Incarnation and Worship

8:1 Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,
2 a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man. (Heb 8:1-2 NKJ)

The incarnation of Christ fundamentally changed the nature of godly worship. Before Christ came, God’s worship was taken up with types and shadows. These were elements and ceremonies of worship that pointed to Christ in an indirect way. In the sacrificial death of animals for sin, the worshiper was shown what the weight of his sin was; the attentive worshiper realized that what was done to the animal was what deserved to be done to him for his sin. The blood of animals could not remove sin in any real way, and every believing Jew knew that. But God is a benevolent God, and when He shows us our need for something, implied in that is always a promise that He will provide that need. So they knew that even though all of the specifics of remission of sins were not completely clear, yet the Old Testament ritual plainly demonstrated their need for salvation and a promise that One would come, the Anointed One, who would be a real sacrifice for sin and not just a symbol.

Jesus was the incarnation, the fleshly embodiment, of not just the second person of the Trinity, but of all God’s promises to His people. He was the physical expression of God’s love. Before Christ came, God’s holiness and grace was expressed in many physical representations. Israel had a holy mountain and holy days and a holy temple and holy tribes and even holy pans, utensils, clothes, candlesticks and the like. But God sent something superior to all of that, a holy Man. We are joined to that holy Man by faith, by believing in Him, and then we become His holy People.

There is therefore no need for elaborate ritual and ceremony. There is no need for symbolic holy things. We do not need complex types and shadows to indirectly point us to the reality; we can look right at the reality. This is what Jesus was telling us when He said that the hour is coming when we will worship God in spirit and truth; it won’t matter whether we’re on one mountain or another, in the right holy place or the wrong one. Illuminated by the Spirit of God we can meditate directly on the promise of Christ and the truth of what He has accomplished for us.

Though we have Christ presented plainly to us, yet we have not yet entered into eternity; the consummation of the age to come is still to be anticipated. We have yet the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper that teach us the reality of being freed from the filth of sin and nourishment by the death of Christ. But the much greater simplicity and spirituality of New Testament worship is a testimony to us of just how much closer we are to the full experience of our salvation than God’s people ever have been.

Sometimes people long for a more ceremonial worship. People sometimes hunger for the more symbolic and mystical worship that the Jews experienced under Moses. But this is to go backward, to leave the university to go back to kindergarten, to trade in mature learning for childish fingerpainting and colored blocks. Instead we have the privilege of seeing more clearly than ever before the fullness of God’s salvation. We now can understand and perceive the true tabernacle which Christ erected in the heavens, and not the copy that Moses made in the wilderness. God’s people should appreciate this greater richness, and joyfully worship Him in spirit and truth.