Leviticus 1:1–17

Third Avenue Baptist Church

Louisville, KY

Leviticus 1:1-17 — Leviticus Series

September 12, 2021

Good morning. It’s good to see you all and a privilege to be together for the study of God’s Word. Let’s pray together.

Father, with great joy we come before you, we come before your Word. We pray that your Spirit will open our eyes to see, our hearts to receive the Word, but also that you will, during this time, use our study of Leviticus to draw us to Christ. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, amen. 

Someone came up to me during the week this past week and said, “I understand you’re now teaching verse by verse through Leviticus.” I said, “That’s exactly what I’m doing.” And they said, “How’s it going?” And I said, “Three weeks, two verses.” 

That’s how it’s going so far. It will pick up in the sense that there are natural breaks in the text, but Leviticus takes some time to enter and to consider. For one thing, we are entering a world that even for Christians is more alien than we might like to think. When you look at even the first two verses of Leviticus, you see something that to Evangelical Protestants is recognizably Biblical, but not recognizably liturgical. 

I am so thankful for the way that we order Christian worship here at Third Avenue Baptist Church. It is ordered here basically as it would have been ordered during any of the major churches of the Reformation. It is ordered here by the Scriptures, that is the regulative principle at work. At least in theological theory, you ought to be able to go to any church of like practice and basically you’re going to see worship follow a very similar kind of pattern. But there is not a specificity about our worship in a way like we have already seen in just a couple verses in Leviticus, which marks the liturgical responsibility of Israel regarding scrupulousness in attention to the sacrifices. 

There is no similar text in the New Testament that says God orders the church, “When you come together, you must do exactly this, this person is to do exactly that.” Now, of course, we have: the preacher of the Word, we have the office of the elder that is set apart for teaching, we have liturgical orders in the New Testament, not only for the centrality of the preaching of the Word, but for the singing together and “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs”, we have prayer, all very clearly indicated in terms of what we are taught to do and what we see modeled in the early church in the book of Acts and in the Epistles. But it’s just not the same, it doesn’t feel the same. There’s no situation in which God called together all the Church and said, “Now sit down and I’m going to tell you exactly how you are going to do this. You do not deviate from this pattern, you do it exactly this way.”

That just calls us to the huge question, did God get looser in the New Testament? Is this a God who just grew exhausted with this “hyper-scrupulosity”? That’s what the liberal, Biblical scholars of the 20th century called it. “God’s hyper scrupulous and in the church he is less hyper-scrupulous.” Well of course not. Number one, God doesn’t change. Number two, the New Testament is not the correction of the Old. That’s a fundamental issue. The New Testament is not a correction of the Old. The New Covenant is the fulfillment of the Old. Anything here that seems alien to us is fulfilled in the New Covenant. That’s helpful for us to understand and that will continue as we consider much of the Mosaic law. Nothing is nullified, not one word of Scripture, not one jot, not one tittle falls away unfulfilled. There is no New Testament correction of the Old, in any sense. Anything that seems alien to us or odd to us is that which is explained by fulfillment in Christ. And if there’s any part of the Old Testament that may seem alien to us that is fulfilled in Christ, it certainly is first and foremost the sacrificial system. 

We began by looking at the first two verses of Leviticus. We’re just going to read them and then enter into this longer passage about the first kind of offering that is detailed in Leviticus: the burnt offering. 

“The LORD called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting” (Leviticus 1:1), now wait just a minute. One of the things we could have spent time doing, even in looking at those first few words, is just to remember how the Lord calls persons and speaks to them. Who is the first person? It’s in the opening of Genesis. The Lord called to Adam and spoke to him. This is something about the imago dei. The Lord made all the creatures, but he doesn’t speak to your dog. Your dog is under no impression that he does. If you think God is speaking to your dog, the problem is you. We were talking just this week about the fact that the only creature that thinks that COVID is a great thing is the dog. First of all, you have people staying home which is exactly what they want. If you’re quarantined, you’re stuck in and the only person you can see is the dog. As a friend of mine said, “If you have COVID, you can’t smell the dog.” The dog thinks it’s a very good deal. God made all the creatures for his glory, but he speaks only to us. 

