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 Priesthood of the Believer

The New versus the Old

John Hoole February 27, 2005

1 Peter 2:4-10 (NIV)

4. As you come to him, the living Stone - rejected by men but choses by God and precous to him -
5. You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy preisthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
6. For in Scripture it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.
7. Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone."
8. And. "A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message - which is also what they were destined for.
9. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
10. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have receive mercy.

I watched a show where scientists tried to make a smaller model of the great pyramids, to learn how the ancients had accomplished the feat. They measured and cut the giant stone which would servce as the guide and cornerstone. As they levered the other stones on top it, it became clear that their original calculations were wrong and their pyramid would remain fatally flawed.

In the ancient world, precise stone work was crucial to any major building project. 15 months ago, I was standing near the Sphinx in Giza, Egypt. I was fascinated by their stonework and took this picture. It testifies to why these edifices have stood for centuries.

In the Passage we just read, Peter uses the metaphor of stonework in order to communicate to us our collective identity in Christ. He speaks of us as "living stones" which are used to build a spiritual temple. But he also refers to the believer as a Holy Priesthood serving in that same temple which is the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The tower of Pisa had a problem with its foundaqtion. It became a source of shame for its builders. But verse 6, which we read a moment ago, tells us that those who build ont he foundation of our Lord Jesus Christ will never be put to shame.

Not everyone recognizes Him as the perfect foundation. Some chose to reject Him and build on their own foundation. For others, they look for another foundation. But those who have accepted the Lord as their Personal Savior have their lives build on the solid rock of His foundation. Twice in the Passage we read earlier, we find the members of the body of Christ described as a "priesthood." Over the past 4 or 5 lessons, we have looked at some of the details of the Old Testament priesthood. Here are some of the things that we have learned thus far:

1. When God delivered His people from Egypt, He wanted them all to be priests unto Him. Because they rejected His voice, He chose the sons of Levi as His tribe of priests.

2. At the time of the Exodus, Aaron, as the high priest, was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies only once each year.

3. The book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is a better High Priest.

4. Today, each believer now can go into the Holy of Holies, and not just the High Priest. And we can enter that place anytime we wish, not just once each year.

5. We have learned how the Tabernacle in the wilderness, with its sacrifices and furniture, are a picture, a shadow, of Jesus Christ.

6. We also saw how the steps leading from the eastern entrance to the Holy of Holies is a picture of the plan of salvation.

7. When Jesus gave himself as our sacrifice for sins, it was "once for all" and never needed to be made again.

The Children of Israel had been slaves in Egypt for probably hundreds of years. Egypt is a type and shadow of the world, with its sin, and Pharaoh is a type and shadow of Satan. Before Jesus came into our lives, we were slaves in this world, and Satan was the overlord of our lives. Paul tells us that when Jesus came into our lives, "He (God) delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us INTO the kingdom of His dear Son. Colossians 1:13 But, like Pharaoh of old, Satan will continue to pursue you and me and try to pull us back into bondage.

Another thing we have learned over the past several weeks is that the Old Testament Aaronic priesthood has been fulfilled and rendered obsolete. The sacrificial death of Jesus Christ annulled the Aaronic priesthood. That is what we have learned in the book of Hebrews over the past several weeks. There is no need to continue offering up literal sacrifices for our sins.

As the perfect Son of God and our High Priest,...

• Jesus offered his own body (Hebrews 10:10)

• He established a new covenant (Hebrews 9:15-22)...

• with better promises (Hebrews 8:6)...

• when He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice once for all... (Hebrews 7:27)

• and paid our ransom (Hebrews 9:15).

By His death, Christ a) took away our sins (Hebrews 9:28), b) obtained for us eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12), c) opened a new and living way in and through him to God's throne of grace and sat down at the right had of God (Hebrews 10:12), and d) made us perfect in our standing before God (Hebrews 10:14).

If the Aaronic priesthood was plagued by the imperfections of its priests, the priesthood inaugurated by our Lord is marked by the perfection and the holiness of Jesus Christ. Unlike the Old Testament priests, in Christ there was no sin. It is in those very areas where the old priesthood was weak and inadequate, that Christ has proven to be the perfect priest. The standards which God set for the priesthood and which men failed to meet are those which Christ has met fully.

Elements of the Old Testament priesthood which are still applicable for us today.

