Introduction | Table of Contents | Chapter 14

What we want to focus on here is the superior nature, passion and mission of the royal priesthood. The author of Hebrews contrasted this priesthood to the Levitical priesthood. We want to prove its superiority by showing that this new priesthood is not religious at all, and for that reason goes far beyond any previously held concept of religious priesthood, including the Levitical priesthood. It existed long before Levy, the law, the temple, and Judaism or any other religious expression of Israel. Moreover, it is in effect now, 2000 years after the Levitical order disappeared. It is a priesthood designed to end all religious priesthoods. It is not a better religious priesthood. It is simply not religious at all.

Before looking at New Covenant priesthood, we must first discuss the principle of priesthood as it relates to man's fallen condition. The fall of man is the ground religious priesthood bases its birth, function and longevity on.

Through years of religious conditioning, it is our habit to immediately superimpose the idea of religious priesthood on the priesthood of all believers. This is both erroneous and limiting because God has something entirely different in mind, something that goes far beyond any previously conceived priesthood. Religion is not a higher state of things as some would teach. It has no place in God's ultimate design. It exists not as an answer to sin but because of sin. Sin gave birth to it in the first place.

Many Christians believe that Christ's finished work opens the way back into an Eden-like communion and fellowship with God. Let us then for a moment consider what it was like before man fell.

In the beginning man had no religion. There were no temples; no holy niches, no veils, no religious rites and no priests. Adam and Eve had direct, unveiled access to God. They were His offspring, living by His Breath. They related to their Creator without any sense of fear or shame (Genesis 2:22). This glorious first-estate of man, in union with his Creator, was forfeited as a consequence of Adam's sin. Immediately following their disobedience, Adam and Eve hid themselves from God in fear and shame. Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, "Where are you?" Adam answered, "I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself." To which God replied, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?" (Genesis 3:9-11). "Where are you, Adam?" This original sin removed man from the presence of God. They were no longer one with their Maker, but separate, even veiling themselves from Him with their self-made garments.

This was the dawn of religion and the seminal beginnings of religious priest-craft. Religion that sprang from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil cannot exist apart from the conditions that first drove Adam and Eve into hiding. Three things are essential to its operation: separation, fear and shame. Religion makes its basic appeal to the fallen nature of man because they both sprang from the same tree. It appeals to that deep sense of separation that is now an intrinsic part of man's makeup and capitalizes on the resulting guilt and shame. Religion traffics in fear by promoting the idea that apart from it there is no bridge of salvation. It presents itself as the bridge, "The church saves you." But this unfortunately is a toll bridge.

And so this separation-based, fear-based and shame-based religion has set up shop between God and men. Its bazaar is strategically placed in that gulf that sin has fixed. It preserves its place by maintaining the separation, guilt and shame that gave it birth. Though it gives lip-service to the idea of reuniting men with God, its greater concern is to protect its economy by maintaining man's need for it. Like the Pharisees, it has a vested interest in continuing this separation between God and men in order to preserve its own marketplace (see Matthew 23:13). Therefore, religion as such is not a higher state of things as is so often believed and taught, but is, as Karl Barth suggests is, ". . . the concern of godless man." Godless man loves religion because of the strategic position, power and prestige it gives. So this enviable, exclusive guardianship of the way to God progressively takes on the tones of a marketplace. When you have acquired exclusive rights to God, why not charge admission? All these temples with their holy niches and veils, religious rights and priests (ministries) cost money to maintain.

Providing a covering at a price is nothing new to religion. Historically religion and its priest-craft used the threat of withheld forgiveness and access to God to control and bind multitudes to itself. The etymology of the word religion speaks of binding and bondage. Webster defined it as follows:

"RELIGION, n. relij'on. [L. religio, from religo, to bind anew; re and ligo, to bind."

Then he goes on to address the pagan origins of the word.

"This word seems originally to have signified an oath or vow to the gods, or the obligation of such an oath or vow, which was held very sacred by the Romans."

This overtly idolatrous system is in perfect keeping with fallen man's inner circumstance, yet leaves him in perfect control to decide what is good and what is evil without the leading of the Spirit of God. It generates a priest-craft that consists of the soulishly powerful reigning over the guilt-ridden weak. This binds man to an ancient, inherently flawed approach to God. It binds men to failure and is destined for total collapse. There was no religion in Eden where man walked in the cool of the day with God and there is no religion among those who dwell in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Religion by its very nature is adverse to a meaningful relationship with God. Those who have had a living relationship with Him have always been a target for persecution by the religious. Even the Son of God was persecuted and killed by those who wanted to preserve their religion.

