Just as He had with the Old Covenant, God also established an administration for His New Covenant. This is not the same system of priests, judges and captains He had established in ancient Israel. It is a new administration: Christ’s own ministry!
God’s love is the same today as it was at Mount Sinai. His way of life is unchanged. His spiritual law is unchanged. But compared to the administration in ancient Israel, His New Covenant administration is different in many ways.
In ancient Israel, the physical details based on God’s spiritual law were often very specific. Today, God’s ministers usually don’t have such specifics that outline courses of action.
In this priestly order, there isn’t always just one way to handle a situation. The Bible is the manual God intends His ministers to use, and He expects His New Covenant administration to draw close to Him and to use His Holy Spirit in applying the spiritual principles found in His Word.
A few years after God established the New Covenant administration, the Apostle Paul explained how it was different from the Old Covenant administration. “Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?” (2 Corinthians 3:1). Paul was asking if ministers of Jesus Christ need letters or papers to prove their credentials. “Ye [brethren] are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart” (verses 2-3).
What is Paul communicating here? He is saying that the proof of a faithful minister is godly fruit in the lives of God’s people! This is not a “checklist ministry” written with ink, but rather a ministry where the Spirit of God is used to write God’s law on the members’ hearts and into their minds!
While the New Covenant is far superior to the Old, Paul is not belittling the Old. Again, the Old Covenant was a spectacular marriage agreement God entered into with Israel. But Israel did not have the heart to obey. The people could see the law on those tables of stone, but it was not a part of them; it wasn’t written in their hearts and minds. They lacked the spirit of obedience.
It is completely different with spiritual Israel. Under the terms and conditions of the New Covenant (which is also a marriage covenant), God uses His Spirit to internalize His law within our minds and hearts. Rather than obeying for carnal reasons, God’s Church today obeys because we love God and want to live as He lives. We love God because He took the initiative in our lives, called us and brought us out of spiritual Egypt. The Spirit dwelling in us enables us to have fellowship with God the Father and Jesus Christ. The spiritual miracle that God is performing today far surpasses any of the physical miracles the nation of Israel experienced at Mount Sinai.
God’s ministers are instructed to consider God’s people in this light. God is writing His laws in their hearts and in their minds—by the Holy Spirit. That is whom the ministry serves! That fact should cause God’s ministers to tremble with godly fear. Ministers bear a heavy responsibility to serve and administer with joy—but also with godly fear.
Paul continued: “And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God” (verses 4-5). Paul gives all the credit to Christ and to God the Father. Ministers must not allow themselves to get puffed up about the positions into which they have been placed. They are the ministers of Jesus Christ.
But notice verse 6: “Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament [or covenant]; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” God’s ministers are ministers of the Spirit, not of the letter. While the Old Covenant was both glorious and good, it did not allow for repentance. It did not lead to a change of heart. It could not lead to salvation—the end result was still death!
But as verse 6 reveals, the Spirit gives life! Within the New Covenant, there is room for repentance. A true change of heart is possible. The power of God’s Spirit working within God’s people leads to eternal life. This is so far above the promises of the Old Covenant. Abundant food, shelter, wealth and power simply do not compare with God’s Spirit and eternal life!
Herbert W. Armstrong elaborated on this in his book The Incredible Human Potential: “The Old Testament sacrificial laws and ceremonial rituals were a mere temporary substitute for Christ and the Holy Spirit. When the reality came, the substitute was ended—but the basic spiritual law—the law of love, codified in the Ten Commandments—continued. But the Church was required, having the Holy Spirit, to obey them not merely according to the strictness of the letter but according to the spirit …, or obvious intent, of the law ….”
God’s people are to obey God, not just according to the strict letter of the law, but by the spiritual intent of the law. Furthermore, God’s ministers are to teach His people the spiritual principle behind God’s law, which is the way of love.
Ministers of Jesus Christ
You may often hear the term “ministers of Jesus Christ,” but have you thought about what that really means?
