I came from a religious system where there was a sharp difference between those who handled the services of the assembly and those who came to worship. It was difficult to disengage from a such system inasmuch as I was raised to respect it. And some of those who taught me so, were respectable as well. However, through the scriptures I came to see there is a “royal priesthood” made up of those who were called “out of darkness into His marvelous light.” I also came to understand that the distinction between clergy and laity is not a scriptural concept. Though not everyone can or should be an elder, deacon, or evangelist, everyone becomes a priest, king, and living stone in the house of God. It is that potential which contradicts earthly hierarchies wrongly imposed in the name of Christ.
What does it mean to be a priest in the house of God? The very implication of the word means one who officiates in the worship of God. Coupled with this is the responsibility of handling the truth of God. “For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, And people should seek the law from his mouth; For he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.”(Mal.2:7) Everyone who has been born again has this high station to represent the truth to others, and to take care of the service of the assembly
Human wisdom might say; “Surely there must be a higher caliber than the ‘ordinary’ Christian to be a priest.” Through arrogance and cynicism those who seem to be more capable might scorn the one who is slow or even ‘ordinary.’ Human nature tends to give way for the more capable among us. Most enterprises rely on the talents of those who rise to the top. The same is found in human religious institutions. But when it comes to handling the holy things of God, it is not the one with the best vocabulary, wit, adroitness, or winning manner, but the one with humility and love for the Lord. No matter what abilities a man might possess, humility and love in Christ should be among the highest of aspirations. “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”(James 4:10) It is through humility and love that a priest can listen to a fellow priest and be edified. His activities will be channeled in the right direction. To the Corinthians Paul wrote; “clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.”(IICor.3:3)
Most of us have heard the old anecdote about the man who was nearing the precipice of Niagara Falls. He was waiting to be rescued by God. While looking for some great thing, he rejected God’s help when it came through ordinary means. Because this fable and its variations are common, it points to the fact that most people understand God often works through commonplace activities. We get it. However getting it and living it don’t always meet. A question that hangs over my head goes like this; “What if the most important thing I need in life were to come through someone easily dismissed because I found him to be unimpressive?” In a real way, Jesus was unimpressive. Jesus was of lowly birth. (Though He has an impressive genealogy!) The Spirit through Isaiah described Him; “He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him.”
How do Jesus’ priests appear? They are not always people who have form, comeliness, or beauty. “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.” (I Cor.1:26-29) Therefore we should not expect the servants of God to challenge us with dramatic oratory, showmanship, religious regalia, or any such superficial display. Which things really do not edify, unless it is to bolster pride. If we are humble, we will be looking for Christ and not the display.
Should we therefore glorify the muting of natural ability? (After all, it’s not the outward, but the inward parts that matter.) Shall we encourage members of the Lord’s body to be as incapable as they can be? Common ground for all. . . The main concern is to not confuse external abilities with spirituality. Certainly, it is a greater gift to teach the Bible well than it is to cut the grass. But the capacity to teach is still an external ability, a part of the earthen vessel which will crumble away. The righteousness of the faithful teacher does not exceed the righteousness of the faithful groundskeeper. The ability to love the Lord and neighbor will not pass away, and neither shall those possessing these attributes. As far as external talents are concerned, who knows. . .perhaps the one whose mind was stunted at birth will be the one to guide his teachers and caretakers in the realm of glory.
The soul who serves as a priest of the Most High God is a soul who can be counted on to seek God’s way in his life. He becomes reliable, helpful, a servant to others. He uses such ability as God has given, but doesn’t identify his ability with his spirituality. He is one who desires to win the battle over sin, and he wants others to win as well. He serves in the worship of God. Jesus said; “. . . He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more.”(Rev.3:12) This shows the ultimate fulfillment of every priest of the Lord, a purpose in the eternal realm of God. There is no special rank for certain ones deemed particularly faithful. As Jesus depicted in His parable of the laborers, the wage was the same for those who only worked an hour and those who bore the burden of the entire day. The only thing barring any disciple of Jesus from being a pillar is the question of overcoming the world. I think this is why Jesus warned, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.”
I am an evangelist sent out by the Old Lamine church of Christ, which meets about 3 miles north of Lamine, Missouri.