June 25 I Monday
“Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.” —Isaiah 1:13
The diagnosis of Israel’s sin was that they had forsaken God and turned their backs on Him. The prophet Isaiah tells the people that their sacrifices, temple visits, festivals and prayers are meaningless and detestable to God (Isaiah 1:11-15). These rituals were ordained by God but had become empty and fruitless as they were only adhered to out of obligation.
The Old Testament rituals were designed to reconcile the people to God. The offering of the blood of bulls, goats and lambs demonstrated the holiness of God, the sinfulness of humanity, and the people’s need for being made right before God. The Israelites should have recognized that their sacrifices were a ritual meant to restore fellowship, but the rituals had come to replace the reality. Their concern was not a relationship with God but that they turned up at the temple with the right animal on the right day and said the right words.
The Old Testament rituals became redundant with Christ, but there are still two rituals ordained by God that point us to fellowship with Him. There is the Lord’s Supper, where Jesus established communion. Matthew 26:26-28 says, “While they were eating, Jesus took bread…broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, ’Take and eat; this is My body.’ Then He took a cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’” We regularly partake of the Lord’s Supper because it reminds us of our ongoing need for cleansing and renewal of our communion with Christ.
Baptism is the other practice Christians partake in. The outward act of baptism is designed to portray the inner spiritual truth and reality of our union with Christ. It conveys a beautiful picture of identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. It is not something in addition to the Gospel, but a portrayal of the Gospel. Baptism and communion are outward physical acts that express inward spiritual experience, but are not what makes us a Christian.
Rituals are not an end in themselves, but are designed to bring us into deeper fellowship with Christ. If we are not in a loving, committed relationship with Him, the all-important issue becomes, “Have I been baptized? Have I received communion lately?” Detached from their purpose, these practices are void of spiritual experience, and God not only rejects them, but detests them. It is wonderful to partake in communion, and as commanded by Jesus in the Great Commission, every Christian should be baptized, but the all-important thing must remain nurturing our relationship with Christ.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for instituting baptism and Communion, but even more for the beautiful portrayal and remembrances they are of the life You have offered through Your Son, in whose name I pray.