Priesthood Today 

 

And yet history and our very nature is all against us. Israel failed to rise up to the challenge of being a Kingdom of priests. The new Israel, the early church, failed; they either went back to the priesthood of the Mosaic Law, or developed into the priest-dominated Catholic church. They began by having all things common, in imitation of  how the priests had " like portions to eat" (Dt. 18:8). Notice, in passing, the stress on the equality of the priests and the studied irrelevance of their personal wealth (1 Chron. 24:31; 25:8; 26:12). The Law was geared around the assumption that the priests would be so caught up in Yahweh's work that they would never be rich (consider Dt. 14:29), and the wonder of doing His work would compensate for their lack of physical possessions (Num. 18:23). Yet the early church couldn't sustain the intensity of their initial realization of these things. Even after the euphoria of those early days in Jerusalem, Paul lamented that all seek their own salvation, rather than that of those others who belong to Jesus Christ (Phil. 2:21 and context). Every one of us has the same basic tendency, of being spiritually selfish, of being irresponsible for the real spiritual needs of each other. We would rather someone else do it. However, only rarely have Christians expressed this in terms of consciously agitating for a paid-pastor system to flunk our personal responsibilities. What is more common is for us to just get on with looking after ourselves, without looking out into the world and the needs of others. We cling on dearly to those who brought us to the Faith, to those who baptized us. We lean, terribly, upon our Christian heritage. We delegate responsibility, time and again. We assume someone else will do everything.  We just aren't self-motivated. We rely on another brother or sister to take the initiative. We have like Corinth, thousands of instructors, many who will give Bible talks and preach, but very few fathers; few who will stay with the flock, come what may (even the flock's passive resentment against them; children also go through this stage against their fathers!). If we ran our secular lives as we do our spiritual lives, we would be complete drop outs. There is an urgent need to rediscover the spirit of priesthood today.

We tend to forget that if someone had not reached out into our little world and preached to us, we would not be where we are today. There is a tendency for UK brethren to think 'Well, let's let the brethren in (say) Mongolia get on with their own preaching, I mean, it's their responsibility really'. There are others whose attitude is 'If they have a Bible, they'll find the Truth and God will draw them to us'. And there might be brethren in (say) Mongolia who would feel 'I don't have a duty to preach or help the other believers here. The brothers in the UK can do that. All I need to do is meet them when they visit once a year'. We're all at fault here; and if we're honest, we know it. The fact  is, we're all priests. My salvation is your responsibility. Yours is mine. It's my duty, it should be my desire, to see the Gospel witnessed in your country, and to see the brethren there grow strong in the Lord. And it should be your duty and desire too. We're all priests, making our own sacrifices, studying the word for ourselves, sharing it with others, being a rock for our brethren and sisters to build on. There are some brethren and sisters who I can only call " a rock" . They're always there, heart and soul devoted to the work. I can always lay my tired head on their shoulder. It's God's intention that we should be a community of men and women like that. The priests weren't part-timers. They gave their lives to God in recognition of the fact that God had saved the lives of the firstborn at the Passover and Red Sea deliverance (Num. 3:12). Our deliverance from the world at baptism was our Red Sea. We have been saved. Those firstborns represent us, the ecclesia of firstborns (Heb. 12:23 Gk.). We are now being led towards that glorious Kingdom, when by rights we ought to be lying dead in that dark Egyptian night. The wonder of it all demands that like the Levites, we give our lives back to God, in service towards His children. The Lord died that He might " sanctify" us to God. This is the word used by the LXX to describe the consecration of the priests to service of the body of Israel (Ex. 28:41). If we reject the call to priesthood today, we reject the point of the Lord's saving suffering for us. Having spoken for six verses concerning our responsibilities for others in the ecclesia, Paul makes a statement which we would sooner apply to gross immorality than laziness to serve each other: " Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good to all men..." (Gal. 6:7-10). Paul's sober warning is in the context of not loving and serving our brethren. To have an indifferent, irresponsible attitude to them is to sow to the flesh. Each of us, therefore, must live up to our serious responsibilities for each other if we are to sow to the Spirit.

In doing so, we will ourselves find spiritual growth. Practically, this is evident- in that the brother who looks through the Bible readings before doing them with his family, or reads a chapter with his five year old daughter and then the same chapter again with his wife, who makes an effort to prepare a different exhortation each time he speaks rather than re-hash an old one... the one who benefits is ultimately himself. Paul said as much to Timothy: " If thou put the brethren in remembrance...thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith...whereunto thou hast already attained" (1 Tim. 4:6). His ministry of Christ's word to others would in itself nourish him up, to go onwards in the upward spiral, from where he had " already attained" to higher and higher things. This is what priesthood today is all about.