At numerous times, the Lord will call to someone and speak to them. In this case, the Lord called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock. If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting that he may be accepted before the Lord. He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. Then he shall kill the bull before the Lord, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and throw the blood against the sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And he shall flay the burnt offering and cut it into pieces, and the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. And Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, the head, and the fat, on the wood that is on the fire on the altar; but its entrails and its legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall burn all of it on the altar, as a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord.’” (Leviticus 1:2-9)

Five major kinds of offerings or sacrifices that we will find in Leviticus. First, the burnt offering and that’s where we are right now. And then the grain offering, the peace offering, the sin offering, and the guilt offering. If that sounds complicated, it is! We will take every one of them in turn, but the first is the burnt offering. And this burnt offering is not explicitly a sacrifice for sin. It is a sacrifice for worship. So that’s where Leviticus begins. The first of the sacrifices is a sacrifice for offering. It is to offer under the Lord a pleasing aroma by this burnt sacrifice. But the burnt sacrifice is so fundamental. And furthermore, in the New Testament, when there are references to Christ as sacrifice, it is often the reference to this particular sacrifice. 

Now it is also the case that, for example, as you look through the Old Testament, there are situations in which we are told that a sacrifice is not accepted, that the sacrifice is considered unacceptable to the Lord. You can see it in a passage like Jeremiah chapter 14:12, where the Lord says, “Though they fast, I will not hear their cry, and though they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them.” So the false prophets, for example, or the prophets who were misleading Israel, or Israel when it is into idolatry and disobedience, the Lord simply will not receive it. Even in the language that is used in the Old Testament, he will not allow his nostrils to receive their sacrifice or their sacrifice is a stench in his nostrils rather than the pleasing aroma that is mentioned here. 

Now, what’s also interesting is that this pleasing aroma is liturgical. A part of Israel’s worship is to make certain that the Lord in observing their worship and even in this particular sacrifice, which has the smoke coming up from the altar and coming right up towards the heavens, that God in essence receives this as a pleasing aroma. It is a form of worship. And that’s what liturgy is. It’s liturgia, it’s what we are called to do in worship. And you say, well there’s Israel. Israel is to do the sacrifice of the burnt offering, a male without blemish and there are several things here we need to note, but I want us to think about the last word in the paragraph, that last phrase, “a food offering with a pleasant aroma to the Lord.” This burnt offering produces an aroma. And again, that’s Israel, the Old Testament, that’s the old covenant. It is literally a pleasing aroma. So there it is, a pleasing aroma for Israel. But what about for the church? 

Well, consider a text like Hebrews chapter 13. If you turn to Hebrews chapter 13 and we look at verse 15 through 16, we read this, “Through him,” that means through Christ, “let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” So this is the continual offering up of a sacrifice of praise, even a pleasing aroma will come back again in the New Testament. What is the liturgy to which we are called? Is there a sacrifice? No. And as I say, one of the worst things that ever happened to Protestant churches is that someone began calling this piece of furniture an altar. And we’ve talked about this. It is not an altar, that is a misrepresentation. 

There is no sacrifice here that calls for an altar. The church itself is an altar in that sense, that we are offering up our hearts and our lives. This is where the sacramental churches and the more sacramental they are, the more confused they make this entire issue for Christians. And of course, this is one of the major issues in the Reformation where the rejection of the mass was not just a rejection of its priestly character. It was a rejection of the fact that the mass is a continual re-crucifixion, a continual sacrifice of the Lord. In a Catholic mass, there is an altar which refutes the words of Jesus, “It is finished.” You see similar kinds of passages in the New Testament, in Philippians 4 verse 18, in 1st Peter 2:5. Jesus is once for all this sacrifice and aroma pleasing to God. 

Notice something else that we see here in Leviticus about this burnt offering. There’s something here we might miss if we go too fast. Notice what is to be done as the animal is brought, look at verse 4, he, that is the one bringing the offering, shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. So what’s happening there? The physical picture, the picture reminds of what’s actually happening here which is extremely important. So the animal is brought, in this case from the herd. And so you have a goat or you have a cow, in this case, a male cow, it’s a bull. Maybe younger, maybe older, but it has to be without blemish and it is brought from the herd. In both cases, it is an acceptable sacrifice. It is brought, and as the animal is being prepared for the sacrifice, what does the bringer of the sacrifice do? He lays his hands upon the animal. Why? Well, number one, it certainly would indicate he’s taking responsibility for this sacrifice. “This is my sacrifice. I’m bringing this sacrifice.” But there’s something else there and you feel it. There is an implied transference of sin and guilt from the one bringing the sacrifice to this animal. This is a substitutionary sacrifice. It is not the substitutionary sacrifice, for as we know the blood of bulls and goats cannot atone for sin, but they are a sacrifice that will hold back God’s wrath against sin, as Paul makes clear in Romans chapter 3. This laying on of the hands it’s something that is of critical importance, because this is a substitutionary sign. 

