The Substance of Addresses Given by Two Members of the Oxford Mission Brotherhood of the Epiphany, at the Students Conference of the Syrian Christian Church, Held at Kottayam, May 1st--5th, 1916
Chapter II. The Central Act of Worship
IN the first chapter we have seen how God in His great love has lifted us up into a new and heavenly order. Already, though we cannot see its streets with our physical eyes nor hear its music with our physical ears, we are admitted into the spiritual kingdom and share the worship of angels and spirits of just men made perfect. "Our conversation is in heaven." It was by baptism that we were translated into this new order, wherein earthly things are lifted into heavenly things and natural things into spiritual things. This is the characteristic work of the Holy Spirit. He descended from heaven to raise the things of nature into the things of grace. The children of men are lifted to be children of God (Galatians iii. 26-27). The society of believers is lifted to be the Body of Christ (i Corinthians xii. 13-27). The corn and the wine are lifted to be the Flesh and Blood of the Son of Man (St. John vi. 53).
We have seen also that just because we are lifted by the Holy Spirit into "heavenly places" our worship is not humanly devised but divinely revealed. It was so in the first Dispensation. Moses made all things according to the pattern that was shown him in the Mount. The central fact of that worship was sacrifice. Ideally sacrifice is the surrender of life in love; but sin having entered the world, the life has to be surrendered in pain and death. This was revealed to Moses, and he was taught to offer blood. The [31/32] blood offered under the Dispensation of shadows was sign and not sacrament, but it was a true copy of the truth seen in the heavens. When we come to think of the Dispensation of the Spirit, the Dispensation in which we ourselves live, then we shall find no longer sign but sacrament, no longer shadow but reality, no longer copy but very image.
We pass on now to consider more in detail what ideas are to be found in sacrifice:--
(I) Man is a dependent creature. The world in which he lives was not made by him; he can not claim it as his own. He can only say: "The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it. The sea is His and He made it. His hands prepared the dry land." Man breathes the air, tills and explores the earth, and enjoys its fruits, but it is God's earth, God's air, and God's fruits. Every moment of his physical life he depends for support on something outside himself and beyond his own power. He perceives himself to be a creature, and a dependent creature. One thing, then, that he expresses in sacrifice is dependence. As an intelligent creature he owes a duty to his Creator, and he strives to acknowledge that duty by offering sacrifice; so doing, he confesses that he is dependent on God, for what he gives to God has first to be given to him.
(2) But man realizes not only that he is a creature, but also that he is a sinful creature. Sin is the transgression of the law of God; it is a violation of God's being; it is an act of rebellion--a pretence of independence. Man knows the will of God, but he either fails or refuses to do it. Sin separates man from God--the source of his life and happiness. The inevitable outcome of sin is loss of life, [32/33] for the "wages of sin is death." So men offer sacrifice to obtain pardon. Sinful creatures come to the Creator as to the all-holy Judge, and bring the sign and earnest of their penitence.
(3) But God is more to us than Creator and Judge, and we are more to God than creatures and sinners. God made us for Himself, for union with Himself. He is our Father and we are His sons. The son, if he be true to his sonship, desires communion with his father. In sacrifice man seeks for fellowship with God. He strives to surrender himself as a son into the heart of his father. In sacrifice is his will to offer self-surrender. So we have these three aspects of our conception of God: He is Creator, Judge and Father. There are three corresponding aspects of our relation to God: we are creatures, sinners and sons. In our sacrifice, in that which we give to God, we must express dependence, penitence and self-surrender.
When we examine the Mosaic Dispensation, which we are calling the Dispensation of outline or shadow (using the term of the Epistle to the Hebrews), we find that there are the following acts in each completed sacrifice:--
First, the offerer has to bring his offering to the door of the tabernacle to the priest who is about to deal with God in his behalf (Leviticus iv. 4).
Secondly, the offering, for example a bullock, has to be carefully examined that it may be certified to be without spot or blemish and sealed as fit for sacrifice (Exodus xii. 5).
Thirdly, the offerer has to confess his sin, the sin or sins for which he seeks for pardon, [33/34] laying his hands on the victim and so identifying himself with it (Leviticus v. 5). 1 Fourthly, the offerer who has acknowledged himself to be a sinful creature, needing pardon before he can have fellowship with God, has himself to kill the offering (Leviticus i. 4-5). [The offerer stood with his face to the west, and laying both his hands between the horns made his confession in this form: "I have sinned, I have done perversely, I have rebelled and done thus and thus; but I return by repentance before Thee, and let this be my expiation."]
At this point the work of the priest actually began. All that has gone before was preparatory to the offering of the sacrifice. The priest took the blood of the slain animal, carried it through the veil hanging before the holy place, and sprinkled and poured it round about the altar (Leviticus i. 5; iii. 2-8-13). Finally, he took the flesh previously cut up by the offerer and laid the pieces upon the altar to be consumed by fire. (Leviticus i. 7).
Keeping these ideas in our minds, let us pass now to our own Dispensation, the Dispensation of the Incarnation and the Holy Spirit, which is the Dispensation of Reality under a veil, of the very Image which is the very Thing--the Dispensation--that is, both of the Sign and the Thing signified. In the worship of this Dispensation, divinely revealed from heaven, the centre is necessarily sacrifice, for all that was outlined in the preparatory Dispensation is now given to us in reality. Jesus Christ is the Victim; Jesus Christ is the Priest; we sinners are the offerers.
