He Must Increase: A Change in the Priesthood
By Ole Henrik Skjelstad and Fred Pruitt
Assume you were a disciple of John the Baptist about whom it was said that he had come to prepare the way of the Lord. In what way could you have magnified his ministry? Would not that have been to go from his teaching and to be taught by Christ to whom he directed you?
“The Baptist was indeed a burning and a shining Light, and so are the holy Scriptures; “but he was not that Light, but was sent to bear Witness to that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every Man, that cometh into the World. What a Folly would it be, to say that you had undervalued the Office and Character of John the Baptist, because he was not allowed to be the Light itself, but only a true Witness of it, and Guide to it? Now if you can show, that the written word in the Bible can have any other, or higher Office, or Power, than such a ministerial one as the Baptist had, I am ready to hear” (William Law).
He must increase, but I must decrease, John the Baptist humbly declared. John, being a type of the outward written word which office is to direct every man to the true inward Word, clearly stated that the outward word must diminish in us so that Christ can be the Word in us. John as a person was not to decrease. What folly that would have been and what a contradiction of God’s eternal purposes of seeing His image in every man. No, no, no! John was addressing his office and ministry which would decrease when its purpose was fulfilled by referring people to the true inward light.
The scriptures are our guide to Jesus Christ, the true Word whose office must increase in us. The letter can merely instruct us in an outward manner. Thus approaching the scriptures as merely being instructions on how to live will avail nothing. The true ground for life is the inward Christ who by His Spirit teaches us all things. He must increase in us and every effort at approaching the scriptures in an outward manner must decrease.
When John the Baptist’s ministry and office had accomplished everything it was designed to attain, that is, directing man to Christ he died a most violent death. In the same manner the letter’s outward influence upon us must be vigorously severed off from us when it has directed us to He whom by His inward work in us makes us wise in all things.
John the Baptist being beheaded symbolizes that the office and ministry of what directs us to Christ can only teach us separation. Its outward ministry can merely teach us to see everything as disjointed and dismembered. It is Christ who takes us to unity in outlook and consciousness. That which guided us to Christ has to die in us so that what is alive can usher us into the total truth of who we are.
The beheading of John also signifies that a new head would be ‘installed’ to govern the body of believers. That old Adamic head with its limited consciousness, which outlook, seeings and knowledge imbued by the fall, could only relate to the elementary principles of this world. The mind of Christ had to be reinstalled in man, as it were, to assure the efficacy of the New Covenant.
I’m in awe,, Ole Henrik! Truly — stunned with awe!
I have no words. You ARE a prophet, as was once said of you. This is a very deep dive that you have attempted here, and you went deep and came back up with the Treasure. O blessed’ Day!
Interesting your take on “office.” In my mind you have certainly cleared up some major cobwebs of the “outer story.” To me you opened the curtains and let it receive the full light of the Sun. And how brilliantly it shines!
I maybe have shared this, cannot remember, but I saw that aspect of “office” on the Jesus side of the story a while back.
Here is how I saw it. Jesus came to Jordan and stood in line like everyone else waiting for a turn. It is impossible for us to know what was going on in His mind, or how much He understood.
Boehme says that everything we need to know of God in macrocosm, is in us in microcosm, so that everything there is to know is within man. I read that in Boehme years ago, but it struck home. I began to trust that God would reveal Himself in me.
In doing so, I see I come to “know” Jesus both as a man (since I am a man [human being] and know the things of a man myself), and in God and as God, as He journeys as me. This is the training ground of the Spirit, here inside us, and hearing that from Boehme many years ago and having increasingly walked it since, I testify of its truth. That reorientation from how I started, of wanting to know a Separate God outside me, maybe knee to knee with me, or hovering above willing to “come down” if I fervently enough wanted Him and demonstrated it – that all led finally into a completely different consciousness, understanding and Spirit knowledge. It was in that I found “myself” when I found Him incarnate in me, and “me” being Him incarnate!