Now, Psalm 88:7. The Psalmist says to God, in his confession of sin, “Your wrath lays heavy upon me.” Psalm 88:7, “Your wrath lays heavy upon me.” That was the Psalmist’ understanding of the nature of his guilt and his sin. It was laying upon him heavily. The same kind of language is used here about the hands being laid on the animal. It is a heavy laying on of hands. Here’s the thing we need to recognize as Christians. Right now our sin is heavily upon someone. Our salvation is brought about by the Father, through the Son in such a way that our sin no longer lays heavily upon us, but our sin was imputed to Christ. Our sin lays heavily upon someone. In Israel, the sin of the nation will lay heavy upon someone. Upon whom will it lie? That’s a huge question.

It gives us really incredible encouragement as we come to worship. We’re coming to worship and to celebrate the fact that our sin lays heavily on Christ. Jesus paid it all. All to him we owe. Sin had left its crimson spot, he washed it white as snow. Our sin was not made a light thing in the atonement of Christ. It was imputed to Christ in full. On the cross, the Father, as it were, lay his hands upon his son. This language is rich with Christological meaning that Israel could only anticipate but that we have to see in retrospect. 

You’ll notice that the animal here is to be completely consumed. No part of this sacrifice is to remain, even for the priests. They are to burn it all. We talked about the fact that the undignified parts are to be washed. And that means the entrails and the back legs, simply because you know what happens to the back legs of animals in the pasture. They are to be washed and again, this is just a part of “Wash me, wash me clean. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.” The washing language is not just about illustrations or bathing. It is right out of Levitical imagery. That washing is washing for atonement. It’s washing, even for sacrifice as we see here. 

Now one thing you just need to understand is that this means that the sons of Aaron had a very bloody job to do. This is something that you don’t get from Sunday school pictures you’re shown as an elementary school child in Sunday school. You don’t get the image of what these priests were doing. Remember something else. Those of you who were with me going verse by verse and word by word through Exodus, remember all the scrupulous detail to the beauty of the priestly garments. Understand that every time they performed a sacrifice, those priestly garments ended up covered in blood, which is another picture that we just miss because we don’t have the experience of Israel. Even as they will start out with these clean garments, the first sacrifice that comes is a sacrifice in which there will be blood everywhere. 

I did grow up, basically, in a grocery store. My dad was in the grocery business my entire life. He was manager of a Publix store, which is by the way coming to Louisville, the fourth quarter of 2022, I think. It was a different world when I grew up. I went in real early in the morning. I started working for my dad the day I turned 14. I went in real early in the morning and the butcher’s uniforms were white. They didn’t stay white for long. I determined, I was 14 years old, that was not the job I wanted. They had to do things that I did not particularly enjoy seeing done, although there was a wonder about it, I really did not want to do that. All you have to do is look at a butcher’s apron in the course of the day and then multiply that many times out because those animals have been bled. The animals brought for sacrifice have not been bled. It would make what you would see in a butcher shop look absolutely, and quite accurately, pale by comparison. 

The whole point of this is that the animal is to be brought, it is to be rightly handled. Every part of it is to be used in the sacrifice. The priest shall burn all of it on the altar, a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. That is the burnt offering. But very quickly we are told of his gift for a burnt offering is from the flock, that is a sheep or a goat, he shall bring it, “a male without blemish, and he shall kill it on the north side of the altar before the LORD, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall throw its blood against the sides of the altar. And he shall cut it into pieces, with its head and its fat and the priest shall arrange them on the wood that is on the fire on the altar, but the entrails and the legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall offer all of it and burn it on the altar; it is a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord.” (Leviticus 1:10-13) 

