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Christian Basis for Freedom
Freedom is a thoroughly Christian principle. The ancient pagan world knew nothing of true freedom, and despite secular humanism’s attempts at claiming it, there is no other liberty apart from the living God. Christian liberty is grounded in freedom to worship the Triune God, and when our hearts are turned to Him, we are set free from all bondage and set free to serve.
“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery… For you were called to freedom brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal. 5:1, 13-14).
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
In context, Paul is warning the Galatians against Judaizing, that is, adding Jewish ceremonial laws to Christ perhaps as an attempt to feel more secure, perhaps as an attempt to avoid persecution from zealous Jews (Gal. 5:2-11, cf. Gal. 1:4-9). But every form of legalism is a crushing yoke of slavery, and to return to Egypt is to sin against Christ who set us free (Gal. 5:1). The mentality of slavery is simple: just do as you’re told, but true freedom brings responsibility (Gal. 5:13). This means that true liberty is directed by God’s law of love (Gal. 3:14).
FREEDOM FOR WORSHIP
In the Exodus story, one of the fundamental lessons we learn there that freedom is for worship: “Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness” (Ex. 5:1, cf. 10:25). But Pharaoh instinctively knew that if Israel was set free to worship God, they would never be slaves again. True worship of the living God sets the captives free. This certainly begins as moral and spiritual freedom with regeneration (and hearts that can’t stop singing), but freedom from sin teaches men to think like free men. This begins with personal responsibility (confession of sin and forgiveness) and flows out to covenantal responsibility in the spheres of authority assigned to us by the Lord Jesus: family, church, and state.
When they are healthy, all three spheres mutually check and enforce one another, but throughout Scripture worship is the tip of the spear: Abraham built altars throughout the land of Canaan, the priests blew trumpets and carried the ark around Jericho, the choir went out in front of the army under Jehoshaphat, and Jesus sent us out into the world to preach and baptize and celebrate the Lord’s Supper as the vanguard of the Kingdom. Daniel shows us the centrality of free worship both in the refusal of the three friends to bow down to the statue (Dan. 3) and in Daniel’s resolute prayer despite the king’s decree (Dan. 6). Christians are free from every decree of man that would require idolatry or prohibit the worship of the living God. While there is freedom in some of the particulars of when and where worship is conducted, Christians must be zealous for freedom to worship because Christ is worthy and because all of our other freedoms flow from there. When you think about preserving freedom, first think about worshipping the King who grants all freedom.
FREED TO SERVE
This freedom that Christ gives is for serving one another in love, and that love is measured by the second greatest commandment: love your neighbor as yourself (Gal. 5:13-14). But Christians must not be simplistic or naïve in this. Remember first of all the gospel: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 Jn. 4:10-11). God did not love us in the way that we thought He should; He loved us in the way that we actually needed. And we must love one another like that. This is truly serving one another in love: doing what is needed for long term physical and spiritual health, blessing, and success.
How does Scr
What is a Cult? What is a Sect? What is a Church?
Whenever we are confronted with a new problem, our first instinct as Christians ought to be that of turning to the Scriptures. What does the Bible say about this? And in our current mayoral election, since one of the candidates is running on the platform of fight the cult, referring to all of us, perhaps it would be a good idea if we turned to Scripture in order to hammer out a few definitions.
“For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29–30).
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
Paul is here speaking to the elders of the church at Ephesus, and he is preparing them for the days to come, after he is no longer present with them. He says that “grievous wolves” will come, and they will savage the flock (v. 29). He also says that corruption will arise from within, and that some of them will start teaching twisted things, in order to gain their own following (v. 30). If you want to carve off a following for yourself, you need to come up with something distinctive, something to set you apart. The Ephesian leadership apparently took Paul’s warning about corrupt doctrine to heart, in that this church was greatly commended for their doctrinal watchfulness (Rev. 2:2, 6). But the apostle John then had to warn them about a new danger, that of falling away from their first love (Rev. 2:4-5).
We have two basic categories here. They are orthodoxy and orthopraxy, which translated, refer to straight doctrine and straight living. Paul tells Timothy to watch his life and his doctrine closely.
“Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16, ESV).
We should want our definitions to be objective, and not emotional and subjective. Unless we are careful, we will wind up defining a cult as any intense religious group that we don’t happen to like. But we are not the standard. To the Scriptures, always to the Scriptures.
There are four basic options. A group can be orthodox and holy (a church). A group can be orthodox and unholy (a sect). A group can be heterodox and externally moral (a legalistic cult). And a group can be heterodox and immoral (an antinomian cult). And because one sin always leads to others, groups can always morph from one category to another. That happens also.
THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR
You are in a church now, but the price of keeping it a church is constant vigilance. Maintain your first love (Rev. 2:4-5). Hold fast to the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Grow in grace (2 Pet. 3:18).
As you do this, here are some of the things to watch out for, things that signal sectarian or cultic temptations ahead.
Imperious rule: “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not” (3 John 9).
Weird teaching: “For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you” (1 Cor. 11:19).
License to sin: “Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols” (Rev. 2:20).
Complacency: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15–16).
Abusive leadership: “For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise. For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face” (2 Cor. 11:19–20).
TRUE KOINONIA FELLOWSHIP
In many cases, cults are a fleshly attempt to counterfeit what God gives to His p
Repentance & Restitution
The Sin Offering taught us that the guilt of sin not only needs to be paid for but also cleansing. Here, the Reparation/Guilt Offering teaches us that sin must always be repented of and some sins require us to do restitution.
Leviticus 1: Ascension Offering – God invites us to draw near with all that we are: the whole animal goes on the altar.
Leviticus 2: Tribute Offering – God provides our daily bread and all things, and therefore, He claims our full allegiance: bread on the altar.
Leviticus 3: Peace Offering – God invites us to have fellowship with Him and one another with a meal: the fat goes on the altar and we eat together in the presence of God.
Leviticus 4: Sin Offering – Our sin defiles us and our land, but God takes it upon Himself so we can be clean: the blood goes in front of the veil and on the altar for cleansing and the carcass is burned outside the camp.
“Now if a person sins after he hears a public adjuration to testify when he is a witness, whether has seen or otherwise known, if he does not tell it, then he will bear his guilt…” (Lev. 5–6:7)
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
It is unclear how the Reparation Offering is related to the Sin Offering (if at all), but the clear emphasis here is on the effects of certain sins: failure to testify (5:1), thoughtless oaths (5:4), sins against the sanctuary (5:2-3, 15), sins of deception, theft, or damage (6:2-3). In these instances, it seems that a sin offering would ordinarily be offered and then depending on the exact offense, a Reparation Offering would also be required (5:6). For those who could not afford the ordinary Sin Offering, two birds or even a grain offering without oil might be offered (5:7-13). The Reparation Offering was always a ram without blemish and included twenty percent restitution (5:14-6:7).
PUBLIC TESTIMONY & OATHS
On the one hand we know that “whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears” (Prov. 26:17), but we must not close our eyes or remain silent when injustice is being perpetrated right in front of us (Lev. 20:4). Here, the first situation seems to be a public hearing presumably for a crime (Lev. 5:1). The law requires two or three witnesses to convict someone of anything (Dt. 19:15). Failure to speak up when you know that a witness is lying or else you were a witness that can provide other crucial information is not only bearing false witness but participating in the miscarriage of justice and unjust penalties. False witnesses are liable to receive the punishment that would have fallen on the falsely accused (Dt. 19:16-21). This is part of the problem with anonymous witnesses: they cannot be held accountable.
When someone is convicted of their sin, they are to confess their sin to the one they sinned against and to God (Lev. 5:5-6), and they are to restore what was damaged in full plus twenty percent (Lev. 6:1-5, cf. 5:16). The principle is full replacement plus a double tithe. The double tithe seems to be based on the ordinary requirement of the law of double replacement for stolen items that are found (Ex. 22:4). This is based on the lex talionis (“eye for eye”): what you intended to do to another is done to you (but no more) (Lev. 24:19-20). When a thief repents, he restores what he stole plus the double tithe as an admission on his part that he deserves to have to restore double. If there is no one to give the restitution to, it is given to the Lord (Num. 5:5-8). But unrepentant thieves who sell or destroy stolen goods can be required to restore up to four or five times the value (Ex. 22:1), which Zacchaeus did when he repented (Lk. 19:8).
WHAT IS REPENTANCE?
Don’t miss the fact that when Zacchaeus announced his restitution, Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house… For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:9). Notice that Jesus didn’t say that Zacchaeus was being legalisti
Outside the Camp
The entire sacrificial system of the Old Covenant pictures the many facets of our sin and God’s promise of forgiveness and cleansing, but the Sin Offering is perhaps the sacrifice that underlines this point the clearest. And perhaps what many Christians miss is the fact that God cannot dwell with a people who are forgiven and clean. The holiness of God burns against all evil and sin, and when sin accumulates in a land, so does His wrath, unless justice is done.
“Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying, speak to the sons of Israel saying, ‘If a person sins unintentionally in any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done, and commits any of them…” (Lev. 4:1-35).
