The Israelites in the Old Testament were a nation of soldiers, Numbers 1:3.
One of their tribes was a tribe of workers, the Levites, Numbers 1:50.
One of the families of that tribe was a family of worshippers. They were Aaron and his sons, the priests, Exodus 28:1; Numbers 3:3.
These priests were different from the other people because they put up their tents in a special place in the camp, and because their clothes were different from those of other people. They ate certain food which the others did not eat. God gave them special privileges, and they did work which no one else was allowed to do. See Exodus 28; Leviticus 7:6-10; Numbers 8:2; 10:8-10.
Only the priests were allowed to go into the holy Presence of God. They went in to Him for the people, and they came out to the people for Him. They came between God and the people. Aaron was the only high priest; his sons were the ordinary priests. They alone offered the sacrifices on the altar and they were the only ones who could enter the holy place in the temple. Only they could decide if a person had leprosy or had been healed of that terrible disease.
The Old Testament priests are a picture of true priests today. Who are these priests? All true believers are priests. Be sure to read the only New Testament verses which teach about this subject: 1 Peter 2:5,9; Revelation 1:5.6; 5:10. Jewish priests did not get this position because they chose to be priests or because they had special training, but only because they were born into Aaron's family. No one else could be a priest, Ezra 2:62.
In Christianity also, no one is a priest because he chooses to be one or because of the training he has had, but he becomes a priest when he believes in Christ and is born again through the Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 and Ephesians 4:11-16, there are lists of gifts which the Holy Spirit gives, but being a priest is not among them. This is not a gift because all true believers are priests. Other persons call themselves priests but they are not priests at all. Only people belonging to Aaron's family were priests among the Jews. They served here on earth in an earthly temple. They were a picture of present day priests. However, today all who belong to God's family are priests.
[ How should we worship the Father? John 4:24 ________________________ ]
As a holy priest the Christian offers up spiritual sacrifices to God, 1 Peter 2:5. As a priest of the King, he proclaims God's wonderful acts to men, 1 Peter 2:9. For example, Paul and Silas acted as holy priests in Acts 16:25 and as the King's priests in verse 31 of the same chapter. Another example is found in Hebrews 13: verse 15 tells us about the activity of holy priests, and verse 16 about the priests of the King.
Today, there are some priests who wear special clothes and have special privileges and duties in their churches. These priests follow the example of the Jewish priests. There are no such priests among true Christians today, because all Christians are priests and all have the same privileges and should all worship God. Aaron and his sons are a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, the great High Priest, and all His people whom He has bought with His precious blood.
Let us think about the Meaning, the Place, and the Power for worship.
A person worships when his heart is full of praise as he thinks about what God is in Christ. He worships God the Father and God the Son because he has been set free from sin by the costly sacrifice of Christ. Only true New Testament priests can worship.
Let us understand that worshipping and teaching the Word of God are two different things. Worship goes up to God, but those who teach the Word of God do so to help men, and so this comes down from God to men. A believer teaches others the truths he himself has received from God the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit. However, when he worships, that worship goes up by the Spirit, through the Son, to the Father.
The people of Israel worshipped God in a building on earth, and they offered various things as sacrifices. The Christian can come right into the presence of God to worship Him and does not need to be in any special building in order to do so. Read Hebrews 10:19-22 very carefully. The old priests could offer sacrifices to God and so can we. We should offer ourselves to God, Romans 12:1. We can also praise God with our voices and give our money to help others, Hebrews 13:15,16.
We can worship only by the power of the Holy Spirit, Philippians 3:3. He loves to make us think of the glories of God and of Christ, instead of thinking about ourselves.
Believers must be fed with the Word of God in order to walk close to the Lord. Christ is the Head of the Church and He alone feeds it and takes care of it, Ephesians 5:29. He does this through the Holy Spirit and by giving certain believers the gift of preaching and teaching the Word of God, or of caring for the believers in other ways. All believers are priests because they have been born again, but all believers do not have the gift of preaching or teaching.
In Ephesians 4:11-13, we have a list of the gifts given to Christians today. They are evangelists, pastors, and teachers. (We do not have apostles and prophets today, but we still have the books they wrote.)
The Evangelist takes the Good News of salvation to sinners in the whole world. Philip is a good example of this, Acts 21:8.
The Pastor cares for those who have been saved. He brings them into the local church and leads them on in the ways of God.
We never read, in the New Testament, that only one pastor was appointed to look after a local church, but we see that in New Testament times, one church might have several pastors. These pastors are appointed by the Lord Himself, not by other Christians, and they lovingly care for the people of God. See 1 Thessalonians 2:7,11.
The Teacher explains the Word of God in an orderly way, and by doing so, strengthens the believers in the faith.
The Elder is a godly man who knows and walks with the Lord. His work is to care for the church, 1 Timothy 3:5; to feed the believers, 1 Peter 5:2; and to watch over them, Acts 20:28-30. The elder works in the local church. Some elders have the gift of teaching or preaching publicly, 1 Timothy 5:17. In every New Testament church there were several elders, Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5.