“We are not in the Old Testament anymore.” If I was asked about the one thing that is most commonly unknown to the Christian community, especially descendants of the 19th century Holiness movement, like Russian Pentecostals, it would be this statement. Literally every single day I talk to people who are full of good intentions, but are still living according to patterns set by the Old Testament. Now of course, these people are pacifists and will gladly tell you that in the Old Testament their Bible heroes rode around slaying evildoers, but today that is the most horrible of all sins. Or that in the OT you couldn’t eat pork, and today we can have all the Salo (salted bacon) we want. And (hopefully) everyone realized that we don’t have to kill lambs anymore (like in the OT) because Jesus the lamb died for us (in the NT). Yet, in one aspect there is tremendous confusion and the OT mindset profusely permeates the church masses.
CATEGORIES OF HOLINESS
There are marked categories of division between the sacred (holy) and the common (not holy).
Now God is a God of division, and has divided Good and Evil, and will divide goats and sheep. So thus the above statement does not mean sin vs holiness, for that division is indeed found in Scripture, and the New Testament often reminds us to be holy and avoid sin. Instead, this is a division that occurs among Christians, where some Christian things are seen as holy, and others are seen as unholy, un-spiritual, or common.
To help you understand here is the average day of an OT Christian in a modern world: Wake up and make breakfast, then “bless” breakfast or sanctify it for it is unholy. Go to your day job, which God doesn’t really care about because it’s not sacred; the Pastors and Deacons are holy vocations that God and the church care about, welders and farmers are not. Later buy a new vacuum cleaner, realize the logo says “Dirt Devil” return the satanic appliance before it curses your household for seven generations. Stop by a Chinese restaurant, leave because the Buddha statue is an idol that defiles the food and makes it profane to your personal holiness. Go to a special sacred building to worship God, but before you do, don’t forget to dress in a special sacred outfit before setting foot upon “holy ground.” When guilty of sin, perform a special sacrifice of prayer to atone for the sin, this is more effective at the holy temple building, especially if one runs to the holy altar up front, because everyone knows the closer to the front of church, the closer to the throne of God, it has been suggested that God’s throne is a bit to the right of the deacons thrones.
SACRED PEOPLE, OBJECTS, AND ACTIONS
The problem with OT Christians is that they apply judgment to all things (people, objects, and actions) to decide whether it is holy or common, and treat “holy” things with respect and “common” things with disdain (keep in mind, there is not mention of sin here at all, just holy vs common).
People: For example, the choir is composed of people that are considered to belong to a sacred calling, often known as the Levites (though most don’t realize they have to be Jews to be Levites). At the same time others who don’t get their moment on stage, are common people. In fact, anyone who spends time on stage, whether preaching, singing, or simply saying a poem is seen as part of the Holy minority, they lead the church, they are closer to God, they are esteemed in the community, often called things like “man of God” (which, by the way, is an OT title seen 78 times under the Law, yet it’s hardly used in the NT, hmm). Mothers are filled with ecstatic joy when their daughters marry such a sacred “man of God” and not a lowly plumber. Fathers are proud and hold their heads high when their sons stand in the pulpit. Neighbors are jealous and wish it was their kid instead. Some even offer their sons incentives, a childhood friend told me his parents said they would buy him a car if he preached just once. I guess sacred people need sacred attention. The most unfortunate things is that many sacred people genuinely look down at “non-sacred” people (and even use OT examples to justify themselves). When I was dating my wife, a few people reminded me that my wife doesn’t come from a “priestly family” and my father is a pastor, therefore I needed to marry a person with a more holy lineage like the priests did in the OT. Yes, I understand that was the way in the Old testament, when Grace was still hidden and the Law was the rule of the land. No, if you currently think that someone’s family can cause them to be more or less holy and distinguished, you have no knowledge of the Gospel and are still living under the Law. Paul’s dad was a Pharisee (Acts 23:6), one of the guys that killed Jesus; yet Paul wrote the Bible for Jesus.
Objects: For example, the communion cup, which looks like it came out of a Lord of the Rings movie, gets it own office and chauffeur, while the common cups for the after-church potluck are stored in a dusty cupboard. And OT Christians truly think one is actually Holy and the other is not. The impression is that for a few minutes God’s blood actually touches the cup, but seriously people, does anyone forget God lives inside us? People who wear a pair of shorts may be accosted and kicked out of the “church” for defiling the holy place. What? Why is a church building holy anyway? What makes a few wooden beams and sheets of drywall so holy that we need to treat it with awe? Now I am all for being a good steward with church property. It is set apart for the service of God and we ought not be negligent with the building, the cups, or the audio equipment. I am not proposing we wildly break everything and go on a rampage, but seriously, to kick someone out because they are dressed “unholy?” As if in our ignorance we think that God is going to get offended because some sinner is dressed wrong. I don’t mean to point out the obvious, but God doesn’t live inside churches. He can seriously see what’s going on out there, in fact, God kind of, sort of, actually is everywhere at once, even in clubs and bars. He can see what people are wearing and doing all the time, with all due respect God doesn’t get offended and leave, he sends missionaries there and saves people (if you think the church building is super holy, you might know some of these people as those you close the doors to). God is present in the dirtiest places, and He specifically intends to go there. How do I know? Because at one time everyone was an unsaved sinner, now tons of people are saved, obviously God had to go down to some dirty places where sinners (who were dressed completely wrong) live. Speaking of that, He probably went to them because you wouldn’t let them in to “His house.”
