Monday, 17 September 2007

Priests of Two Covenants

The other day in my daily Scripture reading I came across this passage in Acts, upon which I had hitherto never really remarked.

Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:7)
As I read it, the thought struck me. Many of the priests became obedient to the faith. The priests-those who served in the Temple, who faithfully administered the ablutions, the drink offerings, the burnt offerings, the grain offerings, descendants of Aaron all- became believers. In much of the rest of Acts, we see the Jewish leaders, both Sadducees (amongst whom most of the priestly classes could be counted) and Pharisees aggressively opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is an agreeable thought then to realise that in fact those reactions were not representative of the entire Judaic establishment. For "many of the priests were obedient to the faith". Not just a couple. Many.

And that leads into an even more compelling idea. How many, I wonder, of these Jewish priests would later have been ordained into the Christian priesthood? How many who had spent much of their lives offering the sacrifices of the Old Covenant would then have been privileged to offer the Sacrifice of the New? It is a delightful thing to ponder.
It was pointed out to me when I mentioned this to a friend that these priests would have had to wait a while. We have every reason to believe that, certainly until the time of the persecution following Stephen's martyrdom and the consequent dispersion of the Christians from Jerusalem (most notably to Antioch to the north), the only ordained ministers were those Christ Himself had ordained, that is, the Apostles. Sometime after the dispersion, and certainly by the time of Paul's first missionary journey (at the very latest), however, the Twelve would have begun to ordain their first successors. And who better to offer the Sacrifice for the people and pastor the new flocks popping up in different cities than those who had already been sacrificing and pastoring under the Old Covenant and had passed from Old to New organically? Those who had been priests in the order of Aaron could now be drawn up into a priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek. The shadow passing into the reality. The type passing into the fulfillment.

"Do not think I came to destroy the Torah...I came not to destroy but to fulfill."

At this crossover period when one covenant was barely over and the new barely begun, it is agreeable to ponder those who lived and, very possibly, ministered under both. It is indeed a wonderful thought. Speculative, I grant you, but by no means improbable. And who can think of the possibility without marvelling somewhat at the magnificent brilliance of God's designs?

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