Foundation for Living # 6
November 13, 2005
Father, we do thank You that we have the ability to come immediately before Your throne of grace. What a tremendous privilege it is for us as church age believers for us to have this direct access because Jesus Christ has split the veil and opened the way for us. And because He is our great high priest, we have immediate access to You. Father we come to You in gratitude for all that You have provided for us, for this building, for all the many grace blessings in our lives, the spiritual blessings with which You blessed us with at the instant of salvation. And Father, now, as we study Your word, it is the highest form of worship, as we learn of all You have provided for us that we may learn how to exploit, in this life, all You have given us. And that we may serve You as You have saved us and redeemed us for a purpose. And now as we study Your word, we pray that You will challenge us with the things we study that we may come to understand the basic dynamics of our Christian life even more in order to grow and advance in the spiritual life. We pray these things in Christ's name. Amen.
Where are we in this series? We started this as a basic series 2- 3 months ago, because many people just do not understand what the foundation is that God has provides for us in our spiritual lives. This foundation is a grace foundation that we are to learn and master early on in our spiritual growth. In fact, when the apostle Paul wrote the
Corinthians in 1Corinthians, it is within approximately 3 years of his first visit to Corinth, so most of the people he is addressing have been believers for less than three years, and he castigates them, because he says, by now you should be mature. That indicates that believers should be on somewhat of a fast track and move from immaturity to maturity within a relatively short amount of time. Not in 10, 15, 20 or 30 years. The problem we have today is that so little is taught from the word of God, So little is, fed to believers to provide spiritual nourishment and foundation for spiritual growth that we end up producing nurseries that last forever. One of my favorite lines is one that was made by Dr. Earl Radmacher, who is now chancellor of Western Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary pastors conference I attended some 15 years ago in Phoenix, and he commented that the problem with the evangelical church today it is the largest nursery in the world, and very few pastors, or nursery workers, have a vision, and an understanding or blueprint of how to get the babies out of the nursery. Not only that, most of them don't want to get the babies out of the nursery. They want more babies in the nursery and they do not understand what the process is to help them grow up and get out of the diaper stage and get into first or second grade. A lot of that can be traced to a number of different factors, but that is the state we are in today. That is a different vision from what we have at West Houston Bible Church. My goal is to try move you from immaturity to maturity and to teach you the entire realm of Scripture. So, there has to be a foundation, people have to have a basic series and orientation to what the Bible says, in fundamental areas which provides that grounding that many of us have that enables us to grow and mature as believers. The first 10 lessons I called the Foundation for Life. We focused on who God is, on the exclusive claims of Scripture, that there is only one way to look at life, which is God's way. There is only one way to salvation, God provides the only way. That is why Jesus Christ says, I am the way, the truth and the life, no man can come to the Father except by Me. This claim of exclusivity challenges, and is almost an affront to, the unbeliever who wants to think there are many ways to heaven, many ways to God, many paths to truth. I addressed that. We went through the nature of the Bible; we traced that theme through the Scripture. We looked at who God is, who Jesus Christ is, We looked at salvation, all to show that under a biblical view of reality, there can only be one way to God. To come along and say there are multiple paths is essentially a self contradiction. The first 10 lessons were oriented structurally more towards salvation ending with the doctrine of eternal security. Then I asked the question, now that you are saved, what do you do? After a person is saved, what comes next? After you are born as a spiritual infant, regeneration, what comes next? We saw that salvation was simple. Salvation is based on faith alone in Christ alone. What that means is fairly simple to understand, but its dynamics are more complex. At a rudimentary level it means that the Bible teaches is that there was a man named Jesus, who was actually more than a man, He was eternal God, who took on humanity. And He did that for the purpose of entering into human history, going to the cross and dying as our substitute, He paid for our sins. We learned that if we believe that, if we trust exclusively in Him as our Savior, not adding anything else to it, not thinking that if I believe in Jesus, go to church, engage in certain rituals, or get baptized or any of the other things that people tend to add to faith, but if it is faith alone and it is in Christ alone, then we have eternal salvation At that instant we receive the imputation of righteousness, God declares us to be just, we are regenerate, and we have this new life in Christ, old things have passed away, behold, all things are new. As a result, we are indwelt by God the Holy Spirit, and we have this new spiritual life that has to be nourished and developed over