The contrast and plan of God between the Jewish believer in the prior law-dispensation and the Christian believer in the present Gospel-dispensation is often mistakenly misunderstood. The difference between the two dispensations does not present an issue of conflicting interest, but is an issue concerning that of God’s chosen revelatory manner of reaching to mankind.
The prior dispensation was limited to one nation of the world in order that His desires may be more clearly seen by being focused on a single people whose place in God was a representative analogy to the eventual redemption of those among the entire world.
The liturgies of the church today invariably fall back upon the feelings of man, with a slight tincture of Gospel and a large infusion of law. There may be sublime language and glowing ideas, chiefly borrowed from the Old Testament, but in substance they are utterly beneath intelligent Christian use—far more Jewish than Christian.
True worship is always according to revelation of the Word. What then could it be where salvation is not? The Jewish worship was set out in figures and shadows; it was a hope, not an actual relationship and possession (i.e. people of God through the Law of Moses instead of children of God through the Gospel of Christ—NC). The Jews were looking—and they were right in looking—for the Messiah, who would not only tell, but accomplish all things; He whom they were right in looking for was to be a Savior. The salvation that the Jews had before their eyes was still a thing in prospect, and not yet brought home to the heart as a present reality. While they waited for the Messiah, the worship was suited to their state. It was surrounded with priests and forms, which showed that the way was not made manifest into the Holiest (Heb 9:8).
But and end came to this state of promise and provisional imagery. The veil was rent from top to bottom, when the Jews led the Gentiles to crucify their Messiah, God’s Son. Wonderful to say, in that crime of man, in the Cross, God wrought redemption; and man first stood in the presence of the Father, a Savior God. The whole Jewish system was at an end; it was dead if not yet buried, for God allowed a decent time for the funeral. But Judaism cast away life in rejecting the Messiah—Calvary proved that.
When we come to search and understand the distinctive truths of the New Testament, we see the immense change in worship now connected with the accomplishment of the revelation of the Lord Jesus, His work, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Hence from His rejection the Lord (as the Spirit afterward) was gradually unfolding, as the disciples could bear, the new order of things; for those accustomed to the old wine did not relish the new all at once. They frequented the temple at the hour of prayer, though they went to their houses to break bread. For a little while they were half Jews and half Christian—as are so many today.
But God was about to lead them out finally, and the Epistles to the Hebrews cut the last cord which bound the Christian Jew to the old economy (dispensation). From that moment it was unfaithfulness to Christ, as He was now made known, to linger among the old things. In the same Epistle the Spirit instructs us in Christian worship as contrasted with the Levitical system. What do we find? The legal sacrifices superseded by that of the Lord Jesus, and the Jewish sanctuary, figure of the true into which the Lord Jesus is gone and we draw nigh in faith.
The old sacrifices were always necessarily renewed (Heb 10:1); the Christian knows but one sacrifice, and the reason why is, that it was brought to perfection. Otherwise you only repeat and thereby give witness that you have nothing complete and perfect. But the essence of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God is that it is once offered (Heb 10:10), and by that one offering He has not merely sanctified (1 Cor 6:11; Heb 2:11), but perfected forever them that are sanctified (Heb 10:14).
Nothing can be more distinctive than the doctrine of the Apostle Paul as to the offering of Christ for the Christian. He is looking not at passing circumstances, but at the essential difference between the Jewish worshiper and the Christian. The Jewish worshiper needed the constant succession of offerings to meet his wants; the Christian’s wants are already met on the Cross and in the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
- Wm Kelly