You have first from the herd and then from the flock. This is from the most superior sacrifice, the greatest sacrifice, which was a bull or a male from the herd. Then the second is a male from the flock. The third is a bird. Do you notice the structure is almost exactly the same? When it was a sheep or a goat or an animal from the herd. The bull, the sheep, the goat, they’re to be treated basically the same. The picture would be the same. The picture’s a little bit different for the bird. Verse 14, “If his offering to the LORD is a burnt offering of birds, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves or pigeons. And the priest shall bring it to the altar and wring off its head and burn it on the altar. Its blood shall be drained out on the side of the altar. He shall remove its crop with its contents and cast it beside the altar on the east side, in the place for ashes. He shall tear it open by its wings, but shall not sever it completely. And the priest shall burn it on the altar, on the wood that is on the fire. It is a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.” (Leviticus 1:14-17)

I really can’t remember the first time I read the Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. I was about 13 years old. And I just admit, I had no theological imagination for why this would be necessary. I mean, here it is. It’s in the Bible. We’re supposed to know this. The details are graphic. It’s a turtledove or a pigeon, and those are related. I’m not sure exactly how to tell the difference, but nonetheless, a turtledove or a pigeon. It’s a big bird with a big chest. Turns out that’s important. You bring the big chested bird to the altar and with hands, you basically rip it wide open. The inside of the bird is dumped to be put in the ashes. The bird’s flesh and its head are to be flayed out. Most commentators looking at this will say that the effect of not tearing the bird in pieces means that it remains intact and recognizably a bird, rather than just being torn apart in pieces. That’s why the Lord here tells Israel not to tear the bird apart in pieces, but rather to rip it open and lay it flat for the sacrifice. The priest shall offer all of it and burn it on the altar as a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. 

That’s chapter one. From the herd, from the flock or a bird, scrupulous detail as to how exactly the bird offering is to take place, but parallelism between all three. Who would bring the one and who would bring the others? This has to do at least in part to two things. Number one, the relative wealth of the one who is bringing the sacrifice. Some accommodation is made in this three tier structure for those who may not be wealthy enough. They may not have a herd. They may not be able to bring an animal from the herd. They may not be able to bring even an animal from the flock, but they can buy birds. 

Remember that by the time you get to first century Judaism, what’s called second temple Judaism, you have the sale of such things for sacrifice. The sale of all kinds of wares, such that Jesus will cleanse the temple, the money changers. Involved in this entire enterprise are those who have the animals for sale so that by the time you get to second temple Judaism, you don’t necessarily bring your animal from Galilee down. Instead, you purchase an animal there. You have various various pictures here. Repeatedly in the Old and the New Testament, but particularly the Old Testament, you will see where there’s a sacrifice, the burnt offering, and it’s birds. That indicates someone who’s of lowly estate. This is someone who can’t bring a bull and can’t bring a male goat or a sheep but can bring a bird, or arrange for a bird. That’s the first issue here. The second issue is an issue of the heart. Let’s say that someone, in bringing a bird offering, may at some point bring any one of these three animals, even of a certain degree of wealth, because there would not be an infinite number of bulls available. Even for someone who might be very, very wealthy. That’s another reason why, at least in part, this is to be a male animal. The male animal is considered superior to the female animal. 

That continues today in such things as bloodlines of even thoroughbred horses. A part of it is because one male is in reproductive value, more valuable than one female because of the fact that the male can impregnate many females. The male was more precious and more costly in this respect. Israel’s thinking constantly in these terms. But as you think of these offerings, these burnt offerings, the offering of a bull would be a major offering. But you’ll notice that in God’s eyes, the one who can bring only a turtledove is also offering a sacrifice pleasing under the Lord with an aroma pleasing to the Lord. There’s another aspect of these burnt offerings that certainly comes to our mind. This is the fact that this is in a culture in which the sacrifice of any animal could be very costly. This is a culture made up of people who must live off of their animals and off of their crops. They must live off of these animals. Many of these people may very seldom have had, for instance, beef to eat. Notice that the priority here is the sacrificial system. And so even as we think of worship, this is very costly for Israel. And it’s very costly in another way. 

