A sermon from Simon Peter Long, delivered in 1903
But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause He is the Mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
Sanctify us, O Lord, through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth. Amen.
Beloved Hearers in Christ:
When we confess the second article of the Creed, we thereby acknowledge to the world Christ’s person and Christ’s office. As to His person, we confess that He is the God-man, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. We not only confess His person, but we confess His office. The office of Christ is hinted at in the last verse of my text when it is said. And for this cause He is the Mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. Jesus Christ has three official names: He is called the Prophet, the High Priest, and the King.
During the season of Epiphany and Trinity the Church of God emphasizes His prophetic office, teaching us the great will of the heavenly Father as to our salvation. During the season of Easter we emphasize the kingly office of Him who conquered death and hell and ascended on high. During the season of Lent we emphasize the sufferings of Christ, the priestly office. It is in this season of the year, if any, that we all ought to meditate day and night on Christ going to Gethsemane, and to Calvary, and there, as the great High Priest, pouring out His life’s blood that the world might not perish, but have everlasting life; and in this sacrifice we find Him giving up, not sheep, nor doves, nor cattle, but offering Himself, the Spotless Sacrifice. “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” May the Holy Spirit help us tonight to take a view of the Spotless Sacrifice that our consciences may be spotless, and that in eternity our souls and bodies may be spotless before Him who gave us
The Spotless Sacrifice.
I. Let me invite your attention this evening to the Great High Priest.
The High Priest of old was a man whom God had selected to stand between man and God, with a spotless garment, pleading and interceding for the forgiveness of his sins. God said further to choose a certain tribe of Levi, and from that family, the family of Aaron, among whom the eldest was to be the High Priest, and this High Priest was to wear a spotless white garment and plead for the forgiveness of the sins of the people, and with the blood of offerings go through the court, and through the Holy Place once a year into the Holy of Holies, and there at the ark of the covenant made with God, plead for the forgiveness of the sins of the world.
Now, my friends, we have not only a high priest in the Old Testament, but we have a Spotless High Priest in the New Testament. No difference how perfect the sons of Aaron were, they were not spotless; they were sinful men, born of sinful women, and had the same battles to fight that other professed Christians have; but in the New Testament we have the Great High Priest. We are told in different books of the Bible about this High Priest, but nowhere as in the book of Hebrews do we find Him pictured so beautifully. Jesus Christ Himself is the Great High Priest, the spotless character, the spotless One who walked on earth, for three long years stood before the people, criticized on all sides by His foes and looked upon by His friends, and after two thousand years of investigation the world has still to find the first spot on this Great High Priest. He stands before the world today not only as one of the best characters, but as a perfect character. Even the ungodly world is forced to admit that there never was such a character on earth as Jesus Christ; but Jesus Christ was either the Son of God, or He was a bad character. Jesus Christ was either the Great High Priest or He was not a good man. Jesus Christ was either the only Savior of the world, or the greatest impostor that the world has ever seen. He has told us that He is the Son of God. He has told us that He is the resurrection and the life. He has told us that without Him no man can come home to the Father. If these things are not true. He was not a great character. If these things are not true He did not tell the truth, and if He did not tell the truth He is a spotted character instead of a spotless one. But the world admits that Jesus Christ was the most perfect character in all the world, and the Christian must admit that He was certainly spotless, because He was conceived of the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, and redeemed us, not with silver and gold, but with His holy, precious blood. This, my friends, is the Great High Priest that offered the spotless sacrifice.
