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The priests in the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, operated under the Levitical commands of the Mosaic Covenant. Their daily sacrifices and offerings were required so God’s people were able to commune with Him and be led by His grace and mercy (click here to read a post about OT sacrifices). The sweet aromas of the burnt, meal, and peace offerings and the not so sweet aroma of the sin and trespass offerings wafted out of the altar of the courtyard. The priests performed their daily rituals with reverence and obedience.
The Mosaic Covenant, along with the Levitical Priesthood, is now obsolete. It finished when the great High-Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, made final intercession on our behalf. Scripture tells us that He sat down, having completed His Priestly ministry. It finished after He entered the Holy of Holies of heaven’s tabernacle and sprinkled His blood on the mercy seat. Because of His sacrifice on the cross, there remains no more sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 10:1-18). His sacrificial act rendered the Old Covenant obsolete and established the basis of the New Covenant.
Christianity is the New Covenant God has made with mankind. The New Covenant also comes with a new priesthood. Every Christian is a priest in the new Covenant. As priests, we have different privileges and responsibilities than the priests of the Mosaic Covenant.
Here are the functions of the priesthood Christians should concern themselves with. Welcome to the priesthood!
Not sacrifice for sins
We need to explicitly understand there is a major difference between the priests of the Old Covenant and the priests of the New Covenant. The primary function of the Old Covenant priest was to make an offering for sin for themselves and on behalf of other people. Because Christ has already made a complete and finished offering in the New Covenant, any offering we give or any sacrifice we put forth, is not done with the pretense of cleansing ourselves from sin. We are to make offerings and sacrifices; however, we are not to do so as a way to present ourselves sinless before God. Never undervalue the complete saving work of the cross by adding more sacrifice for sin.
Love God and others
Love fulfills the Law. As priests, we are to love God and others. To love God with all our heart, understanding, and strength; and to love our neighbor as ourselves, is an offering far exceeding any burnt offering and sacrifice (Mark 12:33). When we love God and others it is better than the choicest offerings and sacrifices performed by the Levitical priests. God desires we show compassion towards one another more than He desires sacrifices (Matthew 9:13; 12:7). When we are walking in love, it is an offering and sacrifice with a fragrant aroma to God (Ephesians 5:2), pleasing to Him. Doing good toward others is a pleasing sacrifice on the altar (Hebrews 13:16). As priests, let us be fully governed by love.
Minister the Gospel
We are a royal and holy priesthood, set apart by God to proclaim God’s excellency (1 Peter 2:4-10). For mankind, the excellency of God is displayed in the dispensation of His grace. Just as the Levitical priests were set apart for the proclamation of God’s holiness through sacrificial offerings for sin, we, as a priest in the New Covenant, minister the gospel (Romans 15:16). We offer up the sacrifice of our lips, giving thanks to God (Hebrews 13:15). Our priestly proclamation is the declaration of the atoning sacrifice for sins made by Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary.
The Levitical priests worshipped God by making offerings. We also are to serve and thereby make continual offerings. Our worship is to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, not conformed to the world, but transformed (Romans 12:1-2). Our living sacrifice is the pouring out of our lives for others. (Philippians 2:17; 2 Timothy 4:6). Serving others manifests in a myriad of ways (shoveling, cleaning, discipleship, baby-sitting, nursing, laundering, witnessing, moving, cooking, etc.). We demonstrate a heart of gratitude when we offer up to God acceptable service, performed with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28).
One of the functions of the priests in the Old Covenant was to keep the altar of incense burning in the Holy Place. The altar continually burnt with incense and the aroma was pleasing to God. The Apostle John writes that he saw the prayers of the saints as an offering being made before God (Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4). When we pray, God is honored and enjoys the sweet aroma before His throne. Just as the altar of incense in the Tabernacle burnt continuously, our prayers are to be unceasing.
In the Old Covenant, people gave to the Levites so they may minister. In the New Covenant, all believers are to be giving of their finances for this is an acceptable sacrifice to God (Philippians 4:18). Apostolic mission work, benevolence, and church ministry require financial support. We please God when we participate in the giving of our finances for the purpose of honoring Christ and His body.
Let us be sure to ask God to grant us wisdom and grace for the ministry set before us.
