Thursday, December 25, 2008

Operation of the Levitical and Melchizedek Priesthoods

The LDS Church claims to enjoy the restoration of Levitical and Melchizedek Priesthoods. Some Christians claim that there is no evidence of priesthood in the New Testament or NT Church. First we need to establish a definition of what priesthood is. The Priesthood is the authority of God given to man to administer covenants between God and man on His behalf since God can't do it personally because man cannot endure His presence.

What is the purpose of the priesthood? The Levitical Priesthood is for the purpose of the administration of the covenant for justification and sin forgiveness through Jesus Christ. The covenant is initiated and accepted by water baptism. Israel was baptized as a people when they were led through the Red Sea. The covenant is renewed again and again in the OT by animal sacrifice which foreshadowed the sacrifice of Jesus Christ which is the actual payment for sin and not the animal sacrifice itself. God doesn't need dead animals. It is man that needs the constant vivid reminders of our commitments.

In the NT Church, the practice of water baptism continued and was demonstrated by John the Baptist who was the birthright son of the Levitical High Priest. Christians continued to enter into the the covenant of justification and sin forgiveness and continue the practice of water baptism. However, the renewal of that covenant of sin forgiveness changed. Jesus Christ directed that the practice of animal sacrifice was fulfilled but not the law of sacrifice. Instead, Christ says that the only sacrifice acceptable is a broken heart and contrite spirit. Christ institutes a new mechanism for the renewal of the covenant of justification and sin forgiveness through the Lord's Supper. Bread and water serve as better symbols to represent Christ's sacrifice as society is less and less agrarian and there got to be just too many people around the temple selling livestock.

The Levitical Priesthood is a lesser and changeable priesthood, but it is still given to Aaron and his descendants as an everlasting inheritance. Therefore, because the priesthood is everlasting, it should still find operation in the NT church.

The other purpose of the Levitical Priesthood is that it is a preparatory priesthood for the higher or Melchizedek Priesthood which is the priesthood and covenant for sanctification and perfection. Therefore, we see that the Levitical Priesthood still serves as a preparatory role in the LDS church to prepare persons to receive the higher priesthood. This priesthood and the Levitical covenant was also meant to prepare Israel to receive the higher covenant which they rejected according to the Epistle of Barnabas (see Chapter 14) when Moses smashed the first set of stone tablets.

Heb. 7: 11 If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?
Matt. 5: 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
eb 6:1-3 Therefore [not] leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit. . . Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:

However, the Levitical Priesthood is not adminstered currently or in NT times by sons of Levi or of Aaron. Why wasn't it administered only by the Levites or sons of Aaron? Because they did show up to the wedding. And so Paul said that he ordained everyone in the church because the priesthood was offered to anyone who would show up. But repentance and righteousness is still required to serve (wedding garment).

Matt. 22: 3, 8, 10-12 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. . . For many are called, but few are chosen.
1 Cor. 7: 17 But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.

But Paul doesn't ordain everyone to the same ordination. Paul calls some as Deacons and some as Presbyters. And each is given different responsibility in the church. Ignatius says that the Deacons should be subject to the Presbyters and the Deacons and the Presbyters would be subject to the Bishop. Ignatius says that no one in the church should do anything without the approval of the Bishop. Ignatius hints that the Deacons had responsibility over the Lords Supper when he says they administer the mysteries (emblems) of Jesus Christ and not "not ministers of meat and drink, but servants of the Church of God."

However, the Apostles in the NT says that there are spiritual rites that only the Presbyters can do. First, they say that the elders of Presbyters have the authority to anoint and bless the sick. And then Paul reminds Timothy that he should not neglect the gift of the Holy Ghost which was given to him by prophecy and by the laying on of hands of the presbytery.

James 5: 14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
1 Tim. 4: 14 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.

This is interesting because John the Baptist who held the Levitical and Aaronic Priesthood by birthright even though he was never made the High Priest, said he had the authority to water baptism for sin remission but not to baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost. But we see people coming to John the Baptist and confessing their sins and being water baptized so we see how water baptism is associate with this covenant of justification and sin forgiveness but not sanctification through the tranformative power of the Holy Spirit.

Matt. 3: 11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
Matt. 3: 6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.

Christ is called a priest after the order of Melchizedek and had this higher priesthood, and So we see here that only the Presbyters held this higher priesthood. That must mean that the Deacons represented those in the church who were ordained to the Levitical Priesthood in preparation to receiving the higher and Melchizedek priesthood at some future point. The fact that the higher or Melchizedek Priesthood is the end goal is why it is called an unchangeable priesthood.

Heb 7:12;24 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. . . . But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.

So, Deacons were ordained to the Levitical Priesthood and had duties and responsibilities in the NT church to administer the rites, ordinances and covenants associated with justification and sin forgiveness such as water baptism and the Lords Supper. Presbyters were ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood and were given responsibilities in the NT church to administer the rites, ordinances and covenants of the higher priesthood of sanctification. This involves the confirmation of the Holy Ghost or the Baptism of Fire and the Temple covenant.

In the OT, the Levites had considerable responsibility in the temple to offer sacrifice. But not in the NT church and not in the restored LDS church. This is because the restored temple is not a Law of Moses or Levitical Priesthood temple. The temple prophesied to be restored in Dan 2, Micah 2, Isaiah 2, Isaiah 29, and Ezek 37:26-29 will not be a Levitical Temple but a Melchizedek Priesthood Christian temple which administers the everlasting covenant for the purposes of sanctification and not just justification.

Ezek 37:26-29 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.

And where do we find information about what goes on in the restored Christian temple? We get details about it by John and Paul and by Christ. John in Revelations gives us the most detailed description. John talks about that before the tribulation in the last days that God will "seal in the forehead" the faithful who have overcome. Those that receive this "sealing" are "called, chosen, and faithful." Those terms are tied to priesthood rights and ordination. Paul says that no one receiveth the honor of the priesthood except he was called as was Aaron. And we know that Aaron was called by revelation and then was washed, anointed and clothed in priests clothing. And so in the temple the "sealing" or "endowment" involves being clothed in a white robe and given a new name and given to eat what John calls "hidden manna" referring to the sacred nature of what is done in the temple that is not spoken of publicly and is not written about in the Bible directly except by John. And John says that those who receive this "sealing" are made priests and kings to God and enter into a covenant of sanctification.

Heb. 5: 4 And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.

So, what is the covenant of sanctification associated with the Melchizedek priesthood? Jesus Christ answers that in response to the Rich Young Man. The Young Man was already observing the commandment of the Law of Moses and the Levitical Covenant. So, Christ extended to the young man the higher covenant of consecration. Remember that the only acceptable offering to God is our will and a broken heart and contrite spirit.

Matt. 19: 21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
Ezek. 44: 7 In that ye have brought into my sanctuary strangers, uncircumcised in heart, and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in my sanctuary, to pollute it, even my house, when ye offer my bread, the fat and the blood, and they have broken my covenant because of all your abominations.
Ps. 51: 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
Ps. 34: 18 The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.

And we see that the NT church had entered into this higher covenant of sanctification. And as a sign of that covenant they were said in the NT to be living the United Order or living with "all things in common." And those of us who desire to me made perfect through Christ must enter into this covenant and consecrate our will and soul to God which He has purchased by the flesh and blood of His Son Jesus Christ and keep nothing back.

Acts 2:44-46 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
Acts 4: 32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
Acts 5:1-3 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?

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