed the approach completely and took away both the reward and punishment motives of the Law and replaced them with a love and glory motive.

It Is a Love and Glory Motive. God's grace has already provided all of the believer's needs so that he can serve as a priest. To the grace believer, God says, "I have blessed you and you can do this in response." The reason a grace believer serves as a priest is from a love motivation. Christ has provided everything necessary for a Christian to be an acceptable priest. In the decree, every detail of the priesthood had been arranged with no strings attached aside from a believer's being in a right relationship with God. The believer's priestly privilege is a part of the free gift provided at the moment of salvation. His relationship in Christ makes his priestly service effective. Because of the gracious provision of God placing the believer in the priesthood, the believer must make the decision to appropriate that which has been provided. He will neither be penalized nor rewarded for his decision.

When the Christian is spiritual, he possesses an other-centered love (agape) that provides an other-centered motivation for acting as a priest. He understands that he does not have a right to be a priest in himself, but that Christ has made a gracious provision for the priesthood of the believer. A believer should function as a priest in a love response to Christ and other members of the Godhead. In order for the believer to comprehend certain aspects of Christ's character, he must become active as a priest who is relating to Christ as High Priest. Because the believer loves Christ and the Father, he desires to take advantage of the gracious provision of the priesthood. Through that love, there is a strong interest in doing those things that will bring pleasure to God as a direct result. One of the manifestations of Divine love was the gracious provision for the believer of the possessions that he has in Christ. In turn, he should reciprocate in love as a result of the provision. When a parent gives a child something, he expects the child to use it for its designed purpose. A toy dump truck or a doll was not given to be hung on the wall for decoration but to provide the joy of play for the child. A parent would be disappointed if his child would put the toy designed for play in the closet and never use it. Our Heavenly Father will not be disappointed but definitely desires for believers to be enjoying the provisions of grace. Since love is other-centered, it leads the believer to have concern for giving God glory through that which He has provided for the believer.

One of the beauties of God's grace is that the grace believer can show forth God's glory by what is done through him. An effective believer-priest provides a basis for God's receiving glory through his priestly activities as a Christian. Bringing glory to God is the basic motivation for every Christian activity. God's opinion of Himself is seen in the provisions that He makes. When the Christian performs priestly service, believer and unbeliever alike can see the glory of God exhibited in the activities. In His glory, the full weight of God's character is manifested in certain aspects evidenced by His activity. The glorification of God is the basic motivation of the Church in every aspect of its activity. Every action of the spiritual Christian should be done knowing the potential for bringing glory to God. When the believer has the opportunity to do good, he should never consider the beneficial results for his own personal reputation but should focus his attention on how the activity will bring glory to God. This should be true of every sacrifice and the carrying out of his priestly service. The reason for God's arrangement for the believer's salvation is to bring praise of the glory of God (Eph. 1:12). The love motivation should automatically produce a glory motivation for the believer's priestly activity.

It is difficult for many believers to respond in love because they have rarely had the fruit of the Spirit produced in their lives. It is much easier to function in a punishment and reward situation. In a sense, the individual shares the responsibility for motivation because the one who provides either the reward or punishment is also a motivation. Love does not expect anything from the object of that love. Love becomes self-motivation, seeking the very best for its object. A Christian performs as a priest because he has the fruit of the Spirit in his life. As a direct result, he can possess a love that he can then direct toward God. God has designed priestly service to bring Him glory. When the believer understands this and responds in love, he will willingly serve as a priest. God has made it possible for the believer to accomplish His work in His way. Out of love for God, the believer should seek God's way for accomplishing His will; and when he discovers that way, he should do what needs to be done in God's way in love. Christendom has a wide variety of ways established to do the work of God. Many of the programs for organization, administration and action are totally foreign to Scripture's revealed procedure. How can a church organization expect people to respond to God in a proper way when it does not conform to Divine procedures in itself?

"But times have changed!" Many feel that the practice of the New Testament procedures is archaic and impractical. Modern methods are necessary to appeal to the modern man. Programs are designed to motivate church members to be involved in the church program by their presence and their pocketbook. Many feel that an effective priesthood of all believers is impractical in their churches and so neglect it. It is true that it will not work in some churches because their whole program and organization prevents it. Pragmatism has overcome the simplicity of the New Testament provisions for a believer's service. Every true believer has priestly privileges that can be used to the glory of God when he is motivated by love. What a shame it is to deprive the believer of his God-given privilege and replace it with modern techniques that profess to be far more practical than the clear teaching of Scripture. The priesthood of all grace believers is a reality and practical. With careful, accurate teaching, the believer should learn how to find his life filled with joy as he functions as a believer-Priest. A major portion of his priestly service is that of offering spiritual sacrifices to his God. Sacrifices are sources of real enjoyment for the spiritual believer.


SECTION II
The Sacrifices of the Believer-Priest


An important part of the service of the believer-priest is the offering of sacrifices. When the grace believer offers a sacrifice, he does not bring an animal to be offered as a physical sacrifice as was true in the Old Testament, but he offers spiritual sacrifices to God. When the Law believer brought a physical sacrifice with a right heart attitude, God counted it as an acceptable sacrifice. Two sacrifices may be identical. If one was offered with a wrong attitude, Jehovah was not pleased while the other, being offered with an acceptable heart attitude, was pleasing to Jehovah. The Christian has a multitude of opportunities to be offering spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God. God has given clear revelation concerning what the sacrifices are and how they are to be offered.

"You also as living stones are being built a spiritual house into a holy priesthood, to be offering spiritual sacrifices well-accepted to God through Jesus Christ (1 Pe. 2:5)." One of the essential purposes for the New Testament priesthood is the offering of spiritual sacrifices. There are six sacrifices clearly identified in the text of Scripture.

1. Sacrifice of Physical Body -- Romans 12:1

2. Sacrifice of Praise -- Hebrews 13:15

3. Sacrifice of Doing Good -- Hebrews 13:16

4. Sacrifice of Fellowship -- Hebrews 13:16

5. Sacrifice of Giving -- Philippians 4:18

6. Sacrifice of Faith -- Philippians 2:17

It is interesting how frequently these sacrifices overlap in their activity. There are certain times when two sacrifices can be offered to God at the same time. Sometimes the offering of one sacrifice moves the offerer to make another sacrifice directly in response to the first sacrifice. Of course, a single sacrifice may be offered without any immediate relationship to any other sacrifice.

The giving of the sacrifice is a priestly privilege. Because the believer became a believer-priest at the moment of salvation, he always has the potential to offer sacrifices to God. God's grace makes the privilege of sacrifice possible. No human being has ever had the right to approach God with a sacrifice without some activity on God's part. It was a common religious custom in the Old Testament world for people to offer sacrifices to deities. They offered animal sacrifices and, in some instances, human sacrifices. The peoples of the world considered sacrifice a primary means for appeasing the gods. They had a human kind of faith that their deities would accept the sacrifices and bless the sacrificer as a result. It is possible that the demons behind the gods may have from time to time actually given some visible indications of the acceptability of the sacrifices. At least the pagan mind was confident that the crops grew and the rains fell because their gods had been appeased.

Under the Law, only the sons of Aaron had the privilege of actually sacrificing. A man of the tribe of Judah [unless he was king in response to God's intervention] would bring his animal for sacrifice to the priest who in turn would offer it upon the altar as a sacrifice. It was their priestly privilege -- a bloody one at that. After the Law was instituted, there was only one other person who could offer an acceptable sacrifice directly to God and that was the king of Israel. He could only offer a sacrifice if Jehovah directed him to make it. As a result, most sacrifices required the offerer to bring the sacrificial animal and to have another person sacrifice it for him. Sacrificing was a priestly privilege. Later in Israel's history, there were people in Israel who offered sacrifices to other deities violating not only sacrificial procedure but also the first commandment that prohibited having other gods before Jehovah (Ex. 20:3; Deut. 5:7). Evidently, there was a desire on the part of the people to be actual participants in the privilege of sacrifice. Israel had to rely on the mediation of the priest. Would God accept the sacrifice of the righteous offerer when the priest was not qualified because of some sin or impurity? No matter how polluted the priesthood became in the history of Israel, God still expected the believing Israelite to bring his sacrifices through the priesthood. Even the pollution and perversion of Eli's sons did not make it possible for Israelites of the other twelve tribes, in the land to offer their own sacrifices for themselves. It remained a priestly privilege. The grace believer shares in priestly privilege in the priesthood of Melchisedec and can be offering sacrifices without reservation as long as he meets the requirements for offering the sacrifices. "We have a place of sacrifice [altar] out of which the ones serving the tabernacle do not have the authority to eat (Heb. 13:10)." A major purpose for the priesthood of the grace believer is to be offering spiritual sacrifices to God.

1 Peter 2:5 describes these sacrifices as spiritual sacrifices rather than physical sacrifices. They are not essentially material even though they may produce material results. Even though physical things may be involved in a sacrifice such as giving, it is given as a spiritual sacrifice by a spiritual person to be accepted by a spiritual God. There is no altar on earth for offering these sacrifices. It is a heavenly altar and only God can see the true worth of the sacrifice offered by the Christian.

If the believer is spiritual, the sacrifice is acceptable to God. A study of the sacrifices of the believer-priest provides a miniature course in the spiritual life. It is impossible to offer an acceptable sacrifice when the believer is not spiritual. Scripture uses several terms to describe this proper condition. A spiritual believer (1 Cor. 2:15) emanates the things of the Holy Spirit. He is filled (Eph. 5:18) by means of the Spirit who makes up the deficiencies in the life of the believer so that the life of the indwelling Christ can energize the new nature. God only counts the thing offered to be a sacrifice if a spiritual believer does it. Many times a believer will actually do identical kinds of activity as the activities of the sacrifices, but God refuses to accept them as sacrifices because one who is carnal offers them. When a believer is appropriating the benefits that are his in Christ, he is appropriating his priestly privilege. As a result, specific activities in the Christian's life are accepted by God as a spiritual activity of sacrifice. Whether or not an activity is truly a sacrifice is totally dependent upon the heart attitude of the offerer. If he is appropriating his priestly privilege in Christ, his activities are counted to be sacrifices.

How can the activity by one believer be a sacrifice while the identical activity of another believer be rejected as a sacrifice? When Christians think of sacrifices, they focus upon the object or act being offered as a sacrifice. In other words, a lamb is a lamb. The only restriction was that the lamb must meet the criteria established qualifying a lamb to be a sacrifice. The thing or activity offered has no acceptability of its own. It may cost the believer a great deal in time or money. It only becomes a sacrifice when God counts it to be a sacrifice.

God knows the condition of the offerer and his heart attitude. He knows the motivation behind the bringing of the sacrifice. He establishes it to be a sacrifice based on His knowledge of the way in which it was offered. As a result, the same thing or activity can be offered with one accepted as a sacrifice and the other rejected. God simply reckons [or counts] the believer as offering a sacrifice. Only as the activity positively affects the mind of God is it counted to be a sacrifice. God is not arbitrary in His determination of what is and what is not a sacrifice. He very clearly established the bases for imputing certain activities to be sacrifices. He not only tells how they are to be offered, but also what constitutes a sacrifice. When the believer meets the divine criterion, he can have the confidence that what he offers is an acceptable sacrifice. Scripture clearly reveals what the details are. While there is no smoke or incense, God finds the believer's sacrifice far more valuable than the sacrifices of the Old Testament saint.

In order to understand the New Testament sacrifices, one must have some knowledge of the Old Testament sacrificial system that stands in contrast to the New Testament system. Sacrifices by the patriarchs before the giving of the Mosaic Law had their own characteristics. A survey of the characteristics of the Levitical sacrificial system and their relationship to the individual Israelite as well as the nation as a whole is necessary. It is also necessary to define and delineate the concepts of sacrifice in the New Testament for the grace believer. We must study each of the sacrifices in detail so that the Christian can effectively know whether he is offering a sacrifice or not. With careful study, the revelation concerning the sacrifices of the believer-priest can easily become a part of the life and practice of the grace believer. He can effectively be offering sacrifices that please God.


Chapter 1: What Is a Sacrifice?


Many images enter the mind of the individual when the word sacrifice" is mentioned. The very requirements of the Mosaic Law lead many to think of a slaughtering floor in a meat packing plant with the braying and bleating of dying animals and the smell of freshly spilled blood. When one adds an altar to this scene with its greasy smoke and the smell of burning flesh, he pictures a rather repulsive scene in his mind. Burnt meat on a barbecue is more than enough for most people to handle. As a result, the idea of sacrifice is relegated to another era and totally disregarded by contemporary believers. A major problem is the matter of the definition of "sacrifice." "I just couldn't offer a sacrifice" is a common reaction when someone is told that they can offer sacrifices as a believer-priest. Immediately, the picture of the slaughtering of an animal as an offering to God comes to mind. Sacrifice in itself does not mean that a life must be taken. Under Law, some form of life was normally taken even in the meal and drink offerings. The Levitical requirements demanded that life be taken and given to God as a sacrifice. Israelites offered the life of an animal as a propitiation or appreciation to God. Because of the revelation of the New Testament, the definition of sacrifice must be more general. The simple definition of sacrifice is "giving God that which is in the possession of an individual that God can find acceptable." From God's point of view, the giving of something in itself is not a sacrifice. It is only a sacrifice if it is acceptable to Him and actually accepted. All other giving is religious ritual that is not acceptable to God. Because the Mosaic Law clearly described the details of sacrifice establishing basic requirements, it was possible for an unbelieving Israelite to offer an acceptable sacrifice to Jehovah. As a result, God would bless him with physical health, wealth and happiness in time. The sacrifices of the Old Testament never gave anyone spiritual salvation. The sacrifices simply covered their sins and unrighteousness so that God could provide physical salvation for them in their lifetimes.

Israel gave sacrifices either to seek God's satisfaction or to express appreciation. When anything was given, it could have been voluntarily given or demanded by Law. Jephthah vowed that he would offer the first thing that came from the doors of his house for a burnt offering to Jehovah if he was victorious over the Midianites. This indicates that a slain, physical sacrifice was not always given (Judg. 11:30, 31). He won the battle and returned home and his only child, a daughter, came running out of the house first to meet him (11:34). Afterwards she went to the mountains two months to bewail her virginity (11:37, 38); and, as a result of her fathers vow, she knew no man (11:39). Evidently, he gave her to the Lord for service in the tabernacle without taking her life.

There are a number of biblical terms that describe the sacrifices and the procedure for offering in both the Old and New Testaments. An analysis of these terms is necessary in order to understand what a sacrifice was in the Bible. The following technical sketches will provide a basis for a person to use concordances and lexicons for additional details concerning the various elements of sacrifice. It will be evident that there is a large amount of material available in Scripture on this important subject. One will see the distinctions between the concepts of sacrifices and offerings. Many of these terms reflect a heart attitude of those who are giving.

Terms Describing Sacrifices and Offerings

Scripture uses a number of terms that describe the sacrifices and offerings. Some are used to describe specific sacrifices for special purposes while others are general descriptions of the things given. The general terms must be studied first for they provide the essentials for understanding the concept of sacrifice.

General Terms for Sacrifice in the Old Testament. There are four terms that give a general description of sacrifices. There are 14 verbs translated "offer" in the Authorized Version and five nouns translated "offering." There are two verbs that are translated "sacrifice" and six nouns. These provide an accurate picture of some of the basic concepts of sacrifice in the Old Testament.

Sacrifice -- (zevach). Sacrifice is the general designation of a thing slain that is offered to God. This word is found 162 times in the Old Testament. Generally, most scholars relate this term to the idea of slaying or slaughtering an animal or man for God. It is here that the idea of taking a life is seen. This is a general term that is most frequently used to designate a sacrifice that was only partially consumed by fire. It came to be used of the sacrificing as a whole. Any time the word was used, it involved the taking of life. Under Law, Jehovah considered the sacrifice to be "my sacrifice" (Ex. 23:18; 34:25; 1 Sam. 2:29) since the sacrifice was made to Him (Ex. 12:27; Lev. 7:11; 22:21, 29; Num. 6:17; 15:3; 1 Sam. 1:21). An analysis of the context is in order to determine the specific type of sacrifice that is being given and designated by the word. The Authorized Version translates the term "sacrifice" (155x), "offering" (6x) and "to offer up" once. In most instances the Septuagint uses some form of (thusia) to translate the Hebrew noun.

Fire Offering -- (ishah). When the Old Testament describes specifically the burning of the thing offered on the altar, this term is utilized. Its root is the noun for fire, (eesh). It applied to any sacrifice that was wholly or partially consumed by fire. It is found 164 times in the Old Testament and is generally translated "an offering made by fire" in the Authorized Version. This word applied not only to the animal sacrifices, but also to the meal offering (Lev. 2:3, 11). As a result of the offering, smoke from the burnt flesh and fat ascended indicating that the fire offering was a true holocaust.

Offering -- (qorbahn). When this word is employed, it has the idea of approaching God with something to be given. Its emphasis is on one's coming near. It describes all kinds of offerings in its 80 occurrences. It was brought near as a sacrifice or as something for Jehovah's service. This offering or oblation did not always involve sacrifice but also was used of things that had been brought near to God (Num. 31:50; 7:13). In essence, the individual who brought the offering expected to be brought nearer to God than he had previously been before his bringing of the offering.

Gift -- (havhahv). This word is only found in Hosea 8:13 where it has the idea of something that is given or committed to God. "They proceed to sacrifice flesh for the sacrifice of my gifts ..." The root (yahba) has the idea of putting, giving or placing something.

Specific Sacrifices of the Old Testament. There were four basic sacrifices in the Old Testament: the burnt offering, the sin offering, the trespass offering and the peace offerings. There were three peace offerings: the thank offering, the votive offering and the free-will offering. A part of the sacrificial procedure involved the heave and wave offerings. There were two non-blood offerings sacrificed as well: the meal [or meat] and drink offerings.

The Burnt Offering -- (ohlah). The emphasis is on the ascending of the smoke of the offering into heaven as a sweet-smelling savor. The whole animal was burned and went up in smoke. In its 286 occurrences, it is normally translated "burnt offering." This was the offering that was freely given to produce a sweet savor to God. Some believe that it has this Hebrew name because it was carried up by the offerer and then the priest carried it up and placed it on the altar. There is only limited support for this position.

The Trespass Offering -- (ahshahm). The trespass offering was a sacrifice for guilt incurred when an individual crossed over into certain forms of unrighteousness. In its 47 occurrences, the Authorized Version generally translates it "trespass offering" though it also erroneously confuses it with the sin offering four times. By bringing the offering, the individual pled guilty to specifically described forms of unrighteousness including sin and brought the animal to bear his guilt for him.

The Sin Offering -- (chatahth). The sin offering was a sacrifice made for individuals who sinned in ignorance or became ceremonially unclean. In its 290 occurrences, it is normally translated "sin offering." When the individual violated the Law without knowing or intending to, he offered this sacrifice. As a result, the offerer received a special covering.

The Peace Offering -- (shelem). The peace offering was designed to maintain peace with God. The thank, votive and freewill offerings were included in this category. Some identify this as a sacrifice of friendship or for alliance. The offering is designed to make the relationship sound, complete or whole. It also carries the idea of safety in the relationship between the offerer and his God. The noun occurs 87 times and is normally translated "peace offering" in the Authorized Version. The peace offerings express the appreciation of the offerer and the encouragement of God concerning a vow that he has made.

Thank Offering -- (zehvach hatodah). The thank offering is literally "sacrifice of thanksgiving." The word "thanksgiving" occurs 32 times [including one Psalm title]. It is normally translated "thanksgiving" in the Authorized Version. It comes from a root that means "to throw or to cast something." In the causative stem, it has the basic meaning of something that is specifically directed to Jehovah. The offering is clearly given as an expression of appreciation for God's blessing and deliverance.

Free-will Offering -- (nidahvah). The voluntary aspect of giving is central to the free-will offering. It is found 26 times and is normally translated "free-will" or "willing offering" in the Authorized Version. This is a specific offering that is given to God for who He is, rather than for what He had done. It is not just the voluntary giving of any sacrifice (cf. Ex. 25:2; Judg. 5:2, 9; 1 Chron. 29:5-17; Ezra 1:6; 2:68). This offering was not obligatory. There was some regulation concerning the manner in which it was given (Lev. 7:16; 22:18, 21). The offerer simply offered it by his own choice from his own personal appreciation.

The Meal or Meat Offering -- (minchah). The meal offering is mentioned 153 times in the Old Testament. This word is used in a general sense of anything offered whether animal or produce (Gen. 4:3-5; Num. 16:15; 1 Sam. 2:17). It is normally used of the offering of grain, oil and spices. The offering was usually given at the same time as certain blood sacrifices. There is a great difference of opinion concerning the actual root from which this noun is derived. Some feel that it comes from the root (nahchah) that means "to guide or lead" and gives it the idea of providing as a supplement to other offerings. Most modern scholars relate the noun to the root (mahnach) that has the idea of giving or loaning something. Older scholars often tied it to the root (nooach) that has the idea of rest or repose. They identified this offering as the rest offering. If this is the root idea, the offering is simply something that is given to God. Its specific designation as an offering is determined by the context of each passage in which it is found.

The Drink Offering -- (nehsehk). The drink offering was an offering in which wine was poured out before Jehovah. On at least one occasion water was poured out before the Lord (2 Sam. 23:16; 1 Chron. 11:18). The noun occurs 64 times and is translated "drink offering." It is derived from a verb that means "to pour out." The verb is found 24 times. The drink offering also accompanied other offerings.

The Heave Offering -- (tehroomah). The heave offering was a special offering for priests that involved the priests manipulating his portion of an offering before Jehovah. The right shoulder or foreleg was for the priest who actually offered the peace offering (Lev. 7:32; Ex. 29:27, 28). Normally, the heave offering was elevated before Jehovah. It is mentioned 26 times and is most frequently translated "heave offering." It is derived from the root (room) that means "to be high, exalt or use." The basic idea of this offering was that the priest was to elevate it before Jehovah and then share it with his family for a meal. Usually, the heave offering is found with the wave offering.

The Wave Offering -- (tenoophah). The wave offering comes from a term that can indicate anything that is presented to Jehovah in a general sense. It is technically used of the high priest's waving the breast of the peace offering before Jehovah. The root has the idea of waving, shaking or moving back and forth. It is found 30 times. The breast of the animal was lifted up and moved back and forth before Jehovah. The description of the offering is actually a description of the ritual by which the sacrifice was consecrated to Jehovah.

The Passover -- (pesach). The importance of the Passover sacrifice and festival is evident in the 49 times it is mentioned in the Old Testament. It comes from a root that means "to spare by passing or springing over." The Passover was celebrated at the full moon in the first month of the year [Abib=March/April] (Ex. 12). This sacrifice was clearly a memorial sacrifice commemorating the preservation of the lives of the firstborn of Israel in the tenth plague in Egypt.

Further information will be shared in an analysis of the sacrificial system of Israel in a later chapter. There are other minor terms used to describe Old Testament sacrifices but these are the most important. Several of the minor terms are derived from the same roots as those listed.

The New Testament Terms for Sacrifice. There are three primary New Testament terms that describe the sacrifice that is given. Each of the words describes the bringing of something to God. Each term reflects a different aspect of one's giving.

Sacrifice -- (thusia). The word "sacrifice" is found 29 times in the New Testament. It has the basic idea of something that is burned with its smoke rising into the air. It is a term that describes the finality or completion of the presentation. It is as though the animal has been slain, cut up and burned. The whole act of sacrificing is seen as completely finished. It is used of a wide variety of types of sacrifice from the idolatrous pagan sacrifices to the spiritual sacrifices of the believer-priest. Hence, it is used to describe not only the things presented in an offering but of the presentation of the offering to its proper recipient to the end that it is impossible to retrieve the thing offered. This is the only word used of the believer's priestly service of sacrifice.

Offering -- (prosphora). This word is found nine times in the New Testament and is used of Old Testament offerings (Heb. 10:5, 8) and the offering of Christ. It has the basic idea of bringing something to present to someone. Some believe that Romans 15:16 is the presentation of the believers themselves to God. It primarily emphasizes the thing that is given. Some translate it "gift," but the emphasis is upon the initiative taken to deliver the object being given.

Gift -- (doron). Gift is usually used to describe the Old Testament sacrifices and offerings in the kingdom. It comes from a root that emphasizes freedom in giving. There is no reluctance for giving the gift on the part of the giver. It is found in the New Testament 19 times and is always translated "gift."

The sacrifices of the believer-priest are only a part of the service of the priesthood. The New Testament only gives a few references to the sacrifices of the believer-priest, but it is very clear concerning what is involved. The instructions for sacrifice are spread throughout the revelation of Scripture for the grace believer. The sacrifices are a unique privilege that provide the Christian with great joy.

Terms Describing the Giving of the Sacrifice

Not only is the thing sacrificed described but also the process or action involved in sacrificing in both the Old and New Testaments. The bringing of a sacrifice was complicated in the Old Testament. There is no complication for the bringing of the sacrifices of the grace believer. It is a straightforward, direct offering. A survey of the terms used will give a clearer understanding of the processes.

Old Testament Terms. In the Old Testament, an Israelite brought his sacrifice to a priest who would slay an animal and offer it or its parts on the altar. In a sense, the priest actually did the sacrificing as he stood as a mediator for the offerer. In some cases, the offerer would identify with the sacrifice by placing his hands on the head of the animal and may have assisted in the slaying of the animal. The priest actually divided the animal and placed a proper sacrifice upon the altar.

To Sacrifice -- (zahvach). The verb "to sacrifice" is not used of the priest's slaughtering victims in sacrifices, but of private persons individually offering sacrifice at their own expense through the priesthood. It emphasizes the act of slaughtering an animal as an offering to Jehovah. A portion of most sacrifices was shared with the priest and sometimes the offerer. A life was taken, blood was shed and then the animal was burned. In its 134 occurrences, it is normally used of the taking of life to be presented to God.

To Offer -- (qahrav). Occurring 279 times, the verb means "to come near or approach with an offering." Usually, the causative stem is used with the offering of a sacrifice (Lev. 27:11) emphasizing the initiative of the one who is bringing the sacrifice. Something is brought near to be presented. When the Old Testament individual brought something near, it was not really very near since there was a distance between the brazen altar and the Holy of Holies.

To Burn -- (qahtar). This verb has the idea of making smoke with fire. Either a sacrifice burning on the altar or burning incense make smoke, so the verb is used to describe both. It is found 115 ,times and translated "burn" or "burn incense." The fat of the offerings had a real potential for making great clouds of black smoke. The emphasis is on the odor produced by the offering. Generally, the verb describes a positive response to the smoke of the offering. When the sweet offerings were given, they gave forth a sweet-smelling fragrance to God (Ex. 29:18, 25; Lev. 1:9, 13, 17; 2:2, 9, 12; 3:5, 16; 4:31; 6:9, 15; 8:21, 28; 9:13, 14, 17; Num. 5:26; 18:17).

To Bring -- (nahgash). This verb simply means to remove from one location and to bring it near to a new location. When it is used of the causing of the sacrifice to be brought near, it is only found in ten Old Testament passages (Ex. 32:6; Lev. 2:8; 8:14; Judg. 6:19; Amos 5:25; Mal. 1:7, 8; 2:12; 3:3). It has the idea of bringing something to present it to another person.

Other verbs are related to the Old Testament sacrifices, but these are the most important for grasping the idea of bringing a sacrifice. The waving, heaving and pouring out of the wave, heave and drink offerings are verbs that describe the action involved in those specific sacrifices. When one brought a sacrifice to God, it could be an action described by several verbs depending on the perspective of the offerer.

New Testament Terms. There are primarily four verbs that describe the bringing of a sacrifice in the New Testament.

To Sacrifice or Kill -- (thuo). This term is normally used for the Old Testament word (zahvach, "to sacrifice") in the Septuagint. It has the root idea of slaying a victim to offer it as a sacrifice. It is not used of the sacrifice of the believer-priest. It describes the sacrifice of Christ (1 Cor. 5:7), of the Passover sacrifice (Mark 14:12; Lu. 22:7) and of the sacrifices to idols and the demons behind the idols (Ac. 14:13, 18; 1 Cor. 10:20). In its ritualistic sense, it means to smoke or burn, and ultimately to offer any form of sacrifice. It occurs 14 times in the New Testament and is normally translated "sacrifice" or "kill" in the Authorized Version.

To Offer Up -- (anaphero). Several of the ten New Testament occurrences of this word describe the giving of sacrifices. It is a compound word that means "to bear upwards." It is used of the Old Testament offerings (Heb. 7:27; Jas. 2:21), of the sacrifice of Christ (Heb. 7:27; 1 Pe. 2:24) and the sacrifice of the believer-priest (Heb. 13:15; 1 Pe. 2:5). It involves the priest's service of bringing something and placing it upon an altar. The believer should be knowingly and actively involved in sacrifice. The offering up is a definite action on the part of the individual believer.

To Pour Out -- (spendo). Even though the Authorized Version translates this word "offer' in its two New Testament occurrences, it actually means "to pour out." The Septuagint usess the term to translate (nahsak) meaning "to pour out" in the Hebrew. It has the idea of pouring out an offering as a libation. In later literature, it came to mean "the pouring out of blood in a violent death for the cause of God." Paul used the term of himself and of his prospect of being offered (Phil. 2:17; 2 Tim. 4:6).

To Offer -- (prosphero). This is also a compound form that dominates the New Testament references to sacrifices though it is never referring to the sacrifices of the believer-priest. It is found 48 times, most frequently in the book of Hebrews. It is a compound form that means "to bear or carry toward." As a result, it came to mean "the bringing of something to be given or the bearing of a gift or an offering. The term is employed to refer to the sacrifice of Christ (Heb. 8:3; 9:14, 25, 28; 10:12), of the offerings under the Law (Matt. 8:4; Ac. 21:26; Heb. 5:1, 3; 8:3; 9:7, 9; 10:1, 2, 8, 11), of pre-Law offerings (Heb. 11:4, 17) as well as several other non-technical offering ideas.

To Present -- (paristemi). In Romans 12:1, this verb is used of the giving of the sacrifice of the human body. In its simple compound concept, it means "to stand alongside." It has the idea in Romans 12 of presenting or yielding. In several of its 39 occurrences, it carries this concept. In other words, it means to give someone something that belongs to him or her. The physical body of the believer belongs to the Lord and the sacrifice simply involves giving Him His purchased possession.

A sacrifice is giving something to God that is in the possession of the giver. All of the sacrifices of the grace believer are given because of appreciation for God's rights and provisions. Each sacrifice is an act of love for God by which the believer freely and willingly gives God his spiritual sacrifices. That which is given is solely the Lord's and is irretrievable after having been given. God "counts specific activities of the believer to be sacrifices. Activities done by the believer, knowing that they qualify to be sacrifices, are given to God; and because the believer is spiritual and has the right motives, God accepts the activity as a sacrifice counting it to be so.


Chapter 2: The Old Testament Concept of Sacrifice

New Testament revelation concerning the sacrifices of the believer-priest assumes that the readers understand the basic concepts of sacrificing in the Old Testament. Why did individuals offer sacrifices in the Old Testament? What was a proper sacrifice? How was the sacrifice handled? Who offered sacrifices? The answers to these questions provide the background to the whole idea of sacrifice. Some sacrifices were mandatory while others were voluntary. Some sacrifices were for covering over various aspects of Old Testament unrighteousness, while others were given simply to express appreciation to God for who He was and what He had done. Under Law, God provided a divergence of methods of sacrifice so that there would be no inequity in the system. The sacrifice made by a poor person who brought two doves was just as effective as the offering of a wealthy individual who could afford to bring a bullock. Under Law, specific procedures were mandated for the offering of the sacrifice. It is necessary to survey the Old Testament system in order to understand the New Testament privilege for the believer-priest that provides a clear contrast. Even before the Law was given, sacrifices were made to God. Before Exodus 20, several important sacrifices were offered to Jehovah.

Sacrifices Before the Giving of the Law

One must evaluate each sacrifice that was made before the giving of the Mosaic Law in order to understand the normalcy of offering sacrifices. It is important to remember that there was no priesthood established for Israel at this time. In Abraham's era, Melchisedec was a priest of the Most High God, but he was an individual and evidently was involved with Abraham only one time. It is important to recognize that only a few select individuals offered sacrifices in the time of the patriarchs. Normally, the head of the household was the one who sacrificed as the representative of the whole family. He stood before God as the representative of specific members of the family and himself as well. Throughout Genesis, such arrangements are evident in the lives of the patriarchs. There are a variety of reasons the patriarch offered sacrifices.

When the first sacrifice was given is a question of interpretation of Scripture. Were there any sacrifices before the offerings of Cain and Abel? Some believe that the first sacrifice in the Bible was the slaying of the animals to make coats of skin for Adam and Eve after the fall. Since it was necessary to slay animals for their skins, it has been suggested that this was the first sacrifice. As a direct result of Adam's sin, he fell. Eve was a participant in that she was deceived and transgressed (1 Tim. 2:14). One of the first things Adam and Eve noticed after the fall was that they were naked [or stripped] (Gen. 3:7). They were no longer clothed and so found themselves naked because they had lost their garments of light that had clothed them prior to the fall. As a result, they sewed together the leaves [pl.] of a fig tree [maybe they ate figs instead of the traditional apple?] and made girdles to cover their nakedness. This was their condition when Jehovah found them as He walked in the Garden of Eden. Because of the fall, the serpent was cursed, the woman was penalized and the ground was cursed for Adam's sake. "Then Jehovah Elohim proceeded to make for Adam and his wife coats of skin, then He proceeded to clothe them (Gen. 3:21)." Several factors mitigate against the idea that the slaying of the animals by Jehovah was a sacrifice. It is true that this was the first blood shed in the taking of a life in human history. As a result, Adam and Eve were covered over with the animal skins. The shedding of blood did not cover Adam's sin. At the moment of eating, he died spiritually being separated from the life of God. He also began to die physically. The shedding of blood did not relate to the sin of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Blood was shed so Adam and Eve would have a durable covering for their naked bodies that were no longer clothed in garments of light. God provided the garments of skin to meet a need that Adam and Eve had in the physical realm and evidently the covering was satisfactory. True, innocent blood was shed, but so was the sap from the fig tree when the leaves of the fig tree were picked for the sewing of the girdle. God did not slay the animals for His own pleasure or satisfaction. He, Himself, slew the animals and did not need to make a sacrifice for Himself. Christ's sacrifice is the only sacrifice in which one Person of the Godhead directly gave a sacrifice to another Person. All three members of the Trinity were involved in the cross work of Christ. The killing of the animals in the Garden of Eden did not involve an altar or a fire. This prohibits the idea that the slaying of the animals of itself is a sacrifice. Scripture clearly identifies a number of sacrifices made to God before the giving of the Mosaic Law.

The Offerings of Cain and Abel. Whether there was an actual procedure for sacrifice involved in the offerings of Cain and Abel is not revealed in the Genesis account. It is clear that each son of Adam brought an offering, (minchah). The word translated offering simply referred to something that was brought as a gift to another. It is a very common word that comes from a Hebrew root (mahnach) that means "to give." Hence, it is something bestowed upon or given to another person with an emphasis on the fact of giving. "Then it came to be at [lit. from] the end of days that Cain proceeded to bring from the fruit of the ground an offering to Jehovah. And Abel, he also caused to be brought from the firstborn ones of his flocks and from their fat ones, then Jehovah came to focus His attention toward Abel and unto his offering, but unto Cain and unto his offering He did not focus His attention and Cain was very angry, then his face [or countenance] proceeded to fall (Gen. 4:3-5)." The procedure used by the brothers is not revealed in the narrative of Scripture. Each brother brought an offering and presented it as a gift to Jehovah. Why the offerings were brought is not revealed. Because of the record of verse seven, there is an indication that Cain had committed a sin that made his offering unacceptable to God. In this instance, there is no indication that the character of either offering in itself was repugnant to Jehovah, but the character of the offerer was unacceptable in the case of Cain. "Is it not so? If you cause to do good, lift up your face, but if you are not proceeding to cause to do good, a sin offering [or sin] is crouching [or lurking] at your tent's door, and unto you is its longing [or desire], and you will proceed to rule over it [or him] (Gen. 4:7)." The word translated "sin" is a feminine noun (though some grammarians identify this one instance as masculine because of the masculine pronouns) that occurs 281 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. In the Pentateuch, it is most frequently translated "sin offering." A very common interpretation of verse seven is that a sin offering was available for a sin that Cain had committed and that God expected that offering to be a blood offering as was prescribed in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. Because of this, Cain slew Abel as a sacrifice for a sin offering. One problem is why Cain denied knowing where Abel was when Jehovah confronted him with Abel's absence. If Abel was an offering to God, there is no good reason for Cain to hide such an offering from God because it would have been done to appease Jehovah. The New Testament affirms that he really did slay Abel as a sacrifice. Why Cain chose to deny knowledge of his brother's location is not revealed. It is clear that in the original offerings that the character of the individual who was bringing the offering was far more important than the character of the offering itself. God alone determined acceptability. It appears that both Cain and Abel gave the best they had; yet the character of Cain did not receive God's attention. Had Cain offered animals instead of produce, his offering would have been equally unacceptable to God. Had Abel brought fruit, his offering would have been accepted. God's analysis of Cain's condition is evident. "Not as Cain who was continually out of the evil one and slew as a sacrifice his brother; and for what reason did he slay him as a sacrifice? Because his works were continually evil, but the ones of his brother were righteous (1 Jn. 3:12)." The verb in this verse is frequently used of the slaying of an animal for a sacrifice, often by the slitting of the throat. The primary reason for Cain's denying knowledge of Abel's whereabouts is that he must have known that God rejected the death of Abel as a sacrifice. Because of the evil character of Cain, his offerings were absolutely unacceptable. The problem was in the offerer not the offering. The lesson that should be learned from this first offering is that God sovereignly chooses what is pleasing to Himself and evaluates the offerer rather than the offering. A proper heart attitude validates the acceptability of the offering to God.

The Offering of Noah. At the end of the Flood, Noah made burnt offerings on an altar to Jehovah. When Jehovah instructed Noah concerning the animal cargo for the ark, He specifically instructed Noah to collect pairs of unclean beasts and seven pairs [the Hebrew idiom is seven seven] of clean beasts (Gen. 7:2). When the Flood subsided and the land was habitable, they vacated the ark. Scripture describes the sacrifice that was given at that time. "Then Noah proceeded to build an altar [place of sacrifice] to Jehovah, then he proceeded to take from all the clean cattle and from all the clean birds, then he proceeded to offer up burnt offerings on [lit. in] the altar. Then Jehovah proceeded to smell a fragrant odor, then Jehovah proceeded to say in His heart; I will not begin to curse the ground again because of mankind, for the purpose of the heart of mankind is evil from his youth, and I will not begin to smite every living thing again like that which I have done now (Gen. 8:20, 21)." The sacrifice was not offered for a covering [i.e. protection] for sins, but in appreciation to Jehovah. It brought no grace for the salvation of Noah or his family. It was voluntary and acceptable to God as is evident in the Divine response. God blessed Noah and made a commitment to Himself that He would not again bring universal judgment upon the earth by flood "all the days of the earth (Gen. 8:22)." After He blessed Noah, He established the value of blood in the prohibition of the eating of blood even though at that point He terminated the requirements for a vegetarian diet (Gen. 9:4-6). It is clear that Noah shed blood in the sacrifice and the sacrificial animals were burned. Whether any part of the animal was eaten is not mentioned in Scripture. God had preserved the lives of Noah and his family, so Noah built an altar and presented an acceptable sacrifice to God in appreciation for His provision and protection. Noah was acting as the head of his family and performed the role of family priest.

The Sacrifices of Abraham. Of all the patriarchs, Abraham was one of the most involved in the activity of sacrifice in Scripture. He did not sacrifice very often in his long life. He was acting as the priestly head of his family when he offered his sacrifices. After Abram had entered the land of Canaan and given Lot the land of the plain, God promised Abram extensive land holdings and many offspring. At this point, He told Abram to walk through all the land that had been promised to him. As a result, Abram built an altar in Hebron (Gen. 13:18). It appears that Abram used the altar only one time in response to the land and seed promises that God had made and left the altar standing as a monument to his personal appreciation. He was an unsaved man who made an altar to Jehovah whom he considered to be one of several deities. He did not believe God and have God count it to him for righteousness until God promised him an heir through Sarah in Genesis 15:4-6 (cf. Rom. 4:1-5). The formal ratification of that covenant was accomplished by dividing animals and having each party of the covenant pass between the parts of the animal. The slaying of the animals to affirm the covenant was not a sacrifice but a solemn commitment that was sealed by the activity. As a result of this procedure when a covenant was made in the Old Testament, it is described as the cutting of a covenant in the Hebrew text.

Scripture records the offering of Isaac as the next sacrificial event in Abraham's life. Hebrews 11:17-20 identifies this as one of the few acts of faith in Abraham's life. Abraham had faith that if Isaac was actually slain as a sacrifice, God would raise him from the dead (Heb. 11:19). He really did intend to offer up Isaac for a sacrifice. Both the Old and New Testament accounts indicate that the reason God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac was to put Abraham to the test (Gen. 22:1; Heb. 11:17). "... And cause to offer him [Isaac] there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will come to tell you (Gen. 22:2)." The sacrifice required wood [i.e. combustible material) (22:3), fire (22:6, 7), an altar (22:9) and a sacrifice (22:9). The procedure for sacrifice was clear. An altar was built. Wood was placed upon the altar. The sacrificial victim was bound to the altar. Then the sacrifice was slain and fire was applied to the wood. The offering was consumed by the fire (22:3-14). Abraham offered Isaac as a simple act of obedience without having any sin to be covered. Abraham considered the sacrifice a part of his worship (22:5). It was a burnt offering (22:2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 13). Abraham evidently followed every aspect of the normal procedure to the point that he was actually ready to plunge the knife into Isaac and take his life (22:10). At that point, the Angel of Jehovah intervened (22:10, 11). Abraham passed the test and was proven to have genuine faith in God. "Then he proceeded to say, stop stretching out your hand unto the young man and stop doing anything to him; for now I know that you are a fearer of Elohim and you have not withheld your one (or only] son from me (Gen. 22:12)." What Abraham understood as an act of obedience and faith was described to Isaac as an act of worship that in reality was an act of fear for Jehovah. As a result, God accepted the sacrifice of the ram that He provided (22:13) just as well as He would have accepted the sacrifice of Isaac. One must recognize that the sacrificing of Isaac would have cost Abraham everything of importance to him, but he had faith that God would raise Isaac up from the dead (Heb. 11:19). The ram that Jehovah provided cost Abraham nothing. A sacrifice does not always cost the offerer something. As is evident in Abraham's case, it was the faith of the offerer that was actually counted to be of value.

The Sacrifices of Job. In the era of Job, sacrifices were offered. Whether Job lived in the era of Abraham or before or after is a question that when answered will establish his place in the chronology of the patriarchal development of sacrifice. Job had a reputation for righteousness that carried late into Israel's history (Ezek. 14:14). "There was a man in the land of Uz, his name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright [or straight] and a fearer of God, and he turned away from evil (Job 1:1)." Job had seven sons and three daughters who were involved in a rotating feast. "Then it came to be that when the days of the feast had gone around, then Job proceeded to send, and then sanctify them and caused himself to rise early in the morning, and caused to offer up burnt offerings according to the number of all of them, for Job said, Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts. Job performed like this all the [or his] days (Job 1:5)." Job offered a series of sacrifices for his children as the head of the family. Every time there was a possibility that his children had sinned, he offered a burnt offering throughout his life after he had children. He was afraid that they had sinned and cursed God and so as a preventative measure, offered offerings in an attempt to appease God if that was possible. "Curse" is a translation of the Hebrew (bahrak) that normally means "to bless," but here context supports the concept of cursing or blaspheming as in 1 Kings 21:10, 13. Job offered sacrifices all the days of his life. At any time there was a possibility that his children had sinned in some way, he would again offer a sacrifice. Even if he simply imagined the possibility, he offered sacrifices to make certain that they stood before God as individuals for whom a burnt offering had been made. The text clearly indicates that Job would offer at least one offering for each of his children [i.e. at least ten burnt offerings each time]. Because of his great wealth and holdings, he could afford to offer these sacrifices as often as he wished (Job 1:3). It is important to notice these were burnt offerings. Under Law, the burnt offering was offered to produce a sweet fragrance to God and not as a covering for sin. Whether Job considered his offering to be a covering for sin by the offering of a substitute, or whether he gave the offering to God so God would look upon his sons graciously is not clear in the text. He functioned as the head of the household performing priestly service as the household priest and did so on behalf of himself and his family. It is clear that the reason for Job's offerings was his concern for his family. Exactly how many times he offered the sacrifices is not clear in Scripture except that he did it throughout his lifetime. He understood his responsibility as household priest to carry beyond the childhood of his children, since he carried it on into their adult lives when they had their own homes (1:4). Until his death, he considered his giving of burnt offerings to Jehovah to be an essential part of his life before God. It was an important part of his sanctifying [or setting apart] of his family (1:5). These burnt offerings took time. It is no wonder that he rose up early in the morning when at least ten burnt offerings were to be offered. Once Job had an altar or altars constructed, he could use them repeatedly, but the very procedure of slaying and burning was time consuming. Job considered it to be his fatherly responsibility to provide a sweet smell to appease Jehovah.

The book of Job begins with a sacrifice and ends with a sacrifice. Throughout all of Job's dialogues with his friends in the book of Job, he was right in what he said. God counted him to be a righteous man and all his difficulties were not the result of unrighteous behavior on his part. As a result of his discussions with his friends, his three friends were forced to offer burnt offerings to God. "Then it came to be after Jehovah had spoken these words unto Job, Jehovah proceeded to say to Eliphaz the Temanite, my anger glows hot against you and against your two friends; because you have not spoken right [lit. firm, established] concerning me, like my servant Job has. And now therefore take for yourselves seven bullocks and seven rams and go unto my servant Job, and cause to offer up a burnt offering for yourselves; and my servant Job will begin to pray for you; for his face I will accept [or lift up] so that I will not do with you according to your folly, for you have not spoken right [lit. firm, established] concerning me, like my servant Job has. Then Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite proceeded to go, they proceeded to do as Jehovah had spoken unto them; Jehovah accepted [or lifted up] the face of Job (Job 42:7-9)." Job's righteous character had made him acceptable to God. His acceptability was reflected in God's accepting his prayer for his friends. In a sense, Job was acting in the role of a priest for them in that he communicated to God for them. Whether each friend was required to bring 14 animals or not is not clear. The second person plural pronoun in verse seven could indicate that they were collectively to bring 14 animals or that individually they were to bring 14 animals apiece [for a total of 42 animals]. If it was a collective requirement, God was cleverly forcing a unity between the three that was not evident in their dialogues with Job. One only needs to read the dialogues with Job to see that these three men would have a major problem agreeing with one another on any thing. One can only imagine the resulting problems that existed when they attempted to divide the required 14 animals between the three of them. One would only have to bring two animals while the others brought three. Who would bring rams and who would bring bullocks [the more valuable animal]? It makes better sense that Jehovah required 14 animals from each man - a rather substantial requirement and expense. No sin was involved in their dialogue with Job, but they were wrong -- unrighteous. God would not accept them without their burnt offerings and Job's prayer of intercession for them. God accepted Job's prayer because of their burnt offerings. Job and his three friends sacrificed a large number of animals as is recorded in the book of Job. Job acted as a priest for his household and in this one instance for others outside of the household in response to God's command.

The Sacrifice by Isaac. In the lifetime of Isaac, there was a famine in the land (Gen. 26:1) beside the one that had come in the days of Abraham (Gen. 12:10). Jehovah appeared to Isaac and told him to remain in Canaan rather than to go to Egypt as Abraham had (Gen. 12:10). God reaffirmed to Isaac the promises made to Abraham (Gen. 26:2-5). When Abraham was in Egypt, he lied about Sarah, his wife, and the Egyptians suffered the results of the lie (Gen. 12:11-20). Isaac followed his father's example and lied about Rebekah and had trouble with Abimelech, the king of the Philistines (Gen. 26:6-11). Ultimately, Abimelech asked Isaac to leave the land of the Philistines because of Isaac's overwhelming prosperity. From the land of the Philistines, Isaac went to Gerar and began digging wells for water to provide relief from the drought. After each well was completed, the herdsman of Gerar would claim that they had water rights and fought with Isaac's servants. They let Isaac do all the work and claimed the results for themselves. Finally, Isaac relocated and dug a well and named the place Rehobath meaning "the well of the oath." He had been ejected from at least two other locations in the land (26:17-27) that God had promised him through Abraham (Gen. 26:2-5). At last he had found a site where he could dig a well and not have it contested by the inhabitants of the land. The reason he named the place Rehobath was "Because Jehovah has caused broad spaces to be for us and we will be fruitful in the land (Gen. 26:22)." From there Isaac went to Beersheba (26:23). There Jehovah reaffirmed His covenants with Abraham and his seed. "Then Jehovah appeared unto him in that night, and proceeded to say, I am the Elohim of Abraham your father. Stop fearing for I am with you, and I will bless you, and cause your seed to multiply because of Abraham my servant (26:24)." Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of Jehovah. He used the altar at least once and may have used it more frequently. He built the altar in appreciation for Jehovah's reaffirmation of the covenants that He had made with Abraham. Isaac did plan to stay in Beersheba for a period of time because he pitched his tent there and dug a well (26:25). It was here that Abimelech found Isaac and came to make a treaty of peace. Isaac gave a sacrifice in response to God's promises. When Isaac had a measure of assurance that the covenant would be fulfilled, he made an altar. God had affirmed the covenants when Isaac was at Gerar among the Philistines (Gen. 26:2-5), but he did not offer a sacrifice there. He waited until he was certain that he had land as his personal possession before he offered a sacrifice expressing his appreciation to Jehovah for the continuation of the covenant promises that had been given to Abraham. It is highly probable that the altar may have been built after Isaac's servants had dug the well and found water (26:32) and no one had attempted to take it away from him. He gave the name "Beersheba" to the place because this was the seventh well they had dug. The name means "well number seven." The name was only given after they had discovered that the well was productive. There is no record of Isaac's offering any other sacrifices at any other locations in his lifetime.

The Sacrifices of Jacob or Israel. Abraham and Job had been involved in a majority of the sacrifices recorded in Genesis until Jacob came on the scene. One would not expect the Usurper or Supplanter [the meaning of Jacob's name] to be an offerer of many sacrifices, but Scripture records five different sacrifices that were offered by Jacob. Not one sacrifice involved a covering for any form of unrighteousness. God was not counting sin to be sin when there was no law between the time of Adam until the time of Moses and the giving of the Law. "For until the law, that which had the quality of sin continually was in the world, but sin is not counted to be so [i.e. imputed] when there is not a law existing (Rom. 5:13)." There was no need for atonement because God did not consider that there was a need for covering unrighteous behavior. Jacob's sacrifices were made at important times in his life. After the theft of Esau's birthright and the dream of the ladder, Jacob went to Padan-aram to Laban his maternal uncle. He worked for Laban in order to get Rachel for his wife, but Laban deceived him and gave him Leah for a wife instead. He was required to work another seven years for Rachel. Finally, after fourteen years of labor, Jacob had acquired two wives. After six more years of labor for Laban, Jacob was a wealthy man and left Laban with his family and personal wealth.

Jacob was confident that Jehovah had permitted him to come away from Laban wealthy (Gen. 31:42). Ultimately, Jacob made a covenant with Laban. After the covenant was made and ratified, Jacob sacrificed a sacrifice as a part of the pact. Some believe that such a sacrifice was simply a meal that was shared with Jehovah or any other deity. Because there was an eating of food in this instance, this passage is used to prove that the motivation for early sacrificing was to sit down and share a meal with Jehovah. "Then Jacob proceeded to sacrifice a sacrifice in the mountain, then he called his brothers to eat food, then they proceeded to eat food, then they lodged in the mountain (Gen. 31:54)." What the food was is not identified in the text. The word (lechem) [or "bread"] is used in its most normal way to describe food in general. Jacob's sacrifice was his response to the covenant that he had made with Laban. Jacob's sacrifice was made because of the fear of his father Isaac for Jehovah (cf. 31:42, 53). He identified with his father's fear throughout his servitude and again as he entered into the land promised to Abraham, his grandfather. Evidently, he gave his sacrifice as an expression of gratitude to Jehovah for the safe delivery of Jacob and all that he had from Laban's bondage.

Jacob's recognition of Jehovah's deliverance was short lived. When he thought of facing Esau, he was again possessed by personal fear rather than the fear of Jehovah. Even a meeting with the angels of God did not dissuade his personal fear (31:1, 2). He manipulated his possessions and sent Esau a gift from fear that Esau would come and destroy him. In fear, he sent all that he had before himself and his family. He had not responded to the angels of God, so Jehovah Himself confronted Jacob in a wrestling match through whom Jacob gained a new name, a blessing and a crippled leg. Ultimately, his meeting with Esau was a peaceful event and they parted their ways on a friendly basis. Jacob purchased property in Shechem (Gen. 33:18, 19) and built an altar there that he called "El-elohe-Israel" [God the God of Israel]. The altar was constructed in appreciation for a portion of the land that had been promised to his fathers and that he had purchased for himself. He had arrived in safety and had a place to settle. As a result, he unashamedly identified himself with Jehovah who had made his arrival possible. No procedure for sacrifice is described nor is the number of times Jacob used the altar for sacrifice given.

Jacob had some difficulties in Shechem. His daughter, Dinah, was raped by Shechem who attempted to arrange a marriage with her. Ultimately, Dinah's brothers, Levi and Simeon, killed all the males in Shechem. Jacob was more concerned that his reputation in the land would be affected by their deed than he was concerned about the rape of his daughter. As a result, God directed him to relocate at Bethel. "Then Elohim proceeded to say unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there, and make an altar there to Elohim, who appeared unto you in your flight from the face of Esau, your brother (Gen. 35:1)." Jacob became a monotheist at that time. He demanded that his household destroy all of the foreign gods that they had brought with them. They were to cleanse themselves and change their garments. His motivation for going to Bethel was more for the construction of the altar than for fleeing from Shechem. "And let us arise and let us go up to Bethel; and I will proceed to make an altar there to Elohim, the One who is answering me in the day of my distress and was with me in the way that I was walking (Gen. 35:3)." As a result, Jacob's family gave Jacob their foreign gods and their earrings and Jacob hid them under an oak tree in Shechem (35:4). Jacob then returned to Bethel after many years of absence. Undoubtedly, he was reminded of the dream of the ladder with the descending and ascending angels and his previous changing of the name of Luz to Bethel (Gen. 28:10-22). "Then he proceeded to build an altar there, then he proceeded to call the place "El-beth-El" [God of Bethel] because there Elohim had revealed Himself unto him in his flight from the face of his brother (Gen. 35:7)." Evidently, sacrifice was made, but it is not described in the passage. In Genesis 28:22, Jacob set up a stone that was set upon a pillar that was to be Elohim's house. He returned to the same location more than twenty years later and built an altar. Bethel had probably been one of the stops on Jacob's journey from Haran to Shechem. At that time, he had set up a pillar in response to God's promise. It is possible that Bethel was the site of the wrestling match between Jacob and Jehovah because it was as a result of the match that Jehovah blessed Jacob and changed his name (Gen. 32:24-32). It would have been an important place for meeting with Jehovah. Genesis 35:14, 15 says, "Then Jacob proceeded to set up a pillar in the place where He had spoken with him, a pillar of stone, then he proceeded to pour out upon it a poured out offering [drink offering], and he proceeded to call the name of the place where Elohim had spoken with him, Bethel." This is the first clear record of a drink offering being poured out to God. Soon after his departure from Bethel, Jacob lost Rachel and he returned and buried her there placing another pillar on her grave as a memorial pillar (Gen. 35:20). When Jacob departed from Bethel, there remained two pillars and an altar. Sacrifices had been offered on the altar and Jacob had been reminded of the drink offering and oil poured upon the pillar as a result of his wrestling with Elohim. The altar was made in obedience to God and the sacrifices were offered in appreciation for God's covenants with the fathers and their affirmation to himself.

With the events that led to Joseph's servitude in Egypt, Jacob or Israel suffered grief. His other ten sons had told him that Joseph had been slain by a beast and showed evidence to support their story. He was filled with sorrow because the sons of Rachel were his favorites. During the many years that intervened, Joseph became a ruler in Egypt. israel had no idea that Joseph was still alive. When famine came to Canaan, Israel was forced to send his sons to Egypt for food. Ultimately, through a series of events, Joseph revealed himself to his brothers and sent for his father. Jacob was reluctant at first to believe when his sons reported that Joseph was alive and had sent for him because "... His heart fainted [or grew cold] for he did not believe them (Gen. 45:26)." When he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to take him to Egypt "... The spirit of Jacob their father proceeded to live (45:27)." "Then Israel journeyed and all that belonged to him, then he came to Beersheba; then he sacrificed sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac (Gen. 46:1)." Blood sacrifice was again made in appreciation. In a vision, Jehovah communicated to Jacob that his seed would prosper and that he would be protected in Egypt. As a result of the confidence that was reflected in his sacrifice, he went into Egypt. In each of the sacrifices offered by Jacob, he offered them as the head of his household. He acted as priest for himself and his family. In most instances, there was a clear promise given by Jehovah to Jacob that his children would receive the blessings of the covenants made with Abraham.

The Proposed Sacrifice of the Nation Israel. At the conclusion of the 400 years in Egypt, God determined that Israel was to leave Egypt and to enter into the land promised to Abraham. He raised up Moses to lead the people in the Exodus. After Moses killed the Egyptian, he fled to the wilderness and was there tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro. The Angel of Jehovah appeared to him in the burning bush. At that time Jehovah gave Moses specific instructions concerning the departure of Israel from Egypt. "And I have said, I will proceed to bring you [pl.] up from the affliction of Egypt into the land of the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Amorite, and the Perezzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite, into a land that is flowing with milk and honey. And they will listen [or respond or obey] to your voice and you will come, you and the elders of Israel unto the king of Egypt, and you [pl.] will say unto him: Jehovah, God of the Hebrews, has met with [lit. upon] us, and now let us proceed to go, we entreat you, a journey [or way] of three days in the wilderness, and let us sacrifice to Jehovah our God (Ex. 3:17, 18)." God did not prescribe any particular method of sacrifice because He knew that Pharaoh would not permit their going (cf. 3:19 Heb.). In the first visit of Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh, they gave a very clear picture of the situation that brought their request. "Then they proceeded to say, The God of the Hebrews has called [or met] unto us; let us proceed to go, we entreat you, a journey [or way] of three days into the wilderness, and let us sacrifice to Jehovah our God; lest He begins to strike us with the pestilence or with the sword (Ex. 5:3)." Pharaoh emphasized his refusal by increasing the workload for the Israelites. He attributed their desire to go and offer sacrifice to laziness (5:8) and described their request as vain and false words (5:9). When the frogs of the second plague frustrated Pharaoh enough, he asked the Israelites to entreat Jehovah and have the frogs removed promising to send the Israelites away to sacrifice to Jehovah (Ex. 8:8). When Pharaoh saw that there was relief from the frogs, he hardened his heart and refused to listen to the Israelites just as Jehovah had predicted (8:15). In the fifth plague of flies or beetles, Pharaoh proposed a compromise concerning the sacrifice. He suggested that Israel remain in the land of Egypt and sacrifice there with the king's permission (8:25). Moses' response indicates the character of the sacrifice when he said, "It would not be right (or established] to do thus; because we would proceed to sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to Jehovah our God, behold, if we proceed to sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before [or for] their eyes, then will they not stone us (8:26)?" Moses knew the strength of the religious conviction of the Egyptian people concerning the sacrilege that would be committed if the Israelites sacrificed sheep. It was an abomination in the whole system of Egyptian religion.

Finally, Pharaoh agreed to let them go; but after the flies or beetles were removed, Pharaoh hardened his heart again. An important aspect of the sacrifice that was to be offered in the wilderness was that this was to be a service to God. When Jehovah gave his instructions to Moses, He told him that he would serve Jehovah on the same mountain (Ex. 3:12). Moses would be the leader in the sacrifice. It was his leadership in the sacrificing that would actually accomplish the service to Jehovah. When Moses and Aaron approached Pharaoh the first time, they were rejected (Ex. 7:10-13). In the morning of the next day, when Pharaoh went down to the river, Moses met him there and confronted him again. God had given the exact words to be spoken by Moses. "Jehovah, God of the Hebrews, has sent me unto you saying: Send away my people and they will proceed to serve me in the wilderness; and, behold, you have not listened until now (Ex. 7:16)." As a result of Pharaoh's hardened heart, the water of the Nile was turned to blood in the first plague (Ex. 7:17-25). The making of a sacrifice was a part of their service to God as they presented their proposal before Pharaoh. They asked Pharaoh to permit Israel to go to sacrifice while Moses asked that they be permitted to go and serve God (7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:3, 7, 26). In three instances, Pharaoh commanded them to go and serve Jehovah, but changed his mind (10:7, 11, 24). When the deaths of the firstborn took place, he demanded that they go and serve Jehovah for the last time (12:31). Such service simply involved sacrifice and a simple form of worship. Moses and Aaron would have led the services for the whole nation as designated, acceptable representatives and leaders of the people.

