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Bible verses about Ritual
(From Forerunner Commentary)

In much of the Old Testament, purity by means of various rituals is generally presented as an adjunct of the sacrificial system. By this means holiness was established and protected within the Israelite communities. In His inspired Word, God Himself makes the distinctions between what is pure and impure. However, in the Psalms and the Prophets, as time advances toward the arrival of Jesus Christ, the standards for purity before God shift from merely ceremonial actions to moral conduct. Ceremonial purity gradually became seen as symbolic rather than genuine purity. By about 1000 BC, David understood this. He writes in Psalm 51:16-17: "For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise."

This does not mean the various washings to attain a ritual purity were useless either to the ancient Israelites or to us under the New Covenant. Purity is closely associated with God's election of His people, for by His grace He confers purity to them. However, the various washings teach that life, unless religiously maintained, is ever gravitating, ever slipping, toward impurity. Vigilance is the watchword regarding defilement.

The rituals teach that purity is achieved and maintained by effort and attention. Like dust and dirty dishes, uncleanness requires regular action and maintenance. Familiarity with the laws of uncleanness shows that defilement is readily communicable in a way that holiness is not. Uncleanness is so easily communicated that one can become unclean by unintentionally coming in contact with a corpse or a person with an infectious disease.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 6: The Pure in Heart


 

Isaiah 1:11-17

Remember to whom God was speaking—His people, those with whom He had made the Old Covenant. He was not rejecting their sacrifices or the keeping of the holy days. He was angry that they went through the rituals without the humility to submit to His great moral law in their daily lives.

We have the tendency to think of worship as something we do at a designated time and in a certain place, usually once a week. However, religion and worship in the biblical sense involve all of life. Christianity is a way of life (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4). Worship is the reflection of God living in the person no matter what he may be doing. It is his response to God, his interaction with Him. Thus, the Bible covers every aspect of life within its pages. A person truly interacting with God is worshipping God whether at church, work, play, or home. He will strive to glorify God in every situation.

Obviously, the people of Isaiah 1 were not at one with God, though they religiously observed the commanded activities. For a person to be at one with Him, what he does in every area of life must agree with what he professes by his attendance at a worship service.

How can those who treat their fellows with contempt, then take their greed, anger, revenge, and hatred into church fellowship, say they are displaying God's Spirit? These characteristics are divisive! How can they say they worship God?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Separation and At-One-Ment


 

Matthew 12:1-8

Matthew 12:1-8 adds yet another example of Sabbath encounters Jesus had with the Pharisees. According to the Pharisees, the disciples reaped, threshed, and winnowed the grain; they were guilty of preparing a meal. What was the disciples' motivation? They were traveling, hungry, and had no place to prepare a meal. They were young and strong and could have fasted without harm, but because it was a Sabbath, Jesus drew attention to one of the Sabbath's main purposes. It is a day of mercy.

Christ draws His justification from I Samuel 21:1-6. He reasons that, if David under unusual circumstances could allay his hunger by eating bread consecrated for holy use, then the disciples could also legitimately provide for their needs in unusual circumstances. The emphasis here is on "unusual." How many times did David flee for his life and find himself hungry near the Tabernacle? It happened at least once, but even for a man of war like David, such situations occurred only rarely.

The overall lesson is that God does not intend His law to deprive but to ensure life. If the need arises, we should not feel conscience-stricken to use the Sabbath in a way that would not normally be lawful. Christ admits David's actions were not normally lawful, and neither were the disciples'—except for the circumstances. In this case, they were blameless BECAUSE A LARGER OBLIGATION OVERRULED THE LETTER OF THE LAW. In this circumstance, mercy is more important than sacrificing a meal. Holy bread or holy time can be used exceptionally to sustain life and serve God.

Christ takes advantage of the situation to teach another connected lesson. He draws attention to the extent of the priests' Sabbath labors in the Temple. Their work actually doubled on the Sabbath because of the number of sacrifices God required, yet they were guiltless. Why? They were involved in God's creative, redemptive work, as Christ explains in John 5, 7, and 9. They fulfilled a purpose of the Sabbath that someone had to do.

Because of the disciple's involvement in the work of God, circumstances dictated a profaning of the Sabbath. From this, we can understand that LOVING SERVICE IS GREATER THAN RITUAL FULFILLMENT. What is mercy? It is a helpful act where and when it is needed. It is an act of loving encouragement, comfort, pity, and sympathy for the distressed. It is the relieving of a burden.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part Two): Christ's Attitude Toward the Sabbath


 

Galatians 3:5-11

Here, the subject is the role faith and works play in the justification process. This time, he uses Abraham as the model by which all his "children in the faith" also become "children of God." He begins by posing a question, which can be paraphrased as, "Do miracles come by ritual?" There is in this a veiled illusion to magic. Do miracles come by incantation? Do they come by knowing certain formulas that may include even such things as cutting the flesh or going through long periods of fasting or sufferings to get God's attention? Will God respond with a miracle out of pity once we show Him how humble and righteous we are? No, it does not work that way. Miracles come by a living God, who is actively working in our lives because He called us and we have faith in Him.

With that foundation, Paul begins what turns into the preamble for a very controversial section of Galatians. He proceeds to state that it was through faith that Abraham was justified. It is good to remember that Abraham not only believed who God is, but he also believed what God said. This is what set him apart from everybody else. His faith was not merely an intellectual agreement, but he also lived His faith.

Abraham's works did not win him acceptance by God, but they did prove to God that Abraham really did believe Him. So Paul says in verses 10-11 that those who rely on their works to justify them are under the curse of the law. What is "the curse of the law"? The death penalty! When one sins, he brings on himself the curse of the law he broke, which is death. In effect, he says that those who seek justifcation through works are still under the curse because justification by this means is impossible.

So powerful is the curse of the law that, when our sins were laid on the sinless Jesus Christ, the law claimed its due. Jesus died! Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 27:26 to counteract those who were troubling the church, because they were saying that their asceticism, magic, and similar things (like keeping Halakah, the oral law and traditions of Judaism) could justify.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 26)


 

Galatians 5:1

The yoke of bondage is an approach to justification and salvation, or righteousness, that relies on a syncretism of Jewish ritualistic legalism and pagan practices (usually rites of purification), while at the same time avoiding the sacrifice of Christ. This means that what we believe and who we believe in will determine whether we will be justified. Why is this approach a yoke of bondage? It cannot free a person from the penalty of sin or from Satan. It does not provide forgiveness. It will not put one into a position to receive God's Holy Spirit.

Paul is not writing to do away with the law! He is writing to clarify lawkeeping's relationship to justification and what a person believes through justification. If Paul were writing to do away with law, much of what he wrote later on in chapter 5 would not be there.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 28)


 

Hebrews 9:8-10

The subject involves food and drink offerings and various washings imposed until the time of reformation—not the entirety of God's law. In His mind's eye, whenever He gave them these rituals, there was a grandfather clause. A grandfather clause is stipulation attached to a law that causes it to expire either under certain conditions or at a certain time. These rituals were imposed until the time of reformation. This is the grandfather clause. These requirements, legally forced on the Israelites, were to last only for a certain period of time.

Jeremiah 7:22-24 says that when these people made the covenant with God, He did not speak about sacrifices. He only said, "Obey My voice." However, because they transgressed, something was added—imposed on them. It was as though these rituals were a penalty because they transgressed God's voice, yet it was to last only for a certain period of time.

This is similar in concept to what we have today when a convicted person is required to check in with a parole officer for a given number of years, sentenced to perform a certain number of hours of community service, or ordered to attend certain classes and to refrain from engaging in particular privileges for a stipulated period.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 18)


 

 




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