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    Structures in NCAY

    Traditionally a cohen (priest) is normally regarded in both Christian and pagan religions as one who performs sacred rites and intervenes between the worshipper and his god. These cohenim (priests) historically formed a distinct class in antiquity in such nations as Egypt, Midian, Philistia, Greece and Rome. In the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Mormon and some other Churches, a cohen (priest) is one who is authorised to administer the sacraments.

    The Bible definition of a Cohen (Priest), in both the Old and New Testaments is, however, far broader. Under the Mosaic Covenant an order of cohenim (priests) was established called the Levtical or Aaronic Priesthood whose rôle was to serve as intermediaries between Elohim (God) and the people in the administration of sacrificial offerings. This Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood Order was to be temporary until the coming of Messiah. It was replaced by the Melchizedek Priesthood.

    There was, in the Mosaic Covenant, as is true today in the New, a sense in which all Yahweh's people were cohenim (priests), commonly referred to a "Priesthood of Believers". For Yahweh, the Israelites were, when properly conformed to His will, "a kingdom of cohenim (priests) and a qadosh (holy, set-apart) nation" (Ex.19:6, NIV). Though that was never fully realised in the days before Messiah, it was constantly anticipated: "And you will be called cohenim (priests) of Yahweh, you will be ministers of our Elohim (God)" (Isa.61:6. NIV).

    A Priesthood of All Believers?

    It is commonly assumed by most Christians and messianics that all believers are now automatically cohenim (priests) with priesthood prerogatives. This is only partly true. The New Testament reveals, however, that this is still a priesthood-in-the-making, a process involving progressive divine sanctification as a function of surrender and obedience to the mitzvot (commandments) : "You {believers} also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a qadosh (holy) priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to Elohim (God) through Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ)" (1 Pet.2:5, NIV). We are not so much a de facto, ready built Holy Priesthood so much as one which is being built -- we are in the process. Similarly, Messiah "has made us to be a kingdom and cohenim (priests) to serve His Elohim (God) and Father -- to Him be the glory for ever and ever! Amen" (Rev.5:10, NIV). We are to be cohenim (priests): "Blessed and qadosh (holy, set-apart) are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of Elohim (God) and of Messiah (Christ) and will reign with Him for a thousand years" (Rev.20:6, NIV).

    The Patriarchal Priesthood, Old and New

    The Priesthood of Elohim (God) and of Messiah (Christ) is a governing body who have not just accepted Christ in name but in very deed, having become a "holy nation", that is, a living, Christian/Messianic community. The very first of Yahweh's cohenim (priests) were the patriarchs who served as cohenim (priests) over families or tribes. This Priesthood, borne by such illustrious personalities asJob, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is appropriately, therefore, called the "Patriarchal Priesthood". One of the most esteemed of patriarchs was Melchizedek (to whom Abraham paid tithes) whose exemplary ministry reflected the ideal New Covenant Cohen (Priest) so precisely that his name was used in perpetuity to designate the order whose Cohen Gadol (High Priest) is Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) -- the Melchizedek Order (Heb.6:20).

    We need to bear in mind, therefore, that this Melchizedek Priesthood existed both in Patriarchal times as well as today in our Christian/Messianic dispensation, and that the two are identical in substance even though the ordinances were different: circumcision and animal sacrifice have today been replaced by baptism and the acceptable sacrifice of "a broken heart and a contrite spirit".

    The Levitical Priesthood

    The initiation of the Mosaic Covenant by Yahweh saw the introduction of a new Priesthood Order known as the Aaronic or Levitical, named after its first earthly Cohen Gadol (High Priest) and the Israelite tribe whose responsibility it was to administer its ordinances, respectively (Ex.28:1; 40:12-15; Num.16:40; 17; 18:1-8; cp. Dt.10:6; 1 Ki.8:4; Ezr.2:36ff). All of Aaron's sons were cohenim (priests) unless debarred by legal disabilities; a candidate was required to prove his descent from Aaron, and be free from physical defects (Lev.21:16ff). By the same token, the New Covenant Cohen (Priest) has to prove his spiritual descent from Messiah by demonstrating that he has truly received the New Birth, and is free from any defects of personality, character or behaviour that would be an impediment to the free operation of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), an essential qualification of a Christian/Messianic minister.

    The Inner and Outer Priesthoods

    The contrast between the Levitical and Melchizedek Priesthoods of the Mosaic and Christian/Messianic dispensations is essentially that between legalistic right and spiritual qualification. They are, in Messianic Evangelical parlance, therefore, described as being an outer and an inner Priesthood, respectively. Different Christian traditions lay varying emphases on these two, some stressing the inner (Protestant) and others the outer (Catholic, Orthodox, Mormon). Those espousing the latter do not usually grant the right of other Christian denominations to exist save it be imposed on them by a secular government, whereas the former accepts the principle of denominationalism.

