It would appear that the specific priestly duty of manipulating blood at the altar (under the Mosaic Covenant) has been fulfilled and replaced by gospel ministry (under the New Covenant). This seems to be clear from 1 Corinthians 9:13-14, where the apostle Paul is defending his right to receive financial remuneration from preaching the gospel;
Don’t you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. (1 Corinthians 9:13-14).
There are two parallels here. One is to do with stipend, i.e. the parallel between ‘eating food from the temple’ and ‘receiving a living from gospel ministry’. The other is to do with the nature of these respective ministries (altar-service and gospel-proclamation). Both are God-given mechanisms to effect forgiveness of sins. Under the Mosaic Covenant, blood sacrifice was the means of effecting the forgiveness of sins (anticipating Christ’s final sacrifice). But now that Christ’s perfect sacrifice has put away sin once and for all, there is no longer any need for blood sacrifice of any kind. Instead, sins are forgiven through the gospel. As the message of Christ’s atoning work is proclaimed, and as people hear it and believe it, sins are forgiven. Thus we see that “the work in the temple” finds typological fulfilment in “the preaching of the gospel”.
The “Bronze Sea” or “laver” in Solomon’s temple was a large bronze basin in which the priests who entered the temple had to wash to make themselves ceremonially clean (cf 2 Chronicles 4:6). This “Sea” seems to have represented either (or both) the Red Sea – across which the Israelites passed in their flight from Egypt and the Jordan – across which they passed to enter the Promised Land. The priests entering the tabernacle or temple thus appear to be ceremonially re-enacting (on behalf of the people) the redemption of Israel when they washed in the “Bronze Sea”. Crossing from unholy to holy places seems to require ceremonial washing.
We could say, therefore, that in order for a person to approach God in worship and enter the Holy Place, one must “cross the Sea”. For Christians, water baptism is the moment when a person “crosses the sea” and (outwardly and ceremonially) enters God’s true Dwelling-Place to become a member of Christ and the Church. Understanding our baptism in this way increases our awareness of the high calling and responsibilities which baptism implies.
Another way of understanding baptism as our ordination service is to see that being clothed with Christ is a typological fulfilment of Aaron’s priestly garments (cf Exod. 28:2). Paul says this;
“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 3:26)
Baptism, as believers, is baptism “into Christ”. And this passage in Galatians suggests that we are united with Christ as priests. For we have been clothed with Christ. If Jesus was the priest par excellence, and if we ‘wear’ Jesus Christ, or “put on the new self” then we wear the garment that qualifies us as NT priests.
One of the possible objections being raised by the second generation Jews (which the author of Hebrews seeks to answer) was this: “Where do we go to worship if there is no temple?”
The author answers this question by saying that the sphere of worship under the new covenant is no longer inside a holy place (or temple) but outside in the ungodly places.
11The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 13Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. (Hebrews 13:11-14).
Those who would mediate God’s blessings to the world (as New Testament believer-priests) will suffer as Christ suffered. We go into the world to bear Christ’s disgrace. But we go to Christ for refuge. True Christian worship is shaped by Jesus’ moment of self-sacrifice which happened outside the camp and outside the city gate.