The Gospel and the Jehovah’s Witnesses (Intro)

 

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As Christians we are burdened and tasked with the great privilege & duty of sharing the life-giving Gospel. We have to share it wherever God places us, and with whoever God puts in our path.
It perhaps used to be the case that the Christians on the Island wouldn’t normally come into contact with people of other beliefs until they left the Island for education or for work.
The reality now is that walking around Stornoway you can now come into contact with at least five other major religious beliefs.

If we are to engage with those from other faiths, and share the Gospel with them, it makes sense for us to understand how they understand God/ salvation/ sin/ mankind etc.
Otherwise we will find ourselves talking past each other and not really getting anywhere!
We might begin talking to someone about salvation through Jesus alone, we might agree with each others main points, only then to find out that they think Jesus is not the eternal Son of God, rather he is a mere created being – produced by God the father and one of his many celestial wives (as is generally believed by the LDS Church (the Mormons).
We have to do the hard work, we have to prepare and study hard – most JW missionaries (the ones knocking on your door) pour hours of study each week into how to share their gospel with you.

There are a few warnings to take note of before we continue:

– I would not advise or suggest that new Christians or Christians who are going through a hard time in their walk should engage in this type of study. It is essential to have a good grasp of what you believe, before you begin to engage. You are dealing with something that is truly dangerous and that requires the full armour of God. It is never purely academic, this is real spiritual warfare.

– Before you begin any form of study into other religions, start by reading Scripture,  worship, and prayer. Pray that God would keep you safe from what you are about to study. You might accuse me of being far too cautious or dramatic, but we have to be mindful that when we are dealing with false beliefs and sects we are dealing with evil, we are studying ideas and thoughts that have come from the enemy of God.
We should prepare ourselves accordingly.

– Our study of other beliefs should never overtake our own personal devotional life and study. There is always a real danger that we dedicate too much time and thought to the study of these things, and let our own spiritual walk suffer.

– When we engage with those caught up and blinded in other beliefs we have to remember that once we were just and blinded as they still are, that the same God who opened our eyes to the glorious truth is more than able to do the same for them also.

Originally this was going to be more wide ranging, but with the recent increase in activity on the Island from the Jehovahs Witnesses (JW’s) I thought it might be best to take the time to look at what they believe and how we might engage them with the Gospel.
They are currently building a new Church in Stornoway, when it is completed this will more than likely mean that more JW families will move to the Island. What an incredible Gospel opportunity this gives us!
They come to ur doors, let’s be ready to listen to them, to talk with them, and to share with then the true life giving and life saving Gospel.

Upcoming posts:

1- JW Beliefs Basics 1
2- JW Beliefs Basics 2
3- The Most Common Passages
4- Sharing the Gospel 1
5-  Sharing the Gospel 2
6- What we need to Know

 

As always, comments & thoughts always appreciated.

 

 

Five misused Bible verses: Number One, Matthew 18:20

Matthew 18:20

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

How many of us have heard this verse used in public prayer? How many of us are guilty of using this verse in our own public prayer?
I certainly am, until recently I would happily repeat this wonderful verse in our small prayer meeting, or during times of fellowship.

Now I know you’re wondering why I’ve said I’m guilty of using this verse, surely there’s nothing wrong with quoting Scripture during prayer?
And you’re perfectly right, it’s great to use Scripture in our prayer, but only if the Scripture we use makes any sense what so ever in what we are praying about!

This verse is almost always used to encourage us that no matter how small the gathering may be that God is still there with us. It’s used as a rallying call to encourage us , even if the numbers are low, It’s used in every type of fellowship and gathering , when in reality it only makes real sense in one specific situation. Whilst the message is right, using this verse to back-up this message certainly isn’t.

Let’s look at the verse in it’s context, it appears near the end of Mathew 18, a section of Scripture that is dealing with Church discipline. This chapter is teaching us what to do if a brother or sister is sinning against us. Let’s look at verses 15 – 20: [Emphasis is mine]
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Here we see Jesus teaching his disciples that in them gathering together as a Church to discuss important matters (here it is the case of Church discipline), that he will be with his Church, as they seek to be led and guided by him. This verse is about the Church meeting together as a body, knowing that as they meet seeking his guidance, he promises to be with them.

