Christian Priesthood Defined
The Altar Gives Structure to Our Faith
Lesson 3 of 11
Although the New Testamen altar is spiritual, it nonetheless has structure. It is this structure of truth that we are going to look at next. In 1 Kings 18:31-38 we see that Elijah took 12 stones and built an altar, which represented the 12 tribes of Israel as one. These 12 stones represented the 12 Elements of the Gospel. As Elijah constructed an altar with 12 stones, we, as New Testament believers, construct the altar of Christ with the 12 Elements of the Gospel. These are the 12 stones of Jesus’ altar. This is the knowledge of Christ, the truth Jesus said He would lay as a foundation within the heart.
The foundation of truth and the altar of Christ both use the same 12 Elements of the Gospel. Don’t let this confuse you. God is explaining to you two separate, but related things. When God speaks of building His house with the knowledge of Christ He speaks of the need to lay the foundation of our thinking with the 12 Elements of the Gospel. Just as God gave Moses the blueprint to build the tabernacle in the wilderness, He gave apostles His blueprint of knowledge in Jesus Christ to build His spiritual house in the soul.
When God speaks of the need for us to construct an altar it is for worship. Jesus is the true altar and He is in heaven. The altar in our soul is constructed with the same knowledge that He is that the altar in the soul might be a perfect reflect of the altar in heaven. God is speaking of us using those same 12 Elements to build the altar of Christ in our soul that we might have a priesthood. The altar is related to the priesthood. The priests are those who draw near to God in divine service to Him. You will be drawing upon the 12 Elements of the Gospel to offer spiritual sacrifices to God.
In addition, as you learned in Tour of the Basics, the 12 Elements of the Gospel is God’s DNA. that just as physical DNA plays an important part in shaping your physical characteristics so also does God’s knowledge (DNA) plays a vital role in shaping Christ in you. And just as the pattern needs to be there first before a resemblance can take place, it is the same with God’s kingdom. A pattern of knowledge needs to be set in place first before you can take on the divine nature of Christ (2 Peter 1:4-5).
So if you are thinking that as you study the Elements of the Gospel a firm foundation is being built in you and that the altar of Christ is being constructed in you, and a pattern of likeness is being placed in you, you would be correct.
The 12 Elements of the Gospel give structure to our faith. The 12 Elements are:
1. GRACE 7. PEACE
2. FAITH 8. REST
3. RIGHTEOUSNESS 9. CHARITY
4. JUSTIFICATION 10. TRUTH
5. SANCTIFICATION 11. REGENERATION
6. HOLIINESS 12. RENEWING OF THE MIND
Many try to follow Jesus without responsibility to His knowledge, expecting Him to carry their faith. We can see this illustrated in the famous poem “Footprints in the Sand”. This is a romantic notion learned when there was no blueprint to follow. Although God empowers our faith when it is properly joined to the covenant, He had not intended to carry our faith in the absence of His knowledge.
God Establishes Order for Knowledge
Now that we have established that the altar of Christ is spiritual and that it is constructed of knowledge we need to look at how it is built in the heart. Are these elements (stones of the altar of Christ) ordered by God, or are they randomly placed? To answer this question let’s go back and look at the Old Covenant altar again. We’re going to see a pattern God set for our faith. Once we see the pattern we gain confidence in what God is doing.
We know that when Israel came into the Promised Land God assigned each tribe their portions, and by these assigned portions of land, God set the boundaries for each tribe. Naphtali inherited to the north; Simeon inherited to the south, Gad in the east, and Ephraim in the west.
How do we see Christ in this? As God set the boundaries for each tribe, so God ascribed a set value to each Element of the Gospel. This value is the design of Christ in each element. God set order to His knowledge. He did not give random meaning to grace, faith, righteousness, justification. When we honor the design of Christ in each element then the Spirit of God (witness) confirms the record to empower faith.
God’s order for each Element of the Gospel is the definition and meaning He gives to them. We have the mind of God when we use the same definition He does. Here we see the importance of the Apostle’s office. God gave them the responsibility to teach the church the meaning of the 12 Elements.
Each believer then has the same understanding about grace as God does and the same understanding of faith, and the same understanding of righteousness, and so on. God establishes order for His knowledge that we may express Christ in spiritual sacrifices of prophecy (as a New Covenant priest). That means to take the knowledge and reciprocate, or give it back to God in the form of prophecy. The heart expresses Christ from this altar of faith.
You can see why the altar is necessary for our priesthood. This is the true reciprocation (worship) of the Spirit. We worship God with the true record of Christ by which we live. Faith is the virtue of the Spirit to build with this knowledge of Christ to honor God at His altar (Christ). When the eyes of men are opened to see Christ by the 12 Elements of the Gospel, true praise arises in the heart.
When this order is not taught to the church then the value of the Elements of the Gospel are constantly shifting and this throws faith into much confusion. The False Religious System takes each Elements of the Gospel and gives it new meaning—the tradition of man. If you remain in that system it does not matter how much you desire to do what is right, the law of sin still controls you, it inspires you to do what is in that system. You are as one that beats the air.
Do you see that when the element no longer reflects the value that God gave to it, it no longer gives structure to faith, and no longer represents Jesus Christ?
The altar of the Lord has been broken down through the false knowledge of many false shepherds and its structure no longer resembles Christ and His sacrifice. As a result, the church is no longer one in faith. Apostle John was reflecting on this transgression when he wrote: “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son” (2 John 1:9).
As each believer is again instructed in the doctrine of Christ through the oversight of the apostles, each of the 12 Elements of the Gospel are being laid in order within the heart bringing the church into one mind.