MINISTERS OF THE ALTAR
Concerning the altar of our faith the Lord has said;" We have an altar, of which they have no right to eat who serve the tabernacle"(Hebrews 13:10). The office of the human mediator has been abolished because of its imperfection. The fullness of time has come, and God has given us His only begotten to be our mediator in the tabernacle made not with the hand of man. The carnal ordinances of the physical tabernacle gave way to that of the true sanctuary, which no carnal man administers, but the Spirit of God. The Lord says in regard to the priesthood office; “I have given your priest's office unto you as a gift for service (Numbers 18:7). The priesthood is not an honorary title for which we are to be paid tribute of honour by some other people, but a call to serve the people of God. Every saint of God under the New Covenant is a priest of God. We are to serve the brethren with our very life, which is the physical reflection of our being in fellowship with the Son of God.
The location of our altar is without the camp. To be sure that we are on the true altar, we must have come out of the camp as we are called; “Let us go forth therefore unto Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. A heart set on manna will die in the camp, for it falls within the camp (Psalm 78:23-32); it will never come out to meet with Christ on the mount of reproach. There in the camp we have all the monuments we have set up as proofs of our strength. We must come out of all these things that energize our pride, and give us reason to glory in our works. The saints by God's definition are those who can boldly declare by their walk of faith that "We are the circumcision, who worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh"(Philippians 3:3). They are those who have shunned the honour and acceptance of man for the cross of Christ. They are those who bear the reproach of the cross upon them, yet not ashamed of Christ and the gospel. They are those who will not allow any man, no matter how highly placed, to stand in the place of the Spirit of God in their lives. They are those who will cry out at every controversial junction; we know no man after the flesh; let God be true, and every man a liar! (II Corinthians 5:16; Romans 3:4).
We must take heed as to those we allow to minister at our altar. Many people are not concerned about this, and as a result have put their head under a wrong anointing all their lives. We see the gravity of this in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, when Israel returned from captivity. There was a group of the priesthood family who returned with them, but had lost the record of their family lineage. Note that it is recorded that they were of the priesthood family. When they came to Jerusalem, these people who had lost the proof of their family lineage were regarded as defiled, excluded from ministering in the priesthood office, and from partaking of the holy things(Ezra 2:59,61-62; Nehemiah 7:61,63-65).
We also who are coming out of the captivity of the doctrines of men and of demons have an important lesson to learn here. We must ensure that those we allow to minister at our altar are those who have not lost the proof of their names being in the record of the children of God. The idea of once a priest, ever a priest; once a pastor, ever a pastor has no root in the Word of God. The fact that those priests came from priesthood family is not a sufficient proof to allow them to minister at the altar, or to partake of the holy things. We must consult the Holy Spirit before we put our head under a place. We must receive the witness of the Holy Spirit concerning those who minister at the altar. That is why we are commanded to remember those who have rule over us always. If we forget them, and we fail to pray for them, we do this at the risk of our souls. When we do, the Lord will reveal to us if anything is wrong with them.
Many of such people whose names are missing in the register of the citizens of Zion are out there running Ichabods; houses from which the glory has long departed. But because we do not have seeing eyes of the Spirit, we do not see that the glory has gone. This spiritual blindness befell Israel also. The veil of the temple was torn into two, and the glory of the Lord left the temple made with human hand, when the Lord cried "It is finished on Calvary". The standing temple in Jerusalem becomes nothing but a memento to the old glory. The people still walked into the building to worship God, not knowing His presence has long departed. This is where the danger lies; the building continues to be what it used to be. The temple in Jerusalem did not crumble when the glory left. Now we are awaiting the time of judgement as it was then when all false temples will come crumbling before our very eyes. But before then, many shall be deceived, our Lord warned.
