The churches of Christ Greet You (Romans 16:16)



Old Testament Priest

The Bible reveals that the Jewish high priest was chosen from among men. He was appointed to serve God for the Jewish people. He offered gifts and sacrifices to God for the people’s sins and his own sins. To become this high priest the Bible says, "No one, on his own, can take this honor; God must call him, just as He called Aaron” (Heb. 5:4).


God called His Jewish people out of Egyptian bondage to plant them in the Promised Land and make of them a free nation. As they traveled toward the Red Sea, God told Moses, “Sanctify unto me all the firstborn…among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine” (Ex. 13:1-15). He said to the children of Israel, “If you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you will be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people; for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Ex. 19:5-6).


Out of that nation God selected a group of men for the priesthood. Aaron and his sons were chosen: "And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him.... that he may minister unto me in the priest's office" (Ex. 28:1). While Moses was on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments, the Jewish people sinned and corrupted themselves in making a molten calf to worship. The tribe of Levi came forward at God’s call and killed about 3,000 of their sinful brethren (Ex. 32:1-8, 25-28). It is no wonder that God chose the Levites in place of the firstborn to minis­ter unto Aaron and do the service of the tabernacle (Num. 1:47-53; 3:2-13; 8:1-22).


Aaron and his sons became priests without choice on their parts. These men were in­ducted into office at the proper age by an imposing ceremony called "consecration" (Ex. 29) which required the slaughter of certain animals, the sprinkling of blood before the Mercy Seat and the donning of the priestly robes after a washing of the body which signified the purity of the lives they were to live and the purifying nature of the work they were to perform.


Theirs was to be a perpetual priesthood with special emoluments and great honors. Aaron was the first high priest, to whom was given the gorgeous priestly robes for "glory and for beauty" which set him aside from the common people with great responsibilities to perform as the religious leader of the nation. The special work with their free cities and emoluments, made the priesthood a very attrac­tive and lucrative office; and no one not of Aaron's descent could ever hope to attain to that high office where every need was sup­plied by the bountiful provisions of the law. The rest of Israel could only bring their offerings to the tabernacle and watch with reverent interest while the priests offered their sacrifices unto the Lord.


Even the work of the common priests was limited. They could only perform the daily duties in the holy place and offer the morning and evening sacrifices upon the brasen altar outside the tabernacle. The most holy place, with its sacred “Ark of the Coven­ant" and golden Mercy Seat before which the atoning blood must be sprinkled yearly for Israel's transgressions, could be entered only by the High Priest and then only once a year on the great Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29-34; 23:26-28).


The Hebrew writer tells us that the ceremony on the Day of Atone­ment indicated that the way into the "holiest of all (heaven) was not yet made manifest" (Heb. 9:2-8). It pointed forward to that wonderful day when Christ as our great High Priest entered into heaven with His own blood "having obtained eternal redemption for us" (Heb. 9:9-12). Our redemp­tion was paid NOT with corruptible things (silver or gold) or the blood of bulls and goats, but with the precious blood of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:18-20; Rev. 13:8).


Those numerous, bloody animal sacrifices of the Old Testament could never take away sin; so when Christ came into the world He said, "You did not want a sacrifice or an offering. But You prepared a body for me. You were not pleased with burnt offerings or sin offerings" (Heb. 10:1-6). That terrible, agonizing death Christ endured on Calvary's tree, was the one perfect sacrifice by which the sins of mankind could be removed, for "by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Heb. 10:14).


Christ, the Branch, who was to be a "priest upon his throne" (Zech. 6:12-13), has by His authority as King of kings, changed the entire priest­hood: "Since there was a change in the kind of priests, there must also be a change of the law” (Heb. 7:12). When our atoning sacrifice was offered at that last great Passover, the rent veil of the temple gave testi­mony to all the Jews that the temple and its entire priesthood would no longer represent God to the Jewish nation, or the Israel of God. The blood line of Aaron no longer qualifies priests for service in the great spiritual Temple of God which has superceded and forever set aside that material one with its walls of burnished gold, its imposing ceremonies and bloody rites.


New Testament Priest

Of all the changes that were made in turning from the ma­terial to the spiritual, from the shadow to the substance, from the typical to the anti‑typical, no greater change was made than that which affected the priesthood. The sons of Aaron "served unto the example and shadow of heavenly things" (Heb. 8:5); but under Christ, our perfect High Priest we have "better sacrifices than these," and the glorious spiritual temple of God built with the "liv­ing stones" of redeemed souls, is not sanctified by the blood of ani­mals, but with the "precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot."


Jesus, our High Priest, was not made "after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life" (Heb. 7:16). Listen! You "also are like living stones. God is using you to build a spiritual house, so that you will be a holy group of priests, offering spiritual sacrifices which God will gladly accept through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5). How wonderful!


In this spiritual temple, the church of the living God, there are no separate favored classes, for "In Christ, there is no difference between Jew and non-Jew, between slave and free, between male and female. You are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28). Every sincere child of God, born through His infinite grace, is a priest fully qualified and empowered to enter into the sacred precincts of God’s holy temple, and there in grateful love "offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name" (Heb.13:15). For "he hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father" (Rev. 1:6).


