Procedures and Rituals
From the beginning of the Creator God's interaction with mankind, the biblical record shows specific procedures, rituals, and other acts that were performed in order to worship and serve him.
Although few details are given about the procedures and rituals required before the great flood and the establishment of national Israel, it is clear from the Book of Genesis that these rituals and procedures were understood by those who worshiped and served God (Gen.4:1-7; 8:20-21; 22:1-13).
Just before the Israelite's exodus from Egypt, they were instructed to follow clearly defined procedures and rituals regarding the sacrificial lamb in order to be spared from being killed by the death angel as he passed through the land of Egypt (Ex.12:1-14). Subsequently, national Israel was required to perform an amended version of these same procedures and rituals annually in order to remain in a covenant relationship with the Creator God.
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy contain many instructions to the Israelites which included many procedures and rituals pertaining to sacrifices, purification, sickness, enquiring of the Creator, determining adulterous behavior, the priesthood's attire and behavior, and the anointing of objects and people. These procedures and rituals were to be performed in the minutest detail.
It is important to clearly understand that all of the procedures and rituals the Creator required to be performed before and after the great flood were law; each had meaning and it was necessary for each to be performed correctly in order to effect the desired result.
The following are two accounts of healing, before the advent of Christ, in which a specific procedure and ritual were to be followed to effect the healing of a sickness.
Naaman who was the captain of the Syrian army came to the prophet Elisha's home asking to be healed of leprosy. Elisha sent his servant to tell him to wash seven times in the Jordan river and then he would be healed. When Naaman performed this ritual, he was healed of leprosy (2.Kgs. 5:1-27). This account reveals the following:
- Healing can be performed by a prophet who is authorized to perform supernatural works without laying hands on an individual or anointing with oil.
- The person who requests healing must follow the prophet's instructions in order to receive healing.
- Healing is a gift for which no payment of any kind is required and no payment is to be received by the one performing the healing.
The Creator sent the prophet Isaiah to King Hezekiah to tell him to set his house in order because he would die. After King Hezekiah beseeched God to heal him, the Creator sent Isaiah to tell him that he heard his prayer and he would live. Isaiah then instructed Hezekiah's servants to take a lump of figs and place it on the king's boil, after which he recovered (2.Kgs.20:1-7). This account reveals the following:
- God is merciful and hears a righteous person's request for healing.
- Although healing is promised, a person must follow the instructions given to them by God's representative.
During Christ' Ministry
During Christ' ministry, he performed certain physical acts in the course of healing individuals. He also gave some individuals instructions to follow before their healing would take effect. Moreover, he gave the apostles authority to set in place certain guidelines, procedures, and rituals to be followed by the elect in order to obtain healing. See Lk.22: 17-19; Jn.13:1-17; Matt.18:15-20.
Law and Ritual
The apostle Paul wrote the following to the Galatians about the sacrificial law and its rituals which the Creator God required to be performed by the Israelites:
"The law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster" (Gal.3:24-25 KJV).
The sacrificial worship system with its many rituals was the instrument used to bring an understanding of the necessity, purpose, and meaning of the sacrifice of Christ. It is through this understanding that a person has faith in the sacrifice of Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.
Although animal sacrifice is not required during the gospel age of salvation, the performance of a ritual is required in order to form an agreement with the Sovereign God, maintain a covenant relationship with him, and obtain healing within the congregations of his earthly children which have an attending eldership.
The Covenant Ritual
Those who desire to make an eternal agreement with the Sovereign God to have their sins forgiven and become a member of his family must do so through the redemptive process and its rituals.
On the first festival of Pentecost, after the death and resurrection of Christ, the apostle Peter preached the gospel message to a great assembly of people:
"Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the holy spirit" (Acts 2:37-38 KJV).
Peter explained the three-step process and the rituals which must be performed to enter into a covenant relationship with the Sovereign God: Repent; Be baptized; Receive the holy spirit. Details about how to perform these procedures and rituals are set forth in the biblical record and must be followed; otherwise, no covenant relationship will be established.
Some might feel the rituals of baptism with water and laying on of hands are not necessary to receive the holy spirit. However, while it is true that on special occasions God gave the holy spirit without baptism with water or the laying on of hands (See Matt.3:13-16; Acts 2:1-4), there is no promise from God that he will ever make these exceptions again.
It is clear that the apostles felt it necessary to baptize individuals in water and to lay hands on them in order for them to receive the holy spirit. Therefore, it is obvious that repentance, baptism in water, and the laying on of hands are necessary parts of this covenant ritual in order for a person to receive the holy spirit.
The Gospel Age Passover
Observance of the Passover is an example of a three part ritual, which is required to be performed once a year by those who desire to maintain their covenant relationships with God the Father.
