God's Great Ordinance

 •  16 min. read  •  grade level: 8
WE may have observed in John's Gospel, the zealous and determined way in which the Lord Jesus sets aside all glories which men might bring to Him, that He may establish the grace of God or the love of the Father in Him and by Him, to poor sinners. He shines there in the glory of grace, and will not shine in any other glory. Men may be for having Him as a Teacher of Secrets, a Doer of Wonders, as a King, as a Judge, or as some one suited to be great in the world; but He sets all aside with marked and indignant earnestness, and will be known and received only as the minister of divine grace, the grace of His Father, to poor sinners.
In like manner we may see how zealously God sets aside all that would stand in company with Christ, to share His place with Him, or dare to displace Him; and makes room for Him, and for Him only, as His own one great ordinance.
The Epistle to the Hebrews is the leading and closing witness of this; but there had been striking and beautiful pledges of the same in earlier days.
And here let me say, there is sweet correspondency in these two things. Christ is
zealous in hiding Himself, that the grace of the Father may alone appear in Him, during His ministry; God, at all times, both before and after that ministry, would show how zealous He was, either by His hand or by His Spirit, by His providential acts or by His inspired communications, that Christ, and Christ only, should be honored as His ordinance. I would notice some pledges and witnesses of this.
Nadab and Abihu, with infidel daring, set aside the fire which had come down from heaven, sealing the services of Aaron, who was the type of Christ; and the hand of God peremptorily and awfully judged that, by slaying them on the spot. Penal fire avenged the strange fire which had displaced the fire which had borne witness to Christ. This was full of meaning.
Moses and Aaron exposed themselves to a like judgment-like, I mean, in character, though not in measure. It was not in infidel daring, but under the provoking and irritation of the people, that they dishonored the Christ of God, at the waters of Meribah. But they did so. They did not sanctify God in His ordinance They did not know the Rock that followed Israel, and which Rock was Christ; and they are at once judged to come short of the land.
This was quick resentment on the part of God of all that touched the rights and honors of Christ. There was a great moral distance between the infidelity of Nadab and Abihu, and the haste and unadvisedness of Moses and Aaron; but God's hand avenged the controversy of His Christ with all of them.
When we come to New Testament days, we find the same spirit on the holy hill. In ignorance, not knowing what he said, Peter proposed to give equal place to Moses, Elias, and Jesus. But the voice of the excellent glory would not be silent then. It is ignorance only, if we please: but the blessed God will not suffer the honor of Christ to suffer at the hand of any one or anything. It may be but ignorance that would touch His Person or His place, and neither scorn nor temper-neither infidel daring as with Nadab, nor irritation of mind as with Moses; but still God's hand or God's voice will be present to avenge it. The voice lets Peter know that the " beloved Son " alone is to be heard.
In John the Baptist, the Spirit, in another way, does the same work, pleading the cause of Christ. John's disciples were a little moved by the multitude seeming to pass by their Master; and they resent this, as Joshua did in the cause of his Master, when Eldad and Medad began their prophesying. But John, in all gentleness, but in all decision, answers this. As in the name of all his brethren, the prophets, he retires, that Jesus alone may be seen and heard. He is Elias speaking in the language of the excellent glory on the holy hill. The voice there called Moses and the prophets away from the eye and ear of Peter; John's word here withdraws himself and all his fellow servants, the Bridegroom's friends, from his disciples and all beside, that the same " beloved Son" alone may be known. John and the excellent glory have the like thoughts of Jesus.
This is all consistent as well as blessed, and precious to see the hand of God and the Spirit of God thus agreeing to glorify Jesus.
The epistles join in this service; rather, as I may say, the Holy Ghost in them. One need not particularize or prove this. Every epistle has its own witness to this. That to the Colossians distinguishes itself in such a character. But in the Hebrews we see this purpose prevailing in the mind of the Spirit throughout. It is a setting aside of one thing after another, in order to have the Lord Jesus, the Christ of God, God's great ordinance, alone before us.
And they are set aside with a strong hand, as in earlier days.
Angels are first withdrawn from our sight; and He who has obtained a more excellent name than they, is brought in; and this, upon the authority of scripture after scripture. (Chap. 1, 2.)
Moses is set aside then, as the servant in the house of another, to leave the place for Him that is Lord over His own house. (Chap. 3.)
Joshua gave Israel no rest, and therefore is as nothing and nobody; while Jesus, the true Joshua, gives God's own, rest. (Chap. 4.)
Aaron must yield to the Melchisedec; for his priesthood, constituted by the law of a carnal commandment, is weak and profitless, and must give place to that priesthood of the Son, which is established in the power of an endless life. (Chap. 5, 7.)
The old covenant must vanish, and that which Christ ministers continue new forever. (Chap. 8.)
