In general terms all world religions have at least three, and usually five, foundational components in common. Last week I posted The Sacred Space—this week, The Holy Man.

What Do We Mean When We Say “Holy Man”?

Like the sacred space, all religions have a holy man or woman. Some religions exclude women from being religious officials, some religions exclude men from being religious officials, and some religions embrace both as religious officials. The holy person can therefore be a priest or priestess, rabbi, imam, guru, shaman, etc. Frequently there is an entire specialized group of religious officials that are delineated into a tiered hierarchy with some type of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at the top. The names or labels may vary—but there is always some type of high priest or priestess who is “more holy” than the other religious officials and (especially) the common man. Like the sacred space, the primary point is that this person or persons, is somehow special and set apart from “other” persons for God’s use or God’s work. The separation between the holy man and the common man is where we get the idea of clergy and laity. The clergy are the religious experts while the laity is comprised of non-experts, or commoners.

The Holy Man in the Old Testament-

In the Old Testament, the holy people included the twelve tribes of Israel, the Levites, the Aaronic priesthood (sons of Aaron), and the High Priest.

The Priests are Still Human (Look What Can Happen)-

Last week we mentioned that a literal geo-physical sacred space can be damaged or destroyed, or the people can be prohibited access in a variety of ways, thereby potentially compromising a system of atonement that relies on a geo-physical sacred space. Likewise, holy men and women are still human and therefore susceptible to human weaknesses and failures as well as external conditions.

What if an enemy captured or killed all priests? (All the first-born male children? Exodus 1:16.) Or, what if the priests were unavailable to officiate (for a variety of reasons). Or, what if the priests, although present, were corrupt?

Follow the Money-

What if the reason that the priests and Levites were unavailable to officiate sacrifices in the Temple was because they were out working “secular” jobs to feed their families because they were not being paid as stipulated by the sacred code—the Torah?

One of the purposes of the tithes (yes, tithes, plural), under the Old Covenant was to pay the Levites and Aaronic priests for doing their jobs—officiating in the tabernacle, Temple and Levitical cities—in other words—for being religious officials, or “holy men.” If the tithes weren’t paid, the Levites weren’t paid, and if the Levites weren’t paid, how were they to feed their families and “pay their bills” so to speak?

I also discovered that the portions of the Levites had not been given {them}, so that the Levites and the singers who performed the service had gone away, each to his own field. [Nehemiah 13:10 NAS]

One of the main purposes of tithing under the Old Covenant was the maintenance of the mediating priesthood (Levites and Aaronic priests)—without whom, the system of atonement could not function.

This scenario brings into focus two interrelated concepts that will be discussed in detail in future work. The first is the role of money in supporting the Old Covenant system, which sets the stage for understanding the role of money in the New Covenant economy. The second is the nature, and therefore consequences of, a human mediating priesthood.

The knowledge that “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10) has given birth to a modern proverb—if you have suspicions about the integrity of an endeavor, “follow the money.” A mediator is a person specifically positioned between two or more people in a dispute in order to bring about an agreement or reconciliation. In religion, religious officials are usually mediators who stand between God and mankind (a.k.a. the “common” people, as opposed to the religious leaders/mediators, who are “holy”) for the purpose of overseeing the rituals that symbolize reconciliation—and they usually are paid to do so. Given the weakness of human nature and the corrupting power of money however, when one class of people officially stands between the rest of the believing community and God, and is paid to do so, the inherent integrity and stability of such a system is not the first thing that comes to mind. Human mediation combined with financial gain is a recipe for corruption and abuse, not stability. We’ll examine this scenario again on the other side of the cross.

The Weakness Inherent in the System-

These kinds of disruptions to the key components of the system of atonement could and did occur in the Old Testament and were a source of great consternation to God’s people, and help inform our understanding of how these concepts come into play on this side of the cross. Frankly, what good is a religious system that could so easily be disrupted? And if it could and did become disrupted, what does that say about God? If worshipping Him is so important and we need a system in order to worship Him properly, shouldn’t that system be a little more stable and secure? Shouldn’t God be protecting the system a little better?

But, what if no matter how “perfect” the system is—the weakness inherent in the system isn’t actually the system—but people?

The Role of Hierarchy-

We should also take note at this point of the fact that the whole notion of hierarchy, historically and etymologically, originates exclusively from religious structures, and only secondarily over time from civil structures. The English noun hierarchy is a derivative of the Greek verb hierarchia, which is a compound of the Greek words hierus (Strong’s #2409), which means “priest;” and arche (Strong’s #746), meaning first, beginning, or origin. Etymologically, hierarchy literally means “government by a group of priests,” and clearly refers to a religious order of authority. The higher one was on the religious ladder, the greater the access to the inner courts of the sacred space, and thereby closer to the presence of God. Frankly, the phrase religious hierarchy is almost redundant.

Understanding these components in the Old Covenant economy, how they point to and are fulfilled in Christ, and their new creation realities under the New Covenant is crucial to understanding and actually walking in the freedom and liberty Christ has called us to.These kinds of religious authority structures have been in place in the world’s religious systems for millennia. And although our so-called modern enlightened mindset may consider this notion antiquated and quaint—the idea was that the higher one was in the hierarchy, the holier one was.

