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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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The Eternal Sufficiency of the Blood of Christ

Christ is our Mediator through His blood; by it our conscience, is freed from sin in the sight of God. Martin Luther writes in this excerpt to help us understand:

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:11-15 ESV)

According to Leviticus 16, the high priest must once a year enter into the holy place with the blood of rams and other offerings, and with these make formal reconciliation for the people. This ceremony typified that Christ, the true Priest, should once die for us, to obtain for us the true atonement. But the former sacrifice, having to be repeated every year, was but a temporary and imperfect atonement; it did not eternally suffice, as does the atonement of Christ. For though we fall and sin repeatedly, we have confidence that the blood of Christ does not fall, or sin; it remains steadfast before God, and the expiation is perpetual and eternal. Under its sway grace is perpetually renewed, without work or merit on our part, provided we do not stand aloof in unbelief.

Christ, in God’s sight, purifies the conscience of dead works; that is, of sins meriting death, and of works performed in sin and therefore dead. Christ purifies from these, that we may serve the living God by living works. (“Christ Our Great High Priest”)

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Blessings to Come!

Martin Luther continues his exposition of Hebrews 9:11-15 in the excerpts below:

But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the New Testament that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. (Hebrews 9:11-15, Luther’s Translation?)

Christ’s blood has obtained for us pardon forever acceptable with God. God will forgive our sins for the sake of that blood so long as its power shall last and its intercession for grace in our behalf, which is forever. Therefore, we are forever holy and blessed before God. This is the substance of the text. Now that we shall find it easy to understand, we will briefly consider it.

The adornment of Aaron and his descendants, the high priests, was of a material nature, and they obtained for the people a merely formal remission of sins, performing their office in a perishable temple, or tabernacle. It was evident to men that their absolution and sanctification before the congregation was a temporal blessing confined to the present. But when Christ came upon the cross no one beheld him as he went before God in the Holy Spirit, adorned with every grace and virtue, a true High Priest. The blessings wrought by him are not temporal–a merely formal pardon–but the “blessings to come”; namely, blessings which are spiritual and eternal. Paul speaks of them as blessings to come, not that we are to await the life to come before we can have forgiveness and all the blessings of divine grace, but because now we possess them only in faith. . . .

The apostle does not name the tabernacle he mentions; nor can he, so strange its nature! It exists only in the sight of God, and is ours in faith, to be revealed hereafter. It is not made with hands, like the Jewish tabernacle; in other words, not of “this building.” The old tabernacle, like all buildings of its nature, necessarily was made of wood and other temporal materials created by God. God says in Isaiah 66:1-2: “What manner of house will ye build unto me? For all these things hath my hand made, and so all these things came to be.” But that greater tabernacle has not yet form; it is not yet finished. God is building it and he shall reveal it. Christ’s words are: [“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”] (John 14:3) (“Christ Our Great High Priest”)

The Spiritual Priesthood

In the Old Covenant, the priest offered sacrifices and sprinklings of blood which merely effected an external pardon. This absolution rendered no one inwardly holy and just before God. Something beyond this was necessary to secure true forgiveness. According to Martin Luther:

But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. (Hebrews 9:11-15, Luther’s Translation?)

An understanding of practically all of the Epistle to the Hebrews is necessary before we can hope to make this text clear to ourselves. Briefly, the epistle treats of a twofold priesthood. The former priesthood was a material one, with material adornment, tabernacle, sacrifices and with pardon couched in ritual; material were all its appointments. The new order is a spiritual priesthood, with spiritual adornments, spiritual tabernacle and sacrifices–spiritual in all that pertains to it. Christ, in the exercise of his priestly office, in the sacrifice on the cross, was not adorned with silk and gold and precious stones, but with divine love, wisdom, patience, obedience and all virtues. His adornment was apparent to none but God and possessors, of the Spirit, for it was spiritual.

Christ sacrificed not goats nor calves nor birds; not bread; not blood nor flesh, as did Aaron and his posterity: he offered his own body and blood, and the manner of the sacrifice was spiritual; for it took place through the Holy Spirit, as here stated. Though the body and blood of Christ were visible the same as any other material object, the fact that he offered them as a sacrifice was not apparent. It was not a visible sacrifice, as in the case of offerings at the hands of Aaron. Then the goat or calf, the flesh and blood, were material sacrifices visibly offered, and recognized as sacrifices. But Christ offered himself in the heart before God. His sacrifice was perceptible to no mortal. Therefore, his bodily flesh and blood becomes a spiritual sacrifice. Similarly, we Christians, the posterity of Christ our Aaron, offer up our own bodies (Rom 12:1). And our offering is likewise a spiritual sacrifice, or, as Paul has it, a “reasonable service”; for we make it in spirit, and it is beheld of God alone.