In the same way that Aaron and his sons were part of the Levitical priesthood, true ministers today are part of the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Just as Aaron was the high priest in ancient Israel and there were priests under him, Jesus Christ is, in actuality, our High Priest. He is the literal and living Head of the ministry. God’s ministers serve under Him as part of His administration.
A passage in the book of Hebrews explains this thoroughly.
“So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee” (Hebrews 5:5). Christ did not appoint Himself into the office of High Priest; God the Father did that.
“As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared” (verses 6-7). The realization that Christ is our High Priest should motivate every decision God’s ministers make as His administrators.
As our High Priest, Jesus Christ agonized in prayer throughout His physical life. Why? For the benefit of God’s people. His ministers today, to properly serve God’s people, strive to pray that same way. This is not just a matter of “putting in time” on our knees. This is a type of heartrending, energized prayer that allows God to lead us to make wise decisions in guiding the lives of His people.
Helping God’s people is not a matter of searching a manual to find out how to deal with a problem. The job of God’s ministers is more than just implementing and enforcing a list of do’s and don’ts. With that said, some decisions are indeed black and white. When applying God’s law, His administration must never compromise. If someone is creating division, for example, God’s course of action is clear! However, much of how the ministry must deal with God’s people is not black and white. Finding the right course of action requires Spirit-led discernment! Being ministers of Jesus Christ means using Christ’s own mind to determine the appropriate course of action. We must pour our hearts out to God, to the one who is able to save His precious Family from death.
“Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (verses 8-9). Jesus Christ never sinned, yet He was still learning. He always maintained a humble, teachable attitude. Then, when He was made perfect by the resurrection, He became the High Priest of all those God would call to receive the same precious and eternal promises!
The process of conversion is difficult. God’s people are fighting to overcome, to grow and to change so they can receive eternal salvation. Adding to this challenge, God calls the weak of the world into His Church (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). True ministers of Jesus Christ always strive to follow the example of our faithful, merciful High Priest and to maintain a positive, hope-filled view of every Church member. They work to see each person as God does and to work with them accordingly, with His unfailing love.
Comparing Two Priesthoods
Hebrews 7 compares the priesthood of Aaron to the priesthood of Jesus Christ in detail. Verse 4 states: “Now consider how great this man [it should read ‘this One’ as it refers to Jesus Christ] was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.” The first few verses of this chapter prove that Melchizedek is the same Being as Jesus Christ. (For more proof of this truth, request a free copy of our reprint “Who Was Jesus Before His Human Birth?”)
Anciently, Abraham came up to Jerusalem and paid tithes to Melchizedek. Levi, after whom the Levitical priesthood was named, was a descendant from the lineage of Abraham (verse 5).
“But he [Melchizedek] whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him [Abraham] that had the promises. And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better” (verses 6-7).
There is no question about who is the greatest here! Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek! Paul is saying that since Levi’s great-grandfather, Abraham, paid tithes to Melchizedek (Jesus Christ), the Levitical priesthood is not as great as Jesus Christ’s priesthood.
Most people use these and the next few verses to try to do away with God’s command to tithe. However, rather than doing away with tithing, the passage is making clear where the tithes are to be directed. A different administration, with a different high priest, had replaced the Levitical priesthood. Paul was explaining who should rightfully receive the tithes.
Continuing in verse 11, Paul wrote, “If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?” Paul is perfectly clear here! If perfection by the Levitical priesthood were possible, then there would be no reason for another priesthood. But perfection was not possible, so a greater priesthood under the leadership of Jesus Christ is necessary.
The priesthood of Jesus Christ is not of that carnal, or fleshly, commandment. His priesthood is different, and it leads to eternal life (verses 15-16).
“And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament [covenant]” (verses 20-22). Paul is emphasizing again that God the Father installed Jesus Christ into this office. He also reiterates that this New Covenant under Jesus Christ is sure and cannot falter.
“And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death” (verse 23). The Levitical priests were physical and would die, leaving their office to a successor. That is not the case with Jesus Christ’s priesthood. He is alive forever! “But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood” (verse 24).