II. Let me invite your attention a few moments now to the Great Tabernacle.
“But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building.” You will not forget, my friends, that when Paul, or whoever wrote this epistle, penned these words, that the temple of Jerusalem was yet fresh in his mind, and you will not forget that the first tabernacle was built by the order of God Himself, that the plans were laid by Him who put yonder stars in space; that the plans of the first tabernacle were made by Him who said, Let there be light, and there was light. The first tabernacle had a court, and from the court you passed over into the holy place where the altar stood, and beyond that was a veil, and beyond the veil, once a year we find the High Priest going into the Holy of Holies, there to find the ark of the covenant, having in it the Ten Commandments and Aaron’s rod, and a pot of manna, and there, on that mercy seat, the Lord God met the High Priest and talked with him, in order that the world might have communion with God. That was the first tabernacle. In time there was built in the city of Jerusalem that great temple, that wonder of the world, that great monument of marble as it stood there in the days of Christ; and around the inside of the wall was the court of the Gentiles, where much business was done, and where the traffic was carried on between the Jews and those others who came there to buy and sell, and it was inside of that court of the Gentiles that we find the other court where the women assembled; and from there we step into the place where the priest stood and offered sacrifice; and from there we go into the holy place which was about thirty by sixty feet; and from the holy place through a veil that was seven or eight inches thick, which was rent on the day that Christ was crucified, back into the Holy of Holies, where the High Priest went once a year. The apostle who wrote this epistle, knowing that these men all understood about that building, calls attention to the fact that the spotless sacrifice does not consist of sheep, nor of oxen, nor of doves, nor of any animal that sheds its blood, but that this great Spotless Sacrifice must be offered in a temple far larger than any temple that ever stood in the holy land. Oh, what narrow views we sometimes have of our church, and of our religion! The people of those days imagined that God was so little that He could be met only within the temple in that city in the holy land. So narrow minded were they in those days as to imagine that the Holy Land contained about all the children of God that were in the world; but, says this great apostle, we have a great High Priest that has a far greater tabernacle than the one you see with your eyes and the one that you build with your hands; I would have you to understand, says this great apostle, that there is a tabernacle so large that the court reaches out beyond the Mediterranean sea, the court reaches across the Atlantic ocean, crosses over to the America to be discovered, crosses the islands of the great Pacific, and comes on around through Asia and through all the nations of the earth, and extends from pole to pole. In other words, wherever you find a man on earth, wherever you find an immortal soul, this is but the court of the great tabernacle where the great High Priest is going to offer His Spotless Sacrifice.
The old tabernacle had in the Holy Place a table on which they placed their shew bread every Sabbath, and on the other side the golden candle stick which was burning day and night, with its seven branches; but, says the great apostle, I want you to understand that this great High Priest of whom I speak has already been in the court of the great temple for a period of thirty-three years, and there He started one day to offer the Spotless Sacrifice, and passed, on His ascension day from the court through the holy place, and every star above the clouds, and every star beyond those that were seen by telescope, are nothing but the blazing lights of that great temple not built with hands. Oh, says this great apostle, the Son of God, the great High Priest, ascended on high, and passed the altar of sacrifice on Calvary’s hill, and passed up, on ascension day, beyond the stars and zones of stars and whirling world systems; these are only the lamps of the great tabernacle; He has gone up higher and higher, so high that when Paul was there one time in a vision he saw things that could not be mentioned here on earth.
My dear friends, the tabernacle of the perfect Spotless Sacrifice is the universe, and heaven is the Holy of Holies beyond the stars. For such an High Priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s; for this He did once when He offered up Himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated forevermore.
III. Now that we have seen the great tabernacle, and the great High Priest, let me invite your attention to the great offering.
“Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Here we behold then the Spotless Sacrifice! You remember that in Old Testament times it was necessary that they should take the lambs and pen them up at least fourteen days before the paschal lamb was offered in order that they might be inspected as to their perfection, but it is a question whether ever a lamb was offered on the altar before the old tabernacle or before the temple in Jerusalem that was entirely spotless; but here we have the spotless Lamb of God; here we have the spotless Christ offering Himself for the sins of the world. You can now see why He is called the great High Priest. The old high priest was satisfied to saturate his hands with blood, but it wasn’t his own blood, it wasn’t the blood of man; the old high priest put his hands upon the victim’s head; he touched the blood, and with the blood on his fingers walked through the holy place into the holy of holies, and there plead with God, with the blood stains upon his hands, for the forgiveness of sins; but our great High Priest did not take the blood of animals; He took the blood of His own body and went up to heaven, and there He pleads for the remission of the sins of the world. We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. Look at the Spotless Sacrifice! Jesus Christ goes down into the garden of Gethsemane, sweats drops of blood. What is the trouble with the Son of God? He is beginning to offer the spotless Lamb. He is the same One of whom John said after He was baptized, Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world! It is the spotless Lamb realizing that the time has come that He must bear the sin of the world. The lash is drawn across His back; he bears it all for the sins of the world. The officers of the Sanhedrin hit Him in the face with their fists; He bears it all for the sins of the world. The minor officers come up and with open palms slap His face, but He bears it all for the sins of the world. Sin must act just as sinful as it can. The devil must act just as devilish as he can, and consequently he urges men to walk up and spit into the face of God, into the face of the very Lamb that is spotless, but He bears the crown of thorns, and takes the green tree and walks out, though He breaks down, in the state of His humiliation, because He is willing to be offered for the sins of the world. He goes out on Calvary’s hill; one hand is nailed to the right, and the other to the left; His feet are drawn down and nails driven through where the nerves center that the pain would be greater, and there, bearing the sins of the whole world, for all eternity, there He hangs for three long hours in the daylight, from nine o’clock until twelve, near the great city of Jerusalem, that the world may see that this is the spotless Lamb of God, and hanging there during those three hours He prays for the forgiveness of those that nailed Him there; He prays for the salvation of him who hangs to the right; He there commends His own mother into the hands of John to watch over her until she comes home to Him. Then the sun went down at noon; then darkness spread over the earth; then it was that no one could see, because He was treading the winepress of the wrath of God all alone; there it was that He bore the sins and the hell of hells for all men, in order that we might escape. Was it for anything that He had done? No, He is the spotless Lamb. Was it for any crime that He had committed? No, for there was no spot in His character, but He so loved the world that He gave His life for His sheep. He was a good shepherd. He was the spotless Lamb, and when He bowed His head in death after crying out, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?, after He had cried out. It is finished, He gave up His life as the Spotless Sacrifice, the Lamb of God that would make the Church of God sing in the future:
|“Rock of Ages, cleft for me,|
|Let me hide myself in Thee|
|Let the water and the blood|
|From Thy riven side which flowed|
|Be of sin the double cure –|
|Save me. Lord, and make me pure.”|
It was that Spotless Sacrifice that would make the Church of God sing in the future:
|“Alas! and did my Savior bleed,|
|And did my Sovereign die?|
|Would He devote that sacred head|
|For such a worm as I?|
|Was it for crimes that I have done|
|He groaned upon the tree?|
|Amazing pity, grace unknown.|
|And love beyond degree!|
|Well might the sun in darkness hide|
|And shut his glories in|
|When Christ, the mighty Maker, died|
|For man, the creature’s sin.|
Yes, Christ, the mighty Maker, the spotless Lamb of God!
|Thus might I hide my blushing face|
|When His dear cross appears.|
|Dissolve my heart in thankfulness|
|And melt mine eyes to tears.|
|But drops of grief can ne’er repay|
|The debt of love I owe.|
|Here, Lord, I give myself away|
|‘Tis all that I can do.”|
It is all that I need to do. It is the spotless Lamb of God that has paid the debt.
And now, in conclusion, this Spotless Sacrifice ought to make your conscience and my conscience spotless. “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
How many consciences there are that are not pure tonight! How many consciences there are that are troubling you, and you have been trying to quiet that conscience for years; you have been trying to make yourself believe you are perfectly happy, but every now and then that conscience wakens up again and says, you are of all men most dishonorable; you are going on through this world doing absolutely nothing for your Savior, absolutely nothing for the salvation of the world, you are letting everything go as it will, and you seem to think that after all it doesn’t make any difference, when we come to die something will happen, something wonderful will be there, and we will at once be transposed from children of wrath to children of God. There is no use waiting for that last hour; there is no use being imposed upon by the false teachings of all error; the thing for us to do is to remember that the Spotless Sacrifice on Calvary’s hill was intended to purge us from our sins and to stir up conscience to do something, not because we shall be saved, but because we are saved. Paul, in another epistle said. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Too many people in the present day are trying to get to heaven by their own works, trying to find their own way up there, but those works are dead. You might as well go out to yonder cemetery tonight and ask the dead people to come out on the streets tomorrow morning and walk, as to ask a man in his natural state to come to heaven; his works are dead; he must become a new man; he must have the Spotless Sacrifice to cleanse him of his sin; he must understand that be is an object of mercy, saved alone by the spotless Lamb of God, through the eternal Spirit; and then, when he realizes he is an object of mercy, saved alone through the mercy of Jesus Christ, he ought to have his conscience purged and cleaned and started up to do something for the Lord God, purely out of thankfulness.
