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To Worship the Living God

Michael Hardt

From Truth & Testimony 2011

"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 worship the living God?"

Heb 9:14 (New Translation by J.N. Darby)

It is easy to understand why a Jew, converted to Christ, had difficulties with leaving behind the rites and ceremonies of Jewish worship which, after all, had been ordained by God. What may seem more difficult to understand, at first sight, is the trend of recent years and decades away from Christian worship and toward rituals, forms, ceremonies, and even performances. Upon consideration, however, it may not be that difficult to understand. The flesh is still the same. It likes what is visible and tangible, that which appeals to the senses of natural man. True worship requires faith and settled peace, but it also gives true joy and is part of true fellowship with the Father and the Son.

Hebrews 9 and 10 provide an impressive juxtaposition of the system of Jewish worship on the one hand and the reality of Christ's work, the better sacrifice, on the other. The former was based on, and part of, the old covenant. The sacrifice of Christ, on the other hand, brings blessings never known and enjoyed under that covenant: Christian worshippers enjoy free access to God, they are sanctified once for all, and can approach God to serve Him in worship.[1]

These chapters were primarily aimed at encouraging the converted Jews of the time but they are just as relevant to and profitable for Christians today. An attentive study of these contrasts can only encourage us to worship ‘in Spirit and in truth' (John 4:24) and as those who have ‘received the knowledge of the truth' (Heb. 10:26). The table below shows some of the many powerful contrasts between the old and the new, the ‘first' and the ‘second'.


Old Testament worship

New Testament worship

Heb. 9:1

Marked by laws and rules (‘ordinances of service' ) because part of the old covenant.

The sanctuary was a man-made, physical place on earth: ‘the sanctuary, a worldly one' .

Marked by liberty and the Spirit (John 4:24; Phil. 3:3).

Heavenly sanctuary : ‘better and more perfect tabernacle not made with hand, (that is, not of this creation,)' (Heb. 9:11). Christ entered ‘not ... into holy places made with hands ... but into heaven itself' (Heb. 9:24).


Heb. 9:3, 6

Extremely limited access; even the priests were barred from the presence of God: ‘but after the second veil a tabernacle which is called Holy of holies' . The priests entered into the ‘first tabernacle' only. See comments on verse 7 below.

Free access (Heb. 10:19–22):

•  ‘boldness for entering into the holy of holies by the blood of Jesus' ;

•  ‘the new and living way' ;

•  ‘let us approach with a true heart' .

Heb. 9:6

Only ‘the priests enter' . Not all were priests; they were a special class among the people of God.

All believers are priests (1 Pet. 2:5).

Heb. 9:7

Access to the presence of God was highly restricted:

•  only the high priest;

•  only once a year;

•  not without blood.

See also verse 8: ‘the way of the holy of holies has not yet been made manifest' .

Access is perfect:

•  for all believers;

•  any time;

•  based on a perfect ‘once for all' sacrifice.

Heb. 9:7

A failing high priest who : ‘offers [blood] for himself' .

A perfect high priest (Heb. 7:24–27) appearing ‘in the presence of God for us' (9:24).

Heb. 9:9–10

Sacrifices, unable to perfect as to conscience him that worshipped. See also Hebrews 10:1, 2.

Offerings consist of material things and ceremonies: ‘consisting only of meats and drinks and divers washings, ordinances of flesh' .

Each Christian worshipper has a purged conscience by the blood of Christ (Heb. 9:14) on the basis of an eternal redemption (v. 12).

Hebrews 9:11, 12: Christ:

  • came by His own blood;
  • entered into the holy of holies;
  • once for all.

Believers bring spiritual sacrifices (1 Pet. 2:5).


Heb. 9:10

A temporal system of worship: ‘imposed until the time of setting things right' .

Christ ‘entered in once for all into the holy of holies, having found an eternal redemption' (Heb. 9:12).

Heb. 9:13

Purification of the flesh.

Purification of conscience (Heb. 9:14).

Heb. 9:25

Offered often, as the high priest enters into the holy places each year.

‘But now once in the consummation of the ages he has been manifested for the putting away of sin by his sacrifice' (Heb. 9:26).

Heb. 9:25

The high priest entered ‘with blood not his own' .

Christ ‘by his own blood, has entered' (Heb. 9:12).

Heb. 9:26

Sins called to mind: ‘But in these there is a calling to mind of sins yearly' . And: ‘offering often the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins' (Heb. 10:3, 11).

Sins put away: Christ was ‘manifested for the putting away of sin by his sacrifice' (9:26). See also 10:12: ‘he, having offered one sacrifice for sins, sat down in perpetuity at the right hand of God' .

Heb. 10:1

Worshippers are not made perfect: ‘For the law ... can never ... perfect those who approach' .

Worshippers are ‘perfected in perpetuity' by one offering (Heb. 10:14).


Heb. 10:6–9

Sacrifices could not satisfy God: ‘Thou tookest no pleasure in burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sin' .

God is now satisfied because Christ came to do His will: ‘Lo, I come to do thy will' (Heb. 10:9).


The conclusion is: ‘He takes away the first that he may establish the second' (Heb. 10:9).

Other scriptures present further differences. For example:


Old Testament worship

New Testament worship

Lev. 1–7

Animal sacrifices

Christ brought one sacrifice, once for all. Christians bring spiritual sacrifices (1 Pet. 2:5), the ‘sacrifice of praise' (Heb. 13:15).

Ex. 28

Special robes

Christians appear before God in Christ (Eph. 1:3–5).

Ex. 30:1; Lev. 16:12, 13

Burning of incense

Presentation of the fragrance of Christ and His sacrifice (Eph. 5:2; 1 Pet. 2:5).

The sacrifice of Christ gives us immeasurable privileges: free any-time access to God, full and permanent sanctification, and a purged conscience. Do you enjoy these things? Do you habitually approach God in worship, without outward forms and ceremonies, pomp and performances; simply on the basis of what Christ has done, speaking His praises? If not, ask God to help you do this personally and to show you fellow believers in your area with whom you can worship in this way together.

[1]The word used for worship in Hebrews 8:5, 9:9, 9:14, 10:2, 12:28 and 13:10 is latreuo , referring to serving in worship.