    The Messianic Evangelical view of Priesthood straddles the two positions. Whilst on the one hand we claim to be under an exclusive priesthood mandate ourselves, as ancient Israel was, we also concede that Yahweh has given similar mandates to other bodies of believers. Unlike Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and Mormons who deny that any other Christian Church has any legal authority to act in Yahweh's Name, and unlike Protestants who claim that anyone who is born again of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) has the authority to organise a full compliment of Priesthood officers, including (if that article is in their Statement of Belief) apostles and nevi'im (prophets), Messianic Evangelicals maintain that they have received a divine mandate from heaven to organise the Assembly of Yahweh completely whilst recognising that other Christian Churches and Messianic Assemblies may have received similar (though different) manadates. Messianic Evangelicals do not maintain that their mandate places them above other believers; rather, we perceive ourselves as having overlapping ministries in most areas (as, for example, in world evangelism -- bringing the Good News of Messiah) but an exclusive call to prepare for the Millennial Government. We would therefore deny that other bodies like the Catholics, Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses have been given any theocratic mandate by Yahweh.

    Catholic vs. Protestant Ideas

    The nature of each Church denomination is largely shaped by its view of Priesthood. For the Catholic or Mormon, the claim is made that only they have a divinely authorised priesthood which is passed down in the Levitical way by the laying on of hands. Thus this outer, Priesthood authority may be passed down legastically by a person who is not living up the Priesthood's precepts. By contrast, most modern Protestant groups (though not the older Lutheran or Anglican denominations who are still very much influenced by Catholic ideas about Priesthood succession, despite some historical problems), would basically accept that anyone who has been born again may organise a church or assembly and exercise priestly prerogatives. Some Protestants would add that such a group must receive some sort of "recognition" from another Reformed body, or attend a Seminary or Bible School attested to by other dernominations. The Protestant world, not unsurprisingly (because of its emphasis on an inner Priesthood of "all believers"), is not united over many of these questions.

    The Messianic Evangelical Position

    The position of NCAY is that every Christian/Messianic denomination has the right to organise and ordain ministers according to the Articles of Faith of that denomination, and that ultimate questions of legalistic authority are best left to the Second Coming, the final vindication doubtless being related to the fruits of that Body in dispensing the Good News of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) and in their obedience to the Torah (Law).

    NCAY does not see itself as a judge of individual Christian churches or denominations. It recognises that most have a commission which it is willing to support provided these do not compromise Messianic Evangelical beliefs. Each individual believer, each congregation, and each denomination must stand or fall on its own merits and according to principles that only Yahweh-Elohim Omniscient is qualified to pass ultimate judgment on. NCAY will, of course, contend for what it believes to be the true emunah (faith), and do so unapologetically.

    New Covenant Priesthood Orders

    According to Messianic Evangelical New Covenant theology, there is only one Priesthood, the Melchizedek. It consists of three Orders which correspond to different levels of sanctification as well as providing different ministries:

    • 1. The Patriarchal Order
    • 2. The Enochian Order
    • 3. The Zadokian Order

    Though these are not terms found in the New Testament, and are very much a part of the Old, there are equivalencies:

    • 1. The Patriarch-Apostles
    • 2. The Elders
    • 3. The Deacons

    The New Covenant Zadokian Order: the Deaconate

    As we have seen, the old Levitical Order was basically one which administered outward ordinances like animal sacrifice. The duty of the Levitial cohenim (priests) included keeping the sanctuary and altar (Num.18:5), keeping the fire always burning on the altar (Lev.1:7; 6:3), preparing burnt offerings and killing the passover (2 Chr.29:34; Ezr.6:20), acting as judges, helping organise and encourage the army, and preserving the books of the law (Dt.20:1-4; 21:5; 31:9). Messianic Evangelicals find many parallels between the ministry of the New Testament Deaconate and the Levtical Priesthood. Both were servant ministries and largely occupied with temporal matters. The seven men selected to relieve the apostles of the secular care of the widows and the poor in the Jerusalem Assembly were almost certainly deacons (Ac.6:1-6). Their qualifications are described in 1 Tim.3:8-13.

    In our early days this Order was known as the "Aaronic Priesthood" in accordance with our inherited Campbellite and Restoration tradition. A recent discovery in the Vatican Library of an ancient text known as the Apocryphon of John suggests that this designation may also have been used in the early Messianic Community (Christian Church), only to fall out of use later for reasons that are not absolutely clear. Perhaps the term was associated too much with the Judaising faction and fell into disfavour.

