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June 9 I Saturday

2 Chronicles 32-33

John 18:19-40

 

“But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God... For by one sacrifice He has made perfect for ever those who are being made holy.”  —Hebrews 10:12, 14.

 

The book of Hebrews is a letter written to early Jewish Christians who were having trouble accepting that the Gospel, the work of Jesus Christ, was the fulfillment of Judaism. They were accustomed to an elaborate system centred on rituals, the priesthood, a sacrificial system and a magnificent temple in Jerusalem. Though not mentioned in Hebrews, the early church also debated for years whether Gentile Christians should have to undergo circumcision to mark them as part of the covenant. To these Jewish believers, Christianity seemed to be a diminished faith because it removed all the identity markers to which the Jews had ascribed value.

The New Covenant does not downsize the Old Covenant but upsizes it, for the New Covenant is more far-reaching and more satisfying than the Old Covenant ever was. Under the Old Covenant, the Jews were limited to a specific land, people and liturgy of worship, but the New Covenant depends entirely on the fullness of Christ and His relationship with us. Where God once dwelt and interacted with His people from within a temple or through His prophets, He now chooses to live in every Christian by the indwelling Spirit of Christ. Jesus is greater than the prophets, angels or priests, mediating directly between us and the Father. His law is written on our hearts, not tablets of stone, and His sacrifice on the cross does not temporarily cover sin but purifies us once and for all.

Any version of the Christian life that requires Christ plus something else is erroneous because any addition to Christ is by definition a subtraction from Him. To add something to Christ is saying He is deficient in that area. There is no longer a need for Old Covenant rituals, sacrifices or circumcision because Christ fulfilled the purpose of each of these in His life, death and resurrection. Faith in His person and His work on the cross are all we need to be reconciled to God and to enter into relationship with Him.

The challenge is that human nature gravitates towards rituals and rules because they set parameters in which it is easy to measure success. It is not only good but essential that we attend church and study the Word of God on a regular basis, but these and other practices become problematic if they take precedence over our personal relationship with God. The fullness of the Christian life is realized in “Jesus plus nothing,” because He Himself is completely and constantly sufficient. We must resist the ever-present danger of thinking liturgy, tradition or good actions somehow add to or complement Christ, for our hope and rest is found in enjoying a living, active relationship with Him.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, You are greater than any ritual and sufficient for all my needs. Thank You for living within me and being the resource I need to live a life pleasing to You.


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