Monday, June 25, 2007

Human Altars

First, I think it's clear that Christians are temples, both individually (1 Co 3.16, 6.19) and corporately (2 Co 6.16, Eph 2.21-22), because the Holy Spirit indwells us. It always amazes me to consider that the theophanic glory-cloud that led Israel out of the wilderness and that indwellt Solomon's temple (2 Chr 5.13-14), also indwells the church and me. And it makes me wonder that the glory of God that was so intense that Moses and the priests could not enter the tabneracle or temple (Ex 40.34-35, 2 Chr 5.14) now indwells me.

The implications of this are absolutely stunning, not just for me personally (although that is plenty stunning), but understanding that every church and every Christian is a temple of this Spirit. What hope has the devil when the Spirit dwells in a billion, mobile temples throughout the world?

But back to the new thought (at least new to me): I wonder if we can push a little further and conclude that believers are altars as well. Here's why I'm wonder this.

First, in Exodus 24, Moses takes the basin of blood and sprinkles both the altar (v. 6) and the people (v. 8). Further, God tells Moses that altars need to be made of earth (Ex 20.24), which of course is what God made people out of as well (Gn 2.7). So, too, a comment on CPA's website suggested that the application of the blood to the priests in Lev 8 (vv. 23 in particular, but see also v. 30) was an application of blood parallel to that placed on the "horns of the altar" (Lev 4.18), but I think I'd be more willing to take it merely as a way of sprinkling "around" the altar, as possibly suggested in Ex 29.20. Whichever it is, the upshot would be that the priests here are being consecrated as "altars."

In the New Testament, we of course offer sacrifices (Heb 12.15-16, what the confessions call "eucharistic" sacrificies, since only Jesus' sacrifice is propitiatory). These sacrifices are "a fragrant aroma" (Phil 4.18, cf., Eph 5.2), which echoes God's response to some of the OT sacrifices (Lev 1.9, 13 & etc.).

But more than that, it seems as though we don't just make offerings to God, we are the offering as well, of God to God. As the sacrifices of old, the Word cuts us apart (Heb 4.12, cf., Acts 5.33, 7.54, 2.37), and the fire burns us up (Lk 24.32, Acts 2.3, 1 Co 3.13 (maybe), cf., Lev 1.9 & etc.). We die, but are resurrected, as Luther discusses in the context of baptism in the Small Catechism.

I'm entirely comfortable with the temple stuff. I'm not so sure about the altar stuff, but I thought it might be worth mentioning.


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