The Apostle Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians was a personal note that was intended to set the record straight about his authority as an apostle of Jesus Christ. It’s not surprising that Paul faced conflict about this issue because Jesus himself was questioned about where his authority came from. Matthew’s gospel tells us, “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29). In other words, Jesus wasn’t just quoting verses from the Old Testament. Jesus understood the word of God and was able to interpret its meaning accurately and effectively so that everyone who listened to him believed what he was saying. Jesus never answered the chief priests and elders’ question about where his authority came from. Instead, he made them realize that they were in no position to challenge his authority. Matthew states:
And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
One of the reasons the chief priests and elders didn’t respect Jesus’ authority was because they thought of themselves as appointed by God to be the interpreters of the Mosaic Law and were representatives of God to the Jewish people. Shortly after the Israelites were delivered from slavery in Egypt and given the Ten Commandments, Aaron and his sons were consecrated as priests (Exodus 29:1). The process of consecration involved several steps that were meant to ordain individuals into the priesthood.
Moses indicated that the priesthood belonged to Aaron and his descendants forever (Exodus 29:9), but Jesus was inducted into the priesthood under a different order. Paul explained:
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.”
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5:5-10)
Paul went to great lengths to explain that Jesus outranked the chief priests and was able to present a sacrifice that would guarantee salvation. Paul said:
For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.
And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him:
“The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind,
‘You are a priest forever.’”
This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.
The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:18-25)
Paul emphasized that the Mosaic Law was not intended to make you perfect, but to make it possible for us to draw near to God. The process of consecration made those who went through it holy or you might say acceptable to God. God told Moses, “You shall take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram, 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. 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” (Exodus 29:19-21).
The Hebrew word that is translated holy in Exodus 29:21, qadash (kaw-dash’) is the same word that is translated consecrate in Exodus 29:1, so consecration and holiness are essentially the same things. Qadash means to be clean as well as to be set apart (H6942). One of the ways of thinking of consecration is that it differentiates between what can and cannot be used by or for God. In his letter to the Esphesians, Paul talked about being set apart to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul said:
For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles — assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 3:1-10)
Paul indicated that he had been made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to him by the working of God’s power (Ephesians 3:7). The Greek word that is translated minister, diakonos (dee-ak’-on-os) refers to someone that waits at a table and is primarily associated with “the servants or attendants of a king (Matthew 22:13; Romans 13:4)” (G1249). Jesus has a dual role in God’s kingdom and serves as both high priest and king over all the earth. His mention of both God’s grace and God’s power in connection with his calling suggests that Paul saw himself in a dual role as well. Paul often referred to Christians as saints (Ephesians 1:1, 2 Corinthians 1:1). In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul addressed the Christians he was writing to this way:
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:2-3)
Paul said that we are “called to be saints” (1 Corinthians 1:2). The Greek word that is translated saints, hagos (hag’-ee-os) refers to something that is sacred or ceremonially consecrated. It is “spoken of those who are purified and sanctified by the influences of the Spirit, a saint” (G40). Part of the consecration process that Aaron and his sons went through was the anointing of body parts that were supposed to be dedicated to God. Oil, which represented the Holy Spirit, was typically used to anoint things dedicated to God (Exodus 29:7), but the priests’ right ear, right thumb, and right big toe were anointed with blood. Exodus 29:20 states, “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 ear 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.” The anointing of the right ear symbolized sensitivity to God and His word and the anointing of the right hand and right foot symbolized a life of service to others on God’s behalf (note on Exodus 29:20, KJSB). The fact that these body parts were anointed with blood seems to suggest that Christ’s death on the cross is what makes it possible for these body parts to be consecrated to God and it seems likely that every Christian is consecrated in the same way when they accept Jesus as their Savior.
The altar of incense was located in front of the veil that was above the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat where the LORD met with the high priest (Exodus 30:6). By design, the altar was intended to be used for animal sacrifices, but instead it was used to burn fragrant incense. Exodus 30:7-10 states:
“And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it. Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the Lord throughout your generations. You shall not offer unauthorized incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering, and you shall not pour a drink offering on it. Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the Lord.”