I know that might sound scandalous to some, but where else can we go but here, if we are to see the “finished work of the Cross” to its conclusion? Is the incarnation of Deity as Jesus of Nazareth really the main point of all this? Again we sound scandalous, as if we somehow belittle our precious Lord Jesus by getting to the heart of His Heart? Is not His Heart the topmost of all that He Has imparted within us? And what IS His heart? That we might be the Same as He is because He is this Same in each of us, an outgoing unreserved for itself heart of love, knowing only the bounds of the Spirit’s winds within us.
I found this out about myself (Christ in me AS me) long ago, and the reality of it keeps expanding day by day. But it does not matter whether we are only seeing this for the joyous first time, or if we have walked it for decades, finding the Treasure of Christ within, is both the end and beginning of everything, and everyday is the same – Christ! Once caught, no escape! “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up,” and there is no going back to Galilee to fish anymore.
Why has it come to us to know this? Who knows? Who knows the mind of the Father, except the Son, and to whomever the Son chooses to reveal it?
“I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the Ending, saith the Lord, which is, which was, and which is to come, the Almighty!”
I digress, back to Jesus.
I’m sure He must have come to faith about Who He was, and knew He was being driven to John’s baptism. Perhaps He already knew the whole “why,” maybe He did not — we do not know. Certainly, He was familiar with the scriptures concerning Him, and without doubt must have foreseen His end. Perhaps He had angelic and divine visitations, which we might be led to believe as I did in the beginning, but there is no record of that. Chances are he had lived a normal life before that point, because his hometown people knew him as the carpenter who lived down the street. Neither do I think he journeyed to India (in His “missing years”) to sit at the feet of the masters there. (I’m being facetious!)
It was a step of faith, no doubt. Norman always said He only fully knew Who He was after John’s baptism. Now I am beginning to understand that after all these years. I really did not understand what Norman said then.
This further clarity began to form itself on one our trips a few years ago. We stayed with Shelley and her kids Seth, Evan and Abby, in Spring TX, a Houston suburb. She home-schooled the kids then, and they were something like 4, 6 and 8, or 5, 7, 9 at the time. Since John Bunting and I were visiting, she appointed us guest lecturers for the day, in particular subjects they were studying. John was the obvious choice for science. I think I got geography. Shelley gave us the books the lessons came from, so we studied the lessons ahead of time. The kids already knew and loved us, especially John, because we had visited a few times before and we were granddaddy age to them, and John especially is good with young children. So John gave his “lecture,” I gave mine, and then it was time for the devotional. Shelley handled that. The subject that day was Jesus’ baptism by John. Shelley told the story. The kids were all ears; their eyes were fixed on her telling. Then she asked, “Does anybody know why Jesus had to get baptized, since He was without sin?”
I think we were all stumped. I was waiting for the answer myself. The first (and I think only) one to pipe us was Seth, the oldest, and he said, sheepishly, “Maybe he sinned just a little bit?”
We all laughed, and I don’t remember what was said after that. But it did set up the question in me that I kept pondering from time to time. Why DID Jesus have to get baptized? What was up with that?
Then it hit me when he told John, “Suffer it to be so for now, for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” (Mat 3:15). Ah, that’s it, it all became clear.
This was the moment of the change in priesthood, from Aaron to Judah, as Hebrews brings out. Even John’s “decrease” is part of this new “office” that Jesus has inherited. John, under the law, comes preaching the law AND the One to come Who will fulfill all things including the law, and will take away the Sin of the world. John’s demise begins immediately causing Jesus to say, “Among those born of woman there are none greater … yet he is least in the kingdom of heaven.”
He and John both know John’s office is finished, just like the Levitical priesthood, most especially the house of Aaron, the high priestly line of the flesh. “I must decrease” is an acknowledging that the New had come, and now the old has served its purpose and is even violently ripped away in the beheading of John.