Mary and I were out on the boat on the lake over Labor Day weekend. We were coming in the evening and I smelled a campfire. I turned to her and said, “That’s just always a good smell.” Somebody was cooking something on that campfire, and it smelled mighty fine. Things smell better as I get hungrier. But imagine what it would’ve been like to be in the camp of Israel, with the sacrificial system going on and to be hungry. Imagine what it would be like to smell these smells, and maybe you do not even have access to such an animal. What you would be told over and over again by olfactory senses and all the rest is that the centrality of everything is God. That God is the superior one whose demand is first and foremost, and must be recognized as such. What Israel may not enjoy except on festival days, and perhaps even then scaled by wealth, is what is to be brought to the Lord as the first function, the first responsibility of Israel. 

You see this echo also throughout Scripture in which we are to bring our best to the Lord. That means even the disposition of our hearts. It means even the use of our voices. It means that we are to bring our best because of the solitary, singular priority of worship, worship of the one, true, living God. The burnt sacrifice is a sacrifice that would be so obvious to the entire community. Everyone would know that the liturgical life of Israel is central. It would be such that the smell of the entire community, in the sense of Israel as an encampment, or Israel later, as Jerusalem will become the home to the temple. It will be that to approach Jerusalem will be to approach, not just sights and sounds but smells. 

Here comes another thought for us as Christians. What about how un-smelly our worship is? Israel’s worship was loud, almost chaotic. When you look at and approach the temple it would have been absolutely chaotic, which is a part of the judgment that Jesus brings upon them. But even if it had been entirely orderly, according to the dictates of the Lord, it still would’ve been a pretty confusing thing to see. I’ve never really had to worry about bringing a goat to church. I do have a hint that it would be even more difficult than bringing a toddler. it’s one thing to walk up and to worry about where to put our car and how to get inside. But just imagine trying to get through birds and livestock. Birds and livestock do things, even as you bring them to the tent of meeting, they’re still doing stuff and all this is just going on. 

And then all the noise. Animals aren’t quiet, especially when they tend to be scared and confused about where they are. Birds, just don’t even get me started, and pigeons, seriously. You look at this and then you think, well, here we are. There’s not a bird in sight. No goats, no sheep, no bulls, not even grain or cereal, as we shall see in chapter two in the grain offering. 

Do we have less? Is this less? This has been a part of the liturgical envy that has marked Christians from the beginning and has led many into error. For one thing, the olfactory. We just don’t have any. Well, we kinda hope not to have olfactory worship, let’s just put it that way. The fact is that there isn’t any, or there isn’t supposed to be any distinctive smell of Christian worship. But there are churches where the first thing that you will confront is the smell of the place. 

I’ve seen this more in the east, more than in the west. The further east you go in Europe, into the lands of orthodoxy, the more the smells grow in intensity. Some of you may have been in St. Mark’s there in Venice. You walk in and the first thing that hits you is just, boom, smell. For centuries, oils and fragrances and incense have marked this place. There isn’t a molecule of the stone that doesn’t cry out all these smells. You walk in here and it’s dried paint, that’s it! We have less. But liturgical envy leads a lot of people to want what have sometimes been called the smells and bells of liturgical worship. “So we’re gonna try to bring that in because we need some noise, that’s what we need. We need some noise and some cacophony and if it’s not gonna be bulls and sheep and goats and birds, then let it be bells. By that I don’t mean bells in a tower, I mean the bells that you walk in some of these Eastern churches and there’s just lots of noise that’s going on, because we need some noise. And we need candles. We need smells. We need lots of smells.”

I am an Anglican in music. I used to, as this very strange teenager, I would have records and I would be able to listen to some of this music. I was in choirs and actually sang some of this music. Then the CD and before that the cassette and now we can stream just about anything. I think one of the most beautiful arrangements of “O Come All Ye Faithful” is at Westminster Abbey. You can YouTube this – that’s a verb, by the way, YouTube – and you can Google, you didn’t know you could but you can, it’s a verb. You can YouTube the Christmas Eve service at Westminster Abbey in London and the best one is from about five years ago. Here’s the thing you’re going to notice. Westminster Abbey is such a moving place, simply because of the history that kind of overwhelms me there. Nothing liturgical but theological and historical. This particular service is very typical of what goes on there at Westminster Abbey on Christmas Eve. Everybody processes in to, “O Come All Ye Faithful”. How appropriate is that? “O Come All Ye Faithful”, let’s come. So they come, except between the third and the fourth verse there’s this long interregnum. The organ is doing magnificent things. All the anti trumpets are blowing. It was better when I couldn’t see it. It was better when I heard it but I didn’t see it because now I see it and what do I see? I see the Dean of Westminster take a censer filled with incense and swing it around. I have done things in my life that I just felt would make me extremely self-conscious, but I’ve got to tell you, whatever it takes, I would not have it to stand in front of you with a burning incense thing on a chain and swing it around. I just lack whatever gene evidently that is. And I not only have to see him fling this thing around, but he’s taking the incense so that it gets on the people. 