Let’s think about it another way, if this verse is really saying “don’t worry if there’s only a few of you, as long as  there’s more than two, God will be there”, then we have to ask what about an individual Christian, when they pray or praise God, does he not hear them?
It also implies that God needs some type of quota to be reached before he bothers being present. We know this is not biblical, and just plain silly, we have the assurance from God that wherever his people are gathered he will be there, simply because the Spirit lives inside each and every Christian:
“However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.  But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”Romans 8:9

So let’s be careful not to twist the words of God, by doing so in this situation we run the danger of saying that God is not continually present with his people, going against one of the most beautiful  promises that we have as Christians.

Five misused Bible verses

“We are nothing more than the result of evolution, born out of primordial ooze which started on a planet in a universe that was nothing more than a collection of elements that came from a random expansion some 14 billion years ago.”
This is a quote from my last post, as it is quoted here this would probably result in more than a  few questions from my brothers and sisters, and possibly from my minister?
On closer inspection of the original post you will see that this was in the context of those with no belief in a creator God, and not my own personal views.
In all forms of media and communication , context is everything. It forms the simple difference between:
“…the fire burnt for the rest of the night and was seen from the next village…”
and
“After the fireworks display and the barbeque were done, the fire burnt for the rest of the night and was seen from the next village, as the celebrations continued.”

Those who attack the word of God often like to quote the Bible out of context, either intentionally or through ignorance of the wider context.
But the fact is that Christians are also guilty of cutting down the word of God into tweet-sized pieces, and in doing so, ripping the verses out of it’s original context in order to fit in with the point we are trying to make.
I am not saying that we must always quote the whole paragraph or chapter, some verses are perfectly clear  when they are quoted as a single verse.
The problem arises when we cut and snip the text into verses which sound great, and which might well carry some truth about God, but which do not reflect the full meaning  or the context of the passage that we snatched them from.

Starting with Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered…”, we can go on to look at five commonly misused Bible verses.

“the hope that you have”

Gaelic is a notoriously difficult language to learn, this is partly due to it’s grammatical structures, take, for example,  this common phrase:
“Alba gu bràth” = Scotland forever
That’s all well and good, if not a bit cheesy, but countless times I have seen it written as:
“Alba gu brath” = Scotland (for) spy/ Scotland (for) treachery

More than a slight difference!

And its all down to that little stroke above the à. That little stroke is called a grave and it appears above the vowels in various words of the same spelling, it’s appearance can drastically change the meaning of the word, and indeed the meaning of the whole sentence or text.
It’s a very easy mistake to make, and in a glance it makes no real difference to the phrase, it still pretty much reads the same. Only  on more careful inspection do you notice the difference, and only once engaged in a deeper study do you see the massive difference it has made to the text.

Countless times in Scripture we are told to carefully study the word of God, the study of this word guides our steps (Psalm 119:105), it helps to keep us from sin (Psalm 119:11), it is a weapon that can outperform any other (Hebrews 4:12),  it nourishes us (Luke 4:5) and it is part of the armor of the Christian (Ephesians 6:10-18). Not just part of the armor but it is our only form of attack – it is our sword. And like a fighter with his word, if we are not well practiced in it’s use then we will not fight effectively with it.

Since  bible is our sword, our  form of attack, this makes it a prime target for our enemy. The enemy is expert at trying to twist the and turn the sword so much that it becomes of no use to us.

We can see this right back when our first parents fell into sin, what tempted them to sin ?
Well it was of course Satan twisting God’s words, “Did God actually say…”, iIn Genesis 3:1-5 we see the first time the enemy twists the words of God for his own ends, we see it again when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness –  Satan came to him with parts of scripture, attempting to make Jesus sin. How did Jesus stop Satan ? He answered his twisted scripture with Scripture.

It’s no different in our world today, there are plenty groups willing to twist the word of God to their own ends. If we don’t know  One example is to be found in the New world Translation, this is the scripture used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, if you take a brief glance through it it looks just the same as any other Bible translation, but like our Gaelic phrase, on closer inspection there some small changes that in the text that completely shift the meaning and purpose of the Gospel. A subtle, but incredibly important, difference is to be found in their translation of John 1:1 :

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.

