“Now this is what you shall do to them to consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. Take one bull of the herd and two rams without blemish, 2 and unleavened bread, unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers smeared with oil. You shall make them of fine wheat flour. 3 You shall put them in one basket and bring them in the basket, and bring the bull and the two rams. 4 You shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and wash them with water. 5 Then you shall take the garments, and put on Aaron the coat and the robe of the ephod, and the ephod, and the breastpiece, and gird him with the skillfully woven band of the ephod. 6 And you shall set the turban on his head and put the holy crown on the turban. 7 You shall take the anointing oil and pour it on his head and anoint him. 8 Then you shall bring his sons and put coats on them, 9 and you shall gird Aaron and his sons with sashes and bind caps on them. And the priesthood shall be theirs by a statute forever. Thus you shall ordain Aaron and his sons.
10 “Then you shall bring the bull before the tent of meeting. Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the bull. 11 Then you shall kill the bull before the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting, 12 and shall take part of the blood of the bull and put it on the horns of the altar with your finger, and the rest of[a] the blood you shall pour out at the base of the altar. 13 And you shall take all the fat that covers the entrails, and the long lobe of the liver, and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, and burn them on the altar. 14 But the flesh of the bull and its skin and its dung you shall burn with fire outside the camp; it is a sin offering.
15 “Then you shall take one of the rams, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram, 16 and you shall kill the ram and shall take its blood and throw it against the sides of the altar. 17 Then you shall cut the ram into pieces, and wash its entrails and its legs, and put them with its pieces and its head, 18 and burn the whole ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the Lord. It is a pleasing aroma, a food offering[b] to the Lord.
19 “You shall take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram, 20 and you shall kill the ram and take part of its blood and put it on the tip of the right ear of Aaron and on the tips of the right ears of his sons, and on the thumbs of their right hands and on the great toes of their right feet, and throw the rest of the blood against the sides of the altar. 21 Then you shall take part of the blood that is on the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and his garments, and on his sons and his sons’ garments with him. He and his garments shall be holy, and his sons and his sons’ garments with him.
22 “You shall also take the fat from the ram and the fat tail and the fat that covers the entrails, and the long lobe of the liver and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, and the right thigh (for it is a ram of ordination), 23 and one loaf of bread and one cake of bread made with oil, and one wafer out of the basket of unleavened bread that is before the Lord. 24 You shall put all these on the palms of Aaron and on the palms of his sons, and wave them for a wave offering before the Lord. 25 Then you shall take them from their hands and burn them on the altar on top of the burnt offering, as a pleasing aroma before the Lord. It is a food offering to the Lord.
26 “You shall take the breast of the ram of Aaron’s ordination and wave it for a wave offering before the Lord, and it shall be your portion. 27 And you shall consecrate the breast of the wave offering that is waved and the thigh of the priests’ portion that is contributed from the ram of ordination, from what was Aaron’s and his sons’. 28 It shall be for Aaron and his sons as a perpetual due from the people of Israel, for it is a contribution. It shall be a contribution from the people of Israel from their peace offerings, their contribution to the Lord.
29 “The holy garments of Aaron shall be for his sons after him; they shall be anointed in them and ordained in them. 30 The son who succeeds him as priest, who comes into the tent of meeting to minister in the Holy Place, shall wear them seven days.
31 “You shall take the ram of ordination and boil its flesh in a holy place. 32 And Aaron and his sons shall eat the flesh of the ram and the bread that is in the basket in the entrance of the tent of meeting. 33 They shall eat those things with which atonement was made at their ordination and consecration, but an outsider shall not eat of them, because they are holy. 34 And if any of the flesh for the ordination or of the bread remain until the morning, then you shall burn the remainder with fire. It shall not be eaten, because it is holy.
35 “Thus you shall do to Aaron and to his sons, according to all that I have commanded you. Through seven days shall you ordain them, 36 and every day you shall offer a bull as a sin offering for atonement. Also you shall purify the altar, when you make atonement for it, and shall anoint it to consecrate it. 37 Seven days you shall make atonement for the altar and consecrate it, and the altar shall be most holy. Whatever touches the altar shall become holy.
