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The advent of Jesus Christ and the successful completion of his mission on earth, inaugurated a new order in the relationship between God and His people.  The facts of the Scriptures which no one can contradict show that the Levitical priesthood was only a type of the new order established by Jesus Christ.

     The Bible shows that the early patriarchs - Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, etc. -  worshipped God without such formal institutions as priests, temples and the ceremonies that were laid down in the law of Moses. Rather,  God emphasized faith, obedience and sincerity expressed in acts of reverence for Him, such as setting up of altars for the making of sacrifices to Him. (See - Genesis 4:1-8, 26; 5:22-24; 8:20; 22:1-18; 28:10-22; etc). However on the Passover night when God Almighty slew the first born of the Egyptians, He told Moses, “Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine.” - Exodus 13:2    

   He also stated, “all the firstborn are mine; for on the day that I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto me all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast: mine shall they be: I am the LORD.” (Numbers 3:13) In course of time, it was the Levites who were consecrated and dedicated to the service of God in place of the firstborn, among the children of Israel. - Numbers 3:12, 40, 41.

   The Levitical order was thus instituted.  God told Moses His servant: “But thou shalt appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of testimony, and over all the vessels thereof, and over all things that belong to it: they shall bear the tabernacle, and all the vessels thereof; and they shall minister unto it, and shall encamp round about the tabernacle.” (Numbers 1:50) The Levitical order consisted of all the descendants of Levi's three sons -  Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.  Aaron, who was appointed high priest in the time of Moses, was of the lineage of Kohath.  He and his sons  constituted the priestly order.  (Exodus 28:1)  Also, the Kohathites were in charge of “the ark, and the table, and the candlestick, and the altars, and the vessels of the sanctuary wherewith they minister, and the hanging, and all the service thereof”. (Numbers 3:31) The Gershonites had the duty of carrying the tent-hangings and curtains, (Numbers 4:22-28);  while the sons of Merari  were in charge of the boards, bars and pillars of the tabernacle. - Numbers 4:29-33.

The high priest entered the sanctuary once a year  to make atonement for the sins of the whole people. (Leviticus 16:1-17, etc.) To the priests and the rest of the Levites belonged the office of preserving, transcribing and interpreting the law.    (Deuteronomy 17:9-12; 21:5; 33:8,10)  

     Concerning their duties it is written: “And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean; And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses.” (Leviticus 10:10,11. See also Deuteronomy 31:9-13) Concerning the duty of expounding the laws of God to the people, the Bible says, “For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 2:7) The priests also blessed the people in the name of the Lord. – Numbers 6:22-27.

   It was the will of the Almighty God that the Levites should be fully devoted to their ministry, and so He made provision for their maintenance. They had no territorial possessions, but were to receive from the rest of their brethren tithes and offerings as a recognition of the higher office to which God had placed them.  - Numbers 18: 8-14, 21, 24, 26; Leviticus 27: 30;  Deuteronomy 12: 19;14: 27.

   It could be seen therefore that, after the deliverance of the Jews from Egypt, and the subsequent establishment of the nation of Israel, God Almighty caused to be established a formal body of priests to minister to the spiritual needs of the people and to teach them His ways.

The Order of Melchizedek

   The appearance of Melchizedek “the Priest of the Most High God”, to Abraham, long before the nation of Israel was established, signified that God would in course of time establish a new order which would  be superior to and wider in scope than the Aaronic priesthood, as it is written, “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: and blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.” (Genesis 14: 18-20) Several years later, David the prophet was inspired by God to prophesy that there would  be a priest of a system different from the Levitical priesthood, as it is written: “The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” - Psalm 110:4.

   Paul the apostle in his writing concerning Melchizedek, revealed that he was not an ordinary man but an angel who appeared to Abraham, who, having fulfilled his mission, dematerialized. (Hebrews 7: 1-3) The fact which no one can gainsay is that Melchizedek, who met Abraham was the chief of the angels of God, the Logos, who was later sent to the world by the Almighty Father and known as Jesus Christ. By his appearance to Abraham as a priest who was competent to receive tithes, God had established a pattern of priesthood, distinct from that of Aaron, which he (the Logos) would in due time assume fully for the benefit of humankind. (Hebrews 7: 4-7) Truly, when Jesus Christ came to this world  he told the Jews, among other things thus, “...Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad...” (John 8: 54-59) It follows therefore that God Almighty, knowing the end from the beginning, caused Melchizedek to appear to Abraham as a priest in whose order, His Son would be ordained a priest everlastingly for the salvation of mankind. - Hebrews 5:5-10; 6:20; 7: 11-17, 21-25.