The word atonement “is of supreme theological importance in the Old Testament as it is central to an Old Testament understanding of the remission of sin. At its most basic level, the word conveys the notion of covering but not in the sense of merely concealing. Rather, it suggests the imposing of something to change its appearance or nature. It is therefore employed to signify the cancellation or ‘writing over’ of a contract (Isaiah 28:18); the appeasing of anger (Genesis 32:20); Proverbs 16:14); and the overlaying of wood with pitch so as to make it waterproof (Genesis 6:14). The word also communicates God’s covering of sin. Persons made reconciliation with God for their sins by imposing something that would appease the offended party (in this case the Lord) and cover the sinners with righteousness (Exodus 32:30; Ezekiel 45:17; cf. Daniel 9:24). In the Old Testament, the blood of sacrifices was most notably imposed (Exodus 30:10. By this imposition, sin was purged (Psalm 79:9; Isaiah 6:7) and forgiven (Psalm 78:38). The offences were removed, leaving the sinners clothed in righteousness (cf. Zechariah 3:3, 4). Of course the imposition of the blood of bulls and of goats could never fully cover our sin (see Hebrews 10:4), but with the coming of Christ and the imposition of his shed blood, a perfect atonement was made (Romans 5:9-11)” (H3722).
Linked to the atonement for sin was the paying of a ransom for each person that was dedicated to God. Exodus 30:11-16 states: “The Lord said to Moses, ‘When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the Lord when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them. Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as an offering to the Lord. Everyone who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the Lord’s offering. The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the Lord’s offering to make atonement for your lives. You shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the Lord, so as to make atonement for your lives.'” The basic meaning of remembrance is that it “indicates a process of mentioning or recalling either silently, verbally, or by means of a memorial sign or symbol. The verb often means to mention, to think about” (H2142). The Hebrew word that is translated remembrance in Exodus 20:16, zikkarown (zik-ka-rone’) means a memento and “conveys the essential quality of remembering something in the past that has a particular significance…a sacrifice calling for explicit retrospection” (H2146).
When Jesus was in the upper room celebrating Passover with his disciples, he instituted what is commonly referred to as the Lords’ supper, a commemoration of his sacrificial death on the cross. It says in Luke 22:14-20:
And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
In very simple terms, Jesus was telling his disciples to never forget that he had paid the ransom for their lives through his death on the cross so that they could be consecrated to God. Matthew’s gospel placed Christ’s ransom of our souls in the context of having authority over others. Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28).
Paul sometimes referred to himself as the servant of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:1) and told the Corinthians that the purpose of suffering was so that we can be comforted by God. He said, “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again” (2 Corinthians 1:8-10). Paul went on to say, “For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience that we have behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you” (2 Corinthians 1:12). Paul used the phrase “testimony of our conscience” to describe the effects of consecration. Another way of stating what Paul meant might be, I have a clear conscience about my actions toward you. We know that we are consecrated to God if we have a guilty conscience when we violate his laws.
Paul talked about the Holy Spirit being a guarantee of our future bliss in Christ’s kingdom. He said, “And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). The Greek word that is translated anointed, chrio (khree’-o) means “to consecrate to an office or religious service” and “had the significance of dedication to God” (G5548). The Greek word arrhabon (ar-hrab-ohn’), which is translated guarantee means “a pledge, i.e. part of the purchase money or property given in advance as security for the rest” (G728). When Paul said that God’s Spirit in our hearts is a guarantee, he meant that we don’t get the full benefit of our salvation on earth. It isn’t until we are resurrected that we will experience the full effect of consecration. In the same way that the tabernacle of God was made according to a heavenly pattern (Exodus 25:40), so also, our physical bodies are like our spiritual bodies, but the spiritual ones will have much more capability after they are resurrected as evidenced by Jesus’ ability to go up into heaven. It seems that the greatest difference consecration makes is that it removes physical limitations and makes if possible for us to coexist in the physical and spiritual realms (Exodus 19:14-19; Luke 24:50-51).