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Posts Tagged ‘Priesthood of the Saints

The Levites: Picture of the NT Saints (Part Two)

In my previous post on the Levites, I noted the promises that God gave to them about Him being their lot, Him being their portion.  God Himself said that the Levites were to be consecrated unto Him (Numbers 3:11-13).  The Lord told the children of Israel that the Levites were to be His priests to approach Him on their behalf (Numbers 3:5-10).

Deuteronomy 18:1-2 was clear about the Levites and the Lord being their portion:

“The Levitical priests, all the tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel. They shall eat the Lord’s food offerings as their inheritance. 2 They shall have no inheritance among their brothers; the Lord is their inheritance, as he promised them.

When the children of Israel finally entered into the promise land, the Levites did not inherit the land as God would again be their portion.  Joshua 13:14 reads,

To the tribe of Levi alone Moses gave no inheritance. The offerings by fire to the Lord God of Israel are their inheritance, as he said to him.

How does this picture the NT saint?

First, we are chosen in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3-14).  Those who are in Christ Jesus by faith are His elect (1 Timothy 4:10).

Secondly, in Christ we are all priests before God.  1 Peter 2:9 reads,

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Notice that the disciple of Jesus is a royal priesthood.  All disciples are priests unto God in Christ Jesus (Revelation 1:6).  Through Christ we are all equally able to come into God’s presence because of the work of Christ, our faithful High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16).  As Hebrews 13:15 reminds us:

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

Thirdly, there no longer remains a special group of people who do the priestly duties.  The Roman Catholic Church incorrectly carried over both the Levitical priesthood and combined it with paganism.  The Protestant Reformers did not go further enough to not just preach salvation through faith in Christ Jesus alone but they failed to dethrone men from the pope’s chair.  In exchange for one pope, the Protestants, in some ways, now have thousands.  The modern clergy-laity system does not find its roots in the New Testament but in the Old Testament with the Levites and with the Roman Catholics.

We need to see that our faithful high priest is Jesus and He is also our faithful pastor (John 10:11).  While the Church does have leaders, Jesus is the chief shepherd (1 Peter 5:4) and He is our shepherd and guardian of our souls (1 Peter 2:25).  Leaders are not there to rule over the people of God but to serve alongside them (Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Peter 5:1-4).  There is not one NT example of one man leading one church.  There are always elders leading (Acts 20:17; Titus 1:5) but not one elder.  Furthermore, there is never named one pastor.  Ironically, what is amazing in the NT letters is the lack of leadership as compared to the modern clergy-laity driven church model.  Only Philippians (1:1) mentions leaders at the start of the letter.  Only Philippians.

I am not advocating no leadership.  Jesus said we would have leaders but His example was one of servant leaders and not worldly leaders (Matthew 20:20-28; John 13:1-20).  We are to imitate our leaders (Hebrews 13:7) and their example is Jesus and not a worldly CEO.  We are to submit to such leaders (Hebrews 13:17 and notice the emphasis on plurality).

My point here is that clergy do not have special access to God.  Clergy may know more about the Bible only because of their training but this doesn’t have to be the case nor should be the rule.  All of us are equal at the cross (Galatians 3:26-29).  We have different gifts and roles but we all are able to come boldly before the Lord because of Christ.  Christ has fulfilled the Law and the old types is now complete in Him (Hebrews 10:1-4).  We have a new covenant in Christ Jesus (Hebrews 8:13).  This new covenant enables all of God’s people to come before Him now through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.  We don’t need a priest or a special place to worship God (nor even a special day as opposed to Sabbath keepers).  We can now worship, adore, praise, proclaim, and exalt the one true God at any time and any place.  He will never leave us nor forsake us for He is our portion and our delight.

The Levites: Picture of the NT Saint (Part One)

I have been reading through the Old Testament in my devotional reading and recently went through Deuteronomy.  I was struck by the Levites.  These Jews were selected by God Himself to serve Him in His holy place (Deuteronomy 10:8).  In fact, Yahweh said about the Levites in Numbers 3:12-13 (NKJV):

12 “Now behold, I Myself have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the children of Israel. Therefore the Levites shall be Mine, 13 because all the firstborn are Mine. On the day that I struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified to Myself all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast. They shall be Mine: I am the Lord.”