How can you, my friend, accept the Savior as your Savior, and know that He died for you as He did die, and then sit down and say, I am so glad that God saved me, and I am so glad He did it all, and now I will sit down and do nothing more; it is all done. That simply cannot be; it dare not be. The man that knows what Christ did for him must arise and say, My God, what can I do for Thee? Oh, can we not all arise this evening and make up our minds to render God a service such as we never did before? Why should a few people in every church do all the work? Why should a few people only go out and try to gather Sunday School scholars or try to bring in new church members, or work to bring people into the classes? Why cannot every immortal soul, saved by the Spotless Sacrifice of the Lamb of God, arise and walk in the footprints of Jesus, and bear his cross, and with a clear conscience shout out to a dying world. Come to Christ and be saved before it is too late!
There are two little phrases in my text tonight that ought to make an impression on every man: “Eternal redemption,” and “Eternal inheritance.” When Christ died on Calvary He did not die for a little short life; He died for immortal souls, and that redemption is an eternal redemption for the purpose of giving to you and to me an eternal life. We are just about to add half a hundred new members to this church by confirmation; one or two more evenings shall we be together to give a final review of the great things that God has done for us as taught in Luther’s catechism. There are some churches that imagine if they once a year take in new members, and then sit down for eleven months more and do nothing, they have done their full duty. As I said the first time I preached from this pulpit, I believe in a truly Lutheran revival, and that should begin on the first day of January and never end. I believe that a true church of God that is awake should have a class ready to be instructed every time there is one confirmed. In one hour and a half I found six men who wanted to be instructed in the next class; there ought to be sixty as well as six, and I now send out the invitation already, for the first Friday evening after Easter, be ready to come into the new class, be ready no difference who you are. I tell you, my friends, this country has become too full of the light of the Gospel for a man to sit in his home as a heathen. This world of ours is too full of the demonstration of the power of God for any woman to be a heathen mother. The Word of God has demonstrated its power too much, and life has demonstrated itself in our own city as too short for men to put off from year to year their eternal salvation. What right has any sane man, in a city where three men have dropped over dead in twenty-four hours without a warning, to wait and wait and wait, and make an eternal mistake, when there has been wrought out an eternal redemption for their eternal inheritance? If I were a lawyer I would fight for my client if he were in the right; if I were a Christian preacher, or Christian layman, I would fight for the salvation of souls; and yet we sit around as if this were an entertainment, as if God were a liar, as if there were no judgment to come, and no heaven and no hell. Brethren, the time has come that every man who confesses Christ as his Savior, should arise with power from on high, and urge men to come and accept the eternal inheritance wrought out by the Spotless Sacrifice in an eternal redemption. Amen.
O God, our heavenly Father, Thou knowest that Thy Son is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no man cometh to Thee but by Him. O Christ. Thou knowest that Thou art the only Savior of the world, and that the only way to be saved is by Thy redemption, or Thou wouldst not have died on Calvary’s hill. O Holy Spirit, Thou knowest that there is no other hope, or Thou wouldst not plead the bleeding Christ to a dying world. Lord God, Thou knowest that it is a battle for a man by nature sinful to become a saved man and even to plead for the salvation of others. Are we not ourselves miracles of Thy mercy and grace? Canst Thou not do for others what Thou hast done for us? Bless the message of the evening. Drive it deep into our hearts and consciences, and help that no house in this city may in the future have anything but a Christian family in it. Hear this our prayer: We ask it in the name of Jesus, who taught us to pray:
Our Father who art in heaven; Hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven; Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation; But deliver us from evil; For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
– Long, Simon Peter. The Eternal Epistle: Sermons On The Epistles For The Church Year. Originally Published 1908 by The F. J. Heer Printing Company, Columbus, Ohio.