One extra letter and Christ is robbed of his divinity, his special place at the right hand of the Father is gone. He is now just one god among many. One letter changes all that we believe Christ to be, and if he was not who he claimed to be, he was a liar, and if he was a liar then we have no hope for salvation.
By that small twist in the word of God we see the whole plan of salvation collapsing down. There are plenty of examples of this throughout the book.

Our reading and study of the Bible cannot just be glancing or superficial, if we are to grow and if we are to stand strong and be able to defend our faith, we need to know and understand what Scripture says.
If someone challenges or asks us why isn’t the New world Translation right, why not the Qur’an why not the book of Mormon?

We have to be, as Peter wrote, “prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”(1 Peter 3:15). And as Paul wrote to Timothy, “be ready in season and out of season; [to] reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.“(2 Timothy 4:2)

What is this hope that the Christian has?
It is the sure hope that we are not our own, we were bought with a price (1Cor6:20), that we worship a saviour who knows our afflictions and weakness yet is himself sinless (Heb4:15), that we worship the King who came down out of Glory to die at the hands of his own creations(Col1:16), we worship a saviour who promises to one day come back and collect his church to be with him for all eternity.(Matt24:31)

That is our hope.

Without Scripture, without the word of God, we would know none of this. So since we do have access to the very words of God we should take more care in the study of them.
Of course we wont understand everything we read, in fact, if in our reading we have no questions at all then maybe our reading isn’t going very deep.
We have to pray that the Spirit would open our eyes to what is being read, after all he inspired the writers on the first place. This is also one of the reasons that we have the Church, so we can, as brothers and sisters, discuss these passages with one another, and together grow stronger in the use of our only weapon.

“The more you read the Bible; and the more you meditate on it, the more you will be astonished with it.
– Charles Spurgeon

 

 

“The lights are on, but the Spirit’s not home…”: The Church of Sardis

Ruins at  Sardis

Revelation 3 verses 1 to 6

There are plenty of reasons for us to worry about the state of the Churches in our country, most of the news looks bad, and the prospects might not seem much better. But in these verses we see a Church that Jesus himself called dead, but he did not leave them without hope. We can look at what it means to be a healthy Church, and look at the hope that Christ offered to the dead Church in this town of Sardis.

The city of Sardis was a very wealthy one, in its time it had been famous for making woollen fabrics, colourful dyes, jewellery and other various types of and for being city of military power. But it also was a centre of pagan worship, there were two big temples dedicated to the gods Artemis and Cybele. It was believed that Cybele had the power to bring people back to life. They believed her to be the God who formed the world, if she was still worshipped she would be a Mother Earth type figure.

Before we go on to look at the church we must address the phrase we have in verse 1, and look briefly at the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.
In chapter one and verse 4 we have a similar phrase:
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne “
So who or what are these seven Spirits of God?, very often when we see numbers used in Scripture it is not too beneficial for us to delve to deep into their meaning, but in this verse it is made plain to us that we need not delve into studying all the biblical numerology, the seven spirits refers to the Holy Spirit and his operations/ his moving in the seven churches we have in these chapters, it is talking about what the Holy Spirit has to say to each of the seven churches. This is shown to us by what we see at the end of all the letters to the churches :
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

And what about the seven stars ? Well they are of course the seven ministers/pastors that were over these seven churches, elsewhere in these letters we see them called the seven candle stands, they were set over the churches to give light and guidance to the congregation. This follows directly on from the phrase about the Spirit’s involvement in the churches. Showing us that the lights of thee stars or these candles only exist because of the Holy Spirit and his guidance and leading.
So this phrase talks about the Holy Spirit’s individual involvement in the seven Churches and the seven stars refer to the pastors/ministers that were over these Churches As we can see from verse one this Church is accused by Christ, accused of being dead, what a horrifying condemnation to hear from the one who truly sees our heats and our intentions !

This Church which was known for its vitality and for its works. They might have had a large congregation, much money and we can see they were well known, we don’t read of any unhappiness or divisions amongst them, so why then were they called dead ?

Well much like the city they were living in, the Church was living on it’s past glories, they were relying on their great history to take them through each day. As G. Campbell Morgan put it:
They had reputation but no reality”
As well as a message for the Church, this applies to individual Christians also, we cannot live each day relying on how strong our faith was – or by looking back all the time. If we base our life on the past then how can we expect to move forward and grow in our faith ? Yes, look back and marvel at how God carried us through. But we can’t linger on the past and not want to grow in our faith.
The Church is Sardis had become stagnant, and slowly entered into state of temporal spiritual death. This of course did not mean that they had all lost their salvation, as we will see later.
But it did mean that they ,as a Church, were no longer performing the real functions that the church was established to do.
So then what are the marks of a living church ?

