And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For you were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God.” (Rev. 1:5–6, 5:9,10, NKJV)
What an interesting thought! We are priests in Christ to our God. It is clear from these passages that we are made priests by Jesus’ sacrificial act, the shedding of His blood on the cross. It is not as if Jesus forced us to be priests. We just simply are priests because of what He did. You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5 NKJV)
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. (1 Peter 2:9 NKJV)
What exactly do priests do? Let’s run through a biblical short list to shed more light on your identity as a priest.
Priest’s Offer Sacrifices to God
The first thing we notice about priests is that they offer regular sacrifices to God. In the Old Testament economy, priests were required to offer four kinds of sacrifices to continually cleanse and purify the people and the Holy Place inside the temple in Jerusalem:
This was the blood sacrifice of an animal, such as a bull or goat, sprinkled on the altar. The death of the animal represented the person offering the sacrifice and served as the person’s substitute.
This was a “goodwill offering” to God consisting of flour, grain, or cakes, along with oil.
This offering was similar to the burnt offering except only the fat of the animal was offered. The meat was shared by the priests and the family of the one bringing the offering in celebration of their friendship with God.
When someone sinned against another person or God, the temple was defiled and had to be cleansed. The blood of an animal was sprinkled to symbolize that the sin had been forgiven. Some of these sacrifices had to be offered daily. Others had to be offered weekly or monthly. Others were offered only on special occasions. With sacrifices being offered for individuals, as well as the nation, this required an entire system of Levitical priests dedicated to the work of God and the temple.
The New Testament Priesthood
God is seeking Spirit-filled priests to serve Him day and night before His throne. But now that Jesus has shed His blood to bring us near to God, we no longer need Levitical priests to mediate. We offer our own sacrifices. Instead of flesh and blood, however, we offer sacrifices of worship, good works, and praise.
Not just daily, weekly, or monthly, but continually throughout the day (Heb. 13:15). Instead of going to the temple, we worship one on one, right here, wherever we are. How different from the Old Testament regiments! Many of us may not feel worthy to be priests before God, but we are worthy because Jesus made us worthy. Even so, it’s always good to approach God with a deep sense of humility. God does not despise a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17). In fact, He looks favorably upon one who is of poor and contrite spirit and who trembles at His Word (Isaiah 66:2).