One of the great values of studying the Old Testament is that it puts the New Testament, and the establishment and purpose of the Church into perspective. And, as it constitutes about 80% of the Bible, it is not something that should be easily dismissed or ignored.
And one example of the value of studying the Old Testament is the purpose and meaning behind the Old Testament priesthood. Because even though the “priesthood” of today and that of the Old Testament are very different, the fundamentals that apply to one can equally apply to the other.
Now I am aware that for many people, the Old Testament priesthood was all about the slaughtering of animals—something which many today view with distaste. But to come to such a conclusion is to take a very narrow view of the priesthood. It also reflects a lack of understanding of the Old Testament—particularly God’s laws.
Because the administration of sacrifices was only one role of the priesthood; it was only part of their greater function. Indeed, the function of the priesthood was to teach the people to distinguish between the sacred and the profane (hence all the various teaching on ritual purity—cleanliness, dead bodies, dead animals, food laws, health issues, uncleanness, etc.).
Furthermore, I know many would suggest that many of the Old Testament laws are no longer relevant. And they would be perfectly right. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ means that many of the laws have been fulfilled and no longer need to be practiced. But that doesn’t mean to say that the principles behind the laws—including the need to distinguish between the sacred and the profane—are no longer relevant. Indeed, I would argue that they are just as relevant today as they’ve always been.
And if that’s the case, how do we distinguish between the sacred and the profane today? Do we always get it right? After all, even in the New Testament, Christians were taught that their bodies were the Temple of the Holy Spirit and that they were to live godly lives.
So on those basics, we still need to make the distinction between the things of God and the things of this world. And if do, it will affect how God’s people live and the things that are to be set aside for God’s purposes. And for the church that includes people, property and buildings.
For people who believe, then, it is fundamentally important how we live our lives. And not just around God’s people but around other people too.
This, of course, has implications regarding our behaviour., which should not change from one sphere to the other. We should be godly at all times. And our godliness should reflect on our attitudes to the laws of the day, to the practice of traditions, and to the beliefs and practices associated with other faiths.
Furthermore, it has implications in regard the way that we are to treat our bodies—how we dress and to the way we decorate our bodies. And that has implications, not least of which, in regard to the current popular practices of tattooing and body piercing.
And, if property and buildings have been set apart for God’s purposes, then we need to make sure that they are not profaned by using them for other purposes. And this has implications on the current church practices of conducting ceremonies involving non-Christians, accepting gifts and donations from non-Christians, and allowing property to be used by non-Christians or for non-Christian purposes.
The importance of being able to distinguish between the sacred and the profane, then, is fundamental to a Christian’s life. Indeed it should be at the heart of their very being. Which is why it is so sad that believers and the Christian church today have so much trouble in distinguishing between the two.
As a consequence, if the issue is to be addressed, it will require a fundamental shift in the way some Christians think, behave, dress and decorate their bodies. It will also require the church to drastically change its thinking and practices from those with which it is very comfortable today.
As God’s people we need to be able to distinguish between the sacred and the profane. And we need to put it into practice regardless of the cost. And there is no better way to begin, than to study the principles behind the Old Testament rules; to remind ourselves of God’s way of thinking.
Posted 30th May 2019
© 2019, Brian A Curtis