The New Testament Priesthood
NCW 11, August 1994
Q. What is the New Testament Priesthood? How does it differ from the Old Testament Priesthood? Does everyone hold Priesthood, or just some?
We shall divide this up into four main areas of discussion:
I. The Patriarchal Covenant
(1) Until the Law of Moses was given the head of each family (the Patriarch) was the family priest. The best examples of these are Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph (Gen.8:20; 26:25; 31:54).
II. The Old (Mosaic) Covenant
(2) When the Law of Moses was given to the children of Israel, the promise to perfect obedience was that Israel should be to God "a kingdom of priests" (Ex.19:6); in other words, the Patriarchal Priesthood would continue, with each family head given several priesthood responsibilities. But Israel violated the law, and God took away the Patriarchal Priesthood and restricted it to the Aaronic family, appointing the tribe of Levi to minister to them, thus constituting the typical priesthood (Ex.28:1). Under this Aaronic system, the people (Israel) were governed by a prophetic head (or Patriarch) -- Moses -- and a priestly head -- Aaron. Joshua eventually succeeded Moses (Deut.34:9) and after Aaron's death various High Priests succeeded one another.
This Aaronic system, led as it was by a Prophet-Judge-Patriarch figure, and a High Priest from the tribe of Levi, changed when the people rejected the old Commonwealth System of 12 Tribes and opted instead for a kingdom. In some respects the system became Patriarchal again, though this time autocratic, with more and more power accruing to the king, leading finally to the collapse of both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah.
III. The New Covenant
(3) In the New Covenant dispensation, sometimes called the dispensation of grace, all believers are unconditionally constituted a "kingdom of priests" (1 Pet.2:9; Rev.1:6), which was the goal Israel failed to achieve by works. The priesthood of the believer is therefore a birthright, just as every descendant of Aaron was born into the priesthood (Heb.5:1).
(4) The chief privilege of a priest is access to God. Under the Law of Moses the High Priest only could enter the "holy of holies", and then only once a year (Heb.9:7). But when Christ died, the veil, a type of Christ's human body (Heb.10:20), was torn in two, so that now the believer-priests, equally with Christ the High Priest, have access to God in the holy of holies (Heb.10:19-22). The High Priest is bodily there (Heb.4:14-16; 9:24; 10:19-22).
(5) In the exercise of his office the New Covenant believer-priest is
These are the privileges and callings of EVERY BORN-AGAIN CHRISTIAN -- man, woman, and child, no matter what racial background. All are therefore sacrificers, intercessors, praisers and a stewards over their material resources. Everyone has access to God through prayer, faith, and obedience to the commandments. Nobody needs an intercessor to approach the throne of God -- everyone has the right to speak to God through Christ personally. Therefore any religion which says that a man cannot personally approach God save through a "priest" or a "guru" is false. Any religion or Church which says that a man or woman cannot have access to God save through a licensed Priesthood is false. Anyone who says that a man or woman cannot have access to God save through their Church or religious system is false. So beware! Access to God through Christ is open to everyone who truly believes, and anyone can sacrifice, praise and be a financial-material steward over his possessions in the capacity of a New Covenant priest or priestess. Any church or denomination which teaches otherwise is trying to impose the Old Covenant Mosaic System and denies the Christ and His free gift to all believers. Such a church or denomination may truly be said to be apostate or heretic for it denies the New Covenant of Christ.
(a) a sacrificer who offers a three-fold sacrifice: (i) his own living body (Rom.12:1; Phil.2:17; 2 Tim.4:6; 1 John 3:16; Jas.1:27); (ii) praise to God, "the fruit of lips that confess His Name", to be offered "continually" (Heb.13:15; Ex.25:22; "I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat"); (iii) his substance (Heb.13:16; Rom.12:13; Gal.6:6; 3 John 5-8; Heb.13:2; Gal.6:10; Tit.3:14);
(b) The New Covenant priest is also an intercessor (1 Tim.2:1; Col.4:12).
(6) There is, however, more to the New Covenant Priesthood. The Church of God is not a collection of independent "priests" and "priestesses" doing their own thing nor, for that matter, are they doing the same thing. "Just as each of us has one body with many members [parts], and these members do not have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, each member belongs to all the others" (Rom 12:5-6, NIV).
In other words, born-again Christian are part of a spiritual family, called the Family of Christ, or the Body, or the Church. Rather as a nation consists of tribes which in turn consists of individual families, so the Body of Christ or "Nation" of Christ consists of many "tribes" or spiritual movements (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Restoration, Adventist, New Covenant, etc.), most of which consists of many individual families of denominations (e.g. Baptist, Pentecostal, etc.).
Each church "family" has its priesthood -- the priesthood of all believers (which is common to all families, irrespective of what they call one another) and a priesthood of leadership. These consist of "apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers" (Eph.4:11) and many others.
In much the same way as the priestly officers and their functions became changed over time in the Old Covenant, when the Israelite Commonwealth was replaced by a Kingdom, so too have the priestly officers changed in the Christian Churches. Thus we find officers such as "arch-bishops", "popes", "arch-deacons" and many other officers which were not a part of the New Testament Church organisation but which have been invented and added by men. Similarly, many churches do not include essential officers in their organisation such as apostles, prophets, prophetesses, deaconesses, and others.
IV. The New Covenant Church of God
(7) The New Covenant Church of God contains all the priesthood offices of the New Testament Church; and, even more importantly, the spiritual gifts that these offices represent, when the people are humble and obedient. Though there are a number of churches claiming to have, for example, "apostles" and "prophets", the spirit of apostleship and prophecy is practically absent from them. It is the spirit that is important, though this spirit must also have a structural vessel -- priesthood offices, divinely established and with officers divinely called (Micah 6:4).
The New Covenant Church is a "kingdom of priests [and priestesses]", as Israel should have been had it not rebelled. It is Patriarchal. Each husband is the priestly head of his own family. The Church is a "family of families", of family patriarchs under a Church Patriarch, who is himself under the Grand Patriarch of Heaven, our Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord. There is no "priesthood class" as obtained in the Mosaic Covenant, or obtains in the Catholic, Orthodox and certain Protestant groups. All hold priesthood yet each has different callings.
Because the Church is not (yet) a theocracy as ancient Israel was, it is divided up into different Priesthoods Orders. The local Colonies of the NCCG, which is the outer Church, is the Church in the world. Its officers consist of Deacons (four types, including teachers), Deaconesses (four types, including teachers), Elders (seven types) and Eldresses (six types). Each local Colony is presided over by a Pastor, who is an Elder, and a Pastress, who is a Eldress.
The "inner", consisting of the Chavurah Bekorot Holy Order, is essentially Patriarchal in form. The highest office of the Melchizedek Priesthood, the Apostle, is obtained through the Holy Order. Finally, the Holy Order consists of Patriarchs and Matriarchs (also called High Priests and Priestesses), of whom Jesus Christ is the Grand Patriarch or Supreme High Priest (Heb.3:1, etc.). There are twelve different offices in the Patriarchal Order.
Together, these form one Body, the New Covenant Church of God. Although they are divided up for convenience, in spirit they are one entity, and consist of one Priesthood, which is Melchizedek. Most of the functions carried out by the Old Covenant Aaronic/Levitical Priesthood, that have not been superceded by the New Covenant in Christ (spiritual sacrifice, praise, intercession and stewardship) are now carried out by all the members, the priesthood of believers, as explained above.
This, then, is the New Testament Priesthood and how, generally speaking, it functions in the New Covenant Church of God.
Second Edition, 140498
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