When we keep the figurative language clear, the Hebrew character of the Christian-Hebrew epistles reveals significant truths concerning the believer’s role in the body of Christ.  Hebrews 10:21-22, for instance, in further teaching of our access to God, tells us of our completeness in Christ:

  And having an high priest [rather than head] over the house of God;
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

  Here we are commanded to use our access to the Father by drawing near to God with “a true heart in full assurance of faith.”  This means we are to recognize all we have in Christ when we come before God.  We are to claim our sonship rights of redemption and sanctification and righteousness.  We are to appear before our heavenly Father not as sinners but as sons.  Even more remarkably, the Hebrew character of these truths conveys, figuratively, truths concerning our roles as servants in the body of Christ, the temple of God.

  As is plain in the gospel records, in Israel of the first century, the kings of Israel were Roman puppets.  The high priests held the authority over all the house of Israel.  For believers practicing the laws of Israel, Christ is the only high priest they were to obey.  Even more importantly, the household of believers in Israel is not compared the house of Israel as a whole but to the house of prayer, the temple itself.  Christ is the high priest over the spiritual temple of the body of the saints.

  The comparison between the New Testament reality of the body of Christ begins with truths of the Old Testament covenant and temple spoken of in Hebrews 9:19-22:

  For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people,
Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.
Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry.
And almost all things are by the law purged with blood…

  Having our “hearts sprinkled” refers to the Messiah’s perfect sacrifice that joins us to the new and everlasting covenant, but, even more, in the complete context of this analogy, the sprinkling can refer to each believer as a vessels of service in the temple (See also II Timothy 2:20-21).

  In Hebrews 10:22 the context of the temple analogy continues with the washing of “our bodies with pure water,” for priests doing service in the temple were required to wash (Exodus 29:4; Lev. 16:4).  Our priestly baptism is figurative also, for we are complete in Christ and baptized in his name (Romans 6:1-4; Colossians 2:12).  In Christ we are completely complete and able to serve boldly in the body of Christ.  The Hebrew character of this epistle tells of our high calling to service in Christ by way of powerful Old Testament language.  We are priests both sprinkled as holy vessels and washed.  We should see ourselves as fully sanctified in Christ and able to serve God because we are completely complete.

  I Peter 2:4-5, written to “the strangers1 scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,” continues the revelation of the believers as God’s temple or dwelling place:

  To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,
Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up [399 anaphero] spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

  The living stone to whom the believers come in I Peter 2:4 is the foundation stone of the temple laid by word of God taught by the apostles in Ephesians 2:20:

  And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;

  In this way, the Hebrew character of the Christian-Hebrew epistles, by way of context and scripture build up, gives us great insight into the application of the truths of the Old Testament Temple to believers today.

  The word of God in the Hebrew-Christian epistles also gives the meaning of Old Testament sacrifices in terms of the realities of serving in Christ.  First of all, there is no more offering for sin in our service to God, for throughout Hebrews, God’s Word repeatedly proclaims that Jesus Christ’s has appeared once to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Hebrews 7:27; 9:26; 10:12). Hebrews, though, also reveals the meaning of other temple offerings as examples of service in Christ.  For instance, in Hebrews 13:14-16, praise is compared to the offerings of the first fruits:

  For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.
By him therefore let us offer [399 anaphero] the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.
But to do good and to communicate [koinonia] forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

  Likewise, free will giving and abundant sharing, “doing good and fully sharing” (see also Galatians 6:6) are New Testament realities that are compared to Old Testament sacrifices.

  The comparison of believers to ministers carrying out Divine service in the presence of God is an implied metaphor in Hebrews.  However, in I Peter 2:5 (above) the comparison is plainly stated and extended to include offering up “spiritual sacrifices.”  In the immediate context of I Peter 2:9 the sacrifice, as in Hebrews 13:15, is the sacrifice of praise:

  But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth [proclaim] the praises [excellencies] of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

  However, I Peter 2:5 is the only use of the phrase “spiritual sacrifices”:

  Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up [399 anaphero] spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

  The only spiritual worship in the Bible is in John 4:24:

  God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

  and, tellingly, in Philippians 3:3:

  For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. 

  Isn’t it wonderful that our access to God and our ability to cry “Abba Father” by way of His spirit within (Rom. 8:15) is compared to the Old Testament Divine service in the temple?  God’s grace is so vast.

  Philippians 3:3 closes the loop.  In the Hebrew Christian epistles the Old Testament truths are vehicles for expressing New Testament realities.  Philippians, in contrast, tells all believers who worship God in spirit are, in reality, the true circumcision, the circumcision made without hands (Co. 2:11).  That’s why the New Testament realities of Christ expressed with a distinctly Hebrew character apply as certainly to those of a Gentile background as they do to those who, in the first century, especially identified themselves as Hebrews.  For, in accordance with Galatians 6:15-16:

  …in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

  Because of God’s wonderful revelation in the Christian-Hebrew epistles, we can understand, in living color, the calling of the church as the Israel of God and as a His temple growing up from the foundation who is the chief cornerstone, Jesus Christ our Lord.

By Ren Manetti

[1]  “Strangers” has a double meaning. Those of Israel who were scattered abroad were strangers in the Gentile lands, but all believers are strangers in this age as they look for the return of Christ. See also Hebrews 11:13 and I Peter 2:11.