“You just come here and blow a little on you, and blow a little on you.” There’s a nativity scene and I’m thinking, “No, don’t do this.” First of all, don’t have the nativity scene, but okay. If you’ve got to have one, don’t do what you’re about to do. Sure enough, he goes over and puts some incense on the nativity scene. At this point, I just close my eyes, “Please give me the music.” He stops that and then the final resounding verse of “O Come All Ye Faithful”. I look at that and the smells and the bells, is that what you’re here for? And we don’t have any of that. 

Here we are in nonconformity, nonconformity in part to that. We just keep looking at this building but we don’t really look at it a whole lot, because it’s not made to look at. It’s just a reminder of the fact that there is this liturgical envy that falls upon Protestants and evangelicals and especially those of us of the Puritan stripe, and we say that proudly. It’s a reminder of the fact that there are things we don’t have in worship that others have in worship. It’s because we don’t think we’re supposed to have them. You look at Israel and you say, “Israel had all this cacophony. Israel had all this noise. Israel had all this blood. Israel had all these smells. Israel had all this liturgical detail.” That’s just not what we’re given. 

Why are we robbed of all this? Where are our birds? Why are we robbed of all of this? Israel had this picture all the time, over and over again every day. Remember this is not just the Lord’s day. It’s not just the Sabbath. It’s very different, this is daily. There isn’t any Lord’s day here, it’s daily! If Israel needed that picture, don’t we need that picture? If Israel needed these sights and these sounds, how do we get around with a God-centered world if we don’t have the God-centering olfactory and auditory input that Israel had. If Israel needed the daily ritual, then how is it that we don’t need this? 

Evidently, it’s because it’s all fulfilled in Christ. But that still raises that question and it’s the final question we’ll consider this morning. If we don’t do this, then what do we do? In other words, what is it that we do? What is it that we do that gets us through the week in a God centered way? What is it we do in worship that makes the one, true and living God so evident, so infinitely prominent that it orders everything we think and everything we do and everything we are? We are left with what are rightly called the ordinary means of grace. The ordinary means of grace. They’re not extraordinary. They’re ordinary. That doesn’t mean they’re ordinary in the sense of something to be taken for granted. They’re ordinary in that these are the plain, simple, ordered means of grace. First of all, the preaching of the word of God, which you’ll notice is absolutely absent here. It’s absolutely absent. It’s in the background, not in the foreground. They’re living Leviticus, they’re not reading Leviticus. For us it is the preaching of the word of God, which is why, rightly ordered, the building we would use for worship would have a pulpit in the middle for the centrality of the word of God.

The fellowship of the saints, an ordinary means of grace. We’re together and we encourage one another with Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. We pray for one another. We draw strength from one another. There’s something very different in singing one of these hymns alone than singing them together. We sing them together, that’s the ordinary means of grace. The ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s supper, they center us. Even on the Lord’s days when we do not have the activity before our eyes, they’re always embedded in the worship. And there is the expectation that they’re embedded in our very understanding of who we are as a church. 

If you are frustrated with the ordinary means of grace, you’re frustrated with the once for all completeness of the atonement accomplished by Christ. With the horrible sounds, with the horrible noise, with the horrible sights, with the horrible auditory, olfactory and in every other sense imaginable, the horrible events of that Friday that we dare to call good – all of this came to an absolute end. That is why the veil in the temple was broken. That is why Jesus said, “It is finished.” This is why the apostle Paul will say it is infinitely superior. The writer of the book of Hebrews will say the very same thing. It is infinitely superior, this new covenant, in every way to the old. If we are envious for the smells and bells, it’s like Israel looking backward to Egypt. What we have is infinitely better.