There was a time when God intended the Bible to be a source of information about how to conduct rituals in His name. For example, the book of Leviticus prescribed the proper way to sacrifice a lamb and the book of Exodus tells how to prepare and conduct a passover meal. Today’s Jews make no attempt to sacrifice lambs but many do practice the Passover meal. Churchgoers tell them, “Celebrating a feast for your ancestry is all well and good but you are missing the larger importance of these Scriptural passages: they speak of Jesus the Messiah, who was the Lamb of God sacrificed for us and who Himself is our Passover from sin.” The churchgoers are right, yet they themselves practice the rituals of baptism and communion, missing the more important realities to which they point (immersion in the presence of God and fellowship with His Holy Spirit). It’s as if they’ve forgotten that the Lord Himself said that the flesh profits nothing while it is the spirit that gives life.
Jesus was the last and greatest of Israel’s long line of prophets. He came to bring in a time when humanity would not worship God in a specific place or building, but in spirit and in truth. He called this age “the kingdom of God” or “the kingdom of heaven.” The prophets who had preceded Him often called it “the day of the Lord.” By whatever name you call it, Jesus inaugurated an age in which the rituals of the Bible were revealed to have greater and more important spiritual meanings. We who live in that age are to abide by these spiritual realities and not remain bound to the rituals that foreshadowed them.
God has always wanted righteousness from us more than rituals. The only reason He ever prescribed rituals was to prepare the way for Jesus – giving us a context for His life and revealing all sorts of truth in the process. If we could have understood Jesus without all the context then Jesus would have been the first child born to Adam and Eve instead of coming dozens of generations after Abraham. As it was, we needed the context of a nation and its national documents to both attest to and explain the life of God’s Messiah.
Now that Messiah has come, and especially now that He has been revealed to be God Himself, we can look beyond the instructions about washings, feasts, and gatherings. We can look to Him to whom they all point. But if we continue to look at them instead of Him, we miss the point!
How many churches, denominations, and cults do we have today who claim as their charter the letter of some passage of Scripture, obscuring the greater importance of its spirit? Such groups can promote religious forms but they have no power against the temptations of sin. Thus all the sins and afflictions that visit society at large, visit the churches, denominations, and cults to the same degree.
Therefore, turn from these vain religious forms and serve the Lord by simply living a righteous life in His sight. His followers are to be “little Christs” (hence the name “Christian”) who, like Him, lay down their lives for those around them. Don’t tell anyone that you’re going to give up what you want for their good – just do it. Do it for Him and He will notice. When you’re alone, be with Him. Talk to Him and listen to Him. When you’re with others, live for them in His name. A cup of cold water given to one who is thirsty is better than a thousand trips to church.