3 Ways Jesus Changes Our Perspectives about Church
Discover the Revolutionary Way Jesus Fulfills the Old Testament
When we consider that Jesus came to fulfill the law of Moses and the writings of the prophets, what’s important to understand is that we must see these passages in their proper perspective. This doesn’t mean to ignore what was just because Jesus fulfilled it. It means we should consider the Old Testament in its context. In addition to teaching the people how to worship God and the right way to live, the Law and the prophets also point them to the coming Savior, Jesus.
In Genesis through Malachi, we see repeated allusions to Jesus and the freedom he offers to us now. And if we read the Old Testament with care, we will also see that this future revelation about Jesus applies to all people, not just God’s chosen tribe.
Yes, Jesus comes to fulfill the Law and the writings of the prophets. We’re the benefactors of that. Now let’s apply this to the Old Testament ideas of temple, priests, and tithes.
1. New Temple: Living Stones
When Jesus overcomes death, the veil in the temple rips apart, exposing the inner sanctum of the most holy place. This supernatural rending of the veil symbolically allows everyone direct access to God. No longer is God separated from his people, distant and removed. He is now approachable by everyone. God ceases living in the temple and begins living in us. Our bodies become the temple of God. No longer do we need a physical building. We are his temple.
Yet we cling to the Old Testament idea of a temple and forget how Jesus fulfills it. Jesus’s disciple Peter helps us understand this. He writes that we are living stones built into a spiritual temple (1 Peter 2:5).
Yes, this verse is confounding.
It challenges our perspective of needing to go to church to experience God. Peter’s words flip this practice, and that’s the point. Jesus turned the old ways upside down and made something new. We must embrace this. We must change our perspectives.
First, Peter says we are living stones. As living stones, we are alive—not inanimate rocks. Jesus may have had this in mind in his rebuff of the Pharisees who took offense by the praise offered by his followers. Jesus tells them that if the crowd doesn’t celebrate his arrival, the stones will cry out to exalt him (Luke 19:39-40). To do this, the rocks would have to come alive.
As Jesus’s living stones, our actions matter. We live for Jesus. We exist to honor him, praise him, and glorify him. Our purpose is to tell others about him through our actions and—when needed—even through our words. Our faith is alive, and what we do must show it.
Next, as living stones, we are part of God’s holy temple, a spiritual house. We become part of the construction of his new worship space. If we are part of his temple, we don’t need to go to church to meet him. This is because, as his temple, he’s already in our presence, and we’re already in his. This means we can experience him at anytime, anywhere. Through Jesus, God’s temple exists everywhere we go.
2. New Priests: A Holy Priesthood
After saying we’re living rocks built into God’s spiritual shrine, Peter adds two more mind-blowing thoughts. He says these first two truths—that we’re breathing stones shoring up God’s temple—sets up two more spiritual concepts.
Through Jesus we become a holy priesthood so that we can offer spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus (1 Peter 2:5). If we are truly priests through what Jesus did for us, then we don’t need ministers to point us to God, explain him to us, or help us know him. God wants us to do that for ourselves as his holy priests.
Remember that back in Exodus, God calls his people to be a nation of priests (Exodus 19:6). But they recoil from that and refuse to cooperate. Later, Isaiah looks forward to the time when the children of God will become the Lord’s priests, ministers of the Almighty (Isaiah 61:6).
At last, through Jesus we’re poised to do just that. And Peter confirms this. As followers of Jesus—his disciples—we’re a royal priesthood. This makes us his holy nation, an elite possession of God. Our purpose is to praise him for what he did when he saved us from the darkness of sin and moved us into the light of his love (1 Peter 2:9).
But there’s one more thing in this first passage from Peter. As living stones and holy priests, serving our Lord as part of his temple, we offer to him a spiritual sacrifice (1 Peter 2:5). Though Jesus is the ultimate sin sacrifice to end all sacrifices, we honor what he did by living lives as holy priests that serve as an ongoing tribute to him. This spiritual sacrifice (see Romans 12:1) replaces the animal sacrifices we read about throughout the Old Testament.
