MAINTAINING A GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD

God  the Father's and Jesus Christ's purpose for creating humanity  is  so awesome  and exciting that it is almost beyond belief.   God  the Father who sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to earth over nineteen hundred years ago is in the process of expanding his family:

"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, . . ." (Jn.1:12 KJV).

"Behold,  what  manner of love the Father has bestowed  upon  us, that  we  should be called the sons of God: therefore  the  world knows  us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are  we  the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but  we know  that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him;  for  we shall  see him as he is" (1.Jn.3:1-2 KJV). See also  2.Cor.6:18; Heb.2:10; Rom.8:14,19.

God the Father has begun the greatest and grandest of all his plans;   he  is  creating  beings  just  like himself (Phil.3:21; 1.Jn.3:2) and he intends to share all he has created and all that he is yet to create throughout eternity with them.

Why Maintain a Good Relationship?

There  would be no reason to strive to maintain a good  relationship with God unless there were benefits to be derived from  this relationship.  However, there are awesome eternal  benefits  that are offered through a good relationship with the  Sovereign  God (God the Father) and the Creator God (Jesus Christ).

"But  as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,  neither have  entered  into the heart of man, the things which  God  [the Father] has prepared for them that love him" (1.Cor.2:9 KJV).

Any  child  of God the Father who cannot  maintain  a  harmonious relationship with God the Father, and  Jesus  Christ cannot  continue to benefit from the father-son  relationship  in the present or in the future. Therefore, it is extremely important for  a child of God to know and understand how to establish  and maintain  a good and harmonious relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ.

Because  of the extreme importance of the  relationship between  God and humanity, the Sovereign God and the Creator  God  designed  a  system that would allow such a  relationship  to  be established and maintained between them and  humanity.

In the following pages we will review some of God's early  agreements with humanity and the parts of these agreements that pertain to how a good  relationship with God was to be established and maintained. Moreover, in this study we will review how to establish and maintain a good relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ today under the new  agreement during the gospel age of salvation.   

Did God Have a Plan?

Some people who study the Bible believe that God did not  fully  understand the potential for evil and rebellion that was inherent within  the human creation. And that, when the first humans disobeyed the  instructions he gave them in the garden of Eden, he  hastily developed a plan to save them from their destructive nature. Then, when  the  nation of Israel rebelled at Mount  Sinai,  God again developed  a  new plan that included many new rules  and  regulations. Moreover, when this plan failed, he discarded it for yet another plan that included the sacrifice of himself. But this belief is very far from the truth.

Before  humanity was created, the potential of humanity was  well understood.  The Supreme Sovereign God (God the Father)  and  the Creator  God (Jesus Christ) knew that humanity had the potential to become rebellious.

They also knew that some people would want to have a good relationship with  them and accept the awesome opportunity for immortality  and eternal life that would be offered to them.

Therefore,  before the creation of humans, the Supreme  Sovereign God  and the Creator God had already formulated a  complete  plan for the salvation of humanity. From what is revealed about  this plan, it is obvious that all factors were considered  and all contingency  plans were well thought out and in place before the  creation of the earth and humanity. See Heb.4:3;  1.Pet.1:18-20; Rev.13:8; 17:8.

From Genesis to Revelation

The desire of both God the Father and Jesus Christ to dwell  with their  creation and have a close relationship with them  is  well documented in both the Old and New Testaments.

One  of the very first things that we learn from the  first  four chapters  of  the Genesis account of early humanity is  that  the Creator  God wanted to have a close relationship with them  from the very beginning. And at the end of the Book of Revelation, we  see this same desire stated in the prophecy of the coming  of the Father to dwell on the earth.

Revelation 21:3-7 Paraphrased

"And  I  heard a great voice out of heaven  saying,  Behold,  the lodging  of  God is with men! And he will reside with  them,  and they  will be his people, and God himself will be with them, as their God" (v3).

After  this  announcement is made, God the Father  will  come  to dwell on earth with his children. What follows is a prophetic promise from God the Father to his faithful children who  have shown by their lives that they love him and want with  all  of their being to dwell with him forever:

"And  God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes;  and  death shall be no more, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (v4).

