THE PRIESTHOOD Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
What does it mean to be called as a saint? From the beginning of the Church Age, it appears, the main purpose and activity of the denominations and churches has been to get people saved and on their way to Heaven. However, this is not a complete understanding of the Kingdom of God. The truth is, as soon as the Church has been brought to perfection, the Lord Jesus will appear with His Church and install His Kingdom on the earth.
I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. (John 17:6)
"They were yours; you gave them to me."
Last night (5/12/2002) I preached on the above verse. I have written much on the difference between the Church and the nations of saved people, but when I woke up this morning I thought I would like to stress the same ideas presented last evening.
When the Lord Jesus says "I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world" He is referring to the concept of Divine election, the concept that the true Christians were chosen by the Lord from the beginning of the world. By saying "true Christians" I am pointing out that numerous church members have never truly met the Lord; they are not denying themselves and carrying their cross behind the Lord. Therefore they are not true Christian, only members of one of the Christian churches.
The idea of Gods Church comprising people who have been called out from the world (the term church means "called out") has fallen into disrepute in our day. I think we are reacting against the errors of the past that taught only certain people were destined for salvation. Since there are New Testament passages that state or imply "whoever will may come," the opponents of predestination have been able to remove from the thinking of many Christian people the thought that there is such a thing as Divine election. The concept of democracy also works against the idea that some people are chosen of God above other people.
This reaction against the excesses of predestination theology is understandable, given the democratic temper of our day. However, we cannot nullify clear statements of the Scriptures and prosper. We must eat the whole loaf if we are to make a success of the victorious Christian life.
Predestination and election appear to contradict "whoever will." The reason why we cannot reconcile predestination and "whoever will" is that the difference between the Church, and the nations of saved people who are the inheritance of the Church, has not been taught to any great extentor so it seems to me. I will explain the problem in a moment.
The members of the Christian Church are the firstfruits to God of all mankind.
He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. (James 1:18)
The concept of a firstfruits is that of a first reaping of a vine; or, in the case of Levitical law, a portion of a harvest that is set aside as the Lords portion. In Levitical tradition, the firstborn of man or animal was specially holy to the Lord.
Now it is right at this point that Christian thinking breaks down. We conceive of the members of the Church as being the only people who are to be saved. To add to this confusion, we think the destiny of the members of the Church is to go to Heaven to live forever.
Then we imagine that all other people are to suffer eternal torment in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur.
This would be the same as saying once the firstfruits of a field has been reaped, the rest of the field is to be destroyed. Once a son has been presented to the Lord as the firstborn of his parents, there are to be no other children.
We simply do not understand that the Christian Church comprises the firstfruits of the Kingdom of God, and are but a small minority of those who are to be saved into the Kingdom of God.
Not understanding the above, we cannot grasp how predestination and "whoever will" can both be part of the same Gospel. The answer is, predestination applies only to the members of the royal priesthood, while whoever will choose to do so may call on the name of the Lord, be saved from wrath in the Day of the Lord, and be brought into eternal life in the Kingdom of God.
The following two verses may be of interest:
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:44)
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. (John 6:37)
Notice the balance in the above verses. It is impossible for an individual to come to Christ unless God draws that person to Christ. On the other hand, anyone can choose to come to Christ and Christ will not drive him or her away. This is what the Scripture states, and the Scripture cannot be changed in the slightest detail.
But what do the two verses signify? They signify that when an individual chooses to come to Christ it is because God has drawn him or her. Yet, to the person it seems as though he had chosen Christ of his own will.
Actually, it is God who works in us both to will and to do His pleasure. Salvation is of the Lord!
We are not as free in our will as we may think we are!
But back to the thought of people being brought into eternal life in the Kingdom of God. Let us turn to the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Matthew.
Here we find the Lord Jesus Christ sitting on the Throne of Judgment, surrounded by His brothers. His brothers consist of both Jews and Gentiles who were chosen to be part of the Body of Christ, of the governing priesthood.
Before them are arranged the people of the nations of the earth. These are all people who have lived on the earth throughout history, except the members of the priesthood, Gods elect.