In Jesus’ going “down” as a good Jewish man under the law, subject to the law and the fleshly priesthood, He rises the Son of God, Savior, Deliverer, Redeemer, God Incarnate, the Eternal High Priest in the heavens, yet right here concretely in flesh and blood as Jesus of Nazareth. Perhaps Jesus heard whispered in His ears in that moment, “My son, this day I have begotton Thee,” but then a Voice everyone could hear, thundered the final seal — “This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased!” Taken further, since this is also David who is rising: God has “found a man after mine own heart,” a Man to stand in the gap, a man to bring flesh and Spirit together as One — “Thy will be done on earth even as it is in heaven.”
And we can most assuredly know that we were in His spiritual loins at the time, just like Levi was in the loins of Abraham, and Jesus standing in line brings it home to me where I live. And where I live in me — the self-doubt that would gobble you up at a moment’s notice; the “worry” about things I’ve given into the Father’s hands knowing “it’s all going to work out,” and yet the stuff still churns, etc.
Was Jesus already so “holy” as He is standing in queue to wait his turn for baptism? Were His hands upraised, a beatific look on His face, softly singing psalms and praising the Lord? No one knows, but I think not. Like I said, I believe He knew in a “through a glass darkly” way, maybe less dark than it is to us – nevertheless, it was not “certain.” The completion of certainty comes at the moment you put your foot in the Jordan.
And like I have been saying, it is all a change of consciousness! More and more and more Norman’s oft-repeated statement, “all of life is inner consciousness” reverberates more and more in me! More and more I see this is what it is ALL about, there is nothing else. Life comes out of consciousness. It originates in His, but finds FORM in ours. This is what we are after, nothing short of it, the consciousness of the Total Christ totally operating a total humanity that He has redeemed for Himself and taken possession of, so that He is its perfection, perfectly expressing Himself in all His vessels perfectly.
One more thing I forgot to include, the “why” I think that was the moment of the change in the priesthood.
There were two things — first the baptism, which was twofold. First, the high priest, before he could don the robes and go into the inner sanctuary to sprinkle the blood for the sins of the people, had to go through a “baptism,” cleansing himself, for his own sins. He was washed from the laver before he was installed in his vestments.
It is the same when Aaron was first installed, and every high priest since. First wash the priest, before he dons the clean and holy garments.
Once he is clean, he is able to assume his duties of sacrifice, (washing everyday in the laver before their time of service, getting clean again daily), and once a year his most important duty, to enter into the Holy of Holies to intercede for the sins of the people.
So the baptism was and remained a very important operative element of the process for the remission of sins.
Knowing this, then, that Jesus has gone through the ritual cleansing required by the Law, He receives a higher call than that of Aaron, who is an imperfect mediator between God and man. Aaron cannot continue because he cannot deliver himself out of his own sins, but now One has risen Who takes away the Sin of the World! As Aaron dies, Jesus rises and takes the New Covenant upon Himself as the Lamb Slain. This is the “suffereth it to be so to fulfill all righteousness.” The True High Priest has come and has received His ritual cleansing in the Jordan, and after having been made clean, the Voice comes, the Divine Seal on His eternal priesthood!
And of course if we see this then it is easy to see how Jesus fulfilled the office of Eternal High Priest Who enters once into the tabernacle in heaven and no more sacrifice remaineth for sins, and the gift to men is out of that, no more conscience of sin and Sin, among quite a few other things more glorious than that.
Now then, what is this to us — a nice story? Some more Bible knowledge to put down in our notebooks? It is just that and only that, if all we get out of it is a story that happened long ago to other people long ago. We’re not really involved in that. But then we realize that these things are all internal in us, that they reveal US, and they subsequently drive US to the Jordan, to go down under and back up again, and we now are of this Same Eternal High Priest, that He might with us continue His intercession Eternal in the heavens and in the earth.
And this is really the pinnacle. There is nothing more to be said of this. Though we probably will still say a thing or two more, eh?
When I had finished my part I somehow knew something was missing, but here it is in all its radiant glory. Again I am rendered awestruck by the words you speak that originate in the heart of our Father and which He shares with His trusted friends, of whom you are one. We most assuredly will say a thing or two more…….