Only  after  all of  humanity has advanced beyond  this  physical existence and into the spirit realm of God the Father can  these conditions  exist.  Why will there no longer  be  tears,  sorrow, pain, or death?  None of these things will exist, because the things that were a part of the human experience will no longer exist.

"And  the  One  sitting on the throne said, Behold,  I  make  all things  new. . .  To the one thirsting, I will freely give  of  the fountain  of the water of life. The one overcoming  will inherit all  things, and I will be God to him, and he will be the son  to me" (vs.5-7).

This  prophecy shows that the plan of the Father  to have  an ongoing relationship with those who want to have a relationship with him has not changed from the beginning of humanity.

FROM THE BEGINNING

In  the  beginning,  the Creator God (the  God  who  became  Jesus Christ)  could walk and talk with the first two  humans,  because they were free from sin and lived in a state of purity within the garden that he had prepared for them. All of this  changed  when they  disobeyed  his instructions to not eat of the tree  of  the knowledge of good and evil.

Because  of their disobedience, God instituted the next phase  of his  plan  that  provided a way for humanity to  have  their  sin  temporarily  set  aside and their physical impurity  purged  from them so that he and they could fellowship together. See Gen.3:21; 4:3-4.

This basic plan that allowed people to maintain a good  relationship with their Creator has not changed from the time that it was instituted with Adam and Eve. At the time of the first  agreement with the nation of Israel, God required the same basic methods of atonement for sin and the purging away of physical defilement  as he always had. The only difference was that the first agreement with national Israel required that these things were to be administered in a formal way from a place of God's choosing and through an attending priesthood.

A change in the administration of the sacrificial system was made necessary because  God was going to dwell with the nation  of Israel  during this next phase of his plan for the  salvation  of humanity:

"And  let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among  them" (Ex.25:8 KJV). See also Deut.23:10-14.

God wanted to dwell among his people for the same reason that he wanted to have a close relationship  with Adam and Eve. God is extremely  interested  in giving  humans the help that they need to obtain the goal  he has  set  for them—the securing of eternal life  in  the Kingdom and Family of God.

From the time of the rebellion of the first humans and the institution  of the sacrificial system, there has only been one  method by which a person could establish and maintain a harmonious relationship with God. This method did not change with the advent  of the  Messiah  and the cancellation of the first  agreement  with national Israel, it did not change with the agreement made in  30 A.D.  with the elect and God the Father during the gospel age  of salvation, and it will not change after the return of Jesus Christ as the God-King who will rule the world from Jerusalem.

The basic  method by which a person establishes and maintains a harmonious relationship with God has always been the same; it is just the method of administration that has changed throughout the centuries, in order to  facilitate God's plan for the salvation of  different  people during different times and circumstances.

The Foundational Elements

As  stated earlier, it is evident that both the Sovereign God  and the Creator God want to have a harmonious relationship with humanity in order to accomplish  their  goal  of expanding the Family of God.

Once someone is given the opportunity for a personal relationship with God, there are a number of things that must be done in order to firmly establish and maintain this personal contact and relationship with God.

A lawyer  asked Jesus the following question about the law of  God, and the  answer  he received shows the two primary  attitudes  and behaviors  that a person must have in order to have a good relationship with the Father:

"Master,  which  is the greatest commandment in  the  law?  Jesus answered  him,  You shall love the Lord your God  with  all  your heart,  and with all your life, and with all your mind. This  is the first and greatest commandment. The second is similar to  the first.  You  shall love your neighbor as yourself. On  these  two commandments  hang all the law and the  prophets" (Matt.22:36-40 Para.).

The  first thing that is necessary if one wants to have a  good relationship  with  the Father is to love the  Father  with  all one's being. This kind of love is manifested in one's desire  and effort to fellowship with him and to please him through obedience to his law and the pursuit of his will in one's life.

The  second  thing that is necessary is to  understand  that  the Father loves all people and wants everyone to obtain salvation and become a part of his family. Because this is his goal, anyone who loves the Father must also have love and concern for other people.

Listed below are other foundational attitudes,  behaviors,  and other things that have always been required of  people in  order  for  them to show that they are  serious  about  their desire  to build and maintain a close personal relationship  with God:

Faith In God

In the Book of Hebrews, chapter 11, there is a long  list of  individuals who have received God's approval  through the application of faith in his promises and way of life. See Heb.11:1-40.

