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Posts Tagged ‘Priesthood’

When many theologians and Christians want to defend the role of Elders/Pastors many of them run back to the Old Covenant (A Covenant that is abolished by the way and obsolete, and was a ministry of death) and point to the priests as an example (especially some of my Covenental brothers). I want to reiterate we need to borrow nothing from the Old Covenant in relation to ecclesiology because the Church had not been born! There is no Church in the Old Covenant! She does not begin until the Holy Spirit moves His ministry of coming upon people to living within them!

I think most of what is ignored however is the fact that the Levites became the priests because all of Israel failed to! Okay let me highlight this. Remember Moses is on Mount Sinai. He is going up to be a representative for the nation (lets not forget that all of Israel should have been up there, but Israel was afraid and told Moses “you go for us”) and to receive the Covenant! As Moses is up there God says:

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

This is what is realized in the New Covenant as Peter not only quotes this but says “you are this nation and you are these priests”! Why didn’t all of Israel receive this promise? It was conditional! That is why! The promise starts with an “if”. As God turns to talk to them in Exodus 20 they say “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” Later Moses comes down and the glory of the Lord and the fear of the nation made Moses veil his face (but we have unveiled faces 2 Corinthians 3). Don’t forget the Levites became servants due to their faithfulness in Exodus 32:27 and Israel’s unfaithfulness with the making of a Golden Calf (the beginning of continual unfaithfulness)

I bring you to a quote from Ketcherside:

Nothing is clearer that the fact that God’s purpose was to make ministry and priesthood co-extensive in “the time of reformation”. Every person who accepted the good tidings was to be a priest, every such person was to be a minister. Every priest was such because he ministered; every person was to minister because he was a priest. In priesthood and ministry all were to be equal rank insofar as liberty, privilege and relationship to God are concerned.  God’s people were no longer to be a kingdom with priests, but a kingdom with priests; they were not to be a congregation with ministers, but a congregation of ministers. Priesthood was to be universal in the kingdom of heaven, ministry was to be mutual and reciprocal. This was to be the grand climax of the ages, the golden era of God’s dealings with mankind. God promised Israel that if they would obey his voice and keep his covenant they would be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation unto him. But they did not obey his voice nor keep his covenant. They never realized the fruition of the magnificent promise because they failed to meet the conditions.

Alan Knox has a beautiful post on this over at his blog The Assembling of the Church. The problem lies here folks. Listen in the Old Covenant God used a few select to minster to Him under the New Covenant He commands/requires that all who are under it to minister to Him and to one another! You see my man many would agree with the post I linked to above and the Reformers such as Calvin and Luther. This is where I take a “Step Past Reformed”. The Reformers failed to take steps toward a proper ecclesiology and because they are well respected (which they should be) where they stop we stop. However as Alan says:

I think that my differences with Alston concerning the priesthood of the believer is primarily found in this sentence: “The church may not be dependent upon the ordained clergy for its existence, but for its well-being it needs the few who are called and set apart by the laying on of hands to the particular vocation of preaching, administering the sacraments, teaching, and pastoral care.” As I study Scripture, I cannot find where only a few are given the responsibility of preaching (proclaiming the good news), administering the sacraments (baptizing and breaking bread – the Lord’s Supper), or pastoral care (caring for one another). Instead, I see where all believers are given these responsibilities.

I nod with eager concurrence! Let allow the scriptures to be what we base our ecclesiology off of. Not man’s writings, no matter how much they contributed to the modern Church. The greatest gift God’s give us as a Church is the Spirit, this Spirit empowers all to be the priests God has ordained us to be. To rob individual Christians of this privilege to be priests and when I say priests I mean full functioning priests, not just in small groups and Sunday schools but whenever the Church of God gathers, is to rob the bride of what her Husband has given her as a gift (It is He who descended and ascended and gives gifts unto man Ephesians 4). Lets take a step past the reformation and reform our ecclesiology!

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I will say this again with all the humility I can muster. We are all submitted to each other but we are under the authority of Christ alone.  This may be a radical statement to some and a normal practice for others; however, I want to convey this clearly. If we are to take the Priesthood seriously then we must embrace this statement recklessly.

Let me explain. In most church relationships there is an authority and there are those that submit. However mature the believer this relationship never becomes reciprocal. We continue in these relationships perpetually and the only way to get out of the perpetual submitted is to become a leader yourself; however that works in your specific assembly. Here are the imperatives by Paul again (I believe there is someone smart enough out there to write an entire book on this passage and still not scratch the surface Alan? Kieth? Hutch? Phil Fletcher?)

6 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

(You know what is odd. In Ephesians, Colossians and Peter, each books talks about submission to leaders and bosses. What makes this odd is that both Paul and Peter never mention that the congregation was to “SUBMIT” to their leaders? Each believer was to submit to the other believer. That strikes me as odd especially when compared to our current church practices. Has anyone followed this theme throughout the New Testament?)

Again if we are to obey these imperatives when we gather, something must functionally change in our local congregations. For the life of me I don’t understand why we just don’t. I talked to a good friend of mine and I asked him about this. I was asking why are we slack in fighting for and pursuing mutuality recklessly. He really couldn’t answer. I am saying we should equip all of the saints to function at a level where on any given Sunday a man could get up and address the assembly. I am not talking house church, lets take for example a nice sized evangelical biblically sound nationally know church. There are at least 2000 members. Are we saying that we don’t have at least 50 gifted individuals who could “preach” thus the church be known by its body not by its “pastor”? Can anybody tell me why we couldn’t function that way?