In the ninth plague of darkness (Ex. 10:21-27), after three days of the darkness, Pharaoh gave Israel permission to go, on the condition that they leave their livestock behind. Moses' response gives more details for the intended sacrificing, expanding it to sacrifices and burnt offerings. "Then Moses proceeded to say: Also you, even you, will proceed to give in our hands sacrifices and burnt offerings, and we will do what must be done for Jehovah our God, and also our livestock will proceed to go with us, a hoof will not remain behind; for we must take from it to serve Jehovah until our coming there (Ex. 10:25, 26)." When Moses approached Pharaoh, he did not present any procedure for sacrificing. As yet, Israel did not have a priesthood. Most of the people did not have any concept concerning who Jehovah was (Ex. 3:13-15). After 400 years, the nation had forgotten what little they knew about Jehovah. When Moses came and told them that they were to sacrifice, undoubtedly, they thought of the sacrifices of the Egyptians to their pantheon of deities. Israel had degenerated to a kind of polytheism that included Jehovah who was identified as one of the deities that was especially identified with Israel. It is interesting to notice that there is a distinction inferred between sacrifices and burnt offerings. Pharaoh and the rest of the Israelites must have related the two terms to Egyptian practices of adoration and propitiation by sacrifice. The actual sacrifice was not offered until a priestly system was organized and the equipment for sacrifice was manufactured after the giving of the Law at Sinai. Aaron was involved in an aborted attempt at sacrifice that failed. When the sacrificial system was established, the goal of their exodus from Egypt was accomplished. A three-day journey into the wilderness was extended to three years before the actual sacrifices could be offered. The sons of Israel attempted to hurry the sacrifice up by the worshipping of the golden calf at Sinai, but God terminated the sacrilege requiring that sacrifices be offered in His way and according to His timetable.

The Sacrifice at Passover. The events of the feast of Passover required under Law had their roots in the actual Passover event before the Exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Law. The slaying of the Passover lamb is identified as a sacrifice (Ex. 12:27). A survey of the Passover gives a picture of the Passover sacrifice that was later implemented in the Mosaic Law of feasts and sacrifices. The tenth plague took the lives of all the firstborn in the land of Egypt. In order for Israel to be protected from the death of their own firstborn, Jehovah established a procedure for the Israelites to follow. On the tenth day of the month, a man was to take one lamb for his house (12:3). The size of the family determined the extent of involvement (12:4) based on the amount of food that would be consumed. The lamb for sacrifice was to be tested for three and a half days to make certain that it met the requirements. "A complete [or sound) lamb, a male of a year old it will be for you; from the sheep and from the goats you may proceed to keep it (12:5)." In the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, they were to kill the animal (12:6) and put the blood from it upon the side posts and lintel of the door of the house in which the lamb was to be eaten (12:7). The animal was roasted over a fire and completely eaten (12:8-10). The blood was a sign on the houses and Jehovah would pass over the house when the firstborn of Egypt were slain (12:11, 12). The events of the feast were established at that time. "And this day will be for you for a remembrance [or memorial]; and you will celebrate it as a feast to Jehovah for your generations, you will celebrate it as a statute forever (12:14)." Moses ordered that the procedure be done and instructed the elders of Israel to lead in the matter. The perpetuation of the Passover was required. "And YOU will guard this thing as a statute for you and for your sons forever, and it will be that when you finally come into the land that Jehovah will proceed to give to you like that which He has spoken, and you will guard this service. And it will be that when your sons begin to say unto you: What is this service to you? Then you will say, It is a sacrifice of Passover to Jehovah who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt, when He smote the Egyptians, and He caused to deliver our houses, and the people bowed down and proceeded to worship for themselves (Ex. 12:24-27)." As a result, the firstborn of the Egyptians were slain and the firstborn of the obedient Israelites were protected as God fulfilled His word. Because they were passed over, the firstborn males of Israel both human and animal were considered to be sacrifices given to Jehovah (Ex. 13:15). This sacrifice required the shedding of blood. The blood was a covering for a specific purpose. It was not a burnt offering but was simply applied to the doors of the Israelites. Every head of house had to make certain that the sacrifice was made and made in a proper way for it to be sufficient for his family. God protected those covered by the sacrifice. The Passover events were an ideal way to refocus the attention of the polytheistic Israelites toward Jehovah as the one true God. They learned the importance of sacrifice, a lesson that carried throughout the history of Israel. Blood was shed and the family participated in the eating of the sacrifice required by God. They learned that the survival of the complete family was dependent on obedience to Jehovah.

The Sacrifice of Jethro. Jethro is identified as a priest of Midian in Scripture (Ex. 2:16; 3:1; 18:1) and Moses' father-in-law (Ex. 3:1; 18:1). Upon hearing of the works of Jehovah toward Israel, Jethro met Moses at Sinai [or Horeb] with his daughter and grandchildren. Moses had been tending Jethro's flock on Horeb when he had the burning bush experience (Ex. 3). Moses gave a detailed report of Jehovah's deliverance of Israel from Egypt. In response, Jethro rejoiced in the things that Jehovah had done for Israel. "Then Jethro proceeded to say, Being blessed is Jehovah who caused you to be delivered from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that Jehovah is greater than all the gods, for in the very thing in which they were arrogant He was over them (Ex. 18:10, 11)." Jethro recognized the irony of Jehovah's victory over the Egyptians and over the gods of Egypt in the ten plagues. Evidently, Jethro believed in a multiplicity of deities, but was absolutely convinced that Jehovah was the Supreme God. His response to his conviction concerning the greatness of Jehovah was expressed in sacrifice. "Then Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, proceeded to take a burnt offering and sacrifices for Elohim; then Aaron proceeded to come and all the elders of Israel to eat food with Moses' father-in-law before the face of Elohim (Ex. 18:12)." For the first time in the history of Israel, an individual who held the office of priest offered burnt offerings and sacrifices to Jehovah. Jethro reacted as a priest who was performing sacrifice in response to Jehovah's power and greatness that was manifested in the miracles of the Exodus events. It appears that Jethro had more sense than the whole nation of Israel. He saw the opportunity for sacrifice and stepped in and did the job. Jethro did not offer the burnt offerings and sacrifices for himself, his family or for Moses, but for the whole nation as is evidenced in the assembling of the elders with Aaron at the time of the offering.

The first public sacrifice of the Exodus was offered by a Midianite [a non-Israelite] priest. He was a polytheist to the extent that he recognized the abilities of other deities. He recognized that Jehovah was worthy of sacrifice and offering. Ultimately, Jethro was convinced of the absolute superiority of Jehovah and acted as a priest to Jehovah. A non-Israelite gave sacrifices and burnt offerings to Jehovah that were acceptable to Him. Because he was a priest, these were not the first burnt offerings or sacrifices he had made in his lifetime. It is possible that he had offered sacrifices to Jehovah previously, but Scripture is silent in the matter. When Moses reported the experience at the burning bush, he asked permission to go to Egypt. Jethro gave him permission to go. It would have been natural for a priest to go and offer sacrifices on Horeb because of Moses' report. Jehovah was dealing with a non-Israelite when He accepted Jethro's sacrifices. The next day Jehovah used Jethro to prepare the nation for the events at Sinai. Moses acted as a mediator between the people and God and was already overworked and overwhelmed. Jethro suggested that Moses select other men to do the judging and that Moses go before Jehovah in determining the hard matters (Ex. 18:13-26). Moses accepted his advice and then sent him away. "Then Moses proceeded to send his father-in-law away; and he proceeded to go for himself into his own land (18:27)."

Jethro was a Midianite priest who was in the habit of acting as a priest. There is no record as to whom and for whom he performed his priestly service prior to the events at Horeb, but at Horeb he acted as a priest to Jehovah. As a result of his knowledge of Jehovah, he evidently focused all of his priestly activities toward Jehovah after being with Moses at Sinai. God was dealing with a few people other than Israel at that time. He accepted the burnt offerings and sacrifices made by Jethro for the nation. Jethro was not acting as the head of a household. Israel already recognized Moses as a man who had access to God (Ex. 18:15, 19). Jethro reinforced the fact that a priest was necessary for such access by the normal Israelite. He gave sacrifices for Moses as well as Aaron, the elders of Israel and the nation as a whole. When he gave the burnt offerings and sacrifices, he gave them in appreciation for the character and conduct of Jehovah for delivering the nation from the Egyptians.

Before the giving of the Law, sacrifices were generally given by the heads of households acting as priests for the whole family. God had not established a procedure for sacrificing. He looked on the character of man and based His acceptance or rejection of the sacrifice on his heart attitude. As a result, Jehovah rejected Cain's sacrifice from the fruit of the ground and accepted Jacob's drink offering that was also from the fruit of the ground. There was no organized priesthood. Most of the sacrifices that were given before the Law were given either in obedience to Jehovah's commandment or in appreciation for what Jehovah had done. Many of the sacrifices were burned on altars. It may have been that all of them were burned [including the Passover], but Scripture is silent in many details. Even the Passover sacrifice was burned and eaten by the people in the original event. God was accepting sacrifices before the Law was given. There was no manual establishing sacrificial procedure, so a man used what knowledge he had for offering the sacrifice. The pre-Law sacrifices establish the fact that procedure was secondary, while the heart attitude was of primary importance to God. When Jethro offered a sacrifice for Israel, he was not an Israelite though he was a believer in Jehovah. It was normally necessary for the sacrificer to construct an altar of stones on which to burn the sacrifice. Combustible materials were necessary to do the burning. The animal was slain and then burned. In most cases, Jehovah accepted the sacrifices when he saw proper motives on the part of the offerer. The sacrifices did not provide or purchase any form of salvation from Jehovah. These sacrifices had the same affect on Jehovah as those so carefully designed under the Law to express appreciation to Jehovah.

The Sacrifices Under the Mosaic Law

When the Mosaic Law was given, it established an elaborate system of sacrifices and offerings. It prescribed the proper place, persons and procedures for all of the different sacrifices available to Israel. Heads of families acting as priests could no longer make sacrifices, but specific individuals who were of the right family and tribe were the actual makers of sacrifice. The Law limited sacrificing to one location that was very inconvenient for an Israelite living a great distance from the tabernacle or temple. The sacrificial system was another restraint placed upon Israel. Under the Law, Israel was in prison (Gal. 3:23 Gk) and in a yoke of bondage (Gal. 5:1). Sacrifice was no longer a voluntary activity but was a clearly defined responsibility under well-defined circumstances. It made no difference whether the offerer of the sacrifice was a believer or not. He was still required to keep the law of sacrifices or suffer the consequences. The person who offered the sacrifice was forced to expend his resources in order to meet the requirements of the Law. It was both inconvenient and expensive to be involved in the sacrificial system. Levitical law prescribed a wide variety of sacrifices and offerings that could be offered. Leviticus established the sacrificial system. There were two types of sacrifices described in Leviticus: the sweet savor offerings (1:3-3:17) and the non-sweet offerings (4:1-6:7). Sacrifices could be blood sacrifices or non-blood sacrifices (as the meal and drink offerings). Only a portion of the sacrifices was designed to make a covering for sin, while most were for totally different purposes. The purpose of this section is to provide a survey of the Levitical sacrifices that should provide a basis for understanding New Testament sacrifices for the grace believer-priest.

The Place of Sacrifice. Before the Israelites could offer any sacrifice, it was necessary to have a place for sacrifice. A major part of the giving of the Law was the blueprint for the construction of the tabernacle (Ex. 25:1-40:38) and its furniture. It is important to see that God gave the plans for the building of the tabernacle from the inside out (Ex. 25:10-27:8; 37:1-38:8). He was looking at construction from His place of residency between the cherubim of the ark toward the outside. The brazen altar (27:1-8) or the altar of burnt offerings (30:1-7) was the next to the last item on the list and provided a place for sacrifice. It was one of the closest utensils to the nation, but the farthest from Jehovah. When Solomon built the temple, he followed careful plans (1 Ki. 6, 7; 2 Chron. 3, 4) that included utensils for offering sacrifice in Jerusalem. When Ezra rebuilt the temple, he made facilities available for sacrifice.

Under the Law, the place of sacrifice involved a specific geographical, location. From Sinai, to entry into Canaan, the tabernacle with the manifestation of the glory of Jehovah determined the geographical location for the whole nation that encamped in assigned locations around the tabernacle. Every sacrifice was taken to the center of the encampment to be offered. A large part of the forty years in the wilderness found the tabernacle at Kadesh. Evidently, it was set up at Gilgal just before entry into the land (Josh. 4:19; 5:10; 9:6, 10:6, 43). Upon entry into the land, the tabernacle was set up at Shiloh (Josh. 18:1; 19:51). By the end of the era of the judges, its permanence in Shiloh had finally given it the designation of temple (1 Sam. 1:9; 3:3). Ultimately, the ark was taken from the tabernacle by the Philistines and then returned to Israel and then the ark remained at Kidath-Jearim for a period of twenty years (1 Sam. 4:10-7:2). After sojourns in Nob (1 Sam. 21:1-9) and Gibeon (1 Chron. 16:39; 21:29), the tabernacle was placed in Jerusalem and the ark of the covenant was returned to the new tabernacle under David (2 Sam. 6:12-19). How often the rituals of the Law were performed is uncertain. The place of sacrifice was in Jerusalem with the tabernacle and then in the Solomonic temple (1 Ki. 6:1-9:10). Solomon's temple remained the center of sacrifice until it was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B. C. In 537 B. C., Cyrus gave orders for the rebuilding of the temple by Zerubbabel (2 Chron. 36:23; Ezra 1:1-4). It was started and after a fifteen year delay was completed in 516 B. C. and dedicated (Ezra 6:15-22). Once again there was a place for sacrifice. In 20-19 B. C., Herod began construction of a new temple that was completed about 64 A.D., about six years before the Romans destroyed it. An Israelite, who expected to offer a sacrifice, had to go to a specific geographical location. Unless he lived in the city where the tabernacle or temple was, he was required to go to that location in order to offer his sacrifice. He was bound by his tribe to an assigned portion of land that could not be changed. In some instances, this created a great inconvenience for the offerer. Even though David established a second tabernacle in Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6:17-19; 1 Chron. 16:1), the old tabernacle remained in Gibeon and was used as a second place of sacrifice until Solomon's temple was completed. David's new tabernacle had the original ark of the covenant while the original tabernacle was in Gibeon. Because of this, there were two tabernacles where sacrifices were legitimately offered. With the division of the kingdom, the ten tribes attempted to change or add a second place of sacrifice to the Solomonic temple by building a temple on Mount Gerizim in 432 B. C. John Hyrcanus destroyed it in 110 B.C. One of the main complaints of the ten tribes was the inconvenience of going to Jerusalem to perform religious duties to Jehovah. They attempted to establish a rival temple after their amalgamation with foreign peoples and became known as Samaritans as a result of the Assyrian captivity. The geographical location was important but inconvenient for the offerer of the sacrifices.

Not only was there a geographical location to which sacrifices were brought, but there was also a specific instrument for sacrifice. An altar [lit. a place of sacrifice] was essential for sacrifice. In the tabernacle and temples, the altar was designed in metal and was the primary objective for bringing a sacrifice. Scripture describes several altars. One must remember that there were two altars in the tabernacle: the horned altar for burnt offerings and the altar of incense. The altar of burnt offering was the place for sacrifice in both the tabernacle and the temple.

The altar of the tabernacle was much smaller than the Solomonic altar. It was constructed of shittim [or acacia] wood and covered with brass. It was to be five cubits square and three cubits high covered with brass and with a horn at each corner. The exact measurement of a cubit is uncertain, possibly ranging from 16 to 20.6 inches per cubit. It appears that the 18-inch cubit is closest to the actual measurement. With an 18-inch cubit, the altar would have been seven and a half feet square and four and a half feet high. This would seem to be a small surface for the sacrifices of more than three million people had the Law been carefully enforced. Other altars were not prohibited by Law but were closely regulated as to what was offered and how it was to be constructed (Ex. 20:24-26). This may have provided some relief for the brazen altar. Every detail of the brazen altar was carefully given for its construction and function (Ex. 27:1-8, 38:1-7). Evidently, this altar or duplicate replacements were used until the Solomonic altar was in use in the temple.

Solomon's altar was so large that some scholars have doubted the dimensions given in 2 Chronicles 4:1. It was an altar of brass that was 20 cubits square [30 feet] and ten cubits high [15 feet]. Undoubtedly, there were steps leading up to the place of sacrifice. A large number of burnt offerings could be burned at one time as long as the fire of the altar was well stoked. The brass composition of the altar is confirmed in I Kings 8:64 and 2 Kings 16:10-15. Evidently, Ahaz added a newly designed altar to the old brazen model and moved the brazen altar to the north replacing it with a new altar patterned after an altar in Damascus (2 Ki. 16:10-16). He was an idolater who had sacrificed his own son and had sacrificed in the idolatrous high places (2 Ki. 16:2-4). He used a heathen altar as a pattern for designing an altar to be used to Jehovah. He also made other drastic changes in the temple utensils.

The need for such a large altar is evident in the account of the sacrifices offered during the eight days of the dedication festival for the temple. The king and all of Israel offered sacrifices to Jehovah. Solomon alone offered 20,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep as peace offerings that involved the burning of the fatty portion on the altar. Even with the great brazen altar, there still was not enough room for all the sacrifices, so Solomon set apart the middle of the court before the temple and there he offered burnt offerings and meat [or meal] offerings and the fat of the peace offerings. The priests were well fed because they received the right foreleg and the breast of each animal offered. The rest of the animal was eaten as a part of the feast of dedication (1 Ki. 8:62-65). What a blessing it is to know that the altar in heaven is not too small to take all of the sacrifices of the believer-priest.

Zerubbabel set up an altar on the site of the prospective temple in the reconstruction in the era of Ezra but no description of the altar is given (Ezra 3:2-6). It is interesting to note that it was set on bases on the temple site. Evidently, the altar was similar to the altars in the tabernacle or Solomonic temple. The actual temple had not been started, but the returning exiles considered sacrifices necessary to gain protection (Ezra 3:6). With the completion of the temple, the people offered 100 bullocks, 200 rams and 400 lambs probably as a peace offering while offering twelve he-goats as a sin offering. This would have taken a large altar for such a large number of sacrifices. The very first thing the priests constructed was the altar so that they could be involved in the offerings in conformity to the Levitical procedure of the Law of Moses. While they were in exile, they did not have a place to offer sacrifices. Undoubtedly, they never offered a sacrifice while they waited for the time that they could return to Jerusalem, the place of sacrifice. The altar that they used was probably a bronze altar designed to handle an adequate number of sacrifices for the number of Jews projected to return to the land.

The Persons Who Sacrifice. Under the Law, the ones who functioned as priests were a select portion of the tribe of Levi. "And you [Moses], cause Aaron your brother to come near unto you and his sons with him from the midst of the sons of Israel, with the purpose of his serving as a priest to me, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron (Ex. 28:1)." The rest of the Levites performed tabernacle service but were not priests. Before a priest could offer a sacrifice, there was a ritual of consecration that made him ceremonially clean so he could offer the sacrifice for himself and others. Exodus 29 gives a detailed account of the procedure for cleansing. An outline of the procedure will illustrate the fact that priestly function involved more than the rights of physical birth. Proper preparation was necessary so the priest and his activity would be acceptable to God. The high priest gathered his sons together for a ceremonial washing (Ex. 29:4). The high priest was clothed in the garments of the high priest, and then anointed with oil. A bullock sacrifice was offered (29:10-14) with two rams (29:15-22) and three portions of bread (29:23) in a specified order (29:24-28). The blood of the bullock was applied to the high priest and his sons (29:20, 21). Every day the priests had to go through a procedure so they would be ceremonially clean and thereby qualified to offer the sacrifices. For one to serve, he had to be of a right family or a right tribe and meet all of the qualifications in order to offer sacrifices for himself and for other Israelites.

The Procedure for Sacrifices. God gave explicit instructions for specific sacrifices for the sons of Israel. Each type of sacrifice or offering had its purpose and procedure. Some offerings were simply designed to bring pleasure to God while others directly involved payment for specific forms of unrighteousness that were covered. Special sacrifices were required for the priests as they performed their priestly duties. Though the Law was very clear concerning the procedure for sacrifice, Israel was inconsistent throughout her history in applying all of the details of the Law. With the great expense involved, many Israelites simply ignored the giving of sacrifices for themselves gambling that they would not suffer the consequences outlined in the Law. Others simply relied on the offerings of the Day of Atonement that brought a measure of tranquility until they violated a portion of the Law placing them in jeopardy until the Day of Atonement the next year. Yet there were others who saw the national implications of the sacrificial system and hoped that a majority of the population would be offering sacrifices as a form of insurance for those who did not offer them. If the majority of the nation kept the Law of sacrifice and offering, they would continue to receive the benefits of health, wealth and happiness in time.

Ultimately, by the time of the late kingdom, the sacrificial system evidently involved only a small minority of the nation. The prophets decried turning from the Divine requirements and predicted judgment upon both the nations of Israel and Judah. Judgment finally came with the defeat and dispersion of both nations and the whole sacrificial system ceased to exist with the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The righteous Jews in the Diaspora longed for a place for sacrifice and looked toward the site of Jerusalem anticipating the day when the sacrificial system would be reinstituted. With the first return to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel for the rebuilding of the temple, the very first thing the returning Jews did was make an altar and offer sacrifices on it before the foundation of the temple was ever laid. The law of sacrifice remained unchanged and they easily applied it even though there was probably not one of them present who had offered a sacrifice in the Solomonic temple before its destruction.

A brief survey of the requirements as well as the procedure will establish the background for understanding the New Testament provision for sacrificing by the grace believer. A majority of the sacrifices were not provided for unrighteousness but were expressions of appreciation given to provide God pleasure. The best known offering provided in the Law was the burnt offering.

The Burnt Offering. The first of the Levitical offerings listed in Leviticus is the burnt offering (Lev. 1:3-17; 6:8-13; Ex. 29:38-42; Num. 28:3-10). Of all the offerings, only this one required the burning of the whole animal on the altar in the sacrifice. The burnt offering was to be a male ox, sheep, goat, turtledove, young kid or young pigeons without blemish. Hence, the offering involved a valuable animal. Because of this, the burnt offering was also described as the complete offering (Deut. 33:10; 1 Sam. 7:9; Psa. 51:19). The only part of the victim that was not consumed by fire was the skin of the animal. The offerer was required to bring the offering to the tabernacle or temple. He was to lay his hand upon its head affirming that the animal was to be his substitute and then the offerer was to slay it. Blood was sprinkled around the altar. The animal was flayed, cut in pieces, cleansed and burned with fire on the altar. If the sacrifice was of the flock, the offerer was required to slay it on the north side of the altar (Lev. 1:11). If it was an offering of birds, the priest was to slay the offering (Lev. 1:11). The burnt offering provided a covering [or atonement] for the offerer (Lev. 1:4) and was an essential part of the temple's voluntary worship program. As a result of its being burned, it produced a pleasing odor to God (Lev. 1:9, 13, 17). The skin of the animal was given to the priest as his portion of the sacrifice.

The burnt offering was the most frequently offered sacrifice. Every day a male lamb was slain in the morning and in the evening (Ex. 29:38-42). The priests consecrated each month by a burnt offering comprised of two young bullocks, one ram and seven male lambs (Num. 28:26-29). For each day of the feast of Passover, the monthly requirement was repeated. Other feasts required burnt offerings to be given for the nation. The individual was given opportunity to offer burnt offerings voluntarily for himself. The burnt offering of the individual offerer generally involved a willing submission to God because of who He was and a desire to bring pleasure to God so that the believer would be covered as a result of the shed blood. In a sense, the burnt offering covered sins not yet committed and that is the perspective taken in Hebrews 10:6. Before anyone sinned or transgressed, he could offer a burnt offering; but it was necessary for him first to offer a sin offering. The burnt offering was the only offering a non-Israelite could bring. With the burnt offering, the offerer was clearly identifying himself with Jehovah and the covenants that Jehovah had made with Israel. There are three effects that the burnt offering brought. It was acceptable as a sweet smelling savor (Lev. 1:9). It provided a covering for the offerer (Lev. 1:4). It was necessary as a means of cleansing from ceremonial uncleanness (Lev. 14:20). This sacrifice dominated all the sacrifices for the nation Israel.

The Meal or Meat Offering. When the meal or meat offering was given, it required the giving of a special mixture of flour, oil and other ingredients, or of unleavened cakes prepared in three different ways with oil or green ears of grain (Lev. 2:1-16). Included in this type of offering was the offering called the "drink offering" that always consisted of wine [though some include oil in this offering as well). These offerings could be brought in conjunction with burnt or peace offerings [but never with sin or trespass offerings] or by themselves. There were three public meal offerings: twelve loaves of show bread, the omer on the second day of the feast of Passover and the wave loaves at Pentecost. There were four required meal offerings arranged under the Law: a duty meal offering for the high priest (Lev. 6:14), at the consecration of priests (6:20), as a substitution for the sin offering when the offerer was impoverished (Lev. 5:11, 12) and for jealousy (Num. 5:15). The priests took a handful of the meal offering and burned it as a memorial on the altar. The priest kept the rest as his portion (Lev. 6:16). The meal offering of the high priest and for the consecration of priests was completely burnt and none was eaten.

Drink offerings accompanied many of the sacrifices. None of the drink offerings could be poured on the altar of incense (Ex. 30:9). Drink offerings were presented to Jehovah at all of the feasts (Lev. 23:13,18, 37). Wine and oil accompanied all votive and free will offerings (Num. 15:4-10, 24), the continual burnt offering (Num. 28:7, 8), Sabbaths (Num. 28:9, 10) and for all the feasts (Num. 28:14-31; 29:6-39). No procedure is given for the offering of the drink offering. The significance of the meal and drink offerings was based on the fact that Jehovah had provided Israel all physical blessings in time. They were a reminder to Israel that they would receive physical blessing in time if they kept the sacrificial aspects of the Law.

The Peace Offering. The peace offering was a sacrifice of sweet savor that was divided into three categories: thank offering, votive offering and free-will offering. Leviticus 3:1-17 gives the general description of the basic procedure for the thank offering. These offerings were a response to God's goodness that had been exhibited or was anticipated. The thank offerings always followed the other sacrifices because they were indicative of a right relationship to Jehovah. The offerer was to bring a bullock, a lamb or a goat, either male or female (Lev. 3:1-17). The ritual was identical to that for the burnt offering. Blood was sprinkled on the altar. The caul, the liver and the kidneys of the animal were taken away. The fat parts were then burned on the altar. The high priest received the breast for a wave offering and the priest who offered the animal received the right foreleg as his share of the heave offering. The offerer received the remainder of the animal. The three peace offerings gave special benefits to the offerer. Wave offerings (Lev. 7:30-34; 8:27, 29) and heave offerings (Ex. 29:27, 28; Lev. 7:14, 32-34) were a part of the peace offering.

When the peace offering was a thank offering (Lev. 7:12-15; 22:29), it was accompanied with unleavened cakes made with oil and cakes mingled with oil and fine flour soaked in oil and frankincense. The flesh of the offering was to be eaten the same day with none left over the following morning (Lev. 22:30). The thank offering was given in appreciation for God's blessing and deliverance. It was given in times of prosperity and success as a means of giving thanks to God. Public sacrifices of the thank offering were rather common. They were given to inaugurate the festivals of Israel (Ex. 24:5; 2 Sam. 6:17). When a king was chosen, they offered thank offerings (1 Sam. 11:15). When major successes were accomplished by or for the nation, the offering was given (Deut. 27:7; Josh. 8:31). The thank offering was a normal part of the feast of Pentecost (Lev. 23:19). An individual Israelite could offer a thank offering in recognition of special personal provisions from Jehovah (Lev. 7:12; 22:29).

The votive type of peace offering (Lev. 7:16, 17) was given as an expression of appreciation but also included making a vow. At a time of need, the offerer made a vow to Jehovah and used the offering as a means of prevailing on God for the provision of the thing needed. This offering was to be perfect (Lev. 22:18-22). It was eaten by the offerer on the first and second days. If it was eaten on the third day, it was an abomination and the offerer was cut off from the nation (Lev. 7:18-21).

Free-will offerings were made in appreciation to God without requirements. They were voluntarily given without expecting any thing in return. The giver rejoiced in God's bountiful provision and gave the offering because of his joy. Certain imperfections were permitted in the animal for the free-will offering (Lev. 22:23), because they were strictly voluntary sacrifices. The three major sweet-smelling sacrifices to Jehovah included the burnt offering (Lev. 1:3-17), the meal offering (Lev. 2:1-16) and the peace offering (Lev. 3:1-17). They all brought a special pleasure to God producing a sweet smell. They were made for sins or any other form of unrighteousness that had previously been committed.

The Sin Offering. There were two non-sweet offerings that were required by the Law: the sin and trespass offerings. These offerings were given for unrighteousness that existed in the lives of the Israelites. They were not offered to bring pleasure to God but to satisfy the requirements of the Law. These offerings were given for sins of ignorance (Lev. 4:1-35), sins of implication (Lev. 5:1-19) and willful sins (Lev. 6:1-7). These offerings were a part of the penalties prescribed for the violation of the Law. God was to be satisfied that a proper penalty had been paid, so He made it clear in the Law how the penalty was to be paid. Every violation of the Law required a taking of a life. For the violation of the first seven commandments, the Law required that the life of the violator be taken in capital punishment. In other instances, the life of an animal was taken so the sin would be covered. Without the use of the sacrifices, the first sin a man would commit would permanently make him guilty and cut off any access to God.

The sin offering was made to provide a special covering for sins of ignorance and for ceremonial uncleanness. Specific offerings were required for different groups of the nation. A suitable offering for a ruler was a he-goat (Lev. 4:22-26) and for an ordinary person a she-goat (4:27, 28), an ewe lamb (4:32), a turtledove or young pigeon (Lev. 5:7). For the priests (4:3), the Levites at their installation (Num. 8:8) and for the whole congregation, a young bullock was to be brought (Lev. 4:14). A he-goat could be brought for the congregation with the young bullock (Num. 15:24). On the Day of Atonement, a bullock was offered for the high priest and two he-goats for the congregation (Lev. 16:3-34). Specific fatty portions were burned on the altar and the rest was eaten by the priests.

The offering was made for a single purpose, "Speak unto the sons of Israel saying, when a soul sins in error against any of the commandments of Jehovah that should not be done, and he does one of them (Lev. 4:2)." The root idea of "ignorance" is to wander or stray away meaning that something was done inadvertently or by mistake. As a result of the sacrifice, the offerer received an Old Testament forgiveness for sin (Lev. 4:20, 26, 31, 35; 5:10) and ceremonial cleansing for the pollution of sin (Lev. 12:8; 14:20; 16:19). The very presentation of the sacrifice indicated that the offerer was aware of the sin he had committed (4:14, 23, 28; 5:5). When the offerer laid his hand on the head of the animal to be sacrificed, he was acknowledging that it was a sacrificial substitute for himself. As can be seen by the different sacrifices, there were different classes of offenders (Lev. 4:3-35).

When the offerer brought the proper animal, the priest would require the offerer to lay his hands on the head of the animal, then he would slay the animal before Jehovah. When he offered it for the congregation, the priest would bring the blood to the tabernacle or temple and sprinkle it before the veil seven times. He would apply blood to the horns of the altar of incense and pour the blood out at the base of the brazen altar. The fat was burned on the altar. Depending on who offered the sacrifice, the offering was either eaten by the priests or taken outside the camp and burned. It was slain in the same place as the burnt offering. It became most holy and whatever touched it was holy. If blood from the sacrifice sprayed on a garment, the garment was to be washed in the holy place. If an earthen pot was splattered, it was broken and destroyed. A metal vessel would need a thorough cleansing in the same circumstance.

Individuals brought the offerings when they realized that they had accidentally violated the Law or when they were ceremonially unclean. Sin offerings were sacrificed for the whole nation at the new moon (Num. 28:14, 15), Passover (Num. 28:17-22), Firstfruits (Num. 28:26-31), Feast of the Trumpets (29:1-6), Feast of Tabernacles (29:13-34) and the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16). The sin offering was sacrificed when Aaron and his sons were set apart for priestly service (Lev. 8:2-15). A special aspect of the sin offering was the sacrificing of the red heifer that was a special sin offering for purification purposes (Num. 19:1-22). After childbirth, a young pigeon or turtledove was sacrificed as a sin offering for purification from ceremonial uncleanness (Lev. 12:6-8). It was the offering that was also offered for ceremonial uncleanness resulting from leprosy (Lev. 14:9, 13, 31), issues from men and women (Lev. 15:15, 30), pollution of a Nazarite (Num. 6:6-11) or at the conclusion of the Nazarite's vow (Num. 6:16). The sin offering was used for the more general aspects of life with lesser emphasis upon the specifics of life.

The fact that the sin offering was effective is very clear in the Hebrew text. "Then he will cause to burn all its fat on the altar, like the fat of the peace offering [lit. sacrifice of peaces-pl.], and the priest will cover [or make atonement] over (al) him separating him from his sin and it will be forgiven for him (Lev. 4:26)." The sacrifice was a covering over for the offerer that separated him from his sin from God's perspective. In verse 35, it says, "... the priest will cover [or make atonement] over him concerning [or over] his sin that he has sinned and it will proceed to be forgiven for him." When the sin offering was made for the whole nation, God was satisfied. The innocent goat was sacrificed while the scapegoat bore the sins of the nation into the wilderness in the activities of the Day of Atonement for the whole nation (Lev. 16). As a result, the inadvertent, unintentional sins were covered and the nation was covered. There was no spiritual salvation from the giving of the sacrifice. God only gave physical salvation to the nation in time.

The Trespass Offering. The trespass or guilt offering was made for willful sins [i.e. sins of intent] (Lev. 6:1-7) and for sins of ignorance (Lev. 5:15, 16). It was offered when an individual unwittingly broke the Law by his association with a person who actually broke the Law. He was implicated in something, in some way, that made him guilty though he may have had a measure of ignorance of the implication. "A person [or soul] when he proceeds to trespass a trespass and sins in error from the holy things of Jehovah, then he will bring his guilt offering to Jehovah ... (Lev. 8:15)." When the Israelite took from Jehovah that which properly belonged to Jehovah inadvertently, it was a sin that needed an offering. If a man broke the Law not knowing that he had violated it, or was involved with another person who violated the Law, he was to offer a trespass offering. "And if a soul proceeds to sin and does even one of any of the commandments of Jehovah that are not to be done, and he does not know and he is guilty and he will bear his perversity (Lev. 5:17)." Some examples of such a sin are given in Leviticus. A person who refuses to be a witness to a sin of another individual must offer the guilt offering (Lev. 5:1). A person who touched any unclean thing whether it was animal or human was guilty (5:2, 3). A man who made an oath and was unable to keep it was to offer the trespass offering (5:4). Specific sins against other people demanded a guilt offering. These were identified as willful sins. Examples are given in chapter six. If a man lied to his neighbor defrauding him by taking advantage of the neighbor by theft or deliberately neglecting to return an item loaned, found or placed in his protection, he was guilty (5:2, 3). Restitution was required plus a 20% penalty in addition to the offering (5:4, 5). The raping of a betrothed slave required a trespass offering (19:20-22). The same was required at the purification of a leper (14:12) and for a contaminated Nazarite (Num. 6:12).

Normally, a ram without blemish was the offering that was given (Lev. 5:15) that was valued by the shekel of the sanctuary (5:15; 6:6). The ram was to be proportionate in value to the offense with the value being at least two shekels. When a leper or a Nazarite offered the offering, it was to be a lamb (Lev. 14:11; Num. 6:12). There is a strong indication that this was normally preceded by a sin offering (5:5-13). The animal was slaughtered on the north side of the altar and its blood was sprinkled. Specific fatty portions were burned on the brazen altar (Lev. 7:3-5). The priests ate the results in the holy place (Lev. 7:6).

The trespass offering [or offense offering] was not offered at the feasts of Jehovah. The offering was designed for the individual and not for the nation. It was possible for individuals to offer the trespass offering during the feasts but only as individual offerings and only if time was available for the priests to sacrifice them. This offering covered the basic violations of the Law that were the personal sins that offended God. In a sense, the trespass offering was for personal acts of sin providing a covering for those sins. As a result of its being offered, God was satisfied that the sin had been dealt with properly. The sin offering provided a covering for potential guilt and sins that were done in ignorance.

The Old Testament sacrifices were offered expecting two results. The sweet-smelling offerings were designed to provide pleasure for Jehovah. Some were given as an expression of appreciation of the Israelite who was at peace with his God. Others were designed to please God so that He would meet needs or simply would direct His attention to the offerer. The non- sweet offerings were given to deal with a broad spectrum of the unrighteousness of the Jewish people. These offerings covered a variety of sins and ceremonial uncleanness for individuals or for the nation. They did not provide spiritual salvation but provided for physical salvation in God's provision of peace, protection, posterity, prosperity, health and happiness in time. One must always remember that these offerings made absolutely no contribution to the eternal future of the Israelite offerer. A man could offer a thousand sin offerings and a thousand trespass offerings and never possess spiritual salvation because he was not a believer. God saved every Old Testament saint by grace through faith and not by sacrifice. His sacrifices simply covered his sins so that God would not look upon them but provide physical health, wealth and happiness that had been promised to those who kept the Law.

Only when the perfect sacrifice was offered could there be benefits that related to spiritual salvation. Believing Jews brought their sacrifices because of their faith in God. Unbelieving Israelites also brought sacrifices except they offered them because of the requirements of the Law. Both received the benefits. When God provided rain, it rained on the believer and the unbeliever alike. When God judged by drought, both suffered the same consequences. The sacrifices provided for a hope in a happy, long life in time on earth. Israel's violation of the Law tied directly to the violation of the sacrifice requirements. Devout Israelites knew that if Jehovah rejected the sin offerings at the Day of Atonement at least the high priest might die if not the whole nation. After the glory of Jehovah had departed from the temple, it made little difference. God was not resident in the Holy of Holies and was no longer available to accept sacrifices. As a result, every sacrifice offered after the glory departed was no more than empty ritual from that point forward until the glory returns to the future temple. God always looked on the heart of the offerer before he accepted the sacrifice absolutely. Some gave by faith believing that God would provide for them. Others sacrificed to prove that they had the inherent capability for pleasing God without faith. Even so the offering of sacrifices became abhorrent to God because of the corrupt spiritual condition of the offerers.

Early in the kingdom, Samuel recognized that the heart attitude was far more important than the sacrifices and offerings. "Then Samuel proceeded to say, Is the delight of Jehovah in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of Jehovah? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than the fat of rams (1 Sam. 15:22)." A responsiveness toward Jehovah was definitely preferable to the sacrifice prescribed by the Law when they were offered with the wrong motives.

David echoed a similar opinion. "Sacrifice and offering you did not delight in; you have dug out my ears for me, you have not asked for a burnt offering and a sin offering (Psa. 40:6)." Jehovah deserved an Old Testament believer's absolute trust in His character that was preferential to the one who offered the sacrifices and offerings from legal necessity. "You do not begin to delight in sacrifice, or I would proceed to give it; you will not begin to find pleasure in burnt offering. The sacrifices of Elohim are a broken [or shattered] spirit, a broken [or shattered] and crushed heart, O God, do not begin to despise me (Psa. 51:16, 17)." David wrote the fifty-first Psalm after he had arranged for the murder of Uriah and had taken Bathsheba to be his wife (2 Sam. 11:2-12:25). Under Law, he should have been slain (Ex. 21:12, Lev. 24:17; Num. 35:16-18, 21, 31), but as king he lived above the Law. As its administrator because he was king, he was above the Law so God punished him directly by taking the life of his son (2 Sam. 12:15-23). He recognized that his sin was a capital crime; and because he was unrepentant and liable for his own life and the lives of the nation, he was convinced that Jehovah would no longer accept any offerings or sacrifices. In other words, the people of the nation were suffering because of the sin of their king. He offered his own shattered heart to God so that the sacrifice would be acceptable.

Solomon was also convinced that there were things more important than sacrifice. "To do righteousness and justice is to be chosen of Jehovah more than sacrifice (Prov. 21:3)." Because of the many sins of Judah (Isa. 1:4), Jehovah was repelled by their multitudinous sacrifices (Isa. 1:11). They had persisted in giving empty meal offerings. One must hear the indictment of Judah concerning their religious rituals. "Do not keep adding to the bringing of an empty [or by partial] sacrifice [lit. the sacrifice of emptiness]; incense is an abomination to me; the new moon and Sabbath, the calling of a meeting; I am not able to endure the trouble, even the solemn assembly. My soul hates your new moons and your appointed feasts. They are for a burden upon me; I am tired for myself of bearing them. And when you spread out the palms of your hands, I will cause my eyes to hide from you; also when you proceed to multiply prayer, I will not be hearing. Your hands are full of bloods (Isa. 1:13-15)."

Jeremiah learned that the burnt offerings were no longer acceptable to Jehovah and that the sacrifices were no longer fragrant to Him because of the sins of the people (Jer. 6:19, 20). A heart attitude was demonstrated by a proper activity. "For I delight in lovingkindness, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of Elohim more than burnt offerings (Hos. 6:6)." Israel had made many altars and offered many sacrifices, but Jehovah refused to accept them and promised to bring punishment upon them for their disobedience (Hos. 8:11-13). Without a proper heart attitude, Jehovah only permitted the sacrifice to be offered, but in actuality it was of no value to the Old Testament Israelite. The New Testament explains why. For the unsaved Jew, his offerings had no affect because the offerings were not presented mixed with faith (Heb. 4:2). It is impossible for the blood of animals to take away sin (Heb. 10:4). Hebrews 10:1-13 gives a clear statement concerning the limitations of the sacrifices of the Law. "In burnt offerings and sacrifices concerning sins, you were not well pleased (Heb. 10:6)." The work of Christ completely invalidated the Mosaic sacrifices making them absolutely unnecessary. The new and better things of the New Testament fulfilled everything that the Old Testament system foresaw. "So therefore the first covenant had also ordinances of priestly service and a worldly holy place (Heb. 9:1)." None of the people in Israel had any idea that there could be anything better. "The Holy Spirit pointing this out, the way to the holies had not yet been brought to light, while the first tabernacle still is possessing a standing (Heb. 9:8)." Hebrews gives extensive revelation concerning the New Testament arrangements for better sacrifices for the believer-priest.

The Sacrifices of the Grace Believer

In order to establish the basis for the sacrifices the Christian is to offer, one must carefully study the character of sacrifice, the place of sacrifice, the procedure for sacrifice and the purpose for sacrifice. The whole spectrum of sacrificing shifts from earthly implements and procedure because of the death of Christ. The believer now possesses a new and living way whereby he has access. The limitations placed on Israel are not binding for the Christian. While the Old Testament system was dependent on the effective service of a series of human beings so that the offerer could share the full benefit from his sacrifices, the New Testament has only one mediator and that one is Jesus Christ. An Israelite relied on the Levites who had the responsibility for having wood prepared for the altar, the priest who sacrificed the offering and the high priest who entered the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement for himself and for the nation. Christ's sacrifice fulfilled all the shedding of blood when He shed His own blood. Because of Christ's sacrifice, the whole sacrificial system was completely changed.

The Character of the Sacrifice. As a result of Christ's death, the believer no longer offers physical sacrifices. The sacrifices of the grace believer may involve physical things but God counts them to be spiritual sacrifices. Every believer has the potential to offer sacrifices, but only a few practice their potential. Only the spiritual believer can offer an acceptable sacrifice. A carnal believer can do exactly the same things a spiritual believer does and his activity will be rejected by God because God does not count what he does to be a sacrifice. The sacrifice of Christ was supremely acceptable, accomplishing some essential things.

The Sacrifice of Christ. Scripture clearly relates the death of Christ as a sacrifice to two of the sacrifices of the Old Testament: the Passover sacrifice and the sin offering sacrifice of the Day of Atonement. The various aspects of Christ's death produced different results concerning how the Father and the Holy Spirit saw the sacrifice. It is essential for one to remember that death is accurately defined as separation and not the absence of life. Physical death involves the separation of soul and spirit from the physical body. Spiritual death involves separation of a person from God. In Genesis 2:17, God promised Adam the certainty that he would die if he disobeyed God and ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. "Then Jehovah Elohim proceeded to command unto Adam, saying, From every tree of the garden you may certainly eat; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you will not begin to eat from it; for in the day of your eating from it you will certainly die (Gen. 2:16, 17)." In the day that Adam ate of the tree, he died spiritually losing his garment of light and was separated from God. He began to die physically as a result. In order for Christ's sacrifice to be effective, it was necessary for Him to die in both of these areas. He was separated in His human nature from the other members of the Godhead for three hours. During the three hours of darkness, His separation is seen in His crying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani: that is to say, my God, my God, Why hast thou forsaken me (Matt. 27:46 cf. Mk. 15:34)." From 12:00 to 3:00 p. m. Roman time, the whole land of Palestine was in complete darkness. All activity stopped and moved into nighttime mode. It was during that time that Christ fulfilled Isaiah 53:11, 12. "He [Jehovah] will come to see the anguish [or sorrow] of his soul, and shall be satisfied; by his knowledge my Righteous Servant shall justify (lit. cause to be right] many; for He will vicariously bear their perversities. Therefore I will proceed to divide for Him a portion among the great ones, and he will proceed to divide the spoil with the mighty ones because that He caused His soul to be naked for death, and He was counted with transgressors, and He bore the sin [sing.] of many, and He made intercession [lit. caused to meet] for the transgressors." When Christ suffered within His soul, He was not yet physically dead. The Father saw His travail and was satisfied. Luke gives the most detailed account of the three hours brief though it may be. "And it was now about the sixth hour (12:00 noon], and darkness came over all the land until the ninth hour [3:00 p.m.] with the sun failing [or being defeated]; and the veil of the holy of holies was torn in the middle (Lu. 23:44, 45)." At the ninth hour, Jesus cried, "My God, my God, Why hast thou forsaken me (Mk. 15:34; Matt. 27:46 cf. Psa. 22:1)?" Then there is a clear indication of the resumption of fellowship between God the Father and the Holy Spirit with the Person of God the Son. "Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit (Lu. 23:46)." Then He said, "It is finished," and then He willingly gave up His spirit (Jn. 19:30). He had been separated from the Father for three hours as a spiritual substitute for mankind, dying the spiritual death that mankind deserved to die in Himself.

His physical death involved the necessity for the shedding of His blood. There are believers today who deny that the blood of Christ was of any value in itself, because the blood is simply indicative of a life that was taken because "the life is in the blood (cf. Gen. 9:4; Lev. 17:11, 14; Deut. 12:23)." Christ did not place his physical life on the altar in heaven but His physical blood. His physical death involved a three-day separation of soul and spirit from His physical body. Christ's resurrection confirms to human beings that His work was effective; and as a result, there is hope because of His resurrection (1 Cor. 15). That is why the resurrection is essential in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Without a resurrected Savior, there is no assurance that the benefits of His death are applied to the believer. The resurrection of Christ also confirms His deity. Scripture clearly identifies the resurrection as an essential part of the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1, 3, 4) in spite of what men may say. Paul was given trouble in his own ministry because he insisted that the resurrection of Christ was an essential part of the Gospel (2 Tim. 2:8-10). Christ's once-and-for-all entry into the heavenly Holy of Holies had been completed and the resurrection affirms its accomplishment.

The Father accepted Christ's death as a sweet-smelling savor. The Father was satisfied and pleased with the sacrifice of Christ. He was not angry nor did He direct His venom on Christ as He bore the sins of the world. "And be walking [i.e. ordering every detail of your life] in love, as also Christ loved you and freely gave Himself up in place of us an offering and a sacrifice to God for an odor of fragrance (Eph. 5:2)." When Christ was spiritually separated from the Father, He was a sweet-smelling sacrifice and not a non-sweet sacrifice. Christ freely gave Himself as a sacrifice. All three members of the Trinity participated in the death of Christ and His resurrection.

Christ is clearly identified with the Passover lamb. "Purge out the old leaven, in order that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed. So let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, not with the leaven of a lacking in character or malignant evil, but by the unleavened loaves of sincerity and truth (1 Cor. 5:7, 8)." Christ is the grace believer's Paschal Lamb. The whole context of 1 Corinthians five describes the spiritual life of the grace believer as being lived in light of the fact that Christ is his Substitute. The Christian has the opportunity to be living as though every day was the Passover because of the provision of Christ. Sin leavens the bread of the feast of Unleavened Bread that was a part of the Passover festival activities. Because Christ is the believer's Passover, he should be living every day righteously without the pollution of unrighteousness. The sacrifice of Christ provided more than a covering. Christ, the Passover, spiritually guarantees that the believer's sins are permanently forgiven and that he is secure. Christ fulfills the Passover perfectly. The only parallel between Christ and the Passover is that in both instances someone died for someone else.

Hebrews identifies Christ with the lamb of the sin offering on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). It is necessary to examine the Leviticus 16 requirements for the offering in order to understand Hebrews. Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu had offered strange fire before Jehovah and were burned to death by a strange fire fromJehovah (Lev. 10:1, 2; 16:1). Because of this, Jehovah put restraints on the high priest and priests concerning entry into the Holy of Holies. Prior to this time, entry had been permitted with some frequency throughout the year. God now permitted entry into the Holy of Holies one day each year and the high priest was permitted to enter twice on that day. He entered once for himself and once for the nation. After Aaron brought a young bullock for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, he put on his holy, priestly garments and washed his flesh (Lev. 16:3, 4). From the congregation of Israel, he took two kids of the goats for a sin offering and one ram for a burnt offering (16:5). Then he offered the bullock for himself and for his household (16:6). Then he took the two kid goats to the door of the tabernacle and selected by lot one for the Lord and one as a scapegoat (16:7, 8). The goat on which the lot fell as being the Lord's was offered as a sacrifice. The other goat was presented alone before Jehovah to be a scapegoat for a covering over [or atonement]. He had the sins of the nation placed upon his head and was released into the wilderness alive. Aaron entered into the veil of the Holy of Holies the first time when he entered for himself and his household. He took coals from the altar and made smoke with incense within the Holy of Holies producing a cloud of incense smoke that covered the mercy seat [or propitiatory] of the ark of the covenant (16:12, 13). Then he took the blood of his bullock and sprinkled it on the mercy seat and before the mercy seat seven times. He could identify the location of the mercy seat by the wings of the cherubim on the ark that extended above the heavy smoke. He entered the second time after he had killed the goat of the sin offering and entered the Holy of Holies with its blood for the people (16:15). He also made a covering [or atonement] for the holy place (16:16) and for the altar (16:18, 20). After he had made a covering for the holy place, the tabernacle and the altar (16:20), he brought the live goat laying both hands on its head confessing the perversities of the sons of Israel, all their transgressions and all their sins putting them on the head of the goat (16:20, 21). A fit man took the scapegoat out into the wilderness. In other words, the guilty goat was sent outside the camp while the innocent goat was slain as a sacrifice. After Aaron had entered into the Holy of Holies, he presented himself to the people.

Before Aaron could enter the Holy of Holies, he had to take the life of an animal. When he entered for himself, he slew a bullock and carried its blood into the Holy of Holies behind the veil. He took the blood of the goat in the second time. It was necessary to perform specific service at the brazen altar. "And Aaron shall cause the bullock of the sin offering that is for himself to be brought near, and he will make atonement [or cover over] on behalf of himself, and on behalf of his household, and he will slaughter the bullock of the sin offering that is for himself (Lev. 16:11)." After he went in for himself, blood was again shed at the altar. "And he will slaughter the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and he will bring its blood into the veil [lit. from the house of separation] ... (16:15)." A sacrifice was necessary in the outer court in order for the blood to be applied on the place of propitiation [or satisfaction]. Even so, Jesus Christ was slain in the outer court of the heavenly tabernacle so that His blood could be applied in the Holy of Holies in heaven. As He hung on the cross, only a small amount of blood was shed as He bled from the stripes of the judgment hall, the crown of thorns, the nails in His hands and feet as well as the blood spilled when the spear pierced His side. The blood He shed did not remain on the ground or in a burial shroud for it was taken up into the third heaven. He shed His own blood to deal with every aspect of unrighteousness. "How much more should the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot [or unblemished] to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God (Heb. 9:14)." Christ Himself was the sacrifice. "... But now once at the completion of the ages, He has been manifested for the annulling of the sin nature through the sacrifice of Himself (Heb. 9:26)." He was an offering. "So also Christ was offered once with the purpose of bearing the sins of many ... (Heb. 9:28)." When Christ was hanging between earth and heaven, He was slain as the Lamb of God fully bearing the sins of the world. Hebrews emphasizes the fact that Christ made only one offering and that offering was His body (Heb. 10:10). His shed blood gives the grace believer direct access into the holiest (Heb. 10:19). With the shedding of His blood, Christ established the beginning of the process for salvation and for keeping grace believers saved. Preparation for entrance into the Holy of Holies was necessary.

The Levitical high priest had to be cleansed. He was required to conceal the place of propitiation [the propitiatory] before -he entered. "And he will take a full censor of coals of fire from upon the altar from before the fire of Jehovah and hands full of incense of spices ground fine, and he will bring it within the veil (Lev. 16:12)." Christ's preparation met the requirements for entering the Holy of Holies. "Wherefore when entering into the world for Himself, He says, Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, but a body You provided [lit. thoroughly adjusted] for Me; You did not have a good opinion of burnt offerings and sacrifices for sins. Then I said: Behold, I come (in the volume of the book it stands written concerning Me) to do Your desirous will, O God (Heb. 10:5-7)." Christ's desirous will was in perfect conformity with the will of the Father when He entered into His cross work. He was the perfect sacrifice absolutely willing to accomplish the plan of the Godhead in His death and entry into the Holy of Holies. He did something that all of the Old Testament sacrifices could not do (Heb. 10:1, 2, 11). The Old Testament sacrifices were simply memorials to the sins of the Old Testament offerer (Heb. 10:3) while Christ's cross work took away all unrighteousness.

Christ entered into the Holy of Holies with His own blood. The Old Testament priest first took blood for himself and then for the people. "And he will take from the blood of the bullock and he will sprinkle it with his finger upon the face of the covering eastward; and before the face of the covering he will proceed to sprinkle seven times from the blood with his finger. And he will slaughter the goat of the sin offering that is for the people, and he will bring its blood into the veil, and he will do with its blood like that which he did to the blood of the bullock, and he will sprinkle it upon the propitiatory and before the propitiatory (Lev. 16:14, 15)." The blood was to be actually applied to the place of propitiation or satisfaction -- the propitiatory that is called the mercy seat in the Authorized Version.

The propitiatory was on the Ark of the Covenant between the two cherubim. Christ did not enter the Holy of Holies based upon the sacrifice of animals, but by His own sacrifice. "Neither through the blood of goats and calves, but through the instrumentality of His own blood, He entered once for all into the holies, having found eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12)." Christ offered only one sacrifice and that settled the issue permanently. No more sacrifices were needed concerning sin because His death dealt with every aspect of unrighteousness permanently. As the believer's substitute, He fulfilled every need for blood sacrifice and paid the whole penalty for every act of sin as well as all other unrighteousness. "Then He said: Behold, I am coming with the purpose of doing Your desirous will, O God. He is taking away the first, in order that He might make the second stand; by which desirous will we are the ones standing sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Heb. 10:9, 10)." When the Old Testament priests offered sacrifices, they may have offered the same sacrifices many times the same day or many times for the same individuals. No matter how many sacrifices were offered, they could not take away sins (Heb. 10:11). This was made clear on the Day of Atonement, because the scapegoat had the sins of the nation placed upon him and he was set free to wander in the wilderness for the rest of his life. Christ's sacrifice not only took away sins but also took them away permanently. "But this Man having offered one sacrifice on behalf of [or as a substitute for] sins, perpetually sat down at [lit. in] the right hand of God.... For by the one offering He has brought to completion perpetually the ones who are being sacrificed (Heb. 10:12, 14)." There is no longer any need for offerings for sin because of the sufficiency of the work of Christ, "But where forgiveness of these is, there is no longer offering concerning sins (Heb. 10:18)." The sacrifice of Christ was perfect. The God-man made provision for everything that was repugnant to God. His death in all its aspects was a perfect provision as He completed the cross work.

As the Lamb slain, He took His blood into the heavenly Holy of Holies and sprinkled the ark in heaven with it. His blood is in heaven. Some deny the possibility of blood ever being in heavenn because it is a physical substance. There are several physical things in the third heaven at this moment. Christ's glorified body is physical. It is a body of flesh and bone rather than flesh and blood. A heavenly ark of the covenant is there (Rev. 11:19). There will be blood in the New Jerusalem when it comes down from heaven identified as the "blood of sprinkling" that is the blood of the new covenant (Heb. 12:22-24). The New Jerusalem itself is a physical thing in heaven being prepared by Christ (Jn. 14:1-3).

Jesus Christ is seen in heaven as the Lamb that has been slain (Rev. 5:6) indicating that the presence of His blood was visible in some way or John would not have identified the Lamb as slain. When Christ comes from heaven in His second coming to earth, His garments will be dipped in blood (Rev. 19:13). John was looking into the heaven [sing.] when he saw Christ in this condition (cf. Rev. 19:11). Christ's blood was taken to heaven for several reasons. Scripture had prophesied that Christ would see no corruption or decay (Acts 13:35, 37 cf. Psa. 16:10). Peter clearly indicates that Christ's blood was incorruptible (1 Pe. 1:18, 19). It was blood that would not decay. If it had been left on earth, it would have been corrupted to some degree. It was taken to heaven to cleanse the heavenly holy place just as the high priest cleansed the earthly holy place with blood. He took His blood to heaven to extend the benefits of His physical death. Another reason He took His blood to heaven was so that He could give God the Father a tangible reason for forgiving or taking away sins. It was also needed so Christ's own humanity could enter the Holy of Holies in heaven. For the first time, humanity could enter the heavenly Holy of Holies. Christ took His blood and applied it in heaven. The earthly sacrifices could only gain momentary access to Jehovah in the earthly Holy of Holies once a year. The heavenly application of Christ's blood gives a permanent heavenly access for the grace believer to the whole Godhead in the third heaven itself.

Christ had applied His blood in heaven before His resurrection in one of His spiritual prior ascensions during the three days His body was in the tomb. His resurrection proved that the blood had been applied in an acceptable way on the heavenly altar. In the Old Testament, it was tremendously important for the high priest to return to the people indicating that the blood of the sacrifice had been acceptable to Jehovah. They made special provisions so the people could follow the progress of his sprinkling of the blood. "And you will make upon its [the high priest's garment] hem [lit. lip] pomegranates of blue and purple, and fine linen, and upon its hem [lit. lip] round about, and bells of gold in their midst round about: A bell of gold and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe round about. And it will be upon Aaron for ministering [in his priestly duties], and its sound [lit. voice] will be heard, when he goes in unto the holy place before Jehovah, and when he comes out and he will not die (Ex. 28:33-35)." The whole congregation could hear the bells as the high priest sprinkled the blood in the Holy of Holies. When the bells could be heard in the holy place as he came out, there was instantly relief for the people, because they knew that Jehovah had accepted the blood of the sacrifice and had not taken the high priest's life. Christ returned to His people and remained forty days after his resurrection to prove that the sacrifice had been accepted and had done the work necessary to provide the benefits that would accrue to grace believers. He provided an anticipation that results from His resurrection and ascension. Christians have a solid basis for anticipating Christ's soon return. "So also Christ having been offered once with the purpose of bearing the sins of many, He will appear a second time without sin to the ones who are anticipating Him for salvation (Heb. 9:28)." Christ's resurrection gives a ground for the blessed hope that when He returns to catch His Church to Himself in the air, there will be nothing that will prevent the Church from being presented to God the Father (1 Thess. 3:13). Christ is the perfect sacrifice and has perfectly applied His shed blood for all of the unrighteousness of the world. He died as the innocent Lamb of God undeserving of the punishment, yet He paid the penalty for the sins and all the rest of the unrighteousness of the world. As a result, the believer has a Heavenly Intercessor (Heb. 7:25; Rom. 8:34) and the Mediator of the new covenant (Heb. 9:15). He is now appearing in the presence of God for the believer (Heb. 9:24). His substitutionary work is continually being carried out as a result of His substitutionary sacrifice. His appearing before the Father is on the believer's behalf (huper) as a perfect substitute.

