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Under the Old Covenant, sacrifice was required to purge sin in order to satisfy the law. Purification was accomplished normally by water, though sometimes by blood, fire, or oil. Our question is this: Did God put away the laws of sacrifice and the laws of purification?
It is my premise that God did NOT put away ANY of His laws, not even sacrifice. God merely changed the FORM by which those laws were to be done. There were changes of administration, where the Levites lost their job to a different order of priest (Melchizedek). See Heb. 7:11, 12. There was a change of temple from one built out of wood and stone to one that is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20). There was a change of capital city from the old Jerusalem to the New (or heavenly) Jerusalem (Heb. 12:22). There was a change of Covenant (Heb. 8:13), which has to do with its location (tables of stone or tablets of the heart) and also the manner in which we apply the law.
As for the law of sacrifice, Hebrews 10:1 reminds us that those animal sacrifices had to be made continually, because they can never make any man perfect. "Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered?" (vs. 2). Instead, because the sacrifices continued year after year, they served as a reminder to us that sin was still present in our bodies (vs. 3), since it is impossible for the blood of animals to remove sin from us (vs. 4).
Under the New Covenant, we have a BETTER Sacrifice--the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ--who gave Himself as a Sacrifice to take away sin.
14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. . . 17 And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more. 18 Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin."
So while animal sacrifice was abolished, sacrifice itself was not. We still have a Sacrifice, and every man needs Him, even today under the New Covenant. The laws of sacrifice were not put away. They simply changed form on the basis of a better Sacrifice that was not present in earlier days.
The essence of Christianity is our faith that Jesus Christ was indeed the Sacrifice for sin, as John the Baptist said of Him in John 1:29, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." Belief in this one thing--and nothing else--is what distinguishes a true Christian from a non-Christian. It has nothing to do with membership in an earthly organization, whether Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal, Baptist, Lutheran, or any other.
If anyone objects to this, I simply ask them, "Did the pope die for your sins? Did Calvin? Luther? Anyone? My faith is not placed in any man, regardless of how good they may have been. My faith is in the One who was willing to die to pay the debt I had incurred by my violation of the law (sin).
A Church organization is no substitute for Jesus Christ. Anyone who has placed his faith in the Church (or in his relationship to the church and its hierarchy) is yet in his sins.
The laws of purification have also changed. Most things under Moses were cleansed by water and blood, as Heb. 9:22 says. The only blood that was effective for all time in our purification is the blood of Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:7 says, "and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin."
As for water purification, this speaks of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. These are inseparable, because the Word is the expression of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 15:3, "You are already clean because of the Word which I have spoken to you." He was not speaking of external dirt or grease. He was speaking of a ceremonial cleansing that had formerly been done by water, but which was now done by being washed in the Word--the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul echoes this in Eph. 5:26,
that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.
Physical water has its value, in that it has the power to cleanse a person physically. But it has no power to cleanse the heart. A greater form of water is needed do such internal cleansing. That better water is the word which Jesus has spoken. We call it the Gospel.
But did God put away the laws of purification? Of course not. It is only the WATER that was changed--the agent of cleansing. The law demanding water cleansing still remains with us, but the New Covenant requires better water.
There are, essentially, three main views about the law. (1) The law was abolished altogether; (2) The ceremonial laws were abolished; (3) None of the laws were abolished, but were fulfilled differently. I hold the third view.
This change of sacrifice may seem obvious to most of you, but keep in mind that large sections of the church have been taught that God is going to reinstate animal sacrifices during the age to come. In their view, Jesus' sacrifice was merely temporary; the new Temple, built upon the apostles and prophets, was either temporary or applicable only to non-Jews. They think that grace will end and that we will soon enter into an age where Jesus will live in a physical temple in the old Jerusalem, having Levitical priests to serve him a meal with animals sacrificed on a bronze altar.
Further, such people actually teach that the Old Covenant will be reinstated, either as a universal principle for all Christians to follow--or as a Jewish way of salvation in the age to come. I suppose they think this would include Jesus' disciples as well, even though they preached the New Covenant. If there are two means of salvation, then tell me, which covenant did the apostle Paul depend upon for his salvation? Did he tell the people, "Do what I say, not as I do"? For that matter, can animal sacrifices, made continually in the age to come, actually cleanse a man from sin?
I have a difficult time respecting such a belief system. I have difficulty understanding how so many millions of people can actually believe this while still claiming to be Christians. I know that most of my readers know better, but I have written on this topic for those who need it.