Maintaining a Good Relationship with God
The reason for the existence of humans is almost beyond belief. The Sovereign God who sent the Creator God to earth over nineteen hundred years ago to become the Messiah, is in the process of expanding his family:
"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, . . ." (Jn.1:12 KJV).
"Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1.Jn.3:1-2 KJV). See also 2.Cor.6:18; Rom.8:14,19.
Through his human creation, the Sovereign God began the greatest and grandest of all his creations; he is creating beings just like himself (Phil.3:21; 1.Jn.3:2) and he intends to share all he has created and all that he is yet to create throughout eternity with them.
Why Maintain a Good Relationship?
There would be no reason to strive to obey and practice God's law in order to maintain a good relationship with him unless there were benefits to be derived from this relationship. However, there are awesome eternal benefits that are offered through a good relationship with the Sovereign God (God the Father) and the Creator God (Jesus Christ).
"But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God [the Father] has prepared for them that love him" (1.Cor.2:9 KJV).
The biblical record clearly shows that individuals who will not put forth a sincere and diligent effort to maintain a harmonious relationship with God the Father will not benefit from a father-son relationship with him in the present or in the future. Therefore, it is extremely important to know and understand how to establish and maintain a proper relationship with him and his firstborn son.
Because of the extreme importance of a harmonious relationship between God the Father and humanity, the Sovereign God and the Creator God, designed a system that would allow such a relationship to be established and maintained.
In the following pages we will review some of the early agreements between the Creator God and people in order to provide insight into how to establish and maintain a good relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ during the gospel age of salvation.
Did God Have a Plan?
Some people who study the Bible believe that God did not fully understand the potential for evil and rebellion that was inherent within the human creation. And that, when the first humans disobeyed the instructions he gave them in the garden of Eden, he hastily developed a plan to save them from their destructive nature. Then, when the nation of Israel rebelled at Mount Sinai, God again developed a new plan that included many new rules and regulations. Moreover, when this plan failed, he discarded it for yet another plan. But this belief is very far from the truth.
Before humans were created, the potential of humans was well understood. The Supreme Sovereign God (God the Father) and the Creator God (Jesus Christ) knew that humans had the potential to become rebellious.
They also knew that some people would want to have a good relationship with them and accept the awesome opportunity for immortality and eternal life that would be offered to them.
Therefore, before the creation of humans, the Sovereign God and the Creator God had already formulated a complete plan for the salvation of humanity. From what is revealed about this plan, it is obvious that all factors were considered and all contingency plans were well thought out and in place before the creation of the earth and humanity. See Heb.4:3; 1.Pet.1:18-20; Rev.13:8; 17:8.
From Genesis to Revelation
The desire of both God the Father and the Creator God to dwell with their human creation and have a close relationship with them is well documented in the biblical record.
One of the very first things that we learn from the first four chapters of the Genesis account of early humanity is that the Creator God wanted to have a close relationship with them from the very beginning. And at the end of the Book of Revelation, we see this same desire stated in the prophecy of the coming of the Father to dwell on the earth.
Revelation 21:3-7 Paraphrased
"And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the lodging of God is with men! And he will reside with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them, as their God" (v3).
After this announcement is made, God the Father will come to dwell on earth with his children. What follows is a prophetic promise from him to his faithful children who have shown by their lives that they love him and want with all of their being to dwell with him forever:
"And God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (v4).
Only after humans have advanced beyond this physical existence and into the spirit realm can these conditions exist. Why will there no longer be tears, sorrow, pain, or death? None of these things will exist, because the things that were a part of the human experience will no longer exist.
"And the One sitting on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. . . To the one thirsting, I will freely give of the fountain of the water of life. The one overcoming will inherit all things, and I will be God to him, and he will be the son to me" (vs.5-7).
This prophecy shows that the Sovereign God's desire to have an ongoing relationship with those who want to have a relationship with him has not changed from the beginning of humanity.
FROM THE BEGINNING
In the beginning, the Creator God (the God who became Jesus Christ) could walk and talk with the first two humans, because they were free from sin and lived in a state of purity within the garden that he had prepared for them. All of this changed when they disobeyed his instructions to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Because of their disobedience, God instituted the next phase of his plan that provided a way for humanity to have their violation of his law (i.e., sin) temporarily set aside and their physical impurity purged from them so that he and they could fellowship together. See Gen.4:3-4.