Do you know whether your pastor is truly in relationship with Christ? Don't you assume this because he is a good man, and that everybody testifies of his being good? Is it the Holy Spirit that revealed this to you? If you have received fertility potion from the devil, sure the child you strap to your back belongs to his father the devil, no matter what name you call him, whether Peter or John. If you have believed under someone whose name has been blotted out of the book of life of the Lamb of God, or is never there, such would have given you what he has. Examine the God that you believe, whether He looks every inch like the words of your pastor, or like the God of the bible. Then will you come to know where you have stand all the days of your life.
This issue is of so much importance that God Himself had to send an angel to warn the church in Thyatira concerning it. "And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write..... I have a few things against you, because YOU ALLOW THAT WOMAN JEZEBEL, WHO CALLS HERSELF A PROPHETESS, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed unto idols (Revelation 2:18-20)”. What was the problem with the church in Thyatira? They received the testimony of man, and not of the Spirit of God. They allowed the woman to minister in the church just because she called herself a prophetess. We must be very careful so that we do not fall into the same temptation. We can well see from the commendation which God gave the Church that they had no lack in the aspects of works, love, service, faith, and patience. Their problem is in what God reveals in distinguishing their first works from the last. God says the church was lacking in the first works, like the Ephesians church. The last work is more than the first work, which is of utmost importance. What is this first work refers to? It is what we receive from the Lord of the church in tarrying in His presence. Despite the church's perfection in works, faith, patience..., it still fell into the temptation of walking according to the flesh; receiving the testimony of mortal man. It is evident that the church failed to walk in discernment of the Holy Spirit of God. If they had, they would have discerned through the series of events with which God had warned the woman to repent. God sent the revelation because they failed to discern this. God regarded those who followed the woman as "her children", and promised to kill her children with death. God differentiates those who held not the doctrine of the woman from those who followed her, and left a promise with those who do not.
Our not walking in the discernment of the Holy Spirit can cost us our salvation. Who we follow determines where we are going to end our journey. It does not matter with whom we have started. The temptation is always with us to seek to be made perfect in the flesh, after we have begun well in the Spirit. We must have the sure witness of the Holy Spirit concerning those we allow to minister at the altar of our faith. We are saints of God because we know what our Father is doing. And we can only know what our Father is doing when we abide at His feet, living by every word that comes out of His mouth. We must not believe the lie that God reserves the right to walk in His revelation for some class of people. We all have access by faith to our one Father. We must take heed as we are warned to. If we are not careful to overcome here, we will be crushed under the bronze of the feet and fall into the judgement of the flame of fire in the eyes of Him who has warned us in revelation (Revelation 2:18).
APPROACHING THE ALTAR WITH AN EMPTY HAND
The Lord says no one should come to Him empty. He said this not in regard of money (tithe and offering) as we have rendered it to suit the pecuniary motive of our hearts today. What will happen to the high priest in the Old Covenant, if he goes into the presence of the Holy God in the Holy of Holies without a sacrifice of blood in his hand? He will die! It is a sin punishable by death to go into the presence of God without a sacrifice in our hand. If this sacrifice refers to money as we have successfully rendered it, Peter and John who went into the temple without silver or gold would have died there(Acts 3:1-7). We have presented to the world a hunger stricken God, whose survival depends on the shillings we drop in offering box. Has not the Lord every beast of the field? The cattle upon a thousand hills are all His. He calls all the fowls of the mountains by name, and the wild beasts of the field belong to Him (Psalm 50:8-13). If He is hungry, will He turn to us for rescue? Will God eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?
We read in the book of Hebrews of our Lord in His High Priestly role that like the Aaronic priests, He also did not appear before the throne of His majesty without something to offer. Did Jesus, whose example we are to follow, go in with hard currencies in His hand or with His very own life as a sacrifice for the sin of mankind? Brethren, if any one deceives us, we allow him. Those who have monetized the faith are those who consider godliness a mean of gain. Such people worship not the Lord, but their belly which shall perish not many days to come. We must be on watch so that they do not make merchandise of us. Behold, we are warned!
