The Christian Priesthood

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There are four terms applied in common to believers in the New Testament -children, (νἱοί) brethren, saints, and priests. The two first express our relationship, as believers, to God and to one another; saint characterizes our walk in the world; priest, official position before God.
As priests, believers have other duties to perform, and another character to sustain, which furnishes additional motives for holiness of life. Priests! this designates, as we have said, official position before God, having access into His presence, and privileged to offer sacrifices which He can accept. None but Aaron and his sons among Israel could discharge the priest's office. The Levites had the charge of the tabernacle of the congregation, the priests that of the altar and sanctuary, and the stranger that came nigh was to be put to death. (Num. 18:1-71And the Lord said unto Aaron, Thou and thy sons and thy father's house with thee shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary: and thou and thy sons with thee shall bear the iniquity of your priesthood. 2And thy brethren also of the tribe of Levi, the tribe of thy father, bring thou with thee, that they may be joined unto thee, and minister unto thee: but thou and thy sons with thee shall minister before the tabernacle of witness. 3And they shall keep thy charge, and the charge of all the tabernacle: only they shall not come nigh the vessels of the sanctuary and the altar, that neither they, nor ye also, die. 4And they shall be joined unto thee, and keep the charge of the tabernacle of the congregation, for all the service of the tabernacle: and a stranger shall not come nigh unto you. 5And ye shall keep the charge of the sanctuary, and the charge of the altar: that there be no wrath any more upon the children of Israel. 6And I, behold, I have taken your brethren the Levites from among the children of Israel: to you they are given as a gift for the Lord, to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation. 7Therefore thou and thy sons with thee shall keep your priest's office for every thing of the altar, and within the vail; and ye shall serve: I have given your priest's office unto you as a service of gift: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death. (Numbers 18:1‑7).)
But the priestly service was not confined to the brazen altar; there was the golden altar, at which none but a priest could officiate. Twice in the history of Israel do we read of the priests' office being desired or invaded by others than the sons of Aaron, and each time the aspirants to the privilege met with signal punishment from the Lord. When Korah and his company aimed at the priesthood, Moses commanded them to come every man with his censer to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and Aaron to come with them. All should appear before the Lord, and He would decide whom He would accept for this office. They came as appointed, and offered incense; and the fire of the Lord consumed them on the spot. Again, when Uzziah the king, in the pride of his heart, drew nigh to the golden altar, he was met by the priests and sternly rebuked: " It appertaineth not to thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the Lord, but to the priests, the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense." And the leprosy breaking out on his forehead, proclaimed the sanctity of the priesthood and the sin of invading its prerogatives. God must choose His priests-for they are priests unto God. He chose Aaron and his sons in Israel. (Ex. 28:11And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron's sons. (Exodus 28:1); Num. 18:77Therefore thou and thy sons with thee shall keep your priest's office for every thing of the altar, and within the vail; and ye shall serve: I have given your priest's office unto you as a service of gift: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death. (Numbers 18:7).) He has chosen all believers now. By virtue of relationship to Aaron all the males of his family were priests; by virtue of union with the Lord all believers are priests now, as the song in Rev. 1 testifies: " Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us a kingdom, priests unto his God and Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."
If, then, we are priests, what are the sacrifices we have to offer? 1 Peter 2:5 tells us-" Spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." What these are Heb. 13:15 states-" The fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name." And where is the sanctuary? where the place of ministry? Outside the camp, though within the veil. By Christ alone can we offer these sacrifices. (Heb. 13; 1 Peter 2) Outside the camp, the place once recognized of God as His dwelling place; and inside the veil, whither the blood has been carried, is the present place and position of priests. When Israel broke the covenant at Mount Sinai by making the golden calf and worshipping it, Moses removed the tabernacle of the congregation outside the camp, and thither went all who sought the Lord. So when the nation had crucified the Lord Jesus, and rejected the testimony of the Holy Ghost, the place for true worshippers was again outside the camp. Another thing to be noticed in this priesthood is, its double aspect. " Ye are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." And " Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the virtues of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:5-95Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 6Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. 7Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, 8And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. 9But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: (1 Peter 2:5‑9).) A holy priesthood as to its aspect towards God; a royal priesthood as to its aspect towards men.
