Fulfilled in Christ
Abiding Principles from the Ceremonial Laws: The Ceremonial Laws in the New Covenant (1)
Christ fulfilled and replaced the ceremonial laws of ancient Israel.
When he said above, “You have neither desire nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. Hebrews 10:8, 9
In His work of redemption Jesus Christ has fulfilled all the hope and promise of the ceremonial laws. He is the “once for all” (v. 10) offering Who takes away the sins of the world. He is the High Priest Who brings us into the glory of God and enables us to feast with Him. He is the Tent of God, where we dwell eternally with our sovereign Lord. He is our Prophet, making known to us the will of the Lord and the very character and Person of God Himself. The sacrifices and ceremonies of the Old Testament ceremonial laws were never intended as permanent fixtures among the people of God. They were shadows and portents of a greater work of redemption and renewal which was to come, which John the Baptist intuitively recognized as about to be fulfilled in Jesus when he referred to Him as the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world.
Beginning with the argument that Jesus is a different kind of Priest, an eternal Priest after the order of Melchizedek, the writer of Hebrews urges his Jewish/Christian readers to resist the temptation of reverting to the safety of Roman-approved Jewish religious practices from their position in the Body of Christ, for which they were beginning to be persecuted. He explains that the Priesthood of Christ preceded that of Levi, since He is appointed a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (ch. 7). Thus Jesus is able to usher in the promised New Covenant because His ministry is not in a tent made with human hands, but in the heavens, where He has gained approval from God and received promises and a Kingdom to bestow on His people (chs. 8, 12). In so doing Christ does away with all the Old Covenant regulations for worship—in specific detail, if not in principle (ch. 9), becoming Himself the Sacrifice and Priest we require to enable us to know continual renewal in the New Covenant of the Lord (chs. 9, 10).
Thus, as believers today consider how they must draw near to God, it is not through the means provided in the old ceremonial laws, which have now been abolished. Rather, we come to God through Jesus Christ, our High Priest, Who lives forever to intercede for us (Heb. 7:25) and is putting all His enemies under His feet as He sanctifies all those who put their trust in Him (Heb. 10:11-14). We draw near to the Lord by holding fast our confession, not by slinking from it in order to avoid the wrath of a sinful age (10:23). We join together in worship and community in order to advance the cause of Christ’s Kingdom (10:24, 25). We do not shrink back from our calling, but we look to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, to help us run our race according to His Covenant and pleasure (10:36-39; 12:1, 2). For we are the heirs, not of earthly and temporal ceremonies and places, but of an eternal City and an unshakeable Kingdom, which we have by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (12:18-28). Through Christ, and not through abolished ceremonies, we “offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe” (12:28).
Yet although Jesus has abolished the specific details of priesthood, sacrifices, and the Tabernacle/Temple of ancient Israel, yet there are principles embedded in those Old Covenant practices which are instructive for us today in the New Covenant. We must therefore be good students of the ceremonial laws, as of all the Law of God, if we would gain the insight and benefit contained in those principles.
For a fuller study of the pattern of worship revealed in Scripture, order the book, The Highest Thing, by T. M. Moore, from our online store. These studies and brief essays will help you to see how the pattern of sound worship, which began in the Law of God, comes to complete expression in the rest of Scripture. Pastors, we’re getting ready to start the next season of The Pastors’ Fellowship. Write to me today at email@example.com for information about how you join in these online discussions. Our theme for the coming series is “The Worldview of God’s Law.” There is no charge for participation, but you must reserve a place for these monthly gatherings. Subscribe to Crosfigell, the devotional newsletter of The Fellowship of Ailbe.
In the Gates is a devotional series on the Law of God by Rev. T.M. Moore, editor of the Worldview Church. He serves as dean of the Centurions Program of the Wilberforce Forum and principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He is the author or editor of twenty books, and has contributed chapters to four others. His essays, reviews, articles, papers, and poetry have appeared in dozens of national and international journals, and on a wide range of websites. His most recent books are The Ailbe Psalter and The Ground for Christian Ethics (Waxed Tablet).
Scripture quotations in this article are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, (c) copyright 2001, 2007 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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