Notice that they are not invited at this time to "accept Christ." Even in our day the idea of "accepting Christ" has been circumscribed with our traditions. In our evangelistic preaching we are not including the breadth or timing of Gods work. In fact, the whole idea of "accepting Christ" needs to be reviewed, since this expression is not found in the Scriptures.
How, then, are the nations judged? They are judged as to how they treated the Lords brothers; for their behavior toward the Lords brothers actually was behavior toward the Lord Jesus Himself.
Those who were kind to the Lords brothers were ushered into eternal life. Those who were unkind to the Lords brothers were thrown into the eternal fire.
I want you to notice in particular one statement:
Then the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world." (Matthew 25:34)
Look at the above carefully. T he Kingdom of God, has been prepared for certain people from the creation of the world.
Who are the people for whom the Kingdom has been prepared from the creation of the world?
The members of the Christian Church?
Everyone in the world?
The people who were kind to the brothers of Jesus Christ?
What does this mean?
It means the destiny of each of the other members of mankind is based on how that individual responded to the needs of Gods elect.
These members of the priesthood, the brothers of the Lord, the true Christians, are dealt with night and day, day and night, until they attain the stature of the fullness of Christ. The are not of the world. They were drawn from the world that they might belong to Christ in a special manner.
There is a practical issue here. We who are Christians must not consider ourselves to be part of the world system. We indeed are part of mankind and are not to consider ourselves to be better than other people. (This mistake is made on occasion.) We are not better than other people. We were not chosen by the Lord because we are better than other people. We were chosen to be holy, that is, close to God, purely on the basis of Gods arbitrary choice. To think we are better than others is a delusion.
This is the meaning of "by grace you are saved, and not of yourselves. It is the gift of God lest someone should boast."
We have perverted the meaning of this passage to mean we do not have to keep Christs commandments because we have been saved by grace. This is not what it means. It means we were not predestined from the beginning of the creation to be members of the priesthood because of our good works but as a gift from God. We have been appointed to do the good works that God has chosen for us to do purely on the basis of Gods choice. We did not earn the appointment..
For we are Gods workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruitfruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. (John 15:16)
And we know in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:28,29)
I dont believe Christian people, particularly here in America, understand what it means to be called to be a saint (holy one).
To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:7)
"Called to be saints"! Called to be holy ones!
At this point, nothing is said about the Christians being called to be saved. The believers in Rome were called to be saints, people belonging in a special way to God that His purposes might be accomplished.
Now, how should this affect us in practical terms? If we have been chosen out of the world, as the Lord said in the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of John, should this directly affect the manner in which we view ourselves and the manner in which we behave?
I think it should. I think it should cause us to realize we are not just another person born into the world. We have a mission. As Jesus said concerning Himself, each of us has a work to complete. In order to find out what that work is we have to present our body a living sacrifice every day and night of our lives.
We have received the Holy Spirit. This is a priestly anointing. The other people of the world still are moved by the spirit of the world, of Antichrist, of Satan, of disobedience.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. (Ephesians 2:2)
Does this mean we are better than they? By no means! It signifies rather that we have been called to be close to God in a way not true of other people. Therefore we cannot compare ourselves with the people of the world. They do not have this calling.
Being called to be a saint means God is going to remove from us our love of the world spirit, the lusts and passions of our flesh and soul, and our self-will, We are required to cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He performs these operations on us.
It means Christ will be formed in us. We will be torn as our adamic nature seeks preeminence in our personality and the Holy Spirit seeks to exalt Christ in the same personality.
We are going to suffer and be imprisoned by circumstances so we will learn to do the Lords will joyfully.
Once we are called to be a saint we have no other calling. While we may be active in a profession or some other vocation, none of our work is our "calling." Our calling is to be a saint, and that is the highest calling possible.
Our problem in America is that there are so many opportunities for education, for amassing money, for achieving success in one way or another, that the believer does not have enough time left to hear from the Lord. Thus the work assigned to him is not performed. Eventually God will give the resources that had been assigned to that believer to another who is more appreciative of his calling as a saint.
You may notice that the gifts and ministries assigned to the Church by the ascended Christ are all for the building up of the members of the Body of Christ.
