For the last two posts on Part III, I’ve dealt with the Israelite nation’s forfeiture of their royal priesthood status and responsibilities, as well as the nullification of the priesthood due to the Cross. In Exodus 19, the Jewish nation told Moses, “Don’t let God speak to us,” which indicates that the nation decided they didn’t want to have their priestly duties (one of which was to approach God directly). In the second post, I dealt with Hebrews 9 and 10 and the impact these two texts have on how we approach “priesthood.” Christ’s coming abolished the need for the Levitical priesthood, which means that now, all believers can approach God directly. Here in Part III-C, I’m gonna take a look at the implication of our being priests in Christ. For this, look at the text of 1 Peter 2:
1(A) So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2(B) Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual(C) milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3if indeed you have(D) tasted that the Lord is good.
4As you come to him, a living stone(E) rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5(F) you yourselves like living stones are being built up as(G) a spiritual house, to be(H) a holy priesthood,(I) to offer spiritual sacrifices(J) acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:1-5, ESV)
Notice that in verse 4 the writer is discussing the scattered Jews, but these words apply to all who believe. So as we (the believers) come to Him, we “are being built up as a spiritual house, TO BE A HOLY PRIESTHOOD.” Someone may be quick to think, “Well, you said that the Levitical priesthood was nullified; if so, then why is there a priesthood being mentioned here?” The answer is made clear when you understand that it is the nature of the Old Testament priesthood (from the tribe of Levi, line of Aaron) that makes the Levitical priesthood obsolete. In its place, there will be a new priesthood. As the writer of Hebrews says, WE now have boldness to enter the HOLY PLACES! Whereas before, the Levitical priests were the only ones allowed, now all who believe get to enter the holy places, the places that were once sealed off from the commoner.
But, read what’s next? We’re not just “to BE” a holy priesthood, to walk around and claim that we’re a priesthood—we’re actually supposed to do something with our priesthood: “TO OFFER SPIRITUAL SACRIFICES acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5, ESV). This mimics Paul’s language in Romans 12:1—
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, TO PRESENT YOUR BODIES AS A LIVING SACRIFICE, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1, ESV)
So the spiritual sacrifices we will give (according to 1 Peter 2) will be our bodies (according to Romans 12). Paul uses the sacrificial imagery in Romans 12 to show us that WE ARE PRIESTS! We are different, however, from the Levitical priests—for, whereas they gave animal sacrifices, we do so no longer…instead, we now give our bodies as LIVING sacrifices (in contrast to the Old Testament sacrifices that involved KILLING animals BEFORE offering them).
So we know, from 1 Peter, that we are a royal priesthood. From Romans 12, we know the nature of what it means to be “living” sacrifices (to present our bodies). But the writer does something else in the context of 1 Peter: he tells us how to “present our bodies as living sacrifices”—
11Beloved, I urge you(Y) as sojourners and exiles(Z) to abstain from the passions of the flesh,(AA) which wage war against your soul. 12(AB) Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers,(AC) they may see your good deeds and glorify God on(AD) the day of visitation.
13(AE) Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution,[b] whether it be to the emperor[c] as supreme, 14or to governors as sent by him(AF) to punish those who do evil and(AG) to praise those who do good. 15For this is the will of God,(AH) that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16(AI) Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but(AJ) living as servants[d] of God. 17(AK) Honor everyone.(AL) Love the brotherhood.(AM) Fear God. Honor the emperor.
18(AN) Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. (1 Peter 2:11-17, ESV)
So to offer up spiritual sacrifices involves being Christ to those we meet, whether they are kind or malevolent. Notice in verse 11 that the Jews are told to “abstain from the passions of the flesh”; in verse 12 they are told “keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable”; in verse 13 they are told to “be subject for the Lord’s sake to EVERY human institution”; why are they to do all this? “FOR THIS IS THE WILL OF GOD, that by doing good you should PUT TO SILENCE THE IGNORANCE OF FOOLISH PEOPLE” (v.15).
By living right and suffering wrongly, we silence those who seem to have no regard for God (or for people).When we live right and we refuse to wrong those who harm us, we “confuse” them and have them asking how is it that we have no desire to retaliate.
While searching for a cross-reference, I found something regarding the whole priest discussion that I had forgotten in Scripture. Through these posts on the priesthood, I’ve talked about how the Levitical priesthood was abolished—and with this post, that now all believers constitute the “royal priesthood”; but God actually stated that He would have priests from the Gentiles. To find this phenomenal statement, let’s look at Isaiah 66:
18"For I know[b] their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming[c](AB) to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory, 19and I will set a sign among them. And from them(AC) I will send survivors to the nations, to(AD) Tarshish,(AE) Pul, and(AF) Lud, who draw the bow, to(AG) Tubal and(AH) Javan, to the coastlands far away, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations. 20(AI) And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations(AJ) as an offering to the LORD, on horses and in chariots and in litters and on mules and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the LORD, just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD. 21(AK) And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the LORD. (Isaiah 66:18-21, ESV)
In verse 18, Isaiah wrote that “they shall come and shall see my glory.” Here Isaiah is recording God’s words to him. Who are “they”? The “they” of verse 18 refers to the Gentiles, the nations recorded earlier in verse 18 (ta ethnon). The Lord said in verse 19 that “they shall declare my glory among the nations,” meaning that the Gentiles would take the Lord’s Name to the other nations (those “that have not heard my fame or seen my glory,” verse 19). The Gentiles that the Lord sends will bring the Jews back from the Gentile nations into their own land (“to my holy mountain Jerusalem”), and from them God will produce priests and Levites (v. 21).
Even in the Old Testament, God told His people that He would not only make priests and ministers of them but also of the Gentiles as well.
As this series has shown, the patriarchal, Levitical priesthood of the Old Testament is no more. But does it have a replacement? Yes, a priesthood for all believers. While the new priesthood does not offer animal sacrifices, it does present its bodies as living sacrifices. And while the new priesthood does not enter into the holy places of a tabernacle, it does enter into the presence of God—for, as John tells us, “The Word [Jesus] became flesh and tabernacled (Grk.- “eskenosen”) among us” (John 1:14, ESV).