The Sacrifices by the Grace Believer. The grace believer does not offer physical sacrifices. Peter clearly identifies them as "spiritual sacrifices (1 Pe. 2:5)." Physical things may be involved but God counts all of the grace believer's sacrifices to be spiritual. When the believer presents his physical body to God, it is counted to be a spiritual sacrifice. No blood is shed and no life is taken, but God counts it a more effective sacrifice than all of the sacrifices of the Old Testament. The same is true for giving. Physical things or money may be given, but God counts it as a spiritual sacrifice. The physical activities of praise, doing good and fellowship are all beneficial to individual believers but are counted as spiritual sacrifices. God sees these as a spiritual part of the spiritual service of spiritual believers.

The believer's sacrifice is a sacrifice springing from appreciation that is similar to the motivation for the peace offerings of the Old Testament. As the believer appreciates what God has done for him, he offers the sacrifices as an expression of that appreciation in activity. When the Christian offers the sacrifice, it does not provide any benefits from God. God does not make a person more prosperous because he offers a sacrifice. The believer only benefits from the joy he receives from performing the sacrifice knowing that it is acceptable to God with no strings attached. Scripture does not teach that the sacrifices of the believer-priest bring any grace, nor do they purchase preferential treatment from God. They are given without the expectation of any benefits but with the anticipation of pleasing God and thereby making Him happy. It cannot be said often enough that only the spiritual believer can please God in this way. The heart response of the spiritual believer leads him to sacrifice knowing that the sacrifices are well pleasing to God. A spiritual believer can direct his love toward God through his sacrifices. A carnal believer can do the same activities expecting to receive a benefit from God, but God will never count the activity to be a sacrifice. Giving sacrifices is a privilege provided for spiritual believers.

The Place of Sacrifice. As has already been indicated, the heavenly tabernacle is the place where these spiritual sacrifices are offered. The earthly tabernacle or temple was tremendously limited in what could be done. Even the Solomonic brazen altar was not large enough to handle all the offerings on the day of dedication.

The Tabernacle and Temple. The "worldly sanctuary" was only a shadow of its antitype that was the heavenly tabernacle. In Hebrews nine, there is a description of the first tabernacle identifying its layout and furnishings (9:1-7). The Holy Spirit had not revealed the existence of the true heavenly tabernacle when the first tabernacle existed. "The Holy Spirit makes this evident, that the way to the holiest had not yet been brought to light, the first tabernacle still having a standing (Heb. 9:8)." Scripture uses several words to describe the relationship of the old tabernacle to the heavenly tabernacle. It was a parable, an example, a shadow and an antitype. Because of the resemblance of the earthly tabernacle to the heavenly tabernacle, Moses received specific detailed instructions for building the tabernacle. "Who [the high priest] is serving as a priest to an example [or model] and a shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to complete the tabernacle for, See, he is saying, you will make all things according to the pattern [or type] shown to you in the mountain (Heb. 8:5)." On Sinai God gave every detail of the tabernacle, its furnishings and its service to Moses. They were not given as a mere whim of Jehovah but with specific design and intent. They were an earthly reflection of what was a heavenly reality. Hebrews 8:5 uses two words to compare the earthly tabernacle with the heavenly. The first word is "example," (hupodeigma). It is derived from the verb (deiknumi) that means "to show." The noun literally has the idea of that which is shown under, giving it the meaning of a representation or an imitation of something else. In other words, it shows how something is, though on a reduced scale. It is undoubtedly like the architects scale model of a building that gives a visible representation of a structure that is not yet constructed. In this case, the heavenly tabernacle existed but was not visible to human beings on earth. The same word is used in Hebrews 9:23. "And according to the Law, nearly all things are cleansed by blood, and without the shedding of blood, there does not come forgiveness. It was necessary, therefore, for the model [or representation] of the things in the heavens to be cleansed by these, but the heavenly things themselves by better sacrifices than these (Heb. 9:22, 23)." The earthly tabernacle was a shadow of the heavenly tabernacle (Heb. 8:5). It was a visible representation of a different object. The image of a shadow is not a clear, accurate representation of the thing it represents. If a person sees a shadow of another individual that he had not seen for a period of time, it is highly unlikely that he would be able to identify that person by simply looking at his shadow. He would need to turn and see the person himself. The shadow gives a basic outline and, depending on the angle of the light source, a disproportionate representation of the actual object. This is true of the heavenly tabernacle. The court was the largest part of both the tabernacle and the temple. In the heavenly tabernacle, the court is the smallest part since it only includes the surface and atmosphere of the planet earth. The holy place is the second heaven -- the starry spaces. The very Holy of Holies is the third heaven where God the Father and God the Son presently have their residency. The shadow provided a measure of access for men who were spiritually separated from God. A shadow is not a clear image. It is disproportionate though it does give an outline of the structure so that it does have a likeness to the original.

The first tabernacle was also a "figure." "That was a parable [or figure] into the present time, down from which both gifts and sacrifices are being offered not having ability concerning conscience to bring the one who is serving as priest to maturity (Heb. 9:9)." It is clearly identified as a parable or a figure of another tabernacle. A parable is something thrown or placed alongside another thing for a comparison, there being a certain resemblance between the two. The tabernacle was laid alongside the tabernacle in heaven in that it was set up in the court of the heavenly tabernacle and provided a miniature basis for comparison.

"For Christ has not entered into holy places that are handmade which are antitypes of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf (Heb. 9:24)." An antitype is that which a type represents -- the original. Only those things that are called types in Scripture should be identified as types. A type is a copy of the archetype standing in place of the real thing. Some translate the term as "copy." The heavenly tabernacle is the real thing, while the type is the earthly tabernacle that was a corresponding representation [an antitype]. As a result, the Old Testament tabernacle presented a primitive representation of the true heavenly tabernacle in several ways.

The magnitude of the heavenly tabernacle is reflected in its description in Hebrews 9:11. "But Christ having appeared for Himself a high priest of good things having come through the instrumentality of the greater and more perfect tabernacle [or tent] not made by hand, this one is not of this creation." The heavenly tabernacle is far greater when compared with the earthly not only in size but also in service. It is superior in the accessibility that it makes possible. The heavenly tabernacle is more complete or perfect. The earthly tabernacle only met a part of the standards while the heavenly perfectly meets all the divine standards. It is a tabernacle that is not of this creation. The heavenly Holy of Holies always existed. God always dwelt there. Wherever the Godhead chose to reside, the Holy of Holies was there because the Persons of the Godhead were there. The Holy of Holies involves Persons more than it does place. The presence of the Persons of the Godhead made the place holy. Before the creation of the universe, the Holy of Holies existed. The most important part and the very reason for the whole tabernacle always existed because God has always existed. He is eternal. With the creation of the universe, the holy place and the courtyard came into existence. The superiority of the heavenly tabernacle exceeds the best service of the earthly tabernacle. The grace believer has actual access to the Holy of Holies in heaven. God came to earth and communed with Adam before the fall. For the first time, man has had direct access to the third heaven. What a privilege it is to have this access.

Hebrews uses several descriptions of the heavenly tabernacle. It is heavenly in character in contrast to being earthly (9:1). It has a Holy of Holies into which Christ took His own blood (9:12). The grace believer has access to the Holy of Holies. "Therefore, brothers, possessing confidence [or boldness] for the entering of the Holy of Holies by the blood of Jesus (Heb. 10:19)." The heavenly tabernacle has a veil through which there is access. "Which He dedicated for us, a new [lit. recently slain] and living way through the veil, that is His flesh (Heb. 10:20)." When the veil was rent in two in the Herodian temple (Matt. 27:51; Lu. 23:45) with the death of Christ, nothing on earth separated man from God on earth. The only access to heaven was through Christ and His flesh. There is also an altar in heaven (Heb. 13:10). As a result of the work of Christ, the heavenly tabernacle was cleansed and a better sacrifice was offered once and for all. Sacrifices of appreciation are acceptable from the grace believer as they are offered through Christ upon the heavenly altar.

The Altar. In a sense, there is a place within a place for offering sacrifices. The heavenly altar is in the heavenly Holy of Holies. Grace believers offer sacrifices on the heavenly altar. Christ offered Himself on the brazen altar as the believer's substitute. Christians have an altar in the very presence of God. "We have an altar [or place of sacrifice] out of which the ones serving as priests for the tabernacle do not have authority to eat. For the blood of which animals is brought in concerning sins into the Holy of Holies through the high priest, of these, the carcasses [or bodies] are burned outside the camp. Wherefore Jesus, also, in order that He might sanctify [or set apart] the people through His own blood suffered outside the gate. So let us be going out toward Him outside the camp bearing His reproach (Heb. 13:10-13)." The altar for the believer-priest is outside of the camp where Christ is. Christ is now seated at the right hand of God the Father and the offerings of the believer-priest are offered here on earth while God counts them as having been offered on the altar in the third heaven. Through Christ, one makes the sacrifice (Heb. 13:15). Only the spiritual believer has the opportunity to have his sacrifices counted adequate through Christ. The heavenly altar is never overloaded with sacrifices, for the infinite God of the altar can receive an infinite number of sacrifices at one time. If a hypothetical church full of spiritual believers offers sacrifices of praise at the altar at the same time, God accepts each sacrifice at that moment in addition to every other individual sacrifice offered anywhere in the world at the same time. If the spiritual believer's motives are right, God gladly accepts every sacrifice he offers. It is impossible to provide too much pleasure to God who possesses the attribute of goodness by which He maintains His own happiness and that of others, especially that of His children. The grace believer has a heavenly temple and a heavenly altar on which to offer his sacrifices. When the grace believer brings his sacrifices, they are considered to be better sacrifices (Heb. 9:23). A survey of the procedure for offering the sacrifices is very helpful.

The Procedure for Sacrifice. one of the beauties of the procedure for the Christian's sacrificing is its simplicity. Every Christian has the potential for offering sacrifices. A young child who is a believer can very easily learn how to offer the sacrifices. Every new Christian should learn how to offer sacrifices soon after he is saved. Intelligent and unintelligent Christians can all learn how to sacrifice. Every Christian can be offering the sacrifices. Exactly how are they offered?

Know What the Sacrifices Are. If a believer does not know what the sacrifices are, he will never have the ability to enjoy them. Scripture gives extensive information concerning each of the six sacrifices of the believer-priest. Many Christians are performing activities that are identical with those of the sacrifices. In some instances, God may count them to be the sacrifices of a spiritual believer, but they are never the full blessing they might be because of a believer's ignorance. In other instances, the activities are repugnant to God because they are activities done in the flesh. One must know what the sacrifices are and how they become sacrifices from God's perspective. Every Christian needs to be taught the practical doctrine of the sacrifices. One of the great frustrations of human life is taking a new job and receiving no instructions concerning how the job is to be done and what company procedures are. The same frustration can exist in the Christian's life when he hears that he should be offering sacrifices to God. The sacrifices are a part of the ABC's that every believer should be able to teach others (Heb. 5:12). Later chapters will specifically identify the sacrifices of the believer-priest.

Know the Reality of Direct Access. Because of the work of Christ, every Christian has direct access to God through Christ. Many believers feel it is necessary for a pastor, a teacher or a stronger Christian to intervene for them. As has been seen, the Christian has direct access into the Holy of Holies. God the Father sees him in Christ seated at His right hand (Eph. 2:6 cf. 1:20; Heb. 10:12) and just as near to Him as Christ is (Eph. 2:13). There is access stretching into the very center of the Holy of Holies (Heb. 10:19) by a new and living way (Heb. 10:20). "Let us approach [lit. come before] with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts having been sprinkled from an evil conscience and the body having been washed in clean water (Heb. 10:22)." God encourages every saint to know that he has direct access and to utilize the access in sacrifice as well as other areas of Christian living. There is no earthly mediator standing between the believer and his God. An Israelite had several barriers concerning his access to God. The sacrifices for unrighteousness only provided a covering for sin. The individual priest and then the high priest stood between the Israelite and Jehovah. The high priest only had access for a short part of a single day each year. In a sense, the Israelite really did not have any access to Jehovah. The priests communicated for him and offered his sacrifices. There was always some intermediary unless the person was the high priest for whom the sacrifices were the only means of mediation. Christian hearts should be filled with appreciation for the accessibility potentially available to grace believers. When the sacrifice is offered, it is presented before God the Father directly through Jesus Christ when offered by the spiritual believer. Positionally, the believer is qualified to offer the sacrifices directly to God. If he is not living in his position in Christ, it is impossible for him to enjoy the privilege of direct access. In Christ, he is a priest but he must be exercising the priesthood as a spiritual believer. He must learn how to live the spiritual life.

Learn the Spiritual Life. How is the believer spiritual? The most common and erroneous formula for spirituality is for the believer to read the Bible, pray, witness and confess sins every day and he is automatically spiritual all the time. The saddest part of such a program is that Scripture does not teach such a process. A diversity of passages taken out of context is used to establish the system. Anyone can read the Bible. Secular colleges offer courses on the Bible as literature and unbelievers are required to read sections of the Bible. The Bible is a source of information but until the Christian has been illumined and puts the teaching of Scripture for the grace believers into practice in his life, it is impossible for the believer to benefit from reading the Bible every day. An unbeliever can understand the Bible just as well as the carnal believer except for the fact that the carnal believer may have a better reservoir of background information. Many people who read the Bible every day have never been filled by the Spirit since starting such a regimen. The only communication God hears from a carnal believer is confession of sin. All other praying is rhetoric that reverberates off the walls with no Divine response. One must be spiritual for his prayers to be heard. When a believer is living in his position in Christ, the Father listens and responds to the communication that He considers to be coming from His own right hand. Without the filling of the Spirit (Eph. 5:18), the witness of the Christian will be ineffective. Simple confession of sin (1 Jn. 1:9) is not enough to make the believer spiritual. After confession, it is necessary for the believer to determine to be spiritual and to set his reflective thinking on things above (Col. 3:1-4). As a result, the Spirit will produce His fruit in the life of the Christian. As the believer matures, he learns to direct the fruit of the Spirit properly.

Once the believer is spiritual, it is necessary to know how to defeat his spiritual enemies [the world, the flesh, and the devil] that attempt to make the believer carnal again. He must know how each enemy approaches and how to defend against each distinct enemy. The world system will attempt to make the believer misdirect the fruit of the Spirit. It appeals to the spiritual believer, attempting to cause him to misdirect his love (agape). The spiritual Christian only needs to stop loving the world system in order to gain the victory (1 Jn. 2:15, 16 Gk.). The flesh is an appetite within the believer that takes good things that God has given and abuses them. In Christ, the believer died to the flesh and was raised thereby having the potential to defeat its appetite by appropriation of the believer's position in Christ (Rom, 6). Satan is an external enemy who attacks the believer with his own peculiar lusts. The spiritual believer simply puts on the armor of God to defeat Satan and his demons (Eph. 6:10-18). The Christian must know the normal progression of the approaches of each enemy: lust temptation -- sin (Jas. 1:14, 15). Only spiritual believers can offer spiritual sacrifices. Hence, an accurate knowledge of the principles for grace Christian living is absolutely necessary for the believer to exercise his priestly function. Once the Christian is spiritual and armed with the facts concerning the sacrifices, he must be alert to the opportunities to offer them.

Be Alert to the Opportunity to Offer Sacrifices. When the believer knows what the sacrifices are, he can be alert for the opportunities to offer them. When he learns that biblical praise is a sacrifice (Heb. 13:15), he is able to be looking for opportunities to offer praise to God. As he understands that praise normally follows thanksgiving, he can see that as a spiritual believer, he is to be thankful in everything (1 Thess. 5:18), for all things and at all times (Eph. 5:20) and for all men (1 Tim. 2:1). What a wide spectrum of opportunities for praise exists as a result of thanksgiving. Every day there are opportunities to be doing things that make other believers happy. There are frequent opportunities to give something to another person to the glory of God. When the Christian learns how to direct his faith, there are a multitude of opportunities for offering the sacrifice. Every hour of every day is filled with opportunities for offering the sacrifices. Many Christians miss many opportunities every day because they are not looking for the opportunities.

The New Testament demands no elaborate procedures. There is no need to go to a specific geographical location to offer the sacrifice. As opportunity arises, sacrifices can be given while driving the car, walking on the sidewalk, milking the cows, working at the office desk, studying at school, washing the dishes and even while jogging. Without geographical limitations, the sacrifices can be freely given at any place and at any time. The sacrifices of faith and praise can be given in the middle of the night when the spiritual believer is awake and thinking about life and its circumstances. Opportunities may come at any time and in any place. All that is necessary is an awareness of the opportunities by the believer. "Let us offer up the sacrifice of ... (Heb. 13:15)."

Be Involved in Offering Sacrifices. Spiritual sacrifices are not conspicuous sacrifices. Every time an Israelite brought a sacrifice it was a conspicuous event. As he led the animal to be sacrificed down the street, he was a public spectacle. Human nature only thinks the worst. One can imagine the reaction of the people who saw him lead a ram down the street on his way to the temple. They would know that he was going to offer a trespass offering because that was the only offering that required a ram. They could only guess what the sinful activity was that demanded a ram. "What did you do this time?" "Isn't this the second time this week?" "You'll go broke from all these offerings!" "Same old sin?" "I'll meet you there with my ram as soon as I borrow the money." One can imagine what went on in the minds of the people and the activity of the gossips every time a man went by with a ram. Even a female goat would stir up questions, since it was possible to offer it for either peace offerings or for a sin offering. An Old Testament saint could not afford to be embarrassed at offering sacrifices. The New Testament believer's sacrifice is not a public spectacle. It involves spiritual activity that may be visible in external manifestations that are commendable and generally not embarrassing. Even the most timid believer can offer the spiritual sacrifices to God. They should become a normal part of the saint's activity.

The more involved the believer is with the sacrifices, the better he can see the opportunities for offering them. In a sense, practice makes perfect, but in reality God looks at the heart of the individual. Because of this, if the believer makes mistakes with the sacrifice, God still accepts the sacrifice with pleasure. When the believer gets the sacrifice habit, it is one of the easiest aspects of his Christian life. He may feel like an Israelite chasing a goat around the temple plaza, but he should not be discouraged. By faith, he believes God. He sees his sacrifice is acceptable because God has promised to accept the sacrifices of spiritual believers. If the believer knows that he is spiritual [and he should know], it gives him the confidence to be offering up the sacrifices to the glory of God.

Sacrifices for the believer-priest do not normally take great periods of time. Praise, faith, giving and physical body sacrifices only involve short periods of time. Fellowship and doing good may take more time but not much in comparison to the sacrifices under the Law. Most Israelites lived a great distance from the tabernacle or temple. After rounding up an animal or selling an animal, a journey was necessary to get to the place of sacrifice. Then it was necessary to get in line at the temple and to wait one's turn. The sacrificial procedure itself took time. Then the Israelite had to journey home. If he lived in Jerusalem, it probably took a half a day to sacrifice. If he lived a distance away, it could take several days to offer a sacrifice. Sacrificing was not a matter that was convenient. The grace believer can offer the sacrifice of praise at any moment, in a moment, in his mind and with his voice. Because of this, the believer can offer sacrifices pleasing to God multiplied times more than the Israelite could under Law.

Most of the sacrifices for the grace believer cost him very little. The major expense comes in the privilege of giving. The only cost of the other sacrifices is a little time and reflection. When the Israelite brought an animal, it was expensive. If he raised the animal, it was a part of his living. If he paid for the animal, it was a big expense. Even two turtledoves were a major expense to the poor Israelite. Every animal had its own value whether an ox, goat, lamb, bullock, sheep, turtledove or young pigeon. The meal or the drink offerings also involved expenditure. God, by His grace, established a sacrificial system that does not require a great expense to offer sacrifices for the Christian. As the Spirit of God leads the cheerful believer, expensive sacrifices of giving may be made. When he is a spiritual believer, the Christian will offer them with joy in his heart. Nothing should prohibit the grace believer from offering sacrifices.

The Purpose of Sacrifice. if the Christian is directing his love toward God, he desires to please God. There is no better way for a spiritual believer to please God than to offer spiritual sacrifices. Another purpose for the sacrifices is to bring glory to God through his activity. When a sacrifice is made and witnessed by human beings or spirit beings, it brings glory to God. A later chapter will specifically discuss the ways the sacrifices of the believer-priest affect God.

The Contrast Between Sacrificial Systems. The sacrificial system of the Mosaic Law stands in direct contrast to the sacrificial system of the Dispensation of Grace. Many illustrations have been presented concerning these contrasting systems. There are just a few things that are common between the two. Both sets of sacrifices are brought to God who in turn counts the thing offered to be an acceptable or rejectable sacrifice. The sacrifice of Christ fulfilled the non-sweet sacrifice requirements and much more for the grace believer. By His cross work, Christ became the believers Passover sacrifice and Day of Atonement offering. He dealt with all aspects of unrighteousness including sin. By His blood, He keeps on cleansing the Christian from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9). In His death, He made provision for the sin nature, Adamic sin guilt and the acts of sin of mankind. When the benefits of Christ's cross work are applied to the believer at salvation, he has a new status and relationship with God. God the Father sees him in Christ as a member of a spiritual priesthood with the potential for offering totally different types of sacrifices. The whole sacrificial system for the believer-priest is completely changed from that of the Aaronic priests under the Law. He offers spiritual sacrifices rather than physical sacrifices (1 Pe. 2:5). There is no longer need to go to a specific place to give the sacrifice because the grace believer's sacrifice can be offered on the altar in heaven from any place on earth. The sacrifices of the New Testament believer are given as a privilege rather than as a necessity mandated by Law. Only spiritual believers can offer grace sacrifices while both believers and unbelievers offered sacrifices in the Old Testament. Both sets of sacrifices were pleasing to God when offered in a proper way. The following chart summarizes the distinctions between those sacrifices required in the Mosaic Law and those sacrifices available for the grace believer.


SACRIFICES CHART


Sacrifices of the Mosaic Law            Sacrifices of the Grace Believer   
 1. Physical Sacrifices                  1. Spiritual Sacrifices
 2. In Earthly Tabernacle or             2. In Heavenly Tabernacle or
    Temple                                  Temple
 3. On a Physical Earthly Altar          3. On a Spiritual Heavenly Altar
 4. In a Specific Location               4. From Any Location
 5. At Limited Times                     5. At Any Time
 6. Mediated Through                     6. Directly Through 
    Priesthood                              Through High Priest
 7. Sweet and Non-Sweet Sacrifices       7. Sweet Sacrifices
 8. By Commandment                       8. As a Privilege
 9. By Believers and Unbelievers         9. By Spiritual Believers Only
10. Anticipated Physical                10. Anticipates God Being
     Blessing in Time to Result              Glorified and Pleased
11. Ceremonial Cleansing Necessary      11. Christ's Cleansing Applied
12. Human High Priest                   12. Heavenly High Priest
13. Aaronic Priesthood                  13. Melchisedecian Priesthood
14. Levitical Priests                   14. Kingly Priests
15. Required and Voluntary              15. Only Voluntary
16. Presented in Court of Temple        16. Presented from the Right Hand 
                                            of God                         

These contrasts provide a clear picture of the uniqueness of the privilege of the grace believer in offering sacrifices. No Israelite could even imagine that anyone would have such unique privileges as the grace believer has. That which was considered impossible under the Law becomes a common activity for the grace believer. Without a doubt, the spiritual realm is far more important than the physical realm. It is essential for the Christian to realize the uniqueness of the privilege. Sacrificing is a very serious business and not to be approached lightly. God will not strike the believer dead because of his frivolous attitude in offering activities that could be sacrifices. He just does not count them to be sacrifices. Some Christians like to advertise any Christian activity they do to impress others with their spirituality. They perform activities that could be sacrifices and say, "Look at me, I'm offering a sacrifice to God!" As a result, the activity of the sacrifices becomes a law unto itself demonstrating one's personal righteousness to men rather than exhibiting the righteousness of God. A sincere, silent offering of a sacrifice to God may not be impressive to men; but when offered by the spiritual Christian, it is counted to be an acceptable, well pleasing sacrifice by God. O that the Church of Jesus Christ would learn how to offer proper sacrifices to God today.

Scripture gives clear descriptions of each of the sacrifices of the believer-priest. Each of the six activities that God counts as a sacrifice must be considered in order for the believer to understand what they are. Scripture identifies these activities by the word "sacrifice" (thusia). Some would add other activities to the list of sacrifices. Scripture only calls six activities sacrifices. The primary sacrifice is the one that needs to be considered first -- the sacrifice of the physical body. "Let us offer the sacrifice of ... (Heb. 13:15)."


Chapter 3: The Sacrifice of the Physical Body
Romans 12:1, 2

One of the first passages of Scripture that introduces the new believer to priesthood concepts is Romans 12:1, 2. When Christians seem to need confrontation in matters of "surrender" or "dedication" because of their carnality, this passage is presented as the answer to the problem. Unfortunately, the New Testament provisions for being victorious over the sin nature are frequently ignored because of Romans 12:1, 2. It is considered to be an instant solution for a wide spectrum of spiritual problems. Interestingly enough, the verse is strictly speaking of the giving of the physical body as a living sacrifice to God, not the sin nature. Paul has already dealt with the problem of the believer's sin nature in Romans six and seven. There is no clear reference to the believer's dealing with his sin nature in Romans 12:1, 2. Paul simply deals with the logical activity of the believer in light of Christ's work and its results concerning the physical body and the believer's involvement in the legal age. What a joy it is for the new believer, and even the believer who has been saved for a period of time, to grasp the simplicity and uniqueness of the passage. When the work of Christ is applied to what a believer is to do with his body, the beauty of God's provision becomes clear.

The sacrifice of the physical body is the primary sacrifice of the New Testament believer-priest. It is possible to offer the other sacrifices without offering this sacrifice, but the full appreciation of the reason for making them is not completely understood if this sacrifice has not been offered. An accurate understanding of Romans 12:1, 2 will give the believer a proper motivation for every other sacrifice. Giving sacrifices to God is perfectly logical. Christ's cross work provides a basis for the believer's sacrificing. The logical result is that the sacrifice of the physical body makes perfect sense to both the believer and to his God. If one is a priest, it is only logical for a priest to perform priestly duties as prescribed in Scripture. Unfortunately, many believers have been deprived of the joys and satisfaction of living as believer-priests because they have not offered this single sacrifice to God. A reluctance in giving the body as a sacrifice frequently is the basis for reluctance in most other areas of Christian activity. This sacrifice is not an abnormal activity. It is not limited to a few "dedicated" servants of God. It is for every Christian to offer.

Paul's Exhortation to Believers

"I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God ..." The importance of the sacrifice is based on the character of God as is evidenced in His gracious provision as illustrated in His treatment and provision for Israel as a nation. In Romans nine through eleven, Paul has used Israel as an illustration of the righteousness of God in His dealing with the nation. As Paul has just considered Israel and her condition, he immediately is drawn to the contrasting provisions that God has made for the grace believer. He draws himself alongside the reader encouraging him to have a positive response to the tender compassions of God. It Is important to notice that neither the word "mercy" nor the word "grace" is used in this description of the benefits from God. Even though the Authorized Version translates the five occurrences of the word (oiktirmos) "mercy," it is a bad translation having nothing to do with the Greek term for mercy normally used in the New Testament. True mercy is directed toward those who are suffering the results of sin. The concept here is that of tender compassion in response to those who need to be pitied. God the Father is the "Father of compassions (2 Cor. 1:3)." The direction of God's compassion is sovereignly determined. Already Paul has reminded the Romans that God will have compassion on whom He will have compassion (Rom. 9:15). The compassion of God is exhibited toward the grace believer in the fact that God has graciously given the Christian all the provisions for life and godliness. Since the work of Christ has provided victory for the believer over all of his spiritual enemies, there should be a logical response to these gracious provisions.

Paul's strong encouragement is emphasized by his use of "beseech," (parakaleo). He calls the Romans to his side to encourage or exhort them to positive action on their part because there is a need for positive change in their lives. Evidently, they had not done that which was most logical for every believer to do. Even though it makes perfect sense for the believer to present his body as a sacrifice, the Roman believers had not offered this sacrifice. Hence, Paul is drawn to them by his own personal concern. He moves to exhort them compassionately to do what is considered normal. He confronts them as brothers, continually encouraging them to perform their priestly duty.

The basis for Paul's appeal is the tender compassions. These are found in the realm of one's emotions. God's feelings toward grace believers are different than they are toward unbelievers or were to Israel (Rom. 9-11). While the emotional sensations of God toward the believer exist within His character, they are only manifested in His helpful activity toward the recipients. Compassions are manifested in behavior that is clearly visible to the Christian. They are the basis for all elements of the Christian life. On a human level, true compassion is projected into compassionate activity that in turn assures the recipient of the reality of the compassion for the believer. What one does is a mirror of his true feelings. All of the provisions of grace are evidence of God's true compassion toward the believer. Christ's work on the cross provided every blessing and benefit possible for the Christian. Paul's appeal is rooted in the tender compassions and their outworking as revealed in the preceding chapters of Romans. God's compassion is manifested in justification by which He declares the believer righteous giving him a quality of Divine righteousness (Rom. 3:25, 26; 4:6). As a result of justification, the believer has peace with God (Rom. 5:1) that is an evident result of God's tender compassion. Other evidences of God's compassion in Romans include the potential to walk in newness of life (6:4), victory over the sin nature (6:4-13), no condemnation in Christ (8:1), freedom from the law of sin and death (8:2), the indwelling of Christ (8:10), joint-heirs with Christ (8:17), an indwelling Intercessor (8:26) and security in the love of Christ (8:35-39). Because of the new relationship, a believing human being has with God, why shouldn't the believer give God his body as a sacrifice?

The Presentation of the Physical Body as a Sacrifice

Are Christians "Indian Givers"? Is this sacrifice retrievable after it has been given? Would it be possible for an Israelite to bring an animal sacrifice to a Levitical priest for a burnt offering and to retrieve the remains so that he could bring them again for a later sacrifice? It is inconceivable! The sacrifice was once for all within the ritualistic guidelines of the Mosaic Law. When a sacrifice was brought, in some instances, it was possible for the person who brought the sacrifice to receive a portion of the carcass of the animal for food for his own family. The problem was that the meat was not prepared by a French chef but a priest who wasn't interested in the tenderness and flavor of the meat. This was only true in limited instances. Other portions of the sacrifice were for the priests and their families. Once the sacrifice was brought, slaughtered and sacrificed, there was no possible way for the sacrifice to be repeated without bringing another animal and offering. It is a separate, distinct sacrifice. A sacrificed animal could not be sacrificed a second time. It was a single event that was completed with the actual sacrifice. One animal was accepted for a single sacrifice. In the same way, the sacrifices of the believer-priest are individual and seen as completed actions even though in some instances a series of sacrifices may be offered for the same thing (example: praise). When the believer offers his body as a sacrifice, it is not retrievable. It cannot be offered again.

The physical body is the sacrifice. Where is the believer going to get more than one physical body to offer as a sacrifice? He has only one body. Can he retrieve the body that he offered as a sacrifice? No! It is a legitimate sacrifice or it was no sacrifice at all! While the logic surrounding the whole concept of sacrifice supports a one-time sacrifice, the form of the Greek verb also indicates that the presentation is a once-for-all situation that occurs at a single point in time [aorist tense].

All standard Greek grammarians see the aorist tense as punctiliar [or point] in its action. The verb "present," (paristemi) is in the aorist in Romans 12:1. Paul comes alongside the Roman reader encouraging him to respond by presenting his body a sacrifice. At this point, "to present" is the purpose for Paul's beseeching [a purpose infinitive]. He expects the reader to present his body as a living sacrifice once-for-all at a point in time. There is no concept of rededication or surrender in this verse, just the concept of freely giving a sacrifice with no strings attached. Why should anyone pervert Greek grammar to make this verse fit some preconceived notion?

A study of the verb translated "present" will produce some beneficial material for understanding the whole concept. In its 39 occurrences in the New Testament, the Authorized Version translates the verb in a wide diversity of ways. The dominant translations are: "stand by" [12 times], "present" [8 times) and "yield" [3 times]. It is a composite verb that compounds the preposition "alongside," (para) with the verb "to stand," (histemi) simply meaning "to stand alongside." In the New Testament, it is used in its simple form. "Yield" and "present" relate to the root idea in that one stands alongside with the objective of giving something to another person. Paul uses this limited concept here assuming that the Romans understand some critical areas of Bible doctrine. He assumes that they know that God has the right to receive the sacrifice. He assumes that they understand their individual responsibility as believers.

Paul drives home the importance of the presentation of a sacrifice by using this specific verb. He has already used the verb in Romans 6:13 and 19 where he describes the potential for their having victory over the appetites of the sin nature. He expected them to know their position [i.e. location] in Christ's death and resurrection (6:3-10). God the Father imputed the work of Christ to them to the extent that from His perspective, when Christ died, they died; and when He rose from the dead, they were raised from the dead. Christ's death made complete provision for victory over the sin nature. After the Roman believers knew these facts, Paul encouraged them to reckon the facts to be true or to count them to be true (Rom. 6:11). They are positionally dead to the sin nature but alive unto God in Jesus Christ. Because of what they know and reckon, they can yield themselves and their members to God (6:13). It makes perfect sense for the believer to know and to reckon that he has victory in Christ over his sin nature. The work of Christ is sufficient for victory if it is appropriated. The yielding or presenting of Romans six has the idea of remitting something that has been purchased. The work of Christ has paid the price and the believer is logically to give Him that which He has purchased. The same concept is carried to Romans twelve.

When an individual gives another person something and then takes it back, it is abhorrent. What a breach of faith! In Romans twelve, there is even a greater problem because once the sacrifice is given; it can never be taken back. It is irreversible, irrevocable and permanent. No man has the ability to take anything from God that belongs to Him. To believe that this is possible is blasphemy. God's grace is not manifested in His returning things given to Him.

There are some assumptions that must be made at this point. One must assume that the giver has possession of the property and the right to give it. The one who receives the sacrifice must desire to have it given and a willingness to accept it. The sacrifice itself must have characteristics that make it appropriate and acceptable to the receiver. In other words, you can't give away something nobody wants. Because of the work of Christ, the body of the believer is something that God desires and will accept as a proper sacrifice. Since God encourages the believer to present his body as a sacrifice, he must understand its basis from the text. The believer's body is not his own to give. He only possesses something that was purchased by Christ in His cross work. In this sacrifice, the believer simply gives or presents that which has already been purchased to its rightful owner as a sacrifice.

Imagine buying a new automobile and having the dealer refuse to give you the keys after you have paid for it. Imagine paying for a new suit and having the clerk refuse to give you the suit. Imagine paying for groceries and having the checker take your money and keep the groceries in the check stand. It would never happen! All reason dictates against such behavior. The purchaser paid the price for the merchandise and thus became its owner. It is the most logical progression in the world: seller - buyer - sale - possession. Undoubtedly, that is the reason that Paul calls the presentation of the body as a sacrifice to be a reasonable [or logical] service. It is illogical for the believer not to give his body as a living sacrifice to God.

When the believer gives the sacrifice of his body, he is simply giving God that which is rightfully His by purchase. The verb "present" involves ownership on the part of the recipient. The believer's body is the temple, (naos i.e. Holy of Holies) of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). The believer has been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:20). Without the sacrifice of the physical body, it is impossible for Christ to be magnified in the body (Phil. 1:20).

Christ purchased the believer's body through His cross work. The believer must recognize the fact, and then see the logic for giving the body to its rightful owner as an acceptable sacrifice. When the sacrifice is presented, the body is given to its Purchaser once-for-all. Though the sacrifice is a single act, it is an important part of the believer's priestly service.

What if a believer, who has given his body in this sacrifice, becomes carnal and abuses the body by the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21)? Didn't he take the sacrifice back? No! If the verb form of "present" means what it normally means in the Greek New Testament, it is impossible. A proud young father may give his 18month-old first son an electric train set for Christmas. He takes possession of it for his own pleasure. If dad does not break it first, the child will ultimately receive it when he is old enough to play with it. People laugh at young parents that do such things in the physical realm. Similarly, some children will buy presents for parents that will be for the child's personal benefit. A young man may give his father specific tools for Christmas so that the youthful backyard mechanic can use them on his own car. How many children have given their mothers candy as a gift making certain that they have chosen their own favorite flavor anticipating her sharing the gift with them. The purchase seems to do double duty -- meeting the need for a gift and satisfying the need of the child. While the gifts belong to their designated owner, the giver frequently has use of them. Human beings often use that which belongs to someone else. Some will abuse an item borrowed, while others exercise extreme care to see that it is returned to its owner in its original condition. This is true in the spiritual realm as well. Which is worse, abusing something that belongs to you by repossession or abusing something that belongs to another.? Most will agree that the second is worse and creates more guilt for most individuals who understand what they are doing.

When Paul wrote to the Romans, he refused to permit them to think that they could reclaim that which they had been given. There are no "Indian givers" in the New Testament sacrifices. There is no such thing as a rededication of the physical body. Paul exhorts the Romans to recognize the rightful owner and to treat that property as belonging to God rather than to oneself. What if the believer abuses the sacrificed body? When this happens, the sin nature (cf. Rom. 6) with its appetites controls the body of the believer. When the lusts from the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21) influence the believer, they can easily become actions that will directly affect the body. Sexual lusts lead the believer to sin that can definitely affect the body. A believer, whose body is infected with venereal disease, has abused the purchased possession of God. Unhealthy diet for religious reasons, non-biblical fasting, flagellation, religious use of drugs, refusal of medical treatment, and such things all directly affect the body and its well-being. It is amazing how many believers abuse their bodies by their zeal. Zeal is a work of the flesh translated "jealousy" in the Authorized Version. In Galatians 5:20, the list of the works of the flesh, it is translated "emulations." The carnal Christian manifesting zeal will lose sleep, have unhealthy eating habits and endanger his physical health because of his driving zeal. The modern church has made a great effort to make zeal honorable in every instance even though it is included in the New Testament as a work of the flesh. Hatred, strife and anger all provide basis for bodily harm. The resulting right hook to the jaw does do some damage to the body. One of the most obvious abuses of the sacrifice of the body is drunkenness. Habitual drunkenness brings disease and death to the body. The internal damage is great while the potentials of external abuse from drunken carousing and driving also affect the body. The carnal believer, who has given his body a living sacrifice, is guilty of abusing God's property -- not his own.

If the believer is carnal, he must appropriate the New Testament provisions for dealing with the sin nature. He must confess his sins (1 Jn. 1:9) and set his reflective thinking on things above (Col. 3:2). A part of the things that are above is the fact that God the Father sees the believer as dead to the sin nature and alive to God (Rom. 6). The whole procedure is a mental process between the Christian and his God. Since the believer has given his body a living sacrifice, he is stimulated to live in the realm of the new nature rather than the sin nature so the body that belongs to God can no longer be abused. Christ paid the price so that the body could emanate the things of the Spirit ["spiritual"] in this life. Hence, it is absolutely illogical for it to be emanating things of the flesh [i.e. "carnal"].

The Characteristics of the Sacrifice

God expects certain characteristics to be evident in the body that is presented as a sacrifice. It is to be living. It is to be holy. It is to be acceptable to God. Some Christians have believed that the physical body is evil, and hence, could not meet the last two criteria. God does not ask that which is impossible of the believer. Some Christians may not appear to be living, but unless they occupy a gravesite, there must be some life there. God assures us that it is possible for the physical body of the believer to be living, holy and acceptable.

God expects the physical body to be living. Without a doubt this is written to contrast this sacrifice with those of the Old Testament and those of the pagan society of the day. When the sacrifice was burned on an altar, it was dead not alive. Its life had been taken from it. It has been said that it is easier to die for Christ than it is to live for Him. One wonders what would happen in the contemporary church, if God demanded physical sacrifice of the physical, human body in Romans twelve. Could it be that there would be more physical sacrifices than there are spiritual sacrifices? A carnal believer, living by the religious works of the flesh, would be quick to have himself put to death as a sacrifice just as quickly as a spiritual believer.

What kind of life is involved in a continually living sacrifice? Is it physical, biological life? Is it eternal life? Is it resurrection life? It is true that the indwelling of the eternal Son of God in the believer gives the believer true eternal life (1 Jn. 5:12, 13), but the concept does not fit here. Resurrection life is imputed to the believer in his position in Christ and does not fit here either. The focus is clearly on physical life. The contrast with other sacrificial systems affirms this. Every sacrificial system in human history involves the taking of biological life from its victims.

The sacrifice of the physical body is the first sacrifice a believer should offer to God. A new believer coming either from paganism or from Judaism would naturally be thinking in terms of kinds of physical sacrifice. Paul uses the continuous action of the present participle to show that physical life must go on for the sacrifice to be effective. There can be no proxy sacrifices in God's program for the sacrificing of the living body.

Secondly, the body is to be holy or set apart as a sacrifice. A substantial portion of what is written about practical holiness these days analyzes behavior that is acceptable or unacceptable [from the perspective of the individual author] to God. In essence, the things the believer does not do are the criteria for true holiness. "I don't drink, I don't chew and I don't go with girls that do!" is considered to be a part of personal holiness. The New Testament does not emphasize these principles. New Testament holiness does not focus on the negatives but rather on the positive.

There are two aspects of holiness in the New Testament. The first is that of being set apart to something or someone. The second aspect is being set apart from something or someone. The believer is set apart to God. This is essential in every facet of personal holiness or practical sanctification. The believer's positional sanctification sets the believer apart at God the Fathers right hand in Christ in the third heaven (1 Cor. 1:30).

Because he is in Christ, the believer is a saint from the moment of salvation (Phil. 1:1). Practical sanctification is evident when the believer is set apart to God in his daily life with the Holy Spirit making up deficiencies (Eph. 5:18). In Romans 12:1, Paul focuses on practical sanctification. A believer has the responsibility to apply the provisions of Scripture so that he can be holy. Since the body is to be holy, the believer should make certain that he is in that condition when he offers it as a sacrifice.

What an insult it is to God to list all the things that the believer does not do to prove that he is holy. If a child met her father at the door and gave a list of things she didn't do to please her father, the human parent would feel as though he was a failure. Yet if the child comes and expresses her love and her desire to be close to the father, he is filled with joy and appreciates her desire to be his very own girl. The first relationship is one of fear while the second is one of love.

Practical holiness focuses on one's relationship to God rather than the reaction to the unacceptable. If a believer is truly separated to God, he will have little problem with the things of the world system. God is the focal point of all his attention and automatically the things of the world system become secondary and are ignored. As a spiritual believer, he is directing love as a part of the fruit of the Spirit toward God rather than toward the world system (1 Jn. 2:15). His desire to please God is a deterrent for his involvement in things that would displease God. When one is set apart to God, his concerns are only for Him and all else is extraneous.

The third quality of the sacrifice is that it is to be well pleasing to God. The adjective "acceptable" is found in verses one and two. It is a compound form that can be defined as that which is good, bringing contentment or satisfaction to its possessor. In the New Testament, nine passages use the adjective to describe God's satisfaction. As in Romans 12:1, it is normally translated "acceptable" in the Authorized Version. When the believer gives his body as a sacrifice, it will bring pleasure to God because it meets the Divine standards for His own pleasure.

The Reasoning for Presenting the Sacrifice

By presenting his body as a living sacrifice, the Christian is doing the logical thing. Coming from the Greek word (logikos), "reasonable" clearly is the source of the English word "logical." In 1 Peter 2:2, Peter expects the believer to come like a newborn babe possessing a strong desire for the logical and unpolluted milk so that he may grow spiritually. This is the only other New Testament occurrence. It is obscured by the Authorized Version's translation "word" that is not found in the Greek text. In classical Greek, Plato's dialogues were described by this root. It had the classical sense of an oral presentation that had been well thought out and organized with the purpose of persuading an audience to accept the validity of the argument. Modern logic has its roots in classical reasoning. It builds syllogisms upon premises to establish the validity of an argument. Paul builds his argument upon a single premise -- Christ in His cross work purchased and should rightly receive the believer's body. The logical response for the believer is that he should be active in the priestly service of presenting a sacrifice to God. He should have no reluctance. It makes perfect sense. It is a logical conclusion. Since a believer is a priest, the most sensible service he can render to God is to present his body a living sacrifice.

Paul expected every Roman believer to offer this sacrifice, not just a select few. He describes this as "your" service. By using the plural pronoun, he confirms that every Christian can present the sacrifice. The service was a temple-type service as will be seen in the chapter on the service of the believer-priest.

The Conformity to the Legal Age

In Romans twelve, verse two cannot be divorced from verse one. The "and," (kai), is not changing the subject but rather continuing the thought of the previous context. "Be not conformed to this age" very neatly fits into the whole context. Paul actually writes, "Do not be continually conformed for yourselves to this age." What does a believer do to be conformed? What age is involved? Context and the study of the words clearly identify both the action and the age.

"Conform," (suschematidzo), is a compound Greek word. It literally means, "to have an identical fashion or outward appearance" with the tenants that characterize the age. The root is found twice in the New Testament and is translated "fashion" in both instances (1 Cor. 7:31; Phil. 2:8). The verb found in Romans 12:2 is also found in 1 Peter 1:14 where it is translated "fashion." In First Peter, the standard for the fashion is former strong desires in ignorance. There are nine occurrences of the noun "fashion," (schema), found in the New Testament. A closely related form, (metaschematidzo), has the idea of masquerading with an intentional, temporary change being made in outward appearance with no change in inward reality (cf. 2 Cor. 11:13-15, 1 Cor. 4:6). Here the verb is a compound with the (sun) preposition that has the idea of an identifiable togetherness. The motive of the one who is an age conformer is to be closely identified with the age that is established in context. He has no desire to be identified in any other way. Visibility with an acceptable outward appearance is his basic goal in life. It is a superficial appearance. In Romans twelve, the person is deluded to the point that he thinks it is logical for him to be identified with the age. It is not necessary to have witnesses observe the outward appearance even though the whole idea is to give an external impression to any observer. His appearance is superficial because the inward reality is totally different than the image he makes for himself. There is no internal change that is identical with the external representation. Even though the Christian may believe that his age conforming is right and meets certain standards for "Christian" behavior, God sees the conformity as unacceptable to Himself. Men may believe that the Christian has great spiritual maturity while in reality he is functioning outside of God's provisions for the grace believer. Whole churches may gather together and represent themselves as true Christians ,obedient to the will of God by their age conforming. They never please God by their standards or conduct. When children play, they often dress up to appear to be adults and they are cute. Christians, who dress up by age conforming, are not cute but are to be pitied because of their need for real, substantial spiritual growth. "Be not conformed" is a strong encouragement to believers not to be involved in the age.

When the Authorized Version's translators translated "age," (aion), with the English "world," they provided the basis for an error that has had a great influence on the lives of many Christians. The passage is not speaking of "worldliness" but "age conformity." Multitudes of worldly Christians have been rebuked from this passage of Scripture for their worldly attitudes and lifestyles. Major life decisions have been made in response to admonitions against worldly influence, activities and attitudes. There are other New Testament passages that confront the believer's relationship to the world system and present the means of victory over it. Romans 12:1, 2 is not one of them. The word in Romans twelve is "age," (aion), and not "world," (kosmos), even though the Authorized Version frequently translates "age" as "world." An age is totally different from world.

It is important for the believer to understand what an age is in the New Testament. An age is not a dispensation. Scripture never speaks of a church age or an age of grace. It clearly speaks of "the dispensation of the grace from the God (Ephesians 3:2)." An age is a period of time in which God reveals something about Himself to created beings whether human or spirit beings. There were ages before the creation of man (Heb. 11:3 cf. Col. 1:26) and will be ages in the future (Eph. 2:7). Scripture teaches that there are two ages running concurrently today: the legal age (Ac. 3:22-26) and the present evil age (Gal. 1:4). The legal age began with Moses at Sinai and will continue through the second coming of Christ to earth. It is also called an age of the prophets (Ac. 3:21). A literal translation of the verse is "God spoke from an age through the mouth of His holy prophets." The present evil age has a god who is Satan (2 Cor. 4:4). A believer can love the present evil age as Demas did (2 Tim. 4:10). When the believer was an unbeliever, he ordered every detail of his life ["walked"] by the present evil age (Eph. 2:2). Which age is involved in Romans 12:2? An immediate response is that it is the present evil age but the context of the passage points directly toward the legal age.

The roots and reasons for the content of verses one and two are chapters nine through eleven. God has dealt with Israel in the legal age. They did not consider His revelation of Himself to be sufficient for them to believe God and to keep its legal requirements. They were totally at fault for their failure in that they had challenged God to give them anything that He wanted them to do so they could please Him. As a result, the majority of the Jews were ultimately taken from the place of God's blessing and the Gentiles who became grace believers were engrafted in their place (Rom. 11). With the manifestation of the grace of God to the Gentiles who would believe, Paul encourages the Church believer not to behave like the Jews did in their failure. Rather than accept God by faith, they used the Law as a means of justifying themselves before God. Through the Law, they attempted to demonstrate their righteousness by their works by doing what the Law prescribed. The character of the legal age involves man's attempt to show a righteous God that he could be just as righteous as God by living by the Law of God. "Whatever you say, God, we will do (Ex. 19:8)" is the trigger God used to begin the legal age and the Dispensation of Law. At Sinai, God revealed Himself as holy and righteous. Israel assumed presumptuously that within themselves they could do anything that God could ask them to do. There was nothing to be gained from challenging God to give them something to do rather than to accept the covenant that God had made with Abraham by simple faith.

In verse one, Paul uses "therefore," (oun), to tie the passage to its preceding context. Some will say that the "Amen" of 11:36 ends the discussion of the legal age and that the "therefore" is simply a rhetorical device. Unfortunately, such a statement is not only illogical but is also poor Greek grammar. "Therefore" (oun) is a particle that expresses consequence or simple sequence to the previous statement. It is rarely used as a rhetorical device and it is very clear in the instances where it is.

The "mercies of God" are clearly identified in the preceding context reaffirming the tie to chapters nine through eleven. Another argument for the legal age is the near demonstrative pronoun "this." What is the antecedent of the pronoun? The preceding verses have presented the elements of the legal age. There is no mention of elements that immediately relate to the present evil age except in the very early chapters of Romans. The near demonstrative pronoun is never used as a designation for the present evil age but is used to describe the age in a context that clearly gives an antecedent for the pronoun (Eph. 1:21; 6:12 Gk.). How many believers are confident that they have no problems with the present evil age while living wholeheartedly in the legal age? A believer will never represent the holiness and righteousness of God in this life [his present tense salvation] without the sovereign intervention of God Himself. An age conformer lives by the Law as a grace believer who is showing himself [by his sin nature] capable within himself of possessing righteousness like God's righteousness. Most of these believers have no idea that in Christ they possess the righteousness of Christ without any work involved (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Cor. 1:30).

From the Garden of Eden forward, Satan's goal has been to make men act independent of God. One of the greatest acts of independence from God a Christian can commit in his life is attempting to justify himself before God by the Mosaic Law. Satan has little problem with Christians who have voluntarily enslaved themselves to the Law. They generally keep out of trouble and will not hinder Satan's plans and strategies against Christ and His Church. Every aspect of their lives is independent of God demonstrating a submission to Satan's attack of independence. Age conformers have taken the freedom that they have in Christ and replaced it with the yoke of bondage of the Law (Gal. 5:1). They prefer the prison of the Law to the freedom in Christ (Gal. 3:23 Gk.). It was, and still is, impossible for a person to mature living under the Law (Heb. 7:11). Hence, the age conformer will never grow up spiritually. Satan is pleased when the Christian is an age conformer. These believers control their sin nature with the Mosaic Law and are satisfied with their spiritual infancy justifying it with Old Testament principles. The age conformer attempts to show God how righteous he is by living by the Law or a quality of law.

When the Christian understands that he is a New Testament believer-priest, he must recognize that his sacrifices are of a spiritual value to God though several sacrifices are physical in nature. An age conformer will bring a sacrifice from necessity, by force rather than by faith. He prefers the tithe to grace giving. He prefers to say, "Praise the Lord!" rather than actually praise the Lord. He does good by mandate rather than from biblical Christian love. He fellowships with other saints because it is the proper thing to do rather than from a real unadulterated love of the brethren. He sees the sacrifices as legal regulations rather than privileges. When Paul tells the Roman believers not to be conformed to the legal age, he is telling them to give their bodies willingly and freely as a living sacrifice not by necessity but to the glory of God. There are no requirements or restraints that make the presentation of the sacrifice necessary for the Christian. By His grace, God makes it the most logical thing a believer can do as a result of his understanding of the results of the work of Christ.

The Transformation by the Renewedness of the Mind

Since the presentation of the sacrifice is not a mandated, legal obligation, there is no useful purpose for the believer's outward exhibition of something that is not an inward reality. Paul encourages the believer to think in the realm of the renewedness of mind that he received as a result of his spiritual birth. When his thinking is proper, he will be aligned with the form in which his Heavenly Father sees him. The English "transform" means "to change the form or shape of something." In biology, the Greek root is carried over to the English in the word "metamorphosis." Caterpillars (larva) turn into pupa that in turn change into butterflies. Frog eggs produce tadpoles that in turn change into frogs. In each of these cases, there are some very obvious metabolic changes in the internal as well as external forms of these living creatures. Geology describes natural changes in rock as metamorphic. A transformation of chalk into primary limestone by the pressures of earth and water creates a change in form. One cannot write on a blackboard with a piece of primary limestone but can with ordinary chalk even though both are composed of the same basic elements. If there is an internal change in essence, how is such a change in essence accomplished in the life of the believer? The verb is a passive verb pointing to the fact that someone else is acting on the believer. It is very important for the Christian to recognize the passive form. Who brings about the transformation? God, Himself, has perfectly made the arrangements. "But be transformed by the renewedness of the mind." Scripture presents two concepts of transformation.

Transformation describes the open, visible change in the form of an object. When Christ went up to the Mount of Transfiguration, He was changed in form and appearance. He was transformed or transfigured. His garments were gleaming white (Matt. 17:2; Mk. 9:3; Lu. 9:29). The appearance of His face was totally different (heteros) (Lu. 9:29 Gk.). His face was shining like the appearance of the sun (Matt. 17:2). The Shekinah glory of God possessed by the Son was manifested to men, as it had never been before during Christ's earthly sojourn. Peter, James and John witnessed a human body lead them and climb up the mountain. There that body was transformed temporarily so that they could see the manifestation of deity of the great I Am. There was a definite change in form. The change in form, as well as the appearance of Moses and Elijah, had been so great that the three disciples did not tell anyone else of their experience until much later (Lu. 9:36; Mk. 9:9, 10). Peter later described himself as an eyewitness to the very majesty of God on the Mount of Transfiguration (2 Pe. 1:16-18). There had been a change in form from a human body designed to manifest a human nature to a body that clearly manifested the majesty and glory of God the Son.

Transformation in the New Testament also has the idea of an inward transformation that does not need necessarily to be manifested on the outside. In Romans 12:2, emphasis is made upon the inward transformation that results from a mental activity. Such a transformation is ultimately going to be visible to external witnesses but may not be immediately seen. There may be a duration of time between the transformation and the manifestation of the change.

"Form," (morphe), is a noun that is used to describe Christ in two ways. In Philippians 2:6, 7, Christ is identified as being in the form of God [i.e. inhering in the very essence of God], yet He emptied Himself of His glory and took on Himself the form of a bond slave to the Father. He became one who was in the likeness of men and was found having the outward appearance, (schema), of man (Phil 2:8). He willingly changed His form taking on a human nature along with His Divine nature, setting aside His glory and submitting to the will of the Father. The form of a body adapted to and manifesting a human nature was an absolute contrast to the infinite expression of the Divine nature in all of eternity prior to the incarnation events. The second way the noun describes Christ is in His post-resurrection appearance. Evidently, Mark 16:12, 13 are references to the events on the Emmaus road with the two disciples (Lu. 24:13-35). In Luke 24, their eyes were held [i.e. prevented from actually seeing the reality] so that they could not recognize Christ. Luke tells how their eyes were grasped or held so that He appeared in another form that was unrecognizable (Lu. 24:16). It was a completely different kind of form that did not resemble His form that had been so familiar to them (Mk. 16:12). When the two returned to Jerusalem to tell the eleven disciples, they were able to report as eyewitnesses. Evidently, the eleven did not believe the report of the two from their description of Christ's outward appearance (Mk. 16:13). When the two recounted Christ's breaking of the bread, the disciples in Jerusalem accepted the validity of the account. Their report concerning the form of Christ's body was held in question because of the visible differences in their description from His original appearance. Clearly, this was a substantial change. His features differed, voice differed, height differed and build differed from His previous appearance during His earthly ministry among them.

The second concept communicated by "transform" in the New Testament illustrates Romans 12:2. This concept goes back to the root idea of the verb that involves being loosely in the company of and identified with a form. It carries the idea of giving an outward expression of an inward nature. A translation of 2 Corinthians 3:18 will clarify the concept. "But all of us with face [refers to person cf. 2:10; 4:6 Gk.] standing being unveiled, while continually reflecting as a mirror [or mirroring] the glory of the Lord, are being made to give an outward expression of our inward nature with reference to the same image [i.e. the image of Christ] from glory into glory even as from the Spirit of the Lord." In other words, the Holy Spirit has written something on the inside that is to be reflected on the outside. Something already exists but must be manifested as an accurate representation of a reality. Romans 12:2 emphasizes the second concept.

Each grace believer has two options: to choose to live in the sin nature or to choose to live in the new nature. In order to live in the new nature, it is essential that he be living in his position in Christ. He is to set his reflective thinking on things above (Col. 3:1-4). These things include his position and possessions that accrue to the believer because he is in Christ. It is a mental process. A believer can live in his sin nature and revel in his old position in Adam, the old man (Col. 3:9; Eph. 4:22). He can choose to live in his new nature and enjoy his new position in the new man, the Christ (Eph. 2:15, 1 Cor. 12:11, 12). The transformation of Romans twelve involves the believer's thinking. God expects him to use the renewedness of his mind to reflectively think so that he will be living in light of his being in Christ. As a result, the reality of his being in Christ will be reflected to the outside world. Paul carries the theme of being in Christ on down through the following context of Romans twelve. All Christians have a measure of faith being in Christ (12:3). Each believer is a member of the Body of Christ, but each member has a different practice than other members (12:4). Each believer is dependent on other believers in the Body (12:5). Each believer has a spiritual gift because he is in Christ (12:6-9). A grace believer, in Christ, will consider the presentation of his body as a sacrifice because it is the most logical thing he can do. In his position in Christ, God the Father sees every believer's body as belonging to Christ who is the Head of the Body. Simple Christian living and understanding make the sacrifice of the body an essential sacrifice for further participation in priestly service.

The renewedness of the believer's mind is the instrument that brings about transformation -- "by the renewedness, (anakainosis), of the mind." To translate the noun "renewing" as the Authorized Version does is inaccurate. True, the noun has the Greek -sis ending that describes an action, but it still names the nature of the noun. The word simply describes the act of making something new in its character or quality. It does not have the idea of making new in time [i.e. recent). It is a new quality of mind. One is expected to use a new kind of mind or a different type of mind. Paul uses the verb in 2 Corinthians 4:16 saying, "... the inward man is renewed day by day." He uses the "day by day" to communicate the idea of time. When the believer directs his thinking to what he is in Christ, he uses a new quality of mind with the result being a transformation. The believer can use this new quality of mind at any time. There is an inference in Romans 12:3 that there are two characteristics of the old kind or quality of mind [in addition to others not listed] that may be evidenced. These are lofty and high thoughts that are beyond that which is necessary to think and outside of the bounds of propriety in the realm of one's present tense salvation. The believer is not to think more highly than he ought to think but is to be sober minded. "Sober minded" has the idea of a saving quality of reflective thinking with an emphasis on how a believer is to behave in his present tense salvation. Hence, the renewedness of the mind will bring about a transformation as the believer lives in light of his position in Christ enjoying his present tense salvation.

The Proving of the Will of God

When a believer sacrifices his body, he is putting the will of God to test. Paul uses a purpose infinitive to tell why the believer should present his body as a sacrifice and be transformed by the renewedness of the mind. Early in the Christian experience, very few believers actually become actively involved in what they assuredly know is the will of God. The very act of presenting the body as a sacrifice puts the will of God to the test. One must remember at this point that there are two aspects of God's will revealed in Scripture: the broader aspect of His desirous will, (thelema), and the limited aspect of His determinative will, (boule). Here Paul anticipates the believer's putting the desirous will of God to the test. When a believer lives in light of the sacrifice of his physical body, he is continually putting the will of God to the test as to its validity and worth.

