Reading: Ezekiel 43.
In verses 13 to 27 we have the great altar and its service. We
will not read the whole section, but just the first verses of that
section: "And these are the measures of the altar by cubits; the
cubit is a cubit and a handbreadth; the bottom shall be a cubit,
the breadth a cubit, the border thereof by the edge thereof round
about a span; and this shall be the base of the altar."
Then we are given more particulars about the measurement and the
ministry. We all understand that the altar in the Old Testament is
always a type of the Cross. This altar is the place of the whole
burnt offering. This corresponds to Hebrews, chapter 11, where the
Lord Jesus is likened to the whole burnt offering. So we are
going, this morning, to think about the centrality and the
universality of the Cross.
Now, we have seen that the whole area of the temple was square.
If we draw diagonal lines from each corner, those lines meet at
the place where the great altar was. The central place in the
whole area was the altar. You will recognise that this is
different from the tabernacle in the wilderness. The court of the
tabernacle was not square, and the altar of burnt offering was
right at the gate, but in this temple the altar is right in the
centre of a square. It is important to realise that. All the lines
meet in the altar, and all the lines go out from the altar. The
central place of everything is the altar.
This represents the temple, and I would like you to know that
this is not drawn to scale. Probably my temple is bigger than the
actual temple was, but I've only put it there to show you the
position. The actual temple was there, this is the whole temple
area, and the central place of all is the altar.
The altar governed everything. It governed everything as to the
house; that is, all that was actually in the temple was governed
by the altar. It governed all that was immediately around the
house. If you had a plan of this whole house, with the different
course and the whole area, you would see that all the chambers of
the priests were round about and the places where the offerings
were prepared were all round. Everything was gathered round the
house, but everything in the house and in the whole area was
governed by the altar.
And then, all the ministry of the House was governed by the
altar. We could say that there was no ministry that was not
related to the altar. And then beyond the house, and beyond the
immediate area, right out to the whole land, everything was
governed by the altar. We shall see that when we see that the
river, which came down through the whole land, came by way of the
altar, but we turn inside first.
Here we have a very important and vital truth. When the Cross
is in its place, with its full measure, everything else will be
in order, and everything else will be given its meaning and its
value. I feel that I cannot say this too strongly. We are so
often concerned about the outside things, about the order
of the House of the Lord, about the ministry of the House
of the Lord, about the people who are related to the House
of the Lord. We are always beginning on the outside. We are trying
to set up an order of the House of God. We are trying to put the
people of the House right. We are very much concerned about the
ministers, and the ministries. But if the Cross was really in its
place with its full dimensions, all those things would see to
themselves. The people would be right if the Cross was in its
place. The ministries would be living if the Cross was in its
place. The order of the House would be right if the Cross was in
its place. It just does work that way. If the Cross is right at
the centre in full measure, and note that it is a large
altar, then everything else will come into its right place and
into a living relationship.
Although it is not said so here, I think we are right in
concluding that this altar was of brass. The altar in the
tabernacle was of brass, the altar in Solomon's temple was of
brass, and I think we can assume that this altar was of
brass. We have already met brass. We have met brass in the Man in
the gate, and we have said that with His reed He measured
everything according to what He was. Brass is the type of the
righteous judgments of God. This great altar represents the
fullness of the righteous judgments of God. This altar of brass is
measured by the Man of brass, so that this altar represents God's
thoughts in judgment.
In this altar of whole burnt offering, the one unrighteous man is
completely removed. That altar of brass sees one man
brought to ashes. The ashes were taken from this altar and emptied
onto the ground at the side of the altar. That is a picture of
God's Mind about the unrighteous, or the natural man. He is
consumed in the fire of God's judgment, he is reduced to ashes,
and he is poured out on the ground. That is God's mind about the
natural man. On the other side, it is only the righteous man that
can stand here in the presence of this altar. Of course, those are
the two sides of the Person and work of the Lord Jesus. On the one
side He was made sin for us, and in that capacity He was wholly
consumed and brought to ashes. When He cried, "My God, My God, why
hast Thou forsaken Me" - it was the cry of the ashes! He
had been brought to ashes and poured out on the ground.