Such ministers of belly are those who take offering from strangers (in whose bodies is no sign of the covenant) that they will give it to God on their behalf. This is contrary to the word of God who says you shall not offer any (thing) gotten from a stranger's hand as the bread of your God. The Lord's reason for this is that the defect and blemish of the uncircumcision of their heart is in their possession (Leviticus 22:25). We read of the disciples as they took the gospel across the regions of the gentiles that they went and took nothing of the gentiles for the sake of the name of the Lord (III John 7). But these ministers are mindful of their belly alone, by the reason of whom the name of the Lord is being blasphemed.
Why do we suddenly turn beggars for God who opens His hand and satisfy the need of all His creation? Why do we make the people to believe that salvation which is a free gift of God can be bought with money? (Acts 8:20). That is not the God we serve! Your money may be used to feed the electronic monsters and the beasts of bricks and sand we call church today, if the sacrifice of yourself is not upon the altar of God and is accepted by Him, to hell with your money! The place of our fellowship with Christ is in the most Holy Place in our spirit in the New Covenant, where the Holy Spirit meets with us in communion. Having offered our "selves" as living sacrifice on the cross of Christ, we have a thorough access into the presence of our Holy God without the fear of dying there. Our God seeks such people, who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:22, 24).
THE ULTIMATE ISSUE: THE CONFIDENCE OF FAITH
As we enter into Zion, the Mountain of the living God through the way of the cross, the precious blood of the Lamb of God which flows thereon washes us and speaks of better things of us before the Holy God. We appear before the Father sons of God without rebuke, shining as light amidst the crooked and perverse generation. We come to know the reality of the victory new life in Christ affords as we become in the world as He is now in His glorified state. We are no longer debtors to the flesh to obey it in its lusts, for we have in us the power greater than the world and the power in it; the power that has overcome the flesh and vanquished sin forever. But we must know that we cannot get to mount Zion without this covenant. It is the covenant that carries us from mount Calvary where we cut the covenant unto the mount Zion of God. It does us no good visiting mount Calvary every year, or abiding at the foot of the wooden cross everyday, beholding it and shedding tears in pity of the crucified saviour. The risen Lord is now on mount Zion in all His glory. He has promised we will be where He is. It all happens by covenant.
As we offer our "selves" in sacrifice to the Lord upon the altar of our faith, like the sacrifice of Elijah the prophet on Mt. Camel, God willing to show His delight in and acceptance of our sacrifice sends His living fire from above in the presence of the watching crowd for a witness to them and baptizes us by immersion in the same. As it was with the burnt sacrifice of Elijah on that day, our 'self' is daily consumed (1Corinthians 15:31) and He becomes increased in us (John 3:30), until nothing is left of us and the servant becomes like His Lord in all things. The smoke thereof ascends to Him who sits upon the throne as "a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God" and as a sweet savour which spreads the aura of the life of Christ to them around us as He becomes glorified in our body and in our spirit which are His (II Corinthians 2:15-16; 4:8-11).
As we approach our Lord on the cross groaning under the burden of sin, He reaches out to us with the embrace of His love. He receives us into His bosom, and whispers the same words He said to the woman caught in the very act of adultery into our sin sickening hearts; "Go, and sin no more". We went ahead in the world of sin with His living Word in our heart. The Word becomes activated in the presence of sin and temptation to sin and in it we find the strength enough to take the side of obedience with our Lord. We receive the grace to walk by the full confidence of faith that He who has begun the good work in us will bring it to perfection in the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6). Holding fast to the full assurance and confidence of hope, we remain His house to the time of His coming.