Let me now give you four areas where God's standard for the Old Testament priesthood can be seen as applicable to the New Testament priesthood.

1. Priesthood is bestowed upon all those who are a member of the right family.

The priesthood of the Old Testament was called the Aaronic priesthood because all the priests were the offspring of Aaron. They were members of his family. Only those in the family of Aaron could offer sacrifices and carry out duties in the holy place. God made Aaron high priest in such a sense that his life carried the priesthood to all his descendants. Through 1,500 years, a descendant of Aaron was priest, because he was a son of Aaron.

But consider the life - the divine life - of our High Priest! Priesthood is not something which men can bestow upon other men. Neither can the church bestow such privileges upon its members. It is the result of the new birth, which constitutes a person to be a child of God and thus in Christ. And all who are in the family of Christ, our Lord and Elder Brother, are blessed with all the benefits of priesthood.

He now invites every believer with a clean conscience (Hebrews 9:14) to enter the Holy of Holies by the blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:19), to offer continually spiritual sacrifices (Hebrews 13:15-16), as priests in Christ Jesus. In our one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5), Christians come immediately and directly into God's presence (Hebrews 4:16). We now all have access into the Holy of Holies because at the death of Christ, God rent the veil that had kept us out.

Priest are those whose sins have been atoned for, so that they are free to minister to other sinners. As sons and daughters of God, we are in the family who carries out the duties of priests.

Aaron was the first high priest and his sons were priests under him. So now Christ is the one and only heavenly High Priest, and His sons and daughters - believers in Jesus - form the present spiritual priesthood. Yes, Jesus Christ imports His own life to us. The priesthood has its roots in sonship.

2. God's priesthood is a holy priesthood.

In the Old Testament priesthood, even the garments they wore were called holy. Everything the Aaronic priests did was tied to holiness. It is still true today. To despise holiness is to despise the beauty of Jesus Christ. Holiness is not merely a list of external duties, but it is first and foremost a heart issue. To be holy is to be exclusively reserved or set apart for God. To be holy is God's requirement of each of us.

1 Peter 1:15-16 (NIV) says:

15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;
16 For it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." (a quote from Leviticus 11:44)

3. Priests must not do anything which dulls their sense of judgment about what they are doing.

We take our cue here from the story of the death of Nadab and Abihu.

Leviticus 10:1-3 NKJV

1 Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.
2 So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.
3 And Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD spoke, saying: 'By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.'" So Aaron held his peace.

The Old Testament priests were to keep themselves morally pure before God and others. There were certain things they could not do while on duty. For us, because we are never off duty, this is very important. We also cannot afford to do things that cloud our judgment.

4. The function of priests is to serve both God and mankind.

This is repeatedly affirmed in the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Hebrews 5:1 NASB

1 For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins;

Galatians 5:13 adds that we are to "serve one another in love."

These four aspects of the Old Testament priesthood are still applicable to us today. Now let's look at the other side of this coin.


1. We have a perfect High Priest - Jesus Christ our Lord.

Because He was perfect and totally without sin, it was not necessary for Him to offer a sacrifice for his own sins, like Aaron did. Not only was He a perfect High Priest, but He was also a perfect sacrifice. As all sacrifices, He had to perfect, without a blemish.

Leviticus 22:19-24 NKJV

19 You shall offer of your own free will a male without blemish from the cattle, from the sheep, or from the goats.
20 Whatever has a defect, you shall not offer, for it shall not be acceptable on your behalf.
21 And whoever offers a sacrifice of a peace offering to the LORD, to fulfill his vow, or a freewill offering from the cattle or the sheep, it must be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no defect in it.
22 Those that are blind or broken or maimed, or have an ulcer or eczema or scabs, you shall not offer to the LORD, nor make an offering by fire of them on the altar to the LORD.
23 Either a bull or a lamb that has any limb too long or too short you may offer as a freewill offering, but for a vow it shall not be accepted.
24 You shall not offer to the LORD what is bruised or crushed, or torn or cut; nor shall you make any offering of them in your land.

Blemishes or deformed animals were not acceptable to God. And the priests had the responsibility to make sure that the animals brought by the people were good enough.


Unfortunately, the practice of inspection of the animals was abused in the days of Jesus. The priests would disqualify the animal for insignificant reasons, and then required the people to purchase an approved sacrificial animal at an exorbitant price (Matthew 21:12-13).