A.
A living church seeks God’s glory above all other things:
“Not to us, O LORD, not to us, But to Your name give glory Because of Your loving kindness, because of Your truth.” – Psalm 115 verse 1
They seek God’s glory because they recognise that they were created for that very reason, as we have it in our first catechism:
“What is the chief end of man?

Answer. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.”
If a church begins to glorify In it own reputation, or in numbers or in the money it brings in, as soon as it starts to move it’s eyes away from praising Christ then it instantly starts to fall away and to slip into a deep sleep. This is something which we very sadly do see happening in the Church around us, emphasis is put on everything else apart from the very God who formed the Church in the first place. Much like Peter when he was on the water with Christ and he began to sink the moment he moved his eyes away from Jesus.

B.
Secondly a living Church is a loving church, a congregation that treats one another like brother and sister, that treats each individual as an essential part of the body of Christ. Ephesians 4 verse 16 (talking about Christ):
“From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
A dying church shows partiality, it does not care for each and every one of its members. Valuing some of the congregation above others.
But we are strictly commanded in the word of God not to be partial in the love of our brethren:
“But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”
-James 2 verse 9

We must care for one an other, build each other up, offer guidance and give discipline so that we may all grow together. Doing this results in a Church that knows and loves its members and accordingly minister to them as personally needed.

C.
Thirdly a living Church Teaches the true and un-altered word of God, it does not change it’s teachings or its messge depending on the situation or on what the common thought of the day is. Again this is something we see happening very often, the message is watered down and in the worst cases its utterly altered.
But we know that God’s revealed word is never to be changed:
-Deuteronomy 4 verse 2:
“You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you ”
Proverbs 30 and verse 6:
Do not add to his words,lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar
-Revelation 22 verses 18-19:
“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book:if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. ”
In any way to purposefully alter the revealed Word of God is severely condemned.
But a living Church preaches and teaches the word as it is, with no alteration. Because a living Church recognises that only God’s unchanged word and law can reach the very heart of its listeners, not just tickle their ears and make them feel warm and fuzzy for a while:
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; ” -Psalm 19 verse 7
A watered down message will impress for a while but it will not settle in the heats of its listeners, only the true Words of God, taught faithfully can impact on the heart.


D.
A living Church cares for the community around itself. It is not a closed community that only caters for the saved, no it is to seeks to reach out to the lost, to point a hurting and sinful world to Christ. None of us have any excuse not to be witnesses, we all know plenty of people who do not know Christ, they are our mission field.
We all know the Words of Christ in Matthew 28 verses 18-20:
“And Jesus came and said to them,“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,baptising them in he name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
In the words of the Theologian, John Murray:
“Preach abroad. It is the cooping yourselves up in rooms that has dampened the work of God, which never was and never will be carried out to any purpose without going into the highways and hedges and compelling men and women to come in.”

These are just few of the marks of a living Church.
But we can see from verses two and three, that even though Christ gave a warning to this Church, he did not fully condemn them.
Although they had stopped acting like a living Church, they had not fully abandoned faith, we can see that from the verse , Christ tells them to strengthen what remains. Some faith still remained in this Church.
They were not beyond the summons of Christ, if only the would listen to his instructions to remember, obey and repent.
Christ tells them to wake up. Twice in it’s history Sardis was over-run by its enemies, both of these time was due to the watchmen not staying at their posts and placing their confidence in the cities defences, rather than doing their jobs and watching out for the enemies.
It is Christ that keeps the Church, even though they may wander far from what they were called to be, only with his words he can restore them back to life.
This is why we should not totally despair for the Church when we see things the way they are today, we are Christ’s bride, it is him alone that takes care of the Church even through the toughest times:
“Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the Lord, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.”
-Jeremiah 2 verse 2

Even though the Church may be going through a difficult time, through ground that does indeed seem dry and into are as not yet sown with the Gospel seed, we must still keep our trust in Christ. Trust in him because it is Christ that is the same yesterday, today and forever, He was with the Church through its toughest times in the past and he will be same with the Church in our day, and will continue with the Church until he comes again.