Yet a little while, He who will come will come to gather His saints unto Himself. He once came for sinners, but now He is coming for those who are sanctified and justified by the offering of Himself to God. On this truth will He not allow sinners in His kingdom; He once walked down here in the flesh, persecuted and tempted in every way, yet without sin. Jesus, our great high priest is not like those Old Covenant priests who can have compassion on the ignorant and those who are wayward because they themselves are beset by weaknesses(Hebrews 5:1-2). We have a high priest who himself learnt obedience through the things which He suffered (Hebrews 5:8). He has laid an example for us, so that we may follow His step, and appear before Him in glory. Let us all know that our God will not be pleased with our appeasement of false humility and devotion(Colossians 2:20-23), when He requires nothing from us other than the sacrifice of our "selves" through which all that we are, have, and know will be Him and Him alone.
We must know that the only sacrifice acceptable to God for the salvation of man is that of Christ on the cross. We are not establishing any other sacrifice, for no other foundation can any man lay except that which has been laid, which is Christ Jesus. That if we do will mean going beyond the Word of God. This perfect sacrifice of Christ has been offered once and for all. Ours is to enter into the covenant opened through the blood shed on the cross by being crucified with Christ.
He is coming for saints; those who have made covenant with Him by sacrifice. Only those who made covenant with Him will be able to stand for Him in the midst of this compromise and great act of betrayal, because the sign (marks) of the covenant is in their flesh to shield them from the wickedness of the world and its own. Let us remember where we have fallen and repent, and do the first work, lest He comes and finds us sleeping while we ought to stay awake and be on watch for Him.
Do you have a covenant with Him? It is never too late to cut one with Him today and become His and His forever. God always honour His covenant. He even tells us in His Word; “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of My lips" (Psalm 89:34). We are on safer ground, standing in covenant with Him. Behold, He comes for His saints and saints alone! Are you one?
Whoever is not under the covering of the blood of the lamb of God by the definition of God is an Egyptian. Such a one to the angel of destruction is a candidate of destruction. Whoever comes under the covering of the eternal Blood of Christ is a citizen of the city of God for the sake of the Blood. If then, an Israelite did not abide under the covering of the blood; he would die like the Egyptians.
Here we have in the covenant we have entered into with God through the Blood of Christ the confidence that nothing in the whole creation can shake. We believe that the Blood is able to keep us holy to the appearing of the Son of man. If the blood of animal could preserve the life of every first child of the Israelites that the destroyer did not destroy them in Egypt; if the blood of Abel could not cease crying with groaning that could not be ignored by God until God came down in vengeance upon Cain; how much more will the God of heaven give ear to the voice of the Blood of His only begotten Son shed for the taking away of the sins of the world; the Blood which speaks better things than that of the righteous Abel. The Blood of Jesus cries still with groaning that words cannot utter, and it will not cease, until the saints are delivered to God holy and without any blemish whatsoever.
“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: 13-15).
KEEPING THE COVENANT
“They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in his law; And Forgot his works and his wonders that he had showed them” (Psalm78:10-11).
It is one thing to be in covenant relationship with God, but quite another thing to keep the covenant. Since we have come to know the terms of the covenant, we are duty bound to keep our own part of it. But we must realize this that the power to walk faithfully in covenant with God is not of us, but of God. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
Walking in covenant with God does not require the strength of a horse we often Ignorantly labour for in prayer most of the time. We keep the covenant by simply walking in the law of God; His living Word. This is the word of God that came to Joshua at the inception of his ministry. God told him not to go about seeking highways to success in ministry as we do today, but to simply walk in the law of God; “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:8).
The church of Philadelphia is a good example for us he “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name” (Rev 3:7-8).
Jesus did not rebuke the church for having a little strength, but rather, He commended them. Why were they commended? With their little strength, they did not deny the name of Christ in the midst of tribulations. They did not have the strength of a horse, yet they kept the covenant faithfully by simply walking in the word of God. It is when word abides in us that we can go to the Father in His name. And it is when we approach the Father in His name that He declares what His good and perfect will is to us.