The sanctuary under the law witnessed no perfection in the worshipper, but ever kept him apart from the divine presence. It must be broken down in favor of that sanctuary which by a rent veil witnesses the perfection of the worshipper. (Chap. 9.)
The victim under the law never accomplished atonement; but the one sacrifice of Christ has purged the conscience forever. (Chap. 10.)
Thus, God's great ordinance is set in His place, and set there all alone-angels, Moses, Joshua, Aaron, the old covenant, the first tabernacle, the legal sacrifice, all made to yield, and leave the entire scene, and all that belongs to it or fills it, with Him alone. And He brought in, after this manner, by the Spirit of God, is to continue before our souls forever. "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and forever-be not carried about...."
And what the Spirit in His vessels is thus doing-what the Spirit in His authoritative teachers is thus doing-the faith of the elect, inwrought by the same Spirit, is doing likewise. Paul will say, " God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." And is not this boast in Jesus, this glorying in the cross, the common instinctive property of every renewed mind-the inwrought, and thus the natural sense and judgment of every saved soul?
And what harmonies are these! harmonies, too, of heaven and of earth, of all times and dispensations, of the excellent glory and of poor earthen vessels! The hand of God, the voice of the Father, the Holy Ghost in His authorized, authoritative ministers, the Spirit in every quickened, illuminated sinner, all joining in avenging the wrongs of Christ, and in honoring God's great ordinance.
NOTHING but the blood of Christ for a sinner, the whole word of God proclaims from first to last. All the expiation he can enjoy, all the reconciliation he can plead, all the answer he can have to the demands of the throne where judgment sits to maintain the rights of God, depends upon it.
It is the blood of the Lamb of God that is presented of God to the faith of a sinner, and it is that which the faith of a, sinner apprehends and trusts.
As soon as sin entered, the sacrifice which had been prepared in eternal counsel, was revealed. The very first promise published the death of Christ, the bruising of the heel of the Seed of the woman. This was the thing communicated to man as a sinner-the only thing-the sinner trusted himself to it: Adam came forth from his covert, and trusted the reconciling virtue of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God.
As soon as the due time came for the public display of redemption, again it was the blood of Christ that was revealed, and that only. Israel in the land of death and judgment had to be delivered. They had found grace in the eyes of the God of their fathers, and they must become a people sheltered in the place of judgment, and redeemed out of the place of death. It is that precious blood, and that only, which is used on that great occasion. It was to be put outside on the lintel of the Hebrew houses in the land of Egypt, and the Hebrew family within had to feed on that victim whose blood was thus redeeming them. Nothing more. In a suited manner they were to feed on the roasted lamb-not raw nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire, every part of it. This was to be their food. In an Old Testament style, Christ was as if saying to them, " Take, eat: this is my body."
And according to this, is what we get in the New Testament. I read this in Matt. 26, or in Mark 14, or in Luke 22 The Lord is there as in the night of the Passover, or in Ex. 12 A living Christ He then was, but He presents Himself as a crucified Christ, a slain Lamb, a sacrifice on the altar. He overlooks Himself as a living One, and apprehends Himself as a Victim. He takes bread in His hand, and says, " Take, eat; this is my body." He takes the cup in His hand, and says, " This cup is the New Testament in my blood." It is the crucified Christ which the living Christ thus presents to the thought and acceptance of sinners, as the foundation and title of all our blessing.
This was giving to the elect family the paschal Lamb whose blood was on the door-posts as their shelter and deliverance. They were to take and eat it-as in the night of Egypt.
In the Gospel by John we do not get the scene at the supper. We have no " Take, eat: this is my body;" but we have a word between the Lord and the Jews, in which the great secret of the supper is published by Him to them. In the sixth chapter He tells the multitude, that He was the bread that came down from heaven, the true Manna, of which if a man eat, he lives forever. But pursuing His way through that conversation, He declares, that this bread from heaven was His flesh, which He would give for the life of the world, that His flesh was meat indeed and His blood was drink indeed. That is -that it is by receiving Him as the Lamb of God, by going to Him as in death and on the altar, the sinner gets redemption and life. Not by knowing Him as a living but as a crucified Christ we get the salvation of God.
All this is so, in great certainty and simplicity. From the beginning, the blood of Christ, the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, has been presented to sinners as the one object on which they must fix the eye of faith, and to which they must give their full, entire confidence. The living Lamb does not find place in this great mystery of redemption—further than as the life witnessed the fitness of the Lamb for the altar-it is the slain Lamb, the crucified Jesus, that is everything in the great account of the redemption of sinners. The blood of the God-man, and that alone and only, was the ransom.
