Sunday, June 6, 2010

Adding to the Hat Rack

I wear a lot of hats. Mom, professor, wife, preschool Sunday School teacher, pianist, interior decorator, chef, personal shopper, landscaper...just to name a few.

But priest? That's never a hat I considered for myself.

I'm not Catholic...and besides, I'm a woman, so I figured those two qualities pretty much put me out of the running.

And yet, Peter says as part of the body of Christ, I and all Christians are part of Christ's holy, royal priesthood: "you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ....But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:5,9).

Being a priest is a calling, truly a calling by God to enter His salvation. And with that calling comes expectations. In the previous verses, Peter shows three duties we Christians must fulfil as priests.

First, one should seek to be "holy," set apart from participating in the evils of the sinful world. Later in the chapter, Peter even admonishes Christians to "abstain from fleshly lusts" and to "Keep your behavior excellent" (v. 11-12).

Secondly, a priest should offer "spiritual sacrifices" to God--the sacrifices of worship, praise, devotion, prayer, fasting, submission, and adoration come to mind.

And finally, a priest should "proclaim" the good news of Jesus Christ and His saving power. I believe this responsibility to share the gospel is two-fold. First, it involves sharing with other non-Christians in the world, but other Scriptures back up the idea that it also involves sharing with our children and the spiritually immature to help preserve, pass down the knowledge of God from one generation to the next.

These instructions match up with what the Old Testament tells us about God's priests from the tribe of Levi. In fact, much of what is written about the priests in Scripture shows them not living up to their calling...and the national fallout because of their unfaithfulness.

Ezekiel condemned Israel's priests for ignoring the first duty--they failed to set themselves apart by demonstrating holiness in obeying God's laws. Instead, their actions were no different than those of the average, sinful person: "Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane, and they have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they hide their eyes from My sabbaths, and I am profaned among them" (Ez. 22:26).

This lack of holiness that Ezekiel speaks of led directly into a lack of the second duty--spiritual sacrifice. The sacrifices of a defiant, sinful heart are either nonexistent or cannot please God, a fact God makes clear throughout the book of Hosea.

Malachi also critiqued Israel's priests, this time for not fulfilling the third duty to teach the people about God: "For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But as for you, you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by the instruction" (Mal. 2:7-8).

The result of this lack of a holy example, spiritual sacrifice, and lack of Godly instruction? Increased sin among the people because God's law was not properly passed down through the generations...and increased judgment. God even said, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hos. 4:6).

As priests in Jesus' royal priesthood, our calling is sacred. Wearing this hat requires Christians to seek to have a pure, upright walk with God for all the world to see so that others may turn from their sin. It also requires Christians to give proper Godly instruction, not merely moral instruction that is "popular" or politically correct.

Scripture shows the downfall and destruction of Israel because its priests did not lead by example. Imagine the national fallout in America if we do not take this role seriously...or reject it entirely.


  1. We went to the "prospective member" class at the church we've been visiting here in Virginia today and they described all the members of the church as "priests" in their overview of the church's organizational structure. Certainly makes you consider your position as church member and Christian in a new light. Not something to be taken lightly...

    Great post, as always :)

  2. That's awesome, Liza. Yes, definitely makes me consider church "membership" differently...and I think that's a good thing.