The Ancient Faith
Tonight I’m speaking upon an old sermon, an old subject, for which I claim very little originality. I have read after so many preachers on this sermon that I wouldn’t know whom to give credit. I just think it’s one of those old, basic sermons that has been preached so many times through the years, which I heard when I was a little boy in which you older people heard when you were younger and I think the young people of our generation need to hear it again. I don’t know of a sermon in all the catalog that answers any more questions for people than this sermon does and I want to give it to the very best of my ability tonight for your consideration.
If I were to ask tonight, “What is the tabernacle?” I wonder how many people would really know? If you’re Bible reader, of course you know what the tabernacle is. If you’re a church-going person and you listen to the preacher and listen to the teachers through the years you would be real acquainted with the idea of the tabernacle. We’re going to talk about the tabernacle tonight. First, I would like to get some things settled, because in this outline and in our study of the tabernacle, we have a list of various things grouped in threes, which makes it very interesting.
The first, in our diagram, we have the outer court. Now this outer court in the old tabernacle in the Old Testament was a picture or a type of the world where men live. The next enclosure, called the holy place, was a type or a picture, or a shadow, which is the church. Now we have a curtain hanging here, a thick, heavy veil and behind the veil, we have another little enclosure called the holiest of holies, or the holiest of all. Now that thing, in the tabernacle, foreshadowed and pictured Heaven, of the soul.
Next, we have three classes of people considered in this outline tonight. Out in outer court, we have the people who could gather – anybody, and of course that fitly represents the world of people, all people, any people. But in the next enclosure, which represents the church, we have one man who functions here, and he’s called the priest – the common priest, he sometimes is called – the everyday priest, the ordinary priest. That fellow is a picture of Christians, all Christians. That’s the reason why we don’t have reverends in the church, you see. And that’s the reason we don’t have priests today walking up in their collars, instead of backing into them as other people do. Now these priests represented every member of the church and one member is just like another member. There is no big “I” and little “you”, no high member and low member, no priest and subordinate. We’re all priests, as we will show later on. In the next enclosure, we have one man who comes once a year with blood and he sprinkles that blood. Now he’s the high priest. He’s over these priests and that man, of course, is typifying Jesus Christ, our Lord, who is our High Priest.
Three Sources of Light
But look again. We have three sources of light. Out in the outer enclosure, we have the sun. The sun enlightens the area, and this teaches me the great truth that I find examples, signs and you might say wonderful lessons out in the book of nature, teaching me that there is a God up in the sky, because nobody else could have done the great things that we see about us tonight. But inside, we have the seven lamps, the candlestick, and that’s the only light there is in this enclosure. Now that very fitly represents the fact that we have the word of God as our only guide in the church today – no catechisms, no prayer Brooks, no church manuals, no Philadelphia Confessions of Faith, no disciplines – just the word of God because that’s our only light. And, of course, in the back enclosure, we have the presence of the Lord – the glory of the Lord was beaming – and that teaches us that we’re still in the presence of the Lord.
But next, we have three blessings. Outside, we have the altar and the laver. Now this teaches me that this represents faith in Jesus Christ and baptism for the remission of sins. Inside, we have bread, lamps and incense. Now this is a foreshadow of that which was to be practiced in the church of our day, which is the Lord’s supper, prayer and praise, which we offer to our God. And of course, we have the presence of the Lord in the other enclosure, as I indicated a moment ago. So tonight, we want to talk for a little while about the tabernacle.
The children of Israel camped at the base of Mount Sinai, where they remained forty days, when they were making their wonderful exodus from the land of Egypt. Moses went up on the mountainside and God gave him the ten commandments written on two tables of stone and a description of a building and furniture and a system of worship to be conducted in connection with it, adapted to their condition. In this system the worship, God gave us another beautiful type of the system of worship offered the world through Jesus Christ in the gospel dispensation. Here we learn that the building or tabernacle was a figure of the greater and more perfect tabernacle, which all agree to be the church. Now I want you to notice this very closely tonight, my friends, because everything fits. Everything has to fit because it’s God’s dealings. If it just so happens that you have accepted a belief and a faith in life that does not fit, then something’s wrong with your belief. That’s all there is to it. Because this is right! What God has given is right! Now this thing, this whole tabernacle thing, represents the greater tabernacle, which, of course is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. And that’s what the apostle Paul was talking about when he said, “The tabernacle which God pitched and not man.” He was talking about the church. So, we find this to be quite interesting.