    Messianic Evangelicals elected to drop the term in 1992 in order to avoid confusion with the Mosaic Priesthood of the same name, and to adopt the name Zadokian. They did this for two reasons: (1) Zadok, the son of Ahitub, was one of the two faithful Cohen Gadolim (High Priests) in the time of David (2 Sam.8:17; 20:25; 1 Chr.12:28), who later anointed Solomon king (1 Ki.1:39), and was made sole Cohen Gadol (High Priest). Because of his faithfulness, all true Cohen Gadolim (High Priests) were selected from the family of Zadok; and (2) Because the word "Zadok" literally means "righteousness", which is also a designation of regenerated (born-again) believers who are known as the qodeshim (the "saints", "righteous" or "set-apart" or "holy ones"). And because it is a part of the Melchizedek Priesthood, that is to say, the "Malchi-Zadok" Priesthood, meaning "King of Righteousness".

    The New Covenant Enochian Order: the Eldership

    Amongst the Hebrews, a man qualified by age (30 years or older) and standing to rule was known as an elder. He was entitled to rule with other elders over the people and to represent them in official or ceremonial acts (Ex.3:16,18; Lev.4:15; Ruth 4:2). The "tradition of the elders" was regarded as law (Mt.15:2). This same tradition from the Mosaic Law was apparently inherited by the New Testament Messianic Community. In the earliest Messianic/Christian assemblies, elders were officers appointed by the apostles to have the oversight of their respective congregations. Bishops, pastors and teachers were all elders, though the privilege of preaching was not theirs exclusively (Ac.11:30; 14:23; 15:2; 20:17,28; 1 Tim.5:17; 1 Pet.5:1).

    In our early days this Order was known as the Melchizedek Priesthood, but as this sometimes gave the impression that the Patriarchal Order was something greater than the Melchizedek (instead of being a degree of it), this designation was dropped in 1992 in favour of the Enochian Order. Enoch was one of the early Patriarchs who "walked with Elohim (God)" (Gen.5:24) and who "pleased Elohim (God)" (Heb.11:5) and his name was adopted for the Elders' Order because he is identified with the judgment at the end of the pre-Millennial New Covenant era (Jude 1:14).

    The New Covenant Patriarchal Order:
    the Patriarch-Apostles

    When most Christians think of the "Patriarchs" it is normally great Old Testament characters like Noah, Abraham and Jacob who come to mind, and not the great leaders of the early Messianic Community like Pater, James, and Paul. Yet Paul himself said: "Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Messiah (Christ), you do not have many fathers {patriarchs}, for in Messiah Yah'shua (Christ Jesus) I became your father {patriarch} through the Besorah (Gospel)" (1 Cor.4:15, NIV).

    The second generation of Messianic Community leaders like Bishops Clement and Ignatius, who were a part of what Messianic Evangelicals call the sub-apostolic age, are known traditionally as the "Church Fathers". These great apostolic and episcopal leaders were the Patriarchs of the early Christian Assemblies. And inasmuch as they were the ones set apart by the Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Lord Jesus Christ) to appoint elders in the local assemblies (congrergations), it is only correct that they should be represented in an order which is superior to that of the Elders. Accordingly NCAY has a Patriarchal Order of which the apostles are members.

    Women's Priesthood in the New Testament

    The latter part of the 20th century has seen increasing numbers of Protestant denominations ordaining women to the ministry in what has become a controversial issue. Unfortunately the moving force behind this development has not been a desire to be faithful to the biblical witness or divine tavnith (pattern) but a compromise with secular politics with its anti-biblical, feministic view of male-female relationships. This conflict could, Messianic Evangelicals believe, have been largely avoided without compromising the biblical revelation had the churches thus embroiled in this issue better understood the New Testament teaching, obeying it rather than pressures from feminist voices.

    Ironically, those conservative Protestants who are most opposed to any idea of a women's priesthood ministry espouse a doctrine of a "Priesthood of all believers" which by definition must include all women believers too. If women are a part of the "Royal Priesthood" of those who have received the New Birth, what then, is their ministry?

    Women are clearly identified as both Teachers and Deaconesses (Rom.16:1; 1 Tim.3:11) in the New Testament (see Women's Ministry in the New Testament Church).

