Mike on OYB refers us to some commentary on Bible.org about the Principles of Priesthood.
and Arising from the rules in Leviticus for the priests to receive a share of certain types of sacrifice, Mike also asks our views about payment to professional clergy in churches today and funding of other types of ministry.
These are questions which have been occupying my thoughts for a while as I consider the whole question of how we should be church, the extent to which we need institutions and structures, and how they should be ordered and governed. One of the points I do not understand is raised in the Bible.org article, that is how we continue to run with a professional priesthood. The article by Bob Deffinbaugh explains the following principles from the NT:
"Principle 1: The Old Testament Aaronic priesthood has been fulfilled and rendered obsolete by Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest."
"Principle 2: The Lord Jesus Christ has instituted a new priestly order, not of a few select individuals, but of all those who are born again, who are united by faith with His priesthood."
"Principle 3: The Book of Hebrews, in particular, uses the inferiority of the Aaronic Priesthood as an argument for not being tempted to go back to the old order, which prefers law to grace, and Moses to Christ."
"The strong emphasis on the superiority of Christ’s priesthood to that of Aaron is for a very specific purpose in the Book of Hebrews. There were apparently those who were tempted (by Jewish persecution) to fall away from their faith and to return to the practice of Judaism. As we study the Aaronic priesthood, we should be overcome with gratitude to God for the better priesthood which Christ has inaugurated, and be motivated to continue in grace, rather than to fall into works."
So I continue to have doubts about the way we run churches with professional priests and clergy and the laity in some apparently inferior position in a hierarchy. And until that question is clear, I do not have an answer on mechanisms for compensation (paying salaries or whatever). Of course, Christians should be generous in their giving and if we are part of a group or community which is doing something together we all have to take a share of the expenses.
But the point which really struck me in Bob Deffinbaugh's article is down near the end:
"Principle 4: Most of the principles of priesthood which are found in the Old Testament apply equally to the New Testament priesthood as well."
So we, the people, are now part of the priesthood of all believers but we need to pay attention to the Leviticus rules for priests! Wow, this is a wake-up call.
"Priesthood is bestowed upon all those who are a member of the right family. Just as it was only the sons of Aaron who were priests under the Law of Moses, so it is only those who are in Christ by personal faith who are priests today. Priesthood is not something which men can bestow upon other men, ..."
"God’s priesthood is a holy priesthood. We are to learn from God’s words, quoted by Moses, that disobedience to God dishonors Him and fails to regard Him as holy."
God takes the sins of His priests very seriously. And if we see that so much of the Bible is a record of human failure we need to take this seriously too. But God offers hope.
"It is the essence of the Gospel: When men come to the point that they see they cannot trust in themselves, they must turn to God alone for their deliverance."
And this hope is very different from the hype of success stories offered by parts of the modern church. We try to mask our failures from ourselves by hyping our human successes. But this only serves to postpone the point of recognition of our failure - our point of repentance, our point of turning to God as our only deliverer, the point at which we actually put our whole selves, soul, mind, body into His hands as a living sacrifice.
Anything which gets in the way of our reaching that point should be avoided. And if paid clergy are put in a mediator role between us and God, or if they are in the role of doing our thinking and confessing for us, or if they are 'hearing God' on our behalf when we need to be directly confronted with God ourselves, I think we have got something wrong with church organization.
Updated to fix a couple of typos 2006-03-03