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
The Sin Offering is presented for anyone who sins unintentionally in anything that God has commanded must not be done (4:2). The Sin Offering is presented for four scenarios: the anointed priest (4:3-12), the whole congregation (4:13-21), a tribal leader (4:22-26), and any other Israelite (4:27-35). The Sin Offering reminds us of elements of the Ascension and Peace Offerings: the worshiper brings the animal to the door of the tabernacle, he lays his hand on the head of the animal and kills it, and the fat of the entrails is put on the altar and goes up in smoke to the Lord (4:4, 8-10, 15, 24, 26, 29, 31, 33, 35). However, there are two unique elements of this offering: first, the sprinkling of blood in the Holy Place for the High Priest and congregation and putting blood on the horns of the altar (4:6-7, 16-18, 25, 30, 34), and second, when the Sin Offering blood is brought inside the Holy Place, they are to burn the hide, the flesh, and the head and legs outside the camp (4:11-12, 21, cf. 6:24-30).
The word used to describe “unintentional” sin is used elsewhere to describe the difference between this and “defiant” or “high-handed” or “presumptuous” sin (Num. 15:27-31). A famous example of this is when Israel goes up to fight the Amalekites in the Promised Land after the 10 spies bring back the bad report. Israel was warned not to go, but they went up anyway and were defeated (Num. 14:40-45, Dt. 1:41-44). A similar contrast is at work in descriptions of accidental murder versus premeditated (Num. 35:9-34). But there seems to be a sense in which all sin is considered “unintentional” if the perpetrator ultimately repents. “… even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief… It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am chief” (1 Tim. 1:13, 15).
What the Sin Offering teaches is that sin not only brings guilt, but it also pollutes the land and the tabernacle (Lev. 15:31, Num. 19:13). On the Day of Atonement, once a year, the High Priest sprinkled blood from a Sin Offering inside the curtain on the cover of the Ark of the Covenant to cleanse the sins of the people (Lev. 16:15-19, 30, cf. 14:52, 1 Jn. 1:7). Therefore, the blood of the Sin Offering sprinkled in the Holy Place and wiped on the horns of the altar is for cleansing. “Atonement” literally means “covering.” In the New Testament, the Greek equivalent is often translated “propitiation,” which means turning away wrath (Rom. 3:25, Heb. 2:17, 1 Jn. 2:2, 4:10). The wages of sin is death, but sin also defiles. We need to be forgiven and cleansed. And atonement does both. Because of the holiness of God in the midst of His people, their sin collects on Him and His tent. So that is what must be cleansed. All of this foreshadows when God sent His only Son to “tabernacle” among us (Jn. 1:14) to take our sin judicially upon Himself and to bleed and die to make us (and our land) clean. We are the unclean ones, and it should be our blood, but the Clean One bled to make us clean.
CONCLUSION: GO TO HIM OUTSIDE THE
Peace on Earth
Leviticus 3 introduces the Peace Offering which was established by God to proclaim His intention of renewing fellowship with sinful humanity. But this fellowship with God does not merely re-establish fellowship vertically with Him, it is the only basis for re-establishing horizontal fellowship and peace on earth.
“Now if his offering is a sacrifice of peace offerings, if he is going to offer out of the herd, whether male or female, he shall offer it without defect before the Lord…” (Lev. 3)
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
A Peace Offering may be a male or female animal without blemish, but the portion that goes on the altar is the fat of the entrails, the two kidneys, and the fat around the liver (3:1-4). Like the Ascension Offering, the worshiper draws near to the door of the tabernacle, lays his hand on the head of the animal, and slaughters the animal himself (3:2). The priest sprinkles the blood around the altar (3:2), and the priest puts the fatty parts on the altar for a soothing aroma to the Lord (3:5). The same is true for a male or female lamb (3:7-11). And the same is true for a goat (3:12-16). The instructions conclude with prohibitions against eating blood and fat (3:17).
THE PEACE OFFERING
One question that might occur to you is: What happens to the rest of the animal in the Peace Offering? We aren’t told here in our text, but it comes out later that the rest of the animal is to be eaten. A couple of portions go to the priests (Lev. 7:11-18, 31-36), and the rest the worshiper was to eat there at the tabernacle: “There also you and your households shall eat before the Lord your God, and rejoice in all your undertakings in which the Lord your God has blessed you… And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates, since he has no portion or inheritance with you” (Dt. 12:7, 12). In our text, the clue to this is the fact that this offering is specifically called “bread” or “food” on the altar of the Lord (Lev. 3:11, 16). So the Peace Offering is a fellowship meal, in which God eats a portion, and His people eat with Him in His presence. In this way, it is right to think of the bronze altar as God’s table.
In some respects the Passover was a special Peace Offering. A lamb was killed, the blood was put on the houses of Israel, and they at the Passover lamb (Ex. 12). When God made covenant with Israel at Sinai, we also see peace offerings be offered (Ex. 24:5), and the 70 elders go up the mountain to the God of Israel: “they beheld God, and ate and drank” (Ex. 24:11).
FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD & MAN
Christian fellowship is always triangulated. There is no human relationship that God is absent from. In fact, the Bible teaches that peace with those on earth is directly connected to peace with God in heaven. When the angels announced the birth of Christ, that God had drawn near, their song was “peace on earth” (Mt. 2:14). The only way to deeper fellowship in any human relationship must include deeper fellowship with God. As we have seen, the sacrifices themselves teach that the way to draw near to God is through being cut and burned. This is fundamentally done by God’s Word (Heb. 4:12). What keeps us away from God is sin, and sin is what prevents human peace and fellowship. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (Js. 4:8). How do you draw near to God? Cleanse your hands, purify your hearts, confess your sins.
John connects the same things: He wrote his letter so that we might have fellowship with him and the other apostles, but that fellowship is with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ (1 Jn. 1:3). God is light and there is no darkness in Him at all; so if we have say we have fellowship with Him but walk in darkness, we are liars and do not practice the truth (1 Jn. 1:5-6). If we are trippin
Tribute for the King
Leviticus 2 explains the Tribute Offering, an offering of flour and oil, often cooked into a cake or loaf of bread. This offering expressed love and loyalty and devotion for God the King. It teaches Christians that Christ is our King, and therefore, we are called to even greater devotion.
“Now when anyone presents a grain offering to the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour; and he shall pour oil on it, and put frankincense on it…” (Lev. 2)
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
There are several types of grain offerings described: uncooked ground grain with oil and frankincense (2:1-3) and baked/cooked unleavened cakes/wafers made with oil or spread on top (2:4-10). In both, a memorial portion or handful is put on the altar, but the rest is given to the priests (2:2-3, 9-10). There is to be no leaven or honey in any of the grain offerings offered on the altar; they may be given as first fruits offerings but not put on the altar (2:11-12). Every grain offering is to be seasoned with salt, so that the “covenant of salt” is remembered constantly (2:13). Israelites could also bring early ripened grain as a grain offering, much like the offering of uncooked flour (2:14-16).
THE TRIBUTE OFFERING
It makes sense that the Ascension Offering is the first thing in Leviticus since it is the most common daily sacrifice, but Numbers 28 makes it clear that grain offerings were offered continuously with the daily Ascension Offerings (morning and evening), along with morning and evening drink offerings that were poured out to the Lord. This is likely why it comes next in Leviticus. It may also be that the grain offering was an additional option for the poorest in Israel who could not afford even a pigeon or a dove. It seems to be closely associated with the Ascension Offering given the repeated refrain: “up in smoke on the altar as an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the Lord” (Lev. 2:2, 9, cf. 1:9, 13, 17). The word translated “grain offering” is “minchah” and literally means “tribute.” While it always refers to this grain offering in Leviticus, it is used more generally to refer to any kind of sacrifice elsewhere (Gen. 4:3-5, 1 Sam. 2:17, 29, 26:19) and often refers to a gift of honor from an inferior to a superior, vassals to their lord, i.e. tribute (Gen. 32:19ff, Gen. 43:11ff, Jdg. 3:15ff, 1 Sam. 10:27, 2 Sam. 8:2ff, 1 Kgs. 4:21, 2 Kgs. 8:7-9). While frankincense is only added in the uncooked Tribute offerings, they are always mixed or anointed with oil, presumably highlighting the royal nature of the gift. This gift of bread proclaimed Yahweh as King.
THE GRAIN OFFERING OF JEALOUSY
This notion of tribute or loyalty perhaps explains why this offering was used for the jealousy rite in Numbers 5 as well as the Nazirite vow in Numbers 6. In Numbers 5, God established a trial by ordeal in which a woman suspected of adultery swears an oath of innocence before the Lord and a tribute of jealousy is offered in the process (Num. 6:15-18, 25-26). The Tribute offering swears allegiance to the Lord, and the woman is swearing that she has been faithful to her husband and her God, faithful to all her covenant vows in other words (cf. Prov. 2:17). The flip side of this is the Tribute offering that is offered at the conclusion of a Nazirite vow, which is a temporary oath of dedication to the service of the Lord (a sort of semi-priestly service, often associated with holy war). The point is again complete allegiance, loyalty, dedication.
COVENANT OF SALT
All of this is related to what is referenced in 2:13: “the salt of the covenant.” Salt was to go on the Tribute offering as well as all of the offerings (2:13). The same notion is referred to in Numbers 18:19 and 2 Chron. 13:5 where the covenant is called “a covenant of salt.” In context, this designation refers to the permanence of the covenant: it is forever. This also underlines the covenantal character of the sacrificial system: “Gather my go
Tech issue with election sermon
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