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The True Nature of a Gospel Church — 7

Please read 1 Peter 2

Statistics have shown that the safest place to be at any point in time is in church! How do they work that out?

Cars are responsible for 20% of all fatal accidents.

17% of accidents occur in the home.

14% of all accidents happen to pedestrians walking along the pavement.

Air, rail or sea journeys account for 16% of all accidents.

Of the remaining 33%, 32% of all deaths occur in hospitals. Hospitals it seems are not safe places to be.

However only 0.001% of all deaths occur in worship services in church; and these are usually related to previous physical disorders.

Logic tells us therefore that the safest place to be at any point of time is to be gathered with God’s people in Church! Attending Church could save your life!

We have been looking at what the Bible says about the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible describes God’s people gathered into local assemblies of Christians with certain word pictures – metaphors.

We have looked at 6 metaphors –

A. The Building.
B. The Body.
C. The Household or Family.
D. The Flock.
E. The Vine.
F. The Bridegroom and the Bride.

This morning we find a seventh –

G. The Priesthood.

We read a moment ago these words from Peter’s first letter –

1 Peter 2 v 9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

What a privilege Christians have! Those men and women and young people who have been born again by the Spirit of God; whose lives have changed; who have a new hope, a new outlook and new aims – and who come together in a local church – are called amongst other things – priests! People set apart for holy purposes! Special people to God who are called to serve God in holiness.

Once again it is good to view this metaphor from an Old Testament perspective before looking at the New Testament.

1. Exodus 19 v 1 – 6

Exodus 19 v 1 – 6

God’s intention was the people of Israel should be formed into a PRIESTLY nation.

What does a priest do?

The Hebrew word for priest is COHEN derives from a verb KAWHAN which means to mediate or to stand between; to stand to represent someone else.

So a COHEN is a mediator, a Priest. At Sinai therefore the whole nation of Israel were called to be a Kingdom of Priests.

2. Isaiah 61 v 1 – 6

Isaiah 61 v 1 – 6

The first 3 verses of this passage refers to the Messiah to come – the Lord Jesus Christ.

Verses 4 ff speak of the church including in verse 6 Priests of the Lord.

However during Old Testament times it was necessary that a SPECIAL priesthood should be chosen by God to represent even THAT nation before Him. Israel needed priests. So who were the priests and what qualified them to be priests?

QUALIFICATIONS

Numbers 16 v 1 – 5 proves that God selects HIS priesthood.

1 Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men: 2 And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown: 3 And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD? 4 And when Moses heard it, he fell upon his face: 5 And he spake unto Korah and unto all his company, saying, Even to morrow the LORD will shew who are his, and who is holy; and will cause him to come near unto him: even him whom he hath chosen will he cause to come near unto him.

The priesthood is composed of

– Those chosen by God from among men set apart as holy. Only such men can approach God – so such were holy and sanctified – set apart for the task.

– God revealed to Moses who were to be His chosen priests. Numbers 16 indeed reveals what happened to those who were NOT chosen!

Priests were CHOSEN BY GOD and SANCTIFIED BY GOD.

The emphasis on holiness is revealed in the elaborate ceremonies of consecration of Priests.

Exodus 29

1. v 1 – 3 offerings prepared.
2. v 4 the whole of the body was washed.
3. v 5 – 6 Robes were put on – made of fine white shining linen – symbolising purity – Exodus 28 v 40 – 41.
4. v 7 The anointing oil.
5. The three sacrifices –
a. Sin offering v 10 – 14
b. Burnt offering v 15 – 18
c. Thank offering v 19 – 21

In the last offering the blood was sprinkled on the altar AND on the priests – on the ear, the thumb and the great toe. What was the significance of these anointings with blood on the different parts of the priests’ bodies?

The priest was to:–
HEAR the word of God – the ear
HANDLE the word of God – the thumb
DO the word of God – the toe – walk in it

All very elaborate – and sounding nothing like the ordination of a pastor or an elder!

So what application is there to us, the Church, as a Priesthood? Now we can move into the New Testament perspectives and note the connections.

1. The Priests were chosen

– And so are the members of the Church Priesthood – ALL believers are CHOSEN ONES – chosen in Christ from the foundation of the world.

1 Peter 1 v 2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ:

1 Peter 2 v 9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

Hebrews 5 v 1 For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: 2 Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. 3 And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. 4 And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.

Believers have been chosen to be priests to God – the priesthood of all believers.

2. The Priests were sanctified

– They were a HOLY PRIESTHOOD. So also is the church of Jesus Christ. How are believers sanctified?

a. They are WASHED.

Hebrews 10 v 22 Their hearts are sprinkled from an evil conscience and their bodies are washed with pure water.

Titus 3 v 4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

b. They Put on a ROBE.

Colossians 3 v 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. 12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

The believer wears a pure white robe – of Christ’s righteousness.

c. Next comes the ANOINTING with OIL.

For the Old Testament priest this symbolised the communication of the Holy Spirit – and at conversion, when we become priests, we receive (are anointed with) the Holy Spirit –

1 John 2 v 20 But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.

27 But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

d. The SACRIFICES

And particularly the Thank Offering, speak of the sprinkling of Blood. I Peter 1 v 2 again –

unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ:

And

Hebrews 12 v 22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, 24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.

There is a similar significance of BLOOD – on the Ear, to hear the word, the Thumb, to handle the word and the Toe, to walk in the light of the Word.

Peter uses the priesthood picture to exhort believers, the church, to be Holy, as God is holy –

1 Peter 1 v 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

And

1 Peter 2 v 11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; 12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.

Believers then have been set apart from other human beings to be HOLY, WASHED, RECLOTHED AND SPRINKLED BY BLOOD – we are priests!