We think of Him, first, as the sacrificial victim offered to express our entire dependence upon the Creator. He Himself, as man, lived a perfect human life in constant dependence upon the will of God; He took our whole nature--body, mind, heart and will--and He offered that human nature to God; He [34/35] offered His body in years of toil; He submitted to being tired, thirsty and hungry; He offered His mind in continual occupation in His Father's business; He offered His heart with all its affections, in that He surrendered His Mother and His home; He offered His human will, in that He lived continually in accordance with His word, "Not my will, but Thine, be done."
Secondly, though sinless Himself, He became sin for us (2 Corinthians v. 21). He so identified Him self with us that He became penitent for our sins, and bore the awful penance.
Thirdly, after the death of His body He did not throw off our human nature, but He carried it up for ever in union with God, and thus completely surrendered it unto the Father.
Thus the three great marks of sacrifice are found in Him--dependence, penitence, and self-surrender. There are three words spoken by Him in His Passion which sum up the fullness of His sacrifice: "Father, if Thou be willing remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done" (St. Luke xxii. 42). There we have the word of dependence. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (St. Luke xxiii. 34). There we have the word of penitence. "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit" (St. Luke xxiii. 46). There we have the word of self-surrender through death.
As the three great ideas inherent in sacrifice are fulfilled in Jesus Christ, so also are the sacrificial actions foreshadowed in the Levitical ritual accomplished in Him. As the victim was brought to the door of the tabernacle, so was Christ brought into the world in the Incarnation. "He bringeth in the firstborn into the world" (Hebrews i. 6). "Wherefore, when He cometh into the world, He saith: Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not" (that is, all the Levitical sacrifices alike were incapable of effecting the true [35/36] purposes of sacrifice), "but a body didst Thou prepare me" (Hebrews x. 5). Incarnate in the world, He is hailed by St. John the Baptist first of all, not as the Prophet or King, but as the Sacrifice. "Behold the Lamb of God" (St. John i. 29).
As the victim was examined and sealed as without spot or blemish, so also was Christ found to be with out sin. "I find in Him no fault at all," said Pilate (St. John xviii. 38). "This Man hath done nothing amiss," said the penitent thief (St. Luke xxiii. 41). Those who were nearest to Him were most convinced of His sinlessness. St. John says of mankind: "If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves," but of Him he says: "In Him is no sin" (i St. John iii. 5). St. Peter says of Him: "Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth" (i St. Peter ii. 22). St. Paul has received the same witness of Him: "Who knew no sin" (2 Corinthians v. 21). Three times He was sealed from on high as entirely pleasing in His human nature to the Father: after His baptism (St. Mark i. n), at His transfiguration (St. Matthew xvii. 5), and immediately before His passion (St. John xii. 28).
As the sinner laid his hands on the victim and confessed his sin, symbolically laying his sin on it, so were all men's sins laid on Him in Gethsemane. When we make our confessions, we are with Him in Gethsemane, laying our sins on the Lamb of God, identifying ourselves with Him, so that He becomes our Penitent.
As the offerer killed the victim on whom he laid his hands, so was Jesus Christ killed in Calvary by representatives of the very race of men for whom he died. It was not the priest who killed the victim, but he for whom the offering was made. So the murderers of Jesus Christ said, not knowing what they said: "His blood be on us and on our children" (St. Matthew xxvii. 25).
 The preparation of the sacrifice was now complete. The work of the priest began. As the Levitical priest carried the blood through the veil, so Christ brought again from the dead the Blood of an eternal covenant (Hebrews xiii. 20) carried it through the veil in His Ascension, and presents it before the Father as an eternal sacrifice. The sacrifice which was prepared on earth outside the tabernacle is presented in heaven. When Christ cried "It is finished" (St. John xix. 30), He proclaimed that all had been done to prepare the sacrifice--henceforth it was to be offered in heaven. On earth He was the Victim, in heaven He ministers as Priest. Though always Priest by the eternal purpose of God, on earth He humbled himself and lived as a layman. He never entered the Holy place reserved for the ministrations of the priests. He never entered the Holy of Holies reserved for the ministrations of the High Priest alone. He stood outside with the congregation, numbered with the transgressors, and when the solemn priestly blessing was given (Numbers vi. 23-27) He meekly bowed His head to receive it. "Our Lord sprang out of Juda, of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood" (Hebrews vii. 14).
Yet all His life on earth was preparing Him to exercise His priesthood, as it was preparing Him to become the perfect Victim. That priesthood is now being exercised. It is "after the power of an endless life" (Hebrews vii. 16). Wherefore it is necessary that this High Priest also hath somewhat to offer (Hebrews viii. 3). The "somewhat" is His own Life given through death, symbolized by His Blood. He appears now before the Face of God for us (Hebrews ix. 24). He ever liveth to make intercession for us (Hebrews vii. 25).
Such was the heavenly worship which St. John saw in heaven. In his first vision he saw Christ clothed in priestly garments, wearing the golden [37/38] girdle as priests wore it when actually engaged in sacrificial ministries. When a door was opened in heaven (Revelation iv. i) he saw a golden altar before the throne (Revelation ix. 13). He saw Christ represented as the eternal Sacrifice: "A Lamb standing as though it had been slain" (Revelation v. 6). He saw also the ritual of the heavenly worship (Revelation viii. 3-5).
Such, then, is the revelation of Holy Scripture. Sacrifice is the central act of the divinely revealed system of worship. In the tabernacle on earth the worship was in shadow or outline. In the heavenly temple the worship is in very truth, for Christ is alike the Victim and the Priest, and in the power of an endless life He offers Himself in sacrifice, the Living One Who was dead, ever making intercession for us.