38 “Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs a year old day by day regularly. 39 One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight. 40 And with the first lamb a tenth measure[c] of fine flour mingled with a fourth of a hin[d] of beaten oil, and a fourth of a hin of wine for a drink offering. 41 The other lamb you shall offer at twilight, and shall offer with it a grain offering and its drink offering, as in the morning, for a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the Lord. 42 It shall be a regular burnt offering throughout your generations at the entrance of the tent of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. 43 There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory. 44 I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests. 45 I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. 46 And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God. (Exodus 29)
Consecration & Ordination
Here in chapter 29 we have the consecration and ordination of Aaron and his sons as priests. Verse 1-9 tells us about the ordination ceremony, while the rest of the chapter details the various sacrifices that were to be made. Our main focus today will be to consider the significance of the ordination itself rather than all the little details of the sacrifices. We have two words here that are very similar: consecration and ordination.Consecration is the setting apart of Aaron and his sons to be made holy for the priesthood. Whereas ordination is the ceremony in which they enter into the office they are set apart for.
The first thing to note is the necessity of consecration and ordination in order to serve as priests in the tabernacle. In chapter 28 verse 41 it says, you “…shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them, THAT they may serve me as priests.” And again in verse 1 of chapter 29, “…this is what you shall do to them to consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests.” In order to serve as priests they first had to be consecrated in this ordination ceremony. They could not just wear the holy garments, offer sacrifices, or enter the holy places to minister without first being consecrated and set apart themselves to handle the holy things. If they were to enter and start ministering without the proper ordination they could bear guilt and die as verse 43 of chapter 28 says.
Part of the being properly consecrated and ordained to the priesthood required the calling of God. Not just any pious Israelite could decide that they wanted to serve God as priests, but only those who were called of God. In God’s calling, He of course set apart Aaron, his sons, and then established the Levites to serve. These were the ones called by God in the Mosaic economy. Hebrews 5:1 makes this clear, “For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.” And then verse 4-5, “And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’; as he says also in another place, ‘You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.’” And again verse 10 says that Christ was “designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.”
So here in the Old Covenant economy the people were being taught that the Messianic High Priest to come would be one called and appointed by God Himself. The atonement for their sins and their Great High Priest would come from God Himself, it would not come from them or their own doing. But He could only come from God in God’s time. As Matthew Henry says, “…the people were made to know that they glorified not themselves to be made priests, but were called of God.”
Washed with Water
As we look at the ordination of Aaron and his sons, the first step was to bring all the supplies for sacrifice and offering and then go to the entrance of the tent of meeting in verse 1-4. But then the first actual part of the ordination was that Aaron and his sons were to be washed in water, verse 4. Now this was more than merely a bath to wash the dirt from his body, this was Aaron’s baptism into the priesthood, if you will. This was part of the ordination ceremony of the priesthood. So as everything with the priesthood it pointed forward to something greater. I want to show you this today. A number of church fathers, and modern day reformed baptist Doug Van Dorn, and many others concur with this. In all the discussion and debates on baptism, this is one passage which most often is overlooked by all sides in the debate, yet I believe has a lot of significance in what it points to in the New Covenant and thus helps us understand our credobaptist position even better. I will expound more upon this in a moment. But first, notice this: after this baptism, Aaron would then be clothed in the holy garments, then in verse 7, Aaron would be anointed with oil, as the anointing oil was poured on his head.
Now, so often in the Bible, water is associated with baptism, and also with the washing of the Holy Spirit. What about oil? Most often in the Bible, oil is associated with the Holy Spirit and the unity of the Spirit. In Psalm 132 God clothes his priests with righteousness and salvation and God says in verse 17, “I have prepared a lamp for my anointed.” Then in Psalm 133, the unity of the brethren is described as being “like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!” These images which we have only scratched the surface of, begin to paint a picture of what we believe about baptism in the New Covenant – that it is an outward sign of the inward reality of the washing and regeneration of the Holy Spirit who applies to us the benefits of Jesus Christ. Baptism is a public ceremony declaring that we have been called to follow Jesus Christ, and thus have been buried and raised with Him.
