Dr. Valson Abraham
All of us carry roles in our society that identify who we are. Some of us are doctors, lawyers, farmers, business people, etc. In our families, we carry identities as “father,” “mother,” “brother,” sister,” “cousin,” etc. Some of us are ministers and missionaries. But should we consider these important roles the ultimate definition of who we are?
This was the question facing the Jewish leaders of the first century when they confronted Jesus Christ. From the time of Moses, they had identified themselves as “people of the law” by the scrupulous way they kept the various sacrifices prescribed by God. This was their role for more than a thousand years.
But God never intended this to be their permanent identity. The crux of Jesus’ teaching is that they were to become a new people with a new identity-“people of the kingdom”- a kingdom to be ushered in by Jesus Christ. As Paul and the writer of Hebrews put it, the elaborate sacrificial system was a “shadow of things to come” (see Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 8:5; 10:1).
The sacrificial system was only a shadow, Paul says, but the “substance” of our identity is Jesus Christ. If we truly regard ourselves as “people of the kingdom,” we will stake our identity in Jesus Christ and what He has already done for us through His cross and resurrection to make us part of His kingdom.
As a whole, the Jewish people refused to accept this new identity. They refused to accept Jesus Christ as the One sent by God to save them. They wanted to preserve the status quo because they did not perceive their sin and the need for a more radical remedy to deal with it than was possible with the old system.
They were over-confident in the power of their own good works to give them peace with God. They had no concept of how all their so-called “good works” were no more than feces-covered toilet paper in the eyes of a holy and pure God.
Along with the Romans, they conspired in His crucifixion. In so doing, they unwittingly made Jesus Christ the Ultimate Sacrifice required by God that takes away the sin of the world, removing any further need for the old sacrificial system they were trying to defend.
As the writer of Hebrews tells us, “For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from the dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:13-14)
The law of God, given to Moses, was a very important thing for its time, but it was still temporary. It was a “shadow,” an outline of something even greater to come.
In the same way, all our life roles in society and in our families, however important, are only temporary. Even ministers and missionaries must take care not to identify themselves too closely with their roles. In the end, Paul tells us, prophesies, tongues and knowledge will all cease.
Even the church will pass away, and even the heavens and the earth, as Jesus Christ returns to set up a New Heaven and New Earth.
It is always important for us to learn the elementary lessons of life, but none of us should remain in the first grade forever. Today, we have more revelation from God than was available 2,000 years ago. But the perfect revelation of God and His kingdom is yet to come. Even now, we still live in the “shadows.” The whole creation groans, waiting for this final revelation in Christ’s Second Coming.
But what about those in India and elsewhere who haven’t even seen the “shadows” yet? Hundreds of millions remain strangers to all we discuss here. They still seek peace with God. God is not willing that any of them perish, but that all should come to repentance. India’s spiritual harvest is ready and waiting.
The role of a field worker during harvest time is temporary, but essential for prosperity and life. Let each of us do our God-appointed task until His Indian harvest is complete.
Father God, thank you for the sacrificial system in the Old Testament and for the lessons it teaches about Jesus Christ and His Ultimate Sacrifice to bring me peace with God. Help me to live out the reality of your salvation in Christ and help me to do my part in making Him known to those around me who are not yet part of His kingdom. In Jesus’ Name. Amen