Archive for February, 2009

24
Feb
09

“It is finished”

 

     These simple words that Jesus spoke from the cross have given tremendous comfort to millions of Christians down through the years.  In the original Greek, it consists of only one word.  It was a word that was used to mark bills paid in full.  In this striking way, Jesus declared that he had fully paid our debt of sin.

     By raising Jesus gloriously from the dead, the Father dramatically showed that he accepted that payment.  If Jesus had not paid for our sins, after repeatedly saying that is what he was going to do, there would be no way that the Father would have exalted him by raising him so gloriously.  Jesus resurrection is our receipt proving that he truly did pay our debt.

     Down through the centuries, Christians have clung tenaciously to these facts.  When voices from within or without call into question the completeness of that payment, they stand firm on the fact that, because of Jesus, they can view their debt of sin as paid in full.  There is no greater joy or relief than that.

     It is my prayer that all experience that great joy and relief.  That, my friends, is what is motivating me.

19
Feb
09

Jesus and the Melchizedek Priesthood

Jesus and the Melchizedek Priesthood

     A point Christians and Mormons agree on is that Melchizedek and Jesus were in the Melchizedek priesthood.  The point of contention is  whether or not they were the only ones holding that priesthood.  Christians say yes, Mormonism says no.  In this post, I  will expand on why Christians state that and the importance they have for stating that.

     To do that we have to look at the book of Hebrews, because it is the only place that gives us any details about the Melchizedek priesthood.  In 7:22-28 it contrasts Christ’s priesthood with the Aaronic priesthood.

 “22] By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.

[23] And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death:

[24] But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.

[25] Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

[26] For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;

[27] Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.

[28] For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.

    Note the contrasts.  In the Aaronic priesthood there were many priests (v. 23, 28) because they died and could not continue in the priesthood.  In striking contrast to “men” in verse 28 is the “Son”.  Not other men.  And there is no need for others because Jesus “is consecrated for evermore.”   This is a contrast that continues throughout the book.  The contrast is always between the many priests of the Aaronic priesthood and the one priest of the Melchizedek priesthood.  There are no “priests” when it comes to the Melchizedek priesthood.

     Secondly, note the contrast in verse 27.  They daily sacrificed.  He once for all.  Again this is expanded on greatly in the coming chapters.  For example, Hebrews 10:

10] By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
[11] And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:
[12] But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
[13] From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.
[14] For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

     What a striking contrast.  Aaronic priests stand working because their work of sacrificing is never done. Jesus sits because his work of sacrificing is done.

     The Bible does not talk about subsequent priests in the Melchizedek priesthood – in fact, the idea of subsequent priests violates the whole argument put forth in the book of Hebrews.  There are no successors because Jesus remains forever our priest – because Jesus has made the one offering “once for all”.

     The Bible intertwines the Melchizedek priesthood with Jesus’ sacrifice for sin.   That is what Christians immediately think of when they hear the phrase, “Melchizedek priesthood”.  They immediately think of God’s great love for them in sending Jesus to do everything for them so that they are perfect forever, not by anything they do, but by his one offering.

17
Feb
09

PRIESTHOOD AND SACRIFICE

 

     As I stated in my last post, in the Bible the main function of a priest was to offer sacrifices on behalf of the people.  The Old Testament temple worship revolved around two altars:  the bronze altar in the temple courtyard where animals were offered and the altar of incense within the Temple where incense was offered up. 

     The Bible keeps that emphasis on offering sacrifice when it talks about Jesus and the Melchizedek priesthood.  The book of Hebrews, the only place in the New Testament that describes Jesus as a priest, centers on the idea of sacrifice and that he, by offering himself, offered the final and ultimate sacrifice for sin.  (See my last post for one small example of that.)  But not once, in the entire book, does it even mention, much less elaborate, on priesthood authority. 

     This connection between priesthood and sacrifice cannot just be flippantly ignored. This holds true especially because Mormonism says that, through Joseph Smith, the priesthood was restored.  Restoring implies that the same thing is involved.  I don’t build an airplane and call it a restored car. 

      This is my question.  Just for the sake of discussion, assume that I accept the premise (which most of you know I don’t) that many things about the priesthood have been lost – wouldn’t it still be true if the priesthood was restored that a major function of it would be sacrifice?  If not, then wouldn’t it be true that not only would I have to believe that many things about the priesthood had been lost, but everything the Bible says about the priesthood is wrong?  What function of the priesthood that the Bible connects to priests does Mormonism still retain?  (It doesn’t connect baptism with the priesthood.  James 5:14 doesn’t mention priests either.)