time. All these things that happen at the instant of salvation are non experiential. What do I mean by that? I mean you do not feel anything when it happens. Regeneration is not something that you feel. When you are justified you do not get zapped with some lightning bolt and shake or shatter, or rock and roll, or anything like that. In fact, the only way you come to understand the dynamics of what happens at salvation is to read the Bible, to study the Scriptures, to be taught the word so that over time You begin to understand all the things that happened at salvation that was true for most of us. I know that when I was just 6 years old and my parents explained the gospel to me, I certainly did not understand justification, imputation, or regeneration. I just knew that Jesus died for me, and if I trusted in Him, I would go to heaven. But as the years go by after that, we, as believers, need to study the dynamics of salvation and what happened, because it helps us to realize and understand all that God gave us. At salvation, God gives us everything we need for the spiritual life. Ephesians 1:3 says He has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings in the heavenly places. Well, what are those blessings and how do we exploit those blessings in our day to day life so we can grow and mature? That becomes the focus of this 2nd part of the basic series which I call Foundation for Living. In John 10:10 Jesus says, I did not come as a thief in the night to kill and destroy but I came to give life, and to give it abundantly. To give life is salvation. To give life abundantly is the exploitation of God's grace at salvation. It is learning the word of God and applying it in every dimension of life so we can experience the happiness, peace, stability, and joy that God promises the believer as part of his daily life, in the midst of living in the devil's world, handling all kinds and all manners of suffering and adversity. So this is the focus of this second part which I call a Foundation for Living, mastering the basics of the Christian life. In part 2 of this section, I have focused, first of all, on the basic skills that we develop. And now, I am going to move to the second area which is priestly duties. The basic skills dealt with confession of sin, walking by the Holy Spirit, the faith rest drill, grace orientation and doctrinal orientation, we discussed all of those. That laid the foundation. These are the skills we have to master in order to grow and mature. But then we have priestly duties, because every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is a priest at the instant of salvation, and part of that has to do with prayer, which we will begin to study this morning. Then we have ambassador responsibilities, we are royal ambassadors. Ambassadorship entails a different set of responsibilities. All of these are basic things we must understand. I have structured this in this order because there is a common misconception that comes across in too many churches, in too many folk's minds, and that is that somehow, spiritual growth is the result of performing those priestly duties and ambassadorial responsibilities. But that is putting the cart before the horse. The issue is, first of all, to master the spiritual skills and that produces spiritual growth. And as you grow spiritually, then, out of that spiritual growth, we function in our priestly duties and ambassadorial responsibilities. The priestly duties and ambassadorial responsibilities are part of our spiritual life, but they are not the things that produce spiritual growth. They are the result of spiritual growth. You do not grow spiritual by witnessing, by giving, or by prayer, those are the results or consequences of learning the word, applying it and growing spiritually. And then the last thing I think I will add to this, I am still thinking this thru, are what I call the foundational fundamentals. Many of you have heard the term fundamentalist. What is a fundamentalist? That term has picked up a number of negative connotations in the last 30 – 40 years, but it has an historical basis, and that was a set of books that came out in 1917 or so, called The Fundamentals of the Faith, and it was in contrast to the new teaching of what was considered nineteenth century protestant liberalism. In liberal theology there was a rejection of the word of God as God's revelation of Himself, it was just mans word about God. There was a rejection of the deity of Christ, of miracles and that Jesus was going to come back physically to the earth. And so the Fundamentals of the Faith focused on the infallibility of Scripture, the virgin birth, the person of Christ, the substitutionary atoning work of Christ, part of which we have already covered in the Foundation for Life series, miracles, and the second coming of Christ. Some of those we still need to address, so as a sort of catch all final category we will look at some of the foundational fundamentals just to make sure we have brought all of the basic issues together in one study. That gives you the overview of where we are going. Today I want to focus on priestly duties. We begin by understanding what a priest is scripturally. I have several points on introduction to Priesthood.
1. A priest is a member of the human race who represents a portion of the human race to God. This is the main idea of a priest. A priest represents some one, or a group of people to God, in contrast to a prophet, who represents God to man. The role of a priest is to represent an individual, or a group of people, a portion of the human race to God. He may represent an individual person, a family, a clan or a nation.