That’s preaching now lets take to what I am really getting at. In the typical church the leaders drive the church, while the members are passive passengers. All of the exhortation, encouragement, rebuke, edification, admonishment and teaching flows from the top down. I am proposing that we flow from the middle out. Where Christ is the center piece and we all equally stand eye level around Him. Christian leaders should be willing and even encouraging their members toward this type of priestly ministry and function. Women should function within these imperatives above, young children should function in these imperatives, parents to children and children to parents, husbands to wives and wives to husbands and ultimately leadership to congregation and the congregation to the leadership. This is nearly impossible in our celebrity type churches where if you are only lucky will get to meet your pastor in any real way and if you do meet him mutuality will never ever be established.

I say that to say this. When we meet we are to be under the authority of Christ and submitted to one another. Everyone! Everyone is to function this way. We are all priests and though priest have different functions the end goal is mutual edification and mutual submission (Ephesians 5:21 anybody)? Leaders are to take instruction just as much as they give it if the body is equipped properly and the priesthood is functioning as I believe it should (again my premise could be wrong). If I am doing all I can to ensure that those God place in my life is functioning at their best capacity eventually we should sharpen one another. It is funny that when we talk about sharpening it is usually pulpit to pew or pew to pew but never pew to pulpit or very rarely anyway. 

Now most may think I am crazy but as God opens doors for leadership this is my pursuit and goal. I want every priest who was brought into priesthood by Christ and not a school, or some human element to function at the level of their greatest potential. That means that they should be given to opportunity to instruct me, they should be given the opportunity to function freely in their gifts as God has so sovereignly given them by the Spirit and finally they should be given the opportunity to fulfill the imperatives found in Colossians 3. Not pew to pew but pew to pulpit.  I want to teach them everything I know so that eventually I don’t have one up on them but that we are walking hand in hand side by side not four steps behind and two steps to the right.  I will end that maybe I got this thing all wrong and I have a false premise but as I read all of the epistles the only one that has a hint of leader/non-leader submission is Hebrews and Alan Knox has broken this down in every way possible. and specifically here.

I pray that you are encouraged and you enjoy the Labor Day weekend.

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Here is the verse:

16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

What does the verse above look like? It either is a “a church full of ministers” or “a minister full of the church”. I think that is pretty clear. But let me ask which one do we see today (in upward of 90%) of our assemblies? I ask because of this. When someone is sick, in physical need, when their marriage is on the rocks, someone is in pain due to the loss of a loved one, someone is struggling with depression, someone has sinned and needs to be rebuked and restored, when someone is struggling with a tough doctrine, or when someone just needs to talk, who usually takes care of this? Who is usually at the hospital or someone’s home visiting the sick? Who is usually counseling a young couple who’s marriage is unraveling? Who does the teaching, who does the exhortation, who does the admonishing, who sings the songs, who makes the decisions, who drives the vision?

Thus, the question is do we have a church full of ministers or a minister(s) full of the Church? The next question is why (yes I am answering the question of who)? Why is there a select few and in many of the cases a select one who does the functioning of the body? I believe it is because believers are not equipped. The next question is why are they not equipped, but these select few or this select one is?

I spent 9 years in the Army. 6  of those years were as a NCO (or Non Commissioned Officer). During my ratings one area that I was evaluated on was the competence of my soldiers. In other words if my soldiers were not going before the board or getting promoted or if I got killed and they couldn’t function apart from my leadership, I would lay a goose egg. Why? As a leader my job is to ensure that all of my soldiers could function at a level of competency. Why do I include this?

I think many “leaders” today only equip a few. These few will become “pastors” and they will only equip a few. All the while maintaining the clergy/laity distinctions and solidifying their positions as leaders. If we don’t do this on purpose we do it subconsciously however it is being done. Most can’t read their bibles for themselves so they need a “great expositor” to “faithfully handle” the scriptures. While I can take a few months to a year to offer free Greek classes (why let that 30K plus of seminary money go to waste). I can give the people the responsibility to faithfully meet each others needs. Even if that meant making myself unavailable. But, hey that won’t work will it? Because the “church” (the building, programs and names) must continue and the only way it can continue and function properly is by me keeping ti functioning and continuing properly. See where I am headed?

Most “ministers” entrench themselves in ministry by not properly equipping the saints to function as the body of Christ. So we have dependent congregants and co-dependent pastors and the church propels in perpetual infancy forever. We didn’t leave Rome we just changed the name and did a little cosmetic work. Listen to me carefully. Until we equip the body to function on its on we fail them miserably! We have created “Christian Country Clubs” and to get in you have to get a M.Div, Th. M, or Ph.D to get into it. We speak in seminal language and have our own conferences to ensure that the non club members never get to close. All the while we say we are being “faithful ministers” of the Gospel.

The end goal of equipping is maturity! We should have the motto “push em out the nest”. We are functioning as Christian Communism. No one is excited about Castro dying because someone else will fill his role in that regime. There is no more hope for democracy than it is in China. Likewise, until we are fully equipping the believers to be mature, full functioning and contributing members (not joining the choir, the usher board, the hospitality committee, the pastoral support and cheer leading team, or the benevolence committee) we are failing them. As long as we keep information and functions only for the elite they will continue to walk around in spiritual diapers, looking for a bottle or breast to eat the next day.

So I ask you is your church full of ministers or  is the minster(s) full of the church?

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