Reading: Leviticus 8; 1 Peter 2:3-5,9-10.
While it may have become a commonplace with us, nevertheless it
is important to remember that the church has taken the place of
Israel in this dispensation, and that all the purposes for which
Israel was chosen have passed to the church in a spiritual way.
That means that Israel's history is spiritually repeated and
reproduced in the true church. That sums up the numerous things
that are said as to the spiritual steps and experiences which are
illustrated in the life of Israel.
Peter, in his letters, does not write for the Jews in an old
dispensation sense while he is writing to the Jews of the
dispersion, but he writes to them now as in the church, not as
apart from it. You will notice that in so doing he takes up Jewish
elements, and carries them into the church. His first letter
especially is full of these Jewish elements.
You begin the first letter and see something of this: "Peter,
an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the elect who are sojourners of
the dispersion... according to the foreknowledge of God the
Father". Now that is a Jewish element carried over to the
church. Paul uses almost identical language in the letter to the
Ephesians concerning the church. "In sanctification of the Spirit"
- "were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea".
The cloud was the great type of the Spirit separating the people
unto God before and behind "unto obedience and sprinkling of
the blood of Jesus Christ" - you are taken back to Exodus 12
by that fragment, "grace to you and peace be multiplied".
You can see very distinctive Jewish elements carried into the
church. So, in the second chapter, in the verses referred to
above, there are Jewish elements of a later date, perhaps of the
temple time: "Ye also as living stones, are built up a
spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual
sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter
2:5). Every sentence is a Jewish sentence, but now carried over
into the spiritual realm of the church. Then in 1 Peter 2:9 even
fuller is the language: "An elect race (the church is an
elect race) a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for
God's own possession", all those fragments are Old Testament
fragments in relation to Israel, now here applied to the church.
The definition which sets forth Israel's vocation in the most
perfect way is this fragment, "a holy priesthood", or, "a royal
priesthood". We need not stay with the reason for the change or
the meaning of the change of term, other than perhaps to point out
that it represents a movement from Aaron to Melchizedek, both of
which priesthoods are brought out clearly and fully in the letter
to the Hebrews. In the first place it is the Aaronic priesthood,
the key to which is holiness, as we see in Leviticus 8. Later the
priesthood of Melchizedek is brought in, and the predominating
element is kingship. Melchizedek was priest of the Most High God,
king of Salem, king of peace. So you have the whole of the royal
priesthood gathered up spiritually into the Lord Jesus, and then
into the church as taking its character from this High Priest.
The point for special emphasis is that the supreme conception of
Israel's vocation is found in the word "priesthood", holy and
royal priesthood. Priesthood was the central feature of Israel's
national life, and because this was so, it made it possible for
Israel to stand in the midst of the nations in the capacity of a
corporate priesthood. Israel was God's priest to the world, and
that is the vocation of the church. That supreme function of
Israel has passed to the church in a spiritual way, to be God's
corporate priest in the midst of the nations.
In order to appreciate that we need to note some of the
characteristics of priesthood.
1) The first characteristic of priesthood was and is the fact
that the whole sin and righteousness question has been fully and
finally dealt with and settled. Priesthood stands, not to
accomplish something, but upon an accomplished fact. The
consecration of the priests as in Leviticus 8 came about by reason
of what had taken place on the altar. Chapter 8 follows chapter 7.
In chapter 7 we see all the sacrifices basic to the consecration
of the priesthood, and then they are carried on, the altar is in
view, and the sacrifice, and the blood of the altar are carried
forward for the priesthood, so that the priesthood stands in
something already accomplished. It is something not to be
accomplished, but applied. The first feature of priesthood is that
the sin and righteousness question - the supreme question with
God, on the one hand the putting away of sin, on the other hand
the providing of righteousness - have been dealt with in a full
way and are settled. Sin has been atoned for and remitted, and
then righteousness has been provided to God's satisfaction.
Priesthood functions on the basis that that is all conclusive.
It is a proclamation to all men of all nations who are in any way
exercised about sin and righteousness. Sin - that thing which
separates from God by positive domination and righteousness - that
which brings to God in positive acceptance and fellowship.
Wherever men may be found concerned with such matters priesthood
has a proclamation to make, that this is a settled matter with
God, there is a ground upon which the whole of that double
question is answered. That is priestly ministry, to dwell in that
assurance, and to have that note of positive declaration to the
world, to the nations.
Thus, in the first place, Israel is God's corporate priest, to
proclaim the settlement of the sin and righteousness question on
the ground of atonement by precious blood.
2) In the second place priesthood is characterised by the fact
that a relationship of peace and communion with God is
established. What is that basis of peace with God, of communion,
of fellowship? There is only one basis, and that is God Himself
having found perfect satisfaction.