So this baptism of Aaron, what was it exactly? It wasn’t for the forgiveness of sins, or for atonement. That’s what the sacrifices were for. This was a baptism of consecration, of ordination, of setting the priests apart for tabernacle service and entering into that office through baptismal waters. All of this becomes more clear when we see the connections between this and the baptism of Jesus in the New Testament.
The Baptism of Christ
So I’m going to make a big claim, which I am not the first to do, and then show you it in Scripture. I believe that the baptism of Jesus was Jesus’ ordination into the ministry, as our Great High Priest. Thus, the washing of the High Priest in his ordination pointed toward the baptism and ordination of Christ. A lot of people have a lot of questions and confusion as to what the meaning of Jesus’ baptism was and why He was baptized. I believe that understanding it as His ordination to serve as High Priest helps us make total sense of it, and also understand our baptism better.
The first thing to note is a certain detail that we only see in Luke’s gospel. Immediately following Jesus’ baptism by John, the very next verse, Luke 3:23, says that Jesus was about 30 years of age when He began His ministry. Luke then goes into the Lineage of Jesus, tracing His lineage through David, who we find became King at the age of 30 – you can see that in 2 Samuel 5:4. So Luke is showing Jesus to be in the line of David, as the Christ was to be, as King. But there is something more going on here. The Christ was not only to be the King. But the promised One is also spoken of as a priest and as God’s anointed. In Numbers chapter 4, you find that in order to serve as a priest, you had to be 30 years old. Now, I think that when Luke mentions Jesus being about 30 years old, his main intention is not to draw a line to David, but to draw a line to His priesthood, because what does Luke 3:23 say? It says that Jesus was about 30 years of age when He began His MINISTRY. Now who does ministry? “Ministry” is not kingly language, it’s priestly language. The priests were MINISTERS who MINISTERED in the holy places. They MINISTERED the tabernacle service of the Old Covenant. So Jesus is baptized and immediately Luke says He was 30 years old when He began His MINISTRY. So His baptism was His ordination into the ministry. He was washed in the Jordan and entered into service.
Now think about the type of baptism that John was administering. The gospels say that John was proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John was calling on people to repent and preaching the gospel and people were coming to him, repenting, and being baptized. So when Jesus comes out to John to be baptized, John says, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” John, who declared Jesus to be the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” did not at first understand why Jesus would come to him to be baptized, because Jesus didn’t have any sins to be repented of. But Jesus basically says, “That’s not why I’m here.” Jesus says that He needed to be baptized in order to “fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus wasn’t being baptized for the forgiveness of sins, but to fulfill all righteousness. When this phrase is used in the Bible, it is used to refer to fulfilling the law. Jesus was born under the law, consecrated as a baby on the 8th day, and in order to enter his priestly ministry He needed to be washed with water to fulfill the law. John then gets what Jesus is saying and baptizes Him.
Then when Jesus is baptized, what happens? The heavens open up, the Spirit descends upon Him like a dove, and the Father proclaims, “This is my Son with whom I am well pleased.” So the priests were washed with water and then oil was poured on their heads, descending down Aaron’s robes, signifying the Holy Spirit upon him in his calling to ministry. Likewise, we see Jesus washed with water and the Holy Spirit descending upon Him.
And then what else? The Father proclaims from heaven, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased.” Here is God’s calling or anointing of Jesus for ministry. This goes back to the necessity of being called by God in order to be a priest. The Father declared before all the crowds there that He is the Son. And so He is anointed, as it were, as the Spirit descends like a dove. Now, the Old Testament speaks of the Messiah as “God’s Anointed.” Think of Psalm 2, for example. When you see the “anointed” one in the Old Testament, that is the Messiah, or the New Testament way of speaking, “Christ.” So Jesus is washed with water, called out by God as His Son and anointed with the Spirit as He begins His ministry at 30 years of age. This is Jesus’ legal, lawful, ordination to ministry, fulfilling all righteousness.
