“We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.” (Hebrews 13:10–12, AV)
When I served in the military, one of the things I heard was, “Rank has its privileges.” As a 2nd Lieutenant, I would watch the senior officers in the field and see that they often had nicer sleeping arrangements, better food, heated vehicles to ride around in, and did not have to trek by foot through mud as often as I did. Of course, I had it a bit better than the troops that were under my command also. When I was promoted to Battalion staff, I experienced even more privileges. It was true, “Rank has its privileges.”
Here, the author indicated that those of true faith in Jesus have a special altar that those who serve in the earthly Tabernacle had no right to eat. So, what does he mean by this? He goes on the describe the duty of the high priest on the Day of Atonement when the blood of the sacrifice was presented in the holiest place (v11). On that day, the priests were not permitted to eat of the meat of the sacrifice but it was burned outside the camp. Then the author indicated that similarly, Jesus suffered outside the gate so that He could sanctify those who would believe. (To sanctify means to make holy.)
While there are many interpretations of this, when we look at all three verses together it tells us that we have a privileged position. The altar we have is a spiritual one, it is Jesus Christ. We are privileged to come to this altar by faith and experience something that those who served in the earthly Tabernacle did not. We partake of Jesus and His holiness. This is an extremely privileged position. We are not holy because we have become good through our own effort. Jesus, by shedding His own blood has done the work by which we have been made holy.
Sometimes it is good for us to have a humble understanding of our privileged position in Christ. We have been sanctified. We have been blessed. When we understand our privileged position, that we have been clothed with Christ’s righteousness, and separated from sin, we should be inspired to pursue His holiness all the more. Peter wrote, “but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15–16, ESV).