The Christian Priesthood (Paper 2)

Jack Hunter, Kilmarnock

Part 2 of 2 of the series The Christian Priesthood

In our previous article we noted that the subject of Christian priesthood involve many aspects of our Christian lives. We listed the offering up of our praise, doing good to others, the holy art of practical giving, our gospel preaching and the total consecration of our bodies to God for His service. We then went on to deal with the first of these, the offering of our praise. In this article we will comment briefly on the other aspects.

{2). Doing Good to Others, Heb

13. 16. We have seen previously that a priest both acts towards God and blesses men. Verse 1 5 is concerned with the former, while verse 16 has the latter in view, Christians are called on to do good and to give of their substance in a kindly way. The man who has gone into the sanctuary to meet God, v.1 5, now goes out into the street to meet those in need. As God's people, we should ever be on the watch for opportunities to do good to all, Gal. 6. 9-10. There is a sad tendency for us today to "forget" this aspect of Christian life. We have become selfish and insular. People around us. whether saint or sinners, should feel free to approach the Christian priest. They should be able to avail themselves of one who will bring the touch of God into their lives, giving sympathy and help as required. The New Testament provides two reasons why a man should work: to provide for his family, 1 Tim. 5. 8, and to enable him to give to those in need, Eph. 4. 28.

(3) The Holy Art of Practical Giving, Phil. 4. 1 8. One of the reasons Paul had for writing to the Philippians was to acknowledge a monetary gift which they had sent to him, He describes the gift as "an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable..". This is the language of the altar and of the burnt offering in particular, Lev. 1. 9, 13, 17.

Paul regarded the local church as a company of priests, and their practical fellowship as an offering to God. The priestly function of the local assembly therefore encompasses their giving in a material way to support God's servants. Again we note that there were those who acted towards God, and in so doing blessed others. Paul raises the matter of financial support for the Lord's servants up to the level of a spiritual sacrifice. Viewed from the human standpoint Paul received the gift from the Philippians through Epaphroditus, but viewed from the spiritual standpoint he recognized that they had given it to God and he therefore received it as from Him. Compare 2 Cor. 8. 5. This is God's appointed way of providing for His servants. Paul neither was, nor wanted to be, a pastor in receipt of a salary or honorarium !

(4). Gospel Preaching, Rom. 15. 16. Paul told the Romans of his confidence in them, v. 14, and needed therefore to explain his reasons for having written at such length to them. He did this by pointing to his ministry and public position as the apostle to the Gentiles, vv. 1 5-1 7. He speaks of himself as the sacrificing priest of the gospel of God (the word "ministering" means "ministering as a priest"). To Paul, his gospel preaching was a priestly ministry. All gospel preachers should be priestly preachers. They act towards God so as to bless men, The result of such preaching is the offering of the Gentile converts on the altar, with lives totally dedicated to God. There was nothing frivolous or superficial about Paul's evangelism. He was not concerned with counting the number of immediate professions that followed his preaching. His concerns lay with the spiritual results of his preaching; namely in lives yielded to God on the altar. He preached with the glory of God in view.

(5). The Dedication of our Bodies to the Lord, Rom. 12. 12. These two verses stand at the begin­ning of the practical section of the Epistle, and area based to all that follows. Similarly the truth taught in them is basic to all the other aspects of Christian priesthood which we have considered. All believers are called on to present their bodies to God. Christianity does not regard the body as the seat and spring of sin. The Christian's body is fit to be yielded to God for His service, 6. 12-13; ch, Dan. 3. 28. God is interested today in "living" sacrifices, in contrast with the animal sacrifices of bygone days which were dead by the time they reached the altar. He is looking for lives that are dedicated utterly, com­pletely and finally to Him. Every Christian should be abandoned to His holy will. This will necessitate standing out as different from the world. "Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould", Rom. 12. 2, J. B. Phillips. However, the apostle saw not only his life in terms of a sacrifice to God ; he regarded his death in a similar fashion. He assured the Philippians, "if I be offered [lit. poured out as a drink offering) upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy", Phil. 2. 17. The apostle regarded the collective activities of the church, which sprang from their faith, as a burnt offering to the Lord. He would have been happy to have poured out his life, if necessary, as an accompaniment to their suffering for the gospel's sake. Later, when he faced the executioner's sword, he could write, "I am now ready to be offered (i.e., as a drink offering)", 2 Tim. 4. 6 He was confident, v. 8, that all his sacrifices, in life and death, would be worthwhile. When at last we meet the Lord will we regret that we have not offered Him more ?

The careful reader will have noticed that the five main passages dealt with stress that the sacrifices in mind prove "acceptable" and "well-pleasing" to the Lord. It was always a matter of great concern to God's people of old whether or not their sacrifices would be accepted by Him; see, for example, Psa. 20. 3; 119.108 and compare Amos 5. 22; Jer. 6. 20; Mai, 1.10. Today God does not want us to offer animal sacrifices, but He has told us plainly the kinds of sacri­fices that He is prepared to accept. Let us then rise to our priestly privil­eges and offer to Him our praises, our possessions and our service—indeed all that we have and are.