Summary: Today’s message is in some ways going to sound like last week’s in term’s of what our high priest has done. But I also want to make this very practical in terms of what Peter says in 1 Peter chapter 2 about the body of believers being a royal priesthood.
The first thing I want to do is debunk the traditional idea of priests in the Church. In the Catholic tradition there is a basic holding to the tradition of the Old Testament. Priests in the Old Testament were very exclusive, and could only come from the family of Aaron and the tribe of Levi. There were no other qualifications and often these priests were very corrupt, some not all. And these priests were the only ones who could really enter into God’s presence and have a relationship with Him. So the people depended on them to keep them spiritually OK with God. They were intercessors.
These priests had to offer sacrifices daily standing at the altar, but these sacrifices could never take away sin. The Catholic church has in essence continued a very similar model where the priests are an exclusive group claiming to be called by God, and they are the only ones who can access God and intercede for God’s people. I am not Catholic bashing here, just showing the parallel, which obviously I believe is misguided according to the New Testament.
This is where confession comes from, where in order to be forgiven you need to confess each of your sins to the priest who then offers something to God on your behalf, or instructs you to do something like 10 hail Mary’s in order to be forgiven of that sin. So there is no real one time payment for sin through Christ, and there is no access to God for the ordinary believer. That’s one of the reason’s they pray to Mary and the saints often instead of Jesus. They have many other intercessors.
Now since Christ did away with the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament, the duties of priests have been done away with, and scripture tells us that all believers are now a royal priesthood with the High Priest being Jesus, not Peter, not the Pope. And the difference between the Old Testament priests and the Catholic type priests compared to Jesus, is that since Jesus:
I. The Priest Sacrifices Himself (vv 11-13)
So when Jesus sacrificed himself notice he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. The Levitical priests always stood and repeatedly offered the sacrifices but Jesus sitting down represents the single, good for all time sacrifice. Nothing else is required from man or God to forgive the sins of man.
This sacrifice tore the curtain between the Holy of Holies and the outer courts showing that there is no longer any separation between us and God, and that the only way to the Father is through the son, Jesus Christ. He is our intercessor and we can pray directly to Him who is God.
Jesus Christ humbled himself through death on a cross to be exalted to the right hand of God, and Scripture tells us that even now, those who humble themselves will be exalted. Those who exalt themselves, such as those who claim to be the exclusive priesthood and create barriers between man and God are now enemies of Jesus and are humbled and made a footstool under his feet. Jesus is the only spiritual authority in heaven or on earth. If we make anyone else that authority we are enemies of God.
Now not only does He forgive sins, in verse 14 and in the second part of verse 22 we see that:
II. The Priest Sanctifies Sinners (v 14, 22b)
Hail Marys, doing penance, serving, tithing, none of those things sanctifies a believer. It is the High Priest Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit that he sent who sanctifies sinners, makes them progressively more Holy. This begins when we repent and accept Jesus as our Saviour and Lord, and receive the Holy Spirit.
Look at that verse 14 with me again, for by that one offering He Forever (one time) made perfect (representing our conscience – heart) those who are being made (progressively) holy (representing our body – behaviour).
We need to understand the end of verse 22 “For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.”
By his blood we are saved spiritually, it makes us clean for good when we accept the covering of his blood. But he also washes our bodies, and I believe this happens continuously through the Holy Spirit. Water is associated with Baptism, and so is the Holy Spirit. So we are made clean forever spiritually by the blood - and by the Spirit, the water, our bodies are being sanctified on a continuous basis.
Now I think we need to ask why. Why not just make us right and good to go to heaven? Why do we need the sanctification? Let’s turn to 1 Peter to get the answer to that.