Such in brief is the nature of the Christian priesthood as exercised on earth, resembling, in some degree in its features, the priesthood established in Israel; but, unlike that, it is not limited to this life. It is carried on in heaven, as Revelation shows. When the door is open in heaven in chapter iv.-after judgment has been passed on Christendom, and before judgments are poured out on the world, and those connected with it-the evangelist sees the saints in heaven-symbolized by the twenty-four elders-seated around the throne, unmoved amidst the manifestations of its majesty, the lightnings, the thunder ings, and voices; though not unmoved, as has been observed, when the voice of praise is beard. Then, rising from off their thrones, they take the attitude that befits them. They sit no longer, for they are about to offer sacrifice. Yet they stand not as ministering at the altar, but fall down before Him who sits on the throne, cast their crowns before Him, to whom, in grace, they owe them, and pour forth from their lips the feelings of their hearts in adoration of the Creator of all. In the next chapter we see the saints again occupied in the priestly service of praise. It is not God as the Creator, but the Lamb as Redeemer, that is now the subject. When He is seen bearing the marks of His sufferings, " a lamb as it had been slain," they again take up the strain: " Thou art worthy to take the book, and open the seals thereof; for thou wart slain, and hast redeemed to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made them unto our God a kingdom and priests, and they shall reign on the earth," (Rev. 5:9, 109And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; 10And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:9‑10).) Before God, as Creator, the saints act as priests; before the Lord, as Redeemer, they make mention of the kingdom and priesthood. They have a kingdom, they are a royal priesthood. Each time the priesthood is mentioned in Revelation it is in connection with the Lord, and the kingdom is associated with it. In chapter i. when the Lord's official title " Prince of the kings of the earth" is declared, the saints praise Him for His love, and go on to speak of the priesthood and the kingdom. In chapter v. we see the kingdom is connected with the redemption He has accomplished. Again in chapter 20:6, when Satan is bound at the commencement of the millennium, we read the blessedness of those who share in the first resurrection described as (1) sitting on thrones, to whom judgment is committed: (2) the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God; (Rev. 6:99And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: (Revelation 6:9);) and (3) those which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; (Rev. 15:22And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. (Revelation 15:2);) all of whom shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. Here again, when the Lord is mentioned, the kingdom is introduced, and priests and kings. But to return to chapter v. We get something more stated about the royal priesthood. The Lord is now about to commence that direct dealing with the earth which shall issue in the establishment of His kingdom. Hence the saints, having intelligence of the mind of God, do not simply speak of the royal priesthood as in chapter i. but state the sphere of its exercise, " they shall reign on the earth." Another feature is to be noticed, indicating the priestly office of the elders. They have every one golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints. They present the prayers to God. Throughout the millennium the priesthood lasts. (Chapter 20:6.) The priesthood of the tribe of Levi is limited to this life. (Heb. 7:2323And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: (Hebrews 7:23).) The priesthood of believers it is plain is not. Death, which terminated theirs, has no power to cut short ours.
Differing then in this respect from the priesthood of the Mosaic dispensation, it differs from it in other essential points. Their place of service was without the veil, ours is within. (Heb. 10) They fed on the food of the altar, so do we. The meat-offerings and the trespass-offerings were theirs, after the stated portion had been burnt on the altar. The peace-offering they eat of with the worshippers after the Lord had His portion burnt on the altar. The sin-offering, too, under certain conditions, was theirs, as the trespass-offering. We, too, have a sacrifice to feed on-that which these different offerings typified. They had the type, we the antitype; but " we have an altar whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle." (Heb. 13:1010We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. (Hebrews 13:10).) The sin-offering, whose blood is brought into the tabernacle of the congregation, to reconcile withal in the holy place, shall not be eaten; it shall be burnt with fire." (Lev. 6:3030And no sin offering, whereof any of the blood is brought into the tabernacle of the congregation to reconcile withal in the holy place, shall be eaten: it shall be burnt in the fire. (Leviticus 6:30).) The Lord is the sin-offering, and we can feed on Him, nay, it is what is provided. Another difference to be noticed is, they were priests of a ministration of death, we of the ministration of the Spirit. That was ushered in in glory, this subsists in glory. That has passed away, this remains forever. (2 Cor. 3)