Did We Miss the Point?-

The primary purpose of the mediating priesthood under the Old Covenant was to point to the person of Jesus Christ as our only human high priest and mediator.

Being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. [Hebrews 5:10 NAS]

(The “Order of Melchizedek” means that Jesus Christ is an eternal high priest, without beginning or end. See “The Everlasting Covenant.”)

Again, There’s More…

The Old Covenant mediating priesthood was a model of Jesus Christ as the only human mediator between God and man. No longer are certain persons set apart from “others” for God’s work. In Christ there is no more clergy-laity dichotomy, but all believers are priests unto God. As we are in Christ, so are we all priests unto God under the only human mediator and High Priest, the man Christ Jesus.

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. [1 Timothy 2:5 KJV]

But ye {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 marvellous light: [1 Peter 2:9 KJV]

You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. [1 Peter 2:5 NAS]

Take note that the above verse (1 Peter 2:5) mentions three of the five components—sacrifice (a future post), sacred space, and holy man—all three now a reality within every believer.

The Pastor: Christianity’s Holy Man-

The “Pastor” (or Senior Pastor, Apostle, whatever) is the Christianized version of the Holy Man/CEO that sits atop an ad hoc religious hierarchy. But the scriptures clearly teach that as members of the body of Christ and partakers of the New Covenant, all believers are priests unto God under the only high priest, Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:9, Hebrews 5:10, et al). Despite seemingly orthodox and historical practices, scripturally, there is no hierarchy in the body of Christ. Every believer is a priest with no other mediator between himself and God than the man Christ Jesus. Despite the fact that the clergy-laity dichotomy was destroyed at the cross, literally millions of Christians teach and/or follow this paradigm as orthodox doctrine. Furthermore, even among certain segments of Christianity that “proclaim” the end of the clergy-laity dichotomy, the practice is intellectually and theologically rationalized and continues unabated. But according to the New Covenant every believer is a priest unto God that ministers to God in the holy place of his own heart.

I should also point out that among certain subsections of Christianity that believe in the “five-fold gift ministries” listed in Ephesians 4:11, some teach that these are in fact hierarchical offices, usually citing 1 Corinthians 12:28 as their proof text. This is an extraordinarily difficult argument to prove however since the explicit context of 1 Corinthians 12 is that all members of the body of Christ perform certain functions, and that all are equally necessary for the body to function properly, which speaks strongly against the idea of hierarchy. In addition, the word office is never even used in the New Testament (at all—let alone in relationship to the five-fold gift ministries), and the five-fold gift ministries are never defined or described in a hierarchical fashion. Finally, we never see Paul, Peter, James, John, etc, establish a hierarchy, or teach others to do so. Jesus’ admonition concerning hierarchy is abundantly clear.

(42) But Jesus called them to {Himself} and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. (43) Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. (44) And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. (45) For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” [Mark 10:42–45 NKJ]

The so-called doctrine of “covering” is one of the most egregious and oppressive lies currently being pedaled to the body of Christ. The scriptures make no claims that a member of the church of Christ needs to be under the covering of a pastor or group of elders in order to have right standing before God. Those who make such a claim are simply repackaging the old creation mediation model and teaching false submission in order to control others for their own ends.

Follow the Money (Again)-

Under the Old Covenant the majority of the believing community owed tithes (plural) to a minority of the believing community (the Levites and Aaronic priests) for the express purpose of performing the functions of mediators. One of the preeminent accomplishments of Christ’s completed work on the cross and explicit purpose of the New Covenant is unmediated access to the presence of God. (No human mediator other than the man Christ Jesus.) Therefore, the notion that the majority of a New Covenant believing community (the so-called “laity”) should pay religious officials (the so-called “clergy”—a minority subset of the believing community) to perform the functions of a mediating priesthood is exclusively an old creation model. The sad reality however is that through a combination of ignorance and obfuscation literally millions of New Covenant believers believe they are obligated to “give” (how’s that for an oxymoron?) money to their “Christian leaders.”

Ask Yourself These Questions-

How much time, energy, and money does your local assembly devote to teaching and practicing the priesthood of every believer as opposed to emphasizing the “vision of the house/pastor”? Your “pastor” is no more a priest than you (nor are you more a priest than him). He does not have a greater anointing than you, and he is definitely not your covering (mediator).

Do you and/or your local assembly, both individually and corporately have a heart-felt, intellectually established, life-changing, practically applicable revelation of…?

  • All believers are priests. There is no hierarchy in the body of Christ. We all have unmediated access to the presence of God.

There is an enormous difference between those men and women who function as pastors (apostles, prophets, teacher, evangelists, etc.) and those who believe, (either as a so-called “leader” or follower), in hierarchical offices in the body of Christ and that we are validated by our “proper understanding” of how these offices work together. Such doctrines and practices are nothing more than conforming to a hierarchy and a form of false submission that is conspicuously absent from the New Testament.

When Christianity is practiced properly—taking life as it comes and interpreting (or reinterpreting) each moment or each event in the reality of an indwelling relationship with the Lord of Life—each and every individual believer, is a holy man or woman with unmediated access to the presence of God.

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