2. A priest is a mediator. A mediator is a go between, someone who is interacting between two different parties or groups, often two parties who have a disagreement, or enmity. We are born in sin, at enmity with God, so the human race needs a mediator, a priest. On the human level, the priest must be of the same nature as those he represents. There are various passages from Hebrews that emphasize this. Hebrews 7: 4-5, 14 and 28. Hebrews 10:5 and 10:10-14. The mediator is of the same nature, this is why Scripture says in 1Timothy 2:3 that there is one God and one mediator, the man Christ Jesus. The emphasis there is the man Christ Jesus, because in order to represent us to God, Jesus Christ had to be fully human. So a priest is a mediator, a go between that is the function. So we understand he is a member of the human race, he has to be a member of the human race in order to be a mediator, and we see this develop in 6 verses of Hebrews 5. For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that is the role of a priest, the high priest, is the head or chief priest in an order of priests in order that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. So we see that part of what the priest does is to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin to God.) 2 He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness. 3 Because of this he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins.
This, of course, is relating mostly to old testament priesthood we'll see that in the New Testament, because Christ has completed the payment for sin, that dimension of priesthood is no longer applicable; we no longer have to make the sacrifice for sins. Heb 5:4: And no man takes this honor for himself, but he is called by God. In other words, a priest is appointed by God, it is not a self appointed role. Just as Aaron was a high priest appointed by God under the Mosaic Law. 5 So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him:
"You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You." Psalm 2:7.
6 As He also says in another place:
"You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek" Psalm 110:4.
These are passages that are becoming familiar to many of us in our Tuesday night study of Hebrews. So priesthood involves a mediator, and God appoints the priest, and God defines the role of the priesthood. And it will change from dispensation to dispensation according to the nature of the role. To understand our role as priests in the church age, we have to go back to look at the model of priesthood in the Old Testament. You don't go to one passage and find a delineation of everything that is related to priesthood. So you go back and look at to see what the various roles and functions of a priest were. In the Old Testament, there were three different orders of priests. The first were patriarchal priests, who represented the family. This was the primary priesthood that functioned and operated from Adam up to the giving of the Mosaic Law. It is the father as the head of the family, or the head of the clan which would be a group of families within a tribe that would represent the family or clan before God. It was the head of the family who would build the altar and offer the sacrifice. He functioned as the priest for the family. Patriarchal priesthood continued among Gentiles, and it even continued among Jews into the Mosaic Law era. You see different times when patriarchs or heads of the family would build altars to God, representing the clan or family. For instance, Gideon does this after the angel of the Lord appeared to him in Judges 6, he builds an altar to the Lord, and there is a reference there in terms of his role with the family. Immediately after he does that, God gives him the responsibility for tearing down the idolatrous altar to Baal that his father had built. So you see by this altar that Gideon builds, he is functioning as a priest in relationship to his clan which is the tribe of Manasseh. Then there was the Melchizedekian priesthood, a different order of priesthood. Melchizedek, which means righteous king, it was probably a title rather than a personal name, was a gentile. He is mentioned in Genesis 13:18, 19, and referenced again in Hebrew 7:1-3. His is the order of a royal priest, or a king priest. It is the order of Melchizedek, that concept of royal priest that becomes the precedent for the kind of priesthood Jesus Christ has, in the New Testament. Because Jesus Christ was born of the tribe of Judah, not the tribe of Levi, and in the structure of the Jewish nation, it was only Levites that could be priests. There was the Levitical priesthood, and the Melchizedekian priesthood. It is clear from the writer of Hebrews that Jesus Christ is a King Priest after the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek represented different people in sacrifices, not only those within his city, but also those who came within his periphery. With the giving of the Mosaic Law, which was a temporary law, there was a third Old Testament priesthood, the Aaronic high priesthood and the Levitical priesthood. In order to be a priest you had to be of the tribe of Levi, but not all Levites were qualified to be priests, those not in the line of Aaron served in the Temple, but not as priests. There was the Aaronic priesthood and the Levitical priesthood, based on tribal affiliation and natural birth, not spiritual condition or regeneration. If you read through all the qualifications for the Levitical priesthood, spiritual qualifications are never mentioned, believing in the coming of the Messiah. Only physical qualifications are mentioned, which are listed in Leviticus 16:6-8 and 21-22. This gives us the three different orders of priesthood in the Old Testament.
