Why New Covenant Worship is Superior to Old Covenant Worship Part 4

In Part 3 we looked briefly into the elements of the OC temple and the OC high priest and how a worshipper of God would relate to God through these ordained things. We also said that these were but types and pictures of something greater to come, which finds final fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ. So now we will move into talking more specifically about how and why NC worship is superior to OC worship.

4595051197_1585x702New Covenant Worship Superior

As mentioned previously one of the main factors in the NC is that there is a change in how God deals with His people and how they represent Him. We know from examining prophetic passages such as Jeremiah 31:31 that God will take the initiative as He always does in His plans, and enter into a new and better covenant than before. Characteristic to this covenant is the fact that God gives His people a new heart that knows His law and responds in directional obedience.

The prophesies of the NC are not exclusive to the ministry of Jeremiah, for we also see it proclaimed through the prophet Ezekiel whose ministry lasted during the Israelites exile to Babylon. Therefore, God uses Ezekiel to remind them of His promise given to Jeremiah prior to their deportation. Ezekiel speaking for Yahweh says, “I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (37:26-27). Mark Rooker commenting on this says that Ezekiel “affirmed that God will give His people a new heart and a new spirit to enable them to be faithful and thus avoid a future judgment (11:17-20; 36:26-28). The Lord will establish a new temple and a new worship for the people (chaps. 40-48) once they are restored.”20

It is important to make clear that this NC is significantly different in several ways. It cannot be broken; all of its members will be made new; and it will not operate in conjunction with natural birth, but spiritual birth instead. Michael Lawrence, referring to the NC as revealed by Jeremiah, says,

in Jeremiah’s prophecy of the new covenant, Jeremiah explicitly says, “It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers, when I led them by the hand out of Egypt” (Jer. 31:32). How will it be different? For one thing, it will be unbreakable (v. 32). For another, all the members of that covenant will be regenerate, the law written on their hearts (v. 33). Yet another difference will be that the covenant will not operate according to natural lines of birth and descent, but through spiritual birth (vv. 29-30). Here the discontinuity between the new covenant and the Mosaic covenant is enormous: a covenant of grace, not works; a covenant that regenerates rather than kills; a covenant entered into through spiritual rather than natural birth. And yet for all this discontinuity, Jeremiah is clear that this new covenant is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel, made to their forefather Abraham.21

It is crystal clear that there is a definitive change in how God is dealing with His people as both individuals and corporately. Now it must be clarified here that the Mosaic Covenant was not a covenant of works in regards to salvation. The stipulations of the covenant pertained to the nation of Israel retaining God’s temporal blessings and the Land of Canaan. It pointed to the greater covenant found through the Messiah. Hence, the NC is far more superior then the OC.

The reason the NC is more superior is ultimately found in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the true Temple of God; for He embodies all the righteousness of God; therefore the people of God enjoy the presence of God by being in Him, that’s in Christ. Simply put, the Head of the church (Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18), which is Christ, cannot be severed from the Body of Christ, which is the church-the new covenant people of God.

Worship Through God’s Temple / Church

Due tells us, “Through faith in Christ, Jews and Gentiles become members of a ‘new man,’ which may also be described as ‘one body’ i.e. the church.”22 Rudolph Schnackenburg makes this point well referencing this truth found in the book to the Ephesians,

The new ‘man’ is Christ insofar as he represents and realizes the church in himself. Christ and the church are not thereby identical; the church is grounded ‘in him’ and should grow into him (2:21; 4:13, 15) and Christ, the Head of the Body (1:22; 4:15; 5:23) remains her basis (2:30), the source of her growth (4:16) and her inner life thorough the Spirit (2:18, 22; 4:4a). In that he leads the two formerly separated groups of Jews and Gentiles in his own person to a new, indissoluble unity, he establishes ultimate peace between them.23

God’s Temple in The Christ

templeIn John 2:13-21 Jesus takes a trip with His disciples to Jerusalem and visits the temple. After a fit of righteous anger that He displays towards the mockery and irreverence that was on display with the Jews making His Father’s house a house of trade (v. 16). Jesus tells the religious leaders who had asked Him to show a “sign” excusing His actions says this: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (v. 19). John tells us in v. 21 “he was speaking about the temple of his body.”

Jesus goes to cleanse the temple, for the name of God had been blasphemed, since the temple was the dwelling place of God, which is synonymous with His name. Jesus has zero tolerance for the name of God to be blasphemed in this way or any other way. Due tells us, “Jesus’ action in the cleansing of the temple is the necessary and inevitable consequence of his own obedient worship of the Father…he acted to maintain the glory of his name in the place where God had caused his name to dwell.”24 Then a little later, “Jesus himself was nothing less than the tabernacle/temple of God bearing the glory and name of God, in the midst of the nations.”25

With the advent of the Messiah, the center of worship transitions from a “place” as seen in the OC to a “person” in the NC. NC worship has nothing to do with buildings, but has everything to do with the person of Christ. The Jewish temple was seen as a “meeting point” between heaven and earth. We see this idea connected with Jesus in John’s gospel account early on in chapter 1. When Nathanael first meets Jesus, Jesus gives Nathanael a glimpse of His supernatural abilities by telling Nathanael that He had seen him sitting under a fig tree. Nathanael in an explosion of faith in Jesus calls Him “the Son of God” (v. 49). In response, Jesus connects the “Jacob’s Ladder” incident in the OT (Gen. 28:12) to Himself. Jesus tells Nathanael, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (v. 51). So Jesus replaces the temple as the “meeting point” between heaven and earth. As Peterson reminds us,

The gospels of Matthew and John are particularly concerned to stress that God’s presence and God’s glory, so intimately connected with the tabernacle and temple under the Mosaic covenant, and consistently at the center of Jewish expectations for the messianic era, are fully and finally experienced in Jesus Christ.26

This is why Christian preaching and teaching must center on the person and work of Jesus Christ. God’s presence with His people is in the person of Jesus Christ; for He is the one in whom we see the glory of God (John 1:14). He is the embodiment of the “shekinah” presence of God as experienced in the OC tabernacle and temple.