   Following the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, by which he assumed office as High Priest of God Almighty, the Ministry was no longer restricted to the Levites but to all those it has pleased God to call from any part of the world. During his days on earth, the Ministry was made up of Jesus Christ and the 12 apostles. The call of Peter and Andrew, James and John, is recorded in Matthew 4:18-22.   In the case of Levi (also known as Matthew) the Bible says, “And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me. And he left all, rose up, and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them.” (Luke 5:27-29) Other disciples were called by Christ to make up the 12 “whom also he named apostles”. (Luke 6:12,13) In Mark 3:13,14 it is stated that “And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach,”

   Our Lord Jesus Christ and his disciples were thus fully devoted to the task of preaching the gospel from place to place. (Luke 4:43; Mark 1:14,15, 38,39; Acts 10:38-40) The apostles of Christ, of whom the 12 are the foundation members, are thus, first in line in the Ministry of Christ and are the “able Ministers of the New Testament”.  2 Corinthians 3:6-18.

'Holy Calling'

   Knowing the sacredness of his calling, St. Paul called it “an holy calling”. (1 Timothy 1:9) and spoke severally of the grace given to him to “be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost. (Holy Spirit)” (Romans 15:15, 16; Colossians 1:25) He also stated “Let a man so account of us, (the apostles) as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God”. (1 Corinthians 4:1) “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord,” said St. Paul “who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry”. (1 Timothy 1:12) It should be pointed out that apart from the apostle, fully devoted men such as Timothy, Titus, Epathroditus, Tychicus, Epaphras though not anointed, worked with St. Paul as ministers. (1 Timothy 4:6; Philippians 2:19-30; Romans 16:21; Ephesians 6:21, 22; Colossians 1:7) Thus, St. Paul urged those who have fully devoted their lives to the work of God such as Timothy to strive to fulfil or “make full proof” of their Ministry. - 2 Timothy 4:5; Colossians 4:17.

   It is therefore erroneous to teach that the existence of a body of fully-devoted ministers or pastors had become obsolete in the Christian era. The truth is that right from the time of Moses, there had never been a time when the people of God were without visible shepherds, men who were fully devoted to the work of God, and thus were free from distractions due to the search for economic pursuits or means of livelihood. Hence St. Paul stated, “Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant. Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.” (1 Corinthians 7:20-23)  That was why St. Paul said that for the sake of the gospel he had “suffered the loss of all things” (Philippians 3:8) Jesus Christ stated that the apostles and their helpers, the fully devoted ministers, would be richly rewarded for their sacrifices in leaving the world for the work of God.  Thus, when Peter asked him, “Lo, we have left all, and followed thee.” He replied, “And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.”-  Luke 18:29-30.

    Another point is that it is not everybody who is a believer that could be a fully devoted minister. It would be recalled that there was a man in the days of Christ from whom he cast out several demons who volunteered himself for full devotion but Christ did not approve of his request but told him, “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.” (Mark 5:18, 19)  It is because fully devoted ministers are a distinct category that St. Paul, in his letters to Timothy and Titus listed the conditions to be met by those who desire the office of a bishop, and said he must be vigilant, temperate,  knowledgeable, given to hospitality and apt to teach. He should not be greedy, a drunkard or quarrelsome and so on. (1 Timothy 3:1-8) In his letter to Titus, apostle Paul added, “…If any be blameless, not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate …” such could be appointed as ministers. - Titus 1:5-9.

    The ministers of Christ who are not of the class of the apostles have to undergo training under the apostles or other elders in the church to become full-fledged ministers. (2 Timothy 2:15; 1 Timothy 4:13-16) It needs be stated that one of the reasons why Salem City was established by St. Urhobo in 1948 was for the purpose of training  ministers. “The Lion Of Salem City” - West African Pilot Tuesday February 13, 1951. 