Christ was the perfect sacrifice:

o perfect in His nature as both God and man,
o perfect in His motives,
o perfect in His personality,
o perfect in His obedience,
o perfect in His sacrifice for sin on our behalf.

2. The sacrifices do not need to be repeated.

In the Old Testament, the Jewish priest presented to God many sacrifices every day. Even the high priest had to offer a sacrifice for his own sins.

But Hebrews 7:27 (NIV) tells us - Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.

When Christ offered his own body as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, it fulfilled all the requirements and reasons for the Old Testament sacrifices. Christ's sacrifice was presented to God, once for all times. The Aaronic priesthood could not take away sin, and because of that it had to be repeated time and time again.

3. Our priesthood is of a different order than Aaron's.

Christ is a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. Like Melchizedek, the lineage of Jesus is without beginning or ending. Also, like Melchizedek, Jesus is both a priest and a king.

In Old Testament times, the kings and priests each had their separate duties, and each was not allowed to do the works of the other. However, some kings in the Old Testament did try to do the work of a priest. King Saul was told to wait until Samuel came to offer the sacrifices, but he did not wait. Acting as a priest, he offered sacrifices at Gilgal and received God's judgment for his actions (12 Samuel 13). We also read that King Uzziah, who ruled Judah for 52 years also overstep his bounds.

In 2 Chronicles 26:16-19 (NKJV) we are told……

16 …he transgressed against the LORD his God by entering the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.
17 So Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him were eighty priests of the LORD - valiant men.
18 And they withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, "It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honor from the LORD God."
19 Then Uzziah became furious; and he had a censer in his hand to burn incense. And while he was angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead, before the priests in the house of the LORD, beside the incense altar.

A few verses later, we find that Uzziah died from his leprosy.

But our High Priest is also the King of Kings. To Him is given all authority in heaven and on earth. What about us. We are in Christ, and will reign with Him. What He is we are as creatures. He is the Son. Therefore, we are sons of God. He is the Priest. Therefore, we are priests of God. He is the King. Therefore, we shall be kings too.

Revelation 1:5-6 NKJV

5 ……To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,
6 And has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Revelation 5:10 NKJV

10 And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth."

The King James and the New King James and the Darby Bible are the only versions that read "kings and priests." One translation, the Today's English Version (TEV) translates it "a kingdom of priest." Many Bible commentaries state the same thing. Most Bible translations that I have, (NIV, NAS, RSV, Amplified, Living Bible, Young's Literal Translation) read "a kingdom and priests to our God…"

The question has been raised as to the correctness of this translation, here and in other places. I am not sure that the answer to this question really matters. Even if we accept the translations which do not read that we are kings as well as priests, we have other Passages that do speak of our royalty.

1 Peter 2:9 NKJV

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;

The phrase "royal priesthood" is not different in other translations or versions. So we do, in fact belong to royalty. Let's go back to one of the verses we read a moment ago, where there is a question as to how it should be interpreted. This time note the last phrase.

Revelation 5:10 NKJV

10 And have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth."

While the first phrase could be translated "made us a kingdom and priests to our God," there is no question that we will be reigning on the earth with our King. We are "in Christ" and have partaken of His life.

4. All believers are part of the today's "holy priesthood."

While the Old Testament, particularly in the book of Leviticus, gave elaborate ceremonies for the ordination of priests, the New Testament contains none. We are told in the Book of Ephesians, by the apostle Paul, that God has place into the body people to fill certain positions within His body.

Ephesians 4:11-12 (NIV) says:

11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,
12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up

Priests are not among this list of positions. And being a priest is not ever mentioned in any of the New Testament passages that deal with the more than 20 different spiritual gifts. The emphasis of the New Testament is that every individual member of the church is important. If you have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, you are now a part of this royal priesthood. When the Scriptures refers to "royal priesthood" or "holy priesthood", that is not speaking of the pastoral staff. It is not a reference to the elders - and it's not the choir. It is you, the people that make up the body of Christ.

And, by the way, unlike the Old Testament priesthood, you don't need to be male to be a priest. You don't have to be Jewish. Christ has opened it to all nationalities and all colors. You don't have to speak Hebrew. No, within the body of Christ, priestly deeds are not limited by gender, age, race, or social status. Peter reminded us of the words of the prophet Joel, when he said that God would pour out His Spirit on men and women, young and old, slave and free (Acts 2:17-18).