But then there was the other side of the Cross - "He knew no
sin". In Himself, there was no unrighteousness, and therefore He
can go through the altar, He can live after the
fire! "Thou wilt not suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption" because
in Himself there was no sin, He could not be holden of death. His
own nature could overcome all the righteous judgments of God. This
is the meaning of the great altar: one man is brought to an end,
and Another Man stands in his place. Everything has been
judged at the altar. Everything is judged in the Cross.
We have been judged in the Cross of the Lord Jesus and in our own
selves we have been brought to an end. Everything of the
natural has been judged and brought to an end in the Cross of the
Lord Jesus. It is a very important thing to recognise
that! You see, that makes anything possible. That is why I have
said that if the Cross is in its place, everything else will be
right. The House will be right; that is, the Church will be right.
The ministry will be right. The order will be right. You will not
have to go to work to try and bring about a right order, it
spontaneously comes out of the work of the Cross. I do hope that
you're writing that in your minds.
You may meet disorders in the House of God. You may meet the
natural man in the House of God. You may meet conditions which are
all wrong in the House of God. How are you going to deal with
them? You can only deal with them by the principle of the Cross.
You cannot deal with the people themselves, you cannot deal with
the things themselves; but if only you can bring the Cross
into that situation, you have solved the whole problem.
I remember many years ago I was speaking in America and I was
asked to go and speak to the teachers of a great Sunday School.
You may know that in America Sunday School does not mean little
children, Sunday School means adults just as much as little
children. And this was one of the biggest Sunday Schools in
America. It was in one of the most famous churches in America.
They had everything that you could think of. Right in the centre
of the great Sunday School building there was a pond and a
fountain and goldfish! Up at the back of the great building was a
wonderful pipe organ and then there was an echo organ; there was a
chime of bells attached to the organ. And I could go on describing
this wonderful Sunday School.
The Superintendent of that Sunday School asked me to go out to
lunch with him; this was before I was to speak to all the
teachers. At the lunch table he told me a very terrible story. He
said, "Mr Sparks, I want your help. I have a great problem in this
Sunday School: I cannot get my teachers to study the Bible and
teach the Bible. They bring anything along to the Sunday
School and read it to the classes. Any book that has anything of
religion in it, they bring that and read that as their lesson to
the class. They are worldly people. They will not come to
a prayer meeting and I cannot do anything with them. I dare not
say anything, or they would resign. What am I to do? Will you
please give me the solution to my problem?"
I said, "Yes, I think I've got the solution." So I took my Bible
and I opened it at Romans 6. Now, everybody here knows Romans 6!
And I went through Romans 6 with him, and I said, "What you need
to do is to speak to these teachers about their identification
with Christ in death, and burial, and resurrection. In other
words, you must make them see the meaning of the Cross." And I
spoke to him about the meaning of union with Christ, that is, the
real meaning of the Cross. And as I spoke to him about that, I saw
the light coming into his face.
He said, "Mr Sparks, you have solved my problem! You have put
your finger on the key to the whole situation. I myself have never
seen that before, therefore, in my teacher training classes, I
have never said anything like that! I believe if I go back to my
teacher training classes with that message, it may solve my
Well, I went to the teachers that afternoon, you can be sure that
I felt the Lord had given me my message, and I spoke to them about
the Cross. I was very surprised to see how attentive they were,
they all opened their eyes and followed every word that I said.
They had never seen it before! I do not know what permanent effect
it had upon them. I never heard of what happened afterward, I had
to go away, but there's no doubt about it, the Cross made an
impression that day! And at least one man saw that it would solve
all the problems if only they realised it. If only the Cross had
its place, all the other problems would be solved. It is like
that. We do not start from the outside. We do not start with the
people. We do not start with the order of the Lord's House. We do
not start with the ministry - we start with the Cross. And if only
people see the Cross, everything else would put itself
Everything is Judged by the Cross
Now I am going to indicate something to you that I shall not be
able to follow through. If brother Wei would just put his fingers
in his ears for a minute, and a few other people, I will tell you
that I think this is what the Lord is saying to me for Hong Kong
next week. So if you want to hear it all, you must all come to
Hong Kong next week! But I just give you the outline.