"And these all, having received a witness through faith, received not the  promise: God having provided some better thing for  us, that  they  without  us should not be  made perfect" (Heb.11:39-40 Para.).

These people all had a good relationship with God through faith. However, how did they accomplish this?

Abel had faith that the sacrifices he offered would set his  sins aside and keep him  in a harmonious relationship with God.   Abel understood that the sacrifices were symbolic of the Messiah  and he looked forward to the time when the Messiah would come to provide the  perfect sacrifice, which would forgive and remove sin.

It  was  Abel's faith in the  sacrificial system of God  and  his obedience to God's laws that caused him to be listed in  Hebrews, chapter 11,  as one of those who will be made perfect along  with the elect children of God  who will be the first to live under a new and better agreement than the one God made with  national Israel.

When an in-depth study is made of the sacrificial system, it  becomes obvious that the individualsCfrom Adam to ChristCwho  had faith in God's promises and followed his instructions pertaining to his  sacrificial  system and his law have secured  eternal  life just like the elect of  God in the gospel age of salvation.

These  individuals  had absolute faith that God would  set  their sins  aside  and remove them forever when the  Messiah would come  to present himself as the supreme sacrifice.

ANCIENT ISRAEL

Under  the first agreement with national Israel, the  Creator  required a priesthood to administer the sacrificial system in order to accomplish the atonement for spiritual sin and purge away  the people's physical defilement. This was required so that  he  could  dwell among  them and teach them his ways, that lead  to  immortal and eternal life in the Kingdom and Family of God:

"The  priest  was  a man whose function was  to  build  a  bridge  between men and God by means of the sacrificial system.  If a man broke  the law,  his fellowship with God was interrupted and  his access  to God was barred. By the offering of the correct  sacrifice,  that breach of the law was atoned for, and so the  fellowship  was  restored and the barrier removed" (Commentary  on Hebrews, by William Barclay, page 66).

The Blood of Atonement

"For the  life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given  it to  you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls:  for  it is  the blood that makes an atonement for your  soul" (Lev.17:11 KJV).

At  the institution of the first agreement with  national  Israel, the  people  accepted the laws of God as the condition  of  their special relationship with him.  A sacrifice  was made, and Moses  took half of the blood from the sacrifice,  put it  in basins, and threw half of it against the  altar.  After  the book  of the  law had been read and the   people  had signified their acceptance  of it, Moses took the blood from  the sacrifice and sprinkled it  on the people and declared that the covenant had been sealed and ratified:

"Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you  concerning with all these words" (Ex.24:8 KJV).

No ratification of any agreement  or reconciliation can occur between God and people without the shedding  of blood, because life is in  the blood and  life is the most precious possession of  any living creature. Therefore, the giving of a life emphasizes the seriousness of making and maintaining an agreement with God.

"For the  life of the flesh is in the blood. . ."  (Lev.17:11).  "For it  is  the life of all flesh; the blood of it is  for  the  life thereof. . ." (Lev.17:14).

In order for a person to atone for sin and maintain a  harmonious relationship  with God before the advent of Jesus  Christ,  the sacrificial  law required that, when a person sinned,  a  specific offering had to be made for that particular sin:

"Sin offerings are required in the following cases: If someone is officially  summoned to give evidence in court and does not  give information about something he has seen or heard, he must suffer the  consequences.  When a person is guilty, he must confess  the sin.   In this way the priest shall offer the sacrifice for  the man's sin, and he will be forgiven . . ." (Lev.5:1,5,13, GNB).

When  a person was guilty of sin, a confession had to be  made  and the proper sacrifice had to be brought to the place of sacrifice. Then,  the priest would offer the sacrifice and the sin would be atoned for, but not forgiven.

The Setting Aside of Sin

Under  the first agreement with national Israel, a  sinner  could have sin atoned for through the sacrificial system. When a person acknowledged  and repented of sin  and offered the  proper sacrifice,  the  sin was set aside and temporarily hidden  from  God's  sight, and the person was placed back into  right-standing with God.

