Over the years the question that has gained considerable notoriety is, “What must I do to be saved?” Unbeknownst to him, the Philippian Jailor popularized this request. It is the ideal question we desire anyone with whom we share the gospel to ask. However, is it tenable to ask this question differently, while eliciting a similar response? I must confess you will not find this question in the Bible, but it is a question of great importance. In fact, if you aspire to take Romans 12:1 seriously, you must ask this question.

What must I do to become a priest?”

In this article, I desire to briefly focus on some of the priest’s duties in the Old Testament under the Mosaic administration. For many, this is simply a review. However, I am hoping this will prepare us as we move into the New Testament unmasking our duties as priests and the qualifications for becoming a priest so that we might answer the question, “What must I do to become a priest?

The Mosaic Administration

Although our forefathers performed the duties assigned to priests prior to the Mosaic administration (e.g., Gen. 8:20), the regulations for becoming a priest and his job description are clearly defined during this administration (Ex. 28ff). These are the chapters, however, over which we quickly gloss. We are not entirely concerned about the particulars of the priestly garments, how they were consecrated, and priestly assignments. Though I understand the rigor of reading those sections of Scripture, if we too quickly dismiss it, we will miss some beauty.

Let us briefly focus on two elements of the priest’s tasks—drawing near to God and offering sacrifice. Each of these tasks is crucial to the priesthood.

Drawing Near to God

Perhaps you have heard people pray, “Lord, bring me closer to you,” or some version thereof. It is an interesting prayer to say the least. Although it floods the mouths of many Christians, taken without explanation, this prayer can be both true and false. For example, can we get any closer to God? His Spirit indwells us. Additionally, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism identifies, “God is Spirit…” (cf. John 4:24). He cannot be contained; he is everywhere. Can we, therefore, somehow get closer to God?

On the other hand, the Scriptures seem to present the reality of getting, or drawing, closer to God. James exhorts the church to, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you” (Jas. 4:8). Although the same language is not used, it is clear that the priests under the Mosaic administration also drew near to God (Ex. 29:38-45). What, then, are we to make of this? Can we draw near to God or not?

Whether James is exhorting the church to draw near to God or the priests during the Mosaic administration are drawing hear to him, any exhortation explicitly or implicitly making reference to come close to God is not referencing proximity but intimacy. In that sense, as the priests drew near unto the Almighty, they were experiencing a certain level of intimacy with the Lord that was quite unique (Ex. 30:34-38; cf. 1 Kings 8:10-11).

What does intimacy provide? It grants both an intellectual acumen and experiential subjectivism. Regarding the former, as the priests drew near to God, they grasped a greater sense of his grandeur and glory (Ex. 29:38-35; 1 Kings 8:10-11). Along with a greater comprehension of who God is, they also were affected emotionally. The glory of God affected their senses. Drawing near to God, therefore, as a function of the priests, influenced their lives. Although we ought to be careful of making this distinction, one might say that this function of the priesthood affected both head and heart.

Offering Sacrifice

Under the Mosaic administration, the priests were called to serve the people and love the Lord by offering a variety of sacrifices. These sacrifices (e.g., grain offering, peace offering, etc.) are outlined in Exodus and detailed in Leviticus. Beginning in Leviticus 1, God, through Moses, provided instructions regarding the way in which sacrifices were to be offered to God. And while the full function of each sacrifice is a bit hazy at times in Leviticus, God had a purpose for them.

Hebrews 9:22 describes one purpose for the various sacrifices. “Indeed,” the author of Hebrews tells us, “under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” The sacrifices were for purification, which in turn provided forgiveness of sins. The latter is a direct implication of the former. This is what the sacrificial system provided, or perhaps more narrowly put, this is what the sacrificial system embodied and prefigured—though they were not hollow sacrifices—until the coming of the ultimate sacrifice—Jesus Christ.

Why did God’s people require purification? Why did they desperately need the forgiveness of sins? It was because of the great gulf that existed between God and his people. The triune God is holy, righteous and just. God’s people, that is, those whom he delivered from Egypt, were sinful. They lacked the holiness and righteousness that was required to please God. Therefore, in God’s great mercy and grace, he instituted a way to close the gap between himself and his people. Instituting the sacrificial system, as employed by the priests, was the way he chose to do this.

Final Remarks

What must I do to become a priest? This is a vital question we must answer. If priests, among many things, were called to draw near to God as well as offer sacrifice to purify the people, and consequently through that sacrifice provide the forgiveness of sins, priests provide something we desire. We yearn to draw close to the Almighty. He created us for that purpose.

As the Westminster Shorter Catechisms announces, “The chief end of man to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” How ought we to glorify and enjoy him? Although it is not limited to these things, we can glorify and enjoy God by drawing near to him, developing a greater intimacy with him, knowledge of him, and subjective experience by him. The aforementioned begins, however, by being purified and forgiven of our sins. Don’t you want this? As we will more clearly see in future articles, the priesthood offers this. Therefore along with me, ask the question, what must I do to become a priest? The answer may shock you, but it is a reality with which we must not dispense.