An old metallurgical term, "prove" (dokimadzo), has the idea of testing something to guarantee that it meets a standard. Any mineral found in a metal that affected its purity would be discovered and removed until the metal met the standard of purity. Scripture expects the believer to present his body and be transformed so that he can begin to learn what the will of God is and what it is not. Three characteristics of the will of God are learned in the process: (1) What the complete will of God is = perfect; (2) What is acceptable to God; and (3) What makes God happy = good. Very few believers have any idea of what the will of God is or what its characteristics are. Scripture clearly tells believers what the will of God is in at least a dozen specific areas. If the believer practices doing the will of God as it is described in Scripture, he soon masters its characteristics and can discern the will of God outside Scripture in his personal life (1 Jn. 2:17, 20). Knowing that one sacrifice is the will of God, one should recognize that it is logical that the other sacrifices in Scripture must also be a part of God's will for the Christian. Every sacrifice should make God happy, fill Him with pleasure and completely meet the Divine standards for sacrifices. (See Will of God chart, Appendix I)

The first sacrifice of the believer-priest is the sacrifice of the physical body. It is only offered once. It is given to the one to whom it rightfully belongs. It is a sacrifice that is living and set apart to God. It is the logical result of the believer's understanding of Christ's cross work. As a result of the sacrifice, God is well pleased and the believer puts the desirous will of God to the test. When a believer recognizes that Christ's cross work purchased his body, he logically responds by presenting it to God. He simply mentally accedes to the fact that it belongs to God and gives it to Him. This can be done within the believer's mind or it can be voiced in his verbal communication with his Heavenly Father. It would be interesting to know how many Christians have actually done this in accordance with the literal meaning of Romans 12:1, 2. God has given the Church this privilege and each individual should offer up this sacrifice to God. If the believer truly understands the sacrifice of the physical body, he will constantly be aware of the fact that he lives in a body that belongs to someone else and that it is a body that has been given in sacrifice to God.


Chapter 4: The Sacrifice of Praise
Hebrews 13:15


Hebrews 13:15, 16 mentions three sacrifices of the believer-priest together that include the sacrifices of praise, doing good and fellowship. The first of the three is the sacrifice of praise that is described and defined in verse 15. The verse not only identifies praise as a sacrifice but also gives a clear definition of praise in the Greek. The definition is obscured in most English translations.

Many Christians say, "Praise the Lord!" They seem to think that the statement itself is true praise. While they may ask another person to praise God or to respond to God's provision in the statement, they are not praising God by saying, "Praise the Lord!" The statement is an imperative, a suggestion that others be involved in praise. The one making the statement may be encouraging himself to praise. There is a great amount of confusion in the Church concerning what Scripture teaches concerning the believer's communication with God. Praise is only one of eight forms of communication available to the grace believer. It is the only form of communication that is identified as a priestly sacrifice. Some other forms of communication are a part of the believer's priestly service but are not described as sacrifices. Praise is often confused with thanksgiving or worship. If true praise is offered to God, it is an acceptable sacrifice for the believer-priest. "Praise the Lord!" is verbiage that indicates someone should be doing it or is doing it but frequently it stops there without a response in true praise. "Praise the Lord!" has become a trite phrase with little or no meaning in the minds of many believers. It is a badge they wear to identify them as Christians. Preachers have used it to replace "ah" when they are attempting to gather their thoughts in a message. Some Christians use it to impress others of their spirituality. Some identify themselves with certain segments of Christianity by the statement. The world uses it in their ridicule of Christianity. God sees it as an unkept commitment. Christians tell Him what they are going to do over and over, yet they rarely actually do it knowingly. The Hebrew Hallelujah simply says, "You guys praise [2nd masculine plural imperative] Jehovah."

How many Christians can distinguish and define praise, worship, thanksgiving, confession, intercession, supplication, asking and vowing? Scripture clearly distinguishes between each of these terms. Because of the sacrifice of praise and its confusion with thanksgiving and worship, it is important to clearly distinguish between these three forms of communication with God.

Worship communication, (proseuche), dominates the prayer concepts of the New Testament. It has the central idea of repeating back to God that which He has said about Himself. When one worships in the New Testament sense, he gives God His full worth or weight as to whom and what He is without consideration of what He has done for the believer. The Christian's thoughts are to be focused on the character of God as it is revealed in the Bible. He shares these thoughts with God in worship. Worship is a reflection on the Word of God concerning the character of God directed to God with positive enjoyment of His Being in response to His self-revelation of who He is. It is a response to who He is and not a response to what He has done.

Thanksgiving communication, (eucharistia), is a response to the good grace of God that has been expressed in His provision of something to the believer or others. It is a mental and emotional activity in response to the working of God. Thanksgiving is an expression of appreciation to God for a benefit that He has provided. This should be the most easily understood of all the believer's communication. "Thank you, Father, for the food." Most believers are frequently reminded to express their appreciation. In most cases, when Christians say, "Praise the Lord!" they really mean, "Thank the Lord!" They intend to thank the Lord for some benefit provided. Thanksgiving will be the initial response to a blessing from God that is then followed by true New Testament praise. God expects worship to dominate the believer's life while thanksgiving will be the second most used form of communication. When one grasps the significance of thanksgiving in his life, he finds himself responding both to the good and bad in life with thanksgiving to God. The spiritual believer will be thankful for all things and at all times (Eph. 5:20), in everything (1 Thess. 5:18) and for all men (1 Tim. 2:1). God desires [thelo - desirous will] for the believer to be thankful (1 Thess. 5:18).

The normal order for these forms of communication in relation to events of life is important.


     Thanksgiving -- an expression of appreciation for the thing 
                     God has supplied  
     Praise       -- an expression of appreciation for the character
                     of God manifested in supplying the thing
     Worship      -- communication of thoughts about God and
                     repeated back to God not motivated by His
                     provision of a benefit 

Praise is normally the second response to something God has done or provided. God meets a need. The believer thanks Him for the provision and then he responds to the character of God that was manifested in something done or provided. Hebrews 13:15 gives the biblical definition of praise in the Greek text. in this verse, the Authorized Version uses "thanks" as a part of the definition of praise. "Thanks" is not found in the Greek text of Hebrews 13:15. Unfortunately, the Authorized Version translation removes the distinctions that are clearly made in Scripture. Thanksgiving and praise are not the same. They are distinct entities. Even though they may be made in response to the same thing, they express different kinds of appreciation. Thanksgiving appreciates the thing provided by God. Praise appreciates the character of God.

An accurate translation of the text gives a clear picture of the significance of New Testament praise. "Through Him, therefore, let us potentially be offering up the sacrifice of praise always to God, this is a fruit of the lips continually confessing His name." It is evident that there is a significant difference between confession and thanksgiving. Scripture says that praise is the fruit of the lips confessing His name.

Words for praise occur 29 times in the New Testament. It occurs in a simple form, (ainos), and a compound form, (epainos). It is not necessary to consider every occurrence of these words to understand the sacrifice of praise. An analysis of Hebrews 13:15 gives the essential idea of true biblical praise.

The Intercession of the Savior

"Through Him" the believer-priest has the privilege of offering the sacrifice of praise. "Through," (dia), has the idea of agency in this context. Christ is the agent by which the believer-priest has access. In the preceding context, the antecedent of the pronoun "Him" is "Jesus" (13:12) and "Jesus Christ"(13:8). As has already been noted, Jesus Christ is the believer-priest's High Priest. Through Him, the believer has direct access to God. He has set believers apart through His own blood (13:12). He is the Unchanging One (13:8). He shed His blood so that the believer could have access. Hence, the believer must avail himself of this priestly privilege. Christ is not only the High Priest, but He is also the Mediator between God and man (2 Tim. 2:5). He is the Mediator of the new covenant with the Church (Heb. 8:6; 12:24). He affirms that access is not only possible, but also is a proper activity for the believer's life. He is the believer's Advocate who is the place of propitiation (1 Jn. 2:1). He is the believer's Intercessor who keeps the believer from being condemned keeping him saved (Rom. 8:34). Christ has personally dealt with everything in the life of the believer that might hinder or prevent direct access to the throne of grace. It is essential for the believer to appropriate the work of Christ in his daily life in order to make such access practical. Christ has dealt with acts of sin and the sin nature making this access available. God will only accept praise from the spiritual believer. All other praise is simply verbiage satisfying only the one who is giving it. As thanksgiving is the response of the spiritual believer to God's work (Eph. 5:18, 20), so also is praise. Only a Spirit-filled Christian can appropriate for himself the work of Christ.

The Identification of the Sacrifice

In the Old Testament sense, a sacrifice was offered up at the moment the slain animal was placed on the altar. James 2:21 uses the same verb to describe the offering up of Isaac by Abraham as Hebrews 13. "Was not Abraham our father declared righteous out of works, offering up Isaac his son upon the altar?" Isaac was not slain but was placed upon the altar to be slain. God considered placement on the altar to be an offering up. Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice (Heb. 7:27; 9:28). When a sacrifice is carried to the altar and then placed on it, God will either accept it or reject it. Since God encourages the sacrifice for the spiritual believer, it is acceptable when the spiritual Christian offers it. Because of the verb form, one can say that it is possible that a person may be offering this sacrifice consistently [present subjunctive].

How often can the sacrifice of praise be offered? When the present tense is used, there is a potential for continuous action on the part of the believer. "Always" further emphasizes the fact that this should be the habitual, consistent activity of the believer-priest. Thanksgiving is offered for all things and in all things (Eph. 5:20; 1 Thess. 5:18) so the logical result is that praise should be given as the normal response to God resulting from thanksgiving. A Christian's communication with God is a continuous activity. Worship communication is to be directed to God without ceasing [better "without signing off"] (1 Thess. 5:17). At no time is a spiritual believer to terminate his communication with God. He has the potential to lay down the phone but not to hang it up. Praise can be offered to God at any time, in any circumstance and for any aspect of His character.

Praise is defined as the fruit of the lips confessing His name. Praise may be verbalized in response to God's provision of a need either in speech or song. Without a doubt, praise can be presented through the mind but verbalization of praise is a more natural response. As an emotional response to the rational recognition of God's personal involvement in providing benefits, praise springs to the lips whether in an appreciative whisper, a jubilant shout or a robust song. Abuse of praise has put a damper on outward expressions of praise. "Canned" expressions and frivolous religious ecstasy have prevented many believers from attempting to express their praise to God verbally. Any spiritual spontaneity has been deterred by uncertainty as to what is true praise and what is human convention and identified as praise. "Praise the Lord!" in itself is not praise. Without a biblical thought process, it becomes Christian slang with no real substance.

What is true praise? It is the fruit of the lips confessing His name. As has already been noted, the word "thanks" is not in the Greek text. The word "confess," (homologeo), stands in the text. It is a compound term that is used in Hebrews 13:15 in a non-technical way. It simply means "to speak or say the same thing" or "to agree with." Many English words have the (homo-) prefix. One buys homogenized milk. Because of the Process of homogenization, the milk and cream are combined in a common solution becoming the same thing. There is no separation of the two because they are one - the same kind. Language has words called "homonyms" that have the same sound even though they are spelled differently and have different meanings. Homonym is a compounded form of two Greek words meaning the "same name" [i.e. same pronunciation]. When the believer confesses his sins, he says the same thing that God does about them (1 Jn. 1:9). God identifies his acts of sin as sin, so the Christian calls them sin as well. Praise is saying the same thing about His name.

In Scripture, "name" is used in two ways. It can be used of a title or designation of a person, place or thing. Name is used of titles in many instances in Scripture. Names of persons are given as titles such as Jesus (Matt, 1:21, 25; Lu. 2:21), Simon (Matt. 27:32), Peter (Mk. 3:16), Jairus (Mk. 5:22), Zecharias (Lu. 1:5), Elisabeth (Lu. 1:5), John (Lu. 1:13), Joseph (Lu. 1:27), Mary (Lu. 1:27) and many others. These titles or names were normally given at birth to designate the individual. Cities also were named to distinguish them from other cities as Nazareth (Lu. 1:26) and Emmaus (Lu. 24:13 Gk.). "Name" can be used to reflect the character and nature of an individual. In history, it was said, "He is as good as his name," meaning his character was honest and his word and commitments were considered to be absolutely reliable. Praise is not calling out one of the 365 titles of Jesus Christ given in the Bible. Praise can be addressed to any one of the Persons of the Trinity though primarily to the Father. If a title was necessary, someone should write a book, "Titles of Deity for Special Praise Occasions." Since it would be used "always," it should be a rugged, weather-resistant' pocket edition designed for quick and easy access. The writer of Hebrews is not referring to titles. His readers had a solid grasp of the meaning and use of "name" in the Old Testament. Other writers of Scripture as well as most believers reading the New Testament in the early church understood its use in the Bible.

Old Testament writers used the word "name," (shem), as a title when a name was given at birth. Examples of this are Solomon (2 Sam. 12:24), Manoah (Judg. 13:2), Seth (Gen. 5:3), Mordecai (Esther 2:5) as well as many others. It is used of a person who was famous and who had a celebrated name. When someone made a name for himself, he became famous and a celebrity. Such fame could be prestigious [positive] or could be filled with notoriety [negative]. In Genesis 11:4, men wanted a unique reputation so they built the tower of Babel to establish a name among God's created beings [especially the spirit beings]. Jehovah's miracles in the plagues of Egypt and in the Exodus gave Him fame (Jer. 32:20; 2 Sam. 7:23). Offspring of the union of the sons of God and the daughters of men were celebrities identified as "men of a name" because of their uniqueness (Gen. 6:4 Heb.). Nobles were called "men of a name (Num. 16:2)." In the Old Testament, a good name meant that a man had a good reputation (2 Sam. 8:13; Eccl. 7:1; Prov. 22:1). On the other hand, a bad or evil name indicated that an individual had a bad reputation (Deut. 22:14, 19; Neh. 6:13; Job 30:8 Heb.).

It is true that "name" was used of the titles of God. Most frequently "name" designated the Tetragrammaton (Jehovah). This is especially true in the Prophets. "Name" carried the idea of fame or reputation in many instances when used of God. It referred to His nature and character (Amos 5:8; 9:6; Jer. 33:2; Ex. 3:15; 6:3). God's character is built on his nature [the sum total of His essence and attributes]. Some important Old Testament examples clearly relate "name" to specific aspects of God's nature. The Psalms provide extensive material relating "name" to the character of God in its manifestation. A careful study of the context of each passage will give the picture of the manifestation of the character of God. Psalm 96:2-4 relates the name of God to His immensity that is a part of God's essence. His eternality and immutability are evident as parts of His nature in Psalm 72:17, 19. The following list ties "name" to specific attributes of God. The seven attributes of God are listed and the passages that use "name." A careful study of the context [preferably in Hebrew] will clearly show that the character of God is emphasized when "name" is used.


1. Omnipotence -- Psa. 8:1, 9; 18:49; 20:1, 5, 7; 29:2; 31:3; 54:1; 66:2, 4; 69:30, 36; 148:5

2. Righteousness -- Psa. 9:2, 10; 31:3; 45:17; 48:10; 89:16; 116:4; 118:10, 11; 143:11

3. Love -- Psa. 9:10; 25:11; 34:3; 61:8, 79:9; 86:9, 11, 12; 109:21; 115:1; 138:2

4. Goodness -- Psa. 25:11; 52:9; 54:6; 135:1, 3

5. Holiness -- Psa. 29:2; 33:2 1; 111:9

6. Omniscience -- Psa. 44:20; 142:7

7. Truth -- Psa. 45:17; 61:8; 89:24; 92:1, 2; 115:1; 138:2


In the Old Testament, the character of God was the basis for praise. "According to thy name, O God, so is thy praise unto the ends of the earth ... (Psa. 48:10)." The Old Testament saint was to gain knowledge from the name (or character] of Jehovah (Isa. 52:6; Jer. 48:17; Psa. 9:10). He was to love the name of Jehovah (Isa. 56:6; Psa. 5:11; 69:36; 119:132). He was also to fear the name of Jehovah (Psa. 61:5). The readers of Hebrews completely understood that "name" was used to describe the character or nature of God that was manifested in what He did. They knew that when God delivered Israel in the Old Testament, there would be some manifestation of His character that should be appreciated by the people. They expressed praise to God as they reflected upon His character.

The New Testament has similar ideas in the use of "name." Because of Christ's relationship to believers as sanctified ones, He is not ashamed to call them brothers (Heb. 2:11). As a result, He will announce His name or character to them and will sing praise [lit. hymnize] in the Church (Heb. 2:12). In other words, grace believers possess a unique ability to grasp revelation of God's character and to respond properly to such revelation. God does not expect the believer to praise Him without proper information and potential for accurate praise. When a believer is enjoying the benefits of spiritual living in progressive sanctification, he will learn about the character of God and then will be able to bring the sacrifice of praise to God. An understanding of the character of God is not just for theologians and a few pastors. Every Christian should have a thorough understanding of God's nature with His essence and His attributes. Many believers have made a real effort to avoid learning "Bible doctrine" considering it to be sectarian rather than the simple teaching of God's revelation for Christians. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that some believers are so ignorant of the character of God that they have little or no potential for true biblical praise. Christ has made the revelation of His name available by announcing it to His brethren, grace believers (Heb. 2:12).

An interesting New Testament example of "name" denoting the character of God and directed toward all three Persons of the Trinity is in Matthew 28:19 in the Great Commission. "Having been made to go, therefore, disciple all the nations, baptizing them in the name [singular] of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." "Name" is a Greek singular that is used of all three Persons of the Trinity. Each Person is a distinct individualization of the divine nature being isolated by the definite article in the text. All three Persons inhere in the same essence and hence, the use of the singular. In John 17:6, Christ manifested the name of the Father to men in His earthly ministry. Those that the Father has given to the Son are kept by the Father's name (Jn. 17:11, 12). Again the sharing of God's character is evident. They all manifest the same attributes and thus exhibit the same character. The sacrifice of praise may be directed to any one Person of the Godhead or may be directed to all Three Persons collectively. In Scripture most praise is directed to God the Father.

In the New Testament, particular attributes have been associated with "name." Omniscience can be seen in many passages by implication while other attributes are clearly identified in the passage or in its immediate context. The following New Testament passages illustrate the close connection of the uses of "name" with God's attributes. As a basis for Divine activity, the attributes are clearly visible in God's works on earth.


1. Holiness -- Matt. 6:9; Lu. 1:49; 11:2; Rev. 15:4

2. Love -- Jn. 17:26; 1 Jn. 2:12

3. Righteousness -- Rev. 15:4 (cf. vs. 3)

4. Truth -- Rev. 15:4 (cf. vs. 3)

5. Omnipotence -- Rev. 16:9; Jn. 2:23; Ac. 3:16; 4:10, 30; Rom. 9:17; 1 Cor. 5:4; 2 Thess. 1:11 (cf. vs. 12)

6. Goodness -- 2 Thess. 1:11 (cf. vs. 12)

7. Omniscience -- 1 Jn. 3:20


When Old Testament saints living during Christ's earthly ministry received Christ, they were given authority (Gk.) to become the born-ones of God (Jn. 1:12). These were a segment of those who believed on His name. They focused their faith on the fact that Christ was God as was manifested in the exhibition of His character. One of the expressions of His name was in the miracles He performed (Jn. 2:23). God expected them to believe in the name of the Only Begotten Son of God (Jn. 3:18). As God, Christ could heal the sick and forgive sins (Mk. 2:7-12). Even the Jews of Jesus' day knew that when He said that He was the Son of God that He was claiming to be God. They were determined to kill Him because He "... said also that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God (Jn. 5:18)." Because Christ claimed to be the Son of God and claimed to come in the Father's name (Jn. 5:43), they persisted in their attempts to assassinate Him. His proclamation that He was the Son of God before the high priest brought forth the charge of blasphemy of which He was found guilty and sentenced to death by the Jewish religious court in the series of trials leading to His crucifixion. As God, He manifested the same essence and attributes of the Godhead. When He claimed to be the Son of God, He was claiming a position of privilege as an equal with God.

The name or the character of God can be hated (Matt. 10:22), can be feared (Rev. 11:18), can be blasphemed (Rom. 2:24; 1 Tim. 6:1; Rev. 13:6; 16:9) and can be glorified (Rev. 15:4). Believers have a privilege that is unique to the Dispensation of Grace in that they can ask the Father in the name or character of Christ and receive the thing asked for (Jn. 16:23-26; 14:13; 15:16).

Why would any believer ever neglect learning of the character of God? Theology proper with a consistent analysis of God's nature, essence and attributes establishes a beautiful foundation for biblical praise. An understanding of the Trinity and the relationship between the Persons of the Godhead projects praise to its proper recipient. An appreciation of the magnitude of the character of God makes it possible to praise God always. When the believer is ignorant of the manifestation of God's character, he is limited in his potential to truly praise God. Maybe this is the reason that so many Christians just say, "Praise the Lord!" They have nothing else to say to God because they have not had a close, intimate, personal involvement with God in their lives or learning.

How does the Christian gain adequate knowledge for praise? Some would immediately recommend the purchase and study of systematic theologies for this purpose. Why not go to the original source before considering secondary sources? With a good concordance [an original language oriented concordance is preferable], a Christian should look up the words that relate to the attributes of God. God's attributes provide the basis for all of His activity and some are manifested throughout Scripture. A listing of the attributes of God will help. For the study of holiness, one can look up all the words for holy, sanctify, saint and set apart. For the study of God's love, look up love and the manifestations of love expressed in loving-kindness, tender compassion and grace. For a study of the righteousness of God, righteous, right and justify provide the backbone. For truth, one needs to study truth and faithfulness. For omnipotence, one should study all the biblical words for power. For omniscience, a pursuit of the words for knowing while tying them to understanding and wisdom is necessary. For goodness, a study of the word "good" and all that makes happy provides a background for understanding the goodness of God. When a believer digs into Scripture in this kind of study, he will learn what these attributes are and the resulting activities. With a basic understanding of the attributes, the believer's Bible will blossom with the revelation of the character of God. Very few pastors preach series on the attributes of God. Theologies are inconsistent and unclear in their presentations of the attributes. What a shame that so few believers hear or read what they need to know in order to properly offer the sacrifice of praise to God. When a Christian clearly sees the character of God expressed in Scripture, he will have little trouble understanding the character of God as it is manifested in his daily life. As a result, the sacrifice of praise will be offered with the consistency expected in Hebrews 13:15. When a Christian's mind is focused on his God, he begins to look at the things in his life in the same way that God does. As a result, he can accurately express his appreciation for the character of God as it was manifested in His provision of benefits for the believer.

Some New Testament illustrations of praise are in order here. In Luke 18:35-43, Christ arrived at Jericho and met a blind man who was begging. Being informed of the presence of Jesus, the blind man sought pity or mercy from Christ. Finally, Jesus had the man brought before Him and He asked the blind man to tell Him what he desired. The blind man simply said that he desired to see again. Christ responded and told him to see again because his faith had healed him. At once, the blind man saw again and proceeded to follow Jesus glorifying God. The people, seeing the man healed, gave praise to God. In response to the power and love of God, they expressed their appreciation for the manifestation of these attributes that were evidenced in the man's being healed.

In what has been called Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the multitude of disciples were involved in praise (Lu. 19:37, 38). As Christ came riding down the Mount of Olives, they praised God for all the mighty works they had seen. They had seen the power of God manifested in the mighty works (dunameon) that were miracles that Christ performed to show His power. Their praise was in response to the character of God. They did not express their appreciation for the thing but rather for the character of God that had been manifested. This is evident in what they said in verse 38. "Well-spoken of is the King who is coming in the name/character of the Lord, peace in heaven and glory in the highest places." Reflecting on the character of God that had been revealed in Christ's power miracles, the multitude ascribed peace [because of His power] and glory in the highest places as He manifested His power. Undoubtedly, there was some thanksgiving given on the part of the recipients of the healings and other exhibitions of power, but the whole multitude of disciples sounded forth their praise to God for His character. Both the reason for praise and their response to what they had witnessed is evident in the passage.

Praise is offered as a sacrifice by the believer-priest. It is an expression of appreciation to God for His character as is manifested in His provision of a benefit. Praise always involves the believer's knowledge of the character of God or it cannot be expressed. Though praise is primarily directed to the Father, it may also be directed to any single Person of the Godhead or to the whole Godhead collectively. It should be the habitual expression of the believer. When expressed before others, it will draw attention to God and His nature. Praise is defined in the Greek of Hebrews 13:15 as the fruit of the lips that is saying the same thing [confessing] concerning His name or character. It is clear that there is much more in praise than saying, "Praise the Lord!"


Chapter 5: The Sacrifice of Doing Good
Hebrews 13:16

Why should a Christian be doing good? Only the individual believer truly knows his motives. Is the activity done to please men? Is the activity done from duty? Is the activity done from necessity because no one else would do it? Is the believer motivated by the potential for bringing glory to God? Doing good may become a drudgery or a source of disinterest or boredom. When the Christian understands that when he is doing good as a spiritual believer he is offering a sacrifice to God, his whole perspective should change. Priestly privilege becomes the basis for motivation. Wholesome God-directed activity will be done for the glory of God rather than for personal purposes.

"Do not forget for yourselves doing good and fellowship." In other words, the believer is to avoid forgetting these sacrifices. "You must know something before you can forget it." Hebrews 13:15, 16 reviews truth that had already been taught and learned. As with many things a person learns, these truths had the potential for escaping the minds of the believers who received the letter. Faithful review of material one has already learned is essential and also necessary for the Word of God. Both the mind and the activity of the Christian are affected. When the believer remembers his priestly privileges, it is only natural for him to become an active participant in the privilege of sacrifice.

"You can't forget for someone else." When the writer of Hebrews uses a reflexive [middle voice] verb form, he says that a person can only forget for himself. Some things are irretrievable. Words spoken in haste, erroneous information, deeds done in anger and bloopers cannot be retrieved. Most people have situations in the past that they would like to have someone forget. The Hebrews are to keep their priestly sacrifices in mind; and by remembering them, they should become active in performing the sacrifices.

There are two kinds of forgetfulness: intentional and unintentional. Intentional forgetfulness is the deliberate neglect of something that one has known. An "I don't care" attitude prevails. When a person determines that he will forget, he exercises his will. He shows his disinterest in the subject to be forgotten by neglecting it in his mind. Some Christians have done this with the sacrifices of the believer-priest. Seeing the sacrifices as insignificant, minor areas of truth, they prefer to forget them. Truth has slipped from the mind even though they read their Bibles where the truth is found. It is easy for a person to forget the point of a message that he does not like. Because the truth of giving sacrifices is supremely important, the writer of Hebrews appeals to Christians by encouraging them not to forget the sacrifices intentionally or unintentionally.

The root "forgetfulness" (lethe) has carried over into the English language in an interesting way. The English words "lethargy" and "lethal" have their basis in the Greek word for forgetfulness. While lethargy is a condition of inertia and apathy, its root idea is that one who is in this condition is generally forgetful. "Lethal" refers to that which will cause death [i.e. permanent forgetfulness]. In Greek mythology, Lethe was a river in Hades, the water of which produced forgetfulness of the past in those who drank from it. It came to be known as the "river of oblivion." Believers were not to permit their thoughts to float off into oblivion concerning the sacrifices of the believer-priest.

Forgetfulness is considered an unfortunate and unacceptable problem by many people. It is easy to say, "I have a good forgetter," while being inwardly frustrated by forgetfulness. Paul believed in a positive kind of forgetfulness. The best way to forget something is to have it replaced by something so much better that the mind is completely focused on the new thing. This will be true in the new heavens and new earth where the "former shall not be remembered, nor come upon the heart (Isa. 65:17)." A glorious present distraction erases the memory of the past. All of Paul's accomplishments were forgotten in light of his position in Christ and his anticipation of personal involvement with the benefits of his being in Christ in the immediate future. Since everything one has in Christ is magnificently superior to the past, he should focus his whole attention on his position. Paul speaks of it in this way, "Brothers, I do not reckon myself to have laid hold; but one thing forgetting for myself on the one hand the things behind, but on the other hand stretching forward to the things before, I am pursuing toward a mark for the prize of the above [or up] calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:13, 14)." Some things should be forgotten by the believer. Scripture also lists several things that should not be forgotten by the Christian.

A believer becomes involved in sin. In practice he has forgotten that if he is a true child of God, he will be chastened for such behavior. If a person sins and is not chastened by God when the sin is not handled properly, he should question as to whether or not he is a true child of God (Heb. 12:8). "For whom the Lord happens to love, He chastens [or child trains], and scourges every son He is receiving (Heb. 12:6)." A response and remembrance of the exhortation should be a deterrent to sin. The Hebrews had forgotten the exhortation (Heb. 12:5-11) that should have been central in their minds so they would be persistent in resisting sin.

As an expression of brotherly love, God does not want hospitality to be forgotten by the believer (Heb. 13:2). Affection for strangers or aliens should be a normal Christian attitude. Some who enjoyed being hospitable, entertained angels without a conscious awareness of the true character of their visitors. When an opportunity comes to invite a stranger into one's home for food and shelter, the believer should remember the potential and exhortation.

If a man looks in a mirror and sees the face he was born with and then forgets what kind of man he is, he is like a forgetful hearer (Jas. 1:24, 25). A forgetful hearer is one who hears, but does not respond in activity. He has forgotten what he has heard before he has any opportunity to apply it to his life. Such a forgetter will not be blessed in what he is doing. He can look at the perfect law of liberty and forget it while professing to be religious, but in practice not living as he ought to live.

An immature believer who has not grown in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ has forgotten that he was cleansed from his past sins (2 Pe. 1:9). He is barren and unfruitful in the full experiential knowledge of Jesus Christ. He has never experienced the potential for the Christian life in activity. Peter mixes metaphors saying that this individual is blind and nearsighted. Carrying the guilt of past sins, he has no assurance of salvation (2 Pe. 1:10) and has a generally unstable life. Peter encourages the Christian to be growing spiritually and not to forget that past sins have already been cleansed by the cross work of Christ.

Christians should not forget the sacrifices of doing good and fellowship (Heb. 13:16). Practice of the sacrifice should indicate that a believer remembers the responsibility. There is a positive potential for remembering the activity of doing good. A study of the terms in Scripture gives a believer clear direction for offering the sacrifice of doing good.

The Character of the Sacrifice

Scripture describes the sacrifice as doing good or beneficence. It is a compound noun with a eu- prefix that is translated "good" or "well" attached to the noun "doing (poiia from poieo)." These components describe what one does and how it should be influencing the recipients.

Though there are many Greek words translated "do" in the English Bible, there are four that dominate the concept of doing. Each one has a different emphasis. "Energy" is an English word that finds its source in the Greek (energeo). It is translated "do or do work" in Mark 6:14, Philippians 2:13 and 2 Thessalonians 2:7, having the root idea of directing energy to a task in active work. The work concept is also evident in (ergadzomai) in Galatians 6:10, Colossians 3:23 and Third John 5, describing the actual labor involved in performing a task. (prasso) is frequently translated "do" but has the idea of habitually doing or practicing of something (Jn. 3:20; Ac. 15:29; Rom. 1:32, etc.). Hebrews 13:16 uses the simple root for actually doing something, (poieo) with an emphasis on personal involvement in a task. When one is personally involved in an activity, he is actually participating in that activity. Personal involvement with good is essential for the believer who intends to offer this sacrifice.

In order for the sacrifice to be effective, it must have a positive effect on someone. This effect is denoted by the word "good." The prefix Eu- (eu-) is a rather common prefix in the Greek New Testament [as eucharistia, "thanksgiving" and eulogia, "wellspoken of"]. As an adverb standing alone, eu is less common occurring only six times in the New Testament (Matt. 25:21; Mk. 14:7; Lu. 19:17; Ac. 15:29; Eph. 6:3). In classical Greek, the word carried the idea of "well, prosperous or noble." When the sacrifice is offered, the recipient of the activity will receive an abundance and so prosper by the act of the offerer resulting in relief and ease. Hence, some lexicographers define it as "beneficence." It appears to combine the ideas Of (kalos) and (agathos). Good that is obviously good because of its outward appearance is identified by kalos. It is evident to the external observer. Agathos, on the other hand, is an essential good that is internal. It seeks the happiness of its object and in turn maintains its own happiness. A piece of fruit may have the external appearance of being good; but when cut open, it is spoiled on the inside. It may be good on the inside as well as on the outside and the one who eats it will enjoy its essential goodness as a result. Evidently, this is also true of the sacrifice of doing good.

When the sacrifice is offered, it will have a very acceptable outward appearance to any who witness it being offered. The one who benefits from the sacrifice will testify to its essential character. He is happy with the activity of the believer-priest. God is the final analyst of the value of the sacrifice. He knows whether it is truly the activity of a spiritual believer or simply a work of the flesh designed to impress other individuals. He evaluates its true worth. Not every good that is done is acceptable as a sacrifice to God. Men may give praise for good that is done. This is exactly what the carnal believer wanted when he performed the deed. When the sacrifice is offered by a spiritual believer, it is not done expecting the praise of man but anticipates the glorification of God. Only God knows the condition and motivation of the believer when he does good.

Doing good is activity performed by a believer for his God. Other individuals may benefit because most activities are people oriented. A true sacrifice is not offered to please men but to please God. God accepts it because it makes Him happy and He is pleased with it. His pleasure should dominate the believer's thinking. Only Spirit-directed sacrifices will be acceptable to God. A believer should not expect praise from man because the sacrifice is offered to God for His pleasure.

A believer can scurry around his church and community attempting to find good things to do. He could spend his life doing good things and never offer the sacrifice of doing good. The religious works of the flesh ("idolatry, sorcery and heresy" - Gal. 5:20) have an insatiable appetite for doing good. Many unbelievers are more successful at doing good than their Christian counterparts. Beneficial activities are often designed to show God good works that many believe will bring them salvation. "With all the good deeds I have done, God would never turn me down." No merit is gained with God by believer or unbeliever by good deeds. In some cases, Christians do good as a public relations event. They attempt to show their righteousness to other believers announcing their "spirituality" by their actions. In other cases, Christians attempt to demonstrate their righteousness to God as an act of independence having yielded to Satanic attack. A spiritual believer participates in doing good as the Holy Spirit leads him into the good works that God has ordained for him (Eph. 2:10). When God leads the believer in the sacrifice of doing good, it is an acceptable sacrifice to the glory of God and not the one who performs the sacrifice.

"Put to test all things; hold fast to that which is good (1 Thess. 5:21)." The believer puts all things to the test in order to ascertain their intrinsic worth. He needs to discard the flawed, adulterated and polluted things. He must accept and accomplish the good. When the test proves that an activity is good, the believer holds fast to the good. Careful examination provides confidence concerning the character of the thing or the activity. How many hours are wasted in the Christian life by involvement in the untested? This does not bring happiness to God or to the believer. What a potential for the believer to make good his own possession!

"There is not one who is doing good, no not one (Rom. 3:12)." The indictment concerning the nature of man seems to indicate that the sacrifice of doing good is impossible for him. Another word for "good," (chrestotes), is used and refers to that which is useful with the potential for accomplishing something worthwhile. It is a part of the fruit of the Spirit and is translated "gentleness" in Galatians 5:22. "Kindness" is a better translation. Because of its inward character and outward manifestation, the activity of the unbeliever is not useful for anything in relation to God. This is typical of the unbeliever's activity. For all the effort expended, the endeavor is useless in the eyes of God. The same is true of the activities of the carnal believer. All righteous behavior springing from the sin nature is absolutely unacceptable to God. Only a spiritual believer can do good that is acceptable to God. It is difficult to offer a proper sacrifice when it is offered to the God who sees the true character of the believer (spiritual or carnal], the actual motivation of the believer, the attitude of the believer and the purpose of the sacrifice.

General Principles for the Believer's Doing Good

In Scripture, there are general principles that relate to everything a believer does. These principles go beyond the sacrifice of doing good. Some of the principles seem logical, but it is important for the Christian to see the specific passages and their implications for the sacrifice of doing good.

It would seem obvious that everything a believer does should be done for the glory of God. His motivation and intentions should always be directed to giving God His full weight. "Whether therefore you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31)." A grace believer is free to do anything that is not prohibited in Scripture. It makes no difference what he eats and drinks. If another believer has a problem with conscience, a believer limits those things that he can do in his freedom because everything he does should glorify God. When a believer's action violates another believer's conscience, he should abstain from the activity because of the brothers conscience. If there are factors that prevent the believer from glorifying God, he should not participate in the activity. Such limitation anticipates the growth of the other believer in his knowledge of the Word of God so that this behavior will not affect his conscience in a negative way in the future. Because everything that a believer does should be to the glory of God, the sacrifice of doing good is also controlled by the same purpose. God's opinion of Himself is clearly presented in Scripture. God delineates the characteristics of behavior that will give Him full glory in the believer's life. Jews, Gentiles and the Church of God (1 Cor. 10:32) are witnesses to what the Christian does. Each of these distinct groups will react to what the believer does. As a result, God is either glorified or He is not glorified. It is easy to behave like a Christian with other believers, but activity before Jews and Gentiles is far more difficult. An offering of the sacrifice before unbelievers provides an advantage so that the believer might have opportunity to share the gospel so that some of them might be saved as a result of what he has done (1 Cor. 10:33).

Not only is the believer to do all things to the glory of God, but he is also to be doing the desirous will (thelema) of God. Without a knowledge of the will of God, the believer lives in a state of confusion and uncertainty. Knowing the will of God is the result of personal practice. Scripture clearly reveals specific elements of God's desirous will. When a believer habitually is practicing the will of God as it is revealed in Scripture, he automatically is able to discern what God's desires are in other areas of life. "The world system is passing away and its strong desires; but the one who is doing the will of God feels at ease into the age (1 Jn. 2:17)." If the believer is drawn away into the world system, he enters into an unstable environment. Meanwhile, another believer may be doing the will of God and he feels at ease even though he is living in the world system. A spiritual believer has a potential to know all things because he can use the anointing from the Holy Spirit (1 Jn. 2:20). In Paul's day, the composition of the church included many slaves in Europe and Asia. God expected believing bond slaves to be doing His will from the soul, the center of emotion, by obeying their human masters as they would Christ, their Heavenly Master. God's will for their activity is clear -- they work as though Christ was the master. They were not to perform their duties as slaves just when men were watching them. The Christian slave's service to his master was to be done because he knew it was the will of God that he serve and that he was to serve with a good feeling and a good mental attitude (Eph. 6:6, 7). Employees often have real problems feeling good about their jobs and employers. Undoubtedly, this was true in a slave society where there was little hope for freedom to find other employment. Paul encouraged Christian slaves to do the will of God from the soul with a good mind because they knew that each man would receive from the Lord benefits whether he is a slave or a freeman (Eph. 6:8). Some good things a Christian does may be repulsive and unpleasant to the person doing it, but the Lord will provide the benefit. Other good things the believer does are enjoyable and give a real sense of accomplishment. When the Christian offers the sacrifice of doing good, it will always please God no matter how repulsive or difficult it may be. [See Will of God Chart, Appendix I]

Frequently, believers begin a project that qualifies as a sacrifice of doing good and quit before the task is completed. Every man proves himself by his own work (Gal. 6:4). He has been taught all good things by another believer (Gal. 6:6). For positive results in this life, he should be sowing to the human spirit from the Holy Spirit, reaping a quality of eternal life. He is capable of enjoying the benefits of the indwelling Christ who is eternal life (1 Jn. 5:11, 12). How important it is for the Church to be reminded of the need for getting the job done. "And let us not be in a bad way [or remiss] in doing that which is obviously good, for we will reap in its own proper time not fainting (Gal. 6:9)." The whole sacrifice must be given because partial sacrifices are not considered sacrifices. What is done is accomplished or it isn't done at all.

As has been mentioned, only spiritual believers are capable of giving the sacrifice of doing good. Paul reiterates this in Colossians 3:17. Colossians three clearly describes the behavior of a spiritual believer. Only spiritual Christians have the ability to manifest the character of Christ. "And whatsoever you happen to do in word and work, do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus, while giving thanks to God the Father through Him." Several principles can easily be seen from this passage of Scripture. What a believer does should be done in the character of Christ (cf. the prior chapter on praise]. What an individual does can be something spoken as well as something actually accomplished. Thanksgiving should accompany the activity. Thanksgiving is an indication that the believer is spiritual (Eph. 5:18-20). Hence, the sacrifice should be offered in the character of Christ and with thanksgiving to God. Paul includes the lives of spiritual slaves who are to be doing their tasks from the soul as they serve their masters (Col. 3:23).

Another general principle for the believer's doing good is that if he knows that God wants him to do good and he does not do it or does something else, it is sin to him (Jas. 4:17). It is important to realize objectively that this is not written so that believers can judge other believers. To him, it is sin. In other words, only the believer and his God can know whether or not his not doing good is sin. There are as many human standards for good as there are individual Christians. The Bible does not give the Church a catalog of every specific deed that God considers to be good. If it did, Christians would be involved in an active program of earning merit badges. James describes a man who made his own plans for relocating and for gaining great wealth within a year's time in the new location. The man avoided the will of God in the matter, and as a result, didn't do good by his moving to a city. He was the only one who really knew that he had avoided good. An individual believer must absolutely determine what God's will is in his life. Then he might refuse to do it. Where Scripture is silent, no believer has the right to tell another believer what God's will is for him in his life. When the other believer does something that other believers dislike or feel would not be God's will for them, they have no authority to use James 4:17 to declare the believer to be a sinner. To him and him alone, it is a sin. Only he knows whether he deliberately has avoided doing a specific good thing. God declares it a sin but not in public or by human standards. When the opportunity arises to offer the sacrifice and a believer knows that it is God's will and does not do the good, it is a sin to him. Hence, in some cases, when a spiritual believer refuses to offer the sacrifice of doing good, it is sin.

The Dilemma in Doing Good

Every Christian faces a dilemma when he is faced with doing good. When a believer is carnal, he knows what is good and what should be done but he is incapable of offering the sacrifice though he may attempt to accomplish the necessary task. In Romans seven, Paul describes the dilemma produced in his own life because he possessed two natures and one personality (ego) or "I." First person pronouns occur in 7:14-24 fifteen times with sixteen first person singular verbs. A literal translation of verses 15-21 shows the real meaning of the different words that are translated "do" in the Authorized Version and exhibits the dilemma every believer faces. "For that which I am working out for myself, I do not experientially know; for that which I am not desiring, this thing I am practicing, but that which I am hating, this I am actually doing. But if I am actually doing this thing that I am not desiring, I agree with the law that it is obviously good. But now I am no longer working it, but the indwelling sin nature [or sin principle] in me. For I have an intuitive knowledge that good does not dwell in me [this is in my flesh]: for to desire is present with me, but not to work the obvious good; for the inherent good that I am desiring, I am actually doing, but that evil that I am not desiring, this I am practicing. But if I am actually doing that which I am not desiring, I am no longer working it but the sin nature dwelling in me. I am finding then the law, that when I am desiring to be actually doing the good, that the evil is present with me (Rom. 7:15-21)." A Christian's sin nature is opposed to doing that which is truly good by God's standards whether it is inherently good (agathos) or obviously good (kalos). A carnal Christian will oppose the will of God in matters that relate to doing good. Frequently, he will have his own standards of what is acceptable and good. He reacts to the teaching of the sacrifices of the believer-priest by calling them "details of doctrine that are unimportant." He says, "Don't complicate my life with details!" In many cases, the believer knows what is right in his person, but his sin nature influences his thinking convincing him that it is unnecessary for a believer to be bothered with the clear revelation of Scripture. Paul, the apostle, had similar conflicts so no believer should ever imagine that he is free from such a dilemma in his own life. Knowing to do good yet practicing and actually doing something else is always the result of carnality.

Doing Good in Response to Revelation

There are several things that a believer can do in response to the revelation of Scripture. Some of these actions are very essential for Christian maturity. Practical Christian living and consistent personal study are the results of responding to the message of Scripture. Spiritual believers have the potential to be living a life in which love is directed toward fellow believers in activity.

James prohibits preferential treatment in the assembly (Jas. 2:1-18). He suggests that when one fulfills the Royal Law, he is doing a good thing. The Royal Law was described in Matthew 22:39 as the second most important commandment in the Mosaic Law. "Thou shalt love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18)." Because of the preference for attempting to live by the Law in James, He points out the inconsistency of giving preferential treatment to the rich and influential. Every believer is considered equal and a neighbor. Who is the believer's neighbor? The one who enters the assembly of believers and is thereby identifying himself as a Christian brother (Jas. 2:2). Christ gave a superior love to the selflove prescribed in Moses. In the new commandment, He shared His own type of love with believers - a kind of love never before shared with human beings. "A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another (Jn. 13:34)." Christ's love for the Christian should be the basis for loving the brethren. Modern teaching concerning selflove has placed man on a pedestal and focuses attention on all the good in man ignoring his inherent weaknesses and God's opinion of the true character of man. One can show his faith by his works as he relates to other believers. Preferential treatment violated the Mosaic Law and also violates the Law of Christ. One does good when he loves a brother because he sees Christ loving that brother.

Scripture is very clear in its teaching that faith is not a work (Rom. 4:5). Even though belief is an activity of the mind, it is not a work. When a Christian believes that there is one God, that is to say that God is one in essence [1=1], he does a good thing (Jas. 2:19). In verse 18, James says, "... I will show you my faith by my works." Faith in one God is not evident unless there are works that demonstrate that previously existing faith. To illustrate this, James says, "... the demons believe and tremble." Before their fall, the demons knew that the three Persons of the Trinity [1+1+1=3) inhere in one essence [1=1]. Based on personal knowledge, they believe that God is one, even after their fall. As a result, they tremble or shudder. Their belief and knowledge did not manifest itself in their works. They fell and now bear the designation "demons." Faith without works as a proof of its validity is dead no matter how loudly one proclaims his faith in one God. The implication is that one does good to believe, but does better by proving his faith by his works. Simple faith is enough for God but not enough for the external observer who sees the works manifested in activity.

Another thing that the believer can do in response to revelation is to make his own election and calling sure for himself (2 Pe. 1:10). Both "election" and "calling" are soteriological terms. God has chosen the believer to be saved. He called the believer to salvation. Many believers have doubted the reality of their salvation. As a result, they have never grown spiritually. They need to be assured in their minds and make it firm for their personal benefit (middle voice]. God is not affected in any way by their making this solid for themselves. God has saved them -- objective fact. They may doubt it -- subjective feeling. Their feelings will not change the fact. This certainly is seen in the last part of the verse literally translated. "... For while doing these things you will absolutely never, not even once, happen to fall [lit. to overthrow a building] ever." While the believer is firming up things for himself, his relationship to God absolutely will not change in any way. Scripture reveals that God has provided salvation for men. One thing the Christian should do is to respond to that revelation and make certain for himself that he has truly been called and chosen to salvation. This should be one of the earliest offerings of the sacrifice of doing good that the believer offers. Gaining the assurance of salvation, he will go on to other sacrifices.

Christendom is divided on the matter of the importance of prophecy. Some say that there is too much emphasis on prophecy in the church while others feel that there is too little emphasis. Many believers avoid prophetic teaching because it "isn't practical" and because it is hard to understand and because there are so many different interpretations. Peter teaches that one obviously does good when he is taking heed to prophecy. "We have also a more firm prophetic word, to which you are doing well to be taking heed ... (2 Pe. 1:19)." God placed control on prophecy in that it does not have its own unloosing [solution or interpretation]. In other words, because of its Divine origin, man has no right to give it his own interpretation. God gives prophecy its interpretation and that interpretation should be accepted and appreciated, Prophecy should give the believer a glimmer of hope like a lamp shining in a dark place. Prophecy sheds light until the events actually come to pass. The believer is doing good when he is living in light of prophetic truth. Rapture awareness is a sacrifice of doing good, Every day should be thought of as "Perhaps Today!"

Undoubtedly, there are many other things that can be done in response to the revelation from Scripture but the ones listed are clearly presented in Scripture to be a part of the believer's practice. It is evident that a believer must know and understand Scripture in order to do anything in relation to its revelation.

General Principles for Doing Good

Galatians 6:9, 10 gives five general principles for doing good:
(1) one is not to falter when doing good;
(2) Reaping will come in its own time;
(3) One is to do good as he has the time;
(4) One is to do good to all men; and
(5) One is to focus his doing good upon the household of faith.

When the believer does good, he should expect results. The good done will directly affect the recipient whether to the end intended by the doer or not, When the result is slow in coming and the task becomes difficult, the believer should not falter in the task. A balanced motivation will give a positive direction as the believer seeks to be doing what God desires him to be doing. In its own time, the result will be produced. What a great variety of crops is harvested from doing good. A multitude of needs are met. Encouragement is provided. Concern is evidenced. Life is more stable. A Christian witness is presented. God is glorified.

Opportunities to do good are not to take precedence over necessary activities in life. After the routine, essential tasks of life have been accomplished, the believer should take advantage of the opportunities to offer the sacrifice of doing good. As he has the time, he can do that which makes others happy seeking to meet their needs. If he is in a marriage relationship, he cannot only meet necessary responsibilities in the marriage but can also be offering the sacrifice of doing good in his relationship with his partner. Too often church work takes away essential time from the marriage and the family because of the drive to be doing good. The same quality of doing good can be accomplished in the home just as well as it can be accomplished in the church. As the believer lives in the will of God, he should be looking for opportunities to be offering the sacrifice of doing good. As he has time, he does good. He does not replace basic responsibilities with his good activities but performs them in his free time.

Who is to receive the good? All men, whether believer or unbeliever, may be recipients of the good that is done. Many unbelievers have responded to the Gospel because a spiritual believer offered a sacrifice of doing good. God can use such a sacrifice to get the unbeliever's attention. Since the Christian will be spending most of his time with saints, the primary focus of doing good is toward believers.

It is natural for an individual to do good first in relation to his own household and then that of others. The same is true of the household of faith. It is the responsibility of the church to care for its own. Believers tend to spend a great deal of time with other believers and will naturally have more opportunity to express their love by doing good to one another. One of the joys of doing good to one another is seeing reciprocity that results from doing good. Doing good in different ways for different situations paints a beautiful picture of true Christian compassion.

There are many good things that a believer may do. Only a few are a part of God's will for the individual believer. There are not enough hours in a thousand years for an individual to do all the good potentially available to do in a single day. It is necessary to discern the will of God in order to know what should be done and what should be avoided. Only God the Father can make it possible for the believer to know that he is doing the will of God. "May he adjust you in every good thing to do His desirous will, while doing in us the thing that is well pleasing before Him through Jesus Christ (Heb. 13:21)." Every believer needs regular adjustment so that he can know for certain that the thing he is doing is the will of God. On any given Sunday, a believer is confronted with many opportunities to do good from simply helping a child to participation in the public aspects of the meeting. The same is true for every other day of the week. Divine guidance is essential, As a result, the believer will take the best opportunity and accomplish the task with God receiving the greatest glory from the thing done.

Biblical Examples of Doing Good

Scripture gives some clear examples of what activities are good. Many opportunities like these arise and the believer can offer the sacrifice of doing good by taking advantage of the opportunities. As a result, there are some positive benefits to the recipient of the good activity.

Poverty in the community always provides an opportunity to offer up the sacrifice. Poverty will always exist among men even with all the programs organized to alleviate the problem. Christ indicated this when He said, "For you are having the poor with you always (Mk. 14:7; Matt. 26:11; Jn. 12:8)." The potential for doing good is always present when there are impoverished people. Doing things that relieve the pressures of poverty are sacrifices of doing good. Food, clothing and shelter provided by the believer do a great deal of good.

Under the Mosaic Law, Israel was encouraged to help the poor by doing good. "For the needy/poor will not come to cease from the midst of the land; therefore I am commanding you, saying; You will absolutely proceed to open your hand to your brother, to your poor and to your needy in the land (Deut. 15:11)." When an Israelite opened his hand, he provided physical benefits for the poor. Under the Law, the proper treatment of the poor was a prerequisite for God's blessing of the individual and the nation in time. Deut. 15:7-11 gives several principles for Israel's proper treatment and provision for the poor. Every Israelite was expected to have a good attitude toward the poor and toward giving to them (15:7, 10). Liberality was to characterize the meeting of the needs of the poor (15:8). Giving could be considered a loan that made up that which was lacking in the life of the poor person (15:8). They could not charge interest [i.e. usury] for money loaned to another Israelite [though the Law permitted it when a foreigner was involved]. Every seventh year was a year of release in which the debts of the poor were erased (15:9). Refusal on the part of the creditor could bring a call to Jehovah by the poor debtor and the creditor's refusal would become a sin (15:9). An Israelite who obeyed this aspect of the Law was promised that "... for this thing Jehovah your God will proceed to bless you in all your doing [or work] and in all the stretching out of your hand (Deut. 15:10)." Jehovah commanded Israel to assist the poor as a mandate -- there was no option. Any violation was sin and directly affected their physical blessing in time. Grace believers have the privilege of ministering to the poor as a priestly privilege not by the precepts of the Law.

When Mary anointed Jesus' feet with spikenard, Judas and some of the others present were highly critical of what they considered waste. Recognizing the value of the ointment, they suggested, in anger, that the ointment could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Since these individuals were still living under the Law, they made a subtle appeal to the Law in this case. Christ responded by directly relating the statement of the Law that poverty would persist. Analyzing their true intentions, Christ said, "... And whenever you desire (thelo), you have the ability to do good for them, but you will not always have me (Mk. 14:7)." All it would take was a little desire and anyone could do good for the poor at any time. This was an open rebuke to Judas who as the treasurer of the group was a thief and would have stolen a part of the money designated for the poor (Jn. 12:4-6). Mary, on the other hand, had worked a good work in pouring ointment on Christ (Matt. 26:10).

Even though the statements concerning the poor were made in the environment of the Law of Moses, the grace believer has similar privileges. Twice Paul was involved in gathering offerings for the poor saints in Jerusalem (Ac. 11:28-30; 1 Cor, 16:1, 2; 2 Cor. 8, 9). He encouraged believers to give financially so that there would be relief to the brethren in Jerusalem. There are many ways a believer can assist the poor that may not involve money. Clothing and food donated to Christian organizations [as skid road missions and missionary agencies] to assist the poor. This kind of doing good usually involves the sacrifice of giving. Assistance can be given directly to individual believers and families in the local church program. A believer Who has a spiritual gift that gives him the ability to discern needs of the poor will encourage the church's involvement with helping the unbelieving poor in the community as well as poor believers. Every believer has the potential for offering the sacrifice of doing good when he assists the poor. With some relief from the pressure of poverty, the poor believer is better able to be used of God in the local church and to live a consistent spiritual life.

As a result of dissension in the church, a council was convened in Jerusalem with the apostles and representatives of the church in Antioch. Was circumcision necessary for salvation (Ac. 15:1)? As a result of the council, a double standard was adopted and established. Believers in Jerusalem [both Jews and Gentiles) were required to be circumcised while Gentile believers elsewhere in the Roman world would not need to be circumcised. Other criteria were presented to demonstrate Christian behavior. As was typical for those well acquainted with the Law, prohibitions became the criteria for Christian behavior. The Holy Spirit and the leaders in the church in Jerusalem did not wish to burden the Gentile believers with anything but the necessities [i.e. the bare minimum] (Ac. 15:28). They were to abstain from four things: idols, blood, things strangled and fornication (Ac. 15:29). By keeping themselves from these things, they would be doing good. Idolatry and fornication are two of the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19, 20). Why be concerned with blood and things strangled? These restrictions existed before the Law of Moses (Gen. 9:4-6) and so the church at Jerusalem considered them to be applicable to the Gentiles who were also the sons of Noah. When an occasion rises where the believer is invited to participate in any of the four, it was evident that he did a good thing by holding himself away from such activity. It would appear that when the Christian has a clear opportunity to sin and abstains it would be considered an act of doing good with the potential for being a sacrifice for the spiritual believer.

As an option to unrighteous behavior, doing good should be encouraged. A thief should stop his stealing and use his hands in a proper way. "Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have to give to him that has a need (Eph. 4:28)." He labors so that he may give rather than to scheme to take. When the believer yields to Satanic attack and steals, he needs to cease such activity and be involved in a positive option. Honest, hard labor (kopos) will do the good thing with a specific purpose for the believer - helping the one who has need. In a society where thievery was a way of life, the Christian was to recognize its sinfulness and replace the activity with righteous behavior. He makes a sacrifice to his God by doing good while he avoids evil and participates in good.

A Christian slave could do good by giving a good day's work to his master just as though he was working for the Lord (Eph. 6:6-8). He is to do this by design, knowing that each believer will receive from the Lord whatever good thing he does, whether a slave or a freeman (Eph. 6:8). This applies to anyone working for an employer. Working as unto the Lord is always a sacrifice for the spiritual believer. All parties (employer, employee and God] are satisfied with a job well done as a result of the believer's being motivated by his priestly service of doing good.

Benefits of Doing Good

Benefits for doing good are distributed in several ways. It is obvious that the recipient of the good deed benefits but so does the one who does the good. When a believer does good, it is possible for him to benefit in time and in the future as well. Benefits received should never be the motivation for doing good. Christian love directed to God, the brother and then the unbeliever should provide a basic motivation for offering the sacrifice. Scripture describes several benefits for doing good.

Whatever a man sows will ultimately produce a harvest. Galatians 6:7-10 distinguishes reaping for that which was sown in the flesh and reaping for that which was sown from the Spirit. Works done in the flesh are in the state of decaying and have only temporary value. Works done from the Spirit will reap a quality of eternal life. In its own time, the reaping will take place to the glory of God and to the benefit of the believer. Everyday trials (6:1-4) and individualism (6:5) are often used as excuses to avoid doing good. The believer is not to be led astray by these excuses. He is to continue planting while anticipating positive results from his sacrifice.

Naturally, the recipient of the good deed receives a benefit. If a task was performed for someone, they receive a measure of relief and are able to enjoy such a result. Assistance rendered to the needy meets their needs. When the Philippians sent physical gifts to Paul, he considered that to be a good work (Phil. 4:14). When a believer abstains from sin, he keeps other believers from falling into the sin. When an employee does a good day's work, the employer benefits from the increase in the employee's production. It is important to remember that God finds the sacrifice acceptable and well pleasing. As a result, God receives thanksgiving and praise from believers who have received the benefits of the sacrifice. If the sacrifice of doing good is offered according to the will of God, the work of God will go on to the glory of God through the spiritual believer.

In time, the believer may receive specific benefits for doing good. Other human beings seeing the good deeds done will praise the believer for his activity. The praise of man can come from a large variety of areas. Rulers are one of the highest levels of human society that can give praise to the believer (Rom. 13:3, 4). They are not to be a source of fear for good work. When good is done, there is a potential for the praise from the ruler. Those who are continually doing good will receive praise from a ruler in some way on some level at some time. Doing good is seen as a service to the community so man gives his praise. Whether it is a job that is well done or bills paid on time, men appreciate the fact that it is not necessary to use government to enforce civil law toward the believer.

Ultimately, at the Bema seat of Christ [called "the judgment seat of Christ"], the believer will be rewarded based upon the things done in his body (2 Cor. 5:10). If the thing done is good, there will be a reward given. If the thing done is bad, it will not count for reward. The word "bad," (phaulos), means "not producing anything." Fallow ground is nonproductive ground. The believer is not judged but his works are. Every man's works will be brought to light and tested as to their character (1 Cor. 3:13). Works that do not meet the test will be destroyed as though by fire and the man will be saved but will suffer loss (3:15). The works that remain will be the basis for reward. Every man will receive praise from God whether he receives reward or not (1 Cor. 4:5). Victors' crowns, (stephanoi), will be rewarded to believers for things done in their lives. An incorruptible crown will be given to believers who keep their bodily appetites under control (1 Cor. 9:25-27). The crown of rejoicing will be given to believers who have shared the Gospel and had a person saved through faith in Christ (1 Thess. 2:19). The crown of life will be rewarded to those who have overcome testing and temptation even to the death (Jas. 1:12; Rev. 2:10). This crown is known as the martyrs crown. When a man has the pastor-teacher gift, he has the potential for receiving the crown of glory for his service under the Chief Shepherd (1 Pe. 5:4). Scripture clearly describes these five crowns that will be given to the believers who qualify for them. The rewards will be directly presented to Christ who essentially earned them through the believer. The only reward motive is to have something to present to Christ in the future for good works done by the spiritual believer here on earth.

What a privilege it will be to cast crowns at Jesus Christ's feet, giving Him glory for work done by the activity of the Holy Spirit in a Christian's life. A sacrifice of doing good brings glory to God and will bring reward to the believer who in return will give the crown to Jesus Christ.