Our peace is God's
satisfaction; our fellowship with God is God's satisfaction. It is
that God is satisfied, that God is in a position where He can and
does ask for no more. That is a tremendous thing for such as He
is, to be able to say that His standard of infinite holiness and
exactness on all spiritual and moral matters is satisfied to the
last point, and He wants no more. If you and I could only get
within the compass of that, where God says, "I want no more, I am
satisfied, you need not try, you need not strain, you need not
worry for a moment, I am perfectly satisfied!" If we could come
into the spiritual realisation of that, there is peace within,
peace with God. The questions of communion with God are all
answered. We need not stand any longer outside, wondering whether
perhaps we dare approach. He says, "Come with boldness; I am
satisfied - you do not need to provide anything, you do not need to
do anything to get accepted - I am content". Then there is peace,
communion. He has made peace by the blood of His Cross, and we are
made nigh by the blood of Jesus.
We who were aforetime no people
are now the people of God. We who had not obtained mercy have now
obtained mercy. We who were afar off are made nigh. Our fellowship
is with the Father and with His Son, and the church is supposed to
be standing in the enjoyment of that, not for itself, but as a
priestly ministry to all men, to proclaim those facts. How far
short we have come of our ministry, because we are not always
found on this ground ourselves! That is a feature of priesthood.
3) Thirdly, the knowledge of the Lord is made available to men.
There is a knowledge of the Lord which men may have and men should
have. The proclamation to men is, "Know the Lord". Men say, "How
can we know Him?" Have not men through all the ages, by every
means, been seeking to know God, and have failed? The priests'
lips are to be able to proclaim the knowledge of the Lord, to
bring men to know the Lord. There is a knowledge of the Lord which
is available. Israel stood in that priestly capacity as a people
who knew the Lord, and could say to all, "We know the Lord, and the
Lord is knowable to all men". That is priestly ministry. You will
see that this is not intellectual knowledge, not theoretical
knowledge, not book knowledge. This is inward spiritual knowledge
in the church.
These things are features of priesthood, and you are able to see
at once the meaning of what we have just said that Israel was
called to be a priest to the nations, and the church has taken
over that vocation in a spiritual sense, because Israel failed and
has been set aside. Of course, the church is entrusted with
something infinitely greater than Israel ever had, the range of
its ministry is far greater than was Israel's, the power and value
of its ministry is much more. "Ye are a holy priesthood".
These things, of course, must and will challenge our own hearts.
We are challenged in the light of our calling, our vocation, the
very object for which God has chosen us. Are we really able to
stand before men and with perfect confidence, with all the
certainty, with the assurance that the fact demands, proclaim to
men that sin and righteousness are answered questions, settled
problems? God has finished it all in the work of His Son. The
relationship with Himself in peace and communion can now be fully
enjoyed without any uncertainty, any risk, and there is available
to men a blessed personal, inward, and ever-growing knowledge of
the Lord. If the church had lived up to that calling, rationalism
would never have had a chance in the church, for rationalism is
contradictory to that position: speculative as to the knowledge of
God. Many other things which are there, which are positive
contradictions to this, ritualism and all such things, would never
have stood a chance if the church had stood true to its spiritual
calling. Nevertheless, the Lord is seeking a priestly company in
the midst of His people, so that all questions and doubts will be
wiped out, a perfect assurance of faith will be brought about, and
through whom the knowledge of Himself in a living way shall
There was one more factor in priesthood which constituted its
virtue and dynamic, which gave it its power and its energy, and
that was the anointing.
That priesthood functioned by reason of the anointing. It was to
this that the Lord Jesus referred when in one of His resurrection
appearances to His disciples it says He breathed on them and said,
"Receive ye the Holy Spirit; whosoever sins ye remit, they are
remitted". Do you notice the significance of putting those two
things together? "Receive ye the Holy Spirit." That
anointing constitutes you an active Body, the church, to declare
on certain grounds the remission of sins, and, on the other hand,
to declare that, those grounds being refused, there is no
remission of sins. It puts the church in a position of great
authority. Of course, the church of Rome has taken that up in an
entirely false sense, nevertheless they have the truth as to the
The church has the right on certain grounds (and the
ground is not just the personal confession, but the ground of the
blood of Jesus Christ) to declare the forgiveness of sins if that
ground is taken. It is the note of authority, in the energy of the
anointing. On the other hand, it is to say to men, "Unless you come
on to God's ground there is no forgiveness for you; you are shut
out from forgiveness until you come onto God's ground, which is
the blood of Jesus Christ". That authority is the result of the
anointing. It is not just words and formalities, it is the power
of the Spirit of God, and when that declaration is made in the
power of the Spirit, the penitent sinner who has come to God's
ground not only hears the declaration but feels the deliverance.
