Christian Priesthood Defined
The Altar is the Place of Sacrifice
Lesson 2 of 11
Noah offered sacrifices to God at an altar: “And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.” Gen.8:20,
Abraham offered sacrifices to God at an altar: And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood,” (Genesis 22:9).
The Levitical priests offered sacrifices to God at an altar: Now this is that which thou shalt offer upon the altar; two lambs of the first year day by day continually. And I will sanctify the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar: I will sanctify also both Aaron and his sons, to minister to me in the priest's office,” (Exodus 29:38,44).
By this God was emphasizing that the altar is the place of sacrifice to Him, which was the place of divine service to God. The blood of an animal was shed at the altar for the sins of the people signifying that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.
God identifies an altar for worship to preach to us that the people were not allowed to worship God in the manner of their own choosing. The worship of God is always with responsibility to the terms God set. The custom of worship was established by God, and it revolved around the activity of an altar and the shedding of blood.
By the time we get to the First Covenant, the Levitical priesthood is established and the “priest’s office” is identified as that office selected by God to minister to Him at the altar by offering sacrifices to God.
Look at the illustration below to help you understand for the priesthood of all believers. We see that God selected or called out a people unto Himself to approach unto Him. God called Abraham out from many nations to make of him a nation “Israel”. From the 12 tribes of Israel, God chose Levi to approach unto Him, to serve Him at an altar.
Today, in Christ, each believer is called out of the world into covenant with God to serve God as royal priests. Moses prophesied that God would form a kingdom of priests (Exodus 9:6). Each believer is chosen to serve God at the altar of Jesus Christ. Instead of an altar of stone, our altar is an altar of knowledge set within the heart, as Paul said, “Christ in you” (Colossians 1:27).
New Testament Altar
When Jesus, as the Lamb of God, shed His blood for the sins of the world, God preached to us that we have a new altar in Christ and identifies each believer as a priest, "We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle,” (Hebrews 13:10)
Apostle Peter instructs believers in their priesthood saying, “As lively stones, (you) are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” He goes on to teach, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light,” (1 Peter 2:5,9).
So God is making a connection for us between the altar and the sacrifice and the priesthood and our worship of Him. If you claim faith in Jesus Christ and do not know how to offer spiritual sacrifices at His altar, now is the time to learn.
The altar of Christ is necessary for our priesthood. Just as the altar was the habit of life for the Old Testament priests, so the altar is the habit of life for the New Testament priests.
As we compare the altar of the Old Testament to the altar of the New Testament we see the pattern of Christ hidden in the old and Christ and His redemptive work revealed in the new. Everything of the First Covenant testified and pointed to Christ, pointing to Him as the Savior of the world.
From the temple, to the candlesticks, to the altar, all was a type and shadow of Christ to come. By faith they were to behold Christ in these things. By faith we now behold Christ in His knowledge. He is the completion of our faith, the fulfillment of that which was hoped for.
God was taking the covenant from the natural
to the spiritual
. As they worshipped in a physical temple made of stone, God now says that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost. Christ is set within us as the temple, altar, and foundation of our faith.
As the priests were called of God to serve Him at a physical altar, we now learn our responsibility of service Christ at His spiritual altar. And just as God provided substance (the animals for sacrifice) for faith in the Old Testament, so God provides substance (knowledge) for faith in the New Testament.
The sacrifices of the temple would not have had any substance to them if they did not have the sheep, oxen, and goats to offer to God. And then, from the substance of faith came hope. As they offered their sacrifice upon the altar, their prays ascended up with the smoke of the altar and this gave them hope that God would receive their sacrifices and their prayers.
The same is true for the Christian priesthood. As we offer spiritual sacrifices of knowledge upon the altar of Christ in the heart, our prayers ascend with our sacrifices, giving us hope that God would receive our sacrifices and prayers. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for,” (Hebrews 11:1). For your hope to have substance, your faith must first contain the substance of His knowledge.
The Transition From Sacrifices of Blood to Sacrifice of Knowledge
In the previous lesson we established that the altar is Jesus Christ and the sacrifice is Jesus Christ. Once His blood was shed, the perfect sacrifice was made and there is no more need to shed blood. So why do we, in the New Testament, need an altar.
Here is where the transition takes place in the area of sacrifices from the Old Testament to the New Testament. The transition is from offering the blood of animals to offering the sacrifices of knowledge. This is why they are called “spiritual sacrifices”.
In the previous lesson we also established from the words of Jesus that God is a Spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth,” (Jn.4:24). This lets us know about the construction of the new altar. It is constructed of the stones of Jesus’ truth, the 12 Elements of the Gospel.
Remember we said that Jesus pointed to Himself as the new altar, the new place of worship and said, “I am truth,” (John 14:6). And Paul, knowing this wrote by the Spirit saying, “We have an altar (Jesus), whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle,” (Hebrews 13:10). From these verses God established six things for the church:
Jesus is the altar of our faith.
The altar is the place where sacrifices are offered to God.
The sacrifice is Jesus and He is truth.
New Testament priests offer to God sacrifices of knowledge.
Those who continue to serve at the altar of Moses have no right to eat of Christ.
The covenants cannot be mixed.
