Access to God
Radiant Church’s Lead Pastor Keith Welton continues our series on the Book of Hebrews with a sermon entitled, “Access to God” on Hebrews 9. Below, you can listen to his sermon, watch our whole service, and use the outline below for a reference.
Missed last week’s sermon from Pastor Welton entitled, “Something Better”? You can listen to it and watch the whole service here.
1 Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. 2 A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand, the table and the consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. 3 Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, 4 which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. 5 Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now. 6 When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. 7 But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. 8 The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing. 9 This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. 10 They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings–external regulations applying until the time of the new order. 11 When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! 15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance–now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. 16 In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17 because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. 18 This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. 19 When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. 20 He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” 21 In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. 23 It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:1-28 NIV)
Access to God
Have you ever been denied access to something? Maybe a Credit Card stolen and had to cancel. I’m shopping and being told my CC doesn’t work. I feel like I have done something wrong, like I’m a thief or idiot.
We are up to our ears in the book of Hebrews as a church. Things are getting deep. There are many things that are unfamiliar here.
Everything in the Old Testament points to Jesus. It finds fulfillment in him. You could take a seminary class on this chapter and not exhaust everything from it – the OT connections, the significance. We will explore that a little bit.
But more than anything we are going to look at how the intricate details of the Old Testament point to the core and most basic truth of the Christian faith: Jesus died to reconcile sinners to God. He makes a way for people to come back to God.
1. Jesus Makes a Way to God
There is a lot written in the Old Testament about how to approach God. We can’t come to him in just any way.
“Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness.” -Hebrews 9:1
-You couldn’t worship God any way you wanted. Some people say all ways lead to the same place. That is not true. God specified how to worship and follow him. This is a profound mistake people make today. It doesn’t work on roads and maps so why should it work in religion?
The way to God had not yet been disclosed in the Old Testament. Full access was not given. Only certain people could enter the tent of meeting to meet with God.
5 Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now. 6 When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. 7 But only the high priest entered and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. (Hebrews 9:5-7)
The Tabernacle was the place God met with people on earth. Not just anyone could come here. Only priests, and they only after offering the right sacrifices.
Access was restricted because of sin. Sin separates people from God. If you don’t do what someone asks you to do then it might cause a separation in your relationship. How much moreso when we think about entering into the presence of God?
It was common in past times that when someone entered into the presence of a king they would have to follow certain protocols of etiquette. You couldn’t just come any way you wanted. To do so would be to be presumptuous, disrespectful. John Adams, the second President of the United States, met the King of England, George III, on October 29, 1786. John Adams was the first Ambassador to England after the war. It’s popularly noted that when first met with the king, he bowed at the door, he walked halfway through the room and bowed again, and finally he bowed once more before the king. If meeting men of honor requires a particular means of entering, how much moreso entering the presence of God?
What made meeting the King of England particularly awkward was that John Adams was “among the leaders of a revolution against royal rule,” he was also on the committee of five men who drafted the Declaration of Independence, which denounced the king as a tyrant and included a long list of His Majesty’s sins: “He has dissolved Representative Houses….He has obstructed the Administration of Justice….He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.”
You couldn’t just go into the tabernacle.
There is a separation between people and God. His requirement is not that you make x amount of money, or that you belong to x race, or that you went to this school or that school. His requirement to be in his presence is that you are worthy, that you are whole, that you are perfect as he is perfect.
The tabernacle is a reminder of the grace and justice of God.
Sins of commission and omission. Also unintentional.
“but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people.” (Hebrews 9:7
Access is restricted. Blood is required. There is a sense of justice in this. Our world does not know justice. Everyone wants to be able to do whatever they want, that means there is no justice, or it is an arbitrary justice.
The consequence of sin is death. That is what it deserves. God in his mercy spares us. That is called grace.
-It is hard to understand you have sinned and should be excluded from the presence of God. It is the unforgivable sin to tell somebody today they cannot do something. “Don’t exclude me!” Christianity is offensive because it says you cannot come into the presence of God because of your sin.
But let me also say this. When anything is permissible it means there is nothing worth standing up for. The sexual revolution says “do whatever you want.” It brings everything down to the same level. Christians are here to say, “No, marriage is valuable and to be honored and protected. It’s worth saving yourself for, it’s worth changing your ways for, it’s worth fighting for, it’s worth going to counseling, it’s worth conforming your life to God’s design.”
The same thing is true about life. The Christian faith teaches that failing to honor God has great consequences. But inversely it says there is something honorable to live for.
Actions have consequences. We need to see this.
God is greater than we can imagine. We are not as great as we want to believe. We ought to be humble.
2. Jesus Makes a Way by Cleansing Consciences
The problem with the Old Testament (OT) practices is that while they rendered a person ritually clean it did not fix the real problem, which was guilty and troubled conscience.
“This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper.” (Hebrews 9:9)
V 13 cleans our conscience. The word for “cleaning” there is the word used for the clean/unclean objects in the OT. Correct rituals made things clean. But they were only cleansed on the outside. The problem with us is we have an internal conscience that knows when we have done something wrong. Conscience gets dirty, stained, and weighed down. It needs cleansing.
The OT sacrifices could not cleanse our conscience.
Let me say today that the things people turn to will not clean their conscience. Priests performed rituals in attempts to make people clean. Most people don’t go to church today, and yet they perform acts to cleanse their conscience. People want a clear conscience. Drink to numb the pain. Like pain killers for a cracked spine, it doesn’t solve the problem just numbs the pain so misery can be endured. Education– make a case for what you are not wrong to do what you did. Politics– Why is there so much passion and vitriol in the public square today? People so adamant about being accepted legally? It is because they want a clear conscience. They want others to accept what they have done and say you are blameless. They medicate the effects of a guilty conscience.