Judaism had become a religion. The more it became so, the more it tried to preserve its place by maintaining the separation between God and men. It had forgotten its purpose. It no longer freed men but bound them instead. It placed grievous and heavy burdens upon the shoulders of men (Matthew 23:4). It no longer brought men to God but instead shut up the kingdom of heaven against men (Matthew 23:13). It no longer focused upon the needs of people but instead upon the maintenance of its own system (Matthew 23:16). It no longer charitably gave but rather tried to gain riches under the pretense of piety (Matthew 23: 14). Jesus constantly confronted this as He went about ministering to the sick and needy and to those who had been victimized by this religious system.

The true priesthood of God is not a religious priesthood; it is governed by a different passion and a different mind. It passionately desires to reconcile men to God. It has a new High Priest Who has given His all for that very purpose. There is a new priesthood that carries His passion into the world. This priesthood is not made up of a select family or group within the believing community but is made up of all believers. The one objective of this priesthood is to cooperate with God in bringing men back to their first condition, living by God's breath moment by moment. It exists for one purpose--to restore everything that sin has undone by reuniting the creature with the Creator through the Lord Jesus Christ.

William Law wrote of this blessed primal condition which predates and will mark the end of religious priest-craft.

"It is the SPIRIT OF GOD brought again to His first power of life within us. Nothing else is needed by us and nothing else is intended for us neither by the Law, the prophets or the gospel. Nothing else is or can be effectual in the making of sinful man into a godly creature. Everything else, however glorious and divine in outward appearance; everything that angels, men, churches or reformations can do for us is dead and helpless, but so far as it is the immediate work of the Spirit of God breathing and living in it." (An Affectionate Address to the Clergy)

Paul wrote about this great reunification of man with the Father. "But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:17 KJV). This is the undoing of all the division and destruction that sin brought upon the earth. It is the key to unity with the Lord and with men. The basis of this unity is the reunion of Spirit and spirit that is in every regard a return to Eden. It is a return to the face-to-face fellowship that God shared with Adam the son of God. (Luke 3:38).

If you are a believer, you are part of this glorious priesthood, predestined to be filled with God Himself. Paul wrote, "that He [Jesus] should be presenting to Himself a glorious ekklesia, not having spot or wrinkle or any such things, but that it may be holy and flawless" (Ephesians 5:27 CLV). This word glory is key. Glory as revealed in the scriptures is the visible presence and power of almighty God! The Lord Himself is "the glory of the Lord." A glorious assembly is an assembly filled with the Lord. Mediators have no place when the Lord is present.

When Solomon's temple (the former house) was dedicated, the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD so completely that the priests could not stand to minister. . ." (1 Kings 8). Ezekiel shows us the appropriate human response to such glory. ". . . and I fell upon my face" (Ezekiel 44:4). So shall it be in the end-time ekklesia. God's glory brings an end to the need for mediators between God and men. In His glory the priest cannot minister and the prophet cannot stand. We need far less human activity and more glory-more of Him.

Adam and Eve were bound only by the life that animated them. The very breath of God was their unity. The new priesthood contends for this. They declare the realities of an unveiled relationship with God by their life and actions, and whose lives are an inspiration and invitation to others to enter beyond the veil. In this priesthood there is only one Mediator. This priesthood points the way beyond the veil into the presence of the living God. These priests always seek to decrease in the eyes of men that He might increase in their lives. Like their Master, they are the humble, living reproof of those who seek the chief seats in the synagogues.

The true priesthood has one end in view-open and free access into the holy of holies for all. This priesthood earnestly seeks to usher men into God's presence. The tables of the money changers are completely toppled when believers avail themselves of God's invitation to enter the holiest place through the efficacious working of the blood of the Lamb. Religion and all its trappings are meaningless to those who stand in the glorious presence of God!

We close this chapter with the words of a song that holds deep meaning to us.

Take Me In
By Dave Browning

Take me past the outer courts
Into the Holy Place
Past the brazen altar
Lord I want to see Your face
Pass me by the crowds of people
And the Priests who sing Your praise
I hunger and thirst for Your righteousness
But it's only found in one place

Take me into the holy of holies
Take me in by the blood of the Lamb
Take me into the holy of holies
Take the coal, touch my lips, here I am.

Introduction | Table of Contents | Chapter 14

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