If such is the nature of the Christian priesthood, and its excellency surpassing that of the former dispensation, what should be the characteristics of those who exercise it? It is a holy priesthood. (1 Peter 2:55Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5).) None but those who are holy can approach a holy God. " Be ye holy, for I am holy," was the command of God to Israel among whom He dwelt. What less should characterize those who are admitted to the service of the sanctuary? The priests of old were formally set apart for their office by a service, which shadowed forth the need of separation from all defilement. Chosen by divine appointment from amongst the redeemed nation, they were brought to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and there washed all over with water, and then clothed with the garments for glory and beauty. (Ex. 28:4040And for Aaron's sons thou shalt make coats, and thou shalt make for them girdles, and bonnets shalt thou make for them, for glory and for beauty. (Exodus 28:40)-xxix.) The sin offering having been first offered, followed by the burnt-offering, the ram of consecration was killed; and on their right ear, thumb, and toe, blood was put, (the rest being poured out on the altar,) in token that their obedience, their work, and their walk, should be such as befitted those brought into connection with the altar. Next, they and their garments were sprinkled with the blood that was upon the altar, mingled with the anointing oil, foreshadowing the unction of the Holy Ghost by virtue of the sacrifice of Christ. Thus consecrated they feed on the sacrifices, God's provision for them, for the seven days of their consecration, never leaving the tabernacle of the congregation. On the eighth day they took their place, and waited on Aaron as he ministered according to divine appointment. Ere that day closed, a lesson had been taught them of the need of strict adherence to the Lord's commands, by the death of Nadab and Abihu, so lately on the mount feasting before God, for offering strange fire on the altar. " I will be sanctified in them that come nigh to me." (Lev. 10:33Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace. (Leviticus 10:3).) Though their brothers were dead, they, anointed with the holy oil, were not to uncover their heads, nor rend their clothes, on pain of death. The priests set apart for God's service were to have His mind. Others might carry forth the dead bodies, and the whole congregation mourn for them, but they were to show no signs of grief, nor leave the precincts of the tabernacle. For the proper discharge of their duties and that they might be able to discern between holy and unholy, and between clean and unclean; they were not to drink wine or strong drink. Nothing of the joys of this world, or any stimulus they could give, would fit them for their service. Once washed all over they were never thus washed again. Once consecrated, Eleazer and Ithamar were priests till death. But each time they entered the court of the sanctuary for service, they had to wash their hands and feet in the brazen laver, showing that, though formally set apart, cleansed, anointed, and consecrated, they contracted constant defilement, which needed continual application to the water provided for the purpose.
Lev. 21;22. further illustrates the holy character of the priesthood, divers things which caused defilement being pointed out. Anyone with a blemish could not minister before the Lord; yet, as a priest, he eat of the sacrifices. But uncleanness, till removed by attention to the ordered ceremonial, debarred them this privilege. They could not eat of the holy things till they were purified. Blemishes they could not help nor put away. Defilement was different. In many cases they might avoid it. In all they could purify themselves. Blemishes, however, though they could not avoid them, prevented the exercise of their office, showing again that imperfection could not be accepted before God.
Another feature of the priesthood in Israel was the position of the priests with reference to the rest of the people. Taken from among them, they had a special place assigned them in the camp, " before the tabernacle towards the east." (Num. 3:3838But those that encamp before the tabernacle toward the east, even before the tabernacle of the congregation eastward, shall be Moses, and Aaron and his sons, keeping the charge of the sanctuary for the charge of the children of Israel; and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death. (Numbers 3:38).) They had also certain cities given them in the land. Disqualified from inheriting the land like the other tribes, or " having any part among them," (Num. 18:2020And the Lord spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel. (Numbers 18:20),) the Lord was their part and their inheritance among the children of Israel. A dress, too, was assigned them by divine appointment: coats, and girdles, and bonnets. (Ex. 28:4040And for Aaron's sons thou shalt make coats, and thou shalt make for them girdles, and bonnets shalt thou make for them, for glory and for beauty. (Exodus 28:40).) Thus they were distinguished from the rest of the congregation. Their priesthood was given them as " a service of gift;" ( Num. 18:77Therefore thou and thy sons with thee shall keep your priest's office for every thing of the altar, and within the vail; and ye shall serve: I have given your priest's office unto you as a service of gift: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death. (Numbers 18:7),) consecrated for it, their food, place of encampment in the wilderness, and cities in the land, with the dress that appertained to their office, marked them as a peculiar people, separated from all around, even from their brethren of the children of Israel.
