Friday, March 21, 2008

The Redeeming Blood and the Suffering Body

Elizabeth Kendal, a commissioner of the World Evangelical Alliance's Religious Liberty Commission and convenor of the Australian Evangelical Alliance's  Religious Liberty Commission wrote a most inspiring commentary in this week's Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin [No. 470]. I hope you find it as inspirational as I did:


Under the old covenant an animal without blemish would be offered as a sacrifice for atonement, and once a year the High Priest would take the blood of the sacrificed animal into the Most Holy Place and offer it to God, but the body was burned outside the gate as a sign that it had been defiled through the imputation of sin. (Leviticus 16)

In the same way, on the first Easter, our Great High Priest Jesus entered heaven's Most Holy Place by means of his own blood (Hebrews 9:11,12), but his body suffered outside the gate (outside Jerusalem), rejected and scorned, having been made sin for us. (Hebrews 13:11,12) 

Andrew Murray (1828-1917) comments on the roles the redeeming blood and the suffering body have in the life of a believer. He notes that Christ's redeeming blood, received in heaven, secures our place there, while his suffering body, rejected by the world, depicts our place here.  "Heaven received Him and us in Him; we belong there. The world has cast Him without the camp, and us with Him. We belong there. In heaven we share His honour; on earth, His reproach.  . . . There are two places appointed for the believer in the power of Christ's redemption -- within the veil, to worship, and without the gate, to witness." In both places, notes Murray, the believer is with Christ, and the deeper the believer goes into one place, the more she or he will realise the other. (The Holiest of All, by Andrew Murray, Whitaker House 1996

The more hostile a home, workplace, community or state is to the gospel, the more a believer or a church (members of Christ's body -- Ephesians 5:30) will suffer rejection and persecution. But as was seen in the cross, suffering can be a powerful thing. For on the cross Christ redeemed suffering, transforming the instrument of Satan into the means of God's saving grace. Christ graciously gives life by means of his death, and to those who by faith receive his life he says, 'Take up your cross and follow me.' 'Therefore let us

go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.' (Hebrews 13:13 ESV). In the cross, redemption and rejection, salvation and suffering are inseparable.

Dear God our Father,

We marvel at your great spiritual victory achieved on a cross outside the gate some 2000 years ago, and we pray that you will likewise redeem the sufferings of your persecuted Church so that the instruments of Satan may be transformed again into means of grace.

Lord, compel us by your Holy Spirit to go to you 'outside the camp', confessing the name of Jesus even though it may lead to rejection, persecution or even death. For we know that 'there is salvaton in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved'. (Acts 4:12)

And we pray that wherever the body of Christ is suffering rejection, reproach and violence today, there you would be at work by your ever-present Holy Spirit, sanctifying and building your Church to the glory of God, the amazement of the angels and the utter frustration of the evil one.


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