This basic plan that allowed people to maintain a good relationship with their Creator has not changed from the time that it was instituted with Adam and Eve. At the time of the first agreement with the nation of Israel, the Creator God required the same basic method of atonement for a violation of God's law and the purging away of physical defilement as he always had. The only difference was that the first agreement with national Israel required that atonement be administered in a formal way from a place of God's choosing and through an attending priesthood.
A change in the administration of the sacrificial system was made necessary because God was going to dwell with the nation of Israel during this next phase of his plan for the salvation of humanity:
"And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them" (Ex.25:8 KJV). See also Deut.23:10-14.
The Creator wanted to dwell among the Israelites for the same reason that he wanted to have a close relationship with Adam and Eve, which was to teach them how to obtain eternal life in the Kingdom and Family of God.
From the time of the rebellion of the first humans and the institution of the sacrificial system, there has only been one method by which a person could establish and maintain a harmonious relationship with God. This method did not change with the advent of the Messiah and the cancellation of the first agreement with national Israel, it did not change with the agreement that God the Father makes with those who accept his offer of salvation during the gospel age, and it will not change after Christ returns to rule the world from Jerusalem.
The basic method by which a person establishes and maintains a harmonious relationship with God has always been the same; it is just the method of administration that has changed throughout the centuries, in order to facilitate God's plan for the salvation of different people during different times and circumstances.
The Foundational Elements
It is evident that both the Sovereign God and the Creator God desire to have a harmonious relationship with humans in order to accomplish their goal of expanding the God Family.
Once a person who is given an opportunity for a personal relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ repents, is baptized, and receives the indwelling of the holy spirit, there are several things that must be done in order to maintain this personal relationship and be assured that one will successfully obtain eternal life.
Just as the question of eternal life is on the minds of people today, it was on the minds of people during Jesus' day:
"And, behold, one came and said to him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said to him, Why call you me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matt.19:16-17 KJV).
Why did Jesus tell this man to keep the Commandments? The answer is simple––the man had a choice. He could either obey God's law and gain eternal life or he could disobey and pay the penalty for disobedience (Rom.6:23).
"And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have a right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city" (Rev.22:12-14 KJV).
A lawyer asked Jesus the following question about God's law. The answer he received shows the two primary attitudes and behaviors that a person must have in order to have and maintain a good relationship with their heavenly Father:
"Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus answered him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your life, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is similar to the first. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matt.22:36-40 Para.).
The English words commandment(s) in Matthew, chapters 19 and 22, are translated from the Greek word entole which basically means an authoritative prescription (i.e., God's laws, precepts, and principles).
What Jesus said about practicing God's law and the results from its practice was nothing new. After Moses had repeated the major points of the law of the covenant to Israel he said:
"See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil" "In that I command you this day to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that you may live and multiply: and the Lord your God shall bless you in the land where you go to possess it" (Deut.30:15-16 KJV).
"But if your heart turn away, so that you will not hear, but shall be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce to you this day, that you shall surely perish, and that you shall not prolong your days on the land, where you passed over Jordan to go to possess it. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live" (Deut. 30:17-19 KJV).
In relation to the obedience and the practice of God's law, nothing has changed. During this gospel age of salvation, a faithful and diligent obedience and practice of God's law will result in blessings and eternal life, but disobedience will bring curses and death.
The first thing that is necessary if you desire to have a good relationship with God the Father is to love him with all your being. This kind of love will be manifested in your desire and effort to fellowship with him and to please him through the obedience and practice of his law and the pursuit of his will in your life.
The second thing that is necessary is to understand that the Father loves all people and wants everyone to obtain salvation and become a part of his family. Because this is his goal, anyone who loves the Father must also have love and concern for other people.
Listed below are other foundational attitudes, behaviors, and other things that have always been required of people in order for them to show that they are serious about their desire to build and maintain a close personal relationship with God:
Acknowledge God as Sovereign over one's life.
Seek to please God through one's thoughts and behavior.
Learn and study God's laws and way of life in order to come into compliance with them.