You see, no one was allowed to minister as a priest unlawfully, without proper calling, consecration, and ordination. We see an example of this in Numbers chapter 16. But this is where Korah, who was a Levite, instigates rebellion against Moses and Aaron the high priest, and Korah and the congregation with him complain that they are not able to serve as Aaron does as high priest. They say this to Moses and Aaron: “You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?” Oh, it sounded pious, calling out the men at the top, desiring to minister in the Holy Places as Aaron did and rule like Moses. So they all take their censors before the LORD to let the LORD decide, and in judgment, God opens up the earth and the earth swallows them whole with all their households and all the people with Korah, and fire from the LORD consumed the men who offered the incense. It wasn’t Moses and Aaron who set themselves up, it was God who set them apart and consecrated the High Priest, and anyone not lawfully called, consecrated, and ordained was not to minister as High Priest. Korah was a usurper. And so, if Jesus is going to be our Great High Priest, He cannot be a usurper! He must be the anointed, consecrated, and ordained one of God! And so in His baptism, God testified that He was.
Now after Jesus’ baptism, He is immediately driven out into the wilderness by the Spirit where He is tempted by Satan. Then after Jesus conquers Satan in the wilderness he begins to teach in the synagogues, and after this Jesus goes and reads the Scripture in the synagogues, and the very first thing that Luke records Jesus reading in the Synagogue is Isaiah 61, which says, as Jesus read it, “The LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor…” The whole of Isaiah 61 is filled with priestly language. In Isaiah 61 the Lord says that He will grant the “oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit…” In it the Lord says, “…but you shall be called the priests of the LORD; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God…” In it the Lord says, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
Now, you might ask, if the baptism of Jesus is His ordination into ministry, why does he not have the priestly garments? Why are there not all the sacrifices that were part of the ordination week? These are good questions. The answer is in what we’ve been seeing all along in these passages: the holy garments of Aaron typified the incarnation of Jesus Christ – Jesus’ putting on of human flesh is His garments, or clothes. The beauty of Aaron’s garments and the precious stones spoke of the divine perfections in the person of the God-Man, Jesus Christ. He is holy. He is without sin. And why no sacrifices? Because as John said in Jesus’ baptism, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Jesus is the sacrifice. He had no sin in Himself that needed atoning, and He is the fullness of all the sacrifices in His death on the cross.
We read of how in these sacrifices, they would take the blood of the sacrifice and apply it to the thumbs, the big toes, and the ear of the priests. Now think of Jesus on the cross. Nails pierced through his hands and feet, a crown of thorns on His head, blood running down His ears. Hebrews 9:11-12 says, “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” Jesus is the tabernacle, His garments of flesh are perfect, without sin, and He is the sacrifice! Jesus had to be consecrated, ordained, called of God, to legally, lawfully carry these things out for us. As Jesus said in John 17:19, “And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.”
Priesthood of all Believers
So how does this relate to our baptism and our Christian life? Well, Jesus is our Great High Priest, but in Him, we are all made priests unto God. 1 Peter 2:5, “…you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” So, if we are made priests unto God in the New Covenant Spiritual house, then we also need to be consecrated and ordained as priests. So in God’s electing mercy, He calls us to Himself through Jesus Christ, who is our Great High Priest, and who is our sacrifice for sin making us acceptable to God, and we are filled with the Holy Spirit who seals us. But in the New Covenant, there still is this command to be baptized. You see, Aaron the one high priest was to be baptized, but also his sons who would serve as priests alongside Him. Jesus our High Priest was baptized, but also we who are made little priests must be baptized. So, Reformed Baptist pastor Doug Van Dorn says, baptism, at least in part, is our ordination into the priestly service of the New Covenant tabernacle, or temple. Our baptism is a public ceremony that we are identifying with Christ, entering into the church, where there is the priesthood of all believers. The outward ceremony of baptism is not regeneration, nor is the water that which forgives our sins, but it is an outward sign of the inward reality and call, that we are washed by the Spirit, buried and raised with Christ, and we now are raised to new life in Him, we are made ministers, priests, to offer spiritual sacrifices of praise to God.
