“The priesthood of all believers” this was once well taught, Martin Luther in the early reformation took it as a central teaching. Yet after all this time we are still battling with it. Today we have a professional priesthood or pastors more than ever and with it people are moved into a consumer approach to faith, where we come and get God served to us on Sunday mornings. We all agree with the notion knowing we are all priest unto God. The dilemma today is this, do we continue to live as we are, are we ‘consumered out’ and so hierarchically set that we have to live with a priesthood once again and thus remain with a professional priesthood ?
We have to become a priesthood to all creation, while maintaining a corporate people of God understanding and existence. Some however have taken it to such an extreme that they have become islands of faith and individuals with no connections, that is yet another extreme. We are a community and family of priests unto our God, here to minister to one another and bring explanations of the Father to our world. This is what our High Priest the Christ has done before us.
Suppose that you gathered one Sunday morning, and some one stood before the congregation asking, “Would any priest here please stand?” I am sure for some their historical backgrounds would determine the response. Who would stand and who would you expect to stand?
Some would be comfortable to stand and others wait for those in the vocation or profession to stand. Before you start looking to other denominations and saying ‘Ah they would….’ What have we slowly and subversively come to? The question deals with the fleeting issue of ‘Image and Likeness’ and ‘Identity’. This is central to all dealing with how we see and think of ourselves. One of Gods central concerns, at this time, is to produce his image and likeness back into his world and humanity, that Christ might have supreme position in all – Restoration. The Holy Spirit is working to bring about a people of image and likeness to the Father in the cosmos, it is an important issue today.
Heavens resources are working to bring the image and likeness of God back in view to all.
Back to the question on that Sunday morning, how many people do you think would rise? More important, would you stand?
You should! every believer is anointed to serve as a priest.
For the early Christian in the New Testament, the word priest is never used of a church leader; it is only used to characterise the role of all believers. Imagine how it was received by the early Christians. When Peter wrote, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (1 Pet. 2:9, RSV), he was writing mostly to people who formerly had nothing to do with Israel and its God. Peter confers on these new Christians both a Jewish heritage (“you are a holy nation, God’s own people”) and the privilege of priesthood (“you are a royal priesthood”). Such a notion would have shaken them to the soles of their sandals.
Perhaps to understand the privilege of being named a priest, we need first to examine what priesthood meant to those who had a history of understanding of the practice of Priesthood. Why do I write on this, I believe that if we could catch our Image and Likeness, our identity, many challenges would pass and life would be lived very differently, its time to finally realise the goal of the Father in this.
A Favoured Person
Priests were chosen from among the tribe of Levi (one of the 12 tribes of Israel) to serve as mediators between God and His people. God told Aaron, the first high priest,
I myself have selected your fellow Levites from among the Israelites as a gift to you, dedicated to the Lord to do the work at the Tent of Meeting. But only you and your sons may serve as priests in connection with everything at the altar and inside the curtain. I am giving you the service of the priesthood as a gift. Anyone else who comes near the sanctuary must be put to death Num. 18:6-7
It was a tremendous privilege to serve as a priest in Israel—a gift. Priests enjoyed a special relationship to God: They alone could offer sacrifices; they alone had access to the holy portions of the tabernacle and the temple where God manifested His presence; they alone were the guardians of the Law.
Then, in the New Testament, all believers are called as priests. The book of Revelation says that Jesus “has made us his Kingdom and his priests who serve before God his Father” (1:6, 5:10, NLT). In a sense, when we are “born again,” we are born into a priesthood as if we were actually privileged descendants of Levi. In addition, with our new birth we receive an anointing, not with oil as Old Testament priests were anointed, but with the Holy Spirit (1 Jn. 2:20, 27). This anointing empowers us to serve God in this privileged and vitally important priestly role.
You won’t have to Kill a cow or a lamb.
Here are five ways we serve Christ as priests.
1. We offer sacrifices. Under the Old Covenant, priests offered animal sacrifices. They slaughtered a lamb on the altar every morning and evening, drained the animal’s blood, and sprinkled the blood on and around the altar. Then they cut the animal into prescribed portions and burned much of the meat (see Ex. 29:38-39). These costly and graphic sacrifices were a constant reminder of the deadly seriousness of sin and the need for cleansing and forgiveness from God. They were inadequate, however, to cover sins; they only pointed to the ultimate sacrifice.
This sacrifice was realised in Jesus who came as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). The offering of His life on the cross was the final sacrifice. None other will ever be necessary: “He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself” (Heb. 7:27).
Because of Jesus’ sacrificial offering, priests no longer need to make animal sacrifices. But God does call us to sacrifice consider Romans 12:1 “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship”.
As living sacrifices, we offer ourselves completely to God to use as He pleases.
In addition, instead of the aroma of a burnt offering, God longs for us to offer the pleasing aroma of praise: “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name” (Heb. 13:15). This too is part of our priestly service. I have mentioned in a number of places remember that worship was not singing but a life of obedience, worship was obedience and there to be a sweet aroma to God. Singing has a place, it helps us express and confess, yet without obedience it is just a sing along, for the sake of enjoying the music or the celebrations of songs
2. We read, interpret, and proclaim God’s . One of the extraordinary blessings of the New Covenant is that we have direct and immediate access to the Word of God. This truth led Christian leaders such as John and Martin Luther to translate the Bible into everyday languages so all people—not just the clergy—could read it, interpret it, and delight in it. God calls all of us to be like the priest Ezra, who devoted himself to studying God’s , practicing it, and making it known (Ezra 7:10).
3. We intercede for others in prayer. We also have direct access to God—through our relationship with him. Developing and deepening our intimacy with him., Because of our close relationship with Jesus, the great high priest, we can “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:16). At that throne, we believer-priests can serve others by interceding with God on their behalf. God is still looking for those who will become the one ‘mankind’ who will stand in the gap, intercede and rule in the cosmos on his behalf.
4. We serve according to our giftedness. Not all priests will serve in the same way under this new priesthood. When God poured out His Spirit upon us, He gave us different abilities. God also has provided the church with a variety of gifted people (none of whom constitute a special order of priests) who encourage and prepare their fellow believer-priests to do the ministry. The Apostle Paul says that Christ has given gifts to the church “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service” (Eph. 4:12, NASB). That the people of God transform the cosmos around by their empowering priesthood.
5. We mediate God’s presence to the world. Ultimately, we are channels of God’s blessing. One of our priestly sacrifices is to serve others: “Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Heb. 13:16). We represent God’s presence to those living with us, those in line with us at the grocery store, serving us in restaurants, working next to us, or sitting across from us in our small groups. As we talk, pray, and live with them, we are fulfilling our priestly role as Peter described it:
1 Peter 2:9 “You are…a royal priesthood…[God’s] own purchased, special people, that you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.”
Knowing your true identity and role can have a powerful impact on your life. God has called you to a priestly position and has anointed you with His Spirit for this privileged assignment.