God’s Temple in The Church

As the Body of Christ-the church, believers also become the temple of God. Just as Jesus cleansed the earthly copy of the heavenly temple, He will also cleanse, protect, and preserve believers as the temple of God, since we are the dwelling place of His name now. In John 14:6 Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (emphasis mine). The apostle Paul understands the connection of Christ’s church with her Savior by saying, “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things so that, if I delay you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Tim 3:14-15, emphasis mine). The Head cannot be separated from the Body and the Body cannot be separated from the Head. 1-cor-12_27-graphic

Paul additionally tells us, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God” (1 Cor 6:19)? This “is the sign of his dwelling with men and women on earth. In fact, in the terms of the new covenant, the church is the temple because of God’s indwelling of men and women by virtue of their union with Christ.”27 Ephesians 2:11-22 is another important passage that helps us to see how God is making His people into His temple where He will dwell with them forever. In that passage it’s clear that God is making a new spiritual temple. The new temple of Christ’s Body is replacing the physical temple that was in Jerusalem. This Body consists not only of Jews, but also Gentiles. We experience deliverance and salvation individually through the finished work of Christ’s atoning work, but additionally we are now part of a new corporate group called the church, which consists of people from every nation, language, and tribe.

Worship Through God’s Great High Priest 

In the OC the high priest was the mediator between God and man. He was the one who would sprinkle the blood of the lamb on the Ark of the Covenant on the Day of Atonement. He was the one who was expected to be consecrated and holy to God. As the King represented the people to God, the high priest represented God to the people. With the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, a definitive change has happened in how God is represented to us. Jesus Christ is our Great High Priest. We now know Jesus as the Priest King who is worthy of our total devotion and worship.jesus-our-great-high-priest

The book of Hebrews is crucial in helping us to understand how Jesus is greater than all things. He is greater than angels (chapter 1); greater than Moses (chapter 3); and greater than all of the earthly high priests (4:14-5:10; 7:1-8:13.) These passages that describe the differences of how Jesus is not only better, but also perfect, and eternal in His priestly intercession between Him and us.

For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priest, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once and for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever (Heb. 7:26-28).

Our worship to God is now through the perfect High Priest, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Since, “he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God though him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).

Next time we’ll take some time to discuss applications for worship today.  

 Grace and Peace!

J.D.N.

Footnotes 20-27 of 32 (for entire article)

20 Mark F. Rooker, “The Book of Ezekiel” in The World and the Word An Introduction to the Old Testament (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2011), 398

21 Michael Lawrence, Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church: A Guide for Ministry (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 81.

22 Due, 203.

23 Rudolph Schnackenburg, The Epistle To The Ephesians (Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark LTD, 1991), 115.

24 Due, 129.

25 Ibid., 131.

26 David G. Peterson, Engaging With God A Biblical Theology of Worship (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press), 101.

27 Due, 199-200.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Block, Daniel. For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004.

Begbie, Jeremy. “Worship.” In Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible. Edited by Kevin J. Vanhoozer. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005.

Chapell, Bryan. Christ-Centered Worship. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009.

Church, Chris. “High Priest” in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Edited by C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003.

Due, Noel. Created For Worship From Genesis to Revelation to You. Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2005.

Elwell, Walter, and Barry Beitzel “Lord of Hosts” in Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Volume Two. Edited by Walter Elwell. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988.

Frame, John M. Worship in Spirit and Truth A Refreshing Study of the Principles and Practice of Biblical Worship. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1996.

Hauser, Alan J. and Kellet, Earl. “History of the Temple” in The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Edited by J.D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, and W. Widder. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015.

Lamey, Paul. “The Reading of Scripture” The Expositors Blog, April 12, 2016. Accessed April 12, 2016, http://www.expositors.org/blog/the-reading- of-scripture/.

Lawrence, Michael. Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church: A Guide for Ministry. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010.

Patzia, Arthur G, and Petrotta, Anthony J. Pocket Dictionary of Biblical Studies. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002.

Peterson, David G. “Worship.” In New Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by T. Desmond Alexander, and Brian S. Rosner. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000.

_____ Engaging With God A Biblical Theology of Worship. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995.

Rooker, Mark F., Merrill, Eugene H., and Grisanti, Michael A. The World and the Word An Introduction to the Old Testament. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2011.

Schnackenburg, Rudolph. The Epistle To The Ephesians. Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark LTD, 1991.

Sproul, R.C. Everyone’s A Theologian An Introduction to Systematic Theology. Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2014.

Tripp, Tedd. Shepherding A Child’s Heart: Second Edition. Wapwallopen, PA: Shepherd Press, 2005.

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