Psalm 119 verse 54 (Part One): “Thy statutes have been my songs…”

Psalm 119 is divided into 22 different sections. With each section containing 8 verses, the first letter of each verse is the letter which gives its name to the section.
Each section title are the letters of the Hebrew Alphabet. More than likely this was to aid in the memorisation of the Psalm, all they need do was think on their alphabet to then remember the corresponding verse. There are seven other Psalms which follow this acrostic pattern.
The whole Psalm has its focus around the laws and Word of God, how one should keep to them. The dangers if they are not kept to and the blessings received if they are adhered to. In fact, in the whole Psalm there are only two verses out of the 176 that do not explicitly mention a term or description of Gods word.

For this first blog we can look at the first section of the verse :
“Thy statutes have been my songs…”

We can look at it under three headings :
1- The statutes of God.
2- The Law fulfilled in Christ.
3- The song of the Christian.

1.Firstly we can look at the statutes of God.
In the Psalm the Psalmist uses a variety of terms to describe the word of God – He uses the terms :
Law/ testimonies/ precepts/ commandments/ ordnances and promises.           But here we have the statues of God, the statues of God mean those things that have been set in stone, the things that will never be altered. Those things which God have eternally decreed.                                                                                 The first time we see God giving statues to his people is on Mount Sinai, with Moses reviving the ten commandments on the tablets of stone. God had before this given instructions to his people, and promises to individuals.But this is the first time God provided a statute to his people as a whole.
Although we do refer to them as commandments, God’s word refers to them as statutes and rules, Deuteronomy 5 verse 1 :                                                     “And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the rules that I speak in your hearing today, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them.1”

(It must be noted though that these descriptions for Gods Word do often overlap, and in different translations different words are used for them.)

But The ten commandments were, in the most literal sense, statutes from God. They were engraved both physically on stone but also eternally engraved on the hearts and minds of all those who become followers of Christ. The writer of Hebrews refers to this when he quotes Jeremiah chapter 31 and verse 33 :         “I will put my laws into their hearts and in their minds I will write them. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people ”.                                                            A work which can only be done by the spirit working in the life of the Christian.

So that is the definition of the statutes of God, those things which he has declared. They are a clear communicated prescription of what one should do, those things that will never end, the statutes are written in eternity and will last as long as eternity itself.

So what then are the consequences for following or for not following the statutes of God ?
If we live a life that follows the statutes that God has set down then we are offered this promise from God, Leviticus chapter 26: 11-12:                                               “I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.”

But if we do not follow the statutes that God set down then in 1Kings 9: 6-8, we see set before us part of the punishment :
“But if you turn aside from following me, you or your children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes that I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land that I have given them, and the house that I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight, and Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And this house will become a heap of ruins. “
So you see not following the statutes of God have serious consequences, but the truth is that by ourselves we cannot hope to follow these statutes we fall so very short of them.                                                                                                         But we are not left in this hopeless situation, we have been given a solution in Christ.

2. Two “The Law Fulfilled in Christ”                                                                        As we said earlier the statutes were part of this overarching Law of God, all of the statutes and ordinances, precepts and commandments and promises that he has set.

It can be often hard understanding how the law of the Old testament  can be reconciled with Jesus, how to understand that in Him was the whole law of God fulfilled.
As we have it in Matthew chapter 5 and verse 17 :
““Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.”

So in order to see how Christ fulfilled the law we can again look at the law of God as we find it in the Old testament. We will of course find many divers laws ,commandments and promises all given by God throughout the Old testament.
One way in which we can seek to better understand the Law is by grouping it under three different headings, and then looking at each heading as a whole.
This separation of the law under three different headings can be found in both the works of Calvin and in the ‘Westminster Confession of Faith’.                            For each separation of the law we can look at the ‘Westminster Confession of Faith’ wording of it, what type of instruction it contained and how it was fulfilled in Christ.

The three separations :
A. The Moral Law
B. The Ceremonial Law
C. The Civic Law

It must first be said that all the laws do not perfectly fit into one of the three categories but whether they fit into one category or more than one it does not matter, for they were all fulfilled through Christ.

A. Firstly the moral law:
“This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables: the first four commandments containing our duty towards God; and the other six, our duty to man.”