Fellowship with God through prayer, observance of his law, and one's lifestyle.
Repent of any violation of his law.
Ask for forgiveness for any violation of his laws, precepts, and principles.
Apply the proper sacrifice for the atonement of sin.
Faith In God
In the Book of Hebrews, chapter 11, there is a long list of individuals who have received God's approval through the application of faith in his promises and way of life. See Heb.11:1-40.
"And these all, having received a witness through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect" (Heb.11:39-40 Para.).
These people all had a good relationship with God through faith. But, how did they accomplish this?
Abel had faith that the sacrifices he offered would set his sins aside and keep him in a harmonious relationship with God. Abel understood that the sacrifices were symbolic of the Messiah and he looked forward to the time when the Messiah would come to provide the perfect sacrifice, which would forgive sin and remove its penalty.
It was Abel's faith in God's sacrificial system and his obedience to God's laws that caused him to be listed in Hebrews, chapter 11, as one of those who will be made perfect along with God the Father's elect children who are the first to live under a new and better agreement than the one made with national Israel.
When an in-depth study is made of the sacrificial system, it becomes obvious that the individuals--from Adam to Christ--who had faith in God's promises and followed his instructions pertaining to his sacrificial system and his law have secured eternal life just like the Father's elect during the gospel age of salvation.
These individuals had absolute faith that God would set their sins aside and remove them forever when the Messiah would come to present himself as the supreme sacrifice.
Under the first agreement with national Israel, the Creator required a priesthood to administer the sacrificial system in order to accomplish the atonement for spiritual sin and purge away the people's physical defilement. This was required; so that, he could dwell among them and teach them the ways, that lead to immortal and eternal life in the Kingdom and Family of God:
"The priest was a man whose function was to build a bridge between men and God by means of the sacrificial system. If a man broke the law, his fellowship with God was interrupted and his access to God was barred. By the offering of the correct sacrifice, that breach of the law was atoned for, and so the fellowship was restored and the barrier removed" (Commentary on Hebrews, by William Barclay, page 66).
The Blood of Atonement
"For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you on the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that makes an atonement for your soul" (Lev.17:11 KJV).
At the institution of the first agreement with national Israel, the people accepted the laws of God as the condition of their special relationship with him. A sacrifice was made, and Moses took half of the blood from the sacrifice, put it in basins, and threw half of it against the altar. After the book of the law had been read and the people had signified their acceptance of it, Moses took the blood from the sacrifice and sprinkled it on the people and declared that the covenant had been sealed and ratified:
"Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you concerning all these words" (Ex.24:8 KJV).
No ratification of any agreement or reconciliation can occur between God and people without the shedding of blood, because life is in the blood and life is the most precious possession of any living creature. Therefore, the giving of a life emphasizes the seriousness of making and maintaining an agreement with God.
"For the life of the flesh is in the blood. . ." (Lev.17:11). "For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof. . ." (Lev. 17:14).
In order for a person to atone for sin and maintain a harmonious relationship with God before the advent of Jesus Christ, the sacrificial law required that, when a person violated God's law, a specific offering must be made for that particular violation:
"Sin offerings are required in the following cases: If someone is officially summoned to give evidence in court and does not give information about something he has seen or heard, he must suffer the consequences. When a person is guilty, he must confess the sin. In this way the priest shall offer the sacrifice for the man's sin, and he will be forgiven . . ." (Lev.5:1,5,13 GNB).
When a person was guilty of sin, a confession must be made and the proper sacrifice brought to the place of sacrifice. Then, the priest would offer the sacrifice and the sin would be atoned for, but not forgiven.
The Setting Aside of Sin
Under the first agreement with national Israel, a sinner could have sin atoned for through the sacrificial system. When a person acknowledged and repented of sin and offered the proper sacrifice, the sin was set aside and temporarily hidden from God's sight, and the person was placed back into right-standing with God.
Before the advent of Jesus Christ as the Messiah, was there a method or process whereby individuals could have their sins forgiven?
Could sins be forgiven through animal sacrifices?
The answer to both questions is No. Before the advent of Jesus Christ, there was no method or process by which sin could be totally forgiven. No amount of animal sacrifices could bring the forgiveness of sin or remove its penalty. However, the sacrifices did provide for the setting aside of sins, which allowed people to maintain a good relationship with God.
