qualifications for a priest

From one of Thomas Goodwin’s treatises:

“The office of high priesthood is altogether an office of grace, and I may call it the pardon office, set up and erected by God in heaven, and Christ is appointed the Lord and Master of it.

“And, as his kingly office is an office of power and dominion, and his prophetical office is an office of knowledge and wisdom, so his priestly office is an office of grace and mercy. The high priest’s office did properly deal in nothing else. If there had not been a mercy-seat in the Holy of Holies, the high priest had not at all been appointed to have gone into it. It was mercy, and reconciliation, and atonement for sinners, that he was to treat about, and officiate for, at the throne of grace. He had otherwise had no work, nor anything to do when he came into the Most Holy place.”

(This observation is drawn from Hebrews 5:2, where the high priest is specified as someone “who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way, for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.”)

Thomas Goodwin, The Heart of Christ in Heaven. First published 1645.

Its full title is: “The heart of Christ in heaven towards sinners on earth; or, a treatise demonstrating the gracious disposition and tender affection of Christ, in his human nature now in glory, unto his members, under all sorts of infirmities, either of sin or misery.”

8 thoughts on “qualifications for a priest

  1. Not quite sure why I posted this when I did. (It’s been written for ages, think I was half-asleep when I pressed the ‘publish’ button)

    The most fundamental aspect of the work of a priest is to offer sacrifice. To think of the priestly work of Christ is essentially to think of the sacrifice he offered to make atonement for the sins of his people. Hebrews makes it clear that a priest needs to be ordained by God (not self-appointed), needs to be ordained for a particular group of people (‘for men’), needs to act towards God, needs to have somewhat to offer (Christ offered himself). (All this is expounded most lucidly by Hugh Martin, in a work on the atonement which I’d like to give a quote from sometime – and not just because I’ve got a nice wee picture of the man himself…)

    It’s equally plain from Hebrews that the priest must also be equipped with the ability to have compassion on the ignorant and those that are out of the way. Like Goodwin says. So it’s not just sins, but also infirmities, which the great high priest of the church can deal with — as part of his office as priest. I have to admit this hadn’t fully sunk in till I heard it in a sermon the other week (yes, even though I’d read this entire treatise by Goodwin ages before), but it’s something to keep thinking about. His priestly office is so fundamental to all the aspects/benefits of the covenant of grace.


  2. Yes – “the works which I do bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. And the Father himself, which hath sent me, has borne witness of me…”

    (or was that not what you were thinking?)


  3. … And on further reflection – you’d probably say that preaching is part of the work of a prophet, rather than a priest. Towards man and revealing a message from God, rather than like a priest, towards God on behalf of man. Ie the “sending” of the Father in that quote from John’s gospel is presumably referring to his whole work of Mediator rather than a particular office. (? off the top of my head without checking the passage again)

    He was clearly appointed and sent to be a priest though (after the order of Melchisedek, etc)


  4. Hebrews 4 Vs4 And one does not take the honor upon himself, but he is called by God, just as Aaron was.

    “Now Aaron was consecrated and ordained by the hands of Moses, who was a priest himself, according to the holy word of David (Ps. xcviii. 7), Moses and Aaron among his priests and Samuel among those who call upon his name; and, as is indicated in Exodus (xxviii. 1) in this word, take unto thee also Aaron thy brother, with his sons…that they may minister to me in the priest’s office; with which agree a great army of our Ancients. Whoever then would assert his mission must not assert it as being from the people nor from secular princes. For Aaron was not called in that way, and we cannot be called otherwise than he was.”

    St Francis De Sales


  5. Not really. Well ok. Yes I am. See the title of this post deals with Priesthood. The content, with HIGH Priesthood. The thing Mr Goodwin seems to be playing down is that infact God did appoint a priesthood to go into the Holy of Holies and act on behalf of the covenant people. …oops now I have been i interupted ..have to go.


  6. Pingback: one is enough « ninetysix and ten

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