Vol.VII No.X Pg.4
December 1970


Robert F. Turner

Unless you have done some reading in early church history — something about the developing apostasy of the second and third centuries — you may not realize how easily the sacerdotal system slipped into Christianity — and how soon after Christ the church was corrupted by its fruits. It was a major factor in the developing of the first great apostasy. and has repeatedly led reformers and restorers away from their noble purposes.

Sacerdotal is, Of priests; relating to the priestly office or function. Or sacerdotalism, The doctrine that ordination confers special powers and rights.

Judaism had its special priesthood and sacred objects. Only the priests could enter the holy place — wear the holy garments — offer at the altar — approach God on behalf of the laity. And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God as was Aaron. (Heb. 5:4)

This system was especially suited to the moonlight age of revelation. while Gods scheme of redemption was yet hidden (Eph. 3:2-f); and served unto the example and shadow of heavenly things. (Heb. 8:4—5) But the New Covenant has its High Priest in heaven, after the order of Melchisedec. and all saints are priests. (1 Pet. 2:5) Even here, we must understand that such statements are couched in the terminology of the shadow. Our tabernacle is the true tabernacle. which the Lord pitched, and not man. The once for all offering is the blood of Christ, i.e., His life given in our behalf. We are given no earthly sanctuary (holy place); although by some unexplainable quirk, the liberal brethren who often accuse us of considering the church building as holy because we do not banquet there — are the very ones who often call the auditorium a sanctuary — and go right ahead and misuse it. (Cf. Heb. 9: 1-8-9, 23-f)

Does sacerdotalism exist among brethren? Well, few would admit it, and none would call it that, but let me give you a little test. (1) Do you regard the Lords Supper as a sacrament which only the Elders or Deacons can administer? (2) Are there certain words which must be uttered, and without which valid baptism can not be performed? (Is baptism a holy rite with a liturgy?) (3) Must baptism he administered by preacher — or saint — to be valid? (4) Is the judgement of the Elders irrevocably the will of God by virtue of their office? (See Nov. issue, on office.) (5) Is the church building the house of God? If you think yes to any of these, I beg you to examine your reasons carefully. You may be caught in the web of sacerdotalism without realizing it.

Dont let the terminology fool you. I have deliberately used words that our brethren may reject — and not know what the words really mean. Do we reject priestly functions because the word priest is used instead of preacher or elder? Let us hope we have better reasons. Nor should we play into the hands of those who would reject legitimate rule of elders, etc. , by refusing to seriously consider these matters.