The moral law was quite simply the ten commandments given by God to Moses and the people of Israel. Commandments on how we should live a life that is God pleasing and strives to give him the glory ,and to love and assist those around us.
But of course we simply cannot hope to fulfil perfectly these 10 commandments. And in failing to fulfil this law of God we are condemned to Death.

So How was the moral law fulfilled in Christ ?
Well we have that in Romans 7: 4-6:
“Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work kin our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”

Because Christ lived a perfect life that fully completed and fulfilled the law, if we are in him, if we are saved, we are new creatures. Christ in his life and his actions perfectly fulfilled all the ten commandments. If we are in him then our transgressions of these laws no longer condemn us to death. We are covered by him.

B. Secondly we have the Ceremonial law:
“ Besides this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a church under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, His graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits;and partly, holding forth divers instructions of moral duties. All  which ceremonial laws are now abrogated, under the New Testament.”

As we just read,The Ceremonial law contained all the many sacrifices that God required from the Children of Israel, it also contained the strict and precise rules by which the priests were to serve God and the people also.
But all these sacrifices and regulations were there to point towards Christ , to the final Sacrifice.
So in Christ living and then dying on the cross, and of course being raised again, he perfectly completed all the sacrifices. As we have it in Hebrews Chapter 10: 11-13:
And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”
If you take the time to look at the sacrifices and look at just how perfectly they pointed towards this final sacrifice, it is a humbling and incredible study.

C. So thirdly the Civic Law, or the judicial Law                                                      “To them also, as a body politic, He gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging under any now…”

The civic laws were the laws of the land along with the commandments which carried with them a form of penal punishment.                                                   (There are of course some overlaps here with the previous two separations.)
It also include all the laws concerning land, and the division of it. Any law which affected the life of the people of Israel.

But with the coming of Christ, the lords people now was made up form people from many different nations. It was no longer exclusive to Israel, the Gospel was to reach Gentiles, in far countries.
The Laws which had been established to suit a singular nation in certain time, could now no longer apply to many peoples in many nations living in different times.
Genesis: 49:10:
“The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.”
Some commentators say Shiloh means peace other say it means sent, Spurgeon says that regardless which word is picked it is clear that this verse is referring to Christ.
When Christ comes the sceptre of judicial law is to depart.

Therefore in his coming Christ fulfilled all the Law, so that all those who believed and trusted in him would not be held accountable as law breakers. And therefore not liable to be condemned to death because of that sin.

3.The Song of the Christian.

In the verse that we had, the Psalmist is giving praise to God for his statutes, proclaiming that Gods statutes, Gods law was a like a song for him. The word used here for song is used else where to describe a sweet song, and the singing of birds.
For the Psalmist Gods law is not some monotonous chant, it is a melodious song of praise.

The song that the world offers is not a song of joy, we cannot make a song out of what the world offers .The song of the world is comprised of disappointments, sadness, pride, sin and death.
The Song of the Christian is comprised from the very words of the creator of the universe.

But the Psalmist did not have the complete law. The law was not yet fulfilled. But in Christ we have the completed law.                                                                   Colossians 2 verse 9-10:
“For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority.”

If The psalmist had such joy over a law that was not yet complete, then how much more should we rejoice with a law that is fulfilled ?
If we love Christ and trust in him:
-We need not make constant sacrifices, that will never truly atone for our sins.
-All the many times that we break the moral law, all the many times that we break the commandments of God it does not get counted against us.

The Christian has countless reasons to rejoice, despite their daily sin, they are eternally forgiven by God. Washed clean in the blood of Jesus.

But if you are reading this and you are not Christian, then the truth is you are still under the law. Every time you break on of the commandments it is counted against you every single sin being placed against your name. And the Bible is clear about living a life without Jesus Romans 6:23:                                          “The wages of sin is death…” And if that was the end of the story then reading that would be shattering for all of us as we have all sinned, but then we have the second half of the verse: “but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
There is hope , no matter how bad , how sinful you you think you are.No matter how old or how no young. No matter what excuse you might use for not being a Christian.                                                                                                                   If you call out to Jesus ask him to forgive you, then God is faithful to his promises. And he offers eternal life to you, offered freely.
Please think about that before you sleep tonight. If you do you could start tomorrow as new creation, living the life that you were created to live.

