Today in Numbers 8, we see the setting a part of a specific group of men as priests. This was this done by the laying on of hands.
When you present the Levites before the LORD, the people of Israel shall lay their hands upon the Levites, and Aaron shall offer the Levites before the LORD as a wave offering from the people of Israel, that it may be theirs to do the service of the LORD. Then the Levites shall lay their hands upon the heads of the bulls; and you shall offer the one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering to the LORD, to make atonement for the Levites. And you shall cause the Levites to attend Aaron and his sons, and shall offer them as a wave offering to the LORD. “Thus you shall separate the Levites from among the people of Israel, and the Levites shall be mine.
This is an important connection between the Old and the New Testament. The Apostles would have known this history. We saw it in Acts 6, when the Apostles lay hands on the seven men to make them deacons in the church. We saw it again in Acts 8 when the Apostles travel to Samaria to confirm the new converts and make them part of the “universal priesthood” of all believers. What then does the use of this practice tell us?
It shows that the Apostles would have clearly considered themselves Priests. They would have understood that God is maintaining a degree or continuity between the old covenant and the new while at the same time refining the old and bringing forth its promise. In the old covenant, the Levites who had hands laid on them were forever consecrated to God. Their role passed from generation to generation hereditarily. Under the new covenant the Apostles saw that they had authority to lay hands on others for the purpose of consecrating people to God. This is what they did with the ordaining of the deacons. Unlike the Levites your hereditary is no longer what makes you eligible for the priesthood. Now, those who are called are ordained by the laying on of hands.
Finally, notice the purpose of the Levites after they have been installed in their office. It is to assist in the Temple (at this time still the tent of meeting) and to make atonement for sins for the people.
And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons from among the people of Israel, to do the service for the people of Israel at the tent of meeting, and to make atonement for the people of Israel, that there may be no plague among the people of Israel in case the people of Israel should come near the sanctuary.
Thus “priesthood” is associated with the forgiveness of sins. We see this same aspect continued in the New Testament when Jesus says to the Apostles, “whose sins you forgive are forgiven and whose sins you retain are retained.” Continuity with the Old Testament is continued because forgiveness of sins still comes through the priesthood. At the same time the fulfillment of the promise of salvation is achieved because the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament are replaced by the once and for all sufficient sacrifice of Jesus.