 

Support for the work

    During the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, he and the apostles were supported by the donations of the disciples and people of goodwill.  (Luke 8:3) Also, when Christ sent the 12 apostles and later the 70 disciples he told them that into whatsoever city they entered they should look for a place of accommodation that they should  make use of whatever provisions were made available to them by their hosts.  (Matthew 10:5-13) Instructing the 70 disciples Christ told them, among other things,  “And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire…” - Luke 10:4, 5, 7.

    It was the understanding that believers should support the Lord's Ministry with their material possessions that propelled believers in the early church, to give willingly to the work of God, as it written, “Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.” (Acts 4:34-37)  It should be noted that the donations were given to the apostles, who were heading the ministry at that time, who then gave directives as to how they should be used.   We would recall that it was the apostles as leaders of the Church that gave the ruling for the choosing of the seven men to ensure that provisions were shared equally to the Grecian Jews.  Also, St. Paul gave directives to the churches in those days “concerning the collection for the saints”. - 1 Corinthians 16:1-4.

    To further buttress the fact that what happened in the Levitical priesthood under the law of Moses was only a type of what would obtain in the Christian era, St. Paul stated: “For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn.” He then asked: “ Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes?” He then answered the question by saying, “For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.” (1 Corinthians 9:9,10) He went on to ask series of questions to make clearer the need for the members to fulfill their obligations to the ministry of Christ, “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? …Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?” (1 Corinthians 9:11-13) He added, “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:14) Whatever the disciples contributed were for the use  or upkeep of the ministers. And God will not fail to bless the members for their support for this work.

 

Jesus Christ and tithing

    When in Matthew 23:23, Jesus Christ rebuked the Pharisees for their undue emphasis on tithing, he did not by that mean that Christians should not pay tithes.  What Christ meant was that they should NOT stress tithe payments to the neglect of other more important requirements for salvation.  The King James Version renders the text thus: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” The Living Bible renders the text thus "Yes, woe upon you, Pharisees, and you other religious leaders-hypocrites! For you tithe down to the last mint leaf in your garden, but ignore the important things-justice and mercy and faith. Yes, you should tithe, but you shouldn't leave the more important things undone.” Compare  Luke 18:9-14.

    The account of Malachi 3:7-12 stresses the blessings and curses that result from payment and non-payment of tithes.  It also shows clearly that the Lord's Ministry is the “storehouse” (or Treasury) where all the tithes and offering should be paid by the faithful for their blessings and salvation in the end by the grace of God, as it is written, “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” - Malachi 3:10.

   It would be noted that St. Paul commended the disciples at Macedonia and Achaia for their contributions “for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem” and urged the disciples in Corinth to distribute to the necessity of the saints, and of course their helpers in the Lord. (Romans 15:26; 12:13)  It goes without saying that one of the duties of those not fully devoted is to support the Ministry with their substance for their blessings in this world and life eternal in the world to come, hence St. Paul says, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)  

  The “household of faith” refers to the Lord's Ministry, visibly led on earth by the ambassadors of Christ, the apostles, and their helpers.  (See also Proverbs 3:9,10; Hebrews 6:10,11) In the parable of the sheep and the goats, our Saviour spoke of the time of judgment when the just shall be rewarded and the wicked punished.  After listing the good deeds of the faithful, the Bible says they will ask the following questions, as it is written, “Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?” Then Christ the King of God's Kingdom shall answer and say unto them, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:37-40) Thus, as the Levites in time of old had a commandment to receive tithes from their brethren (the other tribes of Israel) so also under the Priesthood of Melchizedek in the Christian era, the members are commanded to pay tithes to the Lord's Ministry.  See Hebrews 7:5,12

    Moreover, just as in the time of old, the law required the priests to be knowledgeable and enjoined the people to seek the law at their mouth, (Malachi 2:7) so the ministers are the ones to direct and teach the rest of the congregation. Much is expected of the Ministers. If they do the work faithfully they would receive blessing, if not they will get even greater punishment.  St. Paul declared, “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” -1 Corinthians 9:16; See also Luke 12:47, 48.

   From all that has been said, it is evident that a body of fully devoted Ministers who make up the Ministry of Christ still obtains in the Christian era, the order of Melchizedek.

    However, the Ministers are no longer limited to the tribe of Levi. Those who have obtained the privilege to serve in the Lord's Vineyard should be appreciative to God for His grace and be sincere and diligent in their duties. The words of St. Paul concerning his call to the Ministry of Christ needs re-echoing.  He stated,  “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry”. - 1 Timothy 1:12.

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