Sins Set Aside, Not Forgiven
"For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshipers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins" (Heb.10:1-4 KJV).
The sins of Israel were brought to remembrance every year on the Day of Atonement because these sins were neither forgiven nor forgotten. The reason they could not be forgiven or forgotten was that the sacrifices were not perfect; they had no power to forgive sins. Therefore, the record of sins still existed, and the people were still guilty of their sins.
Once a year on the Day of Atonement, all accumulated sin (physical/ ceremonial defilement and spiritual/moral sin) of every individual was atoned for; it was either purged away or set aside. However, the sins were not forgiven. The punishment for these sins had not been exacted. The penalty had not been paid, and each individual was still guilty before God. Therefore, the next year on the Day of Atonement these same sins and any sins committed during the previous year would be remembered and would have to be atoned for by the blood of bulls and goats. And these sins would again be symbolically sent away from the nation of Israel for another year.
The atonement process had to be repeated over and over in order for the Israelites to maintain a harmonious relationship with God under the terms and conditions of the first agreement with ancient Israel. Only the life of the lawbreaker could pay the penalty for personal sin. Animal life was only a substitute payment for sin until payment could be made by the lawbreaker.
The sacrificial animals only provided a temporary substitute for the life of those guilty of sin; so that, they could continue to fellowship with God, learn his way of life, and receive the other benefits of having his presence dwell among them.
The sacrifices for sin under the sacrificial system did accomplish the purpose of placing individuals and the nation into harmony with the Creator God; so, that he could dwell among them and commune with them. However, there was no forgiveness for the violation of God's law or its penalty through the sacrifice of animals.
THE GOSPEL AGE
During the gospel age of salvation, God the Father has provided a much simpler and easier method by which his people can maintain a good relationship with him.
Individuals who have an agreement with God the Father can have their sins totally forgiven through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Individuals can communicate with their heavenly Father through the authority of Jesus Christ who is their High Priest and who sits at the Father's right hand and intercedes on their behalf.
"And every priest stands daily ministering and offering many times the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God" (Heb.10:11-12 KJV). See Matt.26:27-28; Acts 2:38; Rom.3:23-25.
It is through Jesus Christ's perfect sacrifice and priesthood that the elect have access to the Father and are able to establish and maintain a harmonious relationship with him. And it is because of the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ that the elect are able to stand before the Father in a pure and sinless condition.
Under the agreement with the Patriarchs and ancient Israel, sins were only set aside and covered from God's view after repentance and the offering of the proper sacrifice. However, under the new agreement, the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ has the power to forgive sin and remove its record and penalty forever. Never again will it be necessary for anyone to offer an animal sacrifice for the purpose of having a violation of God's law set aside and covered from the Father's view. Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, all sin can be forgiven and forgotten forever.
"Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it" (Col.2:14-15).
"Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God" (Rom.3:25 KJV).
Notice Paul's statement: "for the remission of sins that are past." Some references define this statement as "passing over of sins done in the past" (i.e., sins committed since the time of Adam).
The following explanation of Paul's statement is from William Barclay's "Commentary on Hebrews":
"It is through him [Christ] that there emerges a new covenant between God and man; and the purpose behind this new covenant is that those who have been called might receive the eternal inheritance which has been promised to them; but this could happen only after a death had taken place, the purpose of which was to rescue them from the consequence of the transgressions which had been committed under the conditions of the old covenant.
"For where there is a will, it is necessary that there should be evidence of the death of the testator before the will is valid. It is in the case of dead people that a will is confirmed, since surely it cannot be operative when the testator is still alive.
"That is why even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood. For, after every commandment which the law lays down had been announced by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, together with water and scarlet and hyssop, and sprinkled the book itself and all the people. And as he did so, he said: 'This is the blood of the covenant whose conditions God commanded you to observe.'
"In like manner he sprinkled with blood the tabernacle also and all the instruments used in its worship. Under the conditions which the law lays down, it is true to say that almost everything is cleansed by blood. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
"As we have seen, the idea of the covenant is basic to the thought of the writer, by which he meant a relationship between God and man. The first covenant was dependent on man's keeping of the law; as soon as he broke the law the covenant became ineffective. . .'