So what does being a priest mean? Being a priest is not an office, like pastor. It is a function. We are priests because we have chosen to be disciples of Christ. Whatever our vocation in life, we are priests. Whatever our hobbies, we are priests. Whatever our responsibilities, we are priests. Whatever we choose to do with our lives, we cannot escape the fact that we are called to be priests.

William Barkley wrote:

"The only real farmer is a Christian farmer;
The only real doctor is a Christian doctor;
The only real man is a Christian man;
The only real woman is a Christian woman;
And so on covering every detail and aspect and station in life.
Apart from Christ we are not what we ought to be."

Also, in the Old Testament, according to Leviticus 21:7, the priest could not marry a divorcee and he couldn't be divorced. And if a daughter of a priest became a harlot, the father could no longer be a priest (Leviticus 21:14).

"Whoever will" may trust in the Savior and become part of the priesthood of Christ. It doesn't matter what one's occupation is, or one's status, or one's wealth. You can be a servant and have little of this world's wealth and still be a priest. All one needs is to accept Jesus as their Savior and their High Priest.

5. You can have physical defects and still be a member of the priesthood.

How many of you have a perfect body, free of defects?

Leviticus 21:17-21 NKJV

17 "Speak to Aaron, saying: 'No man of your descendants in succeeding generations, who has any defect, may approach to offer the bread of his God.
18 For any man who has a defect shall not approach: a man blind or lame, who has a marred face or any limb too long,
19 a man who has a broken foot or broken hand,
20 or is a hunchback or a dwarf, or a man who has a defect in his eye, or eczema or scab, or is a eunuch.
21 No man of the descendants of Aaron the priest, who has a defect, shall come near to offer the offerings made by fire to the LORD. He has a defect; he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God.

Aren't you glad that when you accept Christ as He is, the only Savior, He will accept you just as you are into His family. You cannot make yourself to be without defect, but He, through His own blood, can make you spotless and clean. Even though we can have a physical defect and still be a part of the New Testament priesthood, God still requires us to sacrifice to Him the best that we have. There is a song we used to sing when I was young. We don't hear it much these days.

Give of Your Best to the Master

Give of the best to the Master; give of the strength of your youth;
Throw your soul's fresh, glowing ardor (passion), into the battle for truth.
Jesus has set the example; Dauntless was He young and brave;
Give Him your loyal devotion, Give Him the best that you have.

Give of your best to the Master; Give Him first place in your heart;
Give Him first place in your service, Consecrate every part.
Give, and to you shall be given; God His beloved Son gave;
Gratefully seeking to serve Him, Give Him the best that you have.

We should give God the best of all our resources and gifts. We shouldn't be giving Him just the leftovers that we didn't want anyway. This involves the best of our time, talents, finances, and service.

6. Our priesthood is not passed on from generation to generation through human blood lines.

When Aaron died, his son Eleazar became the high priest, and all the rest of Aaron's descendants were priests. And when Eleazar died, the mantle of High Priest was passed to his oldest son, Phinehas. With our Priesthood, our high priest, Jesus Christ, does not pass it on to another, because He will never die again. And we who are believers today cannot pass our priesthood on to our children. They must become a priest the same way we did - by adoption into the family.

In the Old Testament, priesthood was passed from generation to generation. 1 Peter 2:9 tells us that those who are today's godly "royal priesthood," are a "chosen generation," a generation that includes all believers from the time of Christ's death and resurrection to the second coming of Christ.

7. Every priest today has access into the Holy of Holies.

Because of the death of Jesus Christ, where He voluntarily became the sacrifice for our sins, the veil in the Temple was rent from top to bottom by God. This was the veil, the curtain, that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. Where once a year only the high priest could enter this place, now all priests can enter any time and as often as you desire. It is through Christ and His blood that we now have access directly to God. We no longer have to go through some mediator. We can come boldly and directly into God's presence.

8. Our sacrifices are spiritual, not physical.

We don't have to give repeated physical sacrifices with the shedding of blood. But we do present sacrifices to God of a spiritual nature. We will learn more about them in our next lesson.


Let's look a little more closely at how one becomes a priest. There are three definite steps in the Old Testament, all of which are involved when we give ourselves to Christ. To become an Old Testament priest, the person was a) cleansed, b) clothed, and c) consecrated. We find these three steps, given by God to Moses, in Exodus 29.