The ceremonies for consecrating the priests, as well as their position in Israel ever after, teach us lessons. " Ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified." (1 Cor. 6:11.) Such is the condition of believers corresponding to the consecration of the priests. But as they needed to wash their hands and feet, we need to wash our feet to cleanse them from defilement continually contracted in the passage through the world. They were, moreover, anointed. So are we-anointed with the Holy Spirit. (2 Cor. 1:2121Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; (2 Corinthians 1:21); 1 John 2:2020But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. (1 John 2:20).) Before they could be anointed the ram's blood must be shed. Before we could receive the unction of the Holy Ghost the Lamb of God must shed His blood. That blood has been shed, and by virtue of it we as believers are anointed. As members of the priestly family, special injunctions were given to guard them against that which would hinder the discharge of their office. As members of the body of Christ, the great High Priest, the needed instructions how to walk are given in the New Testament. See especially 1 Cor. 6 and Eph. 4:21;5. 12, where duties are inculcated, and sins warned against, because, as members of Christ, we are members also of one another, and no longer partakers with the ungodly Gentiles. The defiled priest could not eat of the holy things till cleansed, so Christians, if defiled by sin, must seek restoration and cleansing by the word ere they can again enjoy the privileges of their position before God. The priest was a priest, even when defiled. Nothing could alter that position as long as be lived. We, too, are priests through union with the Lord Jesus, Nothing can change this. It is our birthright, may we not say, as the priesthood was that of Aaron's descendants. But our enjoyment of its privileges, and power of service will depend on our walk. If the heart has gone astray do we not feel shorn of our strength like Samson, when shaved? But restored through confession of our fault, like Samson, when his hair commenced to grow, the power of service is restored. Till the latter takes place the power is sensibly diminished if the heart is not altogether dead. Happy that it is so; that, conscious of our weakness, we are led to ascertain its cause in the presence of the Lord, and through His grace and intercession seek for restoration.
What instruction too in the peculiar dress of the priests! No one could mistake them. Their dress would proclaim who they were. Are we thus distinguished? Have we so put on Christ that men can see and take knowledge of it and know us as those set apart for God's service? The dress of the priests, as they are called, in the Roman and Greek churches, leaves no doubt on any who see them who and what they are. Are we so distinguished? What men would associate with a class of professing Christians, in reality belongs to all believers. All are priests. Need we guard against the supposition that because all are priests, and capable of offering sacrifice to God, all are able to lead the praises of others? There are those given to help the saints and to minister to them, resembling in some degree the Levites of the former dispensation. It was the office of the Levites, Henan, Jeduthun, and Ethan, with others of their brethren to lead in song. (1 Chron. 6:33-47;23. 30-31; xxv.) So in the assembly, whilst all can offer the sacrifice of praise, all cannot lead the praises of the congregation. Every believer as a priest needs no one to come between him and God; he has access to the mercy-seat by the Lord Jesus, and out of the fullness of his heart can praise our God. But it is one thing to make melody in the heart, (Eph. 5:1919Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; (Ephesians 5:19),) and quite another to strike the note and lead the rest in worship.
Holy then is the office of priest. Holiness should characterize those who are called to it. But there is another characteristic-" the showing forth the virtues of him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvelous light." Partakers of the divine nature we are to manifest it. The world can take cognizance of this. We may praise God in the heart: we should show forth His virtues in our walk. Light and love, these two characteristics of the divine nature (1 John 1;4) should be manifested in us. The world once could say, See how these Christians love one another. It is a feature it can see and admire. It cannot see the heart, it may not hear the hymn of praise as it ascends to God from the solitude of the chamber, or from one alone it may be, in the midst of a crowd. The personal communion between the soul and God may go on unknown to those around us; when no mortal ear can hear, the hymn can still be sung, and the heart be occupied in the priestly service of praise. But light and love, if carried out in the walk, holiness of walk, and therein conformity to God, and love to the brethren because God has loved us, are features of the Christian, which the world can see and estimate; "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 5:1616Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16); Phil. 2:14-1614Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 15That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; 16Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain. (Philippians 2:14‑16).) " By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." (John 13:3535By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:35).) This characteristic, the showing forth of His virtues, is connected with the kingdom, "a royal priesthood, to show forth," &c.; so believers are exhorted (1 Thess. 2:1212That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:12)) to walk worthy of God who hath called you unto His kingdom and glory.,
This subject, but briefly touched on, might be expanded to great length. But the practical question for all is, how far we are acting in accordance with the place given us before God? Are we walking in that conscious separation from all evil which befits the members of a holy priesthood? Are we showing forth his virtues who hath called us into His marvelous light? It is a position given us in grace. Well might the apostle Peter say, " If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious." He had spoken in the first chapter of the heavenly inheritance reserved for those who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation. Great as this is, it does not exhaust the grace of God shown us. He had spoken in the first chapter of the Christian's inheritance, now he speaks of the Christian's privilege, and gives three illustrations of it: first, " Ye are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood," &c.; second, the foundation-stone has been laid in Zion, so that " he that believes shall not make haste;" third, " Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood," &c. The first of these privileges the nation of Israel never possessed, and never will. The second is spoken of in Isaiah in connection with the latter days. The third was promised them in Exodus on condition of keeping the covenant, which they shortly afterward broke before leaving Mount Sinai.