God claimed the Levites for His own.  They were to serve Him and He was to be their portion in the land.  While the other Israelites were to settle into the land of promise and obtain cities and farmland, the Levites, even among their fellow Jews, were to be consecrated unto the Lord.  Outsiders were not allowed into the Lord’s presence (Numbers 3:10) and God was to be the Levites reward for their sanctification.  Numbers 18:20 (NKJV) reads:

Then the Lord said to Aaron: “You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel.

Joshua, after dividing up the land for the Israelites, proclaimed in Joshua 13:33 (NKJV):

But to the tribe of Levi Moses had given no inheritance; the Lord God of Israel was their inheritance, as He had said to them.

The Open Study Bible gives the following information about the Levites.  Their duties were:

  • Serve the LORD (Deut. 10:8)
  • Serve the priesthood (Num. 3:5-9)
  • Attend the sanctuary duties (Num. 18:3)
  • Distribute the tithe (2 Chronicles 31:11-19)
  • Prepare sacrifices for priests (2 Chronicles 35:10-14)
  • Teach the people (2 Chronicles 17:8-11)
  • Declare the verdicts of Law (Deut. 17:9-11)
  • Protect the king (2 Chronicles 23:2-10)
  • Perform music (1 Chronicles 25:1-7)
  • Precede the army (2 Chronicles 20:19-21, 28)

The Levites were chosen by God’s sovereign choice (Numbers 17:7-11).

As New Testament disciples, we no longer have a special group of people who are priests unto the Lord while we laity are not.  God no longer has a priesthood other than the fact that Jesus Christ is our faithful high priest (Hebrews 4:14).  Jesus stands before a holy God for us and He makes intercession for us (Hebrews 4:15; 7:25).  Jesus rises even above the Levitical priesthood for two main reasons.  First, unlike the Levites, Jesus was absolutely perfect and holy (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15).  Jesus died for us and He didn’t need any blood shed for His forgiveness before God because He never sinned.  Jesus lived a perfect life under the Law and He fulfilled the Law for us (Galatians 3:13-14).  Hebrews 7:24-28 (NKJV) is powerful at this point:

24 But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.

Notice that the writer of Hebrews makes it clear that the human priests (other than Jesus) have to offer sacrifices for their own sins but not so with Christ.  He was perfect before God and He was able to fulfill Isaiah 53:4-6 and offer Himself to God for our sins.

Secondly, Hebrews 7:4-10 speaks of the Melchizedek priesthood which Jesus fulfilled.  The writer of Hebrews shows that the Melchizedek priesthood was superior to the Levitical priesthood in the foreshadowing of Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18-20).  Hebrews 7:11-24 speaks of the failure of the Levitical priesthood in that it featured a sinful priest and the priest died but not so with Jesus on either points.  Jesus was perfect and He lives forever (Hebrews 7:21).  Because Jesus lives forever, He is able to make intercession for us forever (Romans 8:34).

While the Levites in the Old Testament were sanctified by God to serve Him, the Lord Jesus was chosen by God to serve Him (1 Peter 1:20).  The writer of Hebrews repeats this over and over again citing Psalm 110:4 four times in the book of Hebrews to stress that the Lord Jesus was chosen by God to serve Him as our faithful high priest.  We now no longer look to earthly priests or temples or holy places or to animal sacrifices for our salvation but we look to our faithful high priest who has done the work of redemption for us.  When Jesus uttered “It is finished” in John 19:30, He was saying that the work of redemption was complete.  The perfect Lamb of God had given His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).  At that very moment, all earthly priests were now done.  Jesus and only Jesus would now be our faithful high priest.