In bringing the sacrifice of doing good, the believer-priest comes as a spiritual believer led by the Spirit, knowing the will of God in the specific task. Having an open, obvious acceptability as well as an inherent character of good, the sacrifice will give God glory for the work He is doing in and through the believer. As a result of what is done, other individuals benefit. Either the believer or the unbeliever can receive the benefits of the good that has been done. Not every good deed the believer does is a sacrifice to God. When the carnal believer does good, he will have a different motivation for his activity than a spiritual believer. God will reject his activity as a sacrifice. This unique sacrifice has the potential for pleasing God while all other good activity is not accepted by a holy God. "Let us offer up the sacrifice of doing good ...."


Chapter 6: The Sacrifice of Fellowship
Hebrews 13:16


A third sacrifice mentioned in Hebrews thirteen is the sacrifice of fellowship (13:16). When a Christian reads the Authorized Version, he might conclude that when he talks to another person, he is offering this sacrifice since "fellowship" is translated "communicate." Only a part of fellowship involves communication. There are a number of biblical facts that are essential for understanding fellowship.

Fellowship is one of the most used and least understood Christian terms in the Church today. A little food and a cup of coffee with two Christians and the result is instant fellowship. Any communication between Christians is called "fellowship." Many Christian meetings are identified as fellowship meetings. Sunday School classes are identified as Koinonia classes. Youth groups are called fellowships. Just because the term "fellowship" is used does not make the meeting a true time of biblical fellowship. Scripture clearly describes valid biblical fellowship for the Christian.

What Is Fellowship?

Because Christians organize times for sharing together does not mean that they are having fellowship. Personal involvement in the lives of other saints may or may not be fellowship. All six forms of "fellowship" occur in the New Testament 46 times. Koinonia is one of the best-known Greek terms used among Christians. As is true with many theological Greek terms, "fellowship" is found in a technical sense as well as in several non-technical senses. In the New Testament, it is used of business that is conducted in the marketplace (Lu. 5:10). In classical Greek, the word was used of a marriage relationship where two people shared together in common. The form of Greek used in the New Testament is called Koine Greek meaning it is "common" Greek. Fellowship means "to share in common or jointly." English words that reflect this root include communion, communicate, companion, company and commute. The com- prefix relates directly to a commonality or togetherness in a relationship or activity. One must understand what the common ground is in order to make the relationship fellowship. Is the church a social club comprised of believers? Some churches with believers as members have never experienced true New Testament fellowship. Fork + Food + Friends does not equal Fellowship in a "fellowship" dinner even though every participant may have all these in common. True New Testament fellowship is limited by what the believer shares in common with other believers. Generally, Christians have been taught that the common ground for fellowship is salvation, but it is evident that salvation was not enough in the Corinthian church. True fellowship is only possible when believers are spiritual and living in light of their position in Christ. All believers have a common position and possessions in Christ.

Why Have Fellowship?

Some Christians rarely attend church because they feel that church attendance is not necessary. Evidently, there were some of the readers of the Epistle to the Hebrews who had this attitude. They are admonished, "And let us consider one another to incite to love and good works, not forsaking the coming together of ourselves, as the habit of some is, but exhorting ... (Heb. 10:24, 25)." It is true that fellowship does not require a church building or a church meeting, but the gathering of the church should stimulate the Christian to be an active participant in Scriptural fellowship. Certainly, contemporary churches are organized around a common doctrine, common government and common discipline. Each member agrees to support and conform to common areas of belief and practice before he becomes a member. A name on the roll and a profession of faith are not elements of New Testament fellowship. Believers should have fellowship because they are sharing together in what they have in Christ and because they are filled by the Holy Spirit manifesting the character of Christ to one another. They revel in all of the common benefits that they are sharing in Christ at that moment. The early church shared a common salvation; but as they learned what they had in Christ, they came to build fellowship around that relationship.

Those who were saved on the day of Pentecost found their foundation for growth comprised of four elements: the apostles' doctrine, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayers of worship. Fellowship was one part that was important to them that day (Ac. 2:42). They were together and had all things in common in an experimental socialism that was not mandated by God (Ac. 2:44). They sold all their goods and distributed them to the poor (Ac. 2:45). They possessed a singleness of mind when they entered into the temple and broke bread from house to house. Here was common activity of the whole church in one city that was filled with the thrill of the events of Pentecost. Fellowship was simple. Fellowship was only based on faith in Christ. Fellowship was a mutual adaptation into a world that had a religious structure but that had never seen anything as unique as the infant Church.

Fellowship is not automatic for the believer, but it is based on information revealed in the Word of God. Without revelation, biblical fellowship is impossible. John describes it in this way, "That which we have seen and have heard, we are announcing also to you, in order that [purpose) you may potentially be having a quality of fellowship with us, but indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ (1 Jn. 1:3)." Specific segments of biblical revelation make fellowship possible for the believer on all levels. One of the themes of First John is the indwelling Christ (1 Jn. 5:11, 12). Each believer has the potential to live in the light and to manifest the life of God in his life [i.e. eternal life]. Light is the manifestation of the life of God. Scripture reveals how the Christian can be ordering every detail of his life [walking] in the light. Only believers who are walking in the light can have First John fellowship. "But if we should happen to be walking in the light as He is in the light, we are having a quality of fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son keeps on cleansing us from all sin (1 Jn. 1:7)." Here John uses the first of four third class conditions in chapter one (1:6, 8, 9, 10) indicating that it is possible for the believer to walk in the light, but it is not certain that he will actually practice such a walk. The criteria of the "if" clause (protasis) or condition must be met in order to accomplish the activity (apodasis). In other words, if a believer is not walking in the light, it is impossible for him to have true fellowship with other believers and to be enjoying the cleansing of sin for himself. A Christian who does not know how to be walking in the light will never enjoy fellowship. He has no ability to offer the sacrifice of fellowship. Walking in the light, a spiritual believer has a potential to have fellowship with every other believer who is walking in the light.

In ignorance, some Christians believe that a Christian can never know when he is spiritual. Scripture clearly teaches that if a believer does not know that he is spiritual, he is not spiritual. A proper frame of mind makes spirituality possible and without it, the Holy Spirit will not fill [or make up the deficiencies of] the believer. As believers fellowship with one another, they share their position in common in Christ. As a result, they manifest the character of Christ [the fruit of the Spirit], live in the light and exhibit the life of God. Every believer has the potential to have fellowship with the members of the Godhead as he practices the spiritual life. A knowledge of and practice of the spiritual life is essential for offering the sacrifice of fellowship. Believers can share in common in an improper way as well as a proper way.

Union with an unbeliever is an unequal yoke in any circumstance. Marriage, business partnerships and political agreements as well as many other activities with unbelievers are prohibited. "Stop being yoked with another of a different kind [i.e. unbelievers] ... (2 Cor. 6:14)." Paul proceeds to illustrate the problem by using some examples of impossible relationships. It is impossible for righteousness and lawlessness to have anything together. The two cannot coexist. Where one is the other cannot exist. It is impossible for light and darkness to have anything in common [fellowship]. Christ and Belial have no agreement. The believer has no part with an unbeliever. The Holy of Holies of the temple of God has no place for idols or it ceases to be the Holy of Holies. Separation from yoking with unbelievers is essential for spirituality. Even though it does not make the believer spiritual, it does not prevent him from being spiritual. A Christian should not make any intimate ties that are binding with an unbeliever. Scripture does not prohibit friendliness with or working with an unbeliever on a job. There are situations where it is possible for the believer to retain his Christian testimony without compromise. Where compromise is necessary in matters of what Scripture describes as right and wrong, coexistence is impossible. As a result, such relationships should be terminated and avoided. It is impossible for believers to have true fellowship with unbelievers just as it is impossible for light and darkness to coexist in the same place at the same time. Unfortunately, believers have popularized the idea of fellowship to the point that every human relationship falls into the category of fellowship. Jobs, membership non-Christian organizations, political influence groups, athletic leagues and hobby groups have fallen into the category of being fellowships in many believers' thinking. In no way can a believer make a binding agreement with an unbeliever and not be negatively influenced by the unbeliever in the relationship. Should a believer consider fellowship with an unbeliever to be a sacrifice, it would be just as unacceptable to God as a swine slain on the temple altar under the Law.

Why have fellowship? Because Christ has made provisions for Christians that are outstandingly superior to anything an unbeliever possesses, we have fellowship. Other believers possess the same benefits. Only spiritual believers can have fellowship sharing with one another the benefits that the Holy Spirit has provided in their lives. Fellowship is not only possible, but God prefers it for His children. God has made all of the arrangements for the spiritual life so that the believer can live in the light ordering every detail of his life by the manifestation of the life of God. Fellowship brings experiential knowledge. One's fellowship with God and other believers will give him a greater appreciation for all the provisions of God for Christian living.

Who Can Fellowship?

Every Christian has the potential for fellowship with any other Christian. His whole spiritual life determines whether or not he will actually meet the potential. Only spiritual believers can have fellowship with other spiritual believers in the New Testament sense. A carnal believer who remains carnal cannot have true fellowship with a spiritual believer or another carnal believer. Certainly carnal believers can get together and have a good time [and even talk about Christian things], but they can never have biblical fellowship. A believer cannot have fellowship with an unbeliever. Scripture places severe restrictions on who can have New Testament fellowship.

God does not desire a believer to hold another believer's sins in common with him. When believers participate together in the same sins, they will suffer the same results. Paul warns Timothy of such a potential when he says, "Lay hands quickly on no man, nor lay hold in common the sins of others of the same kind, keep yourselves pure (1 Tim. 5:22)." A carnal believer may attempt to drag a spiritual believer into his sins. It is important that the spiritual believer resist the temptation to share in the sin. He will become carnal because of his own personal participation in the sins. Purity is essential for biblical Christian fellowship.

Unbelievers have many different external appearances. Some are very religious while others are not at all concerned about morality. When an unbeliever is convinced that he has the ability to please God by his works, he may be aggressive in his attempts to involve others in his way of thinking. Channeling personal merit is the backbone of world religion. Religion is an element of the world system designed by Satan to control the works of the flesh. Cult members are driven by religious zeal to convert people to their respective cult. The Apostle John saw the deception inherent in the cults of his day. "Many deceivers are entered into the world who do not confess that Jesus Christ is coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist (2 Jn. 7)." As a result of their doctrine, they are identified as deceivers. The implications of their doctrine are evident. When one denies that Jesus Christ is coming in the flesh, he denies the deity of Christ and the union of His divine nature with a human nature. Some say that Christ's cross work is not sufficient because He is seen as a mere man only capable of bearing his own sin or He is considered to be a lesser deity. If such a person comes to the believer, he is not to receive the unbelieving cultist into his house and not to give him a positive greeting (2 Jn. 10). If the Christian tells him to rejoice [in what he is doing], the believer becomes a partaker [i.e. one having fellowship with] in the malignantly evil deeds of the cultic unbeliever (2 Jn. 11). Christians should not encourage in any way the unbeliever as he spreads his pernicious doctrine. Dialogue will accomplish nothing. A believer is not even to appear in the smallest way to have anything in common with the one who denies that Christ is coming in the flesh. Without Christ as full deity, there is no Christianity and no hope for the believer. God does not want the believer to consider anything that resembles religious fellowship with the religious unbeliever. The god of the cults and other religions is not the God of the Bible and creation.

No fellowship exists between Christ and false religions. Every religious system in the world [aside from biblical Christianity] is directly influenced by demons [fallen angels]. In Corinth, a center of a diversity of religions, a Corinthian believer was absolutely inconsistent if he went for lunch at a pagan temple and ate food and drank liquid offered to idols and then came to partake in the communion service at the church. Pagan practices and Christian practices do not mix even though men attempt to unite the two. Eating of sacrifices offered to idols identified the eater with the demon receiving the sacrifice (1 Cor. 10:18, 19). Paul says, "... I do not wish you to become sharers (or fellowshippers] of the demons (1 Cor. 10:20)." A believer must not have fellowship with false religion. What a conundrum to eat in allegiance to idols and then to come to eat the Lord's table in remembrance of Christ's work and its many provisions. Such a contradiction will never accomplish anything positive in a Christian's life. His involvement with the unbeliever will prohibit the offering of the sacrifice of fellowship.

As has been seen, a believer should not attempt to have true fellowship with an unbeliever (2 Cor. 6:14). He should make no attempt to have binding ties of any sort with the unbeliever. Friendship is permitted as long as special care is taken so that there will be no commitments that could produce an unequal yoke for the believer.

First John 1:7 clearly teaches that God expects the believer to be spiritual using the knowledge given to him in the Bible. When he is spiritual, he can then have true fellowship with other spiritual Christians. Walking in the light is a prerequisite for proper fellowship with each other. Who can have fellowship? One spiritual believer can share in common with another spiritual believer. There can be no fellowship with an unbeliever or a carnal believer. Fellowship involves the spiritual realm in New Testament revelation.

Where Can One Fellowship?

Fellowship is not limited to a geographical location. Church buildings with their fellowship halls are not the only places where fellowship can take place. When spiritual believers get together and share their common benefits in Christ, fellowship exists for the benefit of the believers and to the glory of God. Physical location Makes little difference while spiritual location or position is essential for true fellowship.

Fellowship finds its basis in the believer's being in Christ. As a result of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the believer is in Christ. Each individual believer has been placed in Christ at the moment of salvation (1 Cor. 12:13). Because of this, he is in the Body of Christ, "one body" that is identified as "the Christ" (1 Cor. 12:11-13). The Body of Christ is a unity characterized by "oneness" (1 Cor. 10:17). In the communion service, the single loaf signifies one Body (1 Cor. 10:16, 17). Paul identifies this oneness in Christ as "one new man" (Eph. 2:14, 15). At the call to salvation, the believer is in one Body (Col. 3:15). "For we have members in one body, but all the members do not have the same practice, so we are, the many, one body in Christ and each one members of one another (Rom. 12:4, 5)." The oneness is also identified as "one in Christ"(Gal. 3:28; Eph. 2:14, 15; 4:3-7). Unity in Christ is the basis of biblical fellowship. When a believer is living in light of his position in Christ, he will be reflectively thinking of the same things, possess the same love and have the same soul (i.e. feelings] as other spiritual believers (Phil. 2:1-4). Unity should be evident in the lives of spiritual believers. Having their reflective thinking focused on their position in Christ, they have a basis for commonality in relationships and conversation (cf. Eph. 4:3, 13). If one is not in Christ, there is no basis for fellowship. If one is not enjoying his position in Christ, there is no potential for fellowship. Because the saint is in Christ, he has the basis for offering the sacrifice of fellowship. When he is spiritual and relates to another spiritual believer on the basis of their oneness in Christ sharing that oneness, they offer the sacrifice of fellowship together.

In practice, it would seem evident that an ideal place to offer this sacrifice is when the church is gathered together. This is especially true of the communion service (1 Cor. 10:16). One of the primary reasons for meeting is for fellowship (ex. Ac. 2:42). Most church constitutions clearly state that one purpose of the local church is gathering together for fellowship. Without a church meeting, many believers will rarely meet one another because the paths of their lives are so divergent. Without meeting together, Christians have only limited relationships with other believers. Just because one works with a few Christians and has some Christian friends or family does not negate the need for sharing with a broader group of believers. Sharing between the young and old, rich and poor, men and women and persons of different social and racial backgrounds enhances Christian growth. In every meeting of the church, spiritual believers should be sharing together. Carnal believers should be encouraged to become spiritual so that they can benefit from fellowship. In His arrangements for the local church, God made it possible for it to be a manifestation of the Church that is Christ's Body. No other organization on earth has the same potential, whether it is Christian or not. Knowing together and growing together leads to an effective sharing together in fellowship.

Of course, it is possible for believers to get together as individuals and have fellowship. Christian friends sit around a kitchen table sharing the glories of the grace of God in fellowship. Christian employees share a lunch hour in the study of the Word of God and prayer in biblical fellowship. A group of believing men from the church can go fishing together and share fellowship around a campfire under the open skies. In some instances, one believer can become so close to another believer that he is identified as a partner or sharer with that believer. Titus had such a relationship with Paul since he is identified as Paul's partner [lit. fellowshipper] and fellow worker (2 Cor. 8:23). Paul appealed to Philemon to respond to him as a spiritual believer and to consider him to be a partner and to receive the runaway slave Onesimus as he would receive Paul (Philemon 17). In times of great affliction, believers are often drawn together. Persecution brings the spiritual believer to the forefront. Church history describes many who were drawn together by their suffering to share what they had in common in Christ. Other Christians were drawn in mutual support and encouragement to those who were persecuted. Fellowship blossomed in the dismal dearth of persecution and deprivation. Early in history, the Hebrew Christians found fellowship in the environment of persecution (Heb. 10:32, 33). Where can believers fellowship? Anywhere two or more spiritual believers meet and share the joys of what they have in Christ is a place of fellowship (1 Jn. 1:7).

How Does One Have Fellowship?

How can the Christian offer up the sacrifice of fellowship? Does a church potluck qualify? Does a ping-pong game in the fellowship hall qualify? Does a youth beach party meet the qualifications? Do two pastors playing golf together meet the requirements? Potentially all of these can qualify depending on the spiritual condition of those involved and what is shared. All believers have a common salvation (Jude 3) and a common faith (Tit. 1:4) so there is a real potential for offering the sacrifice in any of the above circumstances. All share in the same benefits.

Paul was willing to conform to the condition and standards of others in order to give them the Gospel of Christ (1 Cor. 9:18-22). His purpose for such conformity was that those who were saved might have the potential for fellowship with him (1 Cor. 9:23). How often does one see another person who is an unbeliever and say, "Wouldn't it be great if he was a Christian?" Paul seemed to have a similar reaction when he was in Corinth. In Philippi, God had used Paul to give the Gospel and he was an instrument of grace resulting in a co-fellowshipping with the Philippian saints after they were saved (Phil. 1:7).

Because of the relationship that the Philippians had with Paul, they shared in common some of their physical things with Paul (Phil. 4:15, 16). Affliction had encompassed Paul. He needed relief. The Philippians responded by sharing their physical wealth. As a result of their attitude toward Paul, they offered three different kinds of sacrifice to God on Paul's behalf: fellowship, giving and faith.

Fellowship can be shared in several areas of Christian living. John, the apostle, mentions three of them in Revelation 1:9: in tribulation, in the kingdom of Jesus Christ and in the patience of Jesus Christ. Nearing the end of his life, John writes from the isle of Patmos reminding the believers that he had shared these things in common with them. A persecuted church is drawn together by the very persecution that is designed and administered to tear it apart. All of the pressure and tribulation that occurs in the life of the Christian becomes a basis for fellowship with other spiritual believers who are sharing in the same difficulties. Encouragement and sympathy are shared for the mutual benefit. For those who are participating in the kingdom of Jesus Christ, fellowship holds their attention on the common objective. At the moment of salvation, the Christian is rescued from the danger of the authority of darkness and is positionally transferred into the kingdom of the Son of the Fathers love (Col. 1:13). Peter anticipated actual entrance into the kingdom when his position would be actualized (1 Pe. 1:11). With the call to salvation, the believer was called into the kingdom of Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 2:12). Paul also anticipated his future involvement in the Lord's heavenly kingdom (2 Tim. 4:18). An understanding of the relationship that is possible because of one's position in Christ's kingdom and the anticipation of kingdom benefits becomes a solid basis for offering the sacrifice of fellowship. Patience is essential for the Christian awaiting the coming of Christ in the air to catch His Church to Himself. The Church labors patiently [lit. abiding under) without unstable speculation as to when Christ will return. Such patience shared between believers forms a common bond. Christ could return at any moment, but the Christian will patiently wait for His coming doing the will of God while anticipating personal involvement in Christ's kingdom.

Fellowship often involves sharing in matters physical as well as spiritual. Love is manifested among believers in many ways (Rom. 12:9-15). One of the manifestations of love is "sharing in common" with the needs of the saints (Rom. 12:13). In Romans twelve, the needs [or things lacking] could be either physical or spiritual, though the matter of hospitality [lit. fondness of strangers] infers physical provision of the needs of one who visits the believer's home. The Philippians provided for Paul's physical needs when he was lacking. They shared an attitude of fellowship in giving the thing and offered their fellowship together with him as a sacrifice, and then they offered the sacrifice of giving to God for him. The two sacrifices run hand in hand in Philippians four. In Romans 15:26, the word "contribution" is fellowship (koinonia). Once again the common relationship among Christians as a whole is the basis for sharing physical things in common. "For Macedonia and Achaia considered it good to make some fellowship [or contribution] for the poor saints in Jerusalem, For they considered it good, and they are debtors to them; for if in their spiritual things the Gentiles shared in common, they ought to perform priestly service to them in fleshly things (Rom. 15:26, 27)." Based on common salvation and common benefits from that salvation, these Grecian believers were convinced that they should share physical relief with the saints in Jerusalem. They understood the significant position of the church in Jerusalem in disseminating the Gospel that had provided the spiritual benefits and felt it best to assist in meeting the physical needs of those who had been so generous to them. Because of this, they provided abundance for the poor of the church in Jerusalem. "Through the proof of this ministry, while glorifying God upon the submission of your confession into the gospel of Christ and the liberality of the fellowship unto them and unto all men (2 Cor. 9:13)." The response of the saints to this priestly service is evident in verse twelve, "Because the ministry of this priestly service is not only making up the things that were lacking of the saints, but is also abounding through many thanksgivings to God." An attitude is reflected in the actual giving. Saints share in common their position in Christ and so are motivated to provide physical assistance for those believers who are in need. How often the sacrifice of fellowship leads to the sacrifice of giving! Another believer shares in common in all of the heavenly provisions of salvation, so why shouldn't a Christian share with him in things physical? Very often Christians will do this for men and women who are in professional Christian service. They serve the Lord and are supported by the Lord's people. As needs arise, other saints step in with money or goods that meet the needs to the glory of God.

In the meeting of the church, the communion service is the best place for true New Testament fellowship. Since communion is a translation Of (koinonia), "fellowship," it is evident that common ground is shared in the service. Scripture designates each of the elements as a basis for communion. "The cup of blessing [lit. well spoken of] that we are blessing [speak well of] is it not a fellowship with reference to the blood of Christ? The bread that we are breaking, is it not a fellowship with reference to the Body of Christ? Because we being many are one loaf -- one Body; for we are all partakers of one loaf (1 Cor. 10:16, 17)." Because of the work of Christ, every believer is a part of one loaf and is a recipient of the benefits of the new covenant. Every communion service should cause the believer to think of the provisions of the work of Christ. In the memorial symbolism, each Christian should be perpetually reminded of the provisions of the work of Christ until Christ returns (1 Cor. 11:26). His attention must be focused on the benefits that accrue to the believer as a result of Christ's death. The bread is a reminder of the provisions provided for the believer in Christ as a result of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, "This is my body which is for you" (1 Cor. 11:24).

Traditionalism has attempted to divorce First Corinthians ten from First Corinthians eleven, but such a division is a flagrant violation of the rules of literal interpretation. The cup is a reminder of the benefits of the new covenant with the Church provided by Christ's shed blood. "This cup is the new covenant by my blood (1 Cor. 11:25)." As a result of regeneration, the believer has received these benefits. What a privilege it is to have the Indwelling Christ within the believer as a primary benefit of the new covenant! The church may be offering sacrifices of fellowship in the communion service. Unfortunately, too many believers are drawn back to a stick of wood and revere it more than the work accomplished there and applied to the believer. It is interesting that in the history of the Church, communion has been a major point of division rather than a true holding in common. Communion should not be a funeral for remourning the death of Christ but rather a jubilant reminder for rejoicing in the continued provisions of the work of Christ. The Church on earth and in heaven shares in common these gracious provisions. Oh that the somber, melancholy attitudes of many communion services would be transformed into joyous sacrifices of fellowship! If religious superstitious awe was replaced by spiritual objectivity, more communion services would conform to the New Testament pattern.

Believers can offer the sacrifice of fellowship with those who teach spiritual things. "Let the one who is being instructed in the Word continue to share in common with the one who is instructing him in all good things (Gal. 6:6)." Christians can share fellowship in several ways in such a circumstance. Paul is specifically speaking of physical assistance with food and finances as an expression of appreciation for the instruction. He can also share the truth that he has learned as a matter of fellowship. What a privilege it is for a student to share common truth with his instructor! Pastors, who are truly gifted as pastor-teachers, must meet the "apt to teach" requirement in order to hold the office if they meet New Testament qualifications for the office. If they teach the Word so that the church can properly grow in the grace of God, they deserve an adequate salary as a part of their fellowship with the saints.

First Corinthians 12:12 clearly identifies "The Christ" as one Body with many members and Christ as the Head and the Church the members. This was the mystery that was revealed in Ephesians 3:4. The Gentiles are participants in the Christ. "That the Gentiles be joint [or together] heirs and a joint [or together] body and joint [or together] sharers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel ... (Eph. 3:6)." This togetherness is the basis for the offering of the sacrifice of fellowship. All believers have a position in Christ and so should share in common with one another. Fellowship is not limited to fellowship between spiritual believers alone. A sacrifice of fellowship can be offered when the spiritual believer has fellowship with the Persons of the Godhead.

It is possible for each individual to have fellowship with each Person of the Trinity. Few have actually enjoyed the privilege of holding things in common with the Godhead. Without a doubt, the fellowship of the believer with Members of the Godhead is the ultimate sacrifice of fellowship. Every Christian should be challenged to discern from Scripture how to have this fellowship. He should know grace principles for spiritual living that enable him to share with the Godhead as he matures.

Immediately available is the fellowship of the believer with the Holy Spirit. "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit is with you all (2 Cor. 13:14)." It is true that God is the source of grace, love and fellowship but that is not Paul's instructive intention in Second Corinthians thirteen. Each Person of the Godhead possesses and uniquely directs the characteristic described toward the believer [indicated by the possessive genitives]. Grace is the possession of Jesus Christ and directed by Him. The Father possesses love and has directed love toward the believer. The Holy Spirit possesses fellowship that He makes available to the believer. In the Divine essence, all three Persons possess these characteristics but they have mutually agreed to permit each Person to manifest that part of the character of God distinctly. Even though most translations translate this as a potential or a wish of the apostle, the grammar of the verse indicates that all of these are present for the Corinthian believers. In a Greek verbless clause where the "to be" verb is to be supplied, the verb "to be" should be supplied in the indicative mood ["is"] rather than the subjunctive mood ["be"]. It is a fact that the fellowship belonging to the Holy Spirit is immediately available for the grace believer to enjoy. How is that possible? It is only possible if the believer is spiritual [emanating things of the Spirit]. Speaking of the fellowship of the Spirit, Paul expected the Philippian believers to fulfill his joy and to share the same love (Phil. 2:2). With a series of first class conditions, Paul affirms this. "Therefore since there is some comfort in Christ, since there is some persuasion of love, since there is some fellowship of Spirit, since there are some compassions and tender compassions ..." The fellowship is the fellowship of the Holy Spirit not the human spirit. Some have built their theology on the false assumption that when "spirit," (pneuma), is found in the New Testament without a definite article [anarthrous] in the Greek, it refers to the human spirit; and that when the article is found, it refers to the Holy Spirit. A careful study of every context in which "spirit" (pneuma) is found proves that such uniformity does not exist. Philippians 2:1 does not have an article before "spirit," so some make it refer to the fellowship of the human spirit. Context refutes such a position. A spiritual believer manifesting the fruit of the Spirit is having fellowship with the Holy Spirit. When a believer walks [i.e. ordering every detail of his life] by the Spirit, he has fellowship with the Holy Spirit. As a result, the spiritual believer will also share in common with other believers who are spiritual. We love with a common love. We rejoice with a common joy. Since the Spirit produces His fruit, we share in common that fruit and its various manifestations.

When the believer is feeling at ease [i.e. abiding] in his position in Christ, he has the potential for fellowshipping with Christ who is the Head of the Body. Christians are called at salvation into the fellowship of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:9). It is a fact that every believer has the potential to share actively in such a fellowship (1 Jn. 1:3). This fellowship may be evident in trials and times of adversity. When a member of the Body of Christ suffers, Christ, the Head, suffers. Spiritual believers are able to share [have in common] with the sufferings of the Christ (1 Pe. 4:13). Clearly these are spiritual believers because they enjoy the circumstance because they have joy that is a part of the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. In Philippians 3:10, the concept focuses on Christ Himself and the suffering He has when a believer suffers. "That I may experientially know Him and the inherent power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings while being conformed to His death." When the believer is feeling at ease in Christ, he is able to share with Christ in the sufferings of other believers [for any reason]. Fellowship with God the Son is available to all believers though few actually offer the sacrifice in relation to the Son.

When the believer is living in the realm of his new nature, he is sharing in common with God the Father. At the moment of salvation, the believer enters into a new condition. He becomes a partaker in the Divine nature (2 Pe. 1:4). John confirms that the Christian can offer the sacrifice of fellowship to God the Father (1 Jn. 1:3-6).

How can a Christian have fellowship? By being a spiritual believer who is maturing. As he learns the spiritual life from the Word of God, he is able to offer the sacrifice more frequently. His recognition of his relationship with other believers and the Godhead provides the incentive for being involved in fellowship. Fellowship does not happen spontaneously by itself. The individual believer is responsible for his own involvement and his offering of the sacrifice of fellowship.

Where fellowship exists, things are held in common with other participants. Such sharing is made possible for Christians by the work of Christ. Fellowship is based in the believer's position in Christ and appropriated when he is spiritual. There are positive and negative aspects. The believer is not to have fellowship with unbelievers, the sins of other men or those who hold false doctrine. Ideally, fellowship should be most visible when the local church is gathered for its meetings and for the Lordian Table. It is possible for one to have fellowship with other believers or groups outside the local church. Fellowship with the Persons of the Godhead is the most important fellowship available to the grace believer. Every time the spiritual believer shares in common spiritual things with other believers and his God, it is a sacrifice that is acceptable to God. A mutual benefit is shared and the results are a substantial blessing to the believers who share together in common offering the sacrifice of fellowship. "Therefore let us offer up the sacrifice of fellowship ..."


Chapter 7: The Sacrifice of Giving
Philippians 4:18


Whether the believer gives money or goods, he has the potential to be offering a sacrifice in his giving. This priestly privilege is clearly evident in the provisions sent to Paul by the Philippian church. Paul's needs were met and God received a sacrifice. "But I have all things and abound, I stand as one who is filled having received from Epaphroditus the things from you, a fragrance of sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God (Phil. 4:18)." Whatever the things were that Paul received were sacrifices of things that had been given. There may have been little money. But in a society built on barter, most of what Paul was given must have been goods. The fair and profitable exchange of goods and services was the backbone of the Roman economy. All of Paul's needs were met as a result of the willing giving of the Philippian believers.

Christian giving is one of the most confused issues in the Church today. As a result, Christians are uncertain concerning God's program of giving and their own attitude toward giving. How is the money used? The proper distribution and use of funds, that are given, are controlled by a few and frequently only that select number can know where it goes. Christian leaders have become pragmatists in order to raise money for the "work of God." Every gimmick used by the world system for raising money has been used by Christian organizations [in some cases with great success]. In frustration, many believers wish the Lord would come down to earth visibly and take what they give and use it for His glory without any human middlemen. Some churches require an annual pledge be made and paid to the church for the individual to retain his good standing. Other churches just send a bill based on the individual's annual income. Others expect ten per cent of the individual's income and argue as to whether it should be given on the gross or the net income. Other churches suggest giving be done as the Lord leads while only the leaders know the leading of the Lord as manifested in their budget. The New Testament expects the believer's giving to be a priestly sacrifice. Giving should be a sacrifice made to God as a part of one's priestly service. In the Bible, sacrificial giving ideally should be normal giving. If one gives until it hurts, he is not participating in grace giving nor is he involved in true sacrificial giving. If it hurts, the believer is not happy. The Lord loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7). Giving is a privilege between the believer and his God.

One of the blessings of living after the cross is the things that a believer has that are far better than before Christ's cross work. Most Christians who believe in a tithe have deliberately ignored the revelation of both the Old and New Testaments. A tithe in the Old Testament did not resemble the tithe practiced in churches today. Arguments supporting a tithe reflect an ignorance of the New Testament. It rarely mentions the tithe and then only in historical reference. One must contrast tithing and grace giving so that the Christian can fully appreciate the privileges of giving as a believer-priest.

An Analysis of the Old Testament Tithe

"Wasn't there tithing before the Law was given to Moses?" Does this mean that there is an unchanging principle that carries over to grace believers? Abraham and Jacob were both involved with the tithe before the Law was given. Abraham actually gave a tithe while Jacob promised to give a tithe though there is no record that he ever actually gave the tenth. The patriarchs did not give tithes in the same manner as was required of Israel under the Mosaic Law. Some strong limitations are evident in Scripture.

Tithing Before the Giving of the Law. Abraham gave the first tithe recorded in Bible history (Gen. 14). Soon after Abram entered Canaan, he gave Lot the choice of the land he wanted to possess. Lot chose the plains and lived in the cities of the plains (Gen. 13:5-12). Abram remained in the hill country of Canaan. Four kings waged war with the kings of the plain and ultimately defeated the kings of the plain (Gen. 14:1-10). They took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah (14:11) and Lot (14:12). Abram heard that Lot was taken and took 318 trained servants to fight the kings (14:13, 14). He defeated the kings and brought back all of the goods and people taken (14:16). Melchisedec came out to meet Abram. Melchisedec was the priest of the most high God (14:18). He blessed Abram and Abram "gave him tithes of all (14:20)."

Hebrews refers directly to this event and adds some details. "For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, the one who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and the one blessing him, to whom Abraham divided a tenth from all ... (Heb. 7:1, 2)." It is obvious that the word "all" is crucial for determining how much Abraham tithed. Genesis fourteen indicates that the tithe was of the spoils (14:11, 16, 20). Hebrews reiterates, "Now consider how this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils (7:4)."

It seems that everywhere Abraham went and every time he got in trouble he came out a richer man. "And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver and in gold (Gen. 13:2)." When he tithed, it cost him nothing for he tithed of the spoil. He refused any other remuneration for his military victory returning all that remained to the people of the land after he had paid his men (14:22-24). When Abram went home after the event, he returned just as rich as he had been before he left. His tithing had cost him nothing. He tithed only that which was his by right of plunder.

There is no indication in Scripture that Abraham ever gave a tithe again in his lifetime. Furthermore, he brought the tithe as an unsaved man. Abraham was not saved until Genesis 15:5, 6 when he believed Jehovah concerning the promise of a seed and it was accounted to him for righteousness. He gave the tithe voluntarily when the tithe was not required. The actual value of the tithe was probably much greater than ten per cent. Abram gave Melchisedec ten per cent of the bulk and that came off of the top of the pile of booty. The most fragile and valuable items would have naturally been placed on the top of the pile to prevent damage. After that, he paid his hired servants and then gave the remainder to the king of Sodom to distribute to the people who had been plundered. Thus it would seem logical that Melchisedec received more than ten per cent of the value by receiving ten per cent of the volume of the booty. If one desires to follow Abraham's example for tithing, he must be unsaved, have plunder and do it once in his lifetime. Hence, no general rule can in any way carry over to the grace believer from Abraham. To read the Levitical tithe back to Abraham is dishonest and inaccurate. In order to justify teaching the tithe for the grace believer, exegesis must be set aside and replaced by pragmatic subjectivism.

After Jacob dreamed the dream of the ladder, angels and Jehovah God, he reacted by attempting to make a deal with Jehovah. He set up a pillar and renamed the location Bethel. He attempted to make some conditions with God for his giving God the tithe. "Then Jacob vowed a vow saying, If God will proceed to be with me and will guard me in this way that I am continually going, and will give to me food to eat and a garment to put on, and I return in peace unto my fathers house, then Jehovah will be to me for a God, and this stone that I have placed as a pillar will proceed to be God's house, and all that you will proceed to give to me, I will surely proceed to give a tenth to you (Gen. 28:20-22)." Jacob asked for Divine provisions and protection as a condition for his giving the tithe, "if ... then" indicates that Jacob was attempting to strike a bargain with God. In other words, Jacob says, "Give me all I need and I will give you a tithe from what you provide." It is easy to give a portion of something someone else has given a person. What an interesting bargain! Jacob was using the tithe as a lever to get God to meet his needs. One might notice that Jacob went on to the land of the children of the east to the land of his family (29:1). As a result, Jacob worked for Laban in absolutely unstable conditions for at least twenty years for two wives and riches. He was cheated in the wife situation and Laban tried to cheat him out of the cattle that had made him rich. Finally, he was able to return home but was nearly defeated by Laban on the journey and faced his brother, Esau, who had been hostile to him. There is no indication that Jacob ever felt that God had met the conditions. He was convinced that he had gained everything he possessed by his own labor and ingenuity. Scripture does not give any indication that Jacob ever gave a tithe of what he possessed. It was not that his vow was violated or rejected, but that the terms or conditions of the vow had not been met from Jacob's point of view. How long Jacob remembered the vow is a good question. Throughout his conflict with Laban, Jacob had been forced to work and to do his own scheming. He was cheated and did his own cheating. From his point of view, he had made his own way and Jehovah had not met the conditions of the vow. He promised to tithe on the condition that Jehovah would care for him in time. In Jacob's mind, the bargain had not been accomplished, so he did not keep his end and give the tithe. One must realize that the whole vow with its conditions was one sided. There is no indication that God ratified it in any way. Grace believers are not to make vows of this type with the Lord though many have tried. Jacob's vow was conditional with his response being contingent on God's blessing him in time. It was voluntary on Jacob's part and not commanded by God. The tithe was never given even though God had in actuality met the conditions for Jacob. Jacob returned to the land of Canaan in safety even though it was more than twenty years after the original vow had been made.

Since the tithe was mentioned in Scripture twice before the giving of the Mosaic Law, it has been important to evaluate the two sets of circumstances and results. Neither situation gives a basis for saying that the tithe was required by God before the Law. In both instances, it was strictly voluntary. Abraham freely gave while Jacob did not give anything. Both men took the initiative without having God ask for anything. Abraham's tithe cost him nothing while Jacob's tithe would have cost him a portion of what God had given him. To use these patriarchs as support for tithing in the Church is to ignore the true significance of their tithing and to make their tithing apply to every other patriarchal saint. No other pre-Law believer is ever described as having given the tithe in the Old Testament. The tithe was never required of any patriarchal saint. Hence, tithing is not required by God outside the Mosaic Law.

Another argument presented for the contemporary requirement of the tithe is that there was no priesthood to accept from any of the patriarchal saints except for Abraham. Many Bible teachers speculate that Melchisedec was a manifestation of God the Son. Hebrews 7:15 refutes this by saying, "And yet it is more abundantly very clear, if according to the likeness of Melchisedec another of a different kind of priest arises." The author of Hebrews uses this as part of his argument that the priestly order of Melchisedec is superior to the Levitical order. It is evident that there were priests of God outside of Abraham's seed as is true of Melchisedec. Later Jethro, the Midianite and Moses' father-in-law, was a priest who offered sacrifices and an offering to God (Ex. 18:1, 12). Evidently, Melchisedec was close enough to Abraham to be available for future tithing, but Abraham did not offer a tithe again. The head of a patriarchal household acted as a priest for his family. There is no record of any tithe given to the head of any household for Jehovah by his children. Furthermore, if a priest is necessary to accept a tithe, Scripture clearly teaches that the grace believer is a priest and should then primarily be the recipient of the tithes and only secondarily the giver of tithes. When a distinction is made between clergy and laity, the clergy becomes the priesthood receiving the tithes while the laity becomes the giver of the tithes. The New Testament makes no distinction between clergy and laity. One who holds the office of bishop, working as an overseer being gifted as a pastor-teacher (1 Pe. 5:1, 2) is not the only priest in the church. All believers are priests. As will be seen, the tithe was designed to support the priesthood under the Law. It is impossible for the Church of Jesus Christ to actually practice the tithe without being dishonest with Scripture and absolutely inconsistent. The character of the tithe under Law is filled with elements that are impractical and nearly impossible for the Church.

Tithing Under the Law of Moses. A critical part of the Mosaic Law was the imposition of the tithe on Israel. In the various accounts in the Pentateuch, there are some important contradictions that must be considered. Ten per cent was designated for the priesthood and considered to be holy to Jehovah (Lev. 27:30-33), while ten per cent was to be taken to the temple [or tabernacle] to be eaten by the givers family and to be shared with the Levites (Deut. 12:17-19; 14:23). In other words, one passage says to give the whole tithe to the Lord while the other passage says the tithe was to be eaten by the giver and his family during the festive days of Israel. To confuse the issue even further, the tithe was to be given at the end of three years designated for the Levites, the poor, the stranger, the orphan and the widow (Deut. 14:28, 29; 26:12). Some feel that the Deuteronomy account is a further development of the Leviticus account that had been given forty years earlier.

Was Israel required to give one tithe, two tithes or three tithes? It would be simple to limit the tithe to a single tithe, but the contradictions prohibit such a possibility. How was the righteous Israelite to obey the Law requirements? God demanded a tithe as a part of the Law. He demanded, "You will absolutely tithe all the produce of your seed, that is coming out of the field year by year (Deut. 14:22)." In the agricultural society of the ancient world, the produce from farming was to be tithed. Agricultural goods and services were the backbone of the whole economy of Israel. Wages were paid in produce and livestock. Nations lived with a limited money supply. As a result, it was necessary for the temple to have storage barns for the things brought in as a tithe. Were the tithes brought once every three years? If so, what was the procedure followed? A farmer who raised melons could not store them for three years before bringing them as a tithe. Even modern technology has problems with the preservation of melons for extended periods of time. If the tithe were taken from the third years profits, it would be inequitable for that year. Instability is normal in any type of farming. One year could produce poor crops because of poor weather conditions or by insect infestation such as a locust plague. Another year could have perfect weather and be free from all other problems and produce beautiful crops. The mechanics of simply organizing a third year single tithe would have created tremendous organizational, collection and storage problems. Some feel that there were just two tithes: an annual tenth and the third year tenth. Recognizing three distinct tithes clarifies the problem of contradictions of the passages of Scripture. This was not contradicted in Jewish practice. In the time of Josephus, the Jews practiced three tithes. He was confident that this was the original intention of the Mosaic Law.

Josephus is very clear in describing three separate tithes. "Besides those two tithes, that I have already said you are to pay every year, the one for the Levites, the other for the festivals, you are to bring every third year a third tithe to be distributed to those that want; to women also that are widows, and to children that are orphans (Antiquities, IV, viii, 22)." Tobit supports three tithes by his own personal practice (Tobit, 1:6-8). It appears that Jewish practice reflected the actual intention of the Law. In the original giving of the Law at Sinai, a perpetual annual tithe was prescribed. This first tithe was clearly to be given from the produce of seed and tree as well as the herd and flock (Lev. 27:30-33). The second tithe was given for the feasts in which the family of the giver and the Levites were to participate in the place where the tabernacle or temple was located (Deut. 12:17-19; 14:24-27). The third tithe was given every third year and designated for the indigent of the land (Deut. 14:28, 29; 26:12). Later rabbis denied the legitimacy of three tithes and generally preferred two probably because of their own self-interest. It would certainly be to their advantage if they could contrive a way to save an additional ten per cent from gross earnings of the people since the rabbis were not considered to be priests and did not benefit in the same way that the priests did. Very few even considered the possibility of a single tithe because of the contradiction in the requirements of the Pentateuch. There is strong internal evidence that would indicate that the three tithes practice was what God intended for the nation Israel. How Much Was to Be Given? Most Bible scholars agree that Israel tithed more than a simple tithe of ten per cent. If Israel had three tithes, the tithe totaled over twenty per cent as an average. If there were two tithes, it was about a thirteen per cent tithe. The word "tithe" comes from the Hebrew root (ehser) meaning "ten" or "tenth." Evidently, every year ten per cent was taken from the gross income. Then ten per cent was taken from the remaining ninety per cent. Every third year a ten per cent additional tithe was levied for the needy. It is not difficult to see how much would be given each year in the three-year cycle presented in the Law.


          TITHES:  The Three-year Cycle Presented in the Law
                  Years One and Two       Year Three
     Tithe #1           10%                    10%
     Tithe #2            9%                     9%
     Tithe #3           ---                    10% 
     Total              19%                    29%

Some churches and pastors would love to implement the Old Testament system for church income, but few believers would accept the validity of the triple tithe. Without some strong pulpit hard sell, they might even question the legitimacy of the contemporary ten percent tithe.

If the procedure were not followed, the expense for the Israelite was even greater. When the herd or flock was tithed, the animals were herded under an extended rod and every tenth animal was taken out as a tithe to Jehovah (Lev. 27:32). The tithe was accomplished by random selection from the animals. If an Israelite should choose specific animals from his herd or flock keeping his favorite or best animals for himself by replacing it with another animal when it was the tenth under the rod, he was required to give both animals to Jehovah. In other words, he had to pay a ten per cent penalty every time he violated the tithe laws (Lev. 27:33).

If an Israelite had given the fruit of the tree or grain of the field as a tithe and decided that he needed it, he could redeem it by paying a fifth [20%] of the tithe as a penalty. The farmer who brought a tenth of his wheat and a tenth of his barley and returned home to find his storage barn flooded and his grain mildewed and unsalvageable could return to the temple and redeem his grain by paying its value plus a fifth so that he could have seed for spring planting and food for his family (Lev. 27:31). Need did not relieve the tither from the debt, but the grace of the system provided a measure of relief to the Israelite in a predicament.

The tithe was a debt to God. It was owed as a tax. There were no deductions. It was a pure flat rate tax. It was a burden to every Israelite. As a tax, it was a religious tax without respect for the parties paying it. It took the labor of a man's hands and gave it to Jehovah. The tithe was a part of the yoke of bondage (Gal. 5:1) and the prison that garrisoned Israel (Gal. 3:23).

If Israel neglected the debt, they robbed God of that which was rightfully His (Mal. 3:8). The root translated "rob" is only found in Malachi 3:8 and Proverbs 22:23. It has several inherent concepts that produce the concepts of defrauding, overreaching or taking by force. Israel had asked where they had defrauded God and He identified their fraud as being in the realm of tithes and offerings. As a result, the nation was cursed with a curse that ultimately deprived the nation of the ability to tithe at all. Physical blessing that provided the nation with produce and livestock was taken from them and replaced with barrenness, drought, plague, insect infestation and crop failure. This was not an isolated incident of the violation of the Law, but the whole nation had defrauded Jehovah of both tithes and offerings (Mal. 3:9). They rejected the yoke and suffered the consequences. Malachi infers that God had tantalized them with potential blessing only to bring failure. God could corrupt the fruit of the plants and trees so that the produce appeared to be good on the plants, but then the fruit would prove to be rotten and ruined internally when picked. The grapes of the vine would drop to the ground before the time of harvest (Mal. 3:11). There is an indication that this carried to the herds and flocks of animals that would miscarry ["cast her fruit") before the fetus was properly developed in the womb. When the debt was paid, God would open the windows of heaven and rain would fall on the crops and physical blessing in time would be the portion of the whole nation.

What Was Given? In order to enjoy physical blessing in time, Jehovah expected Israel to give specific things in the tithe, "All the tithe of the land ... is Jehovah's (Lev. 27:30)." Such a simple statement should need no definition, but God saw fit to clarify explicitly what was to be given in the tithe. Two forms of produce are distinguished: the seed of the land and the fruit of the tree. Human nature would like to argue its way out of God's requirements so God makes it clear that the fruit grower had the same responsibility as the grain grower or the vegetable grower. As has been mentioned, it was possible for the produce raiser to redeem his tithe with a financial tithe plus penalty to stay in business in times of emergency. The Israelite cattlemen and herders were not free from the tithe. "And every tithe of the herd and the flock, whatever passes over under the rod, the tenth shall come to be holy to Jehovah (Lev. 27:32)." A herdsman or shepherd could not select the worst animals of his herd or flock, but was required to select the tithe randomly or be subject to penalty.

Whenever one reads the Old Testament, he must always remember that the people were living in a land-dependent agrarian [i.e. agricultural] society. Generally, commerce was built on an exchange of agricultural goods and services. The exchange of money was not the normal means for doing business. As a result, when a man prospered and lived a substantial distance from the tabernacle or temple, it would have been very difficult for him to transport a tenth of his goods to the house of God. Rather than have great cattle and sheep drives from great distances, it was possible for the man to convert his produce and livestock into silver. "And if the way proves to be too far from you so that you do not have the ability to carry it, because the place proves to be too distant from you, where Jehovah your God will proceed to choose to place His name (i.e. manifestation of His character] there, then Jehovah your God will proceed to bless you. And you will give [or convert] into silver, and you will bind the silver in your hand, and you will go unto the place in which Jehovah your God will finally choose (Deut. 14:24, 25)." The Israelites were then to take the money to the place and purchase whatever his soul desired and was to eat it before Jehovah with his family sharing it with the Levites as a part of the second tithe (Deut. 14:26, 27). In the journey from Sinai and the forty-year wilderness wanderings, the tabernacle was easily accessible for all of Israel since it was the center of the encampment of the congregation of the tribes. There was no transportation problem -- animals could walk and there were no crops to be carried to the tabernacle because all of the nation's food was Divinely provided in the manna for them. In Deuteronomy, Israel was poised on the border of the land preparing for entry. The nation was about to be scattered to various locations that would be allotted to the individual tribes. The practical implementation of the tithe system in the land was different than it had been in the wilderness when the tribes were together. Moses was about to die. God used him to review the Law that had been delivered before and to add necessary details for entering into the land. It would appear that the principles for the second tithe applied to the first tithe as well in that it is likely that those Israelites living at a distance brought all their tithes at the same time. If one tithe was converted to silver and the other was not, the same problems recur. Hence, the tithe was normally from the land. In the Talmud, the tithe included "everything that is eaten, that is watched over and that grows of the earth (Maaseroh 1:1)." It could be temporarily converted into money but had to be reconverted before it could be given.

Why Was the Tithe Given? Was the tithe given because an Israelite loved God? No! The reason an Israelite brought the tithe was because it was commanded in the Law. He had no choice. Because of the penalties that came with the command, the Israelite knew that he would lose physical blessings in time if he neglected the tithe. Self-preservation was his basic motivation.

What were the purposes for the command to tithe? In Leviticus 27, the first tithe was described as being given for the purpose of setting apart the tithe to Jehovah because it belonged to Jehovah (27:30). Whatever was given was holy (27:30, 32, 33), even if it was an animal that was added to the tithe as a penalty because of the specific selection of the animal. Belonging to Jehovah, the tithe was to be used for His purposes alone. Because the tribe of Levi was not given a land inheritance and so had no land to cultivate in an agricultural society, it was necessary for them to receive support. The first tithe became an inheritance for the Levites (Num. 18:21), because Jehovah was their inheritance (Num. 18:20). When the children of Israel offered the tithe, it was considered to be a heave offering (18:24). There was a benefit to other tribes for giving the tithe. They were not required to work in the temple area. The Levites were given the responsibility of service in the tent of meeting, tabernacle and temple (18:21). They acted as a buffer between the rest of the nation and God. If any person from the other tribes should enter the tent of meeting, he would bear his sin by being put to death. Because of this, all of the other tribes were prohibited from entry. The Levites would bear their perversity (Num. 18:22, 23). A tenth of the tithe was to be offered by the Levites as a heave offering (Num. 18:26-32).

The Levitical tithe of the tithes was to be given to Aaron (Num. 18:28). This heave offering was the best of the tithes given. Because of the heave offering of the tithe, the Levites could participate in priestly service without being immediately accountable for their sin. Thus they would not die if they entered into the tent of meeting. Specific prohibition was given to prevent the Levites from polluting the heave offering or they would die because of the pollution (18:32). Hence, the Levites, who served as buffers, needed the buffer of the heave offering of the tithe.

In order for an Israelite to participate in the second tithe, he was required to go to the place where God had chosen for His name. This tithe had to be brought to the tent of meeting, tabernacle or temple. Since an Israelite could partake of this tithe, he was prohibited from eating it in the gate of his own city (Deut. 12:17). The members of the household who participated in the eating were the tither, his son, his daughter, his servants and the Levites (12:18). It was imperative that the Levite be included in the eating of the tithe (12:18-19). The second tithe was clearly an annual tithe (Deut. 14:22). These festive occasions, where the tithe was eaten before Jehovah, were the times of feasting required in the Law. The whole family had a solid reason for obeying God's demand that they celebrate specific feasts in the place where God had chosen to place His name. Evidently, there were two purposes for the second tithe: the provision of food for families at the feasts of Jehovah and further provision for the needs of the Levites.

Every third year a tithe was given for the purpose of meeting the needs of the indigent of the nation. This tithe was given in the Israelite's hometown to those who were needy within the city (Deut. 14:29; 26:12). As a result, Jehovah promised to bless the Israelite in all the work of his hand that he would do (Deut. 14:29). One of the indictments of Israel in the prophets was their habitual refusal to give this tithe in the late kingdom era. Jehovah pronounced judgment and Israel and Judah were defeated, ruined and exiled as a result.

Because of the tithe, the other twelve tribes supported one tribe. Levi was given no land, but was a tribe that was a unique possession of Jehovah. Support was necessary, so Jehovah used the first tithe for primary support and the last two tithes to provide secondary support. The first tithe was evidently distributed to the Levitical cities for their support from the central gathering place where the tabernacle or temple was located. The second tithe subsidized the Levites who were serving in the tent of meeting, tabernacle or temple. The third tithe met the needs of a Levite who was living in a city that was not a Levitical city. Since it was given every third year, it must have been a deterrent to Levites from living outside their assigned cities. Tithes supported Levi in a sort of welfare system. The rest of the nation supported 1/13th of the population. The third tithe provided relief for those who were needy among the people who were unable to provide their own support. Because God promised to bless the nation if the tithe was given, Israel had initiative provided for a consistency in giving the tithe.

Who Was to Give the Tithe? Every Israelite was required to give a tithe of his earnings. The Law gave no room for exceptions. If a person raised crops or animals, he was required to give a tithe. Even the priests were required to tithe (Num. 18:26; Neh. 10:38). The tithe was the duty of the whole nation. There was no distinction made between believer and unbeliever. The same requirement was equally mandated for everyone. Because of the national promises in the covenants, God chose to deal with Israel as a nation rather than on an individual basis in providing penalties or judgment in time. National blessing was contingent on the behavior of the whole nation in keeping all the requirements of the Mosaic Law. The tithe provided no spiritual benefit to either the believing or the unbelieving Israelite. As was also true of the sacrifices and offerings, the unbeliever was expected to be an equal respondent with the believer. In other words, spiritual salvation was not contingent on the system of tithes, offerings and sacrifices but only the physical salvation of the nation in time was absolutely dependent on the use of the system. Spiritual salvation was by God by grace through faith.

How Was the Tithe Handled? When the Israelite brought his first tithe to the priests, it was necessary for there to be an orderly system for storage and dispersal. Before Israel arrived in the land of Canaan with the tent of meeting and then the tabernacle, simple procedures were adequate since Levi was located in close proximity to the collection point. Evidently, the tithes were collected and then a tenth was taken and offered to Jehovah for the support of the sons of Aaron and then the remaining ninety per cent was distributed to the rest of the tribe of Levi. With entry into the land, the collection was far more complicated because of the scattering of the people and Levites. With the setting up of the tabernacle at Shiloh, a central place for the gathering was established, for there Jehovah had temporarily chosen to place His name (Josh. 18:1). The sons of Levi were given 48 cities chosen by lot from the cities of the other tribes in the era of Joshua (Josh. 21:1-42). It appears that the sons of Aaron were given administrative duties over these cities, since the cities were allotted to each of Aaron's sons. The Levites possessed cities in the land of each tribe. When the tithe was gathered at Shiloh, it had to be warehoused and then distributed throughout the whole land. Whether the priestly cities sent transportation to pick up the tithes or the sons of Aaron at Shiloh had a delivery system to the priestly cities is uncertain. With the construction of the Solomonic temple, the same problems existed except the population was much greater -- both people and Levites. By Solomon's time, the road system had improved and easy access was available to any part of the kingdom though limited by the speed of transportation. Greater tithes were brought so greater storage was necessary. A more efficient delivery system was required to disburse the tithe. A significant part of the temple structure included storage barns for the tithes. This was also true of the reconstructed temple of Zerubbabel (516 B.C.) following the destruction of the Solomonic temple in 586 B.C.

At least the tithe of the tithes had to be stored for use by the sons of Aaron who were performing priestly duties. This is reiterated in the prescribed legal procedure for Levitical service. "... And the Levites will proceed to bring up the tithe of the tithe to the house of our God, unto the chambers, to the house of treasure (Neh. 10:38)." These chambers are further described for the temple of Zerubbabel in Nehemiah 12:44 and 13:5, 12. The "treasure house" is translated "storehouse" in Malachi 3:10. It is literally "a house of treasure" (beth haoztzahr). The word is used of the king's treasury (1 Ki. 14:26; 2 Ki. 14:14; 16:8; 18:15; 1 Chron. 27:25 etc.) as well as the temple (1 Ki. 14:26; 2 Ki. 24:13; 1 Chron. 9:26; 26:20-26). It is also used of storage places for food (1 Chron. 27:25; 2 Chron. 11:11), wine (1 Chron. 27:27), and oil (1 Chron. 27:28). A place of storage near the tabernacle existed in Joshua's day. "But all the silver, and gold and vessels [or instruments] of brass and iron, are holiness to Jehovah, they will proceed to come to the treasury of Jehovah (Josh. 6:19)." Old Testament storehouse tithing was simply the bringing of the produce and livestock to the priests who in turn warehoused them for personal use or for dispersal to the Levites in the Levitical cities. It is interesting to note that Jerusalem was not one of the priestly cities so the priests served in a city in which they were strangers. When God through Malachi demanded Judah, "Cause all the tithe to come unto the storehouse [or house of treasures] and there will come to be substance [for the priests] in my house ... (Mal. 3:10)." He expected animals and produce to be stored in the temple barns for future use. Lives depended on the tithe. Without the tithe, the Levites and their families were deprived of food. They had no land on which to raise their own and so would suffer greatly if a tithe was not brought to the temple storehouse. Full barns meant full priestly and Levitical bellies.

The second tithe was brought to the place where Jehovah had chosen to place His name [tabernacle or temple] by the tither and he dispensed the tithe himself. It was dispensed to his family and then to the Levites. Undoubtedly, this aspect of the tithe gave everyone in the family a greater anticipation of the journey to Shiloh or Jerusalem for a feast of Jehovah. The tithe was to be eaten before Jehovah.

When the third year tithe was given, it was handled at home in the tither's own city. It was dispensed by the tither within his own gates. The recipients were clearly described as Levites, poor strangers, orphans and widows. There is no record of any community organization that handled the responsibility of dispensing the tithe for the tither. The Law required it and the tither implemented it.

If an Israelite earned money, he tithed of that money. As time went along, the tithe was given of anything that was earned. As has already been mentioned, most of the tithe came from farming but the merchants and traders dealt in other merchandise. By the time of Christ, the standard clearly required a tithe of everything a Jew possessed. The Pharisee bragged that he kept every detail of the tithe (Lu. 18:12). When the Pharisees focused their attention on minutiae, they neglected the major aspects of their lives as Israelites. Christ disclaimed them. In order to prove their righteousness, they were tithing of the smallest herbs and leaves of valuable plants. "Woe is to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you are tithing the mint and the dill and the cumin, and you have left the heavier things of the Law, judgment and mercy and faith; but these things it was necessary to do and not to forsake those (Matt. 23:23 cf. Lu. 11:42)." Money was easily dispersed but some of the other merchandise would have created some real problems. There is a possibility that some items were converted to money to simplify dispersal.

What Were the Results? Since the tithe was an important part of the Mosaic Law, as a whole, specific penalties were not prescribed for the refusal by an Israelite to tithe. Violation of the Law brought physical judgment to the whole nation. One of the most effective judgments on an agricultural economy was drought. Without rainfall, there were no crops. Without crops, there was no food. When rain was promised, it was a promise of prosperity. In a land that had only minimal rainfall every year, life was totally dependent upon it. Even as late as Malachi (433-425 B.C.), the remnant in the land had opportunity to give the tithe and receive the benefits of rainfall. After the destruction of the land of Israel by the invading Assyrian and the land of Judah by the invading Babylonian armies, the land was left in terrible desolation. As was normal in the Middle East, the armies destroyed most of the vegetation and had salted the land of key agricultural areas. Farmable land was scarce and what was found had minimal topsoil. Without rain, there could be no crops. Israel was challenged to put Jehovah to the test and to bring the tithe and to see if it would rain. "... And put me to the test now by this, says Jehovah of hosts, if I will not proceed to open for you the windows of heaven and cause to empty for you a blessing, that will be more than sufficient (Mal. 3:10b)." Peer pressure among the Jews for giving the tithe would seem to have been important. If another person did not tithe, it was possible that one who did tithe would suffer the consequences on his own farm. Obedience brought blessing in time as was typical in all aspects of the Mosaic Law.