1. Cleansed

Moses was told to wash Aaron and his sons with water (Exodus 29:4). This ceremony of washing took place only once. Thereafter, the priest would cleanse his hands and feet each time he went into the Tabernacle. This was done at the brazen laver, just outside the entrance to the Holy Place. Our Lord explains this type or symbolism in John 13, when He told Simon Peter, in verse 10: "He that is bathed needs only to wash his feet."

Titus 3:4-5 NKJV

4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared,
5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,

The Greek word used for "washing" here means "a bath." Thus the bathing of Aaron and his sons illustrates new birth, and it is the new birth that enables us to become priests unto God today.

2. Clothed

The priests of the Old Testament were clothed with a special garment (Exodus 29:8-9). The garments were to be made of linen (Exodus 28:42).


Ezekiel 44:17-18 (NASB) tells us why this had to be.

17 "And it shall be that when they enter at the gates of the inner court, they shall be clothed with linen garments; and wool shall not be on them while they are ministering in the gates of the inner court and in the house.
18 "Linen turbans shall be on their heads, and linen undergarments shall be on their loins; they shall not gird themselves with anything which makes them sweat.

They were not to sweat in God's presence. There was to be no smell of human flesh when they approached God. The only odor was the incense. Linen keeps one cool, while wool makes one sweat. Wool is a natural product that grows on a sheep's back, while linen is a manufactured article. This does not mean that there is something unholy about sweat in general. And I don't want to hear of anyone using this Scripture to say you shouldn't work hard on your job. I believe it means that God set up standards for His people, that would symbolize his holiness and purity in a graphic manner. Saints in Scripture are seen to wear linen.

Revelation 19:7-8 (NKJV) is speaking of the Church, the Bride of Christ at her wedding to the Lamb.

7 Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready."
8 And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

This tells me that our covering (our clothing) had to be manufactured specially for us. We have no natural righteousness of our own, but we have been clothed with the righteousness of Christ. In these clothes, we see that the believer-priest today is fully accepted in the Beloved. We have been clothed, through no act of our own, with garments of divine righteousness, which make us fit for the presence of God.

3. Consecrated

In Exodus 29:20 the blood was put on the ear, the thumb and the big toe of Aaron and his priests. Exodus 29:22 (NKJV) reads

22 Also you shall take the fat of the ram, the fat tail, the fat that covers the entrails, the fatty lobe attached to the liver, the two kidneys and the fat on them, the right thigh (for it is a ram of consecration),

The blood consecrated them to the service of God. In like manner, the blood of Jesus Christ consecrates the believer-priest to His work of ministry. The blood being put on the ear, the hand and the foot suggests that now as a priest I am to hear God's Word, do His will, and walk in His way. I am not longer my own, but have been bought with a great price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).


1. Keep watch over the fire

Leviticus 6:12-13 NIV

12 The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire and burn the fat of the fellowship offerings on it.
13 The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.

First of all, the altar mentioned here is not the golden altar of incense. It is the brazen altar of burn offerings. This was the first piece of furniture a person sees when entering into the courtyard. The fire on this altar was never to go out. Jewish tradition says that the flame on this altar began with God himself.

They take their cue from Leviticus 9. The tabernacle had been completed and Aaron goes through his duties for the very first time. Aaron presents the very first sin offering before the people. And in the last verse of that chapter, verse 24 (NIV), we read:

24 Fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown.

In a spiritual sense, fire is often used to denote the presence of God. The influence of the Holy Spirit is likened to fire in Matthew 3:11. And the descent of the Holy Spirit was denoted by the appearance of "tongues of fire" (Acts 2:3).

Though we no longer are required to bring burnt offerings, the symbolism of perpetual fire is a powerful expression of our life in Christ.

When Paul wrote to his young friend and colleague, Timothy, he urged him "to stir up the gift of God which is in you" (2 Timothy 1:6). He used the same word that would be used to describe rearranging the sticks on a fire to rekindle the flames. I like Clarence Jordan's translation of this verse. "I'm reminding you to shake the ashes off the God-given fire that is in you."

So my question for you and for me is: How's your fire? Is it still burning brightly? 2. Worship 3. Intercession 4. Bear sorrows and sins of others on their heart

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