To understand this lesson, we must understand something about the tabernacle, its furniture, its service and so on. We know this building was about forty-five by fifteen feet. The building was divided by a veil, crossing from the north to the south. The two places were called, as I have already indicated, the holy place and the most holy place. The building was surrounded by a fence and please keep this in your little minds: all the entrances were from the east. God chose it to be so. The outer court was entered from the east. The holy place was entered from the east and the most holy place could be entered only from the holy place, hence from the east. Let us notice the furniture in this tabernacle. We have the brazen altar – this was also called the altar of burnt offerings – because on it was offered all the sacrifices made during the time the tabernacle worship continued.
Next, we have the laver. It was made of brass. It was the vessel in which the priest washed at their consecration and in their daily ministration. In their consecration, they washed their persons (Exodus 9:4), and in cleansing from defilement. “Then shall the priest wash his clothes, and he shall bathe his flesh in water” (Numbers 19:7). But in their daily ministration, they washed their hands and feet only (Exodus 30:19).
We have next the table of shewbread. This was made with durable wood overlaid with gold. We have next the golden candlestick. It had a central stem and six branches, three coming out of its two sides. And listen, these are kept continually burning and is the only light allowed in the tabernacle – always. We have next the golden altar, or the altar of incense. On it the priest offered the incense in their daily ministration at nine o’clock in the morning at three o’clock in the afternoon. And the next, behind the veil, we have the ark of the covenant and it is the only furniture found in the most holy place. It was made of wood and overlaid with gold (Exodus 37:3 – 9).
And I want you to observe that these people were possessed with a great liberality. Moses called for them to come and give of their gold and of their possessions that this thing might be created – that is might be made. Do you know they brought with such liberality that Moses was forced to ask them to stop? “Now don’t bring any more. We’ve got a problem on our hands. We’ve got too much!” Well, I’ve never run into many problems like that in my work today and I might add that the church is certainly not measuring up in that particular illustration.
Moses was commanded to follow the pattern in the erection of this thing. Yes, he was! In the last 16 chapters of Exodus, we find a minute description of the tabernacle and its furniture. Then we find the location, mind you – the location of each piece of furniture in its God-given position. We must be careful not to make a mistake in this most beautiful of types. The Scriptures locate the furniture too plainly to allow mistake and I want you to observe that the things were arranged as God commanded. Why? Because even the position and the arrangement of these particular things had special significance that pointed forward with prophetic fingers in the church of the Lord. No, they couldn’t move these things around the tabernacle, like a woman rearranging her bedroom about once a month or more often. They didn’t dare! When these things were placed, they must remain, because even the location had special and spiritual significance because it was to illustrate something tremendous and wonderful.
Next, the mercy seat was brought and placed upon the ark and its contents put therein. And it was brought into the tabernacle and the veil put up, covering it from sight. Then the table was placed on the north side without the veil and the candlestick was put on the south side, opposite the table. The golden altar was placed before the veil, then the hanging was put up at the door, closing the tabernacle – listen – thus showing that nothing else was to be ever put therein.
Now friends, as I said at the beginning, the sermon answers so very many questions. Many people wonder today why there are so few attractions in the Lord’s church for the world and for the worldly-minded. Well, we’re not allowed to go careering around over the country to find everything that looks a little bit religious and come dragging it into the church. We’re not allowed to embellish the Lord’s church with all the ornaments of mankind’s thinking. We just are not allowed to do that! So many people have garnished over religion today until you can’t see the religion for the garnish, if you please. So many have embellished it with so much that they can’t see anything but the embellishment. The spirit of Jesus Christ and the truth have been obscured so long that they see the truth not at all. They see nothing but a style show down there where they go, and that’s about all. Well, the Lord put that hanging up at the door and when He put that hanging up, that was a very significant fact that it’s finished now; it’s complete now; it’s through now, and nothing else will ever be added.
