Priest — Priesthood -- By: William H. Bates

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 076:302 (Apr 1919)
Article: Priest — Priesthood
Author: William H. Bates

Priest — Priesthood

William H. Bates

The dictionary definition of priest is “one who officiates at the altar, or who performs the rites of sacrifice; one who acts as mediator between man and the divinity or the gods in any form of religion.” Scripture says that “every high priest taken from among men, is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins” (Heb. 5:1). The same would be true of the lesser priests.

Priesthood Universal

Previous to the Mosaic economy, so far as the history appears in Scripture, there was no priestly “caste.” 1 The patriarchs — Noah, Abraham, Jethro, etc. — offered their own sacrifices. The fathers were priests of their own families. Priesthood was universal.

This condition might have continued, for God bade Moses tell the children of Israel: “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and an holy nation” (Ex. 19:5, 6). All should have equal access to God, each one being his own priest.

Priesthood Limited

What was thus offered conditionally, was, alas, rescinded, because the covenant they entered into (Ex. 19:8; Deut. 5:2) with God they broke; they disobeyed. Some other plan must be devised.

On account of Israel’s sad failure, God instituted the Aaronic or Levitical priesthood, and approach to Him must henceforth be through this mediating class. But as we now know, that scheme was provisional, temporary, and its rites were typical. In the course of time the primal condition was to be restored, and a universal priestly privilege and service be again the boon of all mankind.

Priesthood Universal Again

In the Epistle to the Hebrews (chaps. 5–10) Christ is shown to have fulfilled and accomplished all that was typically and practically intended in the old-time priesthood, both that of Aaron and Melchizedek as well. He assumed both lines — that inside the Levitical cult and that outside— into his own priestly person, becoming thus the end of both, and thereby opening forevermore the way of access to all who would come unto God by him.

There is therefore no more need or place for any human or priestly “class” to mediate between man and God. Every believer in Christ now has “an h...

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