That all the redeemed should be a holy priesthood, able to offer sacrifices as priests, was a thought never given to Israel. There were priests appointed for the people, as we see in Ezek. 40-48 will be the case in the days yet to come. For the descendants of Zadok will be priests, according to God's promise to Phinehas. But, though appointed by divine command, they never, as we have seen, had entrance within the veil, unless in the person of the high priest once a year on the day of atonement. We have entrance there with boldness always. What grace then to us, the Church, composed of Jews, who never had this privilege even as priests, and Gentiles, who once were afar off, now brought nigh, both now on common ground by the same blood and the one sacrifice.
Next, what was promised to Israel, as a resource in the latter days, we have now. The foundation stone has been laid. Isa. 28:1616Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. (Isaiah 28:16) shows when it will be applied to the remnant. When " the Lord shall be for a crown of glory and for a diadem of beauty unto the residue of the people." The mass of the nation are corrupt, and, seeing the overflowing scourge advancing, make a covenant with hell and death to escape it, but they cannot. " The hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place." Any barrier man may erect will be carried away. Is there, then, any firm standing ground? There is. Because the foundation stone has been laid in Zion, and those that believe shall not make haste. Standing on it they have a secure footing, and can wait Gods time for deliverance. That foundation, the apostle declares, has been laid, though Israel have not acknowledged it, and the remnant will not know it till the latter days of the nation dawn. When he wrote, the Jewish Christian could see everything on which he had formerly built shaking, shortly to be dissolved; Jerusalem to be trodden down, and the nation again to be exiles in foreign lands. But here was a resting place, a sure foundation to build on, which would never fail. Building on the Lord they would have all the promises, though in a higher sense than Israel had looked for them. The unbelieving might stumble at it. But there it was, and all who believed could rest secure.
Thirdly, what God promised Israel conditionally, that we now possess-the royal priesthood. The strangers to whom Peter wrote, scattered abroad, away from the land of their birthright, could, nay, did, possess this promise. They were, he writes, a royal priesthood. What Israel forfeited they had through grace. True, Israel will have it made good to them, but it will be when the kingdom of the Lord is established on the earth. They forfeited the conditional blessing through breaking the law. They will enjoy it when the law is written on their hearts. " Ye shall be named priests of the Lord; men shall call you the ministers of our God." (Isa. 61:66But ye shall be named the Priests of the Lord: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves. (Isaiah 61:6).) Chapter 60 describes in glowing terms the future glory of Jerusalem, when she shall be called, " the city of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel." (Ver. 14.) Chapter 61 describes Him by whom all this _shall be brought about. Further on we get 62., the Lord interceding with Jehovah for the accomplishment of this blessed state; and the remnant (ver. 6) who will be raised up to intercede for it. Chapter 63 commences with the Lord having overcome His enemies in order that the salvation might be accomplished. From 63:7-64:12, we have the intercession of the remnant related, that prayer which is answered in the re-establishment of Jerusalem, the millennial blessing of the nation, and their position as priests in connection evidently with the kingdom. But this is clearly future. The Lord did come, as Isaiah 61:1, 21The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; 2To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; (Isaiah 61:1‑2), quoted by Him in Luke 4, shows. But they cast Him out; the blessings are therefore delayed. But now says Peter, " Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood." Jerusalem was about to be destroyed, and to be trodden down of the Gentiles till their time should be fulfilled, thus delaying the accomplishment of the happy condition predicted in Isaiah. Nevertheless, those who now believed on the Lord had the blessing at once, not in its full enjoyment but in assured possession. And what the believer from among the Jews then possessed we have likewise; for in Christ Jesus there is neither Jew nor Gentile. All they have we have, for we are one in the Lord. To these three the apostle adds a fourth privilege, what Israel will one day be, as foretold in Hos. 2:2323And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God. (Hosea 2:23), that believers are now.
Such, then, is our priesthood, its duration, and its character. It is a holy calling; it is a privileged place; to us a gift. How far are we living up to this calling? Those who ministered at the altar must be holy-no lower standard is accepted now. We may fail, and assuredly we do, but the standard remains unchanged-it cannot be lowered: " Purifieth himself even as he is pure." Gracious indeed is our God in making provision for our failure in the constant intercession of our High Priest above. But that cannot relieve us from the responsibilities of the office. We are to be holy, for God is holy. May we each and all enter more into His mind about this; and whilst exercising our priesthood in the happiness of heart the Spirit gives, praising the Father for what He has done for us and given us; interceding for others and looking forward to the fall understanding and full enjoyment of the priesthood in connection with the kingdom; let us never forget that this place of nearness demands holiness of walk, separation from the world, and consecration to God.