Tag Archives: clergy laity

Instead of rules and regulations

The first covenant had regulations—lots, as well as the amazing earthly sanctuary, says the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, (chapter 9, verses 1 to 5). The spectacular tent with its out-of-this world design, specially crafted furniture, consecrated unrefrigerated food, the Most Holy Place, incense, the gold covered covenant box, not to mention the hundreds of rules governing the ceremonial work of the priests.

So, what are the regulations of the New Covenant? The setting up of numerous different kind of earthly sanctuaries called “churches”? A worldwide institution “the Church”? Pulpits, pews and altars? Mystical foods? A new order of priesthood? Transcendent sacrifices?  Better smelling incense? A priestcraft elite? Excited audiences and religious entertainment?

None of the above. Definitely. Absolutely not. Full stop.

But as you know, tragically, all too soon, men set up such things which were not even a shadow of the real. These survive today after a long history of slowly evolving forms: Catholicism, Anglicanism, sacramentalism, mysticism, countless other isms, formality, liturgy, clergy driven—old, superseded models but without any of the glory of God, no cherubim, no stone tablets written with the finger of God, no budding rod, and no true sacrifice for our atonement, and without any mandate whatsoever from the Lord of Hosts for the shabby substitutes men instituted. Empty. God has left this kind of house.

Under the Old Covenant, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry.  But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance, as it says in Heb 9:6-7.

But today in so many earthly temples, earthly priests regularly enter their sanctuaries to carry on their ministry and without any Aaronic authority, imagining they re-crucify the Lord of glory on some pathetic copy of an altar. In a mockery of the real, the true, they imagine wine is magically changed to blood by their mumbo-jumbo mantra instead of directing needy souls to see that Jesus has finished his work once for all and ensure the people of receive their inheritance, now.

In the old Jewish order, sins committed in ignorance were atoned—wonderful grace assuring worshippers that it did not depend on them dotting every ‘i’.  But the so-called sacrifice of the mass keeps people in perpetual dependence on a mediatorial priesthood, for they must come continually to maintain the believed benefits of forgiveness.

But what can really cleanse from sin? And what about sin not done in ignorance–deliberate?  What can cleanse my conscience? –nothing in the old covenant arrangement, glorious though it is. A better deal awaited God’s people, now come in the Christ and his offering for us.

So again you may ask, what are the regulations of the New Covenant?

Well there are none. There are patterns to guide us and above all the example of the Lord Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. The habits, practices and attitudes he demonstrated to his little band of followers are there for us to practice towards one another : love, forgiveness, joy, patience, service, cooperation, togetherness, thanksgiving. Here we are not remotely on the same planet as Law, rules and regulations.

Jesus has gone from us to a place where he is constantly at work for us.

And there is the glorious gift of his Spirit! In his place he sends the Holy Spirit! People in the NT era knew they had received the Spirit from Jesus. They knew because they could abound in the work of the Lord (1 Cor 15:26). They knew because they were members of a functioning body all joined together, each with manifestations of the Holy Spirit to encourage one another. They knew because the Word of God flowed from their hearts and through their lips. They were bold, courageous.

Yes. There is also the eternal Word of God by which we continually hear His voice. What marvellous resources!

Surely we have such abundance in this great design plan that Jesus has inaugurated! What need then do we have of formalised institutions and commercialised religion? Of priestcraft and liturgical magic?

To hang on to such substitutions instead of God’s creative, revealed ways is to dishonour Him. To hear and put into practice His ways is to honour Him, to hallow His name.

Hear!

You doing God’s stuff?

As we read in Hebrews 8:1-2, we do have a high priest, who sits in the place of absolute majesty in the Universe, and who serves in the real sanctuary, the most holy place, the true tent set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being. Under the Covenant with Israel long ago, God commanded an earthly, temporary, mobile sanctuary, a tent! a copy of the real sanctuary to be established by Moses with priests appointed under the law of Moses to offer up gifts and sacrifices.

But when Jesus came, he could not even approach the Tent of meeting—he was a layman! He was not even an acclaimed rabbi, let alone a priest (8:4).

Did you get that? He was a layman, not a priest! Yet in that humble form, with no religious or institutional status, he showed perfectly the character, the face, the loving-kindness and compassion of God! And by his life and death in that lowly status, he entered the TRUE sanctuary and forever abolished the whole system of exclusive priestcraft. He smashed for all time the clergy–laity hierarchy divide. So why does it still persist even in evangelical Protestant churches?

Look at Hebrews 8:5: that earthly tent made by Moses was just a copy, a shadow of the real, of what is actually in Heaven. Yet it had to be done kosher, right? So Moses was strictly warned by God:

 ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.’(Exodus 25:40

God gave Moses the pattern, the design plans, for the tent of meeting and the worship to be made by Israel, which was to be visible, not just virtual. These plans could not be compromised in any detail. Understand the seriousness of following the exact plans given by the Lord Architect, even under a temporary covenant. Moses was allowed to see the transcendent, glorious form and then was instructed to materialise what he saw. No additions. No subtractions.

Following God’s instructions, Moses fabricated, erected and furnished the Tent, not a permanent structure like the worldly religions everywhere else. God was on the move with his people! The living God cannot be compromised, cannot be reduced to images or reproduced in buildings.

Now, if it was so important for Moses and Israel, under an inferior and temporary covenant arrangement, to implement exactly the Lord’s design, how much more critical it was that the apostles correctly implement the Lord’s plans for the Body of Christ to be visible on the Earth and be on the move!

And the followers of Jesus, without any Jewish authority, did so, as our letter under review and the rest of the New Testament shows. They obeyed Jesus’ words and in the power of the Holy Spirit their obedience turned the world upside down. The evidence is there in all the New Testament scriptures. We have the Lord of glory on the move in his gathered people. We see Almighty God reproduced in the face of Jesus and visibly in his gathered people: God’s pattern!

Many Christian leaders tell us they cannot see the Lord’s design for gathering of God’s people which he handed down to the apostles, and which was then implemented under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. What! The pattern’s on every page of the New Testament. But we are so used to having a D.I.Y. religion based on human thinking, founded on worldly ideas, we just assume that what we have always done is right.

If the Lord is to be honoured and given the ‘worth-ship’ He deserves, a serious, radical and unbiased approach to the New Testament is needed to see  God’s pattern for his Body. But we must remove our churchy, religious glasses to see it, and to throw out both the baby and the bathwater.

Even more so, since Jesus’ own ministry is carried out, not in a mere replica of the heavenly, but in the dwelling place of God. His work is astronomically superior to the old Mosaic order. The new arrangement Jesus has made with his people is much superior to the old one as it is established on better promises. And itcalls for even closer attention from you and me, to what God wants and the careful putting into visible form, God’s perfect design for his people.

Notice Jesus’ terrifying answer  to the troubled question his politically correct and concerned disciples put to him after he had rebuked the Pharisees over what defiles a person (Mt 15:12-14): Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up!

God is jealous for his plans and designs for his work to be followed by his servants, including us. Look carefully and thoughtfully at what Jude wrote (Jude 3):

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

Are you prepared to see how proud arrogance, abysmal ignorance, sheer blindness, rank disobedience and shoulder-shrugging complacency has subjugated God’s perfect design in the totally controlled, commercialised, industrialised, entertainment-based, consumer oriented  Churchianity of today?  Stay tuned.