Hello Church Family, this is Pastor Phil!
I’m going to start with the shocking news first. YOU ARE A HOLY PRIEST. Amen. Meditation is over you can go home now and ponder that one.
No… Okay, since no one left and you’re still reading this, maybe we should talk about what this means a little bit more and why it is so important for you as a representative of Jesus in this world. First, what are your thoughts when you hear that you are a holy priest?
Now, where we get this idea from:
“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.” (1 Peter 2:9)
So even though God’s Word clearly says this about us, it, like other things God’s Word says, (like your sins are completely forgiven), it can be a really hard pill to swallow. But let’s take a look at what it means to be a holy priest.
First, the word, holy: This word all by itself is hard for us to swallow. When we think of the word, holy, or of someone being holy, the person is like a saint, a really, really, really good person. At my circuit pastor’s conference this past week, our District President, Kevin Wilson, stopped by to check in on us. We like to tease him that his official title is Highly Exalted and Most Holy District President Wilson. Kevin usually just rolls his eyes at us for that. But holy is not usually something we consider ourselves; we think that’s just for the special Christian people out there. That is until we look at what the word, holy, actually means and how it is used in God’s Word. The word, holy, in the Greek usage is ἅγιος, meaning different or set apart for service. When our Heavenly Father calls you ἅγιος, that means you are set apart from the world to serve your God in this world and to this world. In Jesus, each of you are holy, set apart by God to serve God by serving your world and the people in your world. While it may not be as scary as our original thoughts about what holy meant this meaning, this actually has a lot more depth and responsibility to it.
The word, priest, hierateuó, is also fascinating. Hierateuó simply means an individual or group of people that have access to God and offer spiritual sacrifices. This concept was remarkable in particular when it was written in the Jewish context. The priests were considered a separate class of people from among God’s chosen people. These priests were the only ones who were considered holy or chosen to enter into the temple to offer physical sacrifices on behalf of the people. Jesus transforms this idea completely. Instead of the priesthood being a separate class of people among God’s chosen people, every Christian is considered a holy priest. The temple in which we offer these sacrifices is not a physical building anymore, but each Christian is a living stone that together create a spiritual temple in which the work of prayer and praise is done within. Think of that imagery! When we worship together, when or wherever we worship together, it is ourselves that God creates the temple from and which we worship; we are the priests and the temple created for the benefit of others.
We are the Church; we come together to worship not only as God’s holy priests, but also as God’s temple. How did this all happen to us? How did we become a holy priest and a holy temple set apart to offer spiritual sacrifices? Jesus, of course.
The work of salvation that Jesus has accomplished for us was to fulfill the work of the priest, the temple, and the sacrifice in the Old Testament. Throughout the Old Testament story, the priest, the temple, and the sacrifice done there was where God’s people would come to be connected to God, hear His Word, and receive forgiveness of their sins. All of that was simply a signpost that pointed God’s people to the promise that one day a savior would come and fulfill all of the salvation promises of God. It was like those signs you see on the highway—“rest area 20 miles this way.” The sign is not the rest area, but if you believe that what the sign says is true and keep going in the direction it tells you to go, you’ll get there. (Sorry, yes, I just described worship and church as a rest area, but it is actually a pretty good metaphor.) The priest, temple, and sacrificial system of the Old Testament was all a signpost: “God’s promises 2,000 years, this way. Just keep going in the right direction and believe.”
Jesus is the fulfillment of that signpost and became for all of God’s people what was promised. The priest—the connection between God and the people. The temple—where God and people are brought together. The sacrifice—what made this all possible. It is then through faith—that is, believing what God says is true—that we come to Jesus, our priest, temple, and sacrifice to be connected to God forever. In this salvation story as God’s people who follow Jesus, we then become Jesus’ representatives in our world. In Jesus, we are a holy priesthood, a spiritual temple, who offer spiritual sacrifices for the people in our world.
In practical terms, what does it mean to be a holy priest, God’s temple, and to offer spiritual sacrifices? Because that can be a mouthful to say. We could say it means: Bring them to Jesus-bring Jesus to them.
Bring them to Jesus-bring Jesus to them.Tweet
As a holy priest and a spiritual temple, you live in a world of people who don’t know our God and who don’t how to get to God or the good news that God has come to them to save them. You also live among brothers and sisters in Christ, who are your fellow priests but who also sometimes forget the good news of Jesus and get lost in their hurts and sins. It is our role as a holy priesthood called by God to bring the people to Jesus and Jesus to them. We do this by sharing the Good News of Jesus in our words and our actions, in our prayers and our practice, and in everything we do, wherever we are. There isn’t anything in this world that can or should get in the way of our priestly duties to reach out to others with the good news. But in this, there is also a warning.
During God’s visitation to His people in Jesus, the harshest rebukes were also given to the priests of that day because they lost their way and forgot that their job was to bring others to God and to bring God to them. The priests of that day created obstacles that hindered and made it difficult for the good news to be shared and received. We all know the story of Jesus overturning tables in the temple and driving the priests out with a whip. That was because what the priests were doing was only for their gain and they were creating obstacles for people to get to God and for God’s word to get to them. We also hear Jesus saying words of condemnation to the priests, that they looked all pious on the outside, but in reality they were white-washed tombs on the inside and a den of vipers.
As God’s priests, it is good for us to learn from the condemnation of the priests who came before us and not follow in their footsteps. Instead, it serves to remind us to live out our priestly calling to bring others to Jesus and to bring Jesus to them.
So that is who you are in Jesus. You are a Holy Priest, you are a Holy Temple, you are called to offer spiritual sacrifices in this world.
Bring them to Jesus and bring Jesus to them. Amen.