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Sean Hughes wrote:

Hi, guys —

Hello again gang! Hope everyone is having a great summer!

I've read a lot of material from Protestant apologetic web sites discussing how the Catholic Church still uses the Old Testament sacerdotal system and how the New Testament does not have it!

According to them, sacerdotalism teaches that the priesthood is a special class of churchman and is a necessary part of worship. People cannot approach God on their own, but must come through a priest, whether it is for confessing sins, receiving communion, or receiving grace. Any divine blessing conferred upon an individual comes through the Church; that is, through the Church's ordained priesthood.

The Old Testament law placed the Jews under a sacerdotal system. Aaron and his sons were divinely selected to be the first priests to minister to Israel (Exodus 28:1). The priestly duties included:

The Old Testament priesthood was a picture of the future ministry of Christ, who fulfills all that the Levitical priesthood anticipated. The book of Hebrews, especially chapters 5-10, presents Jesus Christ as the perfect High Priest and the fulfillment of the Old Testament law. In Christ, the entire legalistic system of sacrifice and ritual, including the priesthood, is made obsolete (Romans 10:4).

The New Testament does not support a sacerdotal system of worship. As Martin Luther points out in his treatise The Private Mass and Consecration of Priests, the Holy Spirit has in the New Testament diligently prevented the name sacerdos, priest or cleric, from being given even to an apostle or to various other offices. In other words, the Bible never uses the word priest in relation to Church leadership; rather, the Bible teaches the universal priesthood of all believers.

When Jesus offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for sin, God tore the veil in the temple in two, indicating open access to His presence through the body of Christ (Hebrews 10:19-20). Jesus now occupies the office of eternal High Priest, making constant intercession for His people (Hebrews 7:24-25).

Sacerdotalism insulates people from God, erecting human barriers where the New Testament places none. The Scripture is clear that:

“There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

(1 Timothy 2:5)

Biblically speaking, every believer is a priest

“offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).

Read more: [web site hidden]

Thanks,

Shawn

  { Why does the New Testament lack the sacerdotal system that we find in the Old Testament? }

Bob replied:

Shawn,

The arguments the Protestants have brought forth on their face seem very convincing but they fail to recognize some fundamental points in the larger framework.

First, the Old Testament is full of paradigms that have their counterpart in the New Testament, the Eucharist for example. Jesus took the Passover ritual and brought it to fulfillment in His own sacred meal, which is the Eucharist. It may look different than the Passover meal, but it is rooted in it. This ritual was given to the Apostles to perform, and they possessed the power and authority to do perpetuate it, in and through the actions of the Holy Spirit and Christ Jesus Himself. An examination of Church history will show that this sacred meal was not given to anyone to perform, but those on whose hands the Bishops (successors to the Apostles) had laid hands on.

Secondly, the power to forgive sins was also given to the Apostles (cf. John 20:21ff) and they likewise had the authority and power to perpetuate this action, which truly belongs to Christ himself.

These two actions are the only powers which the ordained priesthood has that differentiate them from the ordinary priesthood of all believers. The ordained Bishops and priests are conducting two activities, rituals, that belong to the very ministry of the Christ himself.

Because the Protestants deny the character and reality of these two sacraments, they deny the corresponding power of ordination and priestly ministry required to fulfill them.

They fallacy in their argument is that we require priests to be mediators between God and us, as if they claimed their own mediatorship. That is simply false. Any mediatorship that anyone has is in Christ, rooted in His own, not independent. We all share in it to some extent, especially when we pray and intercede for one another. Priesthood, in the ordained sense, is exactly that, ordained by Christ himself to carry out His own functions. Two special functions which he commissioned the Apostles to perform on His behalf.

So in the end, even though the sacerdotal system of the Old Testament is a framework that is no longer required as it stood, Christ himself calls on the paradigm to bring His own ministry to fulfillment, namely in the powers he invested in the Apostles, which they likewise transmitted to subsequent generations. It does not act as a barrier, but instead brings Christ closer to His people, for he uses their hands to conduct His ministry. It affects the opposite of what they claim.

Almost any Catholic can tell you by their experience that the words of absolution in the Confessional brings Christ close, also affecting great healing and consolation.

  • This is a barrier?

They don't know what they are talking about. If they are implying that we can't know God's forgiveness by praying to Him directly they are wrong again. We all do this as well, but Christ knows more about human nature than they admit, and sometimes our faults need the surgical penetration of His Hands — on touch. Hence, the sacrament of Reconciliation.

{Postlogue|Postscript]:

  • Why would God spend thousands of years instilling in people whole frameworks of worship and ritual practice if he was simply going to do away with all of it as if it were reprehensible?

The systems were brought to fulfillment, not simple obsolescence or dissolution. Sometimes Protestants will give you the impression there were two mind frames of God, one of the Old Testament and one of the New Testament. There is an organic continuity between both ages, and we should not look at the former in a pejorative light.

Bob Kirby

Sean replied:

Thank you Bob,

I understand it better now.

Blessings!

Shawn Hughes

Mike replied:


For those that read our postings on a regular basis.

From our database:

Although my colleague Bob was kind enough to answer Sean's question, I can't answer a question from a web site that distorts what I believe as a Catholic.

Mike

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