Last week we celebrated the Reformation Day (October 31) and the recovery of the gospel brought about by men and women like Martin Luther and Katherine von Bora. Both of these Reformers fled the monastic life in order to follow Christ. Yet, in departing the Roman Catholic system of priesthood, they did not abandon the priesthood of Christ nor the priesthood of believers.
In fact, Martin Luther was one of the most prolific exponents of the biblical teaching that all followers of Christs are saints—a priesthood by faith in Jesus Christ. Thus, in a very real sense any Protestant view of the Bible that denies the place of priesthood actually denies the very gospel which the Reformation recovered. Jesus Christ is our great high priest, one whose sacrifice for sin and priestly intercession makes faith possible.
Thinking again, therefore, about what Scripture says about priesthood, we considered in Sunday’s sermon the necessity of a high priest, and what means that Jesus is our great high priest. Going back to Exodus 28–30, we considered the original purpose of the high priest in Israel and how Jesus came to both fulfill and exceed those original expectations.
If the priesthood is something you care about, or if its something you don’t care about, this sermon is for you. You can listen to it online. Response questions are below as are a few additional resources.
“Then bring near to you Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the people of Israel, to serve me as priests—Aaron and Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood. These are the garments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash. They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve me as priests. They shall receive gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen. “And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and of fine twined linen, skillfully worked. It shall have two shoulder pieces attached to its two edges, so that it may be joined together. And the skillfully woven band on it shall be made like it and be of one piece with it, of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen. You shall take two onyx stones, and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel, six of their names on the one stone, and the names of the remaining six on the other stone, in the order of their birth. As a jeweler engraves signets, so shall you engrave the two stones with the names of the sons of Israel. You shall enclose them in settings of gold filigree. And you shall set the two stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, as stones of remembrance for the sons of Israel. And Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord on his two shoulders for remembrance.
“Now this is what you shall do to them to consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. Take one bull of the herd and two rams without blemish, and unleavened bread, unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers smeared with oil. You shall make them of fine wheat flour. You shall put them in one basket and bring them in the basket, and bring the bull and the two rams. You shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and wash them with water. Then you shall take the garments, and put on Aaron the coat and the robe of the ephod, and the ephod, and the breastpiece, and gird him with the skillfully woven band of the ephod. And you shall set the turban on his head and put the holy crown on the turban. You shall take the anointing oil and pour it on his head and anoint him. Then you shall bring his sons and put coats on them, and you shall gird Aaron and his sons with sashes and bind caps on them. And the priesthood shall be theirs by a statute forever. Thus you shall ordain Aaron and his sons.
“You shall make an altar on which to burn incense; you shall make it of acacia wood. A cubit shall be its length, and a cubit its breadth. It shall be square, and two cubits shall be its height. Its horns shall be of one piece with it. You shall overlay it with pure gold, its top and around its sides and its horns. And you shall make a molding of gold around it. And you shall make two golden rings for it. Under its molding on two opposite sides of it you shall make them, and they shall be holders for poles with which to carry it. You shall make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. And you shall put it in front of the veil that is above the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is above the testimony, where I will meet with you. And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it. Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the Lord throughout your generations. You shall not offer unauthorized incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering, and you shall not pour a drink offering on it. Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the Lord.”
- Most Protestants don’t talk much (or write or preach or sing much) about the priesthood. Why do you think this topic is neglected? What is missed by overlooking this idea?
- How does understanding the “pattern” of worship in Israel (think: temple, sacrifice, priesthood, etc.) help us understand our faith? What makes it so hard to understand these parts of the Bible.
- What role did the high priest play in Israel? Consider the various aspects of Exodus 28–30–the priests selection, his garments, his ordination, and his ministry of mediation.
- One role of the priest is to create a divinely inspired “type” of Christ to come. How do we know that? Read Exodus 25:9, 40 and Exodus 32 (the failure of Aaron).
- What do we learn about Jesus’ priesthood in these passages?
- Reflect on what Hebrews says about Christ’s priesthood. Is there any one truth that is most encouraging?
- How does learning about Christ’s priesthood impact your faith? Your worship? Your assurance before God?
- Read Hebrews 4:14–16. What is the chief application of Christ’s high priesthood? How might sharing the good news of Christ’s priesthood encourage others—believers? Unbelievers? Children? The sick? The proud? Others?
Reading and Applying the Law
- How to Read Leviticus — Here are 10 ways to read the Law and apply it to the Christian today.
- Redemptive Roadmap: A Gospel Positioning System — Here’s another article which helps us apply the law to the Christian.
- Resting in a Received Ministry — When I wrote this piece I wasn’t thinking about priesthood, but today I see that “received ministry” is really the calling of a priest—to wait on the Lord, until he calls us to service.
- The Ongoing Ministry of Jesus Christ — On the cross, Christ finished his work. Yet, seated at God’s right hand, he continues to apply that work to his people today.
- Christ’s Priestly Garments — Here are a few notes on Exodus 28.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds