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Could you explain the difference between the "everlasting priesthood" of Aaron and his sons (Ex 40.15); of Phinehas (Num 25.13); and the "unchangeable priesthood" of our Lord Jesus Christ (Heb 7.24).

The anointing of the high priest was a symbolical act that was to continue as long as Israel’s priesthood remained. No doubt, had Israel not failed they would have all had the privilege as a nation of drawing near to God. God intended that the nation be a kingdom of priests (Ex 19.6). Israel’s failure was the very cause of the Aaronic priesthood being set up. God has meanwhile set aside the nation. With our blessed Lord there is no possible failure. Hence the Lord’s high priesthood will never cease. When the true Priest and the true sacrifice came the types were no longer necessary after the manifestation of the antitype Himself.

In the tradition of the Jews, Phinehas is supposed to have lived to a great age. Certainly, judging by the later references to him in the Old Testament, he was a priest in Israel for many years. Just exactly how long he was high priest is not known, but the time came when the enjoyment and exercise of the possession of this priesthood, passed on to him, would have to be left by reason of his death. Even though this priesthood was carried on in his descendants, it too would come to an end. What a great contrast this is to the everlasting priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will never die, for "he ever liveth to make intercession". He has an office which is untransferable, a ministry which is indispensable, and, being separated from sinners at the right hand of God, is in a position which is unassailable (Heb 7.23-26).

What a great blessing to have such a Great High Priest. Phinehas, as a reward, was given an everlasting priesthood, but it would have to be said that the Lord Jesus possesses in the truest sense an everlasting priesthood. By an oath He has been made "an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec" (Heb 6.20). This oath will never be revoked, and therefore the Lord’s High Priesthood will never pass on to another. The Lord’s High Priesthood will not cease to function when the church age is completed. It will carry on in the Millennium and forward into the eternal state.

John J Stubbs

The following Scriptures seem to indicate that Paul’s conscience had been clear from the days when he was a Pharisee: "And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day" (Acts 23.1), and "Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless" (Phil 3.6). Please explain.

As Paul appears before the Sanhedrin, looking back on his history, he declares, "I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day". Note the words "until this day"; thus Paul had walked according to his conscience, that is, without rebuke from it, both before and since he became a Christian. He expresses himself in a similar way when writing to Timothy, "I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience…" (2 Tim 1.3). Not long after the incident of Acts 23, Paul assures Felix that "I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men" (Acts 24.16).

Reviewing his earlier life, Paul could write, "touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless" (Phil 3.6). This righteousness stood related to what the law demanded; the fact that he uses the word "blameless" suggests that this obedience was outward. Saul of Tarsus, in the eyes of men, was blameless; none on earth could point the finger at him and accuse him of failure to keep the Law of Moses. He was, in this respect, so much like the rich young ruler who could say to the Lord Jesus, "all these have I observed from my youth" (Mk 10.20).

Nevertheless, Paul could speak of his earlier life in such words as, "Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious" (1 Tim 1.13). Thus it is clear that conscience alone cannot be relied upon as a guide in the conduct of life. We must bear in mind that whilst conscience is a monitor of conduct, it is dependent upon spiritual enlightenment. Conscience can only operate effectively where there is a knowledge of right and wrong. The Word of God is the appointed means for the enlightenment of the conscience. Moreover, a good conscience is to be maintained (1 Tim 1.5,19) and exercised (Acts 24.16).

Paul, however, was aware that even the purest conscience was an insecure basis of confidence under the scrutiny of God, and thus he writes, "For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord" (1 Cor 4.4).

David E West

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