A good friend recently sent a devotion written by Spurgeon that talks about revival. In reading it, I was reminded of more writing from Spurgeon on the topic. My heart has been stirred.
What do we think of when we say, “We need revival?” What picture comes to mind?
When we look at a prosperous tree planted beside the running waters, roots running deep into the ground, broad green leaves, giving shade from the sun, branches hanging low with bushels of juicy fruit, do we say that the tree needs revival? No, we don’t say that a prosperous tree needs revival. What needs revival is a tree with shallow roots and poor soil. A tree that is sickly, bent over, leaves that hang limp, leaves that are dropping off. A tree that bears no fruit needs revival.
When we see a pair of oxen plowing deeply into a field, overturning row after row of earth from dawn to dusk, do we say these strong healthy animals are in need of revival? No, we don’t say that strong working oxen needs revival. What needs revival is an ox with no feed, lying in the stable, neglected, with sores on its body.
When we see a strong man in his youth, his muscles flexing, a man competing in the Olympics, eyes focused on the finish line, or a soldier fit for combat, trained with excellence, fully fit for hours of marching with a heavy pack, when we see these pictures, do we think those men are in need of revival? No, we don’t say that a man in sound health with every part of his body in a vigorous condition does not need reviving. But, a man that was swimming in the water, has almost drowned, the waves spitting him out onto the shore, pulled out from the depths, his body lifeless and limp, his pulse is weak and his eyelids drooping and his breathing shallow. That is a man that needs revival.
As we examine our lives, not with eyes of an earthly perspective, but with spiritual eyes, what do we see? Do we see strong spiritual soldiers victoriously carrying the banner of Christ? Or, do we see ourselves as unengaged in the battle? Spurgeon notes that Lifeless, lukewarm church men are of no value to a church, they are as a crew of sailors all fainting, weak, and in their bunks when they were needed to hoist the sails or lower the boats or set a course for the new land. Unless God revives us, we are of no value to the church. The true test of the sailing vessel and its crew is not when the ship is sailing under easy weather. The test comes when the storm is upon us. We must get healthy and prepare for the storm. There is a storm on the way.
What has taken life from us? Why do we need to be revived?
We need revival because of our daily diet in the ways of the world, our lack of exercising righteousness, our finding satisfaction in worldly pleasure. Our spirit is weak but our flesh is strong.
Revival is not man-made. By the very definition, the lifeless cannot give themselves life. The man rescued from drowning, lying on the beach with his lungs full of water cannot save himself, he needs someone to revive him. The weak, limp body of the man found unconscious lying in the desert, barely breathing, barely living, cannot feed himself and cannot give himself drink. He needs someone to revive him.
We need God to revive us. He is our only hope. We need to pray that God would do a work in us so that the glory of God becomes our greatest concern, ambition, and our source of pleasure and joy and satisfaction. The things of God need to be our diet and our exercise. Jesus said that His life purpose was to bring glory to the Father, this must be our life purpose. As an Olympian that trains before a race; as a soldier that prepares for a battle, we must set our minds upon God’s glory as the prize. 1 Corinthians 10:31 commands that whatever we do, it should be done to the glory of God! Let’s pray for a work of God in our lives, for His glory and for our joy.
The greatest command is to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. Therefore, the greatest sin is to not love God with all our heard, soul, mind and strength. What does that mean to love God in this way?
I have found the commentary by Adam Clarke on loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength to be very sobering and enlightening and an excellent guide for me to use to evaluate my affections. Adam Clarke ministered in England from 1782 until his death in 1832, a fruitful 50 years of ministry.
The commentary expounds upon Matthew 22:37 where Clarke begins by saying, “This is a subject of the greatest importance, and should be well understood, as our Lord shows that the whole of true religion is comprised in thus loving God and our neighbor.”
Below I have paraphrased Clarke’s commentary to fit modern English and our culture. I trust you will find it to be a blessing as I have over the years.
He loves God with all his heart
He loves God with all his soul, or rather, with all his life,
He loves God with all his strength
He loves God with all his mind (intellect)
This is the person who loves God with all their heart, life, strength, and intellect; they are crucified to the world, and the world to them: they live, yet not they, but Christ lives in them.
Source: Adam Clarke commentary on the New Testament