The Christian Priesthood
John E. Todd, Chesterfield, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
To be born into a tribe of Levi and the family of Aaron was a high honour in Israel. The healthy male thus honoured was eligible for the priestly office, Lev. 21. 16-24. For the Christian, irrespective of sex, age or any other consideration, is the high honour of being born again into the priestly office under the new covenant. 'Into him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father', Rev, 1. 5-6.
The priests of Aaron's line under the old covenant performed their priestly office by making offerings and sacrifices to God. What does the Christian priest offer to God? 'An holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ', 1 Pet. 2. 5. The old priesthood offered material sacrifices of incense and animals, but the new priesthood offers spiritual sacrifices. What exactly are these spiritual sacrifices?
If offerings to God are to be acceptable to Him, these must be in accord with His wishes, as shown by the example of Cain and Abel, Gen. 4. 1-7. Under the old covenant precise instructions were given concerning the sacrifices to be made. For example, the offering of incense. Instructions were given concerning the altar on which the incense was to be offered, Exod. 30. 1; also the timing of the offering, vv. 7-8; also the composition and the use of the incense, vv. 34-38. In like manner the New Testament gives precise instructions to the Christian priest concerning his or her offerings and sacrifices to the Lord.
What then are these spiritual offerings? 'By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name', Heb. 13. 15. 'The sacrifice of praise' from lips that thankfully reverence His authority. As we gather before God in the name of His Son, specially when we gather to the table to remember the Lord, our hearts overflow with praise, the overflow being expressed with our lips. The scriptural avenues for this audible overflow of praise are singing and praying. Singing, 'psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord', Col. 3. 16. Praying, 'After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name', Matt. 6. 9. Nothing is said in the New Testament about dancing, shouting, noise (clapping and stamping) or even music. Although common sense would advise music where this is necessary to make the singing possible, but music of itself is not a means of praise. Praise is expressing in words the appreciation of grateful hearts responding to God.
'But to do good and to communicate (share) forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased', Heb. 13. 16. The Christian's priestly work is not confined to periods of praise. He or she functions in the priestly office all day long, for our conduct is also an offering to God. Every act of loving-kindness, in word or deed, rises as sweet incense to God. All that God sees in our conduct of His Son's example and teaching is as sweet incense to Him, 'For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ', 2 Cor. 2. 15. Our lives as Christians, however seemingly humdrum, are lived out in the presence of God. Every attitude, word and deed can be an offering to the Creator of the universe, our heavenly Father.
But God requires from His new priesthood more offerings even than praise and conduct. '1 beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service', Rom. 12. 1. The supreme offering to be made by the Christian priest is of himself to God. In the light of God's offering of His own Son for us, this is only reasonable. But what does this mean in practice? We are told in Romans 12. 2, 'Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove (that is 'do') what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God'. It means a complete revolution in the standards by which we live. 'Be not conformed to this world'. A complete revolution in our attitudes and ambitions, 'Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind'. A complete revolution in our conduct, 'Prove what is that good . . . will of God'.
As we, as Christian priests, seek to offer to God our praise, our conduct, our very selves, we have a source of great encouragement for our priestly work. We have over us our great high priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, 'We have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession', Heb. 4. 14. One who is uniquely fitted to lead us in our high office, 'For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin', v. 15. So, in confident prayer we can draw upon Him for all the resources needed to fulfil our sacred office as Christian priests. 'Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need', v. 16.
AUTHOR PROFILE: John has been constributing articles to assembly magazines since 1986. together with his wife he began work amongst children that led to establishment of the assembly. Now he serves the assembly as an elder and in the ministry of God's word.