That’s the way it was with the church of the Lord on the day of Pentecost, when the Lord Jesus Christ finished the church and called it good. He put in the things that he wanted and nobody has a right to come dragging this thing and that thing into the Lord’s church. You can call a “crowd-fetcher” or whatever you want. It’s just not allowed there and the fact that it has not been commanded is the reason that it’s not allowed there. Some folks say, “Oh, now I’m going to tell you one thing for sure: the Lord didn’t tell me not to do this. Now you just find where the Lord told me not to do this.” Well, I can’t find where the Lord told you not to do this and not to do that and not to do the other. You talk about a Bible! We would have a book! And I’ll tell you: it would be a big book! It would be an endless thing. Why, the Lord would have to tell you not to put vanilla wafers on the Lord’s table, not to put beef steak down there, not to put ice cream, not to put poke salad, not to put this and not to put that. Just think about it! But listen, He just fixed that thing all up by telling you what to put, and when he tells you what to put, that excludes everything else, doesn’t it? Well, when the hanging was put up at the door, that settled it! Nothing else was ever to be added thereto and that’s the way it is!
Then the brazen altar was placed by the door and the laver was placed between the altar and the door. To this agrees the letter to the Hebrews. Paul says, “For there was a tabernacle made; the first (that is, the first apartment) wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, (the first veil was at the door; the second divided the tabernacle into two rooms), the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; and over it the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy seat; of which we cannot now speak particularly (Hebrews 9:2-5). And listen, let me tell you this tonight, folks: Any departure from God’s order was punishable by death, physical death. Now do you think that’s important? Do you think that’s noteworthy? Well, I say tonight that if it was important back yonder in the tabernacle that was carnal, how much more is it important tonight that men do not touch the holy things in God’s tabernacle and seek to change – seek to alter – seek to mock? And if it was punishable by physical death back then, I have to believe the God’s going to mete out a special punishment to men who tamper with things divine in his tabernacle even in this day, if you please.
I want you to notice the priesthood now. During the Patriarchal dispensation, the father was the priest of the family and conducted the services for the family and in his absence, the firstborn son officiated in his stead. Later, God made the sons of Levi the priesthood, for we read in Numbers 3:12, “And I, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of all the firstborn… therefore the Levites shall be mine.” From this time, the family of Aaron from the tribe of Levi became the priests and other Levites served in the sanctuary. How did they become priests? That’s a very significant question.
It was not enough to make a man a priest that he just be a Levite and have the blood of Aaron in his veins. No! He must be consecrated to that service in a ceremony given by Moses. There was a sin offering made at the brazen altar. Next, he was taken to the laver at the door and washed in it. Next, he put on the priestly garments. It is noteworthy that the term “flesh” is used to indicate the extent of the washing that is used to indicate the parts on which the holy garments were to be worn (Leviticus 16:3,4). And if you wonder what I’m talking about, here’s what I’m talking about: The same amount of flesh that had garments covering it was the amount of flesh that was washed! In other words, when it said washed, it didn’t mean that the priest dangled his finger in a little bowl of water and did that (indicates flicking motion with fingers). That’s what I’m talking about. And it has to fit! It has to fit. And you just sit by and wait because we’re going to tell you in a little while where this fits, because this priest, when he was washed, as much of his flesh was washed as he had garments covering, which was his whole body. That’s what the Scriptures teach. So, friends, it fits and it has to fit or else it’s not right.
Having accepted the sin offering, having been washed in water and having been clothed in holy garments, he enters the tabernacle and officiates as a priest. He is a priest. He can go to the candlestick and attend to the seven lamps on it. He can go to the table on the Sabbath day and eat the shewbread. He can go to the golden altar and there burn sweet incense before the Lord. He’s a priest! This is close to the veil and I might add that it’s the nearest approach that can be made to the mercy seat where God is. Ah, that sacred! It’s wonderful! It’s moving! It’s affecting! Listen, this golden altar was the altar of incense where the incense was offered up and the filled this whole area with sweet aroma. Now this typifies our prayer and praise that we give to our God today in the church and inasmuch as this golden altar was the nearest approach to the place where the mercy seat was, and the place were God could be met, it tells me today that the nearest approach to God that could possibly be made today in this old world is through the earnest and ardent prayer of a child of God because God is just beyond the veil. He’s just beyond the veil of mortality, as the mercy seat was just beyond the veil. And it fits! It’s very meaningful!
Aaron was warned, “Come not at all times into the holy place within the veil before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he died not” (Leviticus 16:2). Thus, he must come as God commanded only once a year. If he breached that contract, he died. He was killed! That’s right! I want to notice the anti-type of this thing, now. In other words, I want you to observe that these things that I have mentioned are fingers that point to a spiritual thing which pertains to you and me.