15
Feb
09

MELCHIZEDEK PRIESTHOOD

 

     One very important aspect of Mormonism is the Melchizedek priesthood.  The LDS Church accurately states that “the Bible does not give many particulars concerning the functions of that priesthood, except that Christ was a high priest after that order.”  (Bible Dictionary, p.730.)  As that article goes on to state and demonstrate, much of Mormonism’s teaching on this topic is from Doctrine & Covenants (D&C).

     This constitutes quite a challenge when Christians and Mormons want to discuss it seeing that no other church body accepts the authority of D&C.  The only common grounds for discussion are the biblical statements and these are limited.  There is the brief historical account of Melchizedek in Genesis 14: 18-24.  Then there is David’s one verse prophecy in Psalm 110:4.  Finally you have that prophecy quoted and expanded upon in the book of Hebrews.

    Before looking specifically at how Hebrews talks about the Melchizedek priesthood, it would be good to see that it and the rest of the Bible describes the offering of sacrifice as THE main function of the priesthood.  That is what Old Testament priests did – day in and day out.  The book of Leviticus (which can almost be called the handbook for the priesthood) is filled with chapter after chapter detailing the various sacrifices.  For thousands of years the idea of priest and offering sacrifices went hand in hand. 

     That close connection between priests and offering sacrifice isn’t dropped when Hebrews talks about the Melchizedek priesthood.  There too the focus is on Jesus, our priest, offering a sacrifice.  For example, just in 9:23-10:18, words for sacrifice and offering are used no less than 23 times in the original Greek.  Just before that the word blood is used numerous times – another word that refers to sacrifice.  And that is just in one small section of the book.  By far, the most important function of priests, according to the Bible, was to offer sacrifice.

      There is a lot to be covered when talking about the Melchizedek priesthood. It can’t all be done in one post.  Therefore I am planning to talk about other details in future posts.  In this post, I want to emphasize, first of all, the point I made above – that there is not much common ground to begin with in discussing the Melchizedek priesthood.  Secondly, I want to emphasize that one of the huge difficulties I have experienced when trying to discuss the priesthood with Mormons is the tremendously different functions ascribed to the priesthood. 

     To my Mormon readers, I ask that you please remember that to Christians steeped in the Bible, the idea of priesthood goes hand and glove with offering sacrifices – especially sacrifices for sin.  That is what will automatically come to mind to me and others.  Sacrifice is what priests did!  That is especially what Jesus did as our priest when he offered himself up once for all for all sin so that “now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.” (Hebrews 10:18)

     To my Christian readers, I ask that you please remember that when Mormons talk about priesthood, sacrifice is not what is in their mind.  I checked the “True to the Faith” manual.  In its articles on the priesthood in general and the two priesthoods specifically, the idea of sacrifice is not mentioned at all.  Rather Mormonism defines priesthood as “the eternal power and authority of God.

      Priesthood – same word, but entirely different concepts.  If there is going to be any productive discussion that will always need to be remembered.

      More next time.

10
Feb
09

Priesthood

 

     I was asked to address the priesthood.  That is understandable since the priesthood plays a big role in Mormonism.  As always, it is important to define terms.  The LDS manual, True to the Faith, defines it this way:  “The priesthood is the eternal power and authority of God.”  It goes on to state:  “God gives priesthood authority to worthy male members of the Church so they can act in His name for the salvation of his children.  Priesthood holders can be authorized to preach the gospel, administer the ordinances of salvation, and govern the kingdom of God on the earth.”  Mormonism has two priesthoods: the Aaronic and Melchizedek.

     I felt I had to give that little review because, it has been my experience, that many Christians don’t know much about what Mormonism says about the priesthood, and many Mormons are surprised that the priesthood is not a big topic in Christianity.

     The Aaronic or Levitical priesthood was an important component of the Old Testament.  But the New Testament says that priesthood was done away with.  Hebrews 7-10 has an extended argument making that very point.  But those chapters always make the point that it was replaced with a superior priesthood, the Melchizedek priesthood – of which there is only one priest, Jesus.  He is the only priest because he offered himself up as the perfect sacrifice once and for all.  “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:14)

      The New Testament says that the Aaronic priesthood is null and void.  It says that Jesus is the one and only priest in the Melchizedek priesthood.  But it also does talk about Christians being priests (without labeling them as Aaronic or Melchizedek).  I was happy to see 1 Peter 2:9 mentioned in the question.  “But you 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.”  As priests Christians are to show forth God’s praises by talking about his great salvation – by talking about how we are perfected by Jesus’ one sacrifice. 

      We further teach that this applies to all believers, whether they are male or female – seeing that this obviously was addressed to both.  Therefore I was wondering how Mormons interpret this passage seeing that Mormonism restricts the priesthood to males. 




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