Again, in the new order, the tabernacle or house is spiritual; for it is heaven, or the presence of God. Christ hung upon a cross; he was not offered in a temple. He was offered before the eyes of God, and there he still abides. The cross is an altar in a spiritual sense. The material cross was indeed visible, but none knew it as Christ’s altar. Again, his prayer, his sprinkled blood, his burnt incense, were all spiritual, for it was all wrought through his spirit. Accordingly, the fruit and blessing of his office and sacrifice, the forgiveness of our sins and our justification, are likewise spiritual. (“Christ Our Great High Priest”)

Freedom and the Blood of Christ

Martin Luther, in the excerpt below, explains the necessity for the blood of Christ:

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:11-15 ESV)

Under the old law, which provided only for formal or ritualistic pardon, and restored to human fellowship, sin and transgressions remained, burdening the conscience. It–the old law–did not benefit the soul at all, inasmuch as God did not institute it to purify and safeguard the conscience, nor to bestow the Spirit. It existed merely for the purpose of outward discipline, restraint and correction. So Paul teaches that under the Old Testament dispensation man’s transgressions remained, but now Christ is our Mediator through his blood; by it our conscience, is freed from sin in the sight of God, inasmuch as God promises the Spirit through the blood of Christ. All, however, do not receive him. Only those called to be heirs eternal, the elect, receive the Spirit.

We find, then, in this excellent lesson, the comforting doctrine taught that Christ is he whom we should know as the Priest and Bishop of our souls; that no sin is forgiven, nor the Holy Spirit given, by reason of works or merit on our part, but alone through the blood of Christ, and that to those for whom God has ordained it. This matter has been sufficiently set forth in the various postils. (“Christ Our Great High Priest”)

What Have You Done With Your Soul?

Every one of us will stand before God and give an account of our lives. Think of it! God holds us responsible and accountable. We will stand before God and He will ask us, “What have you done with your soul?” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes on this subject:

This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:27-29 ESV)

Well, this Book [the Bible] tells you, this is the word of God. It tells us about God, Himself. As I told you He is the creator, He is the sustainer of everything. Yes, and He made man. Man is not an accident, you know, it is an insult to say that man is a creature that has evolved from the animal. It is not true. The Bible tells me that man has a dignity that makes him the lord of creation. Why? He has been created in the image and the likeness of God. We have an animal part but God has put something of Himself into us. When He came to make man He said, ‘Let us make man in our own image and likeness.’ He gave us reason, understanding, certain faculties and propensities that none of the animals have. And man is able to look on at himself and evaluate himself. Man! Yes and he is a responsible being to God. The popular theory is, as I say, that when a man dies that is the end. He is finished with. No! No! Says the Bible. Man is bigger than the universe; he has these qualities and potentialities in him. God has put them there and God holds man responsible and He is going to ask man at the end, ‘What have you done with the soul that I gave you? You may have made a lot of money; you may have garnered a lot of knowledge – what have you done with the soul – that part of you that was meant to commune with Me and to be my companion? What have you done with it?’ God is going to ask us – that is the judgment. (“A Kingdom Which Cannot Be Shaken”)

A Place Unshaken

I think that one of man’s ultimate fallacies is that he chooses to belong to kingdoms that can be shaken and removed. Man chooses to refuse the kingdom of God in order to build his own kingdom. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes on this topic:

This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:27-29 ESV)

Are you disappointed that the world is as it is? Are you astonished and are you amazed at it? Or does it fit in with your philosophy and your outlook and your point of view?

Do you understand why the world is as it is tonight? Can you explain it? The Christian, the true Christian, is not surprised that the world is as it is and he can understand why it is as it is. Can you? This is a very vital question. You see the trouble is that people refuse to think. They just wring their hands, they say, ‘Is it not terrible!’ But they must explain it, why is it that things are as they are in spite of all our amazing advances and developments in so many realms and spheres. Can you understand it? Can you explain it? If not, there is something wrong with your point of view. . . .