Another result of the tithe was a perpetual responsibility -- tithes had to be given every year. The first and third tithes were not sources of joy to the giver. Only the second tithe provided any immediate benefits to the tither and his family. Essentially, the tithe was a tax, a religious tax. Because of the potential results, when a man did not pay the tithe taxes, the nation would pressure him to pay his obligation. This was true taxation without representation. Jehovah had ordered the tithe and had the power to enforce the tithe over the whole nation. If 500 tithed and the rest of the nation refused to tithe, the 500 suffered the consequent drought, famine, pestilence and plague along with the rest. The tithe was a straight tax of at least 19% of one's income per annum and on every third year it was 29% of one's income.

Some may say that the rate is not bad compared to the taxes in some modern nations. One must remember that the tithe was instituted in a theocracy with Jehovah ruling over His people. The only bureaucracy was the priesthood and the judges that assisted Moses. With Israel's rejection of the theocracy and cry for the monarchy, the system became much more burdensome and difficult (1 Sam. 8:5-9). Samuel warned Israel that if they had a king, they would have additional tax burdens as well as problems with personal possessions. He predicted that a king would conscript Israel's sons for work and war (8:11, 12). A king would take their daughters to be cooks of all kinds (8:13). He would take property (8:14), slaves and asses (8:16). Further taxation would come with a tithe to be taken of the seed and vineyards (8:15) and of the sheep (8:17). God promised Israel, "And you will cry out in that day because of your king that you will have chosen for yourselves; and the Lord will not hear you in that day (1 Sam. 8:18)." Solomon organized a system of taxation whereby a tribe paid all the bills for the nation one month a year (1 Ki. 4:7). Government had great expenses (1 Ki. 4:22-26). Solomon was a great builder, building his own house and the temple as well as many other structures. As a nation, the people suffered from excessive double taxation. They could do nothing about the religious tax [the tithe], but could attempt to change the king's civil tax structure. After Solomon's death, Rehoboam was made king. The people requested that the tax burden and other burdens be lightened (1 Ki. 12:4) but he increased the burden (1 Ki. 12:14). Because of this, the nation was divided leaving Rehoboam with two tribes while ten tribes served Jeroboam as king. It is impossible to imagine how great the combined burden of the religious tax and the civil taxes was but without a doubt it was great. No percentage requirement is noted in Scripture for the civil government, but it was substantial.

The following chart gives a basic overview of the tithe system that was legislated under the Mosaic Law.

                                                                             
               | Tithe #1        | Tithe #2             | Tithe #3           
Percentage     | 10% of gross    | 10% of net           | 10% of gross       
When?          | Annually        | Annually             | Every third year   
Who Benefited? | Priests &       | Giver, Family        | Levites, Strangers,
               | Levites         | & Levites            | Orphans & Widows     
Where?         | Tabernacle or   | Tabernacle or        | Distributed in     
               | Temple          | Temple               | One's Own City     
Why?           | Support Levites | Food for Festivals   | Relief for Indigent 
               | & Priests     | & Relief for Levites   |                    
Scripture      | Lev. 27:30-33   | Deut. 12:17-19;      | Deut 14:28, 29;     
               |                 | 14:22-27             | 26:12              

Under the Mosaic Law, the tithe was a debt to God (Lev. 27:30-34; Deut. 14:22-26; 26:12). It was the duty for the whole nation whether the individual Israelite was saved or not. The tithe was despotic taking at least nineteen per cent of an individual's income. It supported the Levites who comprised a thirteenth of the population. Storehouse tithing was the bringing of cattle andd produce into the temple storehouses for the priests. Why should a grace believer consider giving a tithe when there is so much more possible for the believer-priest? It is so easy for the Christian to see the bottom line potential for results. It might just balance a church budget! Who has given any believer the right to ignore most of the requirements contingent upon the tithe? God did not. He replaced the system with the privilege of grace giving through offering the sacrifice of giving. A contrasting of the two provisions for giving provides a good introduction to the sacrifice of giving.


     Grace Believer  <  Not  >  Israelite Under Law
     A Priest        <  Not  >           A Taxpayer
     A Privilege     <  Not  >           A Taxation
     A Proportion    <  not  >              A Tenth
     Pleasure        <  Not  >               A Task

When the Christian functions as a believer-priest, he will have no need for the tithe. What about believers who are not willing to function as believer-priests preferring carnality? Shouldn't there be some means to encourage them to help with the finances of the church? It would be interesting to know how many believers are trying to buy God's blessing with the tithe! It is a far greater blessing to do God's business in God's way rather than to incorporate a system of bondage that stymies true Christian growth. When the sacrifice of giving is offered, grace principles of giving are applied and the believer has a proper attitude that truly pleases God.

The Activity of the Sacrifice of Giving

Paul used the Macedonian believers as shining examples of grace giving. Their whole attitude and approach were a special blessing to Paul who testified to their character in the churches throughout the Roman Empire. Of all the Macedonian locations of ministry mentioned in Scripture [Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea], the church first involved in giving was the church at Philippi. They had sent Paul a gift that was acknowledged in the Philippian letter. This gift was not the first gift they had sent his way. Already they had sent support to Paul at least twice. They had started their giving early in their Christian experience. Philippi was the first church Paul visited in Europe in response to the Macedonian vision (Ac. 16:9, 10). It is true that Lydia, the first convert in Europe, was probably a wealthy business woman (Ac. 16:14, 15). By the time Paul wrote Second Corinthians (Ac. 20:1), the churches in Macedonia were extremely poor. No information is available as to how long Paul was in Philippi aside from the fact that he had been there a number of days (Ac. 16:12) and many days (16:18). When Paul cast out the demon identified as a spirit of python from a young woman, his ministry was quickly terminated in Philippi. Men who had anticipated profit from the ability of the demon possessed girl dragged Paul and Silas before the magistrates accusing them of stirring up trouble and teaching principles that were not permitted by the Romans, As a result, Paul and Silas were stripped, beaten and thrown in jail. They were miraculously delivered and the jailer was saved. They were technically freed and asked to leave the city. Within a short time, they arrived in Thessalonica where they spent nearly a month. During the month's stay in Thessalonica, the Philippians sent two offerings to Paul. "But you also intuitively know, Philippians, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I went out from Macedonia, not one church fellowshipped [or shared] with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone, because even in Thessalonica even once and twice you sent because of my need (Phil. 4:15, 16)." These new believers financially contributed to Paul and Silas very soon after their salvation. Certainly Lydia had a part in the giving since their last meeting with the Philippian saints was in her house before Paul's departure (Ac. 16:40). These believers learned to offer the sacrifice of giving very early in their Christian experience, Evidently, it was the normal thing to do. Some commentators have suggested that the reason for the Philippian giving was motivated by their previous pagan practices for supporting idolatry. Other Scripture refutes such a position by indicating that their giving was a response to the work of Christ for them (2 Cor. 8). As a result, they received fruit from the gifts though Paul actually received the gift.

The Substance of the Sacrifice. When Paul received the sacrifice of the Philippian believers, he had all things provided [i.e. everything he needed]. In fact, he had abundance. As a result, he was in a state of being full (Phil. 4:18). Prisoner Paul had his needs met by a group of believers miles away from his Roman prison. They made a great effort to get things to him. A part of the fruit that the Philippians received was the comfort that Paul was in good condition and had been assisted by their gift. One might speculate as to what the things were that had been sent to Paul. Even if Paul was only restricted to a house, he had specific needs. The Roman government normally did not provide food, water and prison uniforms. It was the responsibility of friends and family to care for these physical needs. Spare garments and extra pairs of sandals would meet their needs. Writing and reading materials would help Paul during the time he spent in prison. There may have been some money for the purchase of other necessities of life. When the Philippians gave the sacrifice of giving, they met Paul's needs.

Savor of the Sacrifice. The sacrifice of giving produced a special fragrance that was pleasant to God. Though the aroma of the burning flesh and freshly shed blood of an animal sacrifice would be repulsive to most Christians, it was completely acceptable to God. While the Old Testament sacrifices may have been repugnant to human beings, both God and the recipients of the spiritual sacrifices enjoy the New Testament sacrifices. What a sweet fragrance exudes from the sacrifice of giving. Needs are met. God's work is accomplished. The believer finds strength. In God's opinion, the sacrifice meets His standard for excellence. It has a fragrance of sweet smell that is agreeable to God. He responds to the sacrifice with His good pleasure. More will be said later concerning the Divine responses to the sacrifices of the believer-priest.

The Supplying of Needs. Philippians 4:19 is a well-known and frequently quoted passage of Scripture. Spiritual believers who have offered the sacrifice of giving will have every need met by God in glory in Christ Jesus. As the believer functions in his position in Christ, he has the potential for seeing his needs met from the riches of God. God the Father is the Source of glory and the Possessor of glory. "Now our God and Father is the glory into the ages of the ages. Amen (Phil. 4:20)." He has received glory in the sacrifice that is offered and is filling full [supplying] the need of the believer giving Himself glory. Where the giver of the sacrifice might be depleted, his Heavenly Father fills him full again. Scripture clearly describes the principles for grace giving and the believer's attitude in his giving.

The Attitude of the Believer-Priest

Is the believer offering a sacrifice every time the offering plate is passed and he makes a contribution? Does every believer offer the sacrifice of giving when he gives to the church? The answer to these two questions is "No!" When the believer who is filled with love for the Lord and His work gives as a spiritual believer, it is a sacrifice. A believer, giving out of habit or because he has pledged, is not offering the sacrifice of giving. Money may be given to support the Lord's work, but the motivation can be wrong. Mandated giving of a tenth by a grace believer, who has substantial financial needs, will put unnecessary pressure on that believer. A wealthy believer will be satisfied that his tithe is sufficient and may miss many opportunities to offer the sacrifice of giving because of his complacency. He may even have a case of the "tithe and offering" syndrome where ten per cent is required by God and anything else is a free-will offering that is not required. It is the attitude of the believer who is spiritual that makes his giving of money or substance a priestly sacrifice. An improper attitude causes giving to be a charitable donation [in a worldly sense], while a proper attitude offers as a sacrifice that which is accepted as a true sacrifice. Giving with the wrong attitude is not acceptable to God. Certainly, it may be used to the glory of God but the act of giving is not a source of pleasure to the Lord. What a man gives will bring him no favor with God. It is a matter of how it is given. In God's eyes, it is not the amount that is given, but the attitude by which it is given. The Macedonian church had little to give because they lived in abject poverty (2 Cor. 8:2), yet their giving was acceptable to God and an example of a proper attitude. Two examples of a proper attitude in giving on the highest level are given in Scripture: God the Son and God the Father.

"For you are experientially knowing the grace [unmerited favor] of our Lord Jesus Christ, that because of you, the One being rich impoverished Himself, in order that you by the poverty of that One might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9)." Paul asked the Corinthians to put their love to the test and to give to the Lord. Jesus Christ exhibited His grace in His coming. He gave all that was necessary to accomplish His work - no more and no less. He gave what was needed to meet the need. The recipients did not deserve His provision. He poured out His all for those who would receive the gift. Consequently, because of His poverty, others were made full. He set aside His glory and willingly and freely made sufficient sacrifice for all the unrighteousness of mankind. As a result, the grace believer is rich in the realm of spiritual things because of the application of the work of Christ. Christ is an example of our giving in that He gave all that was needed to meet the need and did so willingly.

God the Father is also an example of giving. "Thanks is to God for His unspeakable gift (2 Cor. 9:15)." God the Father gave an unspeakable or indescribable gift. When God the Father gave the Son, He gave with no reservation or restraint. At the point of the Father's loving the people of the world, He gave His only begotten Son (Jn. 3:16). He willingly gave without reluctance. "Who indeed did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him in place of us all, how will He not graciously give for Himself together with Him all things to us (Rom. 8:32)." God the Father willingly sent the Son providing for the Christian's salvation. God the Father provides a perfect example and motivation for Christian giving.

In the New Testament, there are several principles given for proper Christian giving. These details give the believer clear directions in the matter of offering the sacrifice of giving. In the early church, giving was a simple process. The only record of giving that exists in the New Testament is giving to individuals or groups of people through the local church. A number of factors brought financial poverty to a number of the saints at Jerusalem. Paul was involved in at least two collections for the poor of the church in Jerusalem. In Acts 11:27-30, Paul and Barnabas were selected to be envoys representing the church at Antioch to Jerusalem taking relief for the saints in Judea. A great drought had spread across the whole Roman world in the days of Claudius Caesar putting great pressure on everyone. On Paul's third apostolic journey, he collected money for the poor of the church in Jerusalem. It appears that he arranged for the collection to be gathered by the churches so that he would simply have to pick it up without delay. He often took representatives of the individual churches with him to accompany the collection to Jerusalem. This is evident in the fact that as Paul came from Macedonia, he expected to have a delegation from the Macedonian churches with him when he arrived in Corinth (2 Cor. 9:1-4). When the churches gathered on the first day of the week, they were asked to bring in their giving to be treasured or stored until Paul arrived (1 Cor. 16:1, 2). Essential characteristics for grace giving are evident in Paul's letters concerning the method and means of collection.

There are nine words used for collection in the New Testament. These words give a sense to the whole idea of Christian giving. Paul described his own involvement as the "making of alms," (eleemosune) (Ac. 24:17). The term describes a compassionate response to those who are suffering the results of sin (their own or others] in the provision of mercy. Alms were designed to provide relief for the necessities of life. Christian giving has the potential for lightening the load that another believer has by providing something out of Christian pity.

When something is delivered in giving, it is considered to be an offering, (prosphoras). Paul "made" offerings when he came to Jerusalem (Ac. 24:17). A grace believer also brings something to be sacrificed. Most often the root is used of the act of offering up or sacrificing. Christian giving involves offering something in full knowledge of its significance and value in the Lord's work.

In First Corinthians 16:1, 2, the word "collection" or "gathering," (logia), describes the Corinthian church's giving. When the word is found in the verbal form, it has the idea of gathering or assembling something. A variety of contributors with a variety of contributions are all collected together. A need is mentioned and the people respond. Generally, the individual churches took the collection and then dispersed it to the proper recipient. The collection in First Corinthians 16 was organized so that the money would be accumulated before Paul arrived. All of the sacrificial giving by spiritual believers and the donations of the carnal believers were gathered and then held in safe keeping until Paul arrived.

Giving was considered unmerited favor. The giver did not deserve to give it and the recipient did not deserve to receive it. When giving is done freely, there are no strings attached. Corinthian believers could not choose specific believers in Jerusalem for their giving, but they were to give no preference to believers who were needy. Paul identifies this giving as grace, (charis), in First Corinthians 16:3 [A.V. "liberality"] and Second Corinthians 8:4. Grace giving is to be done in response to the grace of God (cf. 2 Cor. 8:1, 4, 6, 7, 9, 16; 9:8, 14, 15 Gk.). When God leads in the matter of giving, nothing should place limitations on who receives it or on how it is used. Grace is to be manifested in the Christian's giving. Giving is a kind of sharing or fellowship. One takes something of his own and gives it to another so they have held the same thing in common. All believers share their position in Christ in common and such a sharing can carry over into the sacrifice of giving. Fellowship, (koinonia), is used of the participation and partnership of believers with one another in their giving (Rom. 15:26; 2 Cor. 8:4; 9:13). Giving is a means of sharing physical things or money with another believer.

Paul sees such a service as a ministry (2 Cor. 8:4, 9:1, 12, 13) by which food and the necessities of life are supplied. One believer renders service to another believer by his giving while furnishing those things that are lacking. It is the believer's ministry (diakonia) or business to be assisting others. Giving is a service by which one serves another in providing assistance when needed.

Giving is an abundance, (hadrootes), that is ministered by other believers (2 Cor. 8:20). When believers respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit and their love for the Lord, abundance is the result. In classical Greek, the word usually describes rich, fat men. The root idea is that of being mature or full. What is given is seen as bounty as it is offered. This is considered the very best of the sacrifices a believer can offer. Grace giving should be bountiful giving. Spiritual believers can give to the Lord and it is the best sacrifice possible that can be given.

Giving is a thing that is well spoken Of, (eulogia). When Paul arrived at Corinth, he had anticipated a large collection for Jerusalem and that it would become the object of good works (2 Cor. 9:5 trans. "bounty" A.V.). All parties involved should have nothing but good to say about the sacrifice that was collected. The givers, the recipients and the deliverers were all to share the same opinions in the matter of giving. True grace giving should be free from grumbling and murmuring in the giving. A eulogy for every offering should be, "These gifts were given by spiritual believers to the glory of God for His use and enjoyment as He accepts them as pleasing sacrifices of giving." All Christian givers should share good words concerning the privilege of priestly sacrifice, concerning the presentation of the sacrifice and concerning the provisions that result.

Paul identifies the sacrificing as priestly service, (leitourgia). Such a service makes up the things lacking on the part of the saints (2 Cor. 9:12). When this word is used with an activity that is clearly identified as a sacrifice, it indicates that the sacrifices are really a part of the believer's priestly service. Every Christian should know that when he gives something to the Lord, he is performing priestly service as a spiritual believer. When a gift is given, it involves service that is distinctly rendered by the believer-priest functioning in normal priestly activity. How often does one hear an offertory prayer saying, "O Lord, accept our tithes and offerings." Ideally, the prayer should be, "O Lord, may these our sacrifices be well pleasing and acceptable in Your sight as we render to You our priestly service." What joy there is when one sees the Christian's giving as a positive priestly activity.

Grace giving involves the assembling of funds that have been graciously given. It is a sharing in common as a ministry that fills one with satisfaction. It is well spoken of as a priestly service. All of the words that describe the giving of the believer paint a beautiful, symmetrical picture of what God expects from the grace believer in his giving. Most believers rarely ever consider one of these words when they drop a check in the offering plate. Giving is seen as an obligation that is commanded in Scripture when individuals believe that they must tithe. Others expect God to bless them as a result of their giving. What a joy it is to be free in offering up the sacrifice of giving.

Paul used the Macedonian church as an example of proper grace giving. He encouraged the Corinthians to follow their example. The Macedonians gave of what they had, even though it was very little. They did not give what they did not have. When the grace believer is asked to make a faith pledge or promise, it is a conundrum. Scripture teaches that the believer is to be walking by faith expecting God to meet his needs. A pledge is a commitment. It may be presented as a commitment between the believer and his God or the believer and his church, but it remains a commitment. Theoretically, the believer should direct his faith toward God to provide the amount pledged that is over and above what is normally possible. These programs are pragmatic in that they are confident that since it works it must be right. Most Christians are carnal and do not have faith to direct toward God in matters of giving or anything else. It would be far better to call it a "presumption pledge" rather than a "faith promise." A believer, trusting God and walking by faith, should not make such pledges. There are Christian fund-raising organizations that help churches and Christian institutions prey on individual believers for their money in programs implying that pledging is godliness. A specific need arose and the Macedonians stepped in and helped with that need as they walked by faith. They had no false standard. They were certain that the need was a legitimate need and that their giving was the will of God. A carnal believer can make a pledge and have the religious works of the flesh satisfied without ever pleasing his God. Any unbeliever can make a pledge to the church as a charitable cause. The local church has money, as a result, for its various programs, but very little was given in God's way and thus was unacceptable to God. While the work goes on, the individual Christian has had no spiritual benefit from his giving and has been deprived of the tremendous blessing of offering sacrifices as a believer-priest. Second Corinthians 8:11, 12 clearly rejects a believer's pledging of that which he does not have. Pledges are either "grave clothes" from traditionalism or an adaptation of Madison Avenue fund-raising techniques. They openly contradict the clear teaching of Scripture. Several other Scriptural principles oppose the pledge system. When the believer understands the principles of grace giving, he will enjoy the freedom of giving in conformity with the will of God rather than the will of man. Some teach that what a man gives will be the basis for the amount of Divine favor he will receive. It is impossible for the believer to buy God's favor. If it were possible, it would cease to be true favor or grace. When giving is done as prescribed in Scripture, the believer will experience the blessings of true priestly service to God.

Positive Requirements for Grace Giving. "Get out your check book and sign your name ..." What grace giving is and what it is not are very important. A thousand methods are used to get a believer to sign a check and give as much as they can or have. Scripture clearly describes the requirements for giving as God desires it. The Christian must be in a proper spiritual condition to know what is legitimate and what is not legitimate for his giving. Too many Christians have sent their money down the rat's hole of fund collection. There are some good reasons for giving through the local church. The local church should have more than one person who determines where the giving goes if it is organized in a New Testament manner. Any consistent local church will not permit money to be given through it for organizations or individuals that have questionable doctrine or practices, The combined vote of the church determines where church giving is to go. If the individual believer does not agree with the will of the majority, he can simply refuse to give toward the item or person in question. One must have a good reason to give.

In the early church, there were no buildings or grounds to support since the church gathered in homes. They supported their pastors and other Christian workers. They stepped in and gave financial help when it was needed. Generally, their giving was simple and uncomplicated. They were expected to give when the need was obvious and when the Holy Spirit led. Spiritual believers would see the need and give. The carnal saints would often feel obligated to share. The Lord's work was supported in the Lord's way.

A Need for Purpose for Giving -- 2 Cor. 9:12. The saints in Jerusalem were lacking physical things. A need was very much evident. Could it be that the word was spread throughout the world of the starving, tattered Christians who called Jerusalem home? Stories may have been told of the hunger swollen abdomens protruding from bodies with bones projecting through skin stretched tight by malnutrition. Christians, living in rags barely able to cover their emaciated bodies, were living in the streets as homeless refugees in their own city. Were there Christian beggars seeking alms of religious Jews in the streets? Modern fundraisers would have used vivid descriptions and shown slides, videos and movies of the most severe cases of poverty to raise funds. Enough information was given to the churches to let them know of the need and its severity. Historically, there had been many droughts in the land of Judea. Jerusalem was not in an ideal position for an agricultural society. Its location was selected because of its defensibility as a fortress not as a place for growing crops. Small amounts of land were arable. The church in Jerusalem had grown numerically (Ac. 4:4; 6:7). In 44 A.D. during the reign of Claudius Cesar, there had been a famine and Paul and Barnabas had gone to the whole province of Judea with relief (Ac. 11:27-30). Over the years, the Jews outside Jerusalem in the Diaspora had sent donations to the Jewish population in Jerusalem in an early Palestine Relief Fund. By Acts eight, persecution had scattered a large part of the Church throughout the world. Persecution still existed in Jerusalem depriving the Christian Jews from receiving the relief funds that the rest of the Jewish population received. Without outside help, these believers could not remain in Jerusalem and survive. Already Jerusalem was reliant on a sort of tourist trade for a portion of its income. Religious Jews would make pilgrimages to the Herodian temple and bring money with them supporting a part of the economy [until its destruction in 70 A.D.]. Scripture does not reveal the extent of the poverty, but the extensive effort of Paul and the reaction of the Macedonians indicates that the poverty was great and extensive. It was a long term poverty as is seen in the fact that this late in Paul's third apostolic journey the need was still great and had as yet not been met. There was a clear purpose for giving -- a need. The need was so great that the Macedonians supplicated [i.e. cried for help] with Paul that they might participate even though they themselves were living at the very lowest level of poverty.

Some individuals, institutions and churches encourage giving when the needs are limited just to keep the people in practice. That is not grace giving. Has anyone ever told a church to slow down their giving when giving is over budget? No! The church finds a new building project or adds a new missionary instead. Every church should ideally be able to ascertain the will of God in the budget process. Needs and wants must be distinguished. God's desire for the church must be known. People need to know where their money is going and how it is used. Giving must always be secondary to consistent personal Christian living. Grace giving is not spirituality. Grace giving is the result of a consistent Christian life. To encourage the result without a New Testament cause produces complacent believers, who are good givers but in reality poor livers. When a person has a need, the spiritual believer will see it and attempt to do something about it. As an immediate response to the practical will of God, the Christian has the potential to participate in doing the will of God in the situation. The Macedonians had been practicing the will of God as it had been revealed to them, and they had given themselves to the Lord and then to Paul and those believers who were with him (2 Cor. 8:5). As a result, they knew exactly what God expected of them in their giving.

A Need for Giving One's Self First -- 2 Cor. 8:5. In order to understand God's will in the matter of giving, the believer should be practicing God's revealed will in his life. Seeing the Macedonians' abject poverty, Paul had discouraged their participation in the collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem. Historically, Macedonia had been a center of rebellion and civil unrest in the Roman Empire. Major confrontations had taken place in Macedonia. Caesar had fought with Pompey there as had Augustus with Antonius. The Roman government had seized the gold and silver mines of Macedonia that were rich resources for revenue for the Macedonian economy. In the iron and copper industries, the government nationalized and took over the lucrative smelting business by imposing high taxes. The importation of salt and the felling of trees for the construction of ships were taken over by the Roman government. To increase the pressure on the people, heavy taxation was levied. Christians living in Macedonia not only suffered from the resulting economic depression but also from continued persecution from the Jews and Gentiles alike. Paul describes the Macedonians as being under a test of great affliction. Even in such great financial pressure, they had an abundance of joy (2 Cor. 8:2). How bad was their poverty? Paul describes it as being the very depth (bathos) of poverty. They were in such extreme poverty that there was no one else who was any worse. They were at the very bottom yet they abounded in giving what they had. Their giving was similar to the widow who was poorer than anyone else yet she gave her two mites that was all she had to the Lord (Lu. 21:2-4). Christ saw her as giving more, though it was very little, than the gifts of the rich. The Macedonians followed her example in their giving. They were quick to demonstrate their love to the brethren who had a need (1 Jn. 3:17).

Before the Macedonians gave anything, they gave themselves first. It made perfect sense to them that God desired them to give their persons ["themselves"] to Him. Evidently, they had already given the sacrifice of their physical bodies to God (Rom. 12:1) and now saw the importance of giving their persons to the Lord. A personal pronoun or a reflexive pronoun always refers to personality unless the context clearly indicates that it refers to something else. Their giving was done freely with no stipulations accompanying the giving. They gave themselves of their own free will. At the moment, it made sense for them to give themselves to the Lord, so they gave themselves once and for all. Evidently, this happened early in their Christian experience. One must notice the title of Jesus Christ that Paul selected: Lord. They gave themselves to the Lord. They understood that Christ was to be made Lord or Master in the Christian's life. Peter describes this requirement, "But set apart [sanctify] Christ as Lord in your hearts ... (1 Pe. 3:15)." When the will of God was clear that a believer was to make Christ to be Lord in his life, the Macedonian believers actually made Him Lord, as they comprehended the will of God. God's desirous will is clear in written Scripture, but the Macedonian Christians evidently learned this directly from the teaching of Paul and Silas. True grace giving is a response to the Lordship of Christ that is already understood as God's desire for the believer. What a pity that so few Christians have seen that it is God's will for them to set apart Christ as Lord in their lives. They have never practiced the first step in grace giving. They have not given themselves to the Lord.

Not only did the Macedonians give themselves to the Lord, but they also gave themselves to other believers (2 Cor. 8:5). They knew the value of giving themselves to others because of the benefits that resulted in their lives. In his writing to the Corinthian church in this letter, Paul has been dealing with the problem of the Corinthian rejection of his apostolic authority. It may well be that when he adds "to us," he is strongly inferring that the unrefined, backward Macedonians had more sense than the suave, suburban Corinthians did. The Macedonians had a better understanding of what the will of God was than the Corinthians. They had learned how to give by practicing grace giving. First they freely gave themselves to the Lord and then to other believers knowing that was the will of God. Only God knows how many believers in the church today have followed His will in their giving. Christians have been indoctrinated with the importance of giving their money to the neglect of the primary giving of themselves to Christ as Lord and then to other believers. Grace giving results from an attitude of the mind that reflects on the desires of the Lord and the actual needs of others.

A Need for an Eager Desirous Will -- 2 Cor. 8:11, 12. "But now also bring to completion the doing of it, so that as the readiness of mind of the desirously willing, so also will be the bringing to completion out of what you have. For if the readiness of mind is present, it is acceptable according to whatever an individual happens to have, not according to that which the individual does not have." With a readiness of mind, the believer should give with a proper kind of desirous will of his own. Readiness of mind is an eagerness or preparedness to do something. The believer is poised, prepared to give to another believer or to the Lord. His desirous will should be attuned to the needs of the Lord's work and the Lord's people. One must be willing, ready and able to give as he discerns the will of the Lord in his giving.

A Need for Individual Choice -- 2 Cor. 9:7; 1 Cor. 16:2. "Each one as He has proceeded to choose for himself in his heart, not from grief or from necessity ... (2 Cor. 9:7)." Each individual is to choose in his own heart when he is to give and what he is to give. Choosing involves acting by choice or personal preference. From the heart, careful consideration determines personal preference that in turn is the basis for the action. With the mind and emotions cooperating, the decision must be made concerning what, how, when and to whom the believer is to give. His choice or preference is based on his measure of prosperity (1 Cor. 16:2). The believer alone knows the extent of his prosperity. Every believer should freely determine for himself what his involvement will be in giving in every situation. Before the Lord, he should be able to choose to give what is pleasing to the Lord for himself. There is always a need for individual choice in grace giving.

A Need for a Cheerful Heart -- 2 Cor. 9:7. Giving should never be a dismal responsibility for the believer. It should be an enjoyable privilege. "... For God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7)." "Cheerful" conveys the idea of being of such a mind that the believer enjoys the possibilities of his giving. "Hilarious" is an English derivative from the Greek root. A proper attitude is necessary for one to be a cheerful giver. The Greek noun is tied directly to the word for propitiation that directly involves personal satisfaction on the part of the recipient. A cheerful person is satisfied with his giving and is in a good state of mind as a result. Satisfaction does not produce regret or reticence in the mind of the believer. God directs His love in a special way toward a believer who is satisfied that he is giving according to the will of God and enjoying his potential in God's program for grace giving. When money is placed in the offering plate, there should be no restraint at giving what has been given. The cheerful giver basks in the love of God every time he offers the sacrifice of giving.

A Need for the Love for the Lord -- 2 Cor. 8:8, 24. A grace believer needs to be spiritual in order to give an acceptable sacrifice. When a Christian says he is spiritual [emanating the things of the Spirit], his giving can put his statement to the test. Giving proves the sincerity of the believer's love (2 Cor. 8:8). "I am not speaking by way of command, but through the diligence of others also proving sincerity of your love (2 Cor. 8:8)." "Sincerity" involves the genuineness and legitimacy of the love. Is that which the believer calls love really love produced by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22)? "Therefore while exhibiting in the presence on your behalf to them (2 Cor. 8:24)" describes the test. The Authorized Version translates (endeixis) with the English word "proof" while the word more accurately describes a pointing out with the idea of a manifestation to establish the validity of something. If a believer says he loves God and the brethren, one can look at the proportion of his income, willingly given to the Lord and know whether the love is valid or not. When a believer loves the Lord, he gives to the Lord's work.

A Need for an Anticipation of Blessing -- 2 Cor. 9,5 6. Philippians 4:18 teaches that the spiritual believer who gives can expect God to make up the needs that he has as a result of his giving. It does not promise that God will make a Christian rich because he gives a great deal of money. As a result of giving, the believer can expect God's provision of blessings. These blessings are not concealed but are openly visible. When the Authorized Version translates (eulogia) "bounty," the good giver seems to be instructed to build bigger barns. In reality, the word simply means "blessing" or "a thing well spoken of." God provides that which is well spoken of for the believer. A translation of Second Corinthians 9:5, 6 will clarify this potential for the believer who gives. "Therefore I thought for myself it necessary to beseech [or encourage] the brethren that they go ahead unto you and arrange [or adjust] beforehand the blessing that has been promised by you, that this thus be ready as a blessing and not as a desire to have more. But this I say the one who is sowing sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who is sowing blessings will also reap blessings." A bountiful blessing will be given to the one who gives as the Lord has blessed him. A believer should anticipate blessings as a result of his giving.

A Need for a Good Opinion -- Rom. 15:26, 27. "For it was considered a good opinion [by those of Macedonia and Achaia] to make some sharing [or contribution] for the poor saints in Jerusalem (Rom. 15:26)." There was a need for a good opinion in giving. Verse 27 gives the basis for the good opinion. They considered the church in Jerusalem to be the source of the message of salvation that had been shared with the Gentiles. As a result, they felt they were indebted to assist with the physical needs that existed in the church there. When a believer gives, he must be confident that what he is giving is the Lord's will. Because of this, he will have a good opinion in his giving. Whether the recipient deserves the gift or not is not the question. The question is whether the Lord is the Motivator in giving to His work or not.

A Need to Be Proportionate -- 1 Cor. 16:2. "On the first day of every week, let each one of you put it alongside himself, treasuring up whatever he has been prospered, so that whenever I come then there might not be collections." When the believer brings the sacrifice of giving, it is to be based on his prosperity. Grace giving is proportionate giving. As the believer journeys through life, God provides whatever he possesses. When a believer is very prosperous, he may be accountable for a large percentage of his income in his grace giving. An impoverished saint may only give a pittance yet bring great glory to God. How is this proportion determined? There is no magic formula that can be applied to an individual's income. He must know the will of God in the matter. Without such awareness, his giving will be inconsistent and he will miss the blessings of proportionate giving. Proportionate giving is not a basis for church power. Many churches give extensive authority and preference to the big givers and limit the authority of the small givers. Such inequity is an outworking of the flesh that causes divisions and abuses the oneness of the believer in the Body of Christ. Wealth never makes a man a better Christian. Every believer is a priest no matter how much he gives to the local church. It is one man, one vote in congregational church government, not one dollar, one vote. When a Christian is spiritual and gives a proportion of his income as the Holy Spirit leads by His desirous will, he will have the satisfaction that he has shared as an equal in the Body of Christ no matter how much was given. One gives as God has prospered him to the glory of God. As a result, God's work progresses and God's people serve as priests.

Negative Requirements for Grace Giving. Scripture presents some negative requirements for grace giving. Grace giving is not compulsory. It is not communicated in Scripture with a set of mandates like the commandments of the Mosaic Law. It must not bring grief or a burden in the life of the giver. When a person gives of his substance in a proper biblical way, God counts it to be a sacrifice of giving. Christians need to learn how to be spiritual and how to respond to God as spiritual believers. Giving can then be encouraged from a biblical perspective. Unfortunately, many new Christians leave churches because of abuses of various areas of giving in the church program. Giving has been mandated without accurate teaching of the priestly service of the believer-priest in the sacrifice of giving.

Giving Is Not Compulsory -- 2 Cor. 8:3-5; 9:7. When Paul used the Macedonian believers as an example, it is evident that they were not commanded to give. In fact, they made a great effort to convince Paul that he should take their offering. They supplicated [i.e. cried out for his help] with much exhorting attempting to encourage Paul to take their collection (2 Cor. 8:4 Gk.). Paul had hoped that they would not be involved because he knew the extent of their own extreme poverty (2 Cor. 8:5). They gathered the offering of their own accord (8:3). The believer is not to give of necessity (2 Cor. 9:7). In other words, he is not to give because of pressure. The verb form of the word "necessity," (agcho), means "to compress." Necessity is an obligation that is pressed on an individual pressuring him to do something. Human constraint should never motivate the Christian to give. Only an awareness of the will of God can legitimately, biblically motivate the spiritual believer in his giving. This is not to say that a believer should not give until he knows the will of God, but rather to say that the fullness of blessing in giving is based in a Spirit-filled life manifested in giving. Grace giving is right and proper. How much is given, when it is given and where it is given is entirely decided between the believer and his God. As a result, everyone benefits from the giving.

Giving Is Not Commanded - 2 Cor. 8:6; 9:7. In a sense, this reiterates the fact that giving is not a necessity. Paul carefully tells the Corinthians that he is not commanding them to give. The compelling reason for his encouragement was the diligence of other believers (2 Cor. 8:8). Paul did not give a command like a general issued commands to an army demanding a proper order concerning their giving. He did give a charge to the churches [not individuals] concerning the specific collection for the poor in Jerusalem (1 Cor. 16:1). He charged the churches in Galatia as well as the Corinthian church to participate. Since the church is composed of individual believers, the charge carried down to them. The primary charge simply asked the church to gather and to protect the offerings of the members. No amount was required, only an orderly collection. No command was given that required the believer to participate in the collection. Every believer should be encouraged to give, but there is no New Testament command ordering him to do so. "I am not speaking down from a command, but through the diligence of others of a different kind also while proving the genuineness of your love (2 Cor. 8:8)."

Giving Is Not to Bring Grief -- 2 Cor. 9:7. Giving is not to be done grudgingly. "Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7 A.V.)." It sounds as though there should be no reluctance in giving, no unwillingness. The Greek of First Peter 4:9 is properly translated "grudgingly" since the word used in that text means "to murmur." It is a different Greek term than lupe that is used in Second Corinthians 9:7. (lupe) is a term that means grief, pain, sorrow or distress. Scripture prohibits the believer from giving in grief. When the Christian drops Ulysses Grant in the offering plate, it is not time to mourn his departure. God does not desire a believer to give money and to be sorry afterwards. This kind of grief can come from several directions. A covetous believer grieves because when he gives, he has less rather than more than when he started. A poor believer could give and grieve because of the distress of resulting financial pressure. A worldly believer could give and grieve because a new dress or a new fishing rod went into the offering plate. A selfish Christian might grieve because he did not think the pastor deserved his salary. A spiritual believer will rejoice at the privilege of offering a sacrifice.

Giving Is Not to Be a Burden -- 2 Cor. 8:13. Giving should never place a believer in straits. "For I do not intend that others be relieved, and you afflicted [or under pressure]." Ideally, if a believer is giving proportionately as the Lord leads, every need would be met and there would be no reason for affliction and pressure to result in the life of the giver. Unfortunately, some believers have been compelled to give more than they are able in order to keep the work of God going. Some believers have the spiritual gift of giving and can give more than others proportionately without finding it burdensome. How can a believer be a cheerful believer when he is overloaded under the pressure of his giving? Scripture teaches that the giving should be a blessing and not a burden. In some churches, the people place the burden of giving on the pastor. They expect him to pay the church's bills by keeping his salary so low that there is enough to pay the bills without putting any pressure on the people to support the man of God. Scripture calls for equality in giving (2 Cor. 8:14) so that there will be less a burden of giving for the few. What the believer has left over after his giving is more important than what he gives. New Testament giving is proportional and systematic within the guidelines of Scripture.

The Results of Grace Giving. Aside from the obvious results of giving, Scripture clearly indicates that there are other results. It is important to recognize that many of these are spiritual benefits that are produced by the giving.

Giving Brings Blessing -- 2 Cor. 9:6. When one's giving is a blessing to others, he is also blessed. The things that are a blessing [well spoken of] may be physical or spiritual. Blessings may come from the church, other individuals or God Himself. Giving provides the Christian with a good reputation in the world since other people speak well of his good behavior in providing his giving for needs they see.

Giving Brings Forth Fruit of Righteousness -- 2 Cor. 9:8-11. It is a righteous act for the spiritual believer to offer the sacrifice of giving. When the believer gives, he recognizes that God is his sufficiency and makes grace abound to every good work (2 Cor. 9:8). The fruits of righteousness are produced when the giving is sown as seed that produces spiritual results in the lives of other believers. They respond to God who is the ultimate source of the provision. Righteous behavior has the potential for producing righteous results.

Giving Supplies the Needs of the Saints -- 2 Cor. 9:12. When the Christian gives, the needs of the recipient are adequately met. "Because the ministry of this priestly service is not only making up the things that are lacking of the saints, but is also continually abounding through many thanksgivings to God." Needy saints who lack essential things for life have appealed to God for aid and relief. A spiritual believer discerns the will of God in the matter and God uses him to make up the thing lacking in response to their appeal. Without giving, the needy in the church and in the Lord's work would lose their testimony concerning the sufficiency of their God. In the world system, the Christian reputation has been one of caring for its own and others because of their faith in Christ.

Giving Produces Thanksgiving to God - 2 Cor. 9:12. When a believer receives something from God, he normally will respond with thanksgiving. He is thankful for both the giver and the gift. The recipient of the gift expresses his appreciation for the things that God has provided. When the sacrifice of giving is offered, the believer will first be thankful and then offer the sacrifice of praise. One sacrifice becomes the basis for another sacrifice. Giving not only supplies the needs but "also is continually abounding through many thanksgivings to God (2 Cor. 9:12b)." Thanksgiving should also be the response of the believer to the privilege of giving. In Philippians 4:18, Paul was full of joy for what the giving had done for the givers. A multiplicity of thanksgiving should result from any grace giving. Christians who witness the results of the giving will join in thanksgiving for God's provision.

Giving Brings Glory to God -- 2 Cor. 9:13. God exhibits His opinion of Himself [i.e. glory] through the involvement of spiritual believers in accomplishing His work. God is glorified in many ways in the giving. The whole Church of God is glorified by the believer's giving. A check sent to another believer can bring many different responses toward God. If he owes a serious debt that is due and that is met by the gift, he may glorify God for His power. If he has just discovered an error in his income tax payment owing more "than he has and it is met by the gift, he may glorify God for His omniscience because God knew the problem long before he did. If a missionary receives new shoes in a package from home, he may glorify God for His goodness because his suffering feet have been given a measure of relief. Grace giving will glorify God in many ways among His people as a testimony to His character before the unbeliever.

Giving Provides for God's Servants -- Phil. 4:18. While many apostles evidently received a measure of support from the churches, Paul refused support from several of the churches to which he ministered. He preferred to boast that he did not preach the Gospel for financial remuneration (1 Cor. 9:7-15). Financial remuneration was absolutely proper. God expected the one who was instructed to share good things with his instructor (Gal. 6:6). Special joy was experienced when believers met the needs of Paul (Phil. 4:10-19). In First Corinthians nine, Paul gives several illustrations of individuals who are normally reimbursed for their work. "Who becomes a soldier for himself paying his own wages at any time? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who is shepherding a flock and is not eating of the milk of it (9:7)?" Soldiers were paid by the government or by patrons. Vineyard owners make a living from the vineyard. Shepherds make a living from the flock. In the Old Testament temple, the priests, who served, lived from the temple sacrifices and tithes (9:13). Paul clearly says that those who preach the Gospel should live by the Gospel (9:14). A man who is using his pastor-teacher gift in the office of overseer should be living from his shepherding. As a pastor, the gifted one has a shepherding gift. As a bishop, he is overseeing the spiritual operation of the church. In the office, his pastor-teacher gift is most effective. As a result of such service, Scripture expects financial remuneration to be properly provided. As an elder, he has the maturity to render wise decisions. "Let the elders who are ruling well be considered worthy of double honor especially the ones who are laboring in word and doctrine to be believed and not practiced. For Scripture says, 'You will not muzzle an ox that is threshing,' and 'the workman is worthy of his pay' (1 Tim. 5:17, 18)." The pastor is not only to be paid with pay commensurate with the rest of the church, but may be eligible for double pay. If he is diligent in the study of the Word and doctrine to be believed but not practiced, he is worthy of double honor. His study and spiritual contributions expect at least a living wage as he serves God and the congregation. Spiritual believers will be concerned for the well being of the man that the Spirit has led to be their spiritual shepherd. What a shame for Christians to resent paying a pastor a decent, living wage.

In a sense, the support of the servants of the Lord may be considered a debt. Because of their work on behalf of the saints, they deserve remuneration. In no way should this he considered a debt to God but to individuals or to groups of individuals. In appreciation for the contribution the pastor has made in the life of a believer, the saint should feel obligated to assist in meeting the pastor's needs. Love is the basic motivation. Because of the role of the church in Jerusalem in the spread of the Gospel to the Gentiles, Paul considered the Gentiles obligated to assist in meeting the needs of the poor saints in that specific church (Rom. 15:27). God the Father counts love motivated grace giving as a sacrifice when given in support of Christian workers. While some believers may give money, others may give things such as produce and livestock for the support of the pastor. Other things may also contribute to the professional Christian worker's life and ministry such as clothing, equipment and transportation. As a result, the Christian worker should have the same standard of living as those who receive the benefits of his ministry in the local church.

Grace giving requires a proper attitude and condition. A spiritual believer benefits from the joys of giving and finds his giving a sacrifice to God. He is to give with a willing mind and a cheerful heart. God desires that he give himself to the Lord first then to other believers. As a spiritual believer, he is able to direct love, that is a part of the fruit of the Spirit, through his giving. He gives a proportion of what God has given him. When the believer has much, he gives much. When the believer has little, he gives little. As a result, every believer has enough left over to live at an adequate standard of living. No believer is Scripturally bound by a particular percentage. As God gives to him, the percentage of what he gives will vary. Wealthy believers will not please God or have their giving counted to be a sacrifice with ten per cent but will give more because God has given them more. Still the individual is the one who makes his own choice as to what to give and when to give. Grace giving is a gracious response of the spiritual believer to the gracious provision of the Lord. God the Father and God the Son are examples for grace giving. They gave what was necessary freely and without constraint. One's love for God is brought to light in his giving. May every believer experience the fullness of joy available through grace giving.

The sacrifice of giving is a privilege of the believer-priest. Whenever the spiritual believer gives to the Lord and His work, God the Father counts it a sacrifice. Grace giving provides the system in which the sacrifice is offered. It should be a pleasure for the believer-priest to offer the sacrifice. No longer bound by the restrictions and restraints of the Mosaic Law, there is now freedom to give as a grace believer. As a result, God is glorified, needs are met, saints are thankful and the fruits of righteousness are produced. Every believer can eagerly anticipate the time when the offering is taken in the church service. It is not just a time for paying the church's bills, but it is a time for offering the sacrifice of giving. Christians need to be looking for opportunities to offer the sacrifice of giving whether to the church or to individual believers. To give with a cheerful heart, an eager will and a ready mind is an acceptable sacrifice to God, the ultimate Authority. "Let us offer up the sacrifice of giving."


Chapter 8: The Sacrifice of Faith
Philippians 2:17


The sacrifice of faith is the sixth sacrifice available for the believer-priest. It would appear to be a simple task to identify this sacrifice. "Isn't faith just faith?" However, Scripture uses faith in a number of different ways. There is the act of faith that occurs at the moment of salvation that is called "saving faith." There is an attitude of faith that involves the directing of the fruit of the Spirit that has been called "sustaining faith." There is a body of doctrine that is identified as "the faith." This is doctrine that tells the Christian how to live in his present tense salvation victorious over his spiritual enemies. Some would like to make this the sacrifice of faithfulness encouraging dependability and reliability but that is another Greek word (pistos). Every time one reads the word "faith," it is necessary to determine what the term is referring to. There are 244 occurrences of "faith," (pistis), in the New Testament, so a study of the word is a formidable task because it has such an importance in Scripture. Proper interpretation will produce information. Paul describes the sacrifice in Philippians 2:17, "But if indeed I am poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and priestly service of your faith, I am rejoicing and rejoicing together with you all." Paul shared the benefits of the faith of the Philippian believers when they gave the sacrifice of faith. Such faith is a part of normal priestly service for the believer-priest. It is important to establish a definition for faith before examining the specific aspect of faith involved in the sacrifice.

Scripture gives a clear definition for faith so further definition is unnecessary. "But faith is the reality [or basis] of things that are being hoped for, the proof [or persuasion] of things not being seen (Heb. 11:1)." Faith accepts as reality the things hoped for. It accepts an assured impression that the very essence of the thing hoped for is so. Hope is rooted in revelation. God has revealed something and the believer expects God to perform the thing promised because He said it in His Word. Faith gives substance to that which has been revealed. As a part of faith, there is a conviction or persuasion of the certainty of the thing that cannot be seen. In other words, faith accepts as certain that which has been promised in the Word of God. Faith is rooted in the believer's confidence in his God. He is fully aware of the ability of God to accomplish anything He promises. Blind faith is not based in a Divine Person or on a promise from God. Christian faith is founded on God's self-revelation building faith upon faith. Scripture builds on the premise that God is reliable and capable of accomplishing whatever He desires to do. Faith recognizes the potential for God's working with other believers as well as with the individual believer himself. In Scripture, a great body of revelation is addressed to grace believers revealing God's program for Christian living. Because God promised it, the believer accepts it and expects the promises of God to be effective in his own life and in the lives of other believers.

"Belief' and "faith" are from the same root communicating the same basic concepts in Scripture. The act of believing results in faith. The verb (pisteuo) is normally translated "believe" in the English text. When one believes God, he accepts God at His Word and assumes it to be so, even though he cannot see it with his eyes. The Scriptural definition is sufficient. The biblical order is promise > hope > faith.

The sacrifice of faith is not a reference to the act of faith at the moment of salvation. That faith is a free gift of God (Eph. 2:8, 9; Phil. 1:29; 1 Cor. 3:5 Gk.) for those who believe. At the moment of faith, the individual believes in Christ through the Gospel of Christ. There is only one Gospel for salvation and it is clearly presented in First Corinthians 15:3, 4. "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I had received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." This clearly identifies the good news by which one is saved and through which one believes in Christ (1 Cor. 15:1, 2). The Philippian believers were already saved (Phil. 1:1) and offered the sacrifice of faith for Paul who was also a believer. A believer can never have saving faith for another individual so that they will be saved. The sacrifice of faith is not the act of faith at salvation.

The sacrifice of faith is not the body of doctrine identified in Scripture as "the faith." "The faith" is a body of practical doctrine that is addressed to believers. Doctrine itself cannot be offered as a sacrifice. The practicing of certain areas of Bible doctrine can be a sacrifice when it teaches the concepts of the six sacrifices of the believer-priest. It is important to be healthy in the body of doctrine identified as "the faith" (Titus 1:13). A bishop is to possess the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience (1 Tim. 3:9). Ephesians 4:13 establishes the fact that "the faith" directly relates to the believer's living in the Body of Christ in his present tense salvation. When a Christian relates to the unity of the faith, he is gaining victory over the attacks of his spiritual enemies (Eph. 4:14) as he is maturing in his position in Christ. When the Christian is under Satanic attack, he is provided with the potential to resist the devil by "the faith" (1 Pe. 5:8, 9). Jude encourages believers to contend for "the faith" once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). "The faith" is the body of doctrine that tells the believer how to work out his present tense salvation defeating his spiritual enemies by Scriptural methods rather than being defeated by them. The Philippians were living in their present tense salvation and many of them were practicing the faith. This is evident from the expressions of the fruit of the Spirit in their midst. They offered the sacrifice for Paul and not for themselves in this case. The sacrifice of faith is not the practicing of a body of doctrine even though God is well pleased with such practice.

The sacrifice of faith involves the directing of the fruit of the Spirit in a proper way. One must be spiritual to possess the fruit of the Spirit. In Galatians 5:22, the word "fruit" is singular and is used with a singular verb. It is one, single fruit. It is not a cluster of grapes or a collection of various kinds of fruit. The fruit of the Spirit is a single fruit with sections or parts (Gal. 5:22, 23). A major part of the process of the Christian's maturing is his learning to direct the proper part of the fruit of the Spirit to the proper object at a proper time. God expects him to take something that the Spirit has produced and to direct it properly. It is easy to say that a Christian should be manifesting all of the single fruit at once, but it is clear from Scripture that there are appropriate times for one aspect of the fruit to be focused while the other aspects are not focused. Every spiritual believer has the fruit produced because he is emanating the things of the Spirit [i.e. spiritual]. No other part of the fruit is identified as the sacrifice of a believer-priest. When the grace believer learns how to direct faith in a proper way, God counts it to be a sacrifice. This sacrifice may be offered for the believer himself or for other believers. While the spiritual believer is walking by faith enjoying an attitude of faith, he may be directing that faith to his God and in specific instances be offering the sacrifice of faith.

Any use of the fruit of the Spirit involves mental activity. It is not emotional though it may produce emotional responses. It is not physical though there may be physical activities that result. While the Holy Spirit produces the fruit, the believer must learn to use his mental faculties to use the fruit of the Spirit properly by directing it correctly toward a proper object. Every one of the nine parts of the fruit of the Spirit involves mental attitudes and activities. A man's life is controlled by his thoughts. The unbeliever suffers from a bent of mind resulting from the fall of man that perverts his way of thinking. Likewise, when a believer is carnal, his perception of life is completely different than it would be if he were spiritual. A spiritual believer must learn to take hold of a part of the fruit of the Spirit mentally and to direct the appropriate part effectively toward a proper object.

It is possible for the spiritual believer to misdirect parts of the fruit. As an example, love should primarily be directed to God, then toward other Christians and then toward the unbelievers. If it is directed improperly at an improper object, it can be the basis for spiritual failure. If the spiritual believer directs his love (agape

) toward the world system, he could become carnal as a result. "if anyone happens to love the world system, the love for the Father [objective genitive] is not in him (1 Jn. 2:15)." It is possible for the believer to direct his love toward money (1 Tim. 6:8-10) and the present evil age (2 Tim. 4:10). The reason for mentioning love at this point is that love and faith are found together more often than any of the other parts of the fruit of the Spirit [nearly 20 times]. Love usually energizes the faith of the believer. Unfortunately, not all that is called faith is really faith.

Christians have called presumption faith for many years. Presumption has no sound basis in Scripture but more than likely finds its roots in personal desires and feelings. When one assumes something to be so without some basis for such a conclusion, it is presumption. Actually, when the believer tells God what He is going to do, it is nothing but presumption. In other words, the assumption commits God to something that the believer has no right to commit Him to. Just because Jesus walked on the water did not give Peter the right to think that he could do the same thing. His leap from the boat was not a leap of faith, but the jumping to a presumptive conclusion that ultimately gave him an unnecessary bath. Christians often do what they want, confident that they will get what they want with no ground for it in the Word or will of God. A believer should be capable of distinguishing between faith and presumption. He should be very careful to avoid being presumptuous. Only God knows the extent of suffering among Christians that has been a direct result of presumption. Presumption results in religious speculation that is not grounded in faith.

The attitude of faith that is a part of the fruit of the Spirit can produce specific activity that springs from that faith. As an example, the believer can ask for himself in communication by faith (Jas. 1:6). Because of his faith in his asking, the believer will have no doubt as to whether or not he will receive the thing asked for. Scripture tells the believer that when he asks for himself in the character of Christ (Jn. 14:13, 14) and according to Christ's desirous will (1 Jn. 5:14, 15), he will receive the thing he has asked for. Scripture provides the basis for his hope. As a result, he believes Scripture and asks by faith and has no reason for doubting or wavering in the thing he has asked for. The specific act of faith in asking is counted to be a sacrifice by God the Father.

Directing Faith Toward God

As the believer studies Scripture, he becomes more and more knowledgeable concerning the Godhead. He understands the character of God and His provisions. As the believer grasps the ability of God to insure His accomplishing of all that He has promised, he has a clearer object for his faith in his thinking. Just as the believer believed in Christ in his salvation, he has the potential to direct faith toward Christ in his everyday living.

Faith in God the Son -- Eph. 1:15. Scripture clearly teaches that Christ's cross work is permanently effective and sufficient. When the believer thinks of the kind of salvation made possible by Christ's cross work, he has the potential for directing his faith toward Christ. In Christ, the believer not only has redemption (Eph. 1:7) but also was made an inheritance (Eph. 1:11, 14 Gk.). Being saved individuals, the Ephesian believers directed their faith toward Christ after their salvation. "Wherefore I also, after I heard Of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints ... (1:15)" is Paul's recognition of the double direction of the fruit of the Spirit by the Ephesian believers. They thoroughly knew of their position in Christ as is indicated by Paul's familiar use of "in Christ" terms throughout the letter. Faith was directed to the Head of the Body while love was directed to the individuals composing the Body. Paul reminds the Ephesians that, because of their position in Christ, they have access and boldness. He says, "In whom [Christ] we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him [objective genitive] (Eph. 3:12)." The relationship of the believer in the Body of Christ gives him the confidence that God the Father sees him in Christ seated at His own right hand. A maturing believer learns to settle down and feel at home in his position in Christ. As a result, he will have a confidence and boldness in his access to God. Faith in Christ for the privileges of participation in present tense salvation is essential for Christian living.

Faith in God the Father -- 1 Pe. 1:21. God the Father is the object of the believer's faith and hope. In response to his faith in the Father, the believer remains pure. Faith in God the Father directly relates to the believer's resurrection life. "The ones who through Him [Christ] are believing in God, the one having raised Him [Christ] out from among dead ones and having given a quality of glory to Him; so that your faith and hope might be in God (1 Pe. 1:21)." When the Father raised Christ, He saw the believer as a participant in the resurrection of Christ by imputation. As a result, He counts each believer to be raised in Christ. Christians are directing faith to the Father because they recognize His role in providing a place for the believer in Christ. Because the Holy Spirit is resident on earth today, it would seem logical that He also should be an object of the believer's attitude of faith. Even though there is no passage that indicates that the Producer of the fruit is to receive the fruit, it is apparent that He can also be the object of the believer's faith. As the spiritual believer is walking by means of the Spirit, he is walking by faith in his defense against the sin nature in the power of the Holy Spirit. Hence, the believer's faith is directed toward the Persons of the Godhead.

Faith in the Godhead. Groups of believers can have the reputation of being people who direct their faith toward God. This was true of the Thessalonian believers. "For from you was sounded the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith towards God has gone out, so that we have no need to speak anything (1 Thess. 1:8)." Context identifies the object of faith here as the Father, while believers by faith are also waiting for the return of Christ for the Church (1:10). God has given a triple guarantee concerning the continuation of salvation. All three Persons of the Trinity are involved in the believer's present tense salvation and are duly qualified to receive the believer's faith. A spiritual believer's faith may be directed to God for another believer.

Directing Faith for Other Believers

A Christian friend may live a great distance away. Word is sent concerning serious difficulties in the life of that believer. Knowing the spiritual condition of the other believer and the sufficiency of God, the believer directs the sacrifice of faith to God on behalf of the other believer. Faith can be directed to God for physical or spiritual needs. Faith assumes that God will care for every believer based on His promises. In any given situation, the believer can be certain that God's provisions will not change no matter how difficult the circumstances might be.

There are a number of Christians who believe that faith is to be directed to God for healing a sick believer. Unfortunately, this teaching leads to presumption. Some have said, "if I only had more faith, he would have been healed!" That is a statement of pure presumption. While a spiritual believer may have faith that God can or may heal, he cannot assume that God will heal every sick believer. Faith assures the believer that God will do all things well to His own glory whether the believer is healed or taken home. God has not failed. The believer has not failed because of his lack of faith. God will do His will in His way. A believer must direct his faith to such a God. Faith assures the believer that God will perfectly meet the needs of the other believer as God sees him, not as man sees him. Faith produces trust in God and in His solutions for the other believer's problems. James 5:15 is often used as proof for the need for faith for other believers who are sick. There are two men described in James 5:14, 15, who have different kinds of illness and who are treated with two different procedures. The person who is sick in 5:14 has a normal debilitating illness that produces weakness, (astheneo). That individual can call the elders of the church who can share with him in worship communication and administer whatever proper medicine is available to the individual believer and give him a measure of physical relief. In 5:15, there is a second individual who is afflicted with a mind-induced illness (kamno). The vow of faith is not the communication of an external believer but the communication of a vow by the believer himself for himself.

One of the benefits of Christian fellowship is reciprocity in sharing one's faith with other believers. As a result of directing faith for one another, there will be a common encouragement. "But this is for the purpose of co-encouragement with you through both your faith and my faith in one another (Rom. 1:12)." As believers relate to one another in personal contact, it is possible for them to direct faith on behalf of each other. Paul had anticipated sharing with the Roman believers some spiritual gift that is identified as a together type of encouragement (1:11). The instruction and fellowship of the saints creates a bond in which the fruit of the Spirit can easily be directed. Faith is energized by love (Gal. 5:5, 6 Gk.). The Roman Christians are "beloved of God" (1:7) and "dearly beloved" (12:19). As faith and love go hand in hand, there will be mutual encouragement. In his apostolic ministry, Paul anticipated sharing revelation with the Romans that would give them an opportunity to learn how to direct faith better toward one another. A part of Paul's instruction is implied in his discussion of the righteousness of God. "For a quality of the righteousness of God is revealed out of faith into faith, as it stands written, 'But the righteous man will live out of faith' (1:17)." Of all the verses in the New Testament that indicate that salvation is by faith, Martin Luther chose one as his byword that speaks of a believer [a just or righteous one] living by faith to be a basis for his contention that salvation was by faith alone. Faith, directed toward another believer who is in one's presence, is just as much a sacrifice to God as faith directed to God for a believer who is a great distance away.