Total Forgiveness

1. Before the advent of Jesus Christ as the Messiah, was  there a method or process whereby individuals could have their spiritual sins totally forgiven?

2. Could  spiritual sins be totally forgiven  through animal sacrifices?

The answer to both questions is No. Before the advent of  Jesus Christ,  there  was no method or process by  which  spiritual sin could be totally forgiven. No amount of animal  sacrifices  could bring the forgiveness of spiritual sin  or remove  its penalty. However, the sacrifices did provide for  the setting aside of sins in order that people could maintain a  good relationship with God.

Sins Set Aside, Not Forgiven

"For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not  the very  image of the things, can never with those sacrifices  which they  offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.  For  then  would they not have ceased  to  be  offered? because  that the worshipers once purged should have had no  more conscience  of  sins. But in those sacrifices there is  a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins" (Heb.10:1-4 KJV).

The sins of Israel were brought to remembrance every year on  the Day of Atonement because these sins were neither forgiven nor forgotten. The reason they could not be forgiven or forgotten was  that the  sacrifices  were not perfect; they had no power  to  forgive sins. Therefore, the record of sins still existed, and the people were still guilty of their sins.

Once  a year on the Day of Atonement, all accumulated sin (physical/ceremonial  defilement  and spiritual/moral  sin)  of  every individual  was atoned for; it was either purged away or set  aside. However, the sins were not forgiven. The punishment for these sins had not  been exacted. The penalty had not been paid, and each  individual was still guilty before God. Therefore, the  next year on the  Day  of  Atonement these same sins and  any  sins  committed during the previous year would be remembered and would have to be atoned for by the blood of bulls and goats. And these sins would  again be symbolically sent away from the nation of  Israel for  another  year.  See our study paper about the  Day  of Atonement for details of the atonement process.

The  atonement process had to be repeated over and over in  order for the Israelites to maintain a harmonious relationship with God under  the  terms and  conditions of the first agreement with ancient Israel. Only the life of the lawbreaker could pay the penalty for personal  sin. Animal life was only a substitute payment for  sin until payment could be made by the lawbreaker.

The sacrificial animals only  provided a temporary substitute for the life of those guilty of sin so that they could continue to fellowship with God, learn his way of life, and receive the other benefits of having his presence dwell among them.

No Forgiveness of Sin

The sacrifices for sin under the sacrificial system  did accomplish the purpose of placing individuals and the nation into harmony  with God so that he could dwell among them  and  commune with them. However, there was no forgiveness of spiritual sin or its penalty through the sacrifice of animals.

THE GOSPEL AGE

During  the  gospel age of salvation, the Father has  provided  a much  simpler and easier method by which his people can  maintain a good relationship with him.

First, people can have their sins totally forgiven  through   the sacrifice  of  Jesus Christ. Second, people can have  fellowship with God the Father through the authority of Jesus Christ who is  the spiritual  High Priest who sits at God the Father's right hand and intercedes on their behalf.

It  is  through Jesus Christ's perfect sacrifice  and  priesthood that  the elect have access to the Father and are able to  establish  and maintain a harmonious relationship with him. And it  is because of the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ that the  elect are able to stand before the Father in a pure and sinless  condition.

Forgiveness of Sin

"And  every  priest stands daily ministering  and  offering  many times  the same sacrifices, which can never take away  sins:  But this  man, after he had offered one sacrifice for  sins forever, sat down  on  the right hand of  God"  (Heb.10:11-12  KJV).  See Matt.26:27-28; Acts 2:38; Rom.3:23-25.

Under the agreement with the Patriarchs and ancient Israel,  sins were only set aside and covered from God's view after  repentance and the offering of the proper sacrifice. However, under the  new agreement, the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ has the power  to forgive  sin  and remove its record and  penalty  forever.  Never again  will it be necessary for anyone to offer an animal  sacrifice for the purpose of having spiritual sins set aside and  covered  from the Father's view. Through  the sacrifice  of Jesus Christ, all sin can be forgiven and  forgotten forever.

"Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against  us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing  it to  his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers,  he made a  show  of  them  openly,  triumphing  over  them  in  it" (Col.2:14-15).

"Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood,  to declare his righteousness for the  remission  of  sins that are past, through the forbearance of God" (Rom.3:25 KJV).