The court, or the outer yard, was a place where all people had a right to enter. It fitly represents that state in the Bible called the world, where the seed of the kingdom was sown (Matthew 13:3;8). Now from this state men must be converted or they cannot be saved, but what will they be when they are converted? In our type, the sons of Aaron of the tribe of Levi only could be priests, but under the new system all Christians are priests, as I told you a while ago. I read in I Peter 2:5, where the apostle Peter, speaking of this very thing said, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood.” Listen friends, let’s get one thing straight: everybody in the church is a priest and when Peter referred to a holy priesthood, he was referring to the whole church! And may I say again: that’s the reason that the church of the Lord Jesus Christ does not have priests over a diocese here and there in the kingdom of God. Why, the thing back there represented what we have now and that is that everybody is a priest, because the Bible expressly tells us so in verse 9, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; they you should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light,” and all Christians should certainly do this. In Romans 12:1, Paul uses priesthood phraseology right year. He said, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” In other words, he’s using phraseology which they all understood very well. It referred and related to the priesthood – an analogy. They all understood that we today are like that old priest was back yonder under the Old Testament order. That was so right! But in Revelation 1:5, 6, we have a real good one here, which I have already mentioned during this meeting. The apostle John said, ”Unto him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God.” Now according to that, we’re all priests. We really are.
But, let us ask another question. According to this, how are we made priests? We want to be priests; that’s our desire – that’s the purpose. How do we become priests? Well, there must be some resemblance between this old tabernacle and the church. First, there must be a sin offering made for us, just as there was a sin offering made for that priest back yonder, the son of Aaron of the tribe of Levi. He had a sacrifice made for himself. We must have a sacrifice made for ourselves, too. What is that sacrifice? A lamb? In Hebrews 7:26, 27, we have this beautiful reading and listen: “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needed not daily, as those high priest, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.” See? He’s making a comparison and a contrast. Hebrews 9:11-16: “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctified to the purifying of the flesh,” and so on. Look at Hebrews 9:24 – 28, though: “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true” – these things are figures of the true (pointing to diagram) – “but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with the blood of others; for then must he have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many.”
One more time: “By the which we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standard daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God (Hebrews 10:10 – 12). Now Paul was writing to these Hebrew people who understood all of this so very well and understood how these priests stood there daily, offering sacrifice after sacrifice after sacrifice for the sins of the people, and he said, “That’s not the way it’s going to be done for you because there was one sacrifice made for you.” When Jesus Christ went to the rugged summit of cruel Calvary and gave up Himself once for all, then He sat down. He’s contrasting the fact that those fellows had to stand daily, but Christ did it one time and sat down. They’re still standing but He sits down!
Oh, I’ll tell you, when you get to thinking about Jesus our Lord as a sacrifice for sins – He came into this world and He had nothing, as I have mentioned several times in the meeting – no money – no property. The only thing He had was his body, and He said, “A body hast Thou prepared me, and “lo, I, come (in the volume of the book it is written of me), to do thy will, O God.” The only thing He had was his body and He laid it upon the altar of the cross and when He did that He became the anti-type for all lambs on Jewish altars slain and He did it once and for all.
So tonight, by faith, I tread that rugged road to Calvary’s brow and I stand in all silence at the foot of Calvary and there, by faith, I appropriate to my heart the benefits and blessings of that one sacrifice for sin by belief. That’s the reason that faith is the basis of everything. That’s the reason that Paul said it’s the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” because the way you get the benefit of this sacrifice is through faith and then I appropriate that to my heart and by that I’m on my way to becoming a priest as surely as you live.