"Therefore, the basic meaning of the new covenant, which Jesus inaugurated, is that men should have access to God or, to put it another way, have fellowship with him.'
"So the writer to the Hebrews has a tremendous thought and says that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is retroactive. That is to say, it is effective to wipe out the sins of men committed under the old covenant and to inaugurate the fellowship promised under the new" (Commentary on Hebrews, p.105-106).
All this seems very complicated, but at its roots there are two great eternal truths:
It is through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that violations of God's law are forgiven and forgotten forever.
It is through the sacrifice of Jesus that a person may have fellowship with God the Father.
It is because of the better terms and conditions of the new agreement, which was instituted by Jesus Christ, that a person can now maintain a good relationship with God the Father and be assured that, when they ask forgiveness for their sins, these sins and the penalties for these sins will vanish as if they had never existed.
A Perfect High Priest
"If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchizedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For he of whom these things are spoken pertains to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchizedec there arises another priest, Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life" (Heb.7:11-16 KJV).
"Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having a high priest over the house of God" (Heb.10:19-21 KJV).
Under the first agreement with national Israel, the High Priest was to act as a bridge between God and his people. Because the High Priest himself was under the death penalty, he was also in need of a perfect sacrifice to be offered for his sins in order to have these sins forgiven and their penalty removed. Moreover, because the High Priest of Israel was not perfect, he and those he represented could never pass beyond the Creator God and into the presence of God the Father. But why not? The reason is that the Father dwells in heaven, and anyone who is allowed to come into his presence must be totally sinless, holy, and righteous. No human qualified or had the authority to go before him prior to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, because every human was under the death penalty for the violation of God's law before the advent of Christ.
The writer to the Hebrews shows a change in the conditions of the original agreement with Israel; this change allows the elect to go directly before God the Father without going to a physical priest. Under the first agreement with Israel the physical priest would speak to God on their behalf, but today this is not necessary.
A Spiritual High Priest
Jesus Christ is now the High Priest who sits at the right hand of God the Father in heaven. And because of Christ's sacrifice and the new agreement, there is a new and life-giving way opened for the Father's earthly children to go into his presence:
"But now has he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant [agreement], which was established on better promises" (Heb.8:6 KJV).
Through his sacrifice, Jesus Christ has become the immortal High Priest and the mediator of a new and better agreement that is built on new and better promises from God the Father. And since Jesus Christ became the perfect sacrifice, there is no longer a need for animal sacrifices to be made to atone for violations of God's law.
Before the advent of the Messiah, when people became physically defiled, the only way they could be restored to a condition of purity (holiness) was through the sacrificial system. See Lev. chps. 8-16.
This same situation still exists during the gospel age of salvation; however, a person who has an eternal agreement with God the Father is in a continual state of purity (holiness) through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. Moreover, this person does not need to offer an animal sacrifice to remove physical defilement.
Another point to be aware of is that, before the advent of the Messiah, a person who committed a spiritual sin was considered spiritually defiled (impure and unholy) before God. Again, the only way to restore a person to a condition of spiritual purity was to offer the proper animal sacrifice. Today, anyone who has an eternal agreement with the Father is in a continual state of spiritual purity (holiness) through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ and they do not need to offer an animal sacrifice to remove spiritual defilement.
The Perfect Sacrifice
Although a person could obtain a state of physical and spiritual purity (holiness) before the advent of the Messiah, this condition could not be maintained because there was no perfect sacrifice that could totally eliminate physical and spiritual defilement.
Then and today, the sacrifice of one's personal life in order to become holy is not possible because no human is without sin; however, a substitute sacrifice that is holy and perfect in every way (sinless) may atone for the life of the sinner. Through this kind of substitution, a person's life can be redeemed and given back to them. Although animal life is without sin, animals are neither perfect spiritually or of the same value as human life. Therefore, it is only God himself who can be this substitute sacrifice, which is what the Creator God actually became as the Messiah.