Actions: For example, attending church as often as possible is a most holy task that designates one as an exceptionally holy person, yet the simple act of showing Gospel love towards a sinner who doesn’t meet the profile of the “type of person God wants to save” is seen with disdain. When I was invited to preach at a conference with thousands, everyone around me made sure I knew how important it was, and that I was doing “God’s” work. Yet, when I decided to sit down and connect with a few friends by playing a board game during a conversation, a Russian grandmother came by and with a straight face told me God is not happy about what I am doing. She seemed quite convinced there are certain holy actions that can glorify God (these only included praying, singing, and going to church) and all other things are common and can in no way bring God glory, honor, or fame. Strange, even Jesus Himself, did more things than those three, and weren’t all of his actions Holy? I mean, c’mon, how can the most Holy God in the flesh do something that is not Holy? So when Jesus spent two decades being a carpenter and working a regular job, wasn’t that sanctified and immensely holy? Or was Jesus being unholy? Careful, if you go by your silly rules and say no, you accuse God Himself of being unholy. I think the One who invented Holiness has a better idea what it means than you, no?
PRIESTHOOD OF ALL BELIEVERS
Every Christian is Holy. Every non-sinful action every Christian does is holy. Every object any Christian uses (for anything that is not sin) is Holy. The Bible tells us in the NT that there has been a radical change in the way God relates to people. Previously there was a sacred place where man and God could communicate, for example, at the temple (John 4:20-21), and it would happen through intermediaries called priests. Yet when Jesus died the thick curtain dividing the internal (and holy) part of the temple was torn open, enabling all Christians to access that chamber, aptly named the Holy of Holies. In the OT only the high priest could access God, in the NT every Christian has been given the gift of the Holy Spirit; God Himself abiding in our hearts.
In the NT we are told that all of us are now part of a royal kingdom of priests. And this does not happen because we reach some superior level of holiness, it’s not conditional, its not based on our performance, there is no test to pass before we can become a priest, instead, we are chosen to be priests and it is God who makes us to be priests (1 Pet 2:29, Rev 5:10).
The super anointed ministers who think it’s their devotion and dedication that made them “priests” are really in for a letdown, no one could ever be a priest unless God appointed them, and he appointed everyone. There is now no ground to think you are more important, none whatsoever.
Indeed every single believer is now closer to God, and more Holy than John the Baptist (Mat 11:11). Imagine that, somewhere out there is a sinner crying on his bed because he is too “spiritually weak” to even touch a church stage according to our rules, yet He is more holy and is greater than John the Baptist.
This point was one of the cornerstones of the Protestant Reformation. The Bible was recovered and it taught that not only the Priests were holy, and not only their occupation, instead all things that all believers did were holy and useful for the Lord. Martin Luther once said “A shoemaker, a smith, a farmer, each has his manual occupation and work; and yet, at the same time, all are eligible to act as priests…. Every one of them in his occupation or handicraft ought to be useful to his fellows.” (Woolf, Reformation Writings of Martin Luther, I.116). Yesterdays Protestants discovered that whatever vocation or calling God had given was worthy, primarily because they served God in that capacity.
All Christians, whether they are well known and on stage, or humbly serving out of sight in the back are equally chosen for Gods Holy and Royal priesthood. All people, regardless of what tasks they do, regardless of their vocation, are of equal dignity and value as children in Gods kingdom.
There are more ways to serve the kingdom than being the centerpiece of attention, Paul taught this when he said the church is like a body and different parts are all necessary.
Now let me make the case to the most stubborn person, who genuinely things he or she is more important: Even if you believe that a profession in the church is the most holy and prestigious (which only attests to your blindness,) Imagine how we would read the Bible if there were no grammar teachers? (As a side note I think this why there is such poor doctrine, because people simply don’t know grammar, but I digress). How would you drive to church without an auto machinist and mechanic? How could you read the Bible if someone did not manufacture ink? How could you live to preach without the farmers who grow you food? How could you preach while being dead if the police didn’t arrest your murderer-to-be?
All vocations and professions are necessary AND specifically ordained by God. All vocations and all actions that are neither holy (according to people) nor sinful (according to the Bible) are indeed warranted by God, they do have a time and a place (Ecc 3:1), and they do glorify God (1 Cor 10:31). Unfortunately we have lost this today in our selfish desire to be valuable, better, or holier, than our neighbor. The truth is dignity and integrity doesn’t come from trading places with somebody in a “holy” vocation or “sacred” position, instead it comes because Christ traded places with you and gave it to you.
Old Testament Christians are busy trying to earn their salvation by being super holy based on the Law. New Testament Christians know that apart from Christ we are nobody and can do nothing (Jn. 15:5) but by His grace we are somebody and can do everything (Phil. 4:13). OT Christians need to play the solo and ridicule all those that don’t, NT humbly and gladly play our notes in Gods grand orchestra and are glad we play it for him. OT Christians try to glorify God with religious works, NT Christians glorify God with everything we have, and even when no one is looking. (1 Cor 10:31)