The True Place Of Worship
Twelve Letters To Young Believers
In this letter I propose to inquire, Where is the Christian's place of worship? I need scarcely remind you that the term "place of worship" abounds on every hand; and while I fully admit that what is meant thereby is simply the place where believers and others congregate on Lord's-days, yet it is of the first importance in divine things that words should not be used which convey a wrong impression, or which falsify the truth of God. Our only resource, therefore, is to obtain the answer to our question from the Scriptures.
Let me, then, direct your attention to the following passage: "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and [having] an High Priest over the house of God; let us draw near," etc. (Heb. 10: 19-22, etc). Now, we have in this scripture, to speak generally, three things--the blood of Jesus, the rent veil, and the High Priest (literally, the great priest) over the house of God; and it is on the foundation of these three things that we have the exhortation to draw near for worship. If we examine a little the significance of each, the answer to our question will be unfolded.
First, then, we have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. It is evident, if you trace down the argument of the apostle, that the blood of Jesus is brought in as a contrast with "the blood of bulls and goats" (v. 4). Indeed, the whole point of the first part of the chapter is the efficacy of the former in contrast with the impotency of the latter. The fact that the sacrifices under the old dispensation were offered year by year continually, is adduced to prove that the worshippers were never really purged, so as to have no more conscience of sins; for in the repetition of the sacrifices there was a remembrance again made of sins every year (vv. 1-3). And the reason of this was that "it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin" (v. 4). Thus the multitude of sacrifices of all kinds did but demonstrate their utter powerlessness, though appointed by God in view of the One Sacrifice which was thereby foreshadowed.
Having then shown this, the apostle now brings out in sharpest contrast the value of the sacrifice of Christ (read carefully from the 5th to the 14th verses) ; and he sums it up, and states it, in one sentence: "By one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." The offerings under the law never made the worshippers perfect. By one offering Christ has perfected us for ever. This truth is so vast and comprehensive that it needs to be meditated upon again and again, in order in any measure to be apprehended. For it implies, not only that I have now no more conscience of sinsif I am under the value of the sacrifice of Christbut also that I never need have any more conscience of sins in the aspect here presented; that through the efficacy of that precious blood I have a title now, and ever shall have a title, to the presence of God that nothing, in short, can ever deprive me of place which it gives me in His own immediate presence; for by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. Through that sacrifice therefore I have received a perpetual qualification for access to God.
The second thing is the rent veil. The blood Christ has given us the title to approach; and in next place we have "a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that to say, His flesh." Here again we have a contrast with the old dispensation. Thus in chap. 9 we rea "Into the second" (i.e., into the holy of holies,behind the veil) "went the high priest alone once ever year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the errors of the people: the Holy Ghost th signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing." etc. (vv. 7-9). The people we therefore entirely excluded; and this was because, we have seen, it was not possible that the blood bulls and of goats should take away sin. It would consequently have been certain death, by the judgment of God, had any one beside the high priest ventured inside that awful veil (Lev. 16:1, 2; N 15, 16). But no sooner was the sacrifice of Christ consummated than the veil was rent from top to bottom (Matt. 27: 51); for by His death He glorified God in every attribute of His character concerning the question of sin, and by that one offering perfected for ever them that are sanctified, and th veil was therefore rent to signify that the way was now made open into the holiest of all. "For that which rent the veil in order to admit us has likewise put away the sin which shut us out." It is thus now the privilege of every believer, on the ground of the efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ, to enter at all times into the holiest of all--he has boldness to do so by the blood of Jesus.
But there is a third thing indicated, which may be briefly noticed before calling your attention to the full consequence of these blessed truths; viz., "an high priest over the house of God." And where is our high priest? "Every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool. For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (vv. 11-14). We thus learn that our High Priest is seated at the right hand of God, and that this attitude is owing to the fact that His sacrificial work has been accomplished; and hence His presence in heaven is a witness and a proof of the abiding efficacy of His work, and consequently a perpetual encouragement to His people to enter boldly into the holiest of all--inside the rent veil.