It is only through the sacrificial blood of the Creator God (Jesus Christ) that any human can be placed back into or maintain a good relationship with God the Father. The sins of a person who is under the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ are considered to be non-existent as long as one's attitude is correct in seeking to please God. When sin is brought to the consciousness of a person under the blood of Christ, the only thing that this person must do in order to eliminate this record of sin is to repent of the sin, acknowledge it to the Father, and ask for his forgiveness through the authority of Jesus Christ. When this is done the sin is wiped from the person's record and vanishes as if it had never existed:
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things become new. And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their Trespasses to them; and has committed to us the word of reconciliation" (2.Cor.5:17-19 KJV).
It is obvious from the Bible that God the Father's earthly children are made and kept holy through the blood of Christ's perfect sacrifice, just as the people who lived before the advent of the Messiah were made and kept holy by the blood of sacrificial animals. It is through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that we are declared holy in the Father's eyes and can remain in a condition of holiness before the Father.
THE SACRIFICES PAST AND PRESENT
Much can be learned from the sacrificial system of the past that can be applied to the present and will surely be taught in the future when national Israel exists as a nation under Christ's rule. Therefore, it is good to review some of the sacrifices that were offered under the first agreement with ancient Israel and the sacrifices that are offered by the people of God during the gospel age of salvation.
Some of the sacrifices were acts of praise, gratitude, and homage. Others showed a person's submission to the Holy One of Israel, and others were symbolic of gratitude and devotion to him and dependence and confidence in him.
THE AGREEMENT WITH ANCIENT ISRAEL
The Burnt Offering
The burnt offering expressed one's individual surrender to God's will. It pictured the faithful Israelite giving a gift to God. In the burnt offering there is a method whereby one could come to present God with something that he desired and was pleased by. The burnt offering was not given to atone for sin; it was strictly a means by which an individual could express his love and devotion to God through an act of worship. See Lev.1:3-7.
The Meal Offering
The meal offering was also a burnt offering. It was an offering that was pleasing to God. It pictured the individual in perfect obedience to God and it had basically the same meaning as the burnt offering. Again, this offering had nothing to do with sin. It was a means by which a person could worship God by bringing something to him that he desired—something valuable to the offerer—as an act of worship. See Lev.2: 1-6.
In the Burnt or Meal offering, there was an offering that was satisfying to God. This offering was consumed by his holy fire on his holy altar and its smoke ascended to him as a pleasant smell. The burnt offerings were symbolic of the perfect fulfillment of the law's requirements. God found satisfaction in these offerings, and declared them to be very good.
The Peace Offering
The Peace offering that was made by the general population of Israel was also called the Fellowship Offering and it was offered for the following reasons:
It showed an individual's gratitude to God for his bounteous blessings and mercies.
It was symbolic of God, man, and the High Priest eating and fellowshipping together as a family.
It pictured a family feast or a community feast where friends and neighbors got together with God to have fellowship (Lev.3:1-17).
The offerings and sacrifices that were to be made on the New Moon were considered fellowship offerings. These types of offerings were partially consumed by fire as a sweet savor to God and partially eaten by the priesthood, which signified their eating at the table of God.
The eating of the fellowship offerings had great significance, both literally and symbolically, because the priests were literally partaking of the Lord's food (i.e., partaking of the Lord's table). Remember that the High Priest and the priesthood were to be the bridge between God and the nation of Israel. When the priesthood ate the sacred food offered to God, by extension, the people were also eating at the table of God
The Peace Offering was unique from the other offerings in that God, the priest, and the offerer, ate together. This was the only offering in which God, the priest, and the offer had something in common; they each partook of the offering.
In the Peace Offering, the offerer feasts with God. God, the priesthood, and offerer all found satisfaction in this offering, because of the common food that was shared among them. God also found satisfaction in being honored by the one making the offering, as well as in sharing the offering with the priesthood and the one making the offering. This offering also shows that God desires and enjoys fellowship with his people.
The Burnt, Meal, and Peace offerings were all freewill offerings; they were not offerings of necessity, but they were brought to God because an individual wanted to please God. These offerings were a way of showing gratitude toward God.
The Sin Offering
The sin offering was made for sins that were done in ignorance. It was given to show God that one recognized one's sinful condition and the inability to perfectly practice his law. It pictured asking God to purge away all sins that were done in ignorance and to be made pure and holy before him (Lev.4:1-35).