Why is there depression? Various reasons. Sometimes, for me, I get most depressed at my own inability. In ability to do the right thing at the right time, to have the right attitude, to trust God completely, i.e., Amanda and me working through frustration and disappointments in our relationship. It is a regular thing. I’m disappointed I didn’t lead her better, address issues in a quicker manner. It makes me sad. I need to be made whole. Praise be to Jesus who does that.
Why do people commit suicide? They are hopeless and believe they have messed up to the point of no return. Guilt weighs them down.
Why do people drink to excess? Guilt. Shame. In reality they are not perfect and whole.
Why do people rage? Mad at others. Mad at themselves. Cutting or hurting themselves. They hurt.
We need to not just be cleansed outwardly, but cleansed in our conscience and being. Jesus is not an animal, but a person. Animals could not give God what he wanted which was perfect obedience, so it was not a true act of justice. Those animals could not represent us fully. Animals had not disobeyed the law of God, nor had they obeyed.
“how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Heb 9:14)
His blood is effective. God sent his son to bring forgiveness, to cleanse our conscience. If the blood of animals made priests outwardly clean, how much more will the blood of Christ sanctify us completely inwardly and outwardly.
Forgiveness. People often seek forgiveness by minimizing their wrong, saying, “It’s not a big deal.” No, you were disrespectful to your wife, and that was wrong. You lied and that is wrong. You undermined trust. What we need is not a minimizing of the wrong but an atoning of the wrong.
Forgiveness is possible through Christ, because it acknowledges what I did was wrong and deserves punishment. My wrong is first and foremost an offense against a holy God. I need reconciling with him. When I recognize that, then I am ready to go back to my wife or friend and say, “I’m sorry will you forgive me?”
3. Jesus is the Mediator
Mediators come between two people and make a way where there is not a way.
“For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance–now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” (Hebrews 9:15)
Jesus is the mediator. He steps between us and God. He makes a way. He is qualified to enter in the dwelling place of God. If you want access to God, you come through Christ. Understand what he has done.
When people have a dispute and get angry with each other they will often hire a mediator or counselor to mediate the relationship for them. The husband might hear what the mediator says because the mediator has done nothing wrong to the husband. He has no guilt. The mediator can come between the two and make a way.
Jesus is the only mediator between people and God. He represents people because he is a person. The only way a mediator could be in God’s presence is if they have no sin. Remember that was the problem with the priests. They were sinners. Jesus resolves the dispute by paying the price. God’s judgment is satisfied. There is no more guilt. There is no more punishment.
He is able to mediate because he has paid the ransom.
Ransom. Let’s just talk about that in this passage.
1) literally, as an action a buying back of a slave or captive through payment of a ransom; hence setting free, release (HE 11.35); (2) figuratively; (a) of rescue from sin redemption, deliverance
as a price paid for release from slavery or captivity ransom; figuratively, of the cost to Christ in providing deliverance from sin price of release, ransom is a means of setting free. Think about a person who is kidnapped and people hold him for ransom. 1 million dollars and you can have your husband back. You pay the ransom price and you get them back.
Here it is not money that we are ransomed by. We have been ransomed by the blood of Jesus. It required perfect obedience. No one could do that. You could not do that. If you think you could do that, tell me, and I will follow you around for a couple days, couple hours to see how perfect you are.
Jesus is our substitute who pays the price for us. Now who does he pay the price to? We may think we were led astray by sin, and he must have had to pay the devil. But God doesn’t owe the devil anything. The devil can’t obligate God to do anything. The ransom was paid to God. It was due because of God’s holiness.
Ransom reminds us that we were hostages to sin. We need help. He is the helper.
But remember, for mediation to be successful you have to accept the terms of the mediator. You have to follow his terms. Most mediation fails because the people don’t follow through. He is the mediator. He is Lord. If you reject his Lordship you reject his work of mediation. You can reject a mediator and expect to achieve the restored relationship.
“And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship.” (Hebrews 9:21)
Sacrifices were offered, but it had to be applied. They dipped hyssop in blood and sprinkled it on whatever needed to be cleansed. We do not need a sprinkling of the body, we need a bowing of the soul. We receive what Christ has done by believing, by trusting, by aligning our lives with his work.
4. Jesus Saves Those Who Wait
I just said a four letter word. “Wait!” Nobody likes to wait for anything. They guy didn’t show up on time and made me wait 3.75 minutes. I don’t like that! I don’t want to wait for a representative to get back to me. I want it now.
“I prayed and prayed for God to bring me a spouse and it took so long I just gave up and said there is no God.” How long did you pray? 1 week!!!
This church has been waiting for Jesus’ return for decades. They may have seen him in person or known others who knew him personally and physically. They’ve been waiting, probably thirty plus years. They’ve suffered much for being his followers.
We have to wait for him. You have to wait for him to deliver you from the problems you are in. Have to wait for him to show you what he is doing. Have to wait for him to build character.
“so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:28)
assiduously and patiently to wait for. It’s not like waiting for history class to end, and you are bored out of your mind. It is more like waiting for your wedding day. You are excited. You know things will change. You anticipate life being better as you are with your best friend.
There is a time to wait. Things may not go the way you hope. You wait patiently. He will fix all things when he returns. We wait for that. We may be wronged. We may not see things go the way we hope.
Jesus makes a way for us to come to God for eternal redemption. We are reconciled. We are made whole. We are restored. What is often hard when we are excluded or denied access is that we feel we may never qualify. But Jesus qualifies for us.