4. What exactly did the priests do? They offered sacrifices and offerings for the confession of sin. People would come to confess their sin, to be cleansed from that which rendered them ceremonial unclean, and they would bring burnt offerings, and various other prescribed offerings to the Temple, and it was the responsibility of the priest to perform the sacrifice, to slit the throat of the lamb or bullock, or kill the bird, whatever the offering was, to present the burnt offerings, the grain offerings. It was their responsibility to oversee the sacrifices and offerings related to cleansing, confession of sin, in the Old Testament. Furthermore, they were involved in the administration of the tithes and the freewill offerings to God. The Temple served as a bank. That is why it is referred to as the treasury of the house of the Lord. When the people brought their tithes, which were the mandatory offerings, there were three different tithes that were required under the Mosaic Law were required under the Mosaic Law, two were required every year, and a third was required every third year, so actually, tithing involved 23.3% of their income. This was brought to the store house of the treasury of the Temple, and the priests were responsible for its administration, to do the accounting, and to make sure the money was used in the proper way. That was part of their priestly duty, to make sure that there was sound stewardship and the money was handled in a fiscally responsible manner. They were also responsible for teaching, instructing and preserving of the text of Scripture. They were to make sure the king, on a daily basis, with priests as witnesses, the king was supposed to make a handwritten copy of the Mosaic Law. This way the king would be reminded on a daily basis of what God was expecting of the people. They were to travel throughout Israel, teaching the word of God, reminding people what the word of God said. They were also responsible for making copies and preserving copies of the word of God as it existed at that time. Their focus was on the teaching and preservation of the text of Scripture. hey were also involved in the service of the Temple. They were involved in the public and corporate worship of the nation in the temple services. They were involved in the choirs that were developed in the Temple; they were involved in the orchestra, the musicians, in all these different aspects of corporate worship. It was not something that was done just privately.
They were involved in prayer, in the sense of ceremonial prayer representing the people, taking the petitions of the people before the Lord. All this was part of the function and operation of the priesthood in the Old Testament. When we come into the New Testament, we see there are certain parallels between the Old Testament and New Testament.
5. In the New Testament every believer is a priest and represents himself before God. There is no special class of Christian that is a priest. Every believer is a priest. Every believer has direct access to God the Father. Every believer is functioning in the same role as the priest in the Old Testament, with some exceptions, because those things a priest did in the Old Testament related to sacrifice and sins, and those things related to pictures of what Christ accomplished on the cross are no longer part of those duties and those responsibilities. Now these duties for the New Testament priest relate to confession of sin. When we come to the Lord in confession, utilizing 1 John 1:9, that is a function of our priesthood. It is the cleansing necessary in order for us to come before the Lord in prayer, because sin disrupts our relationship with God. The Psalmist said, if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear. So there has to be a confession of sin and cleansing in order for us to have a relationship with Him. Furthermore, there has to be an administration of our resources in a way that honors God. good fiscal responsibility and stewardship is emphasized numerous times in Scripture. The believer is to handle his money wisely, so he has the financial resources to support the local church ministry and to support missions, and to help other believers who are in financial straights. If we do not manage our money well, then all of a sudden, needs come that we would like to help with, but we can't because we are in debt up to our eyeballs. Ephesians 5:16 says we are to be redeeming the time because the days are evil. In other words, we are to manage our time wisely, our priorities, so there is time for bible study , time to go to church, time to be a part of the local church ministry, and be involved in Christian service. If we are not good managers of time, then we end up wasting time and we only have a finite amount of time in our lives to serve the Lord, and it is how well we learn to manage time that is part of the duties of our priesthood. We saw that same kind of thing going on in the Old Testament. This also involves participation in public and corporate worship. Especially communion, as we did this morning. That is part of our priestly function. The coming together as a body of believers in corporate worship, singing praises and hymns to God, that is all part of our priestly responsibility. The Bible does not have a view that it is normative for the believer to sit at home reading his Bible, reading about the Bible on his own, and that that is normative for Christian worship or Christian growth. The Bible always talks about the corporate body of Christ and it is important for people to meet together on a regular basis, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. There are exceptions; it does not mean that there is no right set of circumstances where people are home alone. Sometimes due to illness, sickness, such as that, shut ins, they cannot gather together with other believers. But it is important that we have some sort of ministry, to shut ins, where the pastor or others who are ordained in the congregation can go to the homes of those who cannot get out due to illness, age, whatever, and go and have the Lord's table for them. That is an important part of their spiritual life and priesthood. There should be a provision