1. Jesus Our High Priest

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Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”

– Hebrews 2 verse 17

The first office (or role) of Christ we can look at is that of High Priest. In order for us to do this we can look at three main things.

1. How Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Old Testament role of High Priest

2. Looking at what it means that he “made propitiation for the sins of the people”

3. Looking at what it means for us to be a “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9)

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1. So firstly looking at how Christ fulfilled/perfected the Old Testament role of High Priest.

In order to do this we must look at the main roles of the High Priests in the Old Testament, then see how Christ’s life compared to these roles.

1. Firstly the High Priests were appointed by God and were chosen by succession. If the son of a High Priest was deemed worthy of the office then it would be given to him.

We first see this with Aaron being appointed High Priest and then his sons after him (Exodus 28 verse 1) this then carried down the generations with the most worthy and God fearing of the sons being chosen as the next High Priest. But even though it was a hereditary office, this line of men were still chosen by god in order to serve him, just not chosen in a direct sense of the word. Off course with Christ we see this this being made perfect by the fact that Christ was explicitly chosen by God in order to perform his service (Matthew 3:17) This voice from heaven , was the guarantee that this Christ was chosen by God. It is interesting to note here that Christ did not make himself High Priest. But instead he was specifically appointed by the father to carry out this role , Hebrews 5 and verse 5 :
“So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”

Just as the High priests were chosen of God by being descendants of Arron , Christ was also chosen by God, but in a direct and clear way. The office of High priest was explicitly and eternally given to Christ by His father.

2. Secondly the High priests were to offer up prayer on behalf of the people. This was especially noted and important on the Day of atonement (which we will look at in more detail later on)  But it was the duty of the High priest to offer up petitions for his own sins and the sins of the nation. This was intercessory prayer, praying on behalf of others , petitioning for them.
Again although these high priests may have been genuine in their prayer, their sins still barred them from having any place before God. The gap of the fall prevented them from having any real or lasting access to God.
In our state of sin and depravity we can not hope to draw near to God in prayer. We need one to bridge that gap for us , we need one to pray for us and on our behalf.
That is why Christ became our intercessor. As we have in Hebrews Chapter 7 and verse 25 :
“Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
Christ through his willing sacrifice crossed the gap between God and man , only through him are we granted any access to God in prayer.
But its not just that we can pray to God through him , its also that  he is in continual prayer for us also. As the verse has it he lives to make intercession for us.

3. Thirdly the High priests were to be Holy and live set apart lives. Leviticus 21 and verse 6 shows us this :
“They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God. For they offer the LORD’s food offerings, the bread of their God; therefore they shall be holy.”
The Priests were to live lives that were different from the rest of the nation, it was their wholes life’s duty to remain as sinless as possible and to dedicate their time to the service of God. But this sinlessness was in no way a lasting state of being. They  did strive to remain sinless but off course they would have sinned and sinned countless times. But in Christ we had more than a high priest who strived to be sinless , we hjad one who was wholly without sin or blemish. In Hebrews 4 and verse 15 we have this demonstrated to us:
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin”
As well as showing his sinlessness , this verse again develops on the fact that Christ is  our High Priest. Christ’s Holy and perfect life plays a role in our salvation , not just his death and resurrection. If Christ had sinned then his death would be nothing the more than the death of a really good sinner, but it would mean nothing for our salvation.

4. Lastly the priests were to sacrifice out of thanksgiving and out of repentance.The priests would daily sacrifice two lambs ,as we have it in Exodus 29and verse 39:
“One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight.”
But there were many sacrifices offered throughout the year on various feast days and days of celebration.On the feast of the tabernacles there were to be 199 animals sacrifices, on Passover week there were 77 to be sacrificed, 96 Sabbaths sacrifices, 708 daily sacrifices.
In one year there was over 1200 Animals sacrificed by the priests.
But these sacrifices were preformed by the priests , it was the role of the high priest to preform the sacrifices on one of the most important days of the Jewish calander.
The day of atonement.
This day was so special and set apart that instead of the usual cleaning of the hands and feet , the high Priest would have to bathe his whole body and also thoroughly was his garments.
By looking at what took place on this Day of Atonement we can begin to clearly see Christ as our ultimate sacrifice.