Not only patriarchal, Mosaic, and evangelic scripture teaches us this, as we have now seen-as Gen. 3, Ex. 12, the institution of the supper, and John 6-but in the epistles we learn the same. Heb. 10 is strikingly to this purpose. There the Christ of God is heard to say, " Lo, I come." But for what end was He to come? Was it to live? No, but to die. Why was a body prepared Him? Was it to act in it, and to pass thirty-three years in it in the active service of a Witness and Minister of God and the Father? No; but to offer it on the cross. (Heb. 10:5-105Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: 6In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. 7Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. 8Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; 9Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. 10By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:5‑10).) He did live surely, and that under the law, the true Israelite. He did live surely, and that in such holy, gracious ministry as witnessed God and the Father. But that scripture (Heb. 10:5-105Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: 6In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. 7Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. 8Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; 9Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. 10By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:5‑10)) overlooks the life, and at once bears the One who came into the world onwards to the cross-just as His own language at the supper-table, as we saw, overlooked Him as the living One, to present Him as the crucified One. And then, in that same scripture, we learn, that it is by the offering up of the body, by the blood of the Son in the body that was prepared for Him, that sinners are sanctified and perfected. This we read again in the thirteenth chapter of the same Epistle, " Jesus that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate "-the sanctification of a sinner depending altogether on the blood of Christ.*
(*I fully admit sanctification in another sense, as I may say, the sanctification of a saint-the gradual purifying of an elect one under the truth by the Spirit. (John 17:1717Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. (John 17:17).) But I speak here of the sanctification of a sinner.)
I say no more than this, though all scripture and the epistles distinctly would furnish so much. The shadowy ordinances of the law, and the direct dogmatic teaching of the apostles, all join in telling us, that the death or blood of the Christ of God is everything for a sinner
But if God thus communicates His mind, faith so apprehends and receives it. The fifty-third of Isaiah is a witness of this. There, the faith of the awakened Israel of God may, in passing, glance at the person, life, and ministry of the Christ, but it is but in passing-they go onward to the cross, and there they find everything for the perfecting of their conscience as sinners, and the spring and foundation of all the glories of Christ Himself. At the cross they discover that the chastisement of our peace was there, the wounding for our transgressions was there, and our healing by His stripes; and that having nade His soul this offering for sin, He could see before Him His family, and the full accomplishment of the good pleasure of God in the vindication and display of His own glories forever. " He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand."
So, the joy of the life of faith in Paul the apostle of the Gentiles, finds its spring in the same death of the Lord for him. (See Gal. 2:20, 2120I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. 21I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. (Galatians 2:20‑21).) So, he presents that object to the faith of sinners, as the only object of the faith that justifies. (Rom. 4:23, 2523Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; (Romans 4:23)
25Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. (Romans 4:25)
.) And so again, he teaches us that Christ crucified is singly offered to the sight of a sinner that he may be blest as with faithful Abraham. (Gal. 3:1, 141O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? (Galatians 3:1)
14That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:14)
.) " Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree," says another apostle. (1 Peter 2:2424Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. (1 Peter 2:24).) " The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin," says another. (1 John 1:77But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (1 John 1:7).) But this may be enough; though all scripture, again we say, patriarchal, Mosaic, prophetic, evangelic, and apostolic, all joins in putting "the Lamb of God " and " the sinner " together for redemption and justification-the Lamb provided in the riches of the grace of God, and accepted by the faith of the sinner, through the inworking, drawing, and illuminating teaching, of God the Holy Ghost.
And then, that which is thus given in grace, accepted by faith, and witnessed in all scripture, is to be celebrated forever in realms of glory. This we get in what I may call the only remaining portion or division of scripture, the Apocalypse. While still on earth, the saints there let us know that they have found their object for praise, and their spring of joy, in the Lamb that was slain. We hear them break forth, while John was addressing them still here, in that fervent strain, "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever." (Rev. 1:5, 65And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, 6And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:5‑6).) And after they have been translated, after they have left the earth for heaven, and have reached the home of glory, we hear them again in like joy. " And they sang a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth." (Rev. 5:9, 109And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; 10And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:9‑10).) And the realms of glory as well as the home of glory, the nations on the millennial footstool, as well as the glorified in the heavens, echo the strain-for it is the one fond, commanding thought that shall occupy eternity and fill creation; for we hear again this kindred voice: " These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." (Rev. 7:1414And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Revelation 7:14).) They may not be able to add a word about their reigning, as the glorified did, they may have only to know that they shall be
before the throne, and serve God day and night in His temple, that all their tears shall be wiped away, and that they shall be led by the Lord to fountains of living waters (vers. 15-17); but." the blood of the Lamb" is the common object of praise, the common spring of joy, the one only title to all blessedness, whether of the glorified, translated saints, or of the redeemed nations that occupy the earth in millennial days of restitution and refreshing. Sinners now traveling and struggling in unredeemed bodies, and in pilgrim, militant conditions, and sinners by-and-by in either the home of glory in heaven or in the realms of glory on earth, know nothing but the Savior in the blood that He shed for them, in the life that He gave for them, as the Lamb of God, on the cross of Calvary. All glory in that, but in that only.