made for that. The emphasis in the Scripture is on public and corporate worship, and not isolation. When Paul went to different cities, Derbe, Iconium, Lystra, and he went on up to Greece, he went to Philippi, Berea, Athens, and Corinth and all these other places, he did not say, now everybody, just go home and read what I have written. He instructed them in local church congregations because it is the strength of the body of Christ coming together as a body that gives them the resources to send out missionaries, to take care of the needs of those in the body and to minister to one another. This is part of what is involved in out priesthood. So there is corporate worship, there is prayer; prayer is part of our priesthood. There is daily Bible reading. Because you are a believer priest, you need to be reading your Bible on a regular basis. It is how God works through His word. Too often folks get the idea that, I really should not read my Bible, I might have questions I can't answer. Guess what folks, I have questions I can't answer. Every time I read the Scripture something comes up and I scratch my head, and I say, okay, I'll get to that eventually. We are to read our Bible. The level of biblical illiteracy in out culture today is just incredible. And that is among so called believers. You start asking too many questions about what you know about the Bible, and people don't know it because they do not read it. You should be reading at least a chapter a day. Preferably, you should be reading five or six chapters a day. There is a Bible out called Through the Bible, in a Year and it has Bible readings set up. In my first church I encouraged that, and I had a man who had been in that church for years, a deacon, chairman of the deacons, he was 67, 68 at the time, and he had never read his Bible. He read his Bible all the way through, and this guy caught on fire, he went from lukewarm positive volition to the boiling point. He said, I didn't realize the Bible taught half of that. He got excited. It is the reading of the Scripture; it is the word of God that is alive and powerful. Sure you will have question, sure there are mistranslations, but some of the modern translations like the New American Standard, and the New King James, don't leave you with those kind of confusing things that happened a generation ago, when all you had was the King James, and it was an outdated English vocabulary and some of the translation was off. Bible reading is important, making it a priority to be in Bible class to study the word. You need a pastor teacher to teach the word so those questions are answered. At some level, every believer can function sort of like a gold miner. You can go and pan for gold and get a little off the surface and that is helpful, but you need a mining engineer to dig deep and find those rich veins of ore that give you that valuable doctrine that allows You to grow spiritually. You have to have the reading, study, application and preservation of text. The believer priest in the church age functions in preserving the text by passing on the word of God to his children and grandchildren. Something we have lost in modern times, because we live in such a hectic society is the facet of sitting around the table at dinner with the whole family, and at the conclusion of dinner, having the father read a chapter of Scripture and having the family talk about it. If you go back a couple of generations in this country, that was normative in Christian families to do that. For the whole family to come together and take that time where the father was exercising his biblical responsibility to raise up the children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. And he was taking the time to oversee the spiritual development of the children in the family, and how important that is, and just the example it provides for the children as a leader in the home. We have lost that. That is part of what has caused weaknesses in marriages and families, because the word of God is not at the center of the real family life, not just in terms of going to church and Bible class, but every day experience of the family. All of this is related to our priesthood. So that is our introduction, we are going to look the next couple of Sundays at the duties and responsibilities of the believer priest. Our basic responsibilities, and then we will come back and look at our duties and responsibilities as ambassadors for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Father, we do thank You for this opportunity to study Your word today, to be challenged by what the Scripture teaches about the fact that each one of us is a believer priest. And as a priest, we have duties, and responsibilities and obligations in order to serve You. And that is the function of the priesthood, service to You. Father, we pray that You would challenge us with what we study and that we would recognize that these are part of our biblical responsibilities. Father, we also pray that if there is anyone here who is unsure of their salvation, and uncertain of their eternal destiny, that they would take this opportunity to make that both sure and certain. If you are here this morning and you have never taken the opportunity to trust Christ as your Savior, you have never understood the gospel before, this is your opportunity to secure your eternal destiny. Scripture says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but the free gift of God is salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation is simple. It is expressed best in Acts 16:31, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Right where you sit, you can trust in Christ as your savior. God the Father, who is omniscient, knows what you are trusting in. The instant you trust in Christ as your savior, you receive the imputation of Christ's righteousness, you are declared just, you are regenerate, and you receive the imputation of eternal life, which can never be taken from you. And you are always a child of God. Father we pray You challenge us with the things we have studied this morning, that the Holy Spirit would make these thing s real to us and that we would put them into daily practice. We pray this in Christ's name. Amen