The priests in the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, operated under the Levitical commands of the Mosaic Covenant. Their daily sacrifices and offerings were required so God’s people were able to commune with Him and be led by His grace and mercy (click here to read a post about OT sacrifices). The sweet aromas of the burnt, meal, and peace offerings and the not so sweet aroma of the sin and trespass offerings wafted out of the altar of the courtyard. The priests performed their daily rituals with reverence and obedience.
The Mosaic Covenant, along with the Levitical Priesthood, is now obsolete. It finished when the great High-Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, made final intercession on our behalf. Scripture tells us that He sat down, having completed His Priestly ministry. It finished after He entered the Holy of Holies of heaven’s tabernacle and sprinkled His blood on the mercy seat. Because of His sacrifice on the cross, there remains no more sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 10:1-18). His sacrificial act rendered the Old Covenant obsolete and established the basis of the New Covenant.
Christianity is the New Covenant God has made with mankind. The New Covenant also comes with a new priesthood. Every Christian is a priest in the new Covenant. As priests, we have different privileges and responsibilities than the priests of the Mosaic Covenant.
Here are the functions of the priesthood Christians should concern themselves with. Welcome to the priesthood!
Not sacrifice for sins
We need to explicitly understand there is a major difference between the priests of the Old Covenant and the priests of the New Covenant. The primary function of the Old Covenant priest was to make an offering for sin for themselves and on behalf of other people. Because Christ has already made a complete and finished offering in the New Covenant, any offering we give or any sacrifice we put forth, is not done with the pretense of cleansing ourselves from sin. We are to make offerings and sacrifices; however, we are not to do so as a way to present ourselves sinless before God. Never undervalue the complete saving work of the cross by adding more sacrifice for sin.
Love God and others
Love fulfills the Law. As priests, we are to love God and others. To love God with all our heart, understanding, and strength; and to love our neighbor as ourselves, is an offering far exceeding any burnt offering and sacrifice (Mark 12:33). When we love God and others it is better than the choicest offerings and sacrifices performed by the Levitical priests. God desires we show compassion towards one another more than He desires sacrifices (Matthew 9:13; 12:7). When we are walking in love, it is an offering and sacrifice with a fragrant aroma to God (Ephesians 5:2), pleasing to Him. Doing good toward others is a pleasing sacrifice on the altar (Hebrews 13:16). As priests, let us be fully governed by love.
Minister the Gospel
We are a royal and holy priesthood, set apart by God to proclaim God’s excellency (1 Peter 2:4-10). For mankind, the excellency of God is displayed in the dispensation of His grace. Just as the Levitical priests were set apart for the proclamation of God’s holiness through sacrificial offerings for sin, we, as a priest in the New Covenant, minister the gospel (Romans 15:16). We offer up the sacrifice of our lips, giving thanks to God (Hebrews 13:15). Our priestly proclamation is the declaration of the atoning sacrifice for sins made by Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary.
The Levitical priests worshipped God by making offerings. We also are to serve and thereby make continual offerings. Our worship is to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, not conformed to the world, but transformed (Romans 12:1-2). Our living sacrifice is the pouring out of our lives for others. (Philippians 2:17; 2 Timothy 4:6). Serving others manifests in a myriad of ways (shoveling, cleaning, discipleship, baby-sitting, nursing, laundering, witnessing, moving, cooking, etc.). We demonstrate a heart of gratitude when we offer up to God acceptable service, performed with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28).
One of the functions of the priests in the Old Covenant was to keep the altar of incense burning in the Holy Place. The altar continually burnt with incense and the aroma was pleasing to God. The Apostle John writes that he saw the prayers of the saints as an offering being made before God (Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4). When we pray, God is honored and enjoys the sweet aroma before His throne. Just as the altar of incense in the Tabernacle burnt continuously, our prayers are to be unceasing.
In the Old Covenant, people gave to the Levites so they may minister. In the New Covenant, all believers are to be giving of their finances for this is an acceptable sacrifice to God (Philippians 4:18). Apostolic mission work, benevolence, and church ministry require financial support. We please God when we participate in the giving of our finances for the purpose of honoring Christ and His body.
Let us be sure to ask God to grant us wisdom and grace for the ministry set before us.