 2. Christ as our Reconciliation /or Christ as our propitiation

On the Day of atonement  which took place in September-October) the nation would spend the day in mourning, it was a day of national repentance.One of the practices of this day included two goats. It is this practice which we can look at in more detail.
In our verse , verse 17 we have it described to us that Christ is our reconciliation to God /or some translations may have propitiation.

The Greek term for reconciliation is  KAT-AL-AG-AY .

In this word we find to principles, the principle of expiation and the principle of propitiation. It is these two principles in which we can

A1.
The first goat would be killed and its blood was then sprinkled on the mercy seat. The Mercy seat was the covering on top of the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark which symbolized Gods presence among his people, this ark was sprinkled with this goat’s blood in order to make symbolize the temporary atonement that was made between God and the people of Israel.

In Leviticus chapter 17 verse 11 we can see this concept more clearly explained:
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.”
The goat was sacrificed due to this principle. This is the principle of Propitiation: The Holy and just wrath of God being satisfied by the only true satisfaction  for sin, that is death.

A2.
The second goat was not killed , instead Aaron (and all the High Priests that came after him) would place both hands on the head of the live goat and then speak out all the sins that the nation had committed.  This symbolically represented placing the nations sins onto the goat. The goat was then taken out from the people into the wilderness and  released.

This represented the sins of the people being removed from them into the wilderness to not be seen again. This is the principle of expiation.

But the Old Testament Day of Atonement was not an everlasting covenant. The blood of animals could in no way permanently cover the sins of the people. This is of course why Jesus needed to come down and become the perfect sacrifice.

Jesus Became our perfect propitiation and expiation.

In order to make this more clear we can think of the cross

B1.
The vertical beam of wood in the cross represents the satisfaction of  Gods justified wrath.  Unlike the temporary  covering that the blood of the goat offered, the blood of Jesus has eternally appeased the wrath of God that is directed towards sinners who do not repent.

The vertical beam can remind us of the coming down of Christ from heavenly realms to the sinful earth in order to become our eternal propitiation. We have this plainly written for us in 1 John 4 verse 10 :
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

B2.
The horizontal beam of wood on the cross we can take to represent the expiation that Christ carried out by dying for us. Just as the goat symbolically took the sins away from the people , by his death on the cross Christ removed from us our sin, we were reconciled by his death.

It is this continual removal of the sins of those that believe and trust in Jesus that should leave us in awe of what he has done for us. By his death we are not only made right in the sight of God , but we are also continually cleansed of our sins. Our sins are now no longer accounted against us ,  they are “as far as the east is from the west,”– psalm 103 verse 12

Jesus is our perfect expiation 1 John 1 verse 9 :
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”

Both Goats were essential for the people to be temporally  forgiven of their sin. In Jesus we have both the propitiation of the righteous anger of God being eternally appeased and the expiation of former sinners now being called clean and becoming sons and daughters of God.

But the reverse of this is , if we do not hold Christ as our Lord , and if we do not love him as our king or our saviour. Then Gods wrath is not turned away from us and our sins are in no way forgiven.

It is solemn and it should make us stop and think, we are being offered with salvation, offered with the love and forgiveness of God. But if we do not acknowledge the offer then we are still slaves to sin and we can in no way hope to enter into heaven.

3 . Looking at what it means for us to be a “royal priesthood”

If we are Christians , if we have been cleansed form our sins and forgiven due to Christs sacrifice for us then are called into service.We can see that call in 1 Peter chapter 2 verse 9 :
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

So what does it mean for us to be called a royal priesthood ?

1. Well firstly it means that we must commit ourselves to intercessory prayer, we must be willing to pray for those who see no need to pray for themselves. And trusting that God is sovereign in all that he does.
First Timothy 2 and verse 1:
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,

2. It also means that we must strive to live Holy lives, and set apart lives. Of course we must be part of the world , we must live out our daily lives , but we are no first and fore most servants to our Lord:
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

3. And it also means that we should seek to grow in our knowledge and in our love of our Lord and saviour. The Christian should willingly give up time each day in order to read the word of God and to offer our prayers to him. And off course we must also be willing to be with Gods people.

 In conclusion.
In Christ we have the fulfillment of all the roles of the Old Testament High Priest.
In Christ we also have find reconciliation. Through his death we are eternally forgiven and eternally cleansed form our sins. And if we are forgiven then we in turn are no called priests, set aside by God for his service.