Notice  Paul's statement:  "for the remission  of sins  that  are   past."   Some references define this statement as "passing over of  sins  done in the past" (i.e., sins committed since the time of Adam).

The following explanation of Paul's statement is from William Barclay's "Commentary on Hebrews":

"It  is through him [Christ]  that there emerges a  new  covenant between God and man; and the purpose behind this new covenant  is that those who have been called might receive  the eternal inheritance  which  has been promised to them; but this  could  happen only  after a death had taken place, the purpose of which was  to rescue them from the consequence of the transgressions which had been committed under the conditions of the old covenant.

"For where there is a will, it is necessary that there should  be evidence  of the death of the testator before the will is  valid.  It is in the case of dead people that a will is confirmed,  since surely it cannot be operative when the testator is still alive.

"That is why  even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood.   For, after every commandment which the law lays down had been announced by Moses to all the people,  he took the blood of calves  and goats,  together with water  and scarlet and  hyssop, and sprinkled the book itself and all the people.   And as he did so,  he said: 'This is the blood of the covenant whose conditions God  commanded you to observe.

"In like manner he sprinkled with blood  the tabernacle also  and all  the instruments used in its worship.  Under  the  conditions which the law lays down, it is true to say that almost everything is cleansed by blood.  Without the shedding of blood there is  no forgiveness.

"As  we  have  seen,  the idea of the covenant is  basic  to  the thought  of the writer, by which he meant a relationship between God and man.The first covenant was dependent on man's keeping of  the law;  as soon as he broke the law  the  covenant  became ineffective. . ."

"Therefore,  the basic meaning of the new covenant,  which  Jesus inaugurated, is that men should have access to God or, to put  it another way, have fellowship with him.

"So  the writer to the Hebrews has a tremendous thought and  says that  the sacrifice  of Jesus Christ is retroactive.  That is  to say, it is effective to wipe out the sins of  men committed under the old covenant and to inaugurate the fellowship promised  under the new" (Commentary on Hebrews).

All  this seems very complicated but at its roots there  are  two great  eternal truths:

It  is  because  of the better terms and conditions  of  the  new agreement, which was instituted by Jesus Christ,  that a person  can now  easily maintain a good relationship with God the Father  and be assured that, when they ask forgiveness for their sins,  their  sins and the penalties for these sins will vanish as if they had never existed.

A Perfect High Priest

"If  therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood,  (for under  it  the people received the law,) what  further  need  was there  that  another priest should rise after the order  of Melchizedec,  and not be called after the order of Aaron?  For   the priesthood   being changed, there is made of necessity a  change also of the law.  For he of whom these things are spoken pertains to another tribe, of which  no man gave attendance at the  altar.  For  it is evident that our Lord  sprang out of Judah;  of  which tribe  Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.  And it is  yet far  more evident: for that after the similitude  of Melchizedec there arises another priest, Who is made, not after the law of  a carnal commandment,  but  after the power of  an  endless  life" (Heb.7:11-16 KJV).

"Having therefore,  brethren,  boldness to enter into the holiest by  the  blood of Jesus, By a new and living way,  which  he  has consecrated for us, through the vail, that is to say, his flesh; And  having a high priest over the house of  God"  (Heb.10:19-21 KJV).

Under  the first agreement with national Israel, the  High  Priest was to act as a bridge between God and his people. Because the High Priest  himself was under the death penalty, he was also in  need of a  perfect sacrifice to be offered for his sins in  order  to have these sins forgiven and their penalty removed. Moreover,  because  the  High Priest  of Israel was  not perfect, he and those he represented  could  never  pass beyond the Creator God  and  into  the presence  of God the Father. But why not? The reason  is that the  Father dwells in heaven, and anyone who is allowed  to come into  his presence must be totally sinless, holy, and  righteous. No  human  qualified or had the authority to  go  before  him prior  to  the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, because every human was under the death penalty for the violation of God's law before the advent of Christ.

The writer to the Hebrews shows a change in the conditions of the original agreement with Israel; this change allows  the elect  to go  directly  before God the Father without going to  a  physical priest. Under the first agreement with Israel the physical priest would speak to God on their behalf, but today this is not necessary.