Next, after this, the candidate went to the laver at the door of the tabernacle and had his flesh washed in water. What does that prefigure, my friends? Listen, let me tell you one thing right now: Let men say what they will, that priest went down there to that laver and he bathed his flesh in water. That’s got to fit somewhere! Where does it fit? What does it mean? What significance does it hold? And it’s W-A-T-E-R, water, not Holy Spirit; it’s water, if you please. That priest went into water! Now there’s got to be some water somewhere. I’m asking you tonight: Where does the water fit in the plan? Now the only place the water can fit is in baptism for the remission of sins and it just so happens that I find the Lord has commanded men to do that. Jesus said, “He that beliveth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
So if you have a faith that tells you that I’ve got to go to the water – I’ve got to go down into the water and I’ve got to wash my flesh in water, as it were – I’ve got to be washed in water – my entire person, my entire being – just like the priest was back yonder ages ago, then you’ve got a religion that fits because it’s got to fit. But suppose you belong to religion that, well, rather goes by the dry cleaning method? They just tell you that there is no water in it. Oh, I get all sorts of deriding on the radio and television and people talking about folks who believe in baptism as being tadpoles and so on and so forth because they believe in the water. Let us get one thing right tonight: you had better have a religion that’s got some water in it or you got a religion that doesn’t fit this plan! Now those priests went into some water, and you’re going to go into some water if you fulfill this type right here. And how much water? Well, I’ll tell you how much: It was enough to cover that man. It was enough to bury that man, because Paul says right over there in the sixth chapter of the book of Romans, “For we are buried with him by baptism into death.” Now that’s how much there was. Also, I read Hebrews 10:10 – 12, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” – listen now – “having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” That’s the thing that fits, and in this instance, it must fit.
After this, of course, he’s clean – he’s purified, like the apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 3:21, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God).” So now he comes into the holy place and he puts his garments on because he’s a priest. Yes sir! Well, that fits, too, because I read in Ephesians 4:22 where Paul says, “That you put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that you put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” Again, in Colossians 3:9, 10, “Seeing that you have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” That’s when we put the garments on – after we take our bath. You put your clean clothes on after you’ve had your bath. And after you get your old sins washed away and after you become a priest, then you put your priestly garments on and there they are. You don’t put your garments on before you get your bath. That’s the way some folks would read it today, but you don’t do that according to this and it’s got to fit. Next, he now enters the tabernacle. Well, we’re delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear son, according to Colossians 1:13, 14, which is another figure.
The Golden Candlestick
Nowhere do I find the order of worship in the tabernacle but we can know something of what was done. The priest waited on the golden candlestick, the seven lamps that furnished all the light in the holy place, which is the type of the church, as I have said. David said, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” The apostle Peter says in 2 Peter 1:19, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts. The apostle Paul says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). That’s our light then – the Scriptures. That’s the light that guides us and these seven lamps down here, which is a perfect number, rounding out a perfect figure, foreshadows the fact that I am guided by God’s sacred light, His holy word, if you please. The perfection of this light precludes the necessity for more and as it is our only light, it is unquestionably the antitype of that light in the type.
Next, I find that the priest ate of the shewbread every Sabbath day. He went to this table and he ate of the shewbread every Sabbath day. Well, every Christian who is a priest meets upon the first day of the week, not upon the Sabbath day, as we have already preached in the meeting. Now when the Jews were commanded to observe the Sabbath day, they understood that it meant every Sabbath day. They didn’t go around asking, “Now which Sabbath they must I observe? Is it annually, or semi-annually? Is it quarterly? Is it on Mother’s Day? Christmas and Easter?” No, of course not. When it said, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” that priest knew that there was a Sabbath day rolling around every week and he kept it holy, too, or he suffered death. In the same way, when we have our divine example, in the twentieth chapter of the book of Acts – “upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them” – we learned by that, that every week has a first day and we don’t go around asking, “Which first day? How many first days?” We just meet upon the first day of the week and that takes care of it.
Well, there’s another interesting thing, because as I’ve told you, everything has to fit. On this table, there were twelve loaves of bread. There were twelve loaves of bread because there were twelve tribes of Israel and that fits. But somebody says, “Well, now how does that fit today?” I’ll tell you how it fits today beyond the question of any doubt. There were twelve loaves for twelve tribes and that means one loaf for one tribe. That’s what it is. You’ll observe that one tribe didn’t have two loaves back then, and today, and the Lord’s kingdom, we are one. We are a holy nation. We are one tribe. We are one people, therefore, on that Lord’s table, there is one bread. There is one unit just like there was one loaf for one tribe back there. Twelve loaves for twelve tribes but one loaf for one tribe – that’s one thing for sure. That is unquestionably the truth of the matter, too.
