When Thy Son Asketh Thee – Concerning the Priesthood of Believers

In his regular reading through the Book of the Acts, the son is arrested by the verse “And a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). He tries to put himself into the situation of priests of the Levitical order. What would have been their thinking? As he meditates he sees how they would have understood the great truths of the Hebrew epistle which was “written to the Hebrews to show the Hebrews that they should no longer be Hebrews”. Why were they obedient to the faith, he wonders? What had they seen? Could it be that the great truths of Hebrews 10:1-18, unwritten at that time, had dawned upon their souls and that they realized the following

  1. Shadows had been replaced by Substance,
  2. Ritual had been replaced by Reality,
  3. Pictures had been replaced by the Person,
  4. Covering of sin had been replaced by Cleansing of sin,
  5. Remembrance of sins every year had been replaced by Removal of sins,
  6. Repetition of the sacrifices had been replaced by Remission of sins,
  7. Perpetual offerings had been replaced by a Perfect Offering,
  8. Many Priests standing had been replaced by One Priest sitting.

He tried to imagine the force of the truth breaking in upon their souls that they were no longer employed. They had lost their jobs! And they knew that their jobs would never come back! What were their mixed emotions as they rejoiced in the Great Sacrifice that their offerings had prefigured, but yet felt the uncertainty of their economic future under a covenant that had displaced them? But wait! Could someone at that time have told them also of the truths, at that time unwritten, couched in the words of Hebrews 10:19-22? Here they could have seen the seed of a new priesthood, for it is written, “Having, therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,…and having a Great High Priest over the house of God; let us draw near…”. The son tries to enter into the recesses of their thinking. “Having”- what a great word for those who had only recently contemplated what they had lost! And not only ‘having’ but ‘having boldness to enter in…” and having an invitation to draw near!

Were they still priests? Could it be? Yes! But of a different order for this new priesthood had no restrictions as to when they entered in and no limitations as to what they said, for they had boldness, ‘parresia’ – freedom of speech!

The son wonders out loud, “If they are priests, what are they now going to offer?” He and his father take down their Bibles to find the answers.

Sacrifices That Are Spiritual

“Ye also as living stones are being built up a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (I Peter 2:5). A spiritual priesthood brings up to the altar, for this is the picture, spiritual sacrifices as opposed to the physical sacrifices of the former covenant. The father shows him that these spiritual sacrifices are explained in Hebrews 13:15, “By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His Name.” These spiritual sacrifices are not exclusive to the new order of things, says the father, for he recalls Hosea 14:2, “So will we render the calves of our lips.” This truth of spiritual sacrifices was also on the mind of the Psalmist when he penned “Accept, I beseech Thee, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord” (Psa 119:108).

As they continue to study the passage in Peter they take down a number of authorities in the Greek text and see the purpose clause in the verse, “for a holy priesthood”. They ponder and conclude that this house that was being built up had as its primary purpose the functioning of a new priesthood and the presentation of these sacrifices. “Could it be,” asks the son, “that even though they were saved to serve (John 15:16) that predominantly they were saved to worship?” The father says that while the priesthood is not limited to the collective gatherings of the believers, that it is here that this truth of believers being a body of priests is expressed. The most important aspect of one’s assembly life, they conclude, is his worship at the Lord’s Supper.

The Sacrifice of One’s Self

“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 spiritual service.” Is this another sacrifice, the son wonders. Is this something that these now re-employed priests of Acts 6:7 could bring to the altar?

As they try to at least scratch the surface of the verse, they wonder, “Is the believer, moved by the mercies of God, the sacrifice as well as the priest in what could be called here, your spiritual worship”? As he approaches an altar that is spiritual, is it his entire person, body, soul, and spirit, that he is bringing as a sacrifice to be presented as a willing act of intelligent worship because of the compassion he has been shown? Is he moved by a contemplation of the character of God that has been displayed in the earlier parts of the Book? The writer has made a passionate plea. It is a plea for a priestly presentation. The presentation is to be pure and holy even as the sacrifices had to be without blemish’. The presentation was to be perpetual, for it was living. It was to be always on the altar! It is a persuasive argument, for the writer says it is their reasonable service, a service pertaining to the mind.

The Sharing with the Saints

“But I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God” (Phil 4:18). The son wonders how these priests, whose change in status has precipitated his meditation, would have reacted to this ve se : Would they have been amazed at the thought that the portion presented to God for His work and workers, His warfare and his warriors, would actually be looked upon in terms that could only be described as an act of worship? These sacrifices are not to be limited to the support of the Gospel either, for the writer to the Hebrews exhorts, “But to do good and to communicate, forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” These acts of goodness by the believers are also considered priestly acts.

The Supplications of the Saints

“Let my prayer be set before Thee as incense and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice” (Psalm 141: 2). As the father turns to this passage, the son tries to picture David the King, who could never be David the Priest, coveting the privilege of the Levite in coming into the presence of God and offering up that which he had prepared and which evidently ought satisfaction to God. David contemplated the evening sacrifice and wondered if only his prayer, the sighings of his soul, the stirrings of his spirit, the articulations of his heart could bring the same delight to the heart of God (Pro 15:8). Was David getting beyond the covenant under which he lived, the son wonders? Was he anticipating a priesthood that would embrace all believers, where the sacrifices would be spiritual rather than physical, and would not have restrictions as to when God’s presence could be entered?

The Sacrifice of a Spirit that is Broken

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart 0 God, Thou wilt not despise” (Ps 51:17). David had sinned. He would have offered a burnt offering of a bullock if God had desired it. He recognized however that what God required was a spirit in which there was no pride and no perversity. The father and son ponder the reality that God looks on a broken and contrite heart as a sacrifice to Him.

The Showing Forth of the Savior’s Virtues

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a people for a possession, that ye should shew forth the excellencies of Him Who has called you…” (lpeter 2:9). The son contemplates the picture of a priest going out, instead of the normal one of a priest entering in. The holy priesthood (I Pet 2:5) would perhaps be patterned after that of Aaron. The royal priesthood, that which goes out to bless, would perhaps be patterned after that of Melchizedek, the priest who was also a king. But from whence is the power of the royal priesthood to go out? Is it not from the going in of the holy priesthood? Is not the power to reflect His virtues the product of our being in His presence, contemplating Him?

The son has set out on a study of a new priesthood of which all believers are a part. As he learns that every believer is now a priest, he learns lessons in worship, in consecration, in sharing, in manifesting the life of the Lord Jesus. Have I exercised my priesthood today?