If a man under the anointing of the Spirit, in the realisation
that a penitent person has come onto God's ground, says, "My brother, your
sins are forgiven in the Name of Jesus", that person not only hears
the declaration but has the assurance! It is not the declaration
that brings the assurance, but the Holy Spirit behind the
declaration. Another may be made to tremble by the Holy Spirit in
hearing, "You, refusing God's ground of forgiveness, have no
forgiveness, your sins are bound upon you to judgement!" Oh, that
there could be more of that anointed function among men!
The great question of the lack of the consciousness of sin, which
is troubling the world today, has its roots very largely in this
fact that the church has lost its note of authority. The anointing
comes through an instrument. "When He is come He will convict
the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of
judgement." How? Through a priestly instrument. It is not
that the Holy Spirit is coming to spread Himself generally over
the world, and bring the consciousness of sin home to men. The
Lord demands a priestly vessel, standing in the anointing, to
declare remission of sins to those who are upon God's ground of
remission; to declare that sin rests unto judgement upon those who
refuse God's ground. Such a ministry is necessary to God.
The effect of Israel's presence among the nations in the days
when the anointing was functioning was to strike terror into the
nations and make them either capitulate to Jehovah or come under
judgement in refusing so to do. The issue was clear-cut. The
presence of the Lord Jesus in the world had exactly the same
effect, that either the sinners came spontaneously, by reason of
His presence, and said, "Lord, if I have exacted more than my due
I restore fourfold" when the Lord Jesus had said nothing about the
exactings of Zacchaeus. On the other hand, where men were
convicted of sin and refused God's ground, they went out under
condemnation, beginning from the eldest to the youngest. They went
out convicted, but they would not yield. They came under
condemnation and judgement. His presence effected that. So it
ought to be with the church.
This can at most but emphasise and illustrate the basic truth.
Those who comprise the true church are, from God's standpoint,
meant to be a holy priesthood, and a royal priesthood, a
priesthood with this anointed ministry.
Now the one word with which we would close is this. How can
anyone or any company of the Lord's people function in a ministry
like that under the anointing, if they themselves are not in the
assurance of the facts?
The enemy is seeking not just to destroy
us as believers, as Christians. Do not let us get an inflated idea
of our personal importance when the devil assails, as though we
amounted to something; it is something far more than that which is
the objective of the adversary. It is the ministry, the vocation,
that He is after; not the people, but the ministry. It is not you
or me, but it is the result of our standing on this ground, and
what God can make of it.
Find me the man or the woman who stands on this threefold ground
of finality in the settlement of the sin and righteousness
question before God in Jesus Christ, the establishment,
relationship, peace and communion in God's satisfaction, and that
personal inward knowledge of the Lord and walk with Him, and you
have found the man or the woman who is an object of Satan's venom,
not because of their personal consequence, but because of the
influence of such a life. He is against the wiping out of the
thing which he has brought in: sin. He is against the
establishment of righteousness, for he is unrighteous. He is
against peace with God, for he is the rebel force in this
universe. He is against communion with God. He is against God's
satisfaction. He would rob God of all His ground of satisfaction.
When Satan hears God say of His work, "It is very good", Satan
says, "I will rob You of that testimony", and he puts forth his
hand to ruin the thing which is a delight to God. He is against
God's satisfaction, because God has hurled him out of his place.
He is against our knowing the Lord in an inward and living way,
and so he would undermine and undercut all the values of the
atoning work of Christ, the values of His precious blood, all the
power and meaning of His Cross, and all His living, heavenly
Priesthood for us now. The adversary is against all that.
shall find it always fraught with conflict to stand on that
ground, but if we yield that ground for a moment; if we have a
question, a doubt as to our sins being forgiven, as to our
standing in the perfect righteousness of Christ before God, as to
God's perfect satisfaction passed to us by reason of union with
His Son, these things will destroy our ministry - our priesthood
That comes out in Israel's later history, in the prophecies of
Zechariah: "And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing
before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right
hand to be his adversary." Satan is in the place of honour
and power when the priesthood is not clean.
We see our calling. It is only the first step in this matter.
Apart from all the teaching the Lord wants us to recognise the
real spiritual nature of our calling. It is spiritual
effectiveness in these connections which constitutes us the people
of God, and if this is not true in our case, then there is no
justification for our being called the people of God. We are a
chosen nation, an elect race, that we should show forth the
excellencies of Him. That is why we were chosen, for that, and
these are the excellencies. It is about these very things that the
apostle cries, with an overflowing heart: "Oh, the depths of
the riches". What are they? The marvel of sin once and for
all dealt with and set aside, and no longer laid to our charge;
the marvel of a righteousness which is not ours, but the very
righteousness of God put upon us as a garment through faith; the
marvel of perfect peace with God, and a walk in holy fellowship...
the marvel of knowing the Lord in our own hearts. These are some
of the excellencies of Him, and for that we are elect, chosen, a
The Lord lift us to the level of His own thought for us.