The Golden Altar
Next, they burned incense on the golden altar, morning and evening. “Let my prayer be set forth before the as incense, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice”. We find that they came and offered the incense upon the golden altar, and as I’ve already intimated, this is the nearest approach that any Christian can get to the presence of God today. You show me a soul in deep and earnest prayer, pouring out his soul there, and I’m going to show you a person who has made the nearest of approach to God that could possibly be made while you’re here in this world. It’s as if you could reach out and touch Him behind the veil because He’s just behind the veil, his presence was, right there. The veil separated between the holy and most holy place, and this veil is the flesh, Hebrews 10:20, the confines of mortality. When we pass through the flesh, out of the body, we pass out of the holy place into the most holy place, where God is on the mercy seat. 2 Corinthians 5:8 says, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”
I have some questions that I must ask now. These questions I have gleaned around the country in the years that I’ve been preaching. These questions are answered in this outline tonight.
First, we have this question: Can a man be saved outside the church as well is on the inside? I don’t know what people have against the church, but that’s the question. I told you a while ago that we wanted to keep in mind the fact that the entrances are all from the east and God just saw fit in the planning and the making of this thing to answer that question. All right, look! This, as I told you a while ago, is Heaven (Points to holy of holies on chart.) This is the church. (Points to the holy place). This is the world. (Points to outer court on chart).Now isn’t that simple? Here you are in the world and, of course, you want to get to Heaven. Since all the entrances are from the east, you got to go through here (outer court), and then you got to go through here (holy place), to get over here (holy of holies). Now God fixed it that way. Isn’t that profound? No, it’s simple but it’s beautiful and very, very meaningful. You can’t get here from here without going through here, and that’s the church. The entrances are from the east.
Oh, I just love the song we have in our book, “I’ll meet you in the morning, just inside the eastern gate over there.” Oh, that fellow wasn’t drawing on his speculation. He knew what he wrote and whereof he wrote. He knew that it’s the eastern gate. Mrs. Frank Stamps, a good friend of mine in Dallas, Texas, the widow of the late Frank Stamps, wrote the memorial song in memory of Mr. Frank, to whom many of us went as a teacher of music, and she said, “Just inside the eastern gate.” It’s the eastern gate. There’s Bible for that. It’s a picture. It worked. It fits. Now friends, if you are a radio preacher and if you’re a television evangelist and you’re out speaking to the world and telling folks that you just don’t need to get into any church – just get down beside your radio – get down beside your television – stop your car on the highway and just get it done right there – now I want to know: How does that fit? It does not fit! If it’s God’s way, it fits.
But, let’s notice again. Let’s notice the arrangement of the laver and the brazen altar, as I’ve already noticed, you don’t go in here (holy place) and put your clothes on, then come back out and wash. In other words, what I’m saying is that you don’t get saved and then come back and be baptized, as some folks tell you today, because that doesn’t fit. You are baptized and you’re saved – you’re cleansed – then you put your garments on and that fits, but the other doesn’t.
Next, let us notice what they’ve done to the golden altar. I told you a while ago that the golden altar was prayer. Now who is prayer for? Prayer is not for the world. Prayer is for priests. Prayer and praise are for priests. Now, are you going to take this golden altar that’s for priests and put it out here for the world? In other words, what I’m saying is: Do you have a religion that says to alien sinners, who have never done one single thing in their lives, “Just come up now; kneel down at the mourner’s bench and praise Him this way. Get it done”? That one just doesn’t fit. Now, regardless of how many big evangelists are going about over the country today teaching you that, it doesn’t fit! You appropriate to your life the benefits of Jesus’ death, you go wash in the laver, you put your garments on, then you can come over here and offer up prayer and praise on the golden altar because it’s in the holy place, which is the church, and that’s where your prayers are going to be heard – in the Lord’s church and no place else! That fits! I got Bible for that and there it is!
Jesus Our High Priest
I have some other things I want to say tonight before I’m through, relative to the church and to the tabernacle and to the priesthood. I want our people to know more about the high priesthood of Jesus Christ. There’s one thing that I think our people do not appreciate quite as much as they should and that is the fact that we have a great high priest, Jesus Christ our Lord. We know Him as our Savior, we know Him as our King, we know Him as a Shepherd, we know Him, somewhat at least, as a Redeemer, but not many people know Him as a High Priest, I want to talk about him now for a moment as our great High Priest.