I believe this really helps us in our credobaptist and immersion understanding of baptism. Because in Exodus 29 they were washed with water, the word there in the text meaning bathed in water. There is a distinction in the text between this full body bathing and sprinkling. For example, Exodus 29 is a different ceremony than what we see in Numbers chapter 8. Numbers 8 is about the cleansing of the Levites, which were servants in the tabernacle, which is different from Aaron and his sons who were priests, who were ministers in the tabernacle. In Numbers 8 they sprinkled the Levites with water, distinctly different from the washing of water in Exodus 29. And in the New Testament, sprinkling, as well as circumcision, which is used to defend the baptizing of infants of believers, are both used to refer to spiritual realities, or interior realities. There is circumcision of the heart. And as Hebrews 10 says, our hearts are sprinkled clean from an evil conscience. And Hebrews 12 speaks of the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. We are not literally sprinkled with Jesus’ blood, but spiritually we are. But the issue of washing the body with water is seen in the New Covenant ordinance of baptism, where we are immersed in literal water, of course as a sign of the inward reality and call of God, as we are publicly ordained, as it were, into the priesthood of believers, to minister in the New Covenant temple offering spiritual sacrifices of worship. The heart is sprinkled, the body is bathed.
God making us priests to minister in the New Covenant temple, and the baptism that goes with it, is all a part of the gospel promises foreseen by the Prophets. We’ve seen that language in Isaiah 61. Isaiah also speaks of gentiles being made priests, which is what we all are. Isaiah 56 speaks of God bringing foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants. And Isaiah 66 God speaks of His glory being declared to the nations who have not heard, and then God says, “…some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the LORD.” Imagine an Israelite hearing this, that God is going to take some gentiles and make them priests. That can’t be! Only the House of Aaron could be priests. But this is the New Covenant promise, that now all who come to Jesus Christ and are baptized with Him are priests in the New Covenant temple. Does this maybe give us greater insight when Jesus says, “Go make disciples of all nations, BAPTIZING them…”? I think so. God is making a nation of priests through Christ being baptized in Him, that everywhere God’s people are, spiritual worship is offered to Him.
So consider a couple final points of application for these things. As priests in the New Covenant we know that we offer spiritual worship, a sacrifice of praise. But also, in Ephesians 4, Paul says that God has given the apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. So the saints are to do the work of ministry – there’s that priestly word. And what is the nature of this work of the ministry? The text tells us. It’s for the building up of the body. And where does one build up the body? In the context of the local church, being joined to a local body, where one can be equipped by shepherds and teachers and the word of God, to carry out the work of ministry. It is in a certain locale where these commands are to be carried out, where you can know the needs, physical and spiritual, and you can play your part in ministering by building up one another in some way. Here is the necessity of being joined to a local body, so you can be obedient to your priestly ministry. So you can admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all, exhort the brethren, spur on one another to love and good works, bear one another’s burdens, pray for the body, weep with those who weep, rejoice with those who rejoice, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the statue of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from who meth whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. This is your ministry.
Finally, if we are priests unto God, sprinkled and made clean by the blood of Jesus, then our lives should reflect that. We are to strive for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 2 Corinthians 7:1, “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”
You’re still here so you’re not done yet. There is more sanctification, more holiness, more mortifying of sins to be had. More good works to be done. More knowledge of Christ to grow in. You don’t stop. You don’t grow comfortable with your respectable sins. You don’t stop loving and knowing Christ more. You are priests unto God. You have been baptized. You have put on Christ. Galatians 3:27, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.” So then, Romans 13:14, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”