Now we need to make another point about how the Old Testament priesthood POINTED to our priesthood as believers – but differed as well.

Unlike the hierarchical system of the Aaronic priesthood, the New Testament only knows of one simple structure.

1. We have a great High priest – the Lord Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 9 v 8 The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: 9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; 10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. 11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. 13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

And

Hebrews 9 v 24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: 25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; 26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

2. All the rest of the true local church – every individual believer is a PRIEST – subject to Christ the High Priest.

That is all there is. This is clear New Testament teaching.

There is no mention of, nor room for Archdeacons, Bishops, Archbishops or Popes in the New Testament – church hierarchies like this are man made.

The Elders (Bishops) and deacons, who are given to the Church for leadership, teaching and shepherding are priests with special functions amongst the other priests. This is the doctrine of the Priesthood of all believers.

Now we need to identify the FUNCTIONS of the priest. Since we are all priests we need to know what our tasks are.

Yet we must pause a moment this morning to ask a vital question. Are you a priest? In other words are you a Christian? Do you have a relationship with God in the Lord Jesus Christ?

There are some in the circles of churches today who profess faith in God but have no reality of experience. They may even be involved in Church matters and affairs. They may be active attenders at church. They may be most sympathetic to Christian things – but they are not believers in Christ. True believers in Jesus Christ –
Know that their sins have been forgiven;
Are aware that Jesus Christ is their saviour;
Are convinced that they have a place in heaven;
Are demonstrating a change in life that is simply a revolution.

But such friends who are not born again have no knowledge of these things – yet they carry on being involved in religious things.

My friend you may be such a person this morning.

And I need to tell you that your greatest need this day is to be right with God and abandon your attempts to be as good as you can be by your own efforts.

Simply this means that you need to know Jesus Christ. Yet even before that you need to know yourself – to know that you are what the Bible calls you – a sinner – someone who has broken God’s Law – in as much as he is not the number One person in your life right now.

Therefore come to that admission that all is not right with your soul – and go to the only One, Jesus Christ, who can deal with your soul in forgiveness and pardon. He has promised that anyone who comes to Him, He will not cast out – or reject – if he or she comes sincerely and earnestly confessing need of forgiveness, humbly repenting of sin, and believing in Jesus Christ.

Only then, when you know you are saved, can you be truly called a priest – a Christian who is a priest.

d.1. Something about SACRIFICES.

What they are NOT!

We do not make sacrifices to OBTAIN SALVATION!

The Lord Jesus Christ has already done that!

Hebrews 9 v 24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: 25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; 26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: 28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

The Roman Mass is a waste of time. It is a subtle form of idolatry in which the wafer, the host, is worshipped and adored. We can do nothing to obtain salvation – we receive it as a free gift of grace for the Lord Jesus Christ.

d.2. So what are the Christian Priestly Sacrifices?

SACRIFICE 1.

YOURSELF

Romans 12 v 1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

We are to be acceptable sacrifices – in the temple of God – and we are such sacrifices – when we are present at the means of grace!

SACRIFICE 2.

A Life of PRAISE

Hebrews 13 v 15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.

This sacrifice is a life of praise, continually giving thanks for our salvation.

SACRIFICE 3.

Still in Hebrews 13 –

v 16 But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

– To share with others, which often means REAL sacrifice!

SACRIFICE 4.

GENEROSITY

Philippians 4 v 18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God.

Generosity in material things thrilled Paul as the Lord supplied his needs – v 19 – we too have that opportunity to sacrifice.

SACRIFICE 5.

Romans 15 v 16 – the work of evangelism – ministering the gospel is a sacrifice for Christ.

16 That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.

SACRIFICE 6.

1 Timothy 2 v 1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;

The sacrifice of prayer – many scriptures point to this sacrifice. When believers pray together as a Church they are Priests! We are standing between those for whom we pray and the Living God! We intercede.

There are those in our society who sense this fact. Have you ever had someone say to you “Say a prayer for me?”

I have a lady who rings me frequently who asks me to pray with her on the phone. It all started when I visited her partner who had cancer and died. She had real problems with grief after that but found comfort in prayer – my prayers. She used to ask me to pray for her deceased loved one – I always gently refused and I pray for her – encouraging her all the time to pray for herself, that God would pardon and forgive her.

In our prayers we plead for the lost – who don’t know how to pray for themselves.

We pray that God will bless our missionaries – we have access to God as priests – and He hears and He answers.

What a ministry we have – as Priests of the living God! Let us value this priesthood – this royal priesthood – and exercise it through sacrifice and willing service.

So these are the metaphors that emphasise and point to the Doctrine of the Local Church from scripture. They remind us that God calls us to be in membership in a local church.

Ephesians 3 v 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

Suppose that in time of war a man says, “I wish to serve my country and to defend her from her enemies.” If he tries to carry out that resolution alone, he can accomplish nothing. He can be effective in that purpose only by standing shoulder to shoulder with others of like mind.

It is so with the church. ROOTED TOGETHER. The huge redwood trees of California amaze mankind. They are the largest living things on earth and the tallest trees in the world. Some of them are 300 feet high and over 2,500 years old. One would think that trees so large must have a tremendous root system that reaches down hundreds of feet into the earth. But not so! The redwoods have a very shallow root system. The redwoods root system all intertwine. They are locked to each other. When the storms come, the winds blow, and the lightning flashes, the redwoods still stand. They are locked to each other. They are not alone for all the trees support and protect each other. Each tree is important to all the other trees in the grove. In the Church, souls fellowship with one another and with Christ. Without Christ, the church is nothing. Without fellowship, the church is useless. By our love, we must show the world the difference Jesus makes!

… being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, …

And for any human being the safest place to be, both now, and for eternity – is in the Church!



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