Next we will look at how, through Christ, we are now priests unto God.  All of us.  There are no special priests in the kingdom of God.  There is only Jesus our Savior and faithful high priest who lives to make intercession for the saints of God and there are priests in His house who serve Him.  While we all have different gifts (1 Corinthians 12:7), all of us are equal before the Lord in terms of service unto Him and in terms of being His priests.  This is the wonder of God’s great salvation that He brought about through Christ alone.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

04/02/2014 at 6:48 PM

Jesus is the Head of the Church And We Are All Priests

Jesus is the Head of His Church:

Colossians 1:15-20

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Hebrews 13:20-21

20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Revelation 1:17-20

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. 19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. 20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

And all disciples of Christ are all equal priests before God:

1 Peter 2:5-10

5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”

8 and

“A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Revelation 1:4-8

4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia:

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Galatians 3:26-29

26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Ephesians 2:19-21

19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

And Christ alone is our Master and God (Luke 6:46-49).  Jesus alone is our true shepherd (John 10:14; 1 Peter 5:4).  We need only to pray to Him and through Him (John 14:13-14; Hebrews 7:25).  He alone is our mediator before God (1 Timothy 2:5-6).  His blood alone cleanses us from all sin and His blood was shed once and for all at the cross (Hebrews 9:11-14).  He is not sacrificed over and over again through vain rituals but His blood was shed once and we need only to have our faith in Him to be forgiven (Acts 13:38-39; Ephesians 1:7).  There are no co-mediators, no special priests, no special “services” but Jesus alone who saves us and who is our redeemer.  We are not saved by any good works but through faith alone in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).  This is the hope of the gospel and it brings peace with God (Romans 5:1-11).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/14/2013 at 10:00 AM

The House of God?

However, the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands.

– Acts 7:48 NASB

In 1 Corinthians 6:19 Paul says that we are the temples of the Holy Spirit.  Earlier in 1 Corinthians 3:16 Paul said that the Church is God’s temple.  So which is it?  Are we as individuals the temple of God or is the Church His temple?  The answer is of course that both are.  Because the Church is composed of people within whom the Spirit of God dwells (Romans 8:9) then the Church also is God’s temple since He dwells in us (1 Peter 2:4-10).

Yet the reality is that there is nothing in the New Testament to suggest that God dwells in places such as buildings or holy edifices such as temples.  In fact, Stephen said in Acts 7:48 that God does not dwell in houses made by hands (ESV).  Stephen goes on to quote Isaiah 66:1-2 where God Himself says that nothing can possibly contain Him.  Not even the temple in the Old Testament could house the entire presence of God.  How could it?  What could contain the presence of God?  In 1 Kings 8:27 Solomon says even the highest heavens could not contain the presence of God.  God is omnipresent.  He is a present help in times of trouble said the psalmist in Psalm 46:1.

So if God does not dwell in houses made by hands and if nothing can fully contain the presence of God and if we, as disciples of Jesus Christ, are His temples then why do we often refer to a building as “the house of God.”  I was raised to believe that the building we went to and called “church” was “the house of the Lord.”  I can still hear the Sunday school leader saying, “Welcome to the house of God.”  When I was baptized in 1992, I still believed that the building should be called the house of God.  Yet all this begin to change as I studied the New Testament.  I became convinced that the building is not the church nor is it the house of the Lord.  God does not dwell in houses made by men.  He dwells in me!

Once again we have adopted Old Testament language when we speak of the New Testament Church.  Just as the old covenant had priests so we have priests (clergy) and just as the Levites collected tithes for Israel, so we teach this for the NT clergy.  Just as the sons of Aaron ministered before the Lord at the tent of meeting and then in the temple so we refer to the NT clergy ministering before the Lord in the church building that we call “the house of God.”

The problem with this teaching is twofold.  First, the teaching is just not biblical to teach that a building is the so-called “house of the Lord.”  Secondly, it confuses people who think that at church we must sit quietly or offer incense or say prayers or do other sacred rituals but then we go home to our house and do what we like.  The reality is that a building is not the house of God.  His people are!  We are to be holy at all times (1 Peter 1:15-16) and not because we are in a building.  No building is holy.  Only the person is.  Children grow up thinking, as I did as a child, that God lives in a building that we call “church.”  But the reality is that He doesn’t.  It’s just a building that will burn like all other buildings.  So much money and time are wasted on buildings that will not last instead of pouring that money into helping people and evangelizing the world for Jesus Christ.  How much more could be done for the kingdom of God if buildings didn’t stand in the way.

Just remember this truth: you are the temple of God and everywhere you go, He goes!  Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God who dwells in us His people (Colossians 3:17).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/11/2011 at 9:54 AM

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