A Spiritual High Priest

Jesus Christ is now the High Priest who sits at the right hand of God  the Father in heaven. And because of Christ's sacrifice  and the new agreement,  there is a new and life-giving way opened for the elect of God to go into the very presence of God the Father:

"But  now has he obtained a more excellent ministry, by  how  much also  he is the mediator of a better covenant [agreement],  which was established upon better promises" (Heb.8:6 KJV).

Through  his  sacrifice,  Jesus Christ has become  the  immortal  High Priest and the mediator of a new and better agreement that is built  on new  and better promises from God the Father to his people.  And since  Jesus  Christ  became the perfect sacrifice,  there  is  no longer a need for animal sacrifices to be made to atone for spiritual sin.

HOLINESS

Physical Defilement

Before the advent of the Messiah, when people became physically defiled,  the only way they could be  restored to a  condition  of purity (holiness)  was  through  the  sacrificial  system.   See Lev.chps.8-16.

This  same  situation  still exists during the Gospel age today; however,  a person who has an eternal agreement with the  Father is in a continual state of purity (holiness) through the  atoning blood of Jesus Christ. Moreover, this person does not need to offer an animal sacrifice to remove physical defilement.

Spiritual Defilement

Another  point to be aware of is that, before the advent of  the Messiah,  a  person  who committed a spiritual sin  was  considered  spiritually defiled (impure and unholy)  before  God. Again, the only way to restore a person to a condition of spiritual purity was to offer the proper animal sacrifice. Today, anyone who has an  eternal agreement  with the Father is in a continual state  of spiritual purity (holiness) through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ  and they do not need to offer an animal sacrifice to remove  spiritual defilement.

The  Perfect Sacrifice

Although a person could obtain a state of physical and spiritual purity (holiness) before the  advent of the Messiah, this  condition could not be maintained because there was no perfect  sacrifice that could totally eliminate physical and  spiritual defilement.

Then and today, the sacrifice of one's personal life in order  to become  holy is not possible because no human is  without  sin; however, a substitute sacrifice that is holy and perfect in every way (sinless)  may atone for the life of the  sinner. Through this kind of substitution,  a  person's  life  can be redeemed and given  back  to them.  Although  animal life is without sin, animals are neither perfect  spiritually  or of the same value as human life. Therefore, it  is  only God himself who can be this substitute sacrifice, which is what the Creator God actually became as the Messiah.

It  is  only  through the sacrificial blood of  the  Creator  God (Jesus  Christ) that any  human can be placed back into or  maintain  a  good  relationship with God the Father. The  sins  of  a person who is under the sacrificial blood of Jesus  Christ  are considered  to be non-existent as long as one's attitude is  correct  in seeking to please God. When sin is brought to  the  consciousness of a person under the blood of Christ, the only  thing that this person must do in order to eliminate this record of sin is to repent of the sin, acknowledge it to the Father, and  ask for  his forgiveness through the authority of Jesus Christ.  When this  is  done   the sin is wiped from the  person's  record  and vanishes as if it had never existed:

"Therefore  if  any man be in Christ, he is a new  creature:  old things  are passed away; behold, all things become new.  And  all things  are  of God, who has reconciled us to  himself by  Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; To  wit, that  God  was in Christ, reconciling the world to  himself,  not imputing  their trespasses to them; and has committed to  us  the word of reconciliation" (2.Cor.5:17-19 KJV).

It  is  obvious from the Bible that the elect of the  Father  are made  and kept holy through the blood of Christ's perfect  sacrifice,  just as the people who lived before the advent of the Messiah were made and kept holy by the blood of sacrificial animals.  It is through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that we are  declared holy in the Father's eyes and can remain in a condition of holiness before the Father.

THE SACRIFICES PAST AND PRESENT

Much  can  be learned  from the sacrificial system  of  the  past that can  be applied to the present and will  surely  be taught  in  the  future when national Israel exists  as  a nation under God's rule again. Therefore, it is good to  research some  of the sacrifices that were offered under the first agreement with ancient Israel and the sacrifices that are offered  by the people of God during the gospel  age  of salvation.