The moment we get out of the word of God, we forget all the works which He has done of which we are witnesses. When the children of Ephraim came out of the word of God and walked in the hardness of their hearts, they forgot all the signs and wonders with which the Lord brought their fathers out of Egypt (Psalm 78). Armed with weapons of war and their bows in their hand as in the former days, they turned back in battle and flee before their enemies. Unlike the time past when they have recorded success upon success, the weapons they carried
With all confidence failed them woefully. The weapons themselves did not deliver them in the past. It is the word of the covenant in which they walked that worked the success through the weapons.
One of the signs of not keeping the covenant is the failure of the weapons of our warfare. When we begin to suffer defeat upon defeat in warfare, we must examine where we stand in the place of covenant. If God does not tell us otherwise, such defeat is an indication that we are not faithfully keeping the covenant. The Book of Judges reveals this truth to us. Whenever the nation Israel walked contrary to the covenant God made with them, they would be delivered into the hand of their enemies. They remained in such terrible situation until they remembered the Lord and returned to Him.
We keep the covenant by walking in the Word of God. The potency of every other Christian weapon of warfare depends on the Word. They are all empowered by the Word. If we are not standing on the Word, faith will fail, for it comes in the beginning by the Word. Being saved by the operation of the grace of God, we are being kept by the power of the Word that upholds all things. As we keep in our hearts the Word of God, our righteousness springs forth as we are being washed by the water of the Word. There is no truth in us apart from the Word of God. His Word alone which is the truth manifests itself in us and through us as we fill our hearts with the same (John 17:17). Prayer will be nothing but babbling, if it does not have its foundation in the Word of God. The Word is the sword of the Spirit, which does valiantly on behalf of the saints of God (Ephesians 6: 10-18).
For us to witness the good success God promised, we must dwell in the Word and live on the Word. There is bad success. It comes simply by walking away from the covenant of God. But that is not the will of God for us. Those who make a detour from the Word of God will have their works burnt on that day. They shall suffer loss. As long as we are with the Word undiluted, we are success assured in Christ. Keeping the covenant is our assurance that we cannot lack the promises God has given us.
The saints here on earth are the pride of God and the condemnation of the evil one; a witness to him that God shall be worshipped by the people He formed with His own hand. We are called to be saints who are radiators of light in the world sold to darkness. We remain light in this world of overwhelming darkness as long as we keep the covenant by walking in the Word. We are like the moon which has no light of its own, but is illuminated by the sun. We receive the light we show the world from Christ the Word of God. Without abiding in Him, we have no light. Without Him, how great the darkness in us!
We must not see God as a wicked task master, who enslaves His servants and binds them with a burdensome commandment. Here what the Bible says concerning the Commandment of God; “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous (1 John 5:2-3)”. The commandment of God is not burdensome. It is the joy of every saint of God. Here is the confession of David, the man after God’s heart: “Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction. Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me: yet thy commandments are my delights” (Psalm 119:92,143). Even in the ocean of affliction, the law of the law delights the saints of God. It has become the basis for their existence and it is a witness to them that such terrible situation cannot overcome them and that they cannot separate them from the love of Christ.
This is the words of Christ to us as we draw closer and closer to the day when He shall come to gather His saints into glory; “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed (John 8:31)”. The law of the Lord is bound and His testimony sealed among His disciples (Isaiah 8:16). We do not have to go about looking for what is never lost. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him. And this is the secret, that the Lord is able to do abundantly above all we will ever ask or think, as we walk faithfully with Him in covenant.
Keeping the covenant and remaining faithful to it to the end will not be an easy task, but we can count on the faithfulness of God which led the heroes of faith (Hebrews 11) to the resting place where they await the day when they will be glorified with us. We can depend on God that He will strengthen us with might by the Spirit in the inner man, so that we will be able to do all things required from us. Then, we will be able to bear whatever comes our way because of Him and the testimony; be it life or death. He has promised never to leave us, and never to forsake us, as long as the sign of the covenant is in our flesh.
Finally, “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).