The letter to the Romans is the message of the Cross in its full
measure. In that letter to the Romans, you see the great
measurement of the Cross. There the Cross comprehends all
things. It brings the whole race in Adam to an end, and it
begins an entirely new race in Christ risen!
It is very impressive that the first of these letters should put
the Cross there in its full measurement. You all know that the
letter to the Romans was not the first letter written by Paul, but
the Holy Spirit has put it first in the arrangement. I think the
Holy Spirit had something to do with the arrangement of the books
in the New Testament, and in His sovereign arrangement of this
book, He has put the altar in its fullness right at the beginning.
Well, of course, you'll have to recall all that you know about the
letter to the Romans to see that.
In the first letter to the Corinthians, the Cross is applied to
the natural and the carnal man inside the Church. The
natural and the carnal man has come in where he has no right to
be. This unrighteous man has slipped in through the gate, and so
the apostle brings Christ crucified over against the natural and
the carnal man. The Cross in 1 Corinthians has to do with that
man, not outside the Church as in Romans, but inside the Church.
The second letter to the Corinthians sets the Cross in relation
to ministry. That letter shows us that ministry flows out of a
broken and a humbled vessel. I can only say these things and leave
the full explanation.
The letter to the Galatians, in that letter the Cross is brought
down upon making Christianity into another legal system, and
bringing Christians into bondage. How strong the apostle is in
that letter, but see how he uses the Cross! He uses the Cross tremendously
against that effort to make Christianity into a legal system, and
to bring believers into bondage again.
In the letter to the Ephesians, the work of the Cross is to put
the Church on heavenly ground. The Cross in Ephesians completely
cuts the Church off from all earthly ground. It puts the Church
outside of time. It puts the Church outside of the world.
The letter to the Philippians, the Cross in Philippians is
applied to that which is spoiling the harmony of the Lord's
people. There is a painful dislocation inside the Church. There is
a spot where things are unhappy; that is because of personal
interests and pride. Some people will not let go their personal
interests. Some people will not let go their pride. They have been
offended and they are not going to forgive. So the apostle brings
the Cross in there over against this discord and dislocation, and
he points out that if only the Cross were in those lives,
everything would be put right.
The letter to the Colossians - this letter shows that the Cross
delivers from all false spirituality. The Cross sets aside all
that is mere mysticism, and everything that would make Christ less
than He is.
The letters to the Thessalonians. Here the Cross is the strength
for suffering and inspiration unto the coming of the Lord. There
may not be much said about the Cross actually, but the principle
of these letters is the principle of the Cross. The people were
suffering for Christ's sake. They were suffering the loss of all
things, and they had thought that the Lord would have come to
deliver them and the Lord is delaying His coming. So the apostle
tells them that their sufferings will issue in the coming of the
Lord and glory. These sufferings are suffering with Christ. They
are sufferings for Christ's sake: it is fellowship in the Cross,
but the sufferings issued in the glory. The Lord is coming, and
then it will be all right. The Cross has a very real message for
And then we just conclude this survey with the letter to the
Hebrews. In the letter to the Hebrews, the Cross shows how everything
is brought to fullness and to finality.
Now all this relates to the House on its inside. It touches
conduct. It touches character. It touches order. It touches
ministry. If the Cross is in its place, everything will be
Now, I have not just given you some Bible teachings, I know that
this is true. I could tell you a story out of personal experience;
I have seen all these problems solved just by preaching the Cross.
I have seen a revolution in a church just by preaching the Cross.
I have seen the Lord producing His new order just by preaching the
Cross. The Cross is the key to everything!
Then, what is true on the inside is also true on the outside. It
is the Cross which effects the whole range of the Church's
influence. The river comes by way of the Cross. That is the
influence that goes out from the sanctuary to the whole land. It
is the Cross which gives effectiveness to the ministry to
the whole world. So the apostles preached everywhere Christ
And then we note another thing: the altar was the great defensive against the
If you look in the book of Ezra in chapter 3, and verse 3, you
have this: "They set the altar in its place, for fear of
the peoples of the land was upon them..." Because fear of
the people of the land was upon them, they put the altar in its
place. The Cross is a great defensive - the Cross defends
us from... [Unfortunately the recorded message ends here]