Chapter 3 The Priesthood of Believers in Worship

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:22).

To whom coming… Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:4-5).

There is nothing about which there is more confusion than this matter of priesthood. We surely need the Spirit of God to unravel us from all the entanglements of men. We have seen that the cross removes sin, and that the living God implants the living seed of a righteous life within us. We have been translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son—a haven of unruffled calm. We were once in transgression, but our Lord has cleansed us from every stain. We now draw nigh to God within the holiest, and do so to exercise a priestly ministry before God.

Meaning of the Priesthood

The reality of spiritual things in the New Testament is found in the pattern of the Old. There we see that priests were made such by birth, and that their function was to offer “to God … both gifts and sacrifices for sins” (Hebrews 5:1). The Levites separated themselves from evil and went forth out of the camp at Moses’ call.

For this they were made into a priestly tribe, which God had intended all His people to be (Exodus 19:6). Thus the lives of the Levites were spent in nearness to God, and they presented to God what was pleasing to Him. Provision was made in the sacrifices for those who thus ministered before God. They ate of the selfsame victim in which God had so great satisfaction.

Here, then, we see in the realities of the New Testament that those only are priests who are thus born—born of God—who give themselves wholly to the Lord and have their all in Him. Their refreshment, health, and vigor flow from feeding upon Christ and His sacrifice. Those who have not separated themselves from evil cannot approach God, but only those who know forgiveness through the death of Christ, the God-chosen sacrifice, and who have their transgressions transferred to Him and borne by Him. All such believers are priests unto God as 1 Peter 2:5 makes very clear.

The Functions of the Priesthood

We have seen that the true believer in the Lord Jesus has liberty and boldness to approach God. But there are differing degrees of approach, as the Old Testament makes evident. There were three compartments in the Tabernacle, thus three degrees of approach. There were some who were ever in “the outer court”; then a chosen few who went into “the holy place”; then one who went into “the holiest of all.” Through our Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work, believers now have boldness to enter into the holiest of all in the heavenlies, not as servants, not as friends, but as dear children. They may now crated for us”—trodden first by the sacred feet of our Saviour, the Son of God, so that we may approach and address God as Father; and (3) it is “through the veil, that is … His flesh”— rent on Calvary’s cross, and so opening the way for God’s glory to shine out, and believing man to go in (Hebrews 10:19-20).

The house, which believers are, is a spiritual house. I am writing this after a visit to the vastly expensive and magnificent university in Tulsa, Oklahoma, built by a religious leader. The buildings, which are full of symbolism, are beautiful and imposing edifices costing many millions of dollars. One such is the very plush chapel called Christ’s Chapel. But this kind of thing is not for this age. God’s house is a spiritual entity of living believers. And the offerings of the Lord’s priests are not material, but spiritual.

Here we part company, then, with all symbolism, and all ritualistic worship as in the Roman mass—a dreadful error. With those who are the Lord’s people there must be no emphasis on magnificent buildings but rather on spiritual life. When we come before the Lord, we are in the realm of the spiritual and unseen, and not in the realm of what is material and visible. If we close our eyes in worship, it is only to help us shut out that realm of material and visible things.

Since the sacrifices to be offered are now spiritual, we are not to come with special and gorgeous vestments, or with incense, or altars, or crucifixes, or holy water, or bodily brought “of the herd” a bullock; some, a sheep; some, a fowl; some, turtledoves or young pigeons (Leviticus 1:3,10, 13,14). These may well represent differing grades of apprehension of Christ, of heart devotion to the Lord God. Oh, how much do we bring of Christ to God?

Through Thy precious body broken
Inside the veil;
O what words to sinners spoken
Inside the veil!
Precious as the blood that bought us,
Perfect as the love that sought us,
Holy as the Lamb that brought us
Inside the veil.

Lamb of God, through Thee we enter
Inside the veil!
Cleansed by Thee, we boldly venture
Inside the veil:
Not a stain; a new creation;
Ours is such a full salvation;
Low we bow in adoration
Inside the veil.