The Universal Church as a Holy and Royal Priesthood with Christ Jesus as the High Priest
The New Testament uses various symbolic illustrations to describe the relationship between the universal Church and Jesus Christ. These symbolic illustrations can help one to get a better understanding of our relationship with Christ, and today we discuss the illustration of the universal Church as a holy and royal priesthood with Christ Jesus as the High Priest.
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High Priest According to the Order of Melchizedek
Under the Mosaic covenant, only men from the tribe of Levi could serve as priests and only one man from the same tribe of Levi could serve as high priest according to the order of Aaron. There was not, however, “perfection through the Levitical priesthood” (Hebrews 7:11a). It is further “evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood” (Hebrews 7:14; cf. Isaiah 11:1). Moreover, for the “priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of law” (Hebrews 7:12). Jesus Christ is therefore not a high priest according to the order of Aaron in terms of the Mosaic covenant, but He is the High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek in terms of the New covenant (Hebrews 7:14, 22, 8:8-13; 13:20; cf. Mayhue 1996:251-257).
Only One High Priest
There is only one High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek — and that forever. Since Pentecost believers have a High Priest who has passed through the heavens, who sympathises with our weaknesses and who was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:14-15; cf. 5:2). Jesus Christ is the only High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek: He is the author of eternal salvation, He saves to the uttermost and He always lives to make intercession for believers (Hebrews 5:9; 7:25). Has the man in Rome who is a so-called “high priest” passed through the heavens, has he been resurrected from the dead and declared by God the Father to be without sin so that he can save to the uttermost? There is only one High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek, namely Jesus Christ — all other pretenders are unbiblical, blind leaders leading many followers tragically into the pit.
The Believer is Part of a Holy and Royal Priesthood
Every believer that is part of the universal Church is part of a holy and royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:5, 9; cf. Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 20:6). The role of a priest is to offer sacrifices (Fruchtenbaum 2005:22). Which sacrifices must believers in Christ bring? Firstly, given the mercies of God, it is our reasonable sacrifice to offer once and for all our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12:1). Secondly, believers are to continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God through Christ, that is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name, proclaiming the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvellous light (Hebrews 13:15; 1 Petrus 2:9). Pray for others (Colossians 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:1). Thirdly, priests according to the order of Melchizedek have the privilege to offer financial sacrifices for the work of the Lord (2 Corinthians 9; Hebrews 13:16). Fourthly, New Testament priests offer sacrifices of good works.
Since we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14a, 16). Let us look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2a). To Christ be the glory, great things He has done, great things He is doing and great things He will yet do!
Our next article in this series about the symbolic illustrations of the universal Church will focus on the Head and the body of the universal Church.
If you would like to read more about the Universal Church, we suggest you read the original article and source of this short series, The Universal Church, written by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum.
We also made use of Covenant of Grace or New Covenant? An Exegetical Note by R.L. Mayhue, which was published in 1996 in The Master’s Seminary Journal 7(2): 251-257.
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