But first, I want to mention that everything fits, as I said. At nine o’clock in the morning and at three o’clock in the afternoon, this priest, this daily priest, came right down here (to the brazen altar) and he offered up a lamb. Then he walked in here (holy place) and he offered up incense on this golden altar and stood right before that the veil, which separated him from this most holy place, which he had never seen in his life, and indeed, which was unlawful for him to see. Now these things pointed forward for many ages to come until finally this One came and died here and it’s so interesting that it was at nine o’clock in the morning that they nailed Christ to the cross. He hung there until the ninth hour, which was three o’clock in the afternoon and he said, “It is finished,“ and He bowed His head and gave up the ghost and the Friend of Sinners died. Everything fits!
Something else is quite interesting to me, as I almost move out into the realm of speculation just a little bit here, if you allow me. If that priest were on schedule, doing what he’s supposed to have done, as I reckon he did, he was down here serving right at this golden altar with three o’clock in the afternoon took place and that was when Jesus Christ gave up the ghost and cried with a loud voice and said, “It is finished,” and that old veil right there was rent in twain from top to bottom. And when it ripped from the top right down to the bottom, he was standing right there at that golden altar and he looked over with curious eyes into that place which he had never seen before and that indicated that the way into Heaven now has been made plain, because it fits.
Now let’s talk about the high priesthood of Jesus Christ. This is so interesting. Jesus Christ is a priest, a high priest, after two orders – after the Aaronic order and after the Melchizedek order. Maybe I should take these in another order but I prefer to give it in this way. The Melchizedek order has given rise to more conjecture than perhaps anything that I know about. If you want to get curiosity going 90° in the shade, you start talking to people about Melchizedek. You can turn over the back of your newspapers sometimes and look at church ads and the church programs and you’ll read where Dr. Big Somebody from up in Chicago or New York is going to come down and speak on where Melchizedek came from and if you want something that’s real rich and exciting, you just go out and hear one of those dudes. You never heard as much mystery and as much conjecture and all the days of your life, when it’s quite simple, really.
Melchizedek was a priest back yonder in the Old Testament order, a priest of Salem. Now he was not in a priestly line because he was of another order. The priest came through the line of Aaron, but God just wanted this old boy down there in Canaan to be a priest and He made him a priest because He was going to make him a type of what Jesus Christ, his Son, was going to be, when his Son finally got to Heaven and sat down on his throne; that’s what He’s going to do. Now Paul had some very vague words about him over here, or at least it comes down to us in our old King James Version as vague – “without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abided a priest continually” – and so on. Now what’s he saying here? He saying this: That there was nobody before him who was a priest and there’s nobody after him who was a priest because he was a bachelor, really, they say down there in Canaan – that’s what Adam Clarke and other great fellows have to say about him. He was the only man in his whole lineage who was a priest and he was priest over the old city of Salem. Now that’s the city that turned out to be Jerusalem, you see, but it was Salem then. And Melchizedek was a pretty good caliber, let me tell you, because he reigned in the city as king – he ruled his people as king. But he didn’t only rule his people as a king, he interceded for them as a priest, too. The strangest arrangement – you never heard tell of it before or since, and it so happens that when Abraham went down this ancient road to get his nephew, Lot, whom the kings had captured to carry away, and when he was returning back from the slaughter of the kings, he came right up close to the city of Salem and Melchizedek came walking out to meet him and bless him. And Abraham even paid tithes to him, he was so outstanding and great.
Now Paul tells us that Jesus Christ was a priest after his order. When was that? Well, I reckon it was when He got to Heaven and you read over there in the book of Hebrews and other places and you’ll find that this was said of Him when he got to Heaven and sat down on his throne: “Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek,” Why? Because Jesus Christ reigns tonight as our High Priest, too, and through Him we pray to our God, so his is just like Melchizedek’s priesthood and that’s the mystery of the whole thing – solved.
But also, we have Jesus Christ as a high priest after the order of Aaron. This is the acceptable order. Now you see, Jesus was a priest like Melchizedek because Jesus Christ didn’t come out of the line of Levi – He didn’t come out of the priestly line. Ordinarily Jesus could not have been a priest because he was not from a priestly lineage, just like Melchizedek, but God picked Him out and made him a priest and made Him a King, too, just like He did Melchizedek. But now, of course, these priest in the Aaronic order – if they wanted to be priest, as I had said earlier in the lesson – they had to go down to the Temple, open up the archives, and prove their ancestry and their blood right back to Aaron, and they had to have papers showing it and they had to leave them there at the temple, too. In other words, we’d say they had to show their pedigree, if you please, before they could be priests. They had to show they were of the right line and right lineage, and they went right back to Aaron.