This thinking is so countercultural to how most Christians live today that it bears careful contemplation. Through Jesus we can do things in a new way. We are living stones built into his spiritual temple, serving as a holy priesthood to offer him spiritual sacrifices (1 Peter 2:5). Read that again: We are living stones built into his spiritual temple, serving as a holy priesthood to offer him spiritual sacrifices. Wow!
This can change everything—and it should.
No longer do priests (ministers) need to serve as our liaison between the creator and the created. Instead, all who follow Jesus become his priests, a nation of priests, just as God wanted back in Exodus 19:6.
This means that the laity, serving as priests to each other, should minister to one another, not hire someone else to do it for them. No longer is there a need for paid staff to be the link between God and his people. Everyone can now approach God directly, hearing from him and acting on his behalf. The Holy Spirit who Jesus sent to us sees to that—if we are but willing to listen, hear, and obey what he says.
3. New Finances: Generosity
Last is that pesky temple tax, which we call a tithe. Today, a church’s building and employees can make up 90 to 100 percent of its budget. But once we remove the facility and the paid staff from the equation, there’s no longer so much of a need for money. Does that mean we can forget about tithing?
Yes . . . and no.
The Bible talks a lot about tithing. In the Old Testament, God instituted tithes to support the religious institution he mandated for his people. This sacred institution included the tabernacle/temple, the priests, and the Levites. To extend the financial support of the Old Testament temple and its priests to the modern-day church and its ministers is a misapplication. When Jesus fulfilled the law, he replaced both, turning us—you and me—into priests and making us into his temple.
Instead of the old way of doing things, Jesus talked about helping those in need and being wise stewards (Matthew 25:14-29). The early church in Acts shared all they had with each other (Acts 4:32). That’s 100 percent. And being a faithful steward of all God has blessed us with also implies 100 percent—all things (1 Corinthians 10:31). We are to use every penny in the best way possible (1 Corinthians 10:24).
Whenever the New Testament mentions tithing, it always refers to the Old Testament practice. Nowhere do New Testament writers tell us to give 10 percent to God. And they never command us to donate 10 percent to the local church. Yet this is precisely what many ministers preach.
Instead we see New Testament commands and examples to use the money God blesses us with to cover our needs—not our wants (Hebrews 13:5), help others (1 Corinthians 10:24), and advance God’s kingdom (1 Peter 4:10). Rather than tithing to church, we see a principle where everything we have belongs to God. We are to be generous stewards of his blessings, in turn using them to bless others (Genesis 12:2). We must use our resources to help those in need and advance God’s kingdom, not to support and perpetuate a religious institution.
If you feel a responsible use of God’s money is to support your local church, then do so. However, if you think the money is better used somewhere else, then donate to that cause. But never let preachers mislead you—or rile up guilt—by insisting you do something the Bible doesn’t say to do.
The Status Quo
Yes, it’s easy to do what we have always done. It’s comfortable to cling to the status quo, but Jesus offers us so much more—and he yearns for us to take hold of it. There is a new way to worship God, to worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24)—and it doesn’t involve attending church each Sunday.
So stop following the Old Testament model of church: going to a building to meet God, revering the clergy, and tithing out of guilt or obligation. Instead, be God’s temple, act like priests, and share generously. This is the new model that Jesus gives us.We should be God’s temple, act like priests, and share generously. This is the new model that Jesus gives us. Click To Tweet
So why do we persist in following the Old Testament model of going to church to seek God, being served by a minister, and tithing when Jesus died to give us something new, something much better?
Jesus turned us into his temple, promoted us to priests, and changed the 10 percent temple tax into a principle of generosity.
Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament. He offered himself as the ultimate sin sacrifice and then overcame death by rising from the grave. In doing so, he turned us into his temple, promoted us to priests, and changed the 10 percent temple tax into a principle of generosity.
[Read more about this in Peter’s upcoming book, Jesus’s Broken Church.]
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.