During the last Passover that Jesus observed with his disciples, he revealed the symbolic meaning of the bread and wine and instructed his disciples to perform these same symbolic rituals in remembrance of him:
"And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave to them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me" (Lk.22:19 KJV).
"After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do you, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me" (1.Cor.11:25 KJV).
After eating the Passover meal and explaining the symbols of the bread and wine, Jesus washed all his disciple's feet (with the exception of Judas who had left to betray Jesus) and he told them that they should also do what he had done to them:
"So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said to them, Know you what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord: and you say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you" (Jn.13:12-15 KJV).
Jesus says that what he did is an example for them to follow in their relationship with each other, and it must be done on subsequent Passovers. See Matt.28:19-20; 1.Pet.2:21.
The performance of the foot washing ritual is so important to those whom the Father calls to salvation that John was inspired to record that anyone who refuses to perform the foot washing ritual as a part of the new Passover observance will forfeit their salvation (Jn.13:6-15), which comes through Christ, and will be excluded from participation in what Christ is doing on earth.
Healing Within the Congregations
Using the authority given to him by Christ and his authority as the chief apostle of the council of elders in Jerusalem, James instituted the law pertaining to healing within congregations of the elect, which included procedures and rituals that must be followed by the elect to effect a healing of the body and the spirit:
"Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him" (Jms.5:14-15 KJV).
Although no specific details were given with this law, there is enough information in the biblical record about each aspect of this procedure and ritual to determine how to apply it to effect a healing.
Many rituals were required to be performed during the first covenant with national Israel. Jesus performed several rituals when healing people and he required his twelve disciples and the seventy other men to ritually anoint people as part of the healing process. So, it should not come as a surprise that the Father's elect are also required to perform certain rituals during this gospel age of salvation.
Under the sacrificial system of worship which the Creator gave to national Israel, was it necessary for the priests to perform every minute detail of the rituals and sacrifices in order to obtain a desired result? The answer is yes, absolutely. The scriptures clearly show that the Creator required the priests to carefully pay attention to every detail and to do so with the understanding that it was pleasing to the Creator and that they and the people of Israel would be blessed for their diligence.
The biblical record shows that the prophet Elisha required Naaman to perform a ritual washing in the Jordan river before he would be healed of leprosy, and Isaiah required Hezekiah's servants to place a lump of figs on him before he would be healed. When these men followed the instructions they were given, they were healed. But, would they have been healed if they had refused to follow the prophets' instructions. The answer is absolutely not.
The apostle James gave instructions to the elect which must be followed in order to receive physical healing during the gospel age of salvation. Our Savior said the Father is more than willing to give good things to those who ask him (Matt.7:11) and that we should make our requests to our Father through his authority (Jn.16:23-27). Moreover, the apostle James wrote that, when we request something from our heavenly Father, we should ask with the faith that what we ask will be given to us (Jms.1:5-8). Here we see that both faith and works are required to obtain what is requested.
Faith and Works
During the gospel age of salvation, we understand that our heavenly Father and our Savior are not interested in us doing works just for the sake of works alone. Their interest is that we learn the spiritual lessons which works performed with a righteous attitude teach. We also understand we are to practice both the letter and the spirit of God's laws which apply to us in order to please our Father and our Savior and to grow in godly character.
James' instructions must be followed within a congregation of the elect with an active eldership in order to effect a healing of the body and the spirit. These instructions are established in heaven as binding on the elect and must be practiced in the letter and the spirit of the ordinance with the faith that our heavenly Father will honor our request for healing.
The apostle James wrote the following about faith and works:
"What does it profit, my brethren, though someone says they have faith, and does not have works? can faith save them? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say to them, Depart in peace, be you warmed and filled; not-with-standing you do not give them those things which are needful to the body; what does it profit? Even so faith, if it does not have works, is dead, being alone" (Jms.2:14-17 KJV Para.).
"Yes, someone may say, You have faith, and I have works: show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But will you know, O vain one, that faith without works is dead? " (Jms.2:18-20 KJV Para.).
"Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son on the altar? You see how faith combined with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?" (Jms.2:21-22 KJV Para.).
"And the scripture was fulfilled which says, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness: and he was called the friend of God. You see then how that by works a person is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead" (Jms.2:23-26 KJV Para.).
The procedure and ritual set forth by the apostle James for healing within a congregation with a spirit-filled eldership require both faith and works in order to receive the promised healing.
Requesting prayer and anointing by one of the elect and the elder's performance of the healing ritual are both acts of faith and works which please our heavenly Father and our Savior.
By B.L. Cocherell b8w16-3