    The New Covenant Marthaic Order: the Deaconesses

    Messianic Evangelical women ministers played an active part from the beginning of this ministry, originally beloninging to what was called the "Female Aaronic Priesthood". This was subsequently changed in 1995 to the Marthaic Order, named after Martha who, unlike her sister Mary, was concerned more with practical than spiritual matters but who nonetheless provided a vital service. The Olive Branch explains the relationship between these two female ministries in one of the most popular revelations of NCAY known as the "Mary-Martha Principle" (OB 66). We need not suppose, however, that Martha was relegated to menial, non-spiritual duties; another of the great revelations of the New Covenant, known as the "Two Birds", concerns a post-resurrection visit made by Yah'shua (Jesus) to the Apostles where He instructs Martha on deep spiritual matters (OB 351).

    Deaconesses provide a service in NCAY very similar to the Deacons and are honoured as not only "joint heirs with Messiah" in the reception of salvation (Rom.8:17) but as joint ministers of it too under the authority of their husbands.

    The New Covenant Miryamic Order: the Eldresses

    The Eldresses of NCAY belong to the Order of Miryam (the Hebrew for 'Mary') which in our early days was known as the "Female Melchizedek Priesthood". Mary was the more spiritual of the two sisters and was, accordingly, the recipient of much divine wisdom. So great was her spiritual authority that she was the first mortal privileged to see the resurrected Messiah. She was therefore the very first witness of the resurrection, one of the callings of the apostles. Indeed, her emunah (faith) was, in the beginning, greater than the Apostles themselvess.

    Messianic Evangelical congregations (called "branches" or "assemblies") are goverened by a Pastorate consisting of three Elders and three Eldresses, one of whom is the Pastor, and Pastress, respectively. Each therefore has its own spiritual "father" and "mother". Ideally they are husband and wife.

    The New Covenant Matriarchal Order: the Matriarchs

    If there were Matriarchs in the Old Testament like Sarah, Miriam (the sister of Moses), Huldah and Esther, then there were certainly matriarchs in the New. Mary Magdalen was, latterly, almost certainly one, as many traditions attest, and which the Messianic Evangelical relevations confirm. NCAY has its own.

    The New Covenant Priesthood Offices (1996)

    There are seven basic offices in the Enochian and Miryamic Orders. Some of these are standing (local) ministries, others traveling (intra-metropolitan, intra-regional, etc.). Every Elder and Eldress has a calling which is renewed (or changed) on an annual basis.

    Enochian & Miryamic Orders (Elders & Eldresses): Divisions & Stewardships

    • 1. Apostles (12): 12 International Apostolic Fields
    • 2. Evangelists: Evangelical Regions in an Apostolic Field
    • 3. Bishops (Metropolitan Pastors): Metropolitan Districts in an Evangelical Area
    • 4. Local Pastors & Pastresses: Local Areas within a Metropolitan District
    • 5. Missioners: 1. International Missioners (under Evangelists); 2. Metropolitan Missioners (under Bishoprics); 3. Local Missioners (under local Pastorates)
    • 6. Teachers: 1. Priesthood Order School Teacher-Elders 2. School of Israel (adult) Teacher-Elders 3. School of Catechumens Teacher-Elders
    • 7. Administrators: 1. Assembly Secretaries 2. Assembly Treasurers 3. Assembly Clerks

    Zadokian and Marthaic Orders (Deacons and Deaconesses): Divisions and Stewardships

    • 1. Pastoral Assistants: Home ministry, preaching & councelling
    • 2. Teachers: 1. School of Alumim (youth) Teacher-Deacons 2. School of Tafim (children) Teacher-Deacons
    • 3. Sub-Administrators: 1. Council Secretaries 2. Council Treasurers 3. Council Clerks
    • 4. Stewards (Servants): 1. Tithing Collectors 2. Technical Assistants 3. Meeting House Maintainers 4. Cleaners 5. Usshers 6. Meeting House Arrangers 7. Orphanage Fund Raisers 8. Cooks 9. Acommodation organisers 10. Choir directors and assistants 11. Publishing assistants 12. Youth Camp assistants, etc.

    There are, in addition to the Deacons and Deaconesses, Sub-Deacons and Sub-Deaconesses who are trainees for the Priesthood.

    Early New Testament

    The Epistle of James indicates that the early New Testament Messianic Community (Church) had a relatively simple Priesthood structure based on the Hebrew system of Judges (became Apostles), Elders and Rabbis (became Teachers). This three-fold system was basically retained so that by the time we arrive at the end of the first century we find that the office of teacher has been diffused between the apostles, teachers and the newly created Deaconate. The result was three orders: Apostles (Patriarchs), Elders and Deacons.

    Not until 1995 did NCAY finally evolve into its present organisation and the old preparatory system was discarded.

    Adapted from The Olive Branch, pp.xxi-xxix.

    This page was created on 6 February 1997
    Updated on 25 November 2016

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