21 March 2010

The Priesthood of Believers

“To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

--Revelation 1:5b-6-ESV

The Book of Revelation is a book known for its grand eschatological themes and in-depth, difficult-at-times imagery and symbolism that has intrigued the faithful and driven them to understand and faithfully interpret this part of His holy Word for centuries upon centuries. And yet, contained within this last great book of God’s holy Word are some real gems of theology and practical application, one of which I wish to share with you now, for the purposes of encouraging your service to our great God and Father through Jesus Christ our Lord.

In this verse, we encounter a most wonderful truth of all those adopted into the family of God (Galatians 4:5-7): their priesthood in Christ Jesus. The NKJV translates the bolded phrase above as “kings and priests,” and the NIV translates it as “kingdom and priests.” Although (as these translations would allude to) we will reign with Christ during the “millennium” (see Revelation 20:6), I think the flavor captured here is what John MacArthur points out in his commentary on the whole Bible, that we are: 1) a kingdom, under God’s authority and in His sphere of control and blessing, and 2) we are a priesthood, “hav[ing] the right to enter God’s presence” (pg. 1993).

This passage brings to mind 1 Peter 2:4-12, where it is written:

“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’ So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, ‘The stone that the builders rejected had become the cornerstone,’ and ‘A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.’ They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”

In this passage, the church is identified with Israel’s role as a “royal priesthood” (or, as Revelation 1:6a puts it, “a kingdom, priests”). And as is bolded above, this priesthood: 1) Offers up “spiritual sacrifices” (see also Romans 12:1-2; Philippians 4:18; Hebrews 13:15-16). According to these passages cited, spiritual sacrifices include:

a) Offering up your lives to holy living, fully given over to the Lord’s will, with your minds being transformed by His holy Word, no longer given over to carnality, which is sinful enslavement and has no part in a true believer, no longer given over to the wisdom of this sin-cursed and dying world system (Romans 12:1-2).
b) Offerings to our brethren according to the abundance of our resource and/or the depth of their need, with the glory of God in sight (Philippians 4:18).
c) Offerings of worshipful praise, which can include doxology (or “praise-giving”), thanksgiving (Hebrews13:15-16), but can also include supplications, confession of sin, and meditation upon God’s holy Word.

It must be noted that we are priests whose offerings are acceptable only because our High Priest Jesus Christ has provided our mediation and access to God the Father. This is seen in our description of our great God in vs. 5b of Revelation 1: “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.” O blessed freedom! Freedom from accursed sin! Freedom from the wages we justly deserve (Romans 3:23; 6:23)! Freedom from our natural spiritual father Satan, creation’s cruelest, most evil taskmaster! Freedom from all that would damn us to an eternity of hellfire! O can we ever drain our lungs of the proper amount of praise that the Lamb who was slain deserves for His suffering and sovereign plan? We are free to serve Him, worship Him as He truly is, and to enjoy the greatest good that ever has existed or ever will exist; glorifying His infinite majesty!

Not only are we to offer spiritual sacrifices, but: 2) we are to mediate God’s presence on earth, being those who show forth the glory of God in our faithful witness, speech, and actions, that He may receive all praise and honor for how awesome and good He is. As Steve Gregg, author of “Revelation: Four Views” puts it, “the church mediates to bring men to God, both by the priestly function of teaching the nations the ways of God (Leviticus 10:10-11; Matthew 28:19-20) and by the offering of spiritual sacrifices (Isaiah 66:20; Romans 15:16)” (pg. 56).

O Lord, I pray that you would make us faithful to accomplish all that you have given us to do as priests unto our great High Priest, the One who has made satisfaction for sin and has become our propitiation, the One who has absorbed all the wrath of God on our behalf, Jesus Christ. I pray that you would make us faithful in supplication, joyful in praise, passionate in thanksgiving, radiant in Your splendor, and faithfully proclaiming your mediation on behalf of all those who will call on Your Name and be saved from the hell they have earned. In Christ’s holy Name I pray, Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria

07 February 2010

Don't Waste Your Life

Hello brethren. No new posts this time, but another video I would like to share with you to the glory of our Awesome God. Enjoy!

The original post can be found at Reach Records.

Soli Deo Gloria

03 January 2010

The Firstborn is the Preeminent One

I have been working my way (incredibly slowly) through the Book of Revelation, attempting to come to an understanding of biblical eschatology. However, as I have been making my way through the text, I have come upon some real gems of theology that I hope and pray are both an encouragement and challenge to you. The one I would like to deal with today is located at the beginning of John’s letter to the seven churches of Asia, paying special attention to the bolded part of the verse:

“John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits that are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.”

