CHAPTER V: The Priesthood, from "The Christian Ministry According to the Apostles" by Thomas Hughes Milner
You, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual We are receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear, for our God is a consuming fire, Heb. xii. 28, 29, We are receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear, for our God is a consuming fire, Heb. xii. 28, 29, We are receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear, for our God is a consuming fire, Heb. xii. 28, 29, sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ, 1 Pet. ii. 5.
1. THE WRITER of the letter to the Hebrews defines a priest to be one who is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices to God. No man, says he, takes this honour to himself but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. Insomuch that even Christ glorified not himself to be made a high priest, but he that said to him, Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee, said also, Thou art a priest for ever. The appointment of the priesthood is thus clearly established as the prerogative of God. And when we consider the end of the office, that it is to offer gifts and sacrifices to God, we see why Jehovah reserves to himself this right. For how, without his appointment, should we know what offerings and sacrifices might be pleasing to him? To say the least respecting all and sundry humanly elected priesthoods, and humanly ordained sacrifices, the worshippers can have no consciousness, no certainty of the acceptability, or acceptance of their gifts. But, important as the satisfying of the human conscience is in this case, the satisfaction of God is a higher consideration; for without controversy the confessed object of all priestly offerings is the pleasing or satisfying of God. There must, then, be a divine call––there must be the ordination of God to the priestly office ere any one may enter on its sacred functions. If this law concerning the priesthood be so inflexible that even the Lord Messiah himself, as the High Priest of the Christian profession, was made subject to it, how dare any professing to be priests under him venture its violation?
2. But so all-important a principle is this in the religion–the reconciliation of man to God–that it was made a most prominent element of instruction in that long continued educational economy, which, consisting but of types and shadows, made nothing perfect, but was the school-master until Christ and the introduction of that better hope by which the disciples of Jesus draw nigh unto God. Jehovah first called and separated the whole house of Israel from the rest of the nations of the earth, declaring that he took them to himself for his people, Exod. vi. 7. But though thus sanctified to God, the Lord was pleased further to interpose his electional right, and selected from among the twelve tribes of the holy nation, one, to the members of which family alone the priesthood was to be confined, Numb. iii. 5-10. And so strict was the law that no Israelite even, save of the priestly family, might so much as eat of the food of the priests; and the priests might not offer aught in sacrifice except as appointed of God. For the violation of but this one provision, Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, died the death. They took either of them his censer and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not, and there went out fire from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. Thus impressively did God shew his jealousy for his own name and appointment; thus unmistakably did he manifest the hallowed character of the sacerdotal relationship, even to its minutest particulars. Those alone, then, are priests who are called of God, and that alone is lawful to the priesthood which God has ordained.
3. But while under the first institution one family of the holy nation alone comprised the priesthood, and performed its functions, under the new institution all the holy people are comprehended within the sacerdotal circle, and fulfil, each in his proper place, the priestly service. Every Christian is a priest to God; he that is not a Christian priest is not a Christian. Such is their high calling of God in Christ Jesus, and hence the following Scriptures: Heb. iii. 1, 2, Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the apostle and high priest of our profession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to him that appointed him. 1 Pet. ii. 4-9, Having come to the Lord as to a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious, ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people, that ye should tell forth the perfections of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. Rom. xii. 1, I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. Heb. xiii. 10-16, We have an altar whereof they have no right to eat who serve the tabernacle. For the bodies of those beasts whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priests are burnt without the camp: Wherefore, Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth, therefore, unto him without the camp bearing his reproach; for here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. By him, therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, confessing his name; but to do good and to communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. From these testimonies we submit the following enumeration.
4. All who have come to the Lord, all his proselytes, all his people comprise the royal, the holy priesthood. It is expressly, and alone these who are declared to be a chosen generation, a holy nation, a purchased people, who are affirmed to be a sacred and regal priesthood. Not one, therefore, of this generation, nation, or people, but is a priest of God.