While Paul was incarcerated in Rome, the Philippian believers directed their faith to God for him. It is not clear why they directed their faith to God for Paul. They may have suspected some of the difficulties he suffered or heard a report of his condition. As Paul sat in prison, he shared a mutual rejoicing with the Philippians over the content of their faith, as well as the fact of their faith. Mutual faith in the soon return of Christ in the day of Christ was the object of faith (Phil. 2:16). Certainly, it would have produced joy for every believer involved. Their faith could have been directed to God for Paul's care and protection in a very difficult circumstance. Another possibility is that they were living a consistent Christian life proving Paul's labor was not empty; and by that life, they were directing faith on his behalf. When each Philippian believer read Paul's letter, he knew exactly about what Paul was writing. There may have been one or more possibilities, but they knew for certain that faith had been directed for Paul. "But since I am poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and priestly service of your faith, I am rejoicing and I am rejoicing together with you all (Phil. 2:17)." Sacrifice and priestly service share a common idea grammatically [Granville-Sharpe construction] and refer to the same activity. Every sacrifice is a priestly service though every priestly service is not a sacrifice. As a result of the Philippian sacrifice, everyone rejoices. Revelation from God provides a basis for the directing of their faith for Paul. With many miles between them, the Philippians had great faith that they would see Paul again on earth or in the air in the Rapture. God's plans for Paul would be carried out to Paul's benefit and for the joy of the Philippian Christians. Paul heard that they were directing their faith and joined them as they directed their joy to the Lord and His provision together.

Paul communicated to others in the same way. He was a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth (1 Tim. 2:7 Gk.). He directed faith toward those Gentiles who were his students. He gave them truth [seeing things as they really are) and did so by faith. It was a characteristic of Paul's teaching to direct faith toward God for his students. He accurately presented the truth as he had been taught it by Jesus Christ. He was confident that illumined spiritual believers, consistently interpreting God's Word literally, would learn to live that which they had been taught. In turn, they would also have faith in the Word of God as well as the God of the Word. Any teacher of the Word of God can direct faith in this way when he is teaching the Word accurately. Pastor-teachers and teachers have a great potential to share in similar offerings of the sacrifice of faith as they communicate Scripture to people.

When Paul encouraged Titus to "Be greeting the ones who are fond of us by faith (Tit. 3:15)," he expected a sacrifice to be offered by someone in some way. Here the grammar is important though it does produce some interpretive problems. "Faith" does not have a definite article in the text. A major question is where the prepositional phrase "in faith" or "by faith" should go. Does it modify the main verb, the participle or the personal pronoun? Is it locative [in] or instrumental [by]? In other words, is Titus expected to greet them by faith, are they loving ones by faith or is Paul in faith? If the verb "love" were agapao, it would make interpretation much easier, but the participle is (phileo). It is a fondness for someone. Since agapao energizes faith, it would appear that if agapao were the form, the phrase would immediately relate to the participle. To direct faith in giving greetings makes some sense if the audience was hostile, but these individuals are affectionate toward Paul. It appears that the giver of greetings would be directing love and joy to the recipients. Undoubtedly, Paul and those with him were in faith but that seems to be a remote reason for writing it as he does. The phrase "in faith" or "by faith" makes perfect sense with the ones who are affectionate [the participle]. They have a fondness for Paul by faith. The simplest interpretation of the preposition is to accept it as instrumental "by." God encourages Titus to be greeting the ones who have a fondness for Paul. This fondness is evidenced by their directing faith that is a part of the fruit of the Spirit. In any case, faith is directed for other believers.

When the Christian directs faith for another believer, he is not to be prejudiced. Partiality for certain individuals can provide the opportunity for a prejudicial direction of faith springing from favoritism. A wealthy man may be preferred over the poor man. A white man may be preferred over a black man. A man may be preferred over a woman. All believers are one in Christ (Gal. 3:26-28). James affirms the fact that the directing of faith is not to be prejudicial. "My brothers, stop having the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the one of glory, with respects [pl.] of persons [or partialities] (Jas. 2:1)." A Christian must not direct his faith for another believer because he has wealth (Jas. 2:2-6) but because he is an equal. Love energizes the directing of faith (cf. 2:8) toward all believers no matter what their social, racial or generic status may be. External characteristics should never deprive another believer from having the sacrifice of faith given for him. Discrimination of any kind deprives the believer of his privilege of giving the sacrifice of faith and deprives the other believer of the joy that results from having the sacrifice of faith offered for him. The sacrifice of faith can be given for other believers, but it is not limited to these subjects. A large part of the giving of the sacrifice is by the believer for himself.

Directing Faith for Oneself

A majority of the sacrifices of faith offered by the spiritual believer are for himself. If he is truly walking by faith, he is ordering every detail of his life by faith. Each step is made by faith affirming that he is doing the will of God to the glory of God. "Needs make faith strong." Unfortunately, many Christians live life deluded by this kind of statement. They feel that when their needs are met and they are comfortable, there is no need for faith. Often they put faith in position nine on the list of the parts of the fruit of the Spirit and save it for a time of need or decision-making. The philosophy of the position is that those who have the greatest and most extensive needs require more faith than those who have fewer needs. It is almost as though the wealthy or well-off believer does not need any faith. One can offer the sacrifice of faith for the needy even if he does not offer it for himself. God expects an attitude of faith from every believer. God chose the poor to become heirs of His salvation. "Did God not choose the poor of the world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom that He promised to the ones who are loving Him (Jas. 2:5)." Because of their condition of life and the abuse of the poor, the poor man needs to be rich in faith. He wears shabby clothing (2:2). He is relegated to a position of dishonor when people gather (2:3). He is dishonored and dragged off to court by the oppressive rich (2:6). His name is blasphemed (2:7). He may be naked and lacking drink and food (2:15). He must have faith that God will direct other believers to provide assistance in his time of difficulty. By the standards of the world system, he is poor. By God's standards, the poor believer should be rich in faith. It may be easier for a poor man to walk by faith than a rich man, but this should not be the normal situation. A rich man may live by self-confidence being certain that he will make all the right decisions without relying on God. The one, who has the most, needs the most faith to effectively use what God has given him. James seems to infer that poor Christians give more sacrifices of faith than the rich do. Thank God that the spiritual sacrifices of faith cost no money and can be freely offered by the poorest of God's saints. Rich and poor alike can appropriate this privilege for themselves.

The Character of the Sactifice for Oneself. When the Christian offers the sacrifice of faith, there are several characteristics that will be evident to other Christians. By the exhibition of the believer's faith, a clear witness is given concerning the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. By learning to direct the fruit of the Spirit, the Christian moves on toward maturity. Because of the relationship of the fruit of the Spirit to Christian growth, every believer should be diligently pursuing the principles of Scripture for Christian living so that the Spirit of God will be producing the fruit of the Spirit. This is especially true for the man of God.

Paul not only encouraged Timothy to possess faith but also to learn how to direct faith in his ministry. "But you, O man of God, be fleeing these things; but be pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patient endurance, meekness (1 Tim. 6:11)." Paul encouraged Timothy to pursue three parts of the fruit of the Spirit: faith, love and meekness. The word translated "patience" in the Authorized Version is not the same term as "longsuffering" in Galatians 5:22 but has the idea of a patient endurance. As an apostle, Timothy was expected to endeavor to follow earnestly in the direction of righteousness [acting right by Divine standards], godliness [giving God His full weight by not withholding from God that which is due in the life], faith, love, patient endurance and meekness [tameness of mind]. He did not encourage Timothy to pursue in order to capture something, but he was to pursue as a matter of course in his life. Paul expected him to possess these things and then use them in a proper way. In Second Timothy 2:22, Paul reminded Timothy, "Also be fleeing from the youthful lusts, but be pursuing righteousness, faith, love, peace with the ones who are calling upon the Lord out of a clean heart." He adds "meekness" (2:25) as he did in the first letter. "Peace" [an unruffledness of mind] is a fourth part of the fruit of the Spirit that is added here. Paul expected Timothy to follow a stable course in which he not only possessed the fruit of the Spirit, but he also was directing it for himself as he moved along the course. Different circumstances demand that different parts of the fruit of the Spirit be used so that the Christian's walk will be appropriate before God. As Timothy matured in the Lord, he began to learn how to direct the appropriate part of the fruit of the Spirit at a proper time so that God could receive the most glory. Even though Timothy had a special gift, it was still necessary for him to mature and to use the fruit of the Spirit properly.

A commendable characteristic of a believer's faith is steadfastness or firmness. It should be solid and not unstable or fluid. The Colossian church was a good example of a church that had a solid faith in Christ. "For since indeed I am absent in the flesh, yet I am together with you in the spirit, while rejoicing and seeing your order and the steadfastness of your faith with reference to Christ (Col. 2:5)." A steadfast faith is a faith that is focused upon a proper object. Jesus Christ, as Head of the Body, is the object of the Colossians' faith. They directed the fruit of the Spirit toward a proper object. As a result, they walked [ordered every detail of their lives] in their position in Christ. Their feelings or external distractions did not move them. They kept their attention on their responsibilities to Christ as Head of the Body. They were rooted and built up in Christ (2:7), while being firmly established in the body of doctrine called "the faith." Faith as a part of the fruit of the Spirit is used in the believer's participation in the benefits of present tense salvation.

As believer-priests, believers should have absolute assurance of their access through Jesus Christ their High Priest. Christ has consecrated a new and living way into the Holy of Holies (Heb. 10:19, 20). "Let us come near with a true heart by a full conviction of faith ... (Heb. 10:22)." Christians direct faith to the fact that provision has been made by the blood of Christ (10:19). As a result, the believer is able to act on the information and enter into the Holy of Holies. The "way" is unique in time and kind for it is recently made (prosphaton) and living (zao) in its character. By faith, the believer has absolute confidence that when he approaches, he is absolutely qualified to enter. Faith should be manifested in the absolute confidence that we can use God's provision now. The believer has direct access to the very presence of God in the third heaven. As the believer clings to the confession of his hope unwaveringly, God proves Himself to be good to His Word (10:23). As a result, God can use the believer to stir up other believers to use the fruit of the Spirit in their own lives. What a privilege it is to have access and to have God-given faith available for personal use.

When the Christian has defects or shortcomings in the way that he directs his faith, it is possible to correct it with a proper result. Such a correction in direction is accomplished through the teaching of the Word of God. Even though Paul had spent less than a month with the Thessalonians (Ac. 17:2), he communicated a substantial amount of Christian doctrine to them. Not only had he taught them how to have the fruit of the Spirit (1 Thess. 1:8), but also how to direct certain parts of the fruit. Timothy had brought good news to Paul concerning the faith and love of the Thessalonian believers. Paul was encouraged in his distress and affliction by the faith of these relatively new believers (1 Thess. 3:7). The strength of their faith is evident in verse eight, "Because now we are living, since it is a fact you are standing in the Lord." Based on their relationship to Christ as Head of His Body, these believers stood firm in their position and confidence toward Him for Paul. They offered the sacrifice of faith just as the Philippians were. Paul responded to their faith by being thankful and by directing his joy toward them and their consistent Christian behavior (3:9). Even though Paul saw faith directed on his behalf, he saw that the Thessalonian believers still needed some adjustment concerning other ways in which faith might be directed. Paul rejoiced "Night and day while supplicating exceedingly with the purpose of seeing your face and of adjusting the shortcomings of your faith (1 Thess. 3:10)." Filled with eagerness of heart, Paul cried out for Divine help to permit him to return to Thessalonica to be of further assistance to the saints there. His supplication is not a cry of desperation that is made for persons in serious trouble but is an appeal to God for help or assistance so that he would have the opportunity to expand his apostolic ministry among them. He asks God for help. He is willing to trust God for the results. As a teacher, Paul wanted to teach these Christians more than he had been able to teach them on his visit among them. Either he did not have time or the Thessalonians were not ready for the teaching when he had been with them previously.

As Paul writes, he is confident that it is time for them to be adjusted by teaching concerning the directing of their faith. Adjust ["make perfect"] has the idea of mending or making whole again. Classical Greek used the term for medical treatment. A broken bone would be set or a bone pulled out of its socket would be put back in its joint. In Scripture, it is employed to describe the repairing of fishing nets (Matt. 4:21; Mk. 1:19) so that they would function at their best potential. It also has the idea of making a business deal good.

It is evident that the Thessalonians were using faith from the context of First Thessalonians, but Paul wanted to adjust that which was lacking or deficient in their directing of that faith. He anticipated teaching them how to be more effective in directing their faith. He knew the strength of their faith and that it had been beneficial for him, yet he knew that they could improve as a whole. Their love was the trigger for their faith. One must note that Paul expected the Lord to make them abound and increase in love to one another and all men (1 Thess. 3:12). Paul himself expected to come and activate their faith. By the time Paul had written the second epistle, both their faith and love had grown (2 Thess. 1:3). Paul does not clearly state what differences there were in direction. By what he says about love, it is very likely that the Thessalonians were having trouble knowing exactly how to direct faith for one another and for all men. When a believer truly directs love toward another person, he seeks the very best for that person. Faith expects the best for the other person when directed by love. In many cases, there are conditions in Scripture that must be met in order for that which is best to occur in the life of the other person. It may be that the Thessalonians had directed their faith for others who did not meet the conditions. As a result, the love energized faith failed to see its expectations come to be reality. God will only accomplish a spiritual believer's desire for another believer for the best benefit to the other believer. When the Thessalonians directed their faith for Paul, he was a spiritual believer who received the full benefit of their faith as he served God. If the Thessalonians had directed faith to God [and they probably did] for Paul when he was in Athens and entering Corinth, he was carnal and could not receive the full benefits of God's provisions for him.

A fellow Christian is unemployed and desperately in need of an income. All the believers in the local church direct their faith to God because of their love expecting God to meet his need. After a Month of interceding with God for the man, the church discovers that he has not filled out an application, prepared a resume or even looked for a job. Their motives were right. They directed the fruit of the Spirit properly, but the man did not meet the conditions. He was a lazy bum. Had the church known, faith would have been directed toward the man's apathy and senselessness rather than toward a job that would meet his needs. Another illustration will help in the realm of spiritual things. A Christian lady arrives at the ladies prayer group filled with anger and hatred for her mother-inlaw who had slighted her at a recent family gathering. Out of love for the lady, the ladies side with the daughter-in-law and direct their faith toward God for His dealing with the insensitive motherin-law. As a result, faith is misdirected. The Christian lady has come to the meeting manifesting two of the works of the flesh [anger and hatred] demonstrating that she is carnal by her visible behavior. She was either carnal when the mother-in-law slighted her or became carnal as a result of her being slighted. In order for faith to be directed properly, it should be directed toward the lady concerning her spiritual condition rather than the mother-in-law. Some practical encouragement for the confession of sin and setting her reflective thinking on her position in Christ would be proper and then faith could be directed concerning her spirituality. Every Christian should be objective when offering the sacrifice of faith. An adjustment in faith's direction may be necessary because of the circumstances towards which faith is directed. One makes adjustment through the teaching of the Word of God and its proper application to circumstances that need a proper directing of faith.

Another characteristic of the sacrifice of faith is that when it is consistently offered, it creates a reputation for the individual or individuals who offer it. "For from you distinctly sounded forth [as a trumpet call] the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to be verbalizing anything (1 Thess. 1:8)." Paul's ministry in Thessalonica was verified by the exhibition of the faith of the Thessalonian believers. In their home province of Macedonia, their reputation had spread. In the adjacent province of Achaia, word had sounded forth concerning their faith. When the Christians at Thessalonica were mentioned in the church at Corinth, their first thought would be of the faith of the Thessalonians. Everywhere in the world, where there were Christians, the Thessalonians were known as a people of faith.

At least a majority of the individuals in the Thessalonian church were spiritual so that the whole church possessed the reputation. Both churches and individuals can possess this reputation. One must remember that some individuals who have the reputation for having faith have the spiritual gift of faith and so manifested a greater amount of faith than other believers. The spiritual gift graciously gives the individual faith above what is normal. Spiritual people, using their spiritual gifts, should have a reputation because of their gift and its consistent use. The believer who does not possess the gift of faith, but possesses another gift can have a reputation for his faith as he learns to properly direct his faith. Many pastor-teachers have been known as men of faith.

As a Christian matures, he learns how and when to direct faith. When he actually does this, he becomes known for his faith. Presumption must not be mistaken for true biblical faith. Carnal men honor presumption more than they honor true New Testament faith. A proper directing of the attitude of faith that is a part of the fruit of the Spirit brings a reputation to the individual. A group of believers who meet together can have the same reputation as the believers in Thessalonica did. Some think of churches that build great buildings, great Sunday Schools or great congregations as having great faith. It is true that faith can be directed in these instances, but many times presumption breeds the "big is better' syndrome. The New Testament emphasizes the centrality of the individual Christian living by the grace of God.

Without spiritual believers, there is no fruit of the Spirit, and hence, no faith to be directed. A church that emphasizes the importance of teaching the Christian life has the potential for having the reputation of being a group of believers that has great faith no matter how large or small it is. Without teaching, it is impossible for a church to have such a reputation. One can visit a church that has a reputation for faith and know if it is true faith or simple presumption by what is preached and taught in the church program. Pastors need to know the New Testament teaching for the spiritual life and be consistently living the Christian life. People will rarely rise above the level of their pastor in their Christian lives. Contemporary churches need to have the Thessalonian reputation. Even though there were many local assemblies in the early church, the church of Thessalonica was the one church that had this reputation in Scripture. When the corporate offering of the sacrifice of faith is consistently given, the church is identified by its consistent faith.

As the believer directs his faith properly, other believers who are not the direct recipients of faith can observe it. While the believer himself does not advertise his faith, the observer can closely examine the faith and learn how to direct his own faith as he follows the example of the other believer. As a result, when one directs his faith, it is possible to have the same kind of directing of faith perpetuated by other believers as they live for the Lord.

Paul taught Christian slaves to subject themselves to their own masters in everything exhibiting their faith as they directed it toward their work and service. "Slaves are to be subject to their own masters (despotes) in all things, to be well pleasing, not speaking against them, not having secret reservations, but displaying all good faith, in order that they may show the orderliness of the doctrine of God our Savior in all things (Tit. 2:9, 10)." It is possible for both believers and unbelievers to see faith as it is properly directed. The Authorized Version translates "faith" (pistis) by the word "fidelity" interpreting it to mean "faithful" (pistos). This gives it the idea of performing faithful service to the despotic master. The purpose for displaying good faith is designed to cause the observer to relate the display of Christian faith to the doctrine that the slave believes concerning Jesus Christ. By directing his attitude of faith while he is laboring for the master, the Christian slave provided a clear testimony concerning the uniqueness of Christ in His deity. Because of the blessed hope the slave had in the imminent return of Christ, his faith had a basis and a motivation (2:13). The believer can exhibit this same attitude of faith on his job.

Undoubtedly, Timothy possessed an interest in the way Paul, his spiritual father, directed his faith. Paul was confident that Timothy paid close attention to various aspects of his life. "But you have closely followed [mentally] my doctrine to be believed but not practiced, my guidance, my purpose, my faith, my longsuffering, my love, my patience ... (2 Tim. 3:10)." When a Christian is -spiritual, the fruit of the Spirit is visible to all forms of scrutiny. To Timothy, his observations of Paul's life were more than a response to his personal interest but were also for his personal instruction. He could see how Paul directed his faith and could follow his example. One believer shows another believer how to direct his faith. Timothy knew how difficult it was for Paul to direct his faith because a large part of the time Paul was being afflicted and persecuted (3:11). Yet by faith, Paul bore up under the difficulties and the Lord delivered him. Timothy had a clear testimony for his own times of persecution concerning the proper ways to direct faith in such situations (3:12, 13). Because of his observation of Paul, he learned how to direct three parts of the fruit of the Spirit [faith, longsuffering and love] during times of persecution and affliction. Every Christian should anticipate the possibility that the way he handles the directing of his faith will be an example to other believers -- an awesome responsibility. How important it is for each Christian to learn how God intends for him to be directing his faith. Timothy had been encouraged by Paul to discover the proper way to direct faith and to learn to be an example to other believers in several areas of his life including his faith.

"Let no one despise [or slight] your youth, but become a type [or pattern] for the faithful ones in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity (1 Tim. 4:12)." Paul wanted Timothy to make such an impression on others by his accurate directing of faith and love that they would conform to the pattern that he had produced. What Timothy had said was to match up with what he actually did, especially in the ways he directed love and faith as well as his personal purity. Every Christian leader should provide a pattern for other believers. In reality, every person who has been saved should be such a pattern. Unfortunately, very few are accurate examples. A believer who has been living in the realm of his sin nature does not have the ability to be a pattern for others. He is a babe because he is immature and incapable of doing those things that are an essential part of Christian maturity (Heb. 5:11-14). One of the greatest failures of Christians today is the practical, personal rejection of New Testament revelation for Christian living. Many Christians consistently conform to man's standards for Christian living rather than to the clear revelation of the New Testament for grace believers. One must have the fruit of the Spirit to direct it. Without the fruit, there is no attitude of faith to be directed. Human systems of Christian living produce no fruit and only satisfy the appetites of the flesh. The Church needs Pauls to be examples to Timothys who in turn are patterns for others. How can a believer direct faith for himself if he has not learned how from Scripture and other believers?

Circumstances for the Sacrifice of Faith. The sacrifice of faith can be offered at any time and in any place. As long as the believer is spiritual, there is no limitation for properly directing faith. A spiritual believer can offer the sacrifice many times in a single day. Faith can be directed when life is easy or when life is rough. Often faith is put to the test in the most difficult times. Yet the simple directing of faith to God because of a truth newly learned from the Word of God is as much a sacrifice as faith directed under the greatest duress. When a Christian walks down the street directing faith toward the Lord because of his love, it is as much a sacrifice as for a believer who directs his faith for the same reason from a communist dungeon in Castro's Cuba. It is interesting that Scripture does not emphasize the directing of faith when the believer's life is running smoothly but emphasizes it when pressure comes. Paul describes his giving of the sacrifice in times of afflictions, distress, persecution and trials.

Paul had suffered a great deal of affliction; even then the Thessalonian believers remained a primary object for his concern. He was concerned about their faith and its continuation. He had seen it evidenced in them soon after they were saved. He had heard of it long after he was driven from Thessalonica, but he had not heard for a period of time. As he thought of the saints, he was afraid that Satan had tempted them so that the principles of proper Christian living were no longer being practiced (1 Thess. 3:5). As a result, he sent Timothy to ascertain their spiritual condition. Timothy returned reporting that the Thessalonians were still directing their faith and love in a proper way (1 Thess. 3:6). Their faith encouraged Paul in his distress and affliction. Others can have faith for the believer as well as the believer himself when he is in frustrating circumstances and under pressure (1 Thess. 3:7). Frustrating circumstances do not need to bring frustration. Calamity need not bring collapse. Pressure is not to produce panic. When the sacrifice of faith is offered in the situation, the believer can be confident in the Word of God that God will accomplish His will to perfection for the benefit of the believer. He leaves all the pressure and distress in the hands of God and confidently goes on his way rejoicing in his God. The Thessalonians themselves suffered a great deal.

"So that we ourselves boast in the churches of God for your patient endurance and faith in all your persecutions and afflictions that you are enduring (2 Thess. 1:4)." As the Jews pursued Paul in Thessalonica, they also began to persecute the Christians in the city. Believers were living under great pressure but were directing their faith toward God in spite of it. As has already been seen, the Thessalonians did direct their faith for others. They were not watching from the sideline rooting the afflicted on. They were actual participants in the same kind of pressure and persecution. Because of the difficulties they faced, their faith did not weaken. As they learned how to direct faith, it became stronger through practice (2 Thess. 1:3). Paul reminded them that God had accounted them to be worthy of the kingdom of God and therefore they would suffer. The afflicted saints were reminded that the Lord would avenge the unbeliever's activities at the day of future judgment (2 Thess. 1:7-9). Faith in the certainty of judgment of the unsaved persecutors provided relief from the distress of affliction. In the greatest trials, the Thessalonians learned how to direct faith.

Communication and the Sacrifice of Faith. It should go without saying that when the believer communicates with his Heavenly Father, he should be directing his faith toward God. Each of the eight kinds of communication in the New Testament involves some directing of faith. Intercession focuses faith toward God for His providing specific needs for other believers. Supplication directs faith toward God in His provision of help and willingly accepts the results. Praise, thanksgiving and worship all direct faith toward God by believing that He will accept the communication and count it acceptable. Confession believes God will forgive and keep on cleansing from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9). Two other forms of communication are tied to faith in the New Testament: asking for oneself and a vow.

"But since it is a fact that any one of you is deficient in wisdom, let him ask for himself from God, the one Who is giving to all men bountifully and not censuring, and it will be given to him (Jas. 1:5)." The verb "ask," (aiteo), is primarily found in the middle voice meaning the individual is doing something for himself [i.e. reflexive]. Hence, this type of communication is limited to the believer for himself and is not made for others [intercession and supplication meet that need]. In the dispensation of grace, there is a new procedure for asking, "Up to this point you have asked nothing in My name ... (Jn. 16:24)." Because of the familiarity of the disciples with Christ, they had always asked Him things as His equals, (erotao) (cf. 16:23 Gk.). Now they ask for themselves as lesser ones to a greater One. Grace believers are now able to ask in Jesus' name [i.e. His character and Person] and Christ will do the thing asked (Jn. 14:13, 14). This is in conformity to Christ's desirous will (1 Jn. 5:14, 15). In other words, when a believer asks for himself in Jesus' name, he will know that he will receive the thing asked for before he actually asks. In this communication, there is always a known factor so the communication is made for a specific thing. In James 1:6, it is clear that the asking is built upon the proper direction of faith, "Let him ask by faith, while doubting nothing ..." Before a man can have wisdom, he must have knowledge and understanding. God gives wisdom because of the asking. Only God freely gives it to the one who asks and who already possesses knowledge and understanding that can be put to use by the wisdom given. The sacrifice of faith is directed to the fact that God promised to give wisdom to the spiritual believer who asks for the wisdom. All asking of this sort is built on the offering of the sacrifice of faith.

One of the most rarely used forms of communication available to the grace believer is the vow. In Acts 21:23, (euche) is translated "vow" while in James 5:15, it is translated "prayer" in the Authorized Version. In James five, there are two different men who have two different illnesses in verses 14 and 15. In verse 14, the word "sick" is (astheneo) which means a physical illness that produces a weakness of body. James suggests that the elders of the church be summoned, pray a prayer of worship and administer medication to the ill believer. Olive oil was a very common medication that was used in the biblical era to provide a measure of relief to the one who was suffering. The topical application of the oil was accompanied with worship communication in the name of the Lord. There is no indication that this first man would or would not be healed as a result.

The second man has an entirely different type of illness. It is a mentally induced illness, a psychosomatic illness. As a result of sin, this man made himself sick. He had neglected dealing with the sin and so had not settled the issue with God or man. Evidently, he had wronged another believer. He may have made a public vow that he would make it right but had not kept the vow or he may have needed to make the vow and act upon it in order to be healed. An accurate translation will clarify the meaning of the verse, "And the vow from faith will save the one who has a psychologically induced illness, and the Lord will raise him; and if it should be that he is one who has done sins, it will be forgiven him (Jas. 5:15)." This vow is very different than the vows and oaths that were made under the Law. There was no flexibility permitted under Law. When the oath was made, there was an absolute commitment made to perform the thing promised. A New Testament vow is a commitment with limited conditions. The Holy Spirit leads the believer to make the vow. If the Spirit makes it possible for the believer to perform the promise, then he keeps the promise. Such a vow exhibits a strong desire on the part of the believer to accomplish it, but it is not an absolutely binding commitment. The vow comes from faith. The man may have confessed the sin to God but had not settled the problem with the offended man. Faith motivates him either to make or keep the vow. As he directs faith toward the situation, he is encouraged, as God permits, to have a better mental attitude resulting in his healing. He has faith that he will make things right with the brother against whom he has sinned. At least he would make things right if the opportunity were available. As a result, James encourages the whole group of believers [indicated by the plurals] to settle sins between one another so they would not suffer the same kind of illness. "Therefore confess for your own benefit to one another the sins, and pray a prayer of worship on behalf of one another, so that you may be healed. A very strong supplication of a righteous man is very effective (Jas. 1:16)."

When an individual has sinned against another believer, he can make a vow springing from faith expecting to make it right with the individual. This assumes that he has made it right with God, since he does have faith that is a part of the fruit of the Spirit. That faith can then be directed through the vow. He believes that God will make it possible to rectify the wrong that was committed against the brother. With this offering of the sacrifice of faith, God is Pleased because the results produce unity among the saints and healing for the man who has the psychosomatic illness. As a result of the healing, the man is able to effectively serve God.

Consequences of the Sacrifice of Faith to the Believer. When the Christian offers the sacrifice of faith, it has a direct influence upon his own life. The man in James five received healing for himself through the vow from faith. Faith motivated him to correct the problems that had resulted from his sin. Already several consequences have been considered, but there are several others that need to be considered at this point. The sacrifice of faith should always produce positive results in the life of the believer. By faith, the believer possesses the righteousness of God and patience and performs good works. As a result of faith, there is a potential for Christ to settle down and feel at home in the life of the Christian.

In Christ, the believer possesses the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Cor. 1:30). In Philippians 3:9, Paul distinguishes between two types of righteousness: one of the Law and one through faith. "And be found in Him [Christ] not possessing my righteousness, the one that is out of law, but the one through faith in Christ [objective genitive] the righteousness of God founded upon faith." Under Law, there was a righteousness based upon personal merit that was available by the careful keeping of the Law. As a result of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the believer possesses a quality of the righteousness of God. By directing faith to God, he is able to appropriate the righteousness that is his in Christ. Paul's goal in life was to be so involved with his position in Christ that he would actually exhibit the righteousness of God rather than his own righteousness. Having that righteousness, he wanted to experientially know Christ and to know the inherent power of the resurrection life available in Christ. He desired to be so close to Christ and other believers that he could feel their sufferings living a life in conformity with Christ in His death (Phil. 3:10). Paul's past life as a Jew had produced its own righteousness that had given him a righteous reputation among his fellow Jews. He was a professional Law keeper who had great zeal focused upon demonstrating that righteousness (Phil. 3:4-6). He knew the Law. Because of his salvation, he rejected the righteousness that was established in the Law for the righteousness he had received in Christ. He preferred to direct his faith toward God rather than to continue to attempt to please God by his own personal effort. He had learned the importance of who he was in Christ. He was not tired of keeping the Law, because the religious works of the flesh have an uncanny energy to do things that might please God. He simply saw himself as one who was in Christ Jesus fulfilling the Law. God the Father saw him as righteous, and he desired to make that righteousness his own in his personal life. As a result of his reveling in the righteousness graciously given to him in Christ, he could gain an experiential knowledge of Christ and His sufferings. He could practice his position as one who has been crucified together with Christ. Faith is essential for the believer's enjoyment of his relationship in Christ. God says that the believer is righteous in Christ having given him that righteousness by imputation. Righteousness is a possession of the believer. The believer must direct his faith in the sacrifice of faith and appropriate the provisions of God for himself. As a consequence, one of the results is the potential to utilize the possession of the righteousness that he has in Christ should he happen to direct faith in that direction.

When faith is put to the test and meets the test, it works out a patient endurance (Jas. 1:3). When temptations come into the life of the believer, he has the opportunity to direct his faith in providing a proper defense against the source of the temptation. Faith plays an active role in enduring temptation (Jas. 1:12). When the believer permits lust to become temptation (Jas. 1:14), his faith is put to the test. When he resists the temptation, faith produces a patient endurance. Such patient endurance should ultimately be relying on God so nothing is lacking (Jas. 1:4).

Faith Produces Activity. When faith is directed in many situations, it will produce activity or work. "Even so faith, if it has not works, is dead being measured by itself ["alone" -- A.V] (Jas. 2:17)." In Thessalonica, the believers had learned how to direct three parts of the fruit of the Spirit correctly (1 Thess. 1:3). "Remembering your work from faith, and your labor from love, and your patience from hope in our Lord Jesus Christ before our God and Father." Work found its source in their faith. By faith, they acted confidently in the will of God that was done in the work that was accomplished. Paul was concerned that their work of faith needed to be done in power. "Into which also we are worshipping for ourselves always concerning you, in order that our God may consider you worthy of the calling, and may be filling every good opinion of goodness and work from faith in power (2 Thess. 1:11)." The work that springs from faith must have a measure of inherent Divine power. As a result, the power strengthens the faith that is manifested in the work so that the character of Jesus Christ might be glorified in the believer and in the believer's position in Christ (2 Thess. 1:12). Many times when the sacrifice of faith is offered, it will produce a work in the believer's life.

This same strength is necessary as a contributing factor for Christian growth Eph. 3:16). As the believer matures and learns to direct his faith properly, it is possible that, as a result, Christ will settle down and feel at home ["dwell"] in the life of the believer. "That Christ may settle down and feel at home through the agency of faith in your hearts, in love while being rooted and being founded (Eph. 3:17)." It is true that at the moment of salvation Christ indwells the believer. As the Christian matures, Christ can settle down and feel at home in the heart of the believer. As God's thoughts are revealed in Scripture, they become a part of the believer's thoughts. Christ is more and more at home in the life of the Christian. When a person enters another person's home, he may not feel at ease. He is unfamiliar with his surroundings and uncertain of the homeowners attitude toward his being in the home. After a period of time and many visits, he should feel more at ease. When he kicks off his shoes and sits back to read the newspaper with a cup of coffee, one must conclude that he has made himself at home. Even so Christ should feel at ease in the life of the Christian.

Such a relationship is only possible if the believer matures by learning to direct his faith properly. Without a proper directing of faith, such a relationship is impossible. Hence, the believer must possess faith [i.e. be spiritual] and know how to direct it in order for Christ to feel at home in his heart. This is one of the most important results of offering the sacrifice of faith. A consistent offering of the sacrifice concerning one's position and possessions in Christ provides a basis for the comfortable relationship that Christ can have in the life of the Christian. Because of this, the believer can fully experientially know the love of Christ in his life and be filled with the fullness of God (Eph. 3:19). Each of these consequences can be added to the consequences already discussed and form some magnificent benefits from offering the sacrifice of faith.

Directing Faith Toward the Word of God

Since the essential revelation available to the Christian is in the written Word of God, it is only logical that faith should be directed toward the Scriptures. Scripture itself expects faith to be directed in this way. The Christian believes God so he believes His Word. All Scripture was written for the grace believer's faith though only those passages addressed specifically to him are for his faith and practice. A divergence of interpretation and application shakes faith in the true meaning of the Word of God at its roots. Many of the systems of Bible interpretation that are taught rely on human conclusions rather than seeking to determine what the Divine intention of Scripture really is. If a passage of Scripture has a single meaning, it must have only one application. Application has become an excuse for simple allegory - the reading into Scripture of what is not there. With a careful, literal interpretation and with the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the Christian can have the confidence that as he directs his faith toward the Word of God, he has a reliable object for his faith. When faith is directed toward Scripture, it involves every area of biblical teaching and should not be limited to Christian life material. Paul very clearly identifies several areas of Bible doctrine that are to be objects of the believer's faith. Several of these areas are evident in First Timothy and Titus. Paul expected Timothy's ministry to be built on the Word of God.

Faith Directed to the Dispensation from God. Apparently, the Ephesians had forgotten how to use faith and love. Timothy was acting as interim pastor until the Ephesian church could find a qualified pastor. Paul wrote to Timothy to encourage him to instruct the Ephesian believers how to direct the fruit of the Spirit. Paul expected Timothy to charge certain individuals in the Ephesian church to stop teaching a different kind of doctrine. These persons were not "to mentally possess for themselves myths and unending genealogies that provide claims [that demand denials] rather than a dispensation from God, the one by faith; but the end of the charge is love from a clean heart and a good [or happy] conscience and a faith that is unhypocritical (1 Tim. 1:4, 5)." There was no reason for the Ephesians to pursue elements of Judaism in their practice, but their doctrine had degenerated to the point that they were tolerant of false doctrine and permitted it to be taught in the church. God wanted them to set aside the teaching Of the old dispensation and accept it only as doctrine to be believed but not practiced. Life in the new dispensation from God is governed by faith. Because the Authorized Version translated "dispensation from God" as "godly edifying," there is a confusion of the true distinctiveness of the passage.

Grace believers should behave like grace believers. By faith, the reality of the unique provisions that accrue to the believer is realized in the believer's life. A grace believer's faith is not based on false doctrine, myths or genealogies or else it becomes a hypocritical faith. Grace provisions for Christian living are not to be counterfeited. Some Christians believe that they can behave as though they really possess faith even though the Spirit of God is not producing His fruit in their lives. They make their own standards that provide the basis for showing that they have faith. The religious works of the flesh have appetites that find satisfaction in standards that they set for themselves or that are established by some other human being. One of the results is that the individuals in the church see a false standard for faith. There is no chapter and verse to prove that their standard is from the Lord. The believer has a false security concerning his faith, thinking that because he meets his own standards he is spiritual. Unfortunately, many Christians have played this game in churches for many years. Some prefer the standards set by contemporary literature instead of the gracious standards for faith in Scripture. One must never suggest that they might be carnal, because they are absolutely confident that they have met the standards for spirituality. Some of these individuals have gone so far as to deny that there is such a thing as a sin nature. Sins become slips or mistakes without any real internal origin. "Faith" ultimately is directed by the human will in a humanly established system at a particular circumstance. Faith, that is a part of the fruit of the Spirit, becomes a part of doctrinal trivia in their thinking. Grace principles are replaced by human principles. Such a system of doctrine prevents the believer from offering the sacrifice of faith. God saved the believer by grace through faith. He is sustained by grace and builds on his Christian growth by grace. He is to be directing Spirit-produced faith toward the body of doctrine that provides information for living in the new dispensation. A hypocritical faith can be directed in any direction without having a true basis in hope. The believer's growth is absolutely dependent on his learning to direct this part of the fruit of the Spirit toward doctrine to be believed and practiced.

There are some believers who believe that prophecy is unimportant and is only a secondary object of their faith. Because all of the teaching of the Bible is interdependent, it is clear that no part is more or less important than any other. A proper balance is necessary for all study of Scripture. Paul told Timothy to direct his faith at key areas of biblical prophecy. "This is the charge I am committing to you, child Timothy, according to the prophecies that were preceding [or led before] upon you, in order that you might war by them the obviously good warfare, possessing faith and a good [or happy] conscience, that some cast off concerning the faith have made shipwreck; of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered to Satan in order that they might be child trained not to blaspheme (1 Tim. 1:18-20)." Because of the teaching of the Word of God concerning certain prophetic subjects, Timothy is encouraged to focus his attitude of faith on what Scripture actually taught as well as that which Paul had taught him. Paul used Hymenaeus and Alexander as examples of what could happen if faith was not directed to the Word of God. It is not clear in First Timothy what problems these two men had with prophecy, but Second Timothy gives adequate information to establish what their prophetic problem was. They believed that the resurrection had already come, and as a result, had completely overturned the faith of some (2 Tim. 2:17, 18). Such a resurrection would have been a spiritual resurrection and not a physical resurrection in their theology. A shovel, a lot of digging and open graves would have disproved their teaching. The bones of departed saints provide an instant refutation that this could be a spiritual resurrection. They evidently believed that a spiritual resurrection had already taken place and that there would be a general physical resurrection in the future. Scripture clearly teaches that there are at least three resurrections in First Corinthians 15:23, 24 alone. As a result of the error in doctrine, the faith of some crashed.

When the fruit of the Spirit is directed toward an improper object, it can produce negative results in the believer's life. Faith directed toward false doctrine brings devastation to the Christian life. As a result, the body of doctrine identified as the faith is ruined for the believer. False doctrine will ultimately prevent the believer from leading a spiritual life. He loses confidence in the literal Word of God and is no longer able to defend himself against his spiritual enemies. Errors in prophecy can bring about total defeat in the spiritual life. Pure and accurate doctrine in every area of Christian belief is the basis for consistent Christian living. If God put a detail of eschatology in His Word, it is significant and important for every believer's consideration. Paul identifies prophetic error as blasphemy by which Hymenaeus and Alexander attempted to commit God to something to which He had not committed Himself. In their case, the testimony of occupied graves subjected their theology to question and proved that their interpretation was not literal. Every Christian's faith should be directed toward the Word of God in the area of prophecy. A normal, literal interpretation of Scripture is essential to see what God intended in His Word.

"Possess a pattern of healthy words that you heard alongside me in faith and love in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 1:13)." Paul encouraged Timothy to possess certain words that he had communicated to him. Paul was concerned about healthy words and doctrine when he wrote to both Timothy and Titus (1 Tim. 1:10; 6:3; 2 Tim. 1:13; 4:3; Tit. 1:9, 13; 2:1, 2, 8). In his first letter to Timothy, Paul had encouraged Timothy concerning a healthy doctrine to be believed, but not practiced (1 Tim. 1:10). Healthy words included the words of Jesus Christ and doctrine to be believed but not practiced (1 Tim. 6:3; 2 Tim. 4:3). Paul expected a balance in healthy doctrine when he used the two words for doctrine in Titus 1:9. "While strongly possessing the faithful Word according to doctrine to be believed and practiced (didache), in order that he may be strong both to exhibit by healthy doctrine to be believed but not practiced (didaskalia), and to convince the ones opposing themselves (Tit. 1:9)." Most English translations completely ignore the first word for doctrine, (didache), and consider the two terms for doctrine synonyms. No parallelism of definition was intended. Instead, two distinct areas are emphasized in different ways. Healthy words deal with much more than doctrine for Christian living, but also include doctrine that cannot be practiced by the Christian. Healthy words also include the faith (Tit. 1:13) that tells the believer how to defeat his spiritual enemies and how to live victorious in his present tense salvation. As all the healthy words were assembled in Timothy's mind, a pattern that could be followed would result. Careful discernment was necessary when the Word was studied so that there would be no confusion. Paul understood the importance of knowing how to direct his faith toward healthy words. He was absolutely confident that his God would keep him and what he had deposited until that day (2 Tim. 1:12). He knew the value of dogmatic persuasion concerning the specific truth of the Word of God. He encouraged Timothy to have a healthy doctrine to be believed but not practiced along with the doctrine to be practiced. He could direct his faith to the whole Word of God unswervingly. As he studied and as he remembered the Word of God, he was offering the sacrifice of faith as he directed faith toward the Word. Since Scripture is the basis for all the believer's hope, it is inherently designed to be the object of the believer's attitude of faith. It almost seems automatic for the believer to read his Bible by faith. But only as he appropriates what is there for him by faith does it become an acceptable sacrifice to God. Scripture gives some general principles for directing faith.

General Principles for Directing Faith

There are some clear principles that relate to the directing of faith. When the believer thinks of faith, he should be thinking in terms of these principles that govern the way faith is handled. If the man, who says, "I will never have more faith than I do now," would understand the principles of Scripture, he would change his statement. Some believers challenge God with their faith. They say, "God, look at my great faith and give me my desires." Some missionaries advertise their faith in meetings saying, "God rewarded our faith by saving hundreds of souls." Others silently believe God and accept His provision from His gracious hand. When the unbeliever sees a Christian's faith, he refuses to acknowledge its validity. As a result, he ridicules the believer for his faith while living his own life built on his personal faith in himself and the world system. When the believer offers the sacrifice of faith, others may see it as the results come to the believer, but generally true faith is not advertised.

Keep It to Yourself. When a believer has faith, he is not to make a public spectacle of it. Scripture says that he is to keep it to himself. "The faith that you have, have it by yourself before God. Blessed [or happy] is the one not judging himself in what he is approving; but the one that is doubting if he eats, he stands condemned, because he eats not out of faith: all that is not out of faith is sin (Rom. 14:22, 23)." The believer and his God share faith. He may be directing his faith for other believers, but there is no need to tell them that is what he is doing. Much of the faith that is advertised is simply presumption. In the context, there are questions concerning what a believer eats and whether he will stumble a weaker brother. One who has faith can eat anything that is not harmful to his body. He will not falter whether it is flesh or wine (14:21). If a brother might be stumbled, he should direct love toward him (14:15) and forgo the eating and drinking. Faith tells him that it is all right to eat pork and when he eats, he is satisfied and enjoys the meal. A brother who doubts, not having faith, eats and because of his doubting, sins in his eating. The objective of the believer should be to bear the weakness of the ones who are not strong rather than to please themselves (Rom. 15:1). When the believer directs his faith, he should consider it to be a normal part of his Christian life as he is maturing. A child will announce his accomplishment when he first rides a bicycle. After he has learned, it becomes a normal part of his life. The same is true for the Christian. The first few times he learns to direct the fruit, he wants to share it with other believers. After a number of sacrifices are given, he keeps it to himself and enjoys it with his Heavenly Father. Giving the sacrifice never gets old; it simply becomes more personal and precious as the believer learns to relate to his God.

The Believer Should Be Walking by Faith. in every aspect of life, the believer should be walking by faith. Every detail of his life should be ordered by faith. "For we are ordering every detail of life [or walking] through faith, not through sight (2 Cor. 5:7)." With faith as the agent, the believer should be organizing and planning his life in the will of God. In adversity or in prosperity, the life of the believer should be governed by faith. Whether there are great decisions or small decisions to be made, faith should be incorporated in every aspect of the process. There is a special kind of confidence that results. If God should choose to leave the believer on this earth, he is away from his heavenly home (5:6). If God should choose to take him home, he is present with the Lord with faith dictating every aspect (5:7). Every believer should have the basic ambition of seeking to please the Lord in any existing circumstance.

God sought faith as a basis for His pleasure from the very beginning of mankind. "But without faith, it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6)." If a grace believer desires to please God, he should be walking by faith. He is clothed in the righteousness of Christ and has been declared righteous by his saving faith. "The just [or righteous] will live out of faith (Rom. 1:17)." Martin Luther built his concept of justification by faith on this verse interpreting it as a reference to saving faith. Justification by faith is clearly taught in Romans 3:26-32; 4:5 and 5:1, but the individual in Romans 1:17 is already saved -- he is identified as a justified, just or righteous one. Every believer should be living out of, (ek), faith. Paul used the preposition ek [out of] to describe the mode of living. Faith must exist in the believer in order for him to live out that faith. He cannot have faith unless the fruit of the Spirit is produced in his life. In other words, it is impossible for a believer who is not spiritual to have a faith life. He does not possess the attitude of faith that God provides in the fruit. When the believer possesses the fruit of the Spirit, the parts of the fruit can work together to produce a result that brings God the most glory.

Faith Is Energized by Love. As has already been mentioned, faith and love are directed together more than any of the other parts of the fruit of the Spirit. In nearly twenty passages, they are seen working together (cf. Eph. 6:23; Col. 1:4; 1 Thess. 5:8; Philemon 5; 1 Pe. 1:5-8; Rev. 2:19). Just how the two work together is unclear until one carefully studies Galatians 5:5, 6. "For we by the Spirit eagerly await by faith the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything nor uncircumcision, but faith being energized through love." When love is directed toward God [whether for oneself or other human beings], it energizes faith. A believer sees a brother suffering a painful disease and directs love toward the brother concerning his need for relief and healing. His faith will produce a confidence that God will do what is best for the person loved. Faith stabilizes the love that might otherwise turn to pity or despair. Love sees the needs of another person and works in the mind of the believer to believe that God will meet the need. When a Christian has a need in his own life, his love for God or for other believers can trigger his faith so that he is trusting God for his own needs.

As the believer learns to direct love toward God the Father, his faith is energized because he comprehends the true character of his God and so has a complete faith in Him. Religious ritualism will never produce faith, but builds presumption. In Christ, religious ritual is of no consequence. Faith is of central importance in Christ. The relationship a believer shares in Christ involves other believers and Christ. The most natural way to direct the fruit of the Spirit is to direct love toward other believers and Christ as Head. In the early church, they had a love reputation before they had a faith reputation. Love is the first part of the fruit of the Spirit that a new believer learns to direct. When love is directed, it works [or produces] faith. Two examples will help illustrate how this works. A young woman comes to Christ through the witness of a fellow employee in the office. As she grows in the Lord, she directs her love toward the other believer who shared the Gospel with her. The other Christian lady is inconsistent in her Christian life and permits pressures of the office to make her angry or to fill her with despair. In love, the new believer tries to encourage her but she persists in her anger and despair. Nothing the new believer can do will help. As a result, she directs her faith toward God for the lady trusting Him to meet the need either by giving her wisdom or by bringing another believer along to encourage the angry saint. Love has energized faith. When a Christian has unsaved relatives, love often energizes his faith. Before he was saved, he had a family affection and human love for the members of his family. After salvation, he desires that his family have the same salvation he has. He directs the fruit of the Spirit toward them with love seeking the very best for them. When he shares his new found faith in Christ with them, they reject the Gospel of Christ and ridicule his "getting religion." Love is other-centered and seeks the best for its object, but the object has refused what is offered in love. Instead of being discouraged, love energizes the believer's faith that in turn believes that his family members could be saved by God just as the new Christian himself has been saved. These are simple illustrations relating to new believers. As the believer matures, he will find faith and love accompany one another in many of the circumstances of life. When the grace believer offers the sacrifice of faith, it will normally have love as its energizer. With an attitude of faith directed toward God, the Christian should have an absolute confidence that God will accomplish the very best thing in the circumstance.

Faith Should Stand in the Power of God. Saving faith has as its foundation the power of God. The attitude of faith also has its basis in God's omnipotence. Believers often trust God's ability to perform certain tasks that need to be accomplished. "In order that your faith may not happen to be in the wisdom of men but in the inherent power of God (1 Cor. 2:5)." Someone has said that faith is only as good as its object. If the wisdom of man is the object of faith, it will always fail. Many believers have lost fortunes because they have had faith in the wisdom of men. Even spiritual believers have misdirected their faith with harmful results. If the believer is misdirecting the fruit of the Spirit in the realm of love toward the world system and things in it, he could easily have his faith energized by that love and direct that faith toward it believing that he would receive the thing he loves. For example, if he loves the latest model sports car with his agape love as a spiritual believer he might misdirect faith believing that he will see it parked in his own driveway. When John tells the believer to stop loving the world system (1 Jn. 2:15), he might add in some cases that it is necessary to stop directing faith toward the world system. Because God has the attribute of omnipotence, the believer has confidence in the right object for directing his faith. Christians should never be reluctant to see their God as He is and to direct their faith toward Him because of their love for Him. Without the sufficiency of God's character, faith has no ground on which to stand. The hope that is the very basis for faith has no basis and is invalid without the character of God.

Faith Can Grow. If the Holy Spirit produces faith, how can it grow? Scripture teaches that faith can grow. "We are obligated to be giving thanks to God always concerning you, brothers, as it is suitable, because your faith is growing exceedingly and the love of each one of you all toward one another (2 Thess. 1:3)." Paul places emphasis on the unusual growth of the faith of the Thessalonian believers. The verb has the idea of a growth or increase over and above that which could be considered normal. Paul had not expected their faith to grow to this extent. It appears that the more difficult their circumstance was the greater their faith was. The Holy Spirit produces the same faith, but as the believer learns to direct it, a greater measure of the same faith is made available for directing. It grows in strength as well as amount as the saint learns to direct it. This strength is only seen in the believer's ability to direct it properly. Faith should be growing and should be a vital aspect of the fruit of the Spirit as it is directed. The Spirit provides a measure of faith so the Christian can effectively use his spiritual gift. That faith must be properly directed for the gift to be functioning at its best. The sacrifice of faith will have an improved quality as the believer's faith grows. Faith accurately directed at a proper object is a sacrifice that brings pleasure to God.

Faith Is Not to Be Hypocritical. First Timothy 1:4, 5 tells the believer that his faith is not to be hypocritical. In early Greece, stage actors were identified as hypocrites. They put on an appearance of something that, in reality, they were not. They played a role that was not reflective of the reality in their lives. Even so faith should not be misrepresented in the life of the Christian. He can say that he has faith when in reality he does not have faith. He can say, "I offered the sacrifice of faith for this need in my life." In reality no sacrifice was offered at all. He either acted in presumption or was simply saying that he had done something in order to impress other believers.

Faith Is Evidenced in Works. Scripture is very clear in its teaching that works make absolutely no contribution to salvation. Salvation is by grace and grace alone. Immediately some, who are working for salvation, say, "Doesn't Scripture say, 'Faith without works is dead'." Human nature naturally believes that it can please God by its works. "Christianity" includes many groups who are working for their salvation in some way. Some believe that one must work to obtain salvation and continue to work to retain it. They are uncertain as to whether they have done enough to please God and wait until the future for certainty of salvation. Others are working to receive their future salvation and its benefits because of their works. There are yet others who believe that they were saved by grace and are working to keep this salvation fearing that they might lose it by some unrighteous activity.

Any person who is truly saved is saved by God by grace, through faith (Eph. 2:8, 9). Faith is not a work. "But to the one who is working the reward [or wage] is not counted [or reckoned] according to grace but according to debt; but the one who is not working, but is believing [i.e. exercising faith] upon the one who is justifying the ungodly man his faith is counted [or reckoned] for righteousness (Rom. 4:4, 5)." Where work replaces faith, faith is invalidated. Faith will produce works as a proof of its own validity. The central theme of James two is not "Faith without works is dead," but "I will show you my faith by my works (Jas. 2:18b)." Faith will produce works. James understood that if works preceded faith, there was no salvation. When faith precedes works, it should produce works. Any human being can do works in an attempt to please God, but God rejects those works. When the believer has the attitude of faith, it will naturally produce works. "I will show you my faith by my works." A man may say that he has faith, but in reality he does not really possess the faith he professes to have. "What is the profit, my brothers, if anyone says he has faith but does not happen to have works? Does not the previously mentioned faith have the ability to save him (Jas. 2:14)?" Faith should automatically produce works or it is totally separated from the faith that God graciously gives. "So even if the faith does not happen to have works, it is dead by itself (Jas. 2:17)."

Abraham proved his faith by his works. It was obvious that Abraham was a believer when he offered Isaac. God had counted his faith as righteousness, but no other person knew that Abraham was justified before God until he produced a work that proved his relationship to God. The sacrifice of Isaac proved that the faith of Abraham was true faith to anyone who observed. He proved his faith to men by his work. God already knew the reality of his faith toward God. It is only natural that faith should produce works (Jas. 2:21-24).

When the sacrifice of faith is offered, the only way any human can see it is by the works that the faith produces. Since God expects the believer to keep his faith to himself, his works proclaim the fact that he is offering the sacrifice. When the Philippians offered the sacrifice of faith for Paul, they also offered the sacrifice of giving. They gave to meet Paul's needs because of their love and faith. Love had produced a concern that had led them to believe God and to move to assist in meeting Paul's needs. As they directed the appropriate parts of the fruit of the Spirit, they were in tune with their own personal involvement with God's provisions. They were only able to assist him by sendinq things though they were unable to meet other needs personally. When the sacrifice is given, the believer may be motivated to assist in a portion of the provision or he may not have the opportunity to do so. He is confident that God will use other believers or meet the need directly. As a result of the believer's directing his faith in the sacrifice, he will have a greater sensitivity to the will of God in his life. As he is relying on God for himself and others, he will have a growing and vital faith.

The believer directs the sacrifice of faith toward God for himself or for others. It involves the directing of the attitude of faith that is a part of the fruit of the Spirit in specific instances. Love energizes the faith so that it can expect God's provision. The sacrifice does not need to be limited to major aspects of life but can be given for the little things of life. Every facet of the Christian life provides opportunities for directing faith. Christians need to recognize the importance of being spiritual and learning how to direct various aspects of the fruit of the Spirit in a proper way. Without this knowledge, it is impossible for the Christian to offer the sacrifice of faith for himself or anyone else. One can only imagine the blessings that a local church would be sharing if a majority of its members were spiritual and consistently offering the sacrifice of faith for themselves and one another.

What a privilege it is for sinners saved by grace to be given the privilege of offering sacrifices as believer-priests. Each of the six sacrifices identified in Scripture has a consequential role in each Christian's life. The only requirement in addition to salvation is that the believer is to be spiritual. The church today has generally been ignorant concerning the sacrifices. Carnality dominates the church to such a degree that sacrifices by grace believers are rare rather than being the normal thing to do. Some Christians react to the teaching of the priesthood of the believer negatively because they fear the accountability and responsibility that will result from the knowledge they gain. They are lazy and do not want to be moved from their complacency. They are much too civilized to offer sacrifices. All of the sacrifices are of a spiritual nature and are not barbaric in any sense.

In some churches, people expect the pastor to offer spiritual sacrifices while they consider themselves incapable of personal involvement. What a shame it is for Christians to expect their pastor to be the only spiritual person in the congregation. A church that truly glorifies God has many of its members giving sacrifices consistently. It is true that many pastors must be blamed for the absence of sacrifices by God's people. They have neither preached nor taught the local church concerning the privilege of sacrifices. They tell the people "how to" do all kinds of extrabiblical, psychological activities so they can have a happy personal or family life and disregard the New Testament "how to" for offering sacrifices as believer-priests. Every Christian needs to know all the details of the sacrifices, so that he can at least have the potential for offering sacrifices as a spiritual believer. If front row seats or the first base line for the World Series were provided for a person, he could not use them unless he knew that they had been provided for him. He would need to know how to use the tickets in order to enjoy the game from its first pitch to the last out. If the seats were provided for him and because of his ignorance sat vacant, it would be of no value to him. The same is true of the believer who is ignorant of the privilege of sacrifice and does not know how to offer the sacrifices. He misses the blessing that God has provided for him. There are too many vacant seats for the sacrifices in churches today. When the potential is available to offer sacrifices that are far more acceptable than the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament and believers are not practicing God's provision, it is a shameful state of affairs. "Let us offer the sacrifice of faith."


Chapter 9: The Value of the Sacrifices

The sacrifices of the believer-priest have great value to God. Inherent in each of the sacrifices is a special value to the recipient of the sacrifice and its giver. The believer himself is satisfied and filled with appreciation for he has enjoyed a privilege that God has graciously given him. As he learns of the limitations that were placed on believers in the past, he appreciates his privilege far more, Even though the sacrifice is offered to God, other human beings may benefit. When the believer offers the sacrifice of doing good, someone else benefits. When he shares in fellowship with other saints, they benefit together. As the Christian offers the sacrifice of giving, the church benefits and shares with other believers. When a believer directs his faith for another believer, they both benefit. The sacrifice is offered to God and must be of some value to Him for it to be worthwhile and valid. The value of the sacrifice is seen in the way God responds to the sacrifices, Scripture uses several terms to describe how a proper sacrifice will affect God. The sacrifices are acceptable to God, an odor of sweet smell, a priestly service that is logical and well pleasing. All of these terms describe God's involvement in accepting and appreciating the sacrifice of the believer-priest. Sacrifices have a definite value to God and so provide incentive for the believer to be offering them.

The Sacrifice Is Acceptable to God

Philippians 4:18 describes the sacrifice of giving as acceptable, (dektos). It is agreeable to God and therefore acceptable. The verb form from which the noun comes means "to freely give." As the sacrifice is freely given, God accepts it freely without reluctance or hesitation. "Acceptable" means to accept the offering by deliberate and ready reception. The sacrifice has enough value to make it worthwhile for God to take it for His very own. In the Septuagint, the noun is descriptive of the blood sacrifices that were given to God (Lev. 1:3; 19:5; 22:18; 23:11). When Israel apostatized, the sacrifices were no longer acceptable (Jer. 6:20). In the prophetic future, Israel's sacrifices will again be acceptable to God. In the Old Testament, the same priest could offer the same animals in the same way; but because of the attitude of the offerers, God rejected some of them as religious frivolity. Israel had rejected her God but retained the temple ritual. People, in a proper condition offering with a proper attitude, gave sacrifices that God accepted. it was the heart attitude that was important under Law and not the ritual. Likewise, the heart attitude is essential for the grace believer's sacrifice to be regarded with favor by God. A proper heart attitude for the Christian involves his being a spiritual believer. Only a spiritual believer can offer a sacrifice that is acceptable to God. A spiritual believer can give fifty cents to God as a sacrifice, while a carnal believer gives fifty thousand dollars, and God accepts the fifty cents and refuses to accept the fifty thousand dollars of the carnal believer. This is true of all of the sacrifices. A carnal believer can do similar things and say that they are sacrifices, but the final authority is God. He refuses to accept them no matter how often the individual calls the activity a sacrifice. Dektos is found five times in the New Testament. In Luke 4:19, it is found in the passage of Scripture that Jesus was reading in the Nazareth synagogue. He was reading Isaiah 61:1, 2 when He stopped in the middle of verse two saying that He fulfilled the acceptable year of the Lord that day. The Jews, who were gathered in the synagogue, rejected His message using the excuse that Nazareth was Jesus' hometown and that He was the son of Joseph. In Luke 4:24, Christ says, "No prophet is accepted in his own country." Peter describes those who fear God and do righteousness as being accepted with God (Ac. 10:35). In Second Corinthians 6:2, Paul speaks of the accepted time. He expected human beings to recognize that "Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation." It was available and needed to be appropriated. God simply accepts the sacrifice of the believer-priest. There is also a greater and stronger acceptability of the sacrifices described in Scripture.

The Sacrifice Is Very Well Accepted

A compound form of dektos, (euprosdektos) is used to describe the great and expansive acceptability of the sacrifices. The word directs attention to the feeling with which God receives them by adding the eu prefix meaning "good." When the preposition pros is added, it focuses attention on the direction of the pleasure in accepting the sacrifice since it basically means "toward." Hence, it has the idea of favorable good feeling that is directed toward the sacrifice that is given, making it acceptable. Peter uses this one word to describe the value of all of the sacrifices offered by the believer-priest. They are "acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Pe. 2:5)." God the Father directs attention toward the sacrifice that is freely given and feels good about accepting it. It is acceptable because of the high priestly ministry of Christ. God the Father sees the believer in Christ and looks on the sacrifice just as though Christ Himself was offering the sacrifice. He counts the sacrifice to have been given by the believer from His Own right hand rather than from earth. For many believers, it is very difficult to imagine or to understand imputation of any sort. This imputation concerning the sacrifices of the believer-priest is easier to understand than some of the other aspects of imputation. When a believer offers a sacrifice to God through Jesus Christ, God the Father counts it to be a sacrifice. Even though God the Father has His residency in the third heaven, He counts the sacrifice to be worthy of His acceptance. He sees the offerer in Christ and reckons the spiritual sacrifice to have true value. He responds with pleasure in acceptance. it is implicit in the use of the term that God looks on the sacrifices with favor as He accepts the offering. Paul's ministry to the Gentiles was acceptable to God in the same way (Rom. 15:16).

Human beings can receive things this way. Romans 15:31, 32 provides a good example of how good acceptability should affect both the giver and the recipient. "In order that I may be delivered from the ones who are disobeying in Judea and that my service unto Jerusalem may become well acceptable to the saints, in order that while coming to you with joy, I may rest together with you through the desirous will of God." As Paul anticipated his ministry to the saints in Jerusalem, he expected a favorable response to his ministry. Undoubtedly, he knew that the things he would be bringing would be acceptable, or he wanted his service to be acceptable as well. He knew that there would be resistance to his coming from outside of the church. While the Jews despised Christians in general, a former Jewish leader who had defected to Christianity [even though it had happened some years before] was the focus of their hatred and active resistance. Paul expected persecution from the Jews. He was also an outsider to the church in Jerusalem. He spent his time moving about the whole Mediterranean region while headquartering in Antioch. Would the believers accept the charity that Paul had brought with him? Would the church accept his service to them? Each saint in Jerusalem had to make the decision as to whether Paul's ministry was acceptable or not. Paul's desire was that his service among the saints in Jerusalem would be just as effective as it had been in all the other churches. As a result of his being protected from the unbelieving Jews and the acceptance of his ministry, he could direct his joy to the Lord through the will of God. The Romans who communicated to the Father on Paul's behalf would also receive a benefit in that they would be refreshed with Paul because God answered their prayer. Generally, Christians were thrilled at the privilege of having Paul visit their churches and to have him minister to them. They accepted him and the various aspects of his service with open arms and without reluctance. In a similar way, God accepts the sacrifices of the believer-priest, if the sacrifices are offered in a proper way.

Sacrifices Produce a Sweet Smelling Savor

One of the most difficult things for the believer to grasp concerning the Old Testament sacrifices is the fact that God could consider the burning of flesh and blood to be a sweet smelling Savor. How could anyone find pleasure in the pungent, abhorrent odor produced from the burning of flesh? Frequently, in the Old Testament, the sweet odor or savor was the result of the burning of an animal or a meal sacrifice on an altar (Ex. 29:18, 25, 41; Lev. 1:9, 13, 17; 2:2, 9; 3:5, 16; 4:31; 6:15, 21; 8:28; Num. 15:3; etc.). Such offerings were burnt and pleasing to God. He was satisfied with the odor. In the Old Testament, the burnt offerings were not the only sweet savor offerings that were presented to God. The oblation of firstfruits was offered, but not burnt, and was accepted by God as an odor of sweet smell (Lev. 2:12). The very act of the sprinkling of blood along with the burning of flesh produced a sweet odor to God (Lev. 17:6). With the rebellion of Israel, Jehovah rejected their offerings. In the time of restoration, He will again accept their offerings as a sweet odor (Ezek. 20:41). The Old Testament concept of satisfaction with the sacrifices is carried across to the New Testament (cf. Ex. 29:18; Lev. 1:9, 13, 17; Gen. 8:21).

The sacrifice of Christ produced an odor of sweet smell to God the Father. "And be ordering every detail of your life [walking] in love, as also Christ loved us [T.P.], and freely gave Himself on our behalf an offering and a sacrifice to God for an odor of sweet smell (Eph. 5:2)." Christ's death was a sacrifice and an offering. There was no fire involved. Simply, His death was a sweet aroma in both of its aspects. The sacrifices of the believer-priest produce the same kind of result as did the sacrifice and offering of Christ toward God the Father by producing a fragrant odor. A Christian can be a sweet savor to God the Father producing a fragrance of Christ. "Because we are a sweet odor of Christ to God in the ones who are being saved and in the ones who are perishing, to the one an odor of death unto death, to the other an odor of life unto life ... (2 Cor. 2:15, 16a)." Believers may produce a pleasant odor to God in their present tense salvation. Their aroma matches up with the living aroma of other believers while it is contrasted with the repulsive odor of death that exudes from the unbeliever toward God.

When the Christian offers the sacrifice of giving, it clearly is a fragrance of a sweet smell. God the Father accepts it and finds satisfaction with it, as He would enjoy the sweet fragrance of the finest of all perfumes. There are three ways that the sacrifices are sweet odors to God. First, it is sweet. As a result, it is pleasurable to God; He feels good. It is a fragrance especially designed to please His finest senses. It is a custom-made perfume that will never cease to bring pleasant responses to God. Secondly, it provides God satisfaction. God is absolutely satisfied with the sacrifice. The quality of the odor brings satisfaction to God. Third, it is sufficient. There is nothing a believer can do to make the sacrifices more or less pleasing. It cannot be improved. If it is truly a sacrifice, it will always have the same quality even though the quantity may vary. Some believers are spiritual more of the time than other believers so they have the opportunity to offer a greater number of sacrifices than the believer who is rarely spiritual. If a believer only offers one sacrifice in a year because he is carnal most of the time, his sacrifice produces the same sweet fragrance as the multiplied sacrifices of the maturing believer. Every sacrifice is a sweet odor. Could it be that each sacrifice has its own peculiar sweet fragrance to God? Scripture is silent as to whether there is any distinctive acceptability, but simply says that all sacrifices are acceptable to God. Every Christian should desire to be a perfume producer through his sacrifices.

The Sacrifices Are Logical Priestly Services

In Romans 12:1, the sacrifice is described as a "reasonable service." Each of the sacrifices has its basis in sensible thought processes. Many of the activities that are sacrifices for the spiritual believer are simply a part of established religious ritual. The activity is simply the right and proper thing to do in order to be living up to a religious standard for remaining in good standing with a particular religious group or church. Others perform the activity from an emotional stimulation. If it produces a feeling that is good, one should perform the activity. There is nothing wrong with emotion in its proper place. Emotion, as a stimulus for activity, is unreliable. It does not consider the circumstances with any objectivity. Emotion should find its basis in the rationale. Reason should provide the stimulus for one's emotions. As has already been developed, this offering of sacrifice is a priestly service (latreia) that was often associated with temple service. It is the most logical thing a believer can do. When the believer carefully thinks through his relationship to God through his study of Scripture, he can only conclude that the offering of sacrifice is the logical thing to do. That is the reason a careful study of the sacrifices is so important. It makes sense to offer the sacrifices.

The Sacrifices Are Pleasing to God

The word most often used to describe the sacrifices of the believer-priest is "well pleasing," (eurestos) (Heb. 13:16; Rom. 12:1; Phil. 4:18). It is a compound word that combines "good" (eu) and "pleasing" (arestos) to communicate the idea. The adjective is found ten times in the New Testament and is used of the sacrifices in Romans 12:1 and Philippians 4:18. It is found in the verbal form three times with Hebrews 13:16 referring to the sacrifice. An odor of sweet fragrance provides a kind of pleasure to God because the sacrifice is intrinsically considered sweet smelling. "Well-pleasing" extends this concept even further in that it not only provides satisfaction but indicates a very clear response in personal pleasure. This pleasure is one that makes the individual happy. There is a Divine exuberance when God receives the sacrifices of the believer. It is of little wonder that God is called a happy God. God's pleasure brings Him contentment. When the believer recognizes that his sacrifice meets up to God's standard for His own pleasure, he should not be reluctant to offer up the sacrifices. The sacrifices are not being offered to appease an angry God who should be feared. The only fear a grace believer should have is a fear that springs from love. He should be "scared to death" that he might be displeasing to the Lord. An Old Testament fear was a response to the prospect of suffering the penalties of the Mosaic Law. Because Scripture teaches that the sacrifices of the believer-priest please God, there is no reason for the believer not to be giving them if he really loves His God. Because he loves, he seeks to please.

Volumes have been written on how to please God. Scripture paints a compact picture filled with details showing how one can please God by establishing God's view of what will please Him. The sacrifice of the physical body is acceptable to God in that it is well pleasing ["acceptable"] to the desirous will of God. In the single sacrifice, the believer becomes involved with that which brings God personal pleasure. When the believer is not conformed to the legal age, but is transformed by the renewedness of his mind (Rom. 12:2), he is doing the well pleasing will of God. What better source than the Bible to describe what pleases God? When a believer abstains from eating certain foods for fear that he will destroy a brother, he is serving as a slave for the advantage of the Christ [Christ and the Body]. That is well pleasing to God and meets the test of men as well (Rom. 14:18). Every grace believer should have an ambition to be well pleasing to God whether in this life or in the next (Rom. 14:18). Believers are to be walking in the light as children of light putting to test what is well pleasing to God (Eph. 5:8-10). Christian children are well pleasing to the Lord when they obey their parents (Col. 3:20). In the Old Testament, Enoch was well pleasing to God and bore that testimony in his life until God bore him over [or "translated") death (Heb. 11:5). He possessed faith. "Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6)." There are many other ways for a believer to please God in his spiritual life, but the sacrifices seem to dominate the things that actually bring pleasure to God. The following list of things that bring good pleasure to God illustrates the importance of the sacrifices.


Scripture and Things Well Pleasing to God

1. Present Your Bodies a Living Sacrifice - Romans 12:1

2. Not to Be Conformed to the Legal Age - Romans 12:2

3. Be Transformed by the Renewedness of Your Mind - Romans 12:2

4. Be Careful of What You Eat So a Brother Will Not Stumble - Romans 14:18

5. Be Walking in the Light - Ephesians 5:8-10

6. Be Offering the Sacrifice of Giving - Philippians 4:18

7. Christian Children to Obey Their Parents - Colossians 3:20

8. Be Offering the Sacrifices of Praise, Doing Good and Fellowship - Hebrews 13:15, 16

9. Be Doing the Desirous Will of God - Hebrews 13:21


More than a third of the passages that describe how God is well pleased relate to the believer-priests sacrifices. Since grace believers are a kingdom of priests (Rev. 1:6), they are given the responsibility of serving as citizens of that kingdom in a priestly capacity. "Wherefore receiving an unshakable kingdom, let us be having grace, through which we may be serving [as priests] God well pleasingly, with reverence and awe (Heb. 12:28)." Every believer should desire to be pleasing God in priestly service. Without the manifestation of the grace of God in the believer's life, it is impossible for him to be pleasing to God. The believer lives as a member and a citizen of a kingdom of priests, but he can only function in that capacity if the grace of God is manifested in his life as a spiritual believer. That grace is the instrument through which an acceptable service is rendered to God. When the Christian offers any sacrifice, it is only possible by the grace of God that is manifested every day. That grace must be appropriated to be effective. This is only possible for the spiritual believer. One is well pleasing to God by the grace of God to the glory of God in his priestly sacrifices.

Hence, the sacrifices have a very positive value to God when they are offered. He counts the activity of a spiritual believer to be a sacrifice and responds in a very positive way to each sacrifice as it is offered. The value is established by God's own standards that are not determined or influenced in any way by external pressures. Human standards for what is pleasing to God will never be acceptable to God. Within the heart of man, there is an inherent confidence that he can establish for himself patterns of behavior that will be of value to God. The religious works of the sin nature [flesh] are easily directed toward a form of righteous behavior and are satisfied with human righteousness. They do not rely on the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. The so-called "vacuum that can only be filled by God" is often filled with religious works of the flesh that do bring a form of satisfaction. Service to a god, that is merely the figment of the imagination, is normal in the world system with its multitude of religions. There is a kind of satisfaction in world religion or there would be very few adherents. Only the true believer in Christ knows what true satisfaction is, but he must never say that there is not some form of satisfaction in world religions. Religion brings satisfaction for men but it is of no value to the God of the Bible. Christians, who set similar standards, are no more pleasing to God than the aboriginal animist or the refined Buddhist. It is sad to say that many churches have established standards that are thought to be pleasing to God that have no relationship to the revelation from Scripture, even though they use Scripture to prove their human standards by reading their standards back into Scripture. It is possible for the spiritual Christian to be pleasing to God as he gives the logical and acceptable sacrifices of the New Testament believer-priest.


SECTION III
The Service Of The Believer-Priest


"I want to serve God" was the blunt statement of a young man who approached his pastor after a Sunday morning message. This young man was in the prime of his life and possessed many abilities. He presented his pastor a real dilemma. There were hundreds of ways in which he could serve God. The pastor only needed to look over the youth's shoulder to see that the church lawn needed mowing. The flowerbeds were filled with weeds. Only that morning, the Sunday School superintendent had mentioned the need for someone to teach the third grade Sunday School class. He had been thinking about encouraging the young people to become more active in visiting other young people who had visited the church or who were inconsistent in attendance, and they also needed a leader for the program. Could God be working in the life of this young person leading him to the mission field or a pastorate? How could he wisely encourage this young man in his service to God? All of the possibilities for getting a job done could have clouded his thinking. He could have said, "Mow the lawn and weed the flowerbeds and you will be serving God." He could have given the young man a checklist of activities all of which would have been service to God, but he did not. He made an effort to begin a program for teaching him the spiritual life -- a life in which he could learn to have victory over his spiritual enemies. Of course, the pastor was able to help him by giving him tasks by which the pastor could carefully observe his activities and evaluate his abilities. He encouraged him to have proper motives for serving God and instructed him concerning his privileges as a believer-priest. As a result, the pastor was able to help him determine what his spiritual gift was and helped him function in priestly service. The young man went to college, was active in a local church while attending school and returned home after graduation to take his place in the family business actively serving God in his local church as a stable Christian leader. The church was built up because a wise pastor encouraged the young man to learn how to be spiritual and then how to serve as a believer-priest. They had mutually agreed that his spiritual gift was not a speaking gift but the gift of organization that he faithfully used as his specialty to the glory of God in the local church.

Service is not a professional, paid activity. Service describes the priestly activities of every spiritual Christian. An activity may be service or it might not be service. Any activity by the Old Testament priest, conforming to proper priestly activity, was considered service. It was identified as service simply because it was done either in the tabernacle or the temple. The service of the grace believer has a direct relationship to his priestly activity. Acceptable service to God is service rendered by spiritual believers. They are spiritual in reality because they have subjected themselves to God's standards. Every believer has the potential for serving as a priest. There are two types of service that are involved in the life of the believer-priest: priestly type service and other types of service. Priestly service is service that is peculiar to priestly activity. In other words, non-priests cannot perform such service. The priest only performs it when he is acting as a priest doing a specified priestly activity. The second is service that is not related to the priestly office. The believer-priest as a Christian can perform it, but it is not counted to be a priestly service. The Greek terms "bond slave" (doulos) and "servant" (dikonia) denote this last kind of service. The essential portions of this section will deal with service that is counted by God to be priestly service. There is a broad spectrum of information provided in Scripture for understanding the service of the believer-priest.

Essentially, the privilege of service as a priest will affect every part of his life. In Christ, the believer is a priest every moment of his life. God the Father counts his priestly service to be a continuing activity. This service is related to activities that are uniquely priestly activities. A believer should know which part of his service is counted priestly service without confusing the types of service. Service always involves the condition of the person who is performing specific duties to the benefit of another person or persons. The believer serves as a priest for the benefit of God while doing those things that God identifies as priestly duty functioning as a spiritual believer.


Service as a Priest


Because of his office as priest, he serves like a priest should serve. The Greek word for "priest" is iereus (hiereus) and is descriptive of his type of service. It is derived from the word ieron (hieron) and so describes one who not only has access but who actually performs activity in the temple. He is an individual who was clearly identified with the temple. Throughout the Greek and Roman worlds, the priest was identified with a place -- a building constructed for service to deities. A priest had responsibilities that he alone knew how to perform and that he was permitted to perform. Not all priestly duties in temples were spectacular for they frequently involved the most menial tasks sweeping, cleaning, chopping wood, dumping ashes, washing garments and utensils, taking out the garbage and such like. In pagan societies, priests spent time studying mystical arts for pagan practice and ceremony. The priest's responsibility was to make the temple acceptable to the god or gods for whom it was built, to perform rituals that would encourage the god or gods to be present there, to appease the god or gods to keep them there and to please the god or gods so that they would provide benefits for the priests and all who came to the temple to worship.

The very idea of temple service came from ancient civilizations. Under Law, Israel's priests performed their priestly service in a single location. The pagan peoples round about them also had temples, but they were offended at Israel's insistence that there was only one place for service and only one God -- Jehovah. The pagan priests ministered in any place designated as a holy place and so served not only in temples but also served in groves and other locations. A primary service of all priests was that of sacrifice because it was the most visible part of their priestly activity. It was one of the most important because it involved the people and was not limited to the sphere of priestly activity or benefit. Sacrifices gave validity to their service.

When the grace believer serves as a priest, he is functioning in the heavenly temple as a priest. Since the earth is counted to be the courtyard of the temple, his service as a temple person can be performed at any location on earth at any time. The priest is a temple worker who has access to the heavenly Holy of Holies and has the privilege of service in the temple. Grace believers are involved in spiritual priestly service because they are involved in a priesthood.

Called a Priesthood. When the believer is identified as being a participant in a priesthood, he is described as being a member of an organization that performs priestly service. How extensive is the service of the priesthood? The Greeks did not select the word "priest" from the word for the very place in the temple where the god's image was naos (naos) but rather used the most general term to describe the area in which the priests were to function ieron (hieron). The priesthood functioned in the realm of the whole temple area -- temple building, courts and grounds. Because of this, priestly activity involved those things that were duties performed in the temple. Persons who were not priests could have done some tasks performed by priesthoods; but because they were in the temple, priests who served there performed them. A priesthood performed special service of a religious nature. These general principles were true of both pagan and Jewish priesthoods.

It is evident that a believer is a part of a priesthood. He is in a holy (1 Pe. 2:5) and a kingly priesthood (1 Pe. 2:9). A priesthood is the result of an act of appointment as is evident in the -ma (-ma) ending of the Greek form ierateuma (hierateuma). In the priesthood, the individual is in an office that is designed by God for specific priestly activity. One must understand that priestly service involves more than sacrifice, though sacrifice is one of the most evident elements of service. The priesthood in which the grace believer participates is an unchangeable priesthood (Heb. 7:24) in contrast to the Levitical priesthood that was changeable (Heb. 7:12).

Called Priests. if a person is in a priesthood, he is called a priest. This is true of the grace believer. He is clearly called a priest (Rev. 1:6; 5:10). Rather than identify the believer as a participant in a priesthood, John says that the believer is a participant in a kingdom of priests. By the time of the First Advent of Christ, the Levitical priesthood had grown so large that the priest only acted as a priest for a very small portion of his lifetime. When the priests served in Jerusalem in that short period of time, some of them never enjoyed the highest privilege, the burning of the incense. Zacharias had the privilege to be offering the incense when an angel of the Lord, Gabriel, who predicted the birth of John, appeared. As a result of the revelation, Zacharias was struck dumb [i.e. speechless]. "But it came to be when he was acting as priest in the order of his course before God, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot was to burn incense while entering the Holy Place of God (Lu. 1:8, 9)." He was acting as a priest and able to be the priest of privilege by lot. The angel Gabriel gave him direct revelation from God. One cannot be certain how often Zacharias had actually functioned as a priest in his lifetime. He was called a priest but rarely acted in the priestly office. Some historians are confident that he only functioned as a priest once in his lifetime. Even if he only functioned as a priest once in his lifetime, he was still recognized as a priest. Everyone in the nation understood that the extensive population of Aaron's heirs limited his service. The grace believer does not need to wait a lifetime in order to perform priestly duties. He lives in the temple and has a multitude of daily opportunities to exercise his priestly privileges. He enters the priesthood at the moment of salvation and is identified as a priest throughout the remainder of his life on earth. As a priest, he has service as a priest. After all, his title "priest" means "temple servant."

Paul's Priestly Service. "But I wrote to you with more confidence from a part, as putting upon your mind through the grace that was given to me from God with the purpose that I should be a temple servant of Jesus Christ, unto the nations, while working as a priest for the gospel of God, in order that the offering of the nations may be acceptable having been set apart by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:15, 16)." Paul considered himself to be not only the apostle to the Gentiles, but also a minister serving the Gentiles. In his priestly ministry, he was doing priestly work [trans. "offering up" A.V.] presenting the gospel of God with the purpose that the Gentiles might be acceptable to God and set apart by the Holy Spirit. The gospel of God has a direct relationship to God the Father and those who believe. It could be better translated "the good news concerning the God." God the Father indwells the believer! When the Church began at Pentecost, the Jews and Gentiles who became believers both received the same, identical benefits with neither receiving any extra advantages. Throughout Paul's ministry, he was confronted by Jews who considered their relationship to God to be better than the Gentiles. Even believing Jews felt that they had an inside track to God's blessing in some cases. The Roman church was composed of both Jews and Gentiles. Paul had already made it clear in several places in the preceding context that God would deal with the Gentiles on an equal basis. There was no difference between the two. They had lost their distinctions and had become a part of a third, separate entity identified as the Church of God (1 Cor. 10:32). The gospel of God involves the fact that God the Father also indwells believers with no consideration concerning the racial background of those who are indwelt (cf. 1 Thess. 2:2, 9). There should be reciprocity between all who are in Christ admonishing one another.

Temple Things. Priests are the ones who handle things that relate to Scripture and the temple. The form ieros (hieros) is found in two places in the New Testament where it is translated "holy" in the Authorized Version. A believer-priest is directly involved with things that are involved in temple service like the priests of the Old Testament. Paul uses the Old Testament to illustrate his right to receive remuneration for his apostolic service even though he had refused to accept remuneration from the Corinthians. Evidently, Paul had been accused of being in the ministry for the financial gains that he would receive. He mentions the fact that the Old Testament priests lived from the temple things that they served. "Do you not intuitively know that the ones who are working the temple things are eating of the things from the temple, the ones who are attending the altar, partake together with the altar? Thus also the Lord ordained the ones who are proclaiming the gospel to live from the gospel (1 Cor. 9:13, 14)." Paul indicates that he did not take advantage of the privilege that was inherent in his apostolic service (9:15-20). A priest is involved in service that involves things that he can use as a priest. His confession of sin and the accompanying cleansing involves the use of things of the temple. The extension of the laver of regeneration into practical Christian life provides an opportunity to use temple-like things. The believer's worship utilizes the things of the temple, just as his sacrifices as a believer-priest do. When the believer manifests the life of Christ in his life, he is using the things of the temple. When the believer uses specific aspects of his communication with God, he is using things of the temple. Some Christians would prefer to have physical implements for serving as priests because they are easily utilized. The spiritual implements involve a comprehension of the provisions of salvation that require a proper spiritual condition on God's terms.

The things that are written, grammata (grammata), relate to the temple. Paul explicitly incorporates this term to describe the Old Testament Scriptures that had been directly related to the Jewish temple. The reason for the identification of the Scriptures with the temple was a simple matter of mechanics. Printing would be invented many centuries in the future. Mass production of paper products had not been developed. The primary writing materials were papyrus, vellum (leather] or clay tablets. While papyrus was portable, it was fragile for long-term handling. Vellum was portable but was very expensive. A lengthy book of the Old Testament or the Pentateuch would require a substantial number of animal hides to produce an adequate scroll. Clay tablets were not portable and were impractical for the writing of long documents and so were not used for lengthy religious documents by the Israelites. As a result, the tabernacle and temple were the places where the manuscripts were stored and maintained. As history progressed, the wealthy hired scribes to copy manuscripts for their own libraries for personal use. Eventually, nearly every Jewish family had at least a small scroll of Esther in their possession for the celebration of Purim. It was very logical for Paul and any other person to identify the scrolls with the temple where they were stored and copied.

In some way, Timothy's mother Eunice and grandmother Lois had access to such documents because Timothy had been taught the temple Scriptures from very early in his life. "But you intuitively have known temple (or sacred] things written from being an unweaned infant, the ones being inherently powerful to make you wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:15)." In a sense, this is true for the grace believer as well. Timothy had been brought up on Old Testament teaching that was designed to govern his behavior as an Old Testament believer. The Old Testament clearly identified priestly service and its proper utilization by those who were not priests. It established rules for life centered on the earthly tabernacle or temple. The New Testament revelation for the Church establishes guidelines for the grace believers being in the heavenly tabernacle. In a sense, the revelation expressly for the Church is a compilation of temple documents. Because of this, the believer-priest should be a master of Paul's writings as well as other materials directed toward the Church. For some, Hebrews and the rest of the Pauline corpus is too difficult to comprehend and so they neglect it. The most important part of Scripture for the grace believer is ignored because it is "doctrinal." There should be a definite concern for learning the material that will assist the grace believer in his priestly life in the heavenly tabernacle. Timothy had been thoroughly indoctrinated in the teaching of the Old Testament. He, his mother and grandmother were Old Testament believers who became New Testament believers who had been transitionalized into the new dispensation. When a grace believer studies the grace temple documents, he has the potential for spiritual growth. Through the Word of God, he received the facts of the Gospel by faith believing in Christ in his past tense salvation. Through the temple documents, he learns how to live in his present tense salvation as a consistent, effective believer-priest.

It is of interest to note that the "temple" or "sacred" idea has carried over into the English language in the word "hieroglyphics" that literally means "temple or sacred carving." When there is a hierarchy, the priests are in an order of society by which they are over others in a rule of a system of ecclesiastical government. The Asian city of Hierapolis was identified as a sacred or temple city by its name. Some feel that this city of the Lycus River Valley was named after the mythical Amazon queen, Hiera, rather than referring to the temples. It was located in the same valley as Laodicea and Colosse and is identified by name in Colossians 4:13. The Textus Receptus even divided the name into two words in order to give it a stronger emphasis. It is possible that the city had a temple built there that was dedicated to the healing powers of the Greek gods for there were hot springs there that were said to have healing powers and that drew large numbers of people seeking healing. In other words, there is some indication that it may have been an ancient Lourdes where people expected the gods to heal their physical ailments.

A Standard for Priestly Behavior. Paul instructed Titus to verbalize healthy [or sound] doctrine to be believed but not practiced (didaskalia) providing a stability in the lives of four distinct groups of believers: older men, older women, young men and bond slaves (Tit. 2:1-8). Paul gives each group an explicit set of possibilities for their response to the presentation of healthy doctrine. When Titus addressed the older women (Tit. 2:3-5), Paul expected them to respond by living as believer-priests practicing their priesthood with consistency. "in a similar way the older women [lit. elderesses] in deportment [or personal conduct] fitting temple service [or suitable for a priest], not devils [or adversaries], not being enslaved by much wine, teachers of that which is obviously good (Tit. 2:3)." God expected them to believe the doctrine in such a way as to exhibit that as Christians they were involved in temple or sacred things. The Greek word is the compound ieroprepes (hieroprepes) that means "to become, to be fitting or proper concerning the temple or things counted sacred." God expected older women to exhibit a behavior that was proper for one who held the office of priest. Undoubtedly, they would have had some difficulty in grasping the potentials for priestly service because men had traditionally been the ones who represented the family in temple activities and the ladies were infrequently involved. God expected the older women to teach the younger women by example in several areas. One of these involved their priestly responsibilities as Christians even though they were at home. Most translators miss the true significance of the word by translating it "becometh holiness" [A.V.], "reverent" [A.S.V., N.A.S.B., N.I.V], "holy" [Beck], and "worthy of reverence" [Wuest]. In classical Greek, it referred to that which befitted a sacred place, person or matter and involved an identity with a temple and its service. In other words, the older women were clearly to identify themselves with their priestly position by behaving as priests. It is interesting that this term is only used in Titus two and not repeated in other passages of Scripture for other believers. When the older women were training younger women to use their deep reflective thinking, they were not to approach them as mothers or grandmothers but as believer-priests communicating how they were to function as priests at home. Mothers and grandmothers would teach them how to diaper their babies, what to feed their babies, how to cook for their husbands and children and other household duties. An older lady, who is living as a believer-priest, will communicate a fondness for husbands and children, deep reflective thinking, purity, how to be workers at home and how to have goodness and how to be submissive to a husband properly knowing that he will provide benefits so the Word of God will not be blasphemed (Tit. 2:4, 5). The same behavior should be expected of every believer. He should demonstrate that he is in good standing as a priest and is Outstanding in his personal priestly behavior. There is no reason for there to be any distraction permitted from personal priestly consistency in one's service to God. Appropriate priestly activity is learned as a part of the believer's maturation. Some believers have a better potential for communicating with specific groups of believers and so Paul expects the older women to have an ability to communicate with the younger women. Only a spiritual believer can effectively serve as a priest, but he must understand the biblical teaching of the privileges and responsibilities of the grace believer-priest in order to function effectively.

A believer is a priest who is to serve as a priest. His behavior is to be priest-like wherever he is. Scripture clearly describes him as a participant in a priesthood. His priestly activity directly involves temple work for he is a priest of the heavenly temple. He can serve as a priest anywhere on earth. As has already been seen, he can offer sacrifices at any time or any place. He serves as a priest by acting as a priest would normally act. Every believer should be involved in matching up his behavior with his position as a priest. This clearly involves service to and for God.

The word ierateia (hierateia) is only used of the service of an Old Testament priest in the Old Testament tabernacle or temple and is never used of the grace believer-priest. A valuable help for the Christian is the answer to the question. "What am I to do as a priest that is different than the activity of the non-priest?" The more he reads Scripture the clearer the picture becomes as to how to serve as a priest. With prayerful consideration, the material presented in this book will provide many answers to the question.


Service to God


In the New Testament, there is a special word that describes one's service to God. It is the word latreia (latreia). It is found 37 times in four forms in the New Testament. It is used to describe service rendered to God in the Old Testament under Law. It also describes the condition of the unbeliever who abused proper service. The Christian's service is also described by this term. It is important to evaluate the passages in which the term is found in order to understand its significance for the believer-priest. Latreia is derived from the noun latris (latris) that means servant or hired servant." A related term is latron (latron) that has the concept of paying wages to a servant or employee. It seems to involve the willing or voluntary service of the one who serves. By implication, it is that voluntary service that involves willingness to obey the employer. In the New Testament, it normally describes Divine service. Some have given the word a primary idea of worship toward God. It is most frequently used to describe sacrifice and temple service. When the term appears in Scripture, one must immediately consider the possibility that it is used in some way with reference to priestly service. When it is used of priestly service, it does not point toward financial remuneration or any other physical service but emphasizes the privilege of service and the spiritual blessings that accompany that kind of service. A benefit of being a priest is the knowledge of the fact that one really does have a privilege that others do not have. It is a real privilege to enjoy being a participant in a service that God has graciously provided. Some have a philosophy that teaches that human beings cannot function without a remuneration motivation. The love motivation will be more than adequate for the service of the grace believer. It is interesting to see that the Law did have the remuneration motivation for its priests. As it carried from the text of the Old Testament into the period of the Gospels under the Law, no Old Testament priest ever became wealthy from his priestly service.

Used of Service in the Old Testament. In the Septuagint, latreia (latreia) and latreuw (latreuo) are used predominantly to translate the Hebrew ahvodah (ahvodah) and ahvad (ahvad) referring to serving as a slave or slavery. No emphasis is made to distinguish whether the individual is indentured or hired. This root is found nearly 80 times in the Septuagint and is most often used to describe service to God. Its first occurrence in the Greek text of the Old Testament is in Exodus 3:12 where Jehovah speaks to Moses from the burning bush predicting that Moses was to serve God as a slave on the same mountain. The Hebrew clearly indicates that Moses was to direct his service toward God by adding a directive nun (nun) at the end of the verbal form. As a nation, Israel was to serve Jehovah (Ex. 7:16; 8:1; 23:25) as did her leadership. Jehovah demanded that the service of Israel as a nation continue after the giving of the Law and throughout her existence (Deut. 6:13; 10:12, 20; 11:13; 28:47; Josh. 24:14-24). This service included the Levites (Num. 16:8, 9). The Law clearly prohibited service of this sort to any other deities (Ex. 20:5; 23:24; Deut. 4:19, 28; 5:9; 7:4, 16; 8:19; 11:16; etc.). Normally, the translators of the Septuagint isolated the use of these terms to service rendered to deity as a matter of faith and practice whether they related to Jehovah or to pagan gods.

It is interesting that when Satan tempted Christ, he was met with a quotation of Deuteronomy 6:13 (cf. 1 Sam. 7:3). "Then Jesus says to him, Lead yourself away, Satan; for it has been written: You shall worship the Lord your God and you will serve Him alone (Matt. 4:10 cf. Lu. 4:8)." Christ confronted Satan with His deity admonishing him with a part of the Law given to Israel. His rebuke seemed to be effective because Satan immediately left the scene. In Satan's third temptation of Christ, he offered Him all the kingdoms of the world on the condition that He would fall down and worship him. When Christ quoted Deuteronomy, it was a tailor-made passage of Scripture for the situation for it not only rejected Satan's right to receive worship but also confronted him with proper service, which he no longer rendered to God. Christ considered Himself to be under the Law and was willing to submit to the Law in His humanity, but He still retained His deity that prevented Him from yielding to Satan's temptation.

In Zacharias' prophecy at the birth of John the Baptizer, he referred to the oath made with Abraham in the fourth Abrahamic covenant of Genesis 22:15-18 in which he swore "That he would freely give us [Jews], having been saved from the land of our enemies to serve Him in piety and righteousness before Him all our days (Lu. 1:74, 75)." Israel was a chosen nation that had been blessed with salvation with a purpose of serving God. He wanted their service to be characterized as holy [or pious] and righteous. "Holy" or "piety" has the basic idea of the careful observance of one's duties toward God considering them to be a sacred trust while they were acting right ["righteous"] in relation to the Law. Zacharias anticipated his son's involvement in the fulfillment of the prophecy concerning the serving of the people (Lu. 1:76-79). All of his prophecy pivoted around the Genesis 22 covenant made with Abraham.

God predicted that the seed of Abraham would be in bondage and suffer evil for 400 years (Gen. 15:13, 14). The total time of their sojourn in Egypt was 400 years (Ex. 12:40; Gal. 3:17) with only thirty years when they did not suffer evil and bondage in some form. Stephen responded to the accusation of blasphemy made against him by members of some of the synagogues. He traced the fact that God did change things in history and ultimately indicated that Christ, being God, would change things as well. Israel's 400 years of bondage indicated that things were different for Israel for 400 years. When they were released from bondage, God changed things again. He punished Egypt and delivered Israel. In Acts 7:7, Stephen breaks the Genesis fifteen quotation in half and adds an interpretation of the results. "And the nation that they will serve as slaves I will judge, said God, and after these things they will come out and will serve me in this place." Genesis 15:14 said they would come out with great substance, while Stephen incorporates the promise made to Moses in Exodus 3:12 with the prophesied Exodus made to Abraham. The nation served Jehovah in a religious way because they were the chosen people of God.

Israel had an inherent propensity to idolatry in their fallen natures (cf. Gal. 5:20). This propensity reared its head at Sinai with the construction of the golden calf (Ex. 32:1-6 cf. Ac. 7:40, 41) and carried beyond the time of Amos the prophet. Stephen reminded his accusers of the fact that their idolatry had been a primary reason for the Babylonian captivity (Ac. 7:43). "But God turned and gave them up to serve the host of heaven, as it stands written in the book of the prophets, O house of Israel, have you not offered me beasts and sacrifices forty years in the desert (Ac. 7:42 cf. Amos 5:25)?" Israel attempted to serve other deities like God, and Stephen reminded the Jews of the bent of mind that continued among their people. They did not have the ability to make proper decisions in the matter of service to God.

Hope appeared to be a motivation for serving God in the nation Israel. When Paul appeared before King Agrippa, he defended himself as being a devout Jew from his youth and as a Pharisee. He professed to have retained the same hope that he had as a Jew practicing Judaism. "And now I am standing, being judged, upon the hope of the promise having been established unto our fathers by God, to which our twelve tribes by intensity night and day while serving, is hoping to come [or arrive]; concerning which hope I am accused by the Jews, O king Agrippa (Ac. 26:6, 7)." It is evident that Paul was referring to the religious service of the Jews to God. Paul was very careful not to identify the promise that provided the hope because it would have brought him into direct conflict with Agrippa, since it involved a national homeland for Israel that had been promised in the covenants and confirmed to the fathers of the Jews.

Paul fully understood Christ's prediction in the upper room that some Jews would count the murdering of Christians to be a service to God. Paul himself had been one of those Jews who had persecuted and killed Christians (Ac. 9:1, 2, 14, 21; 22:4, 5, 20; 26:10, 11). He considered it to be a service to God and had a good conscience even when he was instrumental in killing Christians (cf. Ac. 23:1). Christ clearly recognized that there would be a reaction to His work among the Jews. "These things have I spoken to you that you may not be scandalized. They will make you synagogue outcasts; but an hour is coming, that anyone who is killing you has the opinion that they are offering service to God (Jn. 16:1, 2)." They could be as Paul and have a good conscience because they would not have an experiential knowledge of God the Father or Christ (Jn. 16:3). Murder and persecution may be considered service to God by some. Such a consideration has not just been limited to the Jews, but has carried throughout history by many religious groups and even by segments of Christendom.

Anna was a prophetess who was of the tribe of Asher. Scripture describes her as a widow who had lost her husband seven years after she had married. By Luke two, she is 84 years of age having served the Lord in the temple area for many years of her life. "And she was a widow almost 84 years old who was not leaving the temple while serving with fastings and supplications night and day (Lu. 2:37)." Her service is clearly defined in that she was involved with supplications and fastings. She was a regular participant in periods of fasting and evidently limited her daily diet as a part of her progressive fasting. Some have attributed her longevity to her self-imposed dietary restrictions. She was involved in supplications by which she cried out for help to God. Some have interpreted this to be a ministry of prayer or intercession, but the word "supplication," dehsis (deasis), prohibits such a translation. She was crying out for help. In light of the verse that follows, it seems that her supplication contained a cry for the soon redemption of Jerusalem. "And at the hour itself coming up, she openly confessed to God and spoke concerning Him to all the ones expecting the redemption of Jerusalem (Lu. 2:38)." She openly confessed or expressed an agreement that the redemption of Jerusalem had come in Christ. Anna [as did Simeon] fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 40:31, "But the ones who are waiting for Jehovah will proceed to cause to change their strength; they will proceed to ascend with wings as eagles; they will proceed to run, and not proceed to be toiling in weariness; and they will proceed to walk and not come to weariness." Anna was an Old Testament saint who anticipated the return of the glory of Jehovah to the temple in the Person of the Messiah. Her supplication had been made by calling to God for help by sending the Messiah. She clearly served God as an Israelite in the temple -- not as a priest, but as a prophetess. She did not infringe on normal priestly service, but rendered service to God as any other Israelite could.

Paul seemed to be an exclusionist in his attitude when he wrote Romans nine. He indicates that the Israelites, because of their election, were the only ones who could serve God in a proper way historically. "Who are the Israelites, of whom came the adoption and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the service and the promises of whom the fathers and out of whom Christ came according to the flesh; the one being over all, God blessed into the ages [or forever], Amen (Rom. 9:4, 5)." Israel had the service that was unique in that their God was the true God. Service could be rendered to other gods, but in actuality it was not service, because these gods were not God. Israel shared a unique relationship to Jehovah that made their service within the bounds of the Mosaic Law acceptable to God.

Hebrews describes the service of Israel and her priesthood under the Law in five passages. The service of the nation and her priesthood was centered on the tabernacle or temple. "Therefore the first covenant had both ordinances of service and a worldly holy place (Heb. 9:1)." In these instances, it is clear that the priests were the primary performers of this service for the people. The nation served God through the priesthood. Had the priesthood ceased to exist, the nation could have served God, but in an ineffective manner unless God had abolished the ordinances of the Law. The priesthood was available to assist in making the service of the nation effective and acceptable to God. They were the interpreters of the ordinances as well as the performers. When the priests performed service for themselves and the nation to God, they were limited in the manner in which they could serve because they served in an example or a shadow of the heavenly things (Heb. 8:5). "But these things having been prepared [or established], on the one hand the priests at all times go into the first tabernacle finishing the service (Heb. 9:6)." The priests served in the holy place and any other part of the temple complex, but only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies. Their service was severely limited for little of it had any consequential effect on the Holy of Holies. Their service would approach the Holy of Holies, but the veil prevented their entering. As has already been mentioned, the priest's service to God could never make him mature (Heb. 9:9). If his service could not make him mature, it could not make anyone else in Israel mature either. The grace believer has a service that was impossible for any of the Old Testament priests to share. "We have a place of sacrifice [or altar] out of which the ones who are serving the tabernacle do not have authority to eat (Heb. 13:10)." Even though they may have desired the better thing, it was impossible for them to share it. It was just as impossible for the high priest himself to partake of the altar of the grace believer as it was for an Aaronic priest to enter the Holy of Holies because they did not have the authority to take part in high priestly service.

Used of the Service of the Unbeliever. Fallen man has perverted service to God. He has abused a large portion of that which God provided for him. Romans one and three clearly indicate the depraved condition of mankind. Reverence and service are tied together when Paul describes their provision. "Who changed the truth of God into the lie, and revering and serving the creature rather than the One having created, who is blessed forever: Amen (Rom. 1:25)." There are three factors that have a close connection: the lie, reverence for the creature and service to the creature. The reason for a potential change in reverence or service is that they perverted the truth. God sees things as they really are and is totally reliable in all He does and arranges. Man has changed the truth into the lie.

Whenever the definite article is used in the Greek text with "lie," it is specifically referring to an identifiable lie. Satan is the father of the lie (Jn. 8:44). In the tribulation period, the man of lawlessness will be revealed and deceive those who are unbelievers (2 Thess. 2:8). "And as a result, God sends to them an energy of error [or leading astray], with the purpose that they believe the lie (2 Thess. 2:11)." The lie found its origin with Satan in the garden of Eden in his temptation of Eve and has been perpetuated on men from that time forward. "For God is continually knowing that in the day of your eating from it [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil], then your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil (Gen. 3:5)." The lie is that a person can be like God. In other words, he can be independent of God. God expects man to be dependent upon Him; but as a result of the fall, man has changed the truth of God that provides for man's dependence and has made it an appeal to independence from any Divine restraints or blessings. As a result, they show reverence at the temple of man rather than God.

The word translated "worship," sebomai (sebomai), in the Authorized Version actually means that one is to show a reverence that comes from the feeling of awe and devotion to something or someone. Mankind has a great feeling of awe for mankind. Humanism is not a modern innovation. It has existed ever since the fall in the garden of Eden. Man has possessed a reverence for himself just as great or greater than for God. The third problem is that of serving the creature as one would serve God. A man who serves mankind is a great humanitarian. A man who serves God is a candidate for an asylum. One is amazed at the great number of humanitarian organizations that are serving mankind in such a wide variety of ways meeting a diversity of needs. The thinking of Christendom has been directly affected by the desire to serve mankind rather than God. If a person was truly a servant of God, he would be doing God's will concerning mankind. Some feel that God is not enough of a humanitarian to provide for human beings in need. The reason for this conclusion is that God permits all the disasters of life to occur. Man is constantly confronted with new possibilities for acting independent of God and showing reverence to man while serving him as he would God.

Service Rendered to an Idol. The fallen nature of man prefers to serve that which is visible to the eye. Give man an idol and he will serve it before he will serve the living God. "Idol," eidolon (eidolon), is found eleven times in the New Testament and is derived from the verb oraw (horao), "to see." In other words, an idol is something that is seen representing something that is unseen. Men performed service to idols in the offering of sacrifices and offerings to the idols (Ac. 15:29; 21:25; 1 Cor. 8:1, 4, 7, 10; 10:19, 28; Rev. 2:14, 20). Idolatry is a work of the flesh (Gal. 5:20) and so can effect both the believer and the unbeliever. Idolatry is literally the service of a person to something that can be seen as he would serve God. The word "idolater" describes both believers and unbelievers. They are an inherent part of the world system (1 Cor. 5:10, 11). In the future, idolaters will be cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 21:8; 22:15). The grace believer is not to be characterized as an idolater (1 Cor. 10:7), but he is to flee from idolatry (1 Cor. 10:14). It is important to realize that the believer can be an idolater to a limited degree in his life. A good illustration of this is seen in the fact that covetousness is a form of idolatry, covetousness that is having the character of idolatry (Col. 3:5)." Paul indicates the same thing in Ephesians, "For this, be experientially knowing, that every fornicator, or unclean person, or one who desires to have more [or covetous one], who is an idolater, does not have an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God (Eph. 5:5)." A man who is habitually characterized by a work of the flesh will have his life terminated by God if he is a believer. He may not even be a believer in the first place if he is characterized by any of the descriptions of Ephesians 5:5.

Peter clearly considered idolatry to be a part of his pre-salvation behavior and not to be a part of his Christian life (1 Pe. 4:3). A covetous person serves that which is seen in the same way that he would serve God giving the idol honor and worship. His desire to have more makes him subject to the thing he desires. A Christian can see a new Jaguar in the dealer's lot and have such a desire for it that he will do anything to possess it for himself. Then when he does purchase it, he serves it just as though it could meet every need in his life. Because idolatry is an appetite from the believer's sin nature, he has the potential for being an idolater. He perverts the potential for serving God by serving that which is visible.

All three enemies of the grace believer can pervert the believer's service. Satan can encourage the believer to be independent and to serve the creature rather than God. The world system can draw the believer into idolatry by appealing to him through his eyes (1 Jn. 2:15, 16). The sin nature has a natural bent for idolatry. It is an appetite that will seek gratification in the carnal believer. A carnal believer can be the busiest person in the church because he serves that which is seen rather than God.

Service by Paul to God. Paul's life history is one of service to God. He served God as a devout Jew and then as a Christian. Some of his service was against Christians, but it was done with a clear conscience. "I have thanks to God, whom I am serving from my forefathers by [or with or in] a clear conscience, as I have unceasingly, the remembrance concerning you in my supplications night and day (2 Tim. 1:3)." Paul's testimony to his personal service to God is clear. He served God as a Jew with all the propriety required by the Law and by the tradition of the Pharisees. When he became a Christian, his whole relationship to God changed, but he continued serving God though in light of his new relationship in Christ.

In Paul's defense before Felix, he reviewed his service to God as a refutation of the same accusations made against him. "But I am confessing this to you, that according to the way that they are saying is a heresy, thus I am serving the God of my fathers, while believing all the things according to [or down from] the Law and the things in the prophets that have been written (Ac. 24:14)." He carefully indicated that the Law and the Prophets were the object of his faith. The accusation involved more than his theology, but also clearly related to the doctrine that he believed and practiced. He was involved in a consistent service to God as is evident in his personal testimony.

In Paul's life as a believer, he understood that he was doing service to God. He describes his life as a life of service to God. While on his journey to Rome as a prisoner, Paul was able to say, "I told you so" to the ship's master and owner. He had advised them to remain in the haven of Crete for the winter, but they insisted on continuing the journey gambling on the weather. They were well out to sea when the storm came up and attacked the ship with extended and great ferocity. Paul remained silent. Finally, Paul confronted the ship's master and owner because of the severity of the conditions. He had been visited by an angel of God who had promised protection to Paul and all who were with him on the ship. Paul delivered the message to the men making it Clear that he was in the service of the God who had sent the angel. "For there stood alongside me this night an angel of God whose I am, whom I also am serving (Ac. 27:23)." Those aboard the ship were well aware that when Paul said he served, he meant that he was serving God because of his use of the verb. He was in religious service to God. As a result, all of the lives of those who were aboard were saved though the ship and cargo were lost.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul identifies himself as continuously serving God. His service to God involved his human spirit. It was a rational service that involved a consistency in his relationship to God. "For God is my witness, whom I am serving in my spirit in the gospel of His Son, how I am unceasingly making mention always at the time of my prayers of worship (Rom. 1:9)." Much religious service is accomplished in ignorance as the blind lead the blind. Some follow instructions without realizing the value of the activity that they are to perform. Others perform religious service in response to strong emotions created by a religious environment or tradition. One of the joys of truly serving God is to do so knowing why the service is performed and what the result will be. Paul's life was a life in which he knew exactly how he was serving his God. Undoubtedly, this is one of the reasons Paul's ministry was so effective. His human spirit was in control.

Paul warned the Philippians to be alert for those who performed service to God based upon other sources or motivations. "Beware [or look out for] the dogs, be looking out for the evil workers, be looking out for the concision [or ones who are mutilated), for we are the circumcision, the ones who are serving by the Spirit of God and boasting in Christ Jesus and not trusting in the flesh (Phil. 3:2, 3)." The Holy Spirit is the One who cooperates with the believer's human spirit bringing about a service that is acceptable to God. Service is closely related to Paul's position in Christ. Any reliance on the flesh will produce failure. Even with Paul's extensive background and training, he could not rely on the flesh in the matter of service. He had learned to live by the Mosaic Law and could serve God as a devout Jew; but he had to learn that, as a grace believer, he had Divine enabling that would permit him to serve God in an acceptable way in the new dispensation.

The Service of the Grace Believer. Service to God for the grace believer relates directly to his being a believer-priest. Every believer should be serving God because he knows that is what God desires. Such service involves the believer's awareness of the potentials that he has for priestly activity. He must also serve God from his intellect. In Romans 12:1, the sacrifice of the believer's physical body is clearly identified as a logical service to God. Because it is performed by a believer-priest and is seen as a priestly activity, it is a priestly service. The term itself refers to service to God, but the context places a priestly limitation on its use in the passage. When the believer gives his physical body once for all, it is a primary act of service to God. He has come to realize that his body is a purchased possession of God and sees that the most sensible response is to give it to its rightful owner. His human spirit works in cooperation with the Holy Spirit who sheds light on the revelation of Scripture in order to get the believer's attention so that he will react in a positive way by giving the sacrifice. The act of service and sacrifice is the result of an act of the mind. While emotion may be a response to the sacrifice, it is not to be the reason for offering the sacrifice. There is a mental awareness of what Christ has done and how His work applies to the believer. Based on awareness, one makes a decision to perform the service because it makes perfect sense.

A believer can direct service to any deity. Some believers have had their heads turned toward other things that are deficient in their character. Unfortunately, this was true under the Law. Throughout the history of the Law, there was a general disregard for the God of the Law with more interest in the Law of God. Of course, there were high priests in the history of Israel who were key people and even the whole nation gave God His full weight in isolated instances. When God's presence was manifested in the wilderness, the people reacted to the phenomenon rather than to the Person. The works of the Law accomplished service to God through the Law. A consistent keeping of the works required by the Law brought health, wealth and happiness. A violation brought penalty. The readers of Hebrews were having some problems in that they attempted to live by the Law under grace. The blood of Christ had paid the penalty and they were free from the Law. Christ died fulfilling the Law so the works of the Law became dead works. "By how much more the blood of Christ who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself once for all unblemished to God, will cleanse our conscience from dead works with the purpose of serving God (Heb. 9:14)?" The whole spectrum of service to God is changed when a person becomes a grace believer. He serves a God who is alive when he separates himself from dead works. Only the grace believer has this capability as a priest.

One of the privileges of the Dispensation of Grace is that when the believer serves God, he has confidence that his sins have been purged once and for all. There is no need to offer a multiplicity of sacrifices for sin. A believer who has a proper knowledge of Scripture will have the confidence that his past, present and future sins are all cleansed. Because of this, his conscience should be free from any guilt because of sins. "Since they [the sacrifices for sin] would not have ceased of themselves being offered, because of the ones who are serving once standing as being cleansed have yet no more conscience of sins (Heb. 10:2)." The complication for those under the Law was that their conscience was constantly confronted as to whether or not the sacrifices were sufficient to take care of sins from year to year. The grace believer enjoys the fact that Christ's work is more than sufficient for sin. The Christian's priestly privilege gives him an assurance that what he does in service to God is accepted because of the sufficiency of the death of Christ.

At salvation, the grace believer has entered a kingdom of priests that provides the grace that enables the believer to serve God. Even though the earth and heavens may be shaken, the kingdom will not be moved. "Wherefore while receiving an unshakable (cf. 12:26, 27) kingdom, let us have grace, through which we may serve God well pleasingly with reverence and awe [or apprehension] (Heb. 12:28). Since the believer receives a kingdom right beside him, he has the potential to be living in that kingdom knowing that though earthly kingdoms may rise and fall, and the earth and heavens will be shaken, the kingdom of priests will remain. When the believer-priest serves in the kingdom, it is because God has provided grace for the service. This grace must be appropriated in order to be effective. The grace is there for the believer and the believer must make it his own. If it is not appropriated, the believer will not be able to serve God effectively in the kingdom of priests. Through the agency of (dia) grace the believer may serve God. Being in the kingdom provides two potentials for the believer [indicated by the two subjunctive forms]: there is a potential for appropriating grace and then the potential for service. The believer must be involved in each phase actively before he is able to say that his service is effective. It is possible for him to appropriate God's grace without serving God. By appropriating God's grace, he can serve God if he will only do so. The believer-priest serves God through grace. As a result, his service is well pleasing and acceptable to God. Only service that is well pleasing to God is worthwhile. All other effort expended is futile.

The service is to be done with "reverence and godly fear (A.V.)." The word translated "reverence," eulabeis (eulabeis), literally means "well taken hold of"and has the basic idea of being cautious or wary in matters pertaining to God. As a result, many translate it "reverence." It involves special care in maintaining a proper behavior toward God. Christ's human nature functioned in this way in His earthly ministry (Heb. 5:7). "Fear," deos (deos), is more clearly related to the idea of a fear produced because of the magnitude or greatness of a person or thing. Hence, it has the idea of awe toward God in service. It is the kind of reaction that a lady might have if she were given a set of the most expensive, exquisite china in the world. She might be afraid to touch it for fear of breaking one of the pieces. When she uses it, she is extremely cautious so that she will be able to enjoy it to the fullest. In this era of voluntarism, it is difficult for the believer to serve God with care and awesome fear. It is easy to volunteer for Christian activities and to blunder along in them doing a partial, sloppy job. All that matters is that the job is accomplished and that the believer is doing it for the Lord. The quality of the result is very important for it not only reflects the attitude of the one who serves but also reflects on the God that he is serving. Certainly, some believers will be reluctant to serve when they serve with reverence and awe, but that is when grace comes in.

Only the grace of God makes it possible for sinners saved by grace to serve God acceptably in any way. Grace does not provide a specific job for the believer to do as service to God and leave him to figure out the best way to do it and then to serve to the best of his ability. The spiritual believer applies grace to his service to God. He can ask for wisdom concerning how the job is done and God promises graciously to provide the wisdom (Jas. 1:5). Grace provides the strength to serve. Grace keeps the believer's service in the realm of Divine pleasure. He serves his God with a caution that protects the glory of God and the believer's personal testimony. He serves with awe in the fact that God has graced him to perform acceptable service to God. He carries within that awe a concern for God's personal approval of the service. One must not be quick to volunteer but quick to appropriate the grace of God and by that grace to ascertain whether or not he should serve God in specific areas of his life. Every pastor and Christian worker can suggest many ways a believer can serve God as a priest, but service of itself is of no real benefit. It is the appropriation of the grace of God with a proper attitude that produces the acceptance of the service by God. Service to God can be performed before a hundred thousand people or none at all. When it is done by the grace of God, both are equally well pleasing to God. If only believers would understand this truth and live in light of it!

Because of the contexts of Scripture in which the word latrew or latreia are used of the grace believer, one can only conclude that they refer to a believer's priestly service to God. In each context, it has some relationship either to the priestly activity of the believer or to a kingdom of priests. It is service done for God with an awareness of His character and His will in its performance. It is activity specifically performed for God. It is done with God's opinion being central in the believer's thinking. He thinks of it as service to God and not to man. It makes no difference to him what men may think of his service because he focuses his attention on God's opinion in the matter. Service can involve offering sacrifices. Service can involve certain aspects of the believer's communication with God. It can involve any aspect of the believer's use of his spiritual gift. Ideally, service to God should involve everything that is done by the believer. He does a good job at work because he is serving God. When he comes home, he is a good husband and father. At school, he does his best because he is serving God. Every phase of a believer's activity should be affected by his service to God. He has been saved by grace and serves God by grace to the glory of God. His only reluctance to serve is based on his knowledge that God does not expect him to do everything people ask him to do. His service is built on God's will for him in his personal life.

Future Service Rendered to God. Scripture mentions two groups of people who will serve God in religious service in the future. Undoubtedly, there will be others who serve God in one way or another, but Scripture only uses the term to describe two groups of people: tribulational saints and the Church. A large group of white robed individuals is seen gathered around the throne of God in Revelation 7:15. These are ones who are seen coming out of (ek) the Great tribulation [not grace believers] and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. These are individual believers who have appropriated for themselves the provisions of Christ's death as they come out of the Great Tribulation alive. They will not have redeemed or glorified bodies for they will eat, drink and have the ability to produce tears (7:16, 17). "Therefore they are down before the throne of God and will serve Him day and night in His Holy of Holies and the One who is sitting upon the throne will tabernacle over them (Rev. 7:15)." These individuals come out of the Great Tribulation and are the Gentiles gathered out of the nations who will serve as Levites in the millennial temple (Isa. 66:19-21). They are tribulational believers who are not in the Body of Christ. They will have specific duties in the temple. Christ will be seated on His throne, tenting or tabernacling over them in the New Jerusalem, while they serve Him on earth.

In the millennial kingdom, the Church will serve God. "And there will no longer be any curse, and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it [the city -- New Jerusalem]; and His servants will serve for His advantage, and they will see His face, and His name will be upon their foreheads (Rev. 22:3, 4)." Who are the servants? They are identified in Revelation 1:1 as the ones who receive the revelation of the things that are about to happen -- the Church. The Church will have the privilege of serving God in the New Jerusalem during the millennial reign of Christ. They will serve in the heavenly Jerusalem as it orbits over the earth, while the Gentiles who serve God as Levites will serve in the temple on earth.

Even though latreia and all its forms are found in Scripture a number of times, it does not have the idea of specific service to God but is used to describe a general service to God. Its root idea is that of being hired for wages, though it does not denote the compulsion that is required for a bondslave. Hence, it is a voluntary service to God. In Scripture, it always is used of service to higher powers whether to idols or to the true God. Some scholars have been convinced that the Christian Church refused to employ this term for their special service to God because of its heathen connotations, but the context of the passages of Scripture that describe the service of the grace believer do relate it to Priestly service. The context places limitation on general terms like this one. The believer has a real potential for careful, considered service to God as a believer-priest. He is able to serve only as he appropriates the grace of God that provides the ability for him to serve. His service to God may have a wide influence on many people or may be unseen by men. Even so, every facet of the spiritual believer's service can be well pleasing to God.


Service as a Special Priestly Obligation


When one serves in special offices and ministries set apart for priests, he is involved in priestly service. Special priestly service is described by the word leitourgia (leitourgia) and its three related forms in their fifteen occurrences in the Greek New Testament. The English word "liturgy" is derived from the Greek form and describes various rites, forms or formulas for public "worship" services or for various aspects of the service. In classical Greek, it denoted an individual who served the state in a public office having specific responsibilities often at his own expense. It is a compound word that means "people-work" having the original idea of working for the benefit of the people and with the people. It involves the more technical aspects of priestly service and is a part of general service to God (latreia). In this section, a study of the wor