Some of the sacrifices were  acts  of  praise, thankfulness,  and homage. Others showed a person's submission  to the  Holy  One of Israel, and others were symbolic of  gratitude  and devotion to him and dependence and confidence in him.

UNDER THE AGREEMENT WITH ANCIENT ISRAEL

The Burnt Offering

The burnt offering expressed one's individual surrender to  God's will.  It pictured the faithful Israelite giving a gift to  God.   In the burnt offering there is a method  whereby one could come  to present God  with something  that he  desired and  was pleased by. The burnt offering was not given to atone  for sin;  it was strictly a means by which an individual  could   express his love and devotion to God through an act of worship. See Lev.1:3-7.

The Meal Offering

The  meal offering was also a burnt offering. It was an  offering that was pleasing to God. It pictured the individual  in  perfect obedience to God and it had basically the same meaning as the burnt offering. Again, this offering had nothing to do with sin.  It was a  means by which one could worship God by bringing  something  to him  that he desired—something  valuable to the offerer—as an act of worship (Lev.2:1-6).

In  the  Burnt  or Meal offering, there was an  offering  that  was satisfying  to God. This offering was consumed by his  holy  fire upon his holy altar and its smoke ascended to him as a  pleasant smell. The burnt offerings were symbolic of the perfect  fulfillment  of the law's requirements.  God found satisfaction in these offerings, and declared them to be very good.

The Peace Offering

The  Peace  offering that was made by the general  population  of Israel  was also called the Fellowship offering and it was  offered for the following reasons:

The  offerings  and sacrifices that were to be made on  the  New Moon were considered fellowship offerings. These types of  offerings were partially consumed by fire as a sweet savor to God  and partially  eaten by the priesthood, which signified their  eating at the table of God.

The  eating of the fellowship offerings had  great  significance, both literally and symbolically, because the priests were  literally partaking of the Lord's food (i.e., partaking of the  Lord's table). Remember that the High Priest and the priesthood were  to be  the  bridge between God and the nation of  Israel. When  the priesthood ate  the sacred food offered to God, by extension,  the people were also eating at the table of God

The  Peace Offering was unique from the other offerings  in  that God, the  priest,  and the  offerer, ate together. This was the only offering in which  God, the  priest,  and  the offer  had something in common; they each partook of  the offering.

In  the  Peace  Offering, the offerer feasts with  God.  God,  the priesthood, and offerer all found satisfaction in this  offering, because of the common food that was shared among them.  God also found satisfaction in being honored by the one  making  the offering as well as in sharing  the offering with the  priesthood  and the one making the offering. This offering  also  shows that God desires and enjoys fellowship with his people.

Freewill Offerings

The  Burnt, Meal, and Peace offerings  were all  freewill  offerings;  they were not offerings of necessity, but they were brought to God because an individual wanted to please God.  These offerings were  a way of showing gratitude toward God.

The Sin Offering

The  sin  offering was made for sins that were done in  ignorance.  It  was given to show God that one recognized  one's sinful condition and the inability to perfectly practice his law.  It pictured asking God to purge away all sins that were done in ignorance and to be made  pure and holy before him  (Lev.4:1-35).

This was not an offering during which an individual came and confessed his known sins, which was done in the trespass offering.

The Trespass Offering

The  trespass  offering was to be  given when a person  was  conscious of personal sin that was knowingly committed.  It pictured one who was truly sorry  for having  sinned and was willing to confess this violation of  the law  of God and make restitution. If a person did this, God would set the sin aside and cover it from his view:

"And he shall make amends for the  harm that he has  done in  the holy  thing,  and shall add the fifth part thereto, and  give  it to  the priest: and the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering, and it shall be  forgiven him" (Lev.5:16 Para.).

Comment

Under the  agreement  with ancient Israel, a  person  could  show gratitude  to  God through offerings and sacrifices.  And  if   a person  violated God's law knowingly or in ignorance and offered the proper sacrifice, access to God was again established and the person was placed in harmony with God.

Note:

No  offering could be made for capital crimes, such as murder  or adultery; the law demanded that the death penalty be administered for such crimes.