5. The object of the institution of this holy priesthood is the offering of spiritual sacrifices. Fleshly sacrifices were offered under the law by the fleshly house, comprising the legal priesthood; but in these sacrifices God had no pleasure. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. So said the High Priest of this new profession. Only by those is it whom he has constituted priests to God that spiritual offerings are made. We, said his apostle to the brethren, are the circumcision; who worship God in spirit, who rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
6. These sacrifices are acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. The pleasing or satisfaction of God is the end of all sacrifice. But God is pleased only with those who approach him through the Mediator of his own appointment; to no other sacrifices than such as they offer in this new and consecrated way does he promise acceptance. Men may offer what sacrifices they please, and how they please, but they can have no guarantee that God is pleased with either themselves or their offerings, unless they are pleased to offer as he is pleased to accept, namely, through his beloved Son’s mediation. Acceptance, however, there most surely is both for the person and his sacrifices who approaches and offers by Jesus Christ. The high priest alone of the Levitical priesthood entered the holy of holies, and the whole body of priests and people offered and received through him. And in the new administration the one High Priest of the Christian confession has entered with his own blood into the true sanctorum–the presence of God–there to appear on behalf of all who come unto God through him; and through him, therefore, all his priesthood––the people of God––find the acceptance of their persons, and offerings, and forgiveness, and blessing.
7. Thus exclusive is the priestly service of the new institution. Every act of service is restricted to the sacred people. They have an altar whereat they have no right to eat who serve the tabernacle. Part of the sacrifices under the first covenant was reserved for the food of the priesthood; but they, in rejecting a victim, rejected their share in it. Jesus was offered; but those serving the tabernacle then standing rejected him, and in refusing him rejected the part or lot that would have accrued to them had they accepted the offering of Jesus. Such is the position of all who accept not this offering and the mediation of him who, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Therefore is it that throughout the apostolic Scriptures the priestly services and privileges of the new institution are as strictly and as uniformly confined to the disciples of the Messiah as were the services and privileges of the Levitical economy confined to the house of Levi. Thus understand we such language as that of the tenth of Hebrews: By the will of God we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus once; By one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified; Having, therefore, brethren, liberty to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the vail, that is to say, his flesh, and having a high Priest over the house of God, 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; Let us hold fast the confession of the hope without wavering, for he is faithful that promised.
8. But this service is inclusive of all the active powers of the sanctified. The exhortation is to offer their bodies as living sacrifices. There is no sacrifice without body. When the Mediator volunteered himself, he said respecting the oblations under the law, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldst not, but a body hast thou prepared me. The spirituality of the new service does not supersede the use of body in it. The fact is, it consecrates to the service of God the whole person––body, soul, and spirit. So desired the apostle the entire sanctification of the whole being––the whole spirit, the whole soul, and the whole body. While in this tabernacle the spirit can render no sacrifice without the body. There may be bodily service without the spirit, but not spiritual service without the body, so long as the spirit is present in the body. The body and its powers, therefore, are all hailed into the service of the sanctuary. Not only all that we are, but all that we have. The sacrifice of praise, the fruit of the lips, the confessing, the giving thanks to his name, the telling forth of the perfections of him who hath called us out of darkness into his wondrous light––the doing of good, and the sharing or communicating are all of them sacrifices, in the which God is well pleased. Therefore, says the apostle, let us offer them continually. Their offering is to be a well-established, unforgotten habit; the tenor and practice of the new life.
9. Sacrifices are of two kinds, expiatory and eucharistical; they are designed either to take away sin, or they are offered in thankfulness for mercy received. Under the old economy there was the ‘sin-offering” as well as the “thank-offering.” In the new institution Christ has by himself purged our sins; as the Lamb of God he has taken away the sins of the world; in the end of the age he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself; by one offering he has for ever perfected them that are sanctified, John i. 29; Heb. i. 3; ix. 26; x. 14. There remains, therefore, no more sacrifice for sins–not one offering of this kind, but only such as are gratefully made in faith, and in contemplation of that one offering by which he has for ever perfected the sanctified. All their sacrifices are the expressions of believing gratitude. The apostolic exhortation to them to present their bodies as living and holy sacrifices is an appeal to their gratitude; it is “by the mercies of God” that the apostle beseeches. It is a grievous oversight of the grace of God, and the all-sufficiency of the intercession of Christ, that either bespeaks of the sinner any attempt at expiatory sacrifice, or leads him to suppose that any save that which gratitude impels, can be acceptable to God. The believing–the grateful alone can render such a sacrifice, and they feel it to be indeed their reasonable service.