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LIVING IN THE PRIESTHOOD

A SERMON DELIVERED AT

THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

26 OCTOBER 1997

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Exodus 19:3-6
Hebrews 7:11-25
1 Peter 2:1-5
Revelation 1:4-7, 5:9-10

Have you ever thought about the responsibilities that a priest has, and what such a person is to do.

A priest has the responsibility of teaching the people the ways of God, that they would learn them and follow them.

The priest is to be a living example of God's intent for the people, that the people would desire to do the same.

The priest also has the responsibility of correcting and guiding the people when they don't follow the example of the teachings set before them.

And the priest is to offer intercessory prayer for the people when they have a need or when they transgress God's commandments and intent.

And this intercessory prayer extends to the whole of creation, wherever there is a need or suffering or destruction.

That's quite a responsibility, for the priests of God carry upon themselves the souls of the people; thus, Biblically speaking, the blood of the people is upon the priests' head.

It's not an easy job, but it can be quite rewarding when you see the fruit, but it can also be quite frustrating and discouraging, when after every effort, people continue to turn a deaf ear, and turn away.

And who are chosen to be these priests?

Let's listen to what God said to Moses about this (Exodus 19:3 -6):

3. And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel:

4. 'You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought you to Myself.

5. 'Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine;

6. and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. 'These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel."

God freed the people from their slavery in Egypt.

Through many signs and wonders He brought the people to Himself.

He forgave their sins, and set them apart from all the other peoples of the world.

For what purpose, that they would live according to the will of God, as an example to all the people of the world, that through their efforts these other people would turn to God.

The responsibility of priesthood was not just the responsibility of the appointed priests who served in the Temple, but that of every Jewish person.

So, are only Jews able to be priests, or commanded to be priests?

Are they the only people who have this responsibility?

Let's listen to what Peter says (1 Peter 2:1-5):

And remember that Peter is writing to all believer in Jesus Christ, whether or not they were Jewish.

1. Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander,

2. like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,

3. if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.

Note carefully the qualification that Peter puts forth, "if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord."

Thus, if we are not born again, if we do not have God's unconditional love within us, then the rest of what he writes is not for us.

But if we are truly born again, and filled with God's love and compassion, then this is meant for us.

4. And coming to Him [Jesus] as to a living stone, rejected by men, but choice and precious in the sight of God,

5. you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

We not talking about animal sacrifices, for if we follow what we are told in verse 1, "putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander," then we would not sin, and thus there would be no need for a sacrifice.

The animal sacrifice was a concession for a sinful people who refused to follow the ways of the Lord.

Jesus Christ came to put an end to this cruelty and suffering by offering Himself as the final sacrifice.

The spiritual sacrifice is turning away from sin and purifying our hearts and souls, and in turn becoming one with Christ.

Thus, every one of us who are born of Jesus Christ likewise are to be priests.

And if any of us are not convinced that this applies to them, listen to what John writes in Revelation 5:9-10, which speaks of Jesus and all the people who have gone to heaven as believers and followers of Him.

9. And they Sang a new song, saying, "Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

10. "And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth."

Thus, unless we are born again, unless we are priests, we have no part in heaven.

But none of us are perfect, as Jesus is perfect, and none of us are fulfilling all the responsibilities of being priests.

But if we don't even try to be priests, then we must ask ourselves, are we really committed to the Lord?

But for those of us who do sincerely try to serve before the Lord, even imperfectly, there is still great hope, for we have a great High Priest, who ministers for us.

And, we're not referring to other people such as me, or other pastors, or even bishops or popes, for all of us need a High Priest also, for we fall short, too.

Listen to what we are told in Hebrews 7:11-25:

11. Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron?

Melchizedek is the example of eternal priesthood, while Aaron is a fellow human who dies, and thus only serves a certain length of time in the ministry, in other words, those who are imperfect.

12. For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also.

13. For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar.

14. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests.

15. And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek,

16. who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life.

17. For it is witnessed of Him, "Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek."

And keep in mind that we are talking about Jesus Christ, for it's His ministry that perfects ours.

18. For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness

This is further proof that the animal sacrificial system was only a concession, and never could save anyone.

19. (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.

20. And inasmuch as it was not without an oath

21. (for they indeed became priests without an oath, but He with an oath through the One who said to Him, "The Lord has sworn And will not change His mind, 'Thou art a priest forever"');

22. so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.

And this better covenant is unconditional love, which fulfills the imperfect Law.

How?

Because that which is based upon unconditional love breaks no law.

But, as we all unfortunately know, no matter how many laws we have, it doesn't prevent people from breaking them.

Only through perfect love do we naturally fulfill every desire of God.

Perfect love does no harm to people, to animals, or to the whole of creation.

Perfect love should make us more concerned with their well being than it is with our own.

Now, as we read on, listen to how imperfectly we conduct our religions.

23. And the former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers, because they were prevented by death from continuing,

24. but He, on the other hand, because He abides forever, holds His priesthood permanently.

25. Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

It's not any human priest or pastor who can save anyone, it's only the Lord Himself.

But what we can do is set as nearly a perfect example as possible.

And yes, as far as is humanly possible, and not just as far as we may desire from time to time, for the priesthood of us all is for as long as we live in Christ Jesus our Lord.

It's a full time job.

And if we have a hard time fulfilling this job, then we are to turn to our Great High Priest, and pray for the help we need.

And if I come and sit down in the pews with you, then there should be those of you who will stand up and say, "Here I am Lord. I will serve before You."...

... We each have to make a decision of how we're going to come to the Lord, and serve Him.

Let's end with the encouragement that John gives is in Revelation 1:4-7:

4. 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 who are before His throne;

5. and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us, and released us from our sins by His blood,

6. and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

7. Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. Even so. Amen.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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