Since  Jesus  Christ offered his life as the  final  and  supreme sacrifice for the sins of humanity, there is no longer a need to make the sacrifices for spiritual sin. But, there is still a need for the forgiveness of sin when it is committed. The elect now go directly  to God the Father by the authority of Jesus Christ  to ask  for forgiveness of sin, and the Father forgives and  forgets their sins because of the supreme sacrifice of Christ.

When an elect child of God becomes aware of sin in their life, they must stop sinning and ask for forgiveness in order to continue to  maintain right-standing  with God.  If a child of God  refuses  to stop sinning,  the Father cannot forgive the sin nor give  the  person the gift of salvation.

A major and glorious difference between those who  were under the sacrificial  system before the advent of the Messiah and  those who  are  now under the new agreement is that the  elect  of  God today have the spirit of God dwelling within them. See Rom.8:9,14 and our  study paper about the spirit of God.

Sacrifices During the Gospel Age

During  the gospel age of salvation the people of God  are  still required  to give sacrifices of thanksgiving in order  to  please God; however, the sacrifices are of a different nature from those given under the agreement with ancient Israel:

"Therefore,  I  urge you, brothers, in view of  God's  mercy,  to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, for  this is your reasonable service. Do not be conformed to  the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,  in order to prove what is the good, pleasing  and  perfect will of God" (Rom.12:1-2 Para.).

Today,  under the new agreement, children of God must be  living sacrifices  through being subject to the Father's law and way  of life. Thereby, they offer their life as a living  sacrifice to God. The offering of one's life in service to the Father is  a  thing that  is most pleasing to the Father, because it shows the  attitude of love for him and his way of life.

"Be  imitators  of God, as beloved children, and live a  life  of love, even as Christ loved us, and gave himself a fragrant offering and sacrifice to the Father. But among you there must not  be even a  hint of sexual immorality, or any kind of  impurity,  or greed,  because these things are improper for the elect  of  God. Nor  obscenity,  foolish talk or coarse joking which are  out  of place, but rather thanksgiving" (Eph.5:1-4 Para.).

Paul speaks of being a follower or imitator of God's  example  as a father and Christ's example of sacrificial love  in the context of being a living sacrifice.

In  his letter to the Philippians, Paul shows that sacrifice  goes beyond  one's attitude and behavior and into the giving of  one's physical  substance to those of the elect who are in  need.  Paul also shows  that this is acceptable to  God and that there is a reward to be gained by such an attitude and behavior.

"For  even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again  and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am  looking  for  what may be credited to your  account. I  have received  full  payment and even more; I am amply  supplied,  now that  I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent.  They are  a  fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice,  pleasing to God" (Phil.4:16-18 NIV).

The writer to the Hebrews shows that, if one is to dedicate  one's life to the Father, one must be willing to do the things that are necessary  in  order to maintain a harmonious  relationship  with him. To maintain this sort of relationship one must set one's heart and mind on living  a life that  pleases him:

"The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most  Holy Place  as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned  outside  the camp.  And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate  to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go  to  him outside  the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here  we  do not  have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city  that is to come. Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God  a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess  his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others,  for with such sacrifice God is pleased" (Heb.13:11-16 NIV). See  also 2.Pet.1:1-12; 1.Jn.3:16-22 and our study about how to  grow toward spiritual maturity and perfection.

This is how we maintain a harmonious relationship with  God  the Father  and his son Jesus Christ. It is through the sacrifice  of Jesus  Christ that we can be justified before the Father and  are allowed to bring the sacrifice of our life before him.

There  is obviously much more that could be said about  living  a life  of sacrifice to God the Father and how to live a life  that is  pleasing to him; nevertheless, the scriptures presented in this study show that  an ongoing  effort to please God will result in a harmonious  relationship between the Father and the one chosen to be his child.

SUMMARY

Yes,  children of God do make mistakes and are not  perfect,  but the fact remains that as long as one maintains   a proper attitude before the Father, one will remain in a  harmonious relationship with him and receive the tremendous benefits  of the new agreement in this life and the life to come.

Yes, the New Covenant  is truly the better covenant; it is established on  better promises (Heb.8:6-10) and it has a  better  reward (Rev.20:4-6). Moreover,  this new covenant is now being offered by God  the Father to those he is calling to repentance  and  salvation.

By V. O. Jones and B.L. Cocherell, file b4w17