Now those are the questions I want to consider with you and I want to do so in the light of these verses that I have just read to you. This man was writing to a number of people who were known as Hebrew Christians; that means that they had been brought up as Jews but having heard the Christian Gospel they had left their old religion and the Temple and the ceremonial and the priesthood and they had espoused this new teaching, this new doctrine; they had become Christians. And for a while they were very happy. But then difficulties arose; they were persecuted; they were molested; they were tried grievously in many ways; and the result was that the faith of some of them was being shaken and they were beginning to look back with longing eyes to the old religion of their fathers. And this man writes to them because of that. He says you are not going back to that! That was only the type, that was only the preliminary, that has been shaken, that has been removed, that was only temporary. Do not go back to the temporary which can be shaken – hold on to the final, the ultimate, that which can never be moved and never be shaken.

But he goes beyond that and he reminds them, and through them he reminds us, that a day is coming when everything in this world that can be shaken is going to be shaken and that we, all of us, belong either to some kind of kingdom that can be shaken and removed, or we are citizens of a kingdom which cannot be shaken and which can never be moved. And in putting it like that, of course, this man is really giving us a summary of the message of the whole of the Bible from beginning to end. The Bible is a book which calls upon us all to make a decision. It tells us that there are two ways before us in this life and in this world. We can either build upon foundations which can be shaken and removed or else we can build on a foundation which can never be moved. . . . It says it either has to be God or mammon. You either enter by a strait gate onto a narrow way or you go with the crowd through the wide gate and the broad way that leadeth to destruction. And [all] the way through it puts the two possibilities before us, shows us the folly of the wrong choice and pleads with us to accept the true, the only way that leads to peace here in this world and a hope of glory for all eternity. (“A Kingdom Which Cannot Be Shaken”)

Our Times are in God’s Hands

Finding peace is impossible unless you yield your life to the will of God. Our times are in His hand. We must accept this as best for us. Waves of trouble may come against you, but it will soon be over. By and by when you enter heaven’s gate, you will see in the light of His Divine presence that “all things” did “work together” for good – your eternal good and the eternal good of all who love God. Thomas Watson (1620-1686) writes:

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:13 ESV)

Here is a breast of consolation to the saints of God (in these sad times), in the midst of all that hard measure they may meet with; let the world frown, let men persecute and calumniate, (and it may be, think they do God service), here is sap in the vine, a strong cordial to take, all things are naked. They do nothing but what our Father sees. They make wounds, and then pour in vinegar; God writes down their cruelty, he sees what rods they use, and how hard they strike; and he that hath an eye to see, hath also an hand to punish; ‘I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people,’ not only with an eye of providence, but with an eye of pity. This was a great comfort to David in his affliction, and was like a golden shield in the hand of his faith, ‘My groaning is not hid from thee,’ Psalm 38.6. When I weep, Christ weeps in my tears, he bleeds in my wounds. There are two bloods will cry: the blood of souls, when they have been starved or poisoned, and the blood of saints. I do not mean saints without sanctity, titular saints, but such as have Christ engraven in their hearts, and the word copied out into their lives: it is dangerous meddling with their blood; if we spill their blood, it is no better than spilling Christ’s blood, for they are members of his body, ‘In all their afflictions he was afflicted.’ The people of God are precious to him. . . .

God being so infinite in wisdom; if things go cross in church or state, take heed of charging God with folly; do not censure but admire. All things are naked. There is not any thing that stirs in the world, but God hath a design in it, for the good of his church: he carries on his designs by men’s’ designs: all things are unveiled to the eye of providence. God is never at a stand: he knows when to deliver, and how to deliver.

David saith, ‘My times are in thy hand,’ Psalm 31.15. If our times were in our own hand, we would have deliverance too soon; if they were in our enemy’s hand, we should have deliverance too late: But my times are in thy hand; and God’s time is ever best. Every thing is beautiful in its season: when the mercy is ripe, we shall have it. It is true; we are now between the hammer and the anvil: we may fear we shall see the death of religion, before the birth of reformation. But do not cast away your anchor; God sees when the mercy will be in season. When his people are low enough, and the enemy high enough, then usually appears the church’s morning-star: let God alone to his time. (God’s Anatomy upon Man’s Heart)

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