Such are the three immense facts--the blood of Jesus, the rent veil, and the high priest over the house of God, to which the Holy Spirit directs our attention before exhorting us to draw near (v. 22). And the place to which we are invited to approach, or into which we are urged to enter, is the holiest--the holy of holies. That is the place which was typified by the holy of holies in the tabernacle in the wilderness, the place into which Christ, as our Representative and Forerunner, has already entered (Heb. 4: 14; 6: 19,20). Our place of worship therefore is in the immediate presence of God, the scene of the ministry on our behalf of Christ, as the High Priest. True that we are down here on the earth as strangers and pilgrims when we think of priesthood. But this earth can never be the scene of our worship; for we have "boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus," and there alone can worship be rendered or accepted. Nay; if I would do homage even to the King, I must go to the place where he sits in state to receive it. Much more, if I would worship God I must do so in the place where He sits on His throne, and into which, for this very purpose, He has, in His ineffable grace, given me a title to enter at all times through the precious blood of Christ. There above, therefore, inside the rent veil, in His own immediate presence, and in no other place, must His people worship. And what a marvellous privilege it is, what inexpressible grace, which He has bestowed upon us, that we should enjoy constant liberty of access before Him to bow there in adoration and praise!
"Within the holiest of all,
Cleansed by His precious blood,
Before the throne we prostrate fall,
And worship Thee, 0 God!"
Having this truth clearly before us, you will see, I am sure, that to speak of a place of worship on earth would tend to obscure the teaching of Scripture and to undermine our privileges. I do not forget that in many cases, as I have said, very little is meant by the phrase; but, on the other hand, in many others it means a great deal, and begets the idea of sacred and consecrated buildings. The Jews had a "worldly sanctuary" (Heb. 9: 1), one that was erected by divine direction, and according to a divine commandment. But to erect a "sanctuary," or a "holy" building, now, is to take Jewish ground, and to ignore the fact that "we have such an High Priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched and not man." There cannot therefore be a place of worship on earth; and to call a building by such a name is, unconsciously as it may be done, to overlook, to use no stronger word, the believer's place and privilege, and to misrepresent the truth of Christianity.
It may be necessary to allude to one more point; viz., that all believers alike have the same privilege of access into the holiest. The Scriptures, or rather the Scriptures that deal with church truth, know nothing of a sacred order of men, as distinct from their fellow-believers, who enjoy special privileges, with a title to approach God on behalf of others. All believers are alike priests, and all therefore have the same qualification for access to God as worshippers. The passage we have alluded to in the Hebrews (10: 19-22) is decisive upon this question. Mark its terms: "Having therefore, brethren." All alike are addressed, and all are reminded that they have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. Again the apostle says: "Let us draw near"--associating himself with all whom he addresses; because, in truth, he and they alike were on the same footing before God as to worship. It is especially necessary to hold fast this truth in this day of revival of sacerdotalism and its superstitious claims. The two things are connected. If you have an earthly place of worship, you must also have an order of priests; and these two things combined constitute a denial of Christianity. Hence it is incumbent upon us to contend earnestly for the truth once delivered to the saints.
But we must not be content with the doctrine on the subject. The question for our souls is, Do we know what it is to draw near, to worship in, the holiest? I would press this point very solemnly; for nothing short of this will satisfy the heart of Him by whose precious blood it is we have received such an unspeakable privilege. Let us then be satisfied with nothing less than the enjoyment of it. If we had seen Aaron, on the day of atonement, lifting the sacred veil to enter into the awful presence of a holy God, we should have been impressed not only with the solemnity of the act, but also with the wonderful position of favor and nearness to God which he occupied by virtue of his priesthood. All believers now are in that position. May,we then know increasingly what it is to be found inside the rent veil, that we may apprehend more fully the efficacy of that one offering which has brought us into God's presence without a spot upon us, and without a veil between.
Believe me, dear ______,Yours affectionately in Christ,
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