--Revelation 1:4-5a-ESV

In this greeting of John’s to the seven churches, we have a very clear demarcation of the Trinitarian nature of our God. First, we have the Father, the One “who is and who was and who is to come” (v.4b), which is also a clear reference to the Son who is going to come with the Father’s glory to judge all of humanity and restore perfection in the new (or remade) heavens and earth, the Father operating through His Son (see Matthew 26:62-64; Revelation 1:7-8, 17-18; 19:11-16; 21:1-8). Next we see the Holy Spirit, referred to as “the seven spirits that are before his throne” (see Revelation 4:5; 5:6). And finally, we come to the Son, “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3a). But the phrase I wish to focus in on here is the phrase, “the firstborn of the dead” (v.5a). Now, upon cursory look (and with an understanding of the Resurrection of our Lord and its implication for the resurrection of all the saints bodily) we can see the reference to our Lord’s conquering death by rising from the grave and thereby being the firstborn to rise and procure bodily resurrection for all of His people. However, this also brings to mind a certain passage in the book of Colossians that is cross-referenced in the ESV Study Bible and known to all who are familiar to Paul’s letter to those in Colossae. In it, he writes:

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

--Colossians 1:15-20-ESV

As you can see, I’ve bolded the reference to Christ Jesus being the firstborn from the dead like in our main passage in Revelation 1. However, my desire is to focus on this first reference, “the firstborn of all creation” (v.15b). Beloved, this is one verse cults like the LDS Church (a.k.a. Mormons) and the Russellites (a.k.a. “Jehovah’s” Witnesses) point to in order to deny the very thing it so clearly screams: the deity of our Lord and Savior, the Alpha and Omega, the First and Last, the Judge of nations, the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ. They would assert that since Jesus is referred to as the “firstborn” that he cannot be God, for God cannot be born and thereby created. In one sense their assertion is true; God cannot be created. But their application is fatally flawed, for this verse does not teach the “creation” of Christ but rather what is asserted later on in the passage: the preeminence of Christ.

According to Genesis 1:27, we as human beings are all created imago Dei: in the very image of God Himself. That is to say, we hold some of God’s very attributes: rationality, emotion, will, intellect, reason, etc. However, if any of us ever were to assert that we were the image of the invisible God, containing the attributes of Christ alone written in Colossians 1:15-20, we would be guilty of the vilest blasphemy. This is because only Christ is given the preeminence as being the image of God invisible, the visible manifestation of that whom we cannot see. “Firstborn” here does not mean, as the late-great heretic Arius asserted and the Mormons and Russellites have rebelliously followed, that Jesus was created. Rather, it is a title of preeminence, and as the ESV Study Bible points out, Paul was writing with the rights and privileges of a firstborn son in mind, “especially the son of a monarch who would inherit ruling sovereignty” (note on Colossians 1:15). This theme is seen as far back as Psalm 89:27, where the Lord says of David, “And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” When applied to David, the firstborn meant the king of all earthly kings. When applied to the Son of God in the context of this passage, it can only mean His lordship over all creation, being its sovereign Ruler and God. And following this theme, the Son “inheriting” the rule of the Father is established in the rest of the passage:

1) By Christ, all things (visible/invisible) were created (v.16).
2) By Christ, all things are held together, Himself being before all things (v.17).
3) By Christ, the church has its Head, its ruling Authority (v.18a).
4) By Christ, all who believe will be raised and resurrected to eternal life as He is “the firstborn from the dead,” the preeminent one if terms of mastery over death (in v.15 over life as well—v.18b).
5) By Christ, all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (what created being, man or angel, could EVER say this?—v.19).
6) By Christ, all things will be reconciled to Him on earth or heaven (that is, all things fallen, with believers reconciled to eternal life and unbelievers consigned to hell and eternal death, perfecting the order of all things either in righteous redemption or righteous judgment), making this ASTORNOMICAL peace by His own blood, the perfect atonement for the all-destructive consequences of sin (v.20).

By all proper understanding and interpretation of God’s holy and awesome Word, no created being could ever even dream to do this in order to perform the eternal task of everlasting redemption of sinful humanity ever. Jesus Christ alone is Lord, second Person of the Trinity, and one day He will be worshipped by all as such (Philippians 2:11). Beloved, let us look to our firstborn ruler with awe and wonder at His wonderful redemption and trust in the work that only a perfect God could perform; perfect adherence to a perfect law by a perfect Savior in a perfect atonement on behalf of imperfect rebels. May our lives increasingly reflect His glorious lordship over all!

Soli Deo Gloria