“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever…Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls…We have an altar…Through Him…let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise…” (various verses from Hebrews 13)
We learned from the sermon last Lord’s Day morning that we are a congregation in the wilderness on the outskirts of Zion, with God dwelling in our midst, who guides and guards His people by His shepherd-leaders, providing Christ as our only altar, and accepting sacrifices that are pleasing to Him (Heb. 12:24-13:21).
The Gospel of Jesus Christ never changes. It is the same today as it was for those brothers and sisters who lived before us. This great and glorious Gospel will never change, and it is to this good news that we must ever be learning and believing. Jesus offers Himself on our behalf as a once-and-for-all sin offering, as our only hope for salvation, and is committed to purifying us and making us holy as His people (Heb. 10).
God has given Shepherd Leaders to guide and guard according to God’s Word. It is the primary task of God’s shepherd-leaders to make this Gospel known, to teach the people this good news and all of its implications (Heb. 13:7, 17; cf. 5:11-6:3). As the risen Jesus proclaimed: “All authority has been given to me…Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them all that I have commanded you to do, knowing I am with you until the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20 summary). God’s chosen, appointed shepherd-leaders guide the people by God’s Word, teaching them all Christ commanded, ministering and declaring what God has said in His most holy, inerrant, and inspired Word (Heb. 13:7, 17; cf. 1:1-2). As they do this, the people of God are to obey and submit to them as unto the Lord, knowing that the Great Shepherd of the sheep has appointed them for this service to Him. They guide the people of God to Christ, our only altar, and guard the people from error (Heb. 13:9-10).
Christ is our altar. All the altars in the Bible, throughout redemptive history, pointed forward to the once-and-for-sacrifice for sin that Jesus Christ would make for all His people for all time (Heb. 9-10); altars were given to the church “under age” in the Old Covenant to be the place where sacrificial blood would be offered on behalf of sinners. The Shepherd-Leaders are not to teach the people of God to come “forward to an altar” found in the front of the church, or to “come to the altar at the Lord’s Table” but to go to Christ alone who is our altar in heaven. Jesus is not only our High Priest (Heb. 8:1), He is our sacrifice (Heb. 9), and He is our altar (Heb. 13:10). The altar in the Old Covenant in the Tabernacle in the wilderness was the Ark of the Covenant. The ark was both a place for the blood of sacrifice but it also symbolized a throne. Now in Christ we have the substance and fulfillment of these shadows and types of the Old Covenant. Christ, the Lamb of God has offered Himself in our place, and sits enthroned at the Great King of kings and Lord of lords at God’s right hand (Heb. 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2).
The Lord’s Table is furnished with provision from the heavenly altar! Because we have an altar, there is always the promise of forgiveness in Christ, the constant communion of prayer wherever we are, and the knowing Christ is with us by His Spirit (Heb. 13:5). We do not believe that the Lord’s Table is an altar, but we do believe that on the Lord’s Table, when we participate in the Lord’s Supper, we have the provision made available by Jesus our altar, to feed us and to spiritually grow us by His grace. Although the table is not the altar, Christ is, and we have all the spiritual benefits of Christ our altar. This the shepherd-leaders guide you to frequently to give you more of Christ as you receive Him by faith.
Let us offer sacrifices of Thanksgiving! (Psa. 107:22). As God’s shepherd-leaders guide us through God’s Word, and guard us from error, so they lead us to our altar who is Christ. As a response, the people of God are called to make sacrifices upon this altar who is Christ. These sacrifices are pleasing to God (Heb. 13:15-16). These sacrifices do not add to our salvation. Our salvation is completed in Jesus Christ (“It is finished.”); the sacrifices are not atoning sacrifices, for Christ has atoned fully for our sins (1 John 2:1-2; Heb. 9:26; 10:12, 26; 13:11). These sacrifices are offered up to Christ our Mediator, and with pure hearts that have been changed by Christ that are eager to please God and glorify Him. These are not perfect sacrifices, but they are acceptable through Christ’s perfect mediation for us. As God’s people let us offer up daily our sacrifices of praise, and doing good in Christ’s name, and sharing what we have with others, so that we might offer a pleasing sacrificial offering from hearts made pure by Jesus Christ.
As we approach the time of the Thank Offering in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church consider how God has provided you faithful shepherd-leaders in our church. Consider how many faithful shepherd-leaders are serving Christ our altar in establishing Gospel-preaching churches here in the United States and around the world. Consider how the ministers teach God’s people of the hope we have in salvation in Christ alone.
And let us respond as God’s people at KCPC to those who serve faithfully, teaching the Word of God, by sharing generously what we have with them (Heb. 13:16). Let us obey and submit to them as unto the Lord by tangibly helping to support financially the ministries and missions of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (Heb. 13:17). Let us pray for them regularly and with fervency (Heb. 13:18-19). Think on God’s generosity in raising up your faithful shepherd-leaders in the OPC who preach to you God’s Word, who lead you to your only altar who is Christ, and who teach you to live sacrificial lives that are pleasing unto God.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever!”
IN Christ’s love,