By Pastor John Pruitt
“We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.” We have many Old Testament types mentioned which involve an altar. Genesis 8:2, Noah; Genesis 12:7, Abraham; Genesis 26:25, Isaac.
Paul warns the Hebrew saints not to be carried away or drawn in by new doctrines or old traditions which were of no prophet to the soul. These “meats” were only profitable to the body; and could be of no other use to the soul. The design of the Old Testament ceremony had always been to lead men to Christ. In and of themselves, they were of no advantage to the wicked heart; they could not sanctify, nor justify, nor purify the heart, nor could they offer any security for eternity; for the whole ceremonial law is abolished in Christ, having satisfied its demands.
Catholicism and Protestantism teach and practice that; not only did the O.T. Israelites have, but the N.T. churches should have an altar as well. This is erroneous to the teaching of Hebrews 13:10 and the rest of the Bible.
There are some basic things to understand about this verse of Scripture if one is going to give it a proper interpretation. Whatever the verse means, it is contrary to the altar which was being used at that time by the Jews. Whatever the verse means, it is contrary to the so-called altar being used in churches today, including many Baptist churches. I would challenge every Baptist church who uses a bench (altar so-called) to search the Scripture for justification.
The whole book of Hebrews teaches that all the furnishings and the Tabernacle itself are a prototype of Christ and His great work of redemption. John 14:6, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” A.W. Pink wrote in his book An Exposition of Hebrews, “The entire system of worship that Jehovah appointed for Israel was of a typical character and the reality and substance of it is now found in Christ.” Hebrews 9:11, “But Christ being come an high priest of good thing to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;…” Not only is Christ the High Priest, but the “perfect tabernacle” as well.
Hebrews 9:15 shows us that both the altar and the sacrifice mentioned are spiritual and not carnal. “And for this cause he is the mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions [that were] under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” Since Christ, in His great work of redemption is the fulfillment of the O.T. ceremonial law, He now becomes our altar upon which we offer spiritual sacrifices unto God.
The altar was made of shittim wood, overlaid with brass. This speaks of Jesus Christ as our everlasting refuge from judgement. Horns are typical of great strength. Jesus is said to be the HORN of our salvation. Psalms 18:2 “The LORD [is] my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, [and] my high tower.”
Now, let us examine our text: Christ suffered outside the city of Jerusalem. Heb 13:11-12 “For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate…” Verse 11 is a reference to the O.T. atonement in Leviticus 16. In Galatians 5:1-6, the Jews substituted the law as the agent of grace and made Christ of no effect. I believe that verse 8 is where we begin to study this passage. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Next time we will begin with this verse and study how that Jesus Christ has always been the Altar, is the Altar, and always will be the Altar.