After instructing Moses about Aaron and his sons, God concludes with the following:
“Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the door of the tabernacle of meeting and wash them with water. You shall put the holy garments on Aaron, and anoint him and consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest. And you shall bring his sons and clothe them with tunics. You shall anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may minister to Me as priests; for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations.”
Thus Moses did; according to all that the LORD had commanded him, so he did, Exodus 40:12-16.
There’s a great deal more about Moses and Aaron in Exodus than these few verses, but they are a concise account of Aaron and his sons being consecrated as and beginning their responsibilities as priests. I’m not so much interested in this priesthood, though I have a few thoughts, as I am about the priesthood to which it pointed and that succeeded it: the priesthood of the Lord Jesus.
One thing that has struck me in view of the importance of these men all throughout the Old Testament is the fact that there is no “office” of priest listed for the New Testament church. Pastors and deacons, yes and only; “priests”, not at all. Historically, the idea has come from those religious organizations who have attempted to mold the New Testament church using Old Testament patterns. Hence, we have world-wide organizations with a “headquarters” in some earthly city, hierarchies of officials over and above a local pastor, fancy buildings, Bible colleges and seminaries, and all sorts of “programs.” The local church, the local assembly, is all but irrelevant, except to pay the salary of the hierarchy and for all the other stuff.
Yes, they protest, but we need all these things!
The early church did alright without them.
God intended the local church to be all that believers needed for fellowship and teaching, 1 Timothy 3:2; 2 Timothy 2:2, 24.
You might answer, “You went to Bible college!”
Yes, I did.
And I’m thankful for it, as I’ve said elsewhere. The thing is, and only God knows, what could the godly pastor of the church where the Lord Jesus brought me to Himself have taught an ignorant and wayward young man? And Claude Young, to keep at least the memory of his name alive, was a godly old man. What blessing could I have been to that church, to which I never returned except a couple to times to visit? What mutual blessing could there have been? As I said, only God knows.
But churches lose their young people – their future – to some far-away place, and it’s thought this is ok.
On the other side of this, we knew a pastor in one of these organizations, a good man, a godly man, who loved his people and they loved him. The organization to which he belonged decided he would be more useful translating the works of some obscure scholar of theirs whom no one had ever heard of. Never mind what his people or he thought about it or might want. He must leave his church. His people were heartbroken and so was he.
In answer to all this, the New Testament knows nothing of anything beyond or over a local assembly, free to associate with other assemblies, but also free from their interference and control. it’s true that the church at Jerusalem was the “important” church in its time, but it seems to have been replaced, as it were, by the church at Antioch, which itself is long gone. In any event, there is no Scriptural authority for the man-made organizations which have sprung up throughout church history which obscure and minimize the local assembly.
Having said all this about the New Testament, it’s not that I think the Old Testament isn’t important. Those of you who’ve followed this blog for any time as it enters its seventh year – thank you, Lord Jesus – know that I do. It’s just that we’re to be guided by the New Testament, – without ever forgetting the lessons of the Old. Cf. 1 Corinthians 10:1-11.
The Old Testament priest was the intermediary between the ordinary Israelite and God. Even he, though, was limited in this. He couldn’t just go into the tabernacle when he felt like it. The ordinary Israelite dare not!
The Old Testament priest had continually to offer animal sacrifices because, in the words of Hebrews 10:11, these sacrifices could never take away sins.
The office of Old Testament priest was hereditary, strictly limited to the family and descendants of Aaron.
The office of Old Testament priest, therefore, was “off-limits” to the average Israelite. Even a king could get into trouble for interfering, and did, 2 Chronicles 26:16-20.
The OT priest could not forgive sin nor do anything to correct the nature of the one bringing the sacrifice.
There’s only ever been One about whom it can truthfully be said that He forgives sin: “That you may know that the Son of Man has power [authority] on earth to forgive sin,” – then [Jesus] said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed and go to your house.” Matthew 9:5, 6. This incident is also recorded in Mark 2:10 and Luke 5:24.
The religious authorities of His time thought the Lord Jesus committed blasphemy because He dared to forgive sin, Matthew 9:3. We recorded part of our Lord’s response to that in the paragraph above, but in the verses before that, we read, knowing their thoughts, [He] said to them, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you.’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’?” emphasis added. One is as easy to say as the other, but only the Lord Jesus has the power and authority actually to do – actually to forgive sin.
No man-made priest or any earthly religious organization has that power or that authority – no matter what they claim.
The reason that there is no “office” of priest in the New Testament church is that it isn’t necessary. Believers themselves are considered “priests” in the New Testament.
1 Peter 2:5, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:9, But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (emphases added)
Through the Holy Spirit, every believer has access to the presence of God. We don’t need a priest, the church, Mary, saints…. The list goes on and on.
For through Him we both [that is, Jew or Gentile] have access by one Spirit to the Father, Ephesians 2:18.
Nor do we need for them to pray for us – at the hour of our death or any other time.
There’s only One to whom we need turn – in death or in life: the Lord Jesus Christ, Hebrews 3:1. He, and He alone, is our “High Priest.” We need no other.
He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them, Hebrews 7:25.