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