A Lifesaving Ministry
Because this new administration is permanent, look at what Jesus Christ is able to do! “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus Christ is able to save those who come to God by Him. This was not true of the Old Covenant—that was not its purpose. As the High Priest of the new administration, Jesus Christ is able to literally save people.
God’s ministers are part of the new administration. They actually have a part to play in saving people!
Human beings do not accomplish this by their own power, of course. It only happens by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, God uses His human instruments to help bring about that salvation. When a minister visits people, he is there to strengthen and to help save them! Peter, the first-century chief apostle, was personally instructed by the High Priest, Jesus Christ, to feed His “sheep” (John 21:16-17). This is a command to feed the Spirit-begotten members of the Church. If they are to grow and thrive so they can ultimately be born into God’s Family and live forever, they must be fed by righteous ministers who are willing to give their lives for the sheep—just as Peter was told that he would have to do (verses 18-19).
God’s ministers work tirelessly in this endeavor to strengthen people and lead them to salvation! This can mean working for hours on end with a member to help him or her overcome a serious problem. It can also mean removing someone from the Church in order to save him—or to save an entire congregation! Only a minister who is close to God can discern the difference. We cannot turn to a page in a manual and figure out what to do. A minister making these types of decisions must be on his knees, crying out to God to allow Jesus Christ to lead him into the best course of action that will help to save people. He is the High Priest who knows how to save people! Apart from God, ministers simply cannot do the job, and serious mistakes will be made.
“For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself” (Hebrews 7:26-27). The High Priest of the New Covenant is a perfect Being. He is not like the ancient high priests who needed to offer sacrifices to cover their own sins. He died once for all as a perfect sacrifice!
Law Not the Problem
Paul sums up the entire subject in the next chapter. “Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man” (Hebrews 8:1-2). Members of God’s New Testament Church have a High Priest sitting at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven right now!
The Old Covenant is no longer in effect. “But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises” (verse 6). This new, better covenant that Christ administers is established on better promises—eternal promises. The ministry of the Church is privileged to be part of this more excellent ministry.
“For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second” (verse 7). Again, if the Levitical priesthood could bring perfection, there would be no need for the New Covenant (Hebrews 7:11).
What was the problem with the Old Covenant? “For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah” (Hebrews 8:8). The problem was not with the law, and it wasn’t with the covenant; the fault of the Old Covenant was with the people. They disobeyed, broke their word, and therefore broke the covenant.
If the Israelites had kept their part of that covenant, what would have happened? They would have received only national, physical blessings. Their obedience would not have brought them eternal life. They would not have experienced a change of heart or a change in their thinking. They would not have received salvation. These promises were not given at that time.
However, the Israelites failed to keep even the letter of the law. Finding fault with them, God made a different covenant: “Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people” (verses 9-10). Notice carefully! The New Covenant does not do away with the law; neither is it founded on a different law. God here is talking about the exact same spiritual law that the ancient Israelites couldn’t keep. This New Covenant involves people who have God’s laws written in their hearts.These people have hearts that are able to obey because they are empowered by God’s Holy Spirit.
“And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest” (verse 11). This New Covenant leads to a wonderful time when God’s Kingdom will rule over the Earth. Then, everyone in the world will know God. Everyone in the world will be able to keep His great law under this New Covenant.
Now notice the distinct difference with the Old Covenant that Paul addresses in verse 12: “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” It is possible to exercise mercy under the New Covenant. This is not talking about a lack of judgment. God’s government must administer punishment and correction; that is part of God’s love. God uses correction to bring us to repentance. Then as we change, God is merciful toward us, forgiving us our sins and removing them from His memory.
The administration of the Spirit differs from the administration of civil government under the Old Covenant. The administration of the Spirit, under the leadership of Jesus Christ, allows for mercy, repentance, change and conversion. God’s ministers operate with this reality in mind as they work with His people. If one of God’s people maintains a humble, teachable attitude, and he or she is not causing division, there is room to work with that person for a long time to help him or her overcome.