Well, Jesus Christ was a priest after that order too, because you remember when He died upon the cross, He wasn’t a priest at all then – He was a lamb. Yes sir! He was a lamb for sinners slain right then, but when He came out of the grave, right at that time He functioned as a priest after the order of Aaron, because old Aaron would come out here and purify himself and he would walk through this thing and offer the blood for the people. When he purified himself, nobody could touch him and he couldn’t touch anybody or he’d be unclean. He would go back in there and make that sacrifice and then he would come right back out again and hold out his hands and bless the people. I want to show you where Jesus Christ did something just that marvelous.
You remember when He was sleeping in the tomb, or at least they thought He was sleeping in the tomb, when the women abandoned their watch and finally went home, very early on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and others came down to the tomb to finish their embalming of this precious, much–beloved body of Jesus Christ, and as they came near the tomb, to their great amazement and distress, they found the tomb empty and the stone rolled away. Oh, they were heartbroken! They wanted to see that body one more time, though it was dead. Mary stood without, weeping – Mary Magdalene. She just simply wept her womanly heart out and through the tears she looked and she heard somebody talking behind her, saying, “Woman, why weepest thou?” And she said, “Because they have taken away my Lord and I know not where they have laid him.” And she said again, “Sir, if you’ll tell me where you’ve placed him, I’ll go move him.” In other words, that’s love speaking. Love always attempts the impossible. Imagine a poor, frail, little woman going to pick up a corpse that had been dead for three days, attempting to move it, but that’s love speaking, you see. Then he said just one word. He knew. He said, “Mary”. He called her name. She had heard that name in happier years, in more pleasant times and surroundings and, oh, it brought a million memories to her heart. Oh, she knew then! She looked through her tears and it was the Master. It was her Lord standing there! She ran and flung herself down at his nail-pierced feet and in a gesture of womanly love would have embraced those poor, mangled feet, but Jesus said, “Mary, see thou do it not.”
Now you can go to the marginal reading if you want to – if you think you can get any consolation there. Some folks invite me to go to the marginal reading. Well, so what? The marginal reading just says, “Don’t cling to me.” Same thing! But what’s the reason? The reason: “For I have not yet ascended unto my God and to your God, but go tell my disciples and Peter that I go before them into Galilee.” Now that was his reasoning for not allowing her to touch Him because he had not yet gone up yonder and poured out his blood in fulfillment of this Old Testament type right here. That’s why!
Now it’s very interesting to me that at the close of the day, the first day of the week, that after those two men walked on their road to Emmaus and they had Jesus journey with them, He was finally made known to them. They rushed back down to the city of Jerusalem. They went into the room where the rest of the disciples were, late in the evening now, the same day. Jesus came down and stood in their midst and amazed them all, and frightened them all and Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid of me. A spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have. Touch me. Handle me.” Now I want to know: Why could they touch Him this evening but they couldn’t touch Him this morning? I’ll tell you why: Because he hadn’t gone behind the veil yet and offered up his blood in fulfillment of the old Aaron type, because He was a high priest after the order of Aaron. Thank God he went in there and He offered in glory at the mercy seat and came back down and blessed the people that evening in the little room in the city of Jerusalem. And it fits – everything fits.
I wonder tonight – as I have talked at length – I wonder tonight if you are a priest in the Lord’s tabernacle? You see, that’s the reason why we preachers go around and preach that everybody can’t build a tabernacle. John Wesley can’t build a tabernacle. Martin Luther can’t build a tabernacle. Mary Baker Eddy, Ellen G. White – they can’t build a tabernacle. That’s the Lord’s. “Which the Lord pitched and not man.” And it’s got to be the right one and it’s got to be the one that fits the pattern. Are you a priest in the tabernacle that fits the pattern tonight? If not, you can become a priest by doing just what these priests did. Go down to Calvary, and appropriate to your heart the blood of Jesus Christ. Come down and wash your sins away in the laver of baptism. Come into the tabernacle and put your garments on and live a Christian life. Won’t you do that why we stand and while we sing?
[This sermon is from the book, “Passing It On” by M. Lynwood Smith, transcribed by Johnny Elmore from a sermon delivered at New Salem Church of Christ Near Brookhaven, Mississippi on August 9, 1973 recorded by Glen Smith]