We, as priests, wear no gorgeous material robes, dyed resplend­ent in purple, blue, and scarlet and embroidered with costly gold. But we wear the beautiful white garments of Christ's righteousness which in the sight of God is of great price. We burn no material incense upon a golden altar, but each day and hour we may offer unto the loving Father the incense of heartfelt praise before the throne of divine grace (cf. Rev. 5:8; 8:3-4). We light no lamps on a golden candlestick to dispel the gloom of approaching night! But daily we can walk in the light of the Savior’s word that lights the way to heaven (Ps. 119:105).


We eat not of material bread from the material table that can satis­fy only physical hunger; but we feast upon the bread of life, that satisfies every desire of the soul. We are not cumbered with the onerous duty of the daily slaughter of an innocent lamb, and the burning of its body on the brasen altar; but at all times our own bodies, alive and consecrated to God, can be offered a "living, holy, pleasing sacrifice to God" (Rom. 12:1-2).


How greatly we are honored. It is not for us to stand back inac­tive and unhonored while others approach God through the public ministry of His spiritual service; but each redeemed soul laden with the offering of his deep gratitude and thankfulness, can approach the altar of an all loving Father and give of his best to the service.


Our superiority is not in the blood line of remote ancestors; but through the obedience of faith which makes us "new creatures" in Him. As God's own children we are "heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ" of a land that is "fairer than day." Many times we wonder if the average Christian realizes the exalted honor he is accorded, as God's priest; or of the glory and dignity of the great work he can perform in the spiritual ministry of Christ. There is no greater neglect than that of our privileges as the children of God. To assist in the worship of God is not a mere duty ‑ it is a glorious honor and there is truly no honor in avoiding that which will bring us closer to God through active service to Him.


The Catholics and most of the denominations have their spec­ial clergy to perform all the public functions of worship, and are thus denied the satisfaction of a personal approach unto God. In the congregations of the churches of Christ we must be careful NOT to allow the one ministering before us to become an obstruction between the Christians and God. Some ministers become the "Bur­eaucrats" of the church with their special emoluments, exalted posi­tion, and usurped authority as the ONLY ones to "speak unto edi­fication" to God's children. Their position as "The Edifier" or “The Minister” of the as­sembly corresponds exactly to that of the Jewish priesthood, who as a special class were the only ones to offer the sacrifices unto the Lord. In promoting these One Man Shows, we have gone back to the law, and have forsaken the true spirit of the Gospel that makes us all "kings and priests unto God."


The Corinthian brethren were ex­horted to speak unto edification and all were given gifts to use, whereby the entire church, as the Lord's priests, might magnify the Lord through the offering of their spiritual sacrifices (1 Cor. 12-14). The Roman brethren received commendation from Paul because they were able to admonish one another, being filled with all goodness and knowledge (Rom. 15:14). The Thessalonians were to comfort one another through edification given by them­selves (1 Thess. 5:11). The Ephesians were taught that they could edify themselves through the work of every member of the entire body cooperating together as the Lord's, priests in the ministry of His spiritual temple (Eph. 4:16).


This is the Lord's plan, and we change it at our own peril. It is time to let every servant of the Lord learn through consecrated development to exer­cise all prerogatives as priests in doing the work the Lord has laid upon each one "unto the edifying of the body in love" and we will all find happiness, peace, and contentment to a far greater degree than we've yet experienced.


In all worship, the primary purpose is two‑fold: (1) the glori­fication of God, and (2) the spiritual edification of the worshiper. For many, the value of the worship service is judged solely by the spirit­ual benefit one feels he has obtained from the experience. The chief reason offered by those who formerly were ac­customed to participating in the public worship for having aban­doned it is that they "got nothing from it." So an es­pecially trained and qualified speaker must now do all the work for the edification of the church. The sermon is too often and wrongfully the center around which all other elements of public worship, now regarded as merely incidental, re­volve.


This is a total misconception of religion or worship. It is not what one gets from a sermon or a service that counts; but what one gives out of his own heart to God; for worship is an act, not a mere passive state. You are not truly worshiping God if you merely sit and listen to others sing, pray, or preach. In worship it is true, one should receive grace from God; but in worship as in ordinary affairs of life, one gets out of it only in proportion to what they put into it, and every Chris­tian priest is under obligations to actively participate in the wor­ship of God by their own acts of singing, praying, or teaching.


In all true worship the soul communes with God, and religion is a direct personal relationship between the soul and God. In the worship, every heart should be praying and praising God. We should worship as much to give as to receive, and it is not what one "gets out of it" but what one puts into it that will most satis­fy the soul's longing for God and a higher life. We should ever remember that Christ's statement, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35) applies to worship just as much as it does in material fellowship.


Under the Jewish law each priest "executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course" (Luke 1:8). The same thing should be true, in general, of the spiritual priests of the Lord today. We should practice being priests, not merely profess being priests without performing the duties and accepting the obligations of the priesthood. No one can worship God by proxy.

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