This was not an offering during which an individual came and confessed his known sins, which was done in the trespass offering.
The Trespass Offering
The trespass offering was to be given when a person was conscious of personal sin that was knowingly committed. It pictured one who was truly sorry for having sinned and was willing to confess this violation of the law of God and make restitution. If a person did this, God would set the sin aside and cover it from his view:
"And he shall make amends for the harm that he has done in the holy thing, and shall add the fifth part thereto, and give it to the priest: and the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering, and it shall be forgiven him" (Lev.5:16 Para.).
ATONEMENT PAST AND PRESENT
Under the agreement with ancient Israel, a person who violated God's law knowingly or in ignorance became separated from God and the benefits of a relationship with him were withheld. When the violator offered the proper sacrifice to atone for the sin, their sin was set aside and their relationship with God was repaired.
Since Jesus Christ offered his life as the final and supreme sacrifice for the sins of humanity, there is no longer a need to make an animal sacrifice in order to set sins aside. But, there is a need for the forgiveness of sin when it is committed, because sin is the violation of God's laws, precepts, and principles according to the apostles John, Paul, and James:
"Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law" (1.Jn.3:4 KJV).
"All unrighteousness is sin. . . " (1.Jn.5:17 Para.).
"Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Blessed is the one not condemning himself in what he approves. But the one doubting, if he eats, he has been condemned, because it is not of faith—and all that is not of faith is sin" (Rom.14:22-23 Para.).
"Therefore, to anyone knowing to do good, and not doing it, it is sin to him" (Jms.4:17 Para.).
Sin is any deviation from God's laws, precepts, and principles, which define how a person should live their life and worship God. It is this deviation from the law of God for which a person must ask forgiveness. According to the apostle Paul the penalty for the violation of God's law is death:
"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom.6:23 KJV).
When one of the Father's earthly children becomes aware of sin in their life, they must stop sinning and ask for forgiveness in order to continue to maintain right-standing with their heavenly Father and their Savior. If a child of God refuses to stop sinning, the Father cannot forgive the sin nor give the person the gift of salvation.
Sacrifices During the Gospel Age
During the gospel age of salvation the people of God are still required to give sacrifices of thanksgiving in order to please God; however, the sacrifices are of a different nature from those given under the agreement with ancient Israel:
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, for this is your reasonable service. Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, in order to prove what is the good, pleasing and perfect will of God" (Rom.12: 1-2 Para.).
Today, under the new agreement, the Father's earthly children must be living sacrifices through being subject to the Father's law and way of life. Thereby, they offer their life as a living sacrifice to him. The offering of one's life in service to the Father is a thing that is most pleasing to him, because it shows the attitude of love for him and his way of life.
"Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live a life of love, even as Christ loved us, and gave himself a fragrant offering and sacrifice to the Father. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or any kind of impurity, or greed, because these things are improper for the elect of God. Nor obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving" (Eph.5:1-4 Para.).
Paul speaks of being an imitator of the Sovereign God's example as a father and Christ's example of sacrificial love in the context of being a living sacrifice.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul shows that sacrifice goes beyond one's attitude and behavior and into the giving of one's physical substance to those of the elect who are in need. Paul also shows that this is acceptable to God and that there is a reward to be gained by such an attitude and behavior.
"For even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God" (Phil.4:16-18 NIV).
The writer to the Hebrews shows that, if one is to dedicate one's life to the Father, one must be willing to do the things that are necessary in order to maintain a harmonious relationship with him. To maintain this sort of relationship one must set one's heart and mind on living a life that pleases him:
"The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifice God is pleased" (Heb.13:11-16 NIV). See also 2.Pet.1:1-12; 1.Jn.3:16-22.
This is how we maintain a harmonious relationship with God the Father and his son Jesus Christ. It is through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that we can be justified before the Father and are allowed to bring the sacrifice of our life before him.
There is obviously much more that could be said about how to live in harmony with God the Father and Christ; nevertheless, the information presented documents that an ongoing effort to please the Father through obedience to his laws, precepts, and principles and through a sincere and diligent effort to practice them will result in a harmonious relationship between God the Father and the one chosen to be one of his children.
By B.L. Cocherell and V.O. Jones b4w17