Let’s look at item #5-6 for a moment. A Christian cannot blend into faith the animal sprinkled articles of the Old Covenant with the blood sprinkled articles of Jesus Christ, for one is physical, while the other is spiritual. That would be profaning the name of the Lord and trodding down the Son of God, counting His blood as an unholy thing, and doing despite to the Spirit of Grace.
Those who serve the tabernacle of Moses in priestly service that consists of the things of Moses, such as the Ten Commandments, tithing, washings, feast day celebrations, banners, Sabbath keeping, etc., have no right to partake of Jesus Christ.
What does that mean, to partake of Christ? To be a partaker of Christ means to benefit from His sacrifice. We cannot benefit from the righteousness of Jesus Christ if the Law if your righteousness. We cannot be a partaker of His holiness if sin is pointing out our weakness. We cannot benefit from His sanctification of the Spirit if we are seeking the sanctification of carnal works. We cannot be a partaker of His gifts of grace if we are seeking justification by the Law. The Law condemns us.
Every tradition of man is a false altar. In the first lesson we said that Jesus, when speaking to the Samaritan woman, pointed towards a new place of worship and told her that the true worshippers shall worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. She insisted, “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, and you say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” She was insisting that her tradition still had some value to it, but she was worshipping at a false altar and Jesus came to tell her that. He said, “You worship you know not what,” (John 4:22).
In other words, “You are worshipping devils and you don’t even know it. You are not aware that your worship is not reaching God.” Remember, there are only 2 kingdoms, Satan’s and God’s. So if your worship is not reaching God, then it is reaching Satan.
Just as the woman at the well, believers today are insisting that their tradition is the true altar of faith. At the same time they are insisting upon their tradition they are also seeking answers, wanting to know the right denomination, the best form of praise music, the best style of service (contemporary or traditional), the best way to minister to families and teens, the best programs for singles and couples, etc.
All these ideas have missed the mark and are spiritually dangerous for they have led to the building of many false altars that are based upon the imagination. The imagination can build a lot of things for God that He does not accept. The flattery and confirmation a person receives for building a false altar will build his ego, but will not build faith.
Jesus pointed towards a new place of worship and said, “The true worshippers shall worship the Father in Spirit and in truth.” Jesus was pointing to Himself as the new altar, the new place of worship.
The Atlar of Self
Every tradition of man is a false altar. The most dangerous false altar is the altar of self. Many draw from the Bible to build a tradition of self. Let’s look how this happens. Paul wrote, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service, " (Romans 12:1).
When a person is in covenant with God then their bodily service is seen at the altar of Christ using the tools, and in the assembly using the tools. But, if a person does not know the value God places upon His Son, Jesus Christ and the tools of His covenant, then they will automatically place value on themselves.
People think, “What would God value more than myself?” They offer a prayer of dedication, “God, I sign over the title deed of my life to you, I want the rest of my life and every part of it to be a loving expression of my gratitude for the gift that you have given me."
The problem is that God is only pleased with the sacrifice of His Son and with the exercise of our faith with His tools. There is nothing more precious than Jesus Christ. We cannot compare. Do you see how a substitution took place? We took away the altar of Jesus and in its place we are prepared to sacrifice ourselves, looking for a way to make ourselves worthy by expressing our unworthiness and expressing gratitude by the passion of the flesh. Don’t misunderstand me, God is not against our passionate response to Him, He just does not want us to replace His knowledge with passion. Sadly, that is what has happened.
There is only one way that God planned for you to show our gratitude to Him and that is by reciprocating (giving back to Him) in kind. That is what the priesthood is all about, and this is why our spiritual sacrifices are such a delight to God. He smells the sweet aroma of our faith. It is sweet to Him because there is nothing in our faith that reflects us, but only Jesus Christ.
I want to go back for a moment and look further at what Satan has done to twist the mind of believers to reflect on themselves and to use Romans 12:1 to support the bend that Satan placed in their perception that we can offer ourselves to God as a sacrifice.
To support this mindset many further draw from the Bible where Paul wrote, "But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased," (Hebrews 13:16).
Here God is first speaking of our worship to Him at the altar of Christ. In the course Priesthood and Prophecy you will be learning how to communicate your spiritual sacrifices to one another (sharing grace) and how God counts that as “doing good” because you are distributing His grace as good stewards of grace (1 Peter 4:10).
The Spirit of the Lord is also speaking of the necessity to adorn the doctrine of Christ with behavior that is fitting a child of God. As Paul expressed here, “But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18).
The problem in the church has been that the works that adorn the doctrine of Christ replaced the true altar of Christ and in the absence of the true altar of Christ, these works did not adorn Christ, they replaced Him.
There is a very strong inclination in man to draw from himself to offer something to God that is precious, or to deny himself something and offer that to God. This takes us back to the WWJD doctrine. What would Jesus do, a person might ask? Well, He gave up His life on the cross and sacrificed Himself so that I might have life. So I will do the same. I will put myself on the altar and do what He did.
When vital teaching is missing from faith it is understandable that this twist of thinking could take place. Let me assure you that when you build the altar of Christ with the stones of His knowledge and begin to offer spiritual sacrifices of His knowledge, and begin to grow in the grace of God then you will experience how the putting off of the old self takes place. It does not take place apart from this new altar of Christ, but is a direct result of your labor with His knowledge.