To prepare Gods people for works of service, so the body of Christ may be built up Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:12,13)
Today we conceive of the gifts and ministries as being for the purpose of "winning the lost to Christ." This is not their purpose, initially. It is to build up the saints, the holy ones, so they can perform the work of the Kingdom of God.
Actually the historical and current emphasis on making converts can be quite destructive of true Kingdom work. The reason is, the emphasis is on gaining members of an organization rather than seeking those whom God has chosen and building them up so Gods purposes may be achieved.
What good is a denomination with five million members if very few of them were chosen by the Lord; very few are denying themselves and carrying their cross each day; very few of them are being transformed into the image of Christ?
While we may congratulate ourselves on the number of people who have escaped Hell and are on their way to Heaven (if this indeed is the case), what about Gods needs? While God always is overjoyed when a sinner returns to Fathers house, it is true nevertheless that Gods will cannot be achieved until that sinner comes to the stature of the fullness of Christ.
The above are some of the practical reasons for understanding that we have been called to be saints, and that our role is to be the light of the world. We can light the world only as people see our good works and glorify God. This means Christ must be formed in us, because otherwise we may express ourselves in a religious manner; but the basic righteousness that the unsaved associate with God will not be seen in us. In fact, many Christian churches are prisons of evil spirits rather than lighthouses of righteousness, holiness, and obedience to God. Have you ever noticed this?
The division between the priesthood and the other people of the world began when God called out Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees. God did not do this because Abraham was righteous or the people of Ur were wicked. God separated Abraham from the people of Ur according to Gods own wisdom and desires.
The wall of separation from the world established at that time is the wall we find in the twenty-first chapter of the Book of Revelation. It is the massive wall that divides between the Bride of the Lamb, the new Jerusalem, and the nations of saved people living on the earth.
The nation of Israel is and always will be an example of God calling out a race of people for His own purposes, on no basis other than His own sovereign choice.
Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine You will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites. Exodus 19:5,6)
Did God choose the Israelites because they were better people than the rest of the world?
There is no evidence that such is the case.
And here is another thought: What about the other nations? Does this mean they all were to be assigned to Hell?
Of course not. Israel was a firstfruits to God so they might receive the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are Gods covenant with all mankind. Whoever will observe them will receive the blessing of God.
Israel became the custodian of Gods will for all people.
So it is with the Christian Church. We also are a chosen people
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (I Peter 2:9,10)
The above was written to Gentile Christians.
What about the rest of the world. Have all nations other than the Christian people been assigned to the Lake of Fire? Are all doomed to eternal torment?
Of course not. What foolishness!
We have been called that we may declare the praises of Christ and God in Him.
To whom are we to declare Gods praises? To each other?
No, we are to show forth Gods Glory to the people of the world. We are the light of the world.
For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations. For Zions sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalems sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow. (Isaiah 61:11-62:1,2)
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (I Peter 2;12)
The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. (Revelation 22:24)
When the Apostles preached, as recorded in the Book of Acts, they were aware God assigns belief and eternal life according to His own will.
When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. (Acts 13:48)
"All who were appointed for eternal life."
This verse is in line with the Lords words:
I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. (John 17:6)
Does this mean we are not to preach the Gospel to every person?
Not at all. We have been thus commanded by the Lord.
But if we are to keep from acting blindly apart from the Lords timing; if we are to be delivered from attempting to build our own kingdom and seek our own glory; if we are to find rest in the Lords will and learn to listen to Jesus; if we want the Lord to work with us and confirm His own Word with signs following; then we are going to have to have a deeply rooted faith that Christ knows what He is doing and is building His own Church.
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:18)
Did the Lord Jesus Christ state He would build His own Church? Do we truly believe this? Do we act as though we believe it? Over the past two thousand years, has it been Christ who is building His Church or man who is building churches?
God has announced that in the last days He will shake not only the earth but also the heavens. In that day all that has not been built by the Lord Jesus Christ will be shaken and removed from the Kingdom of God.
How much of todays Christian work has been accomplished by the Lord Jesus, and how much by the well intentioned efforts of people?
The Lord stated He would build His Church. Do we allow Him to do this? If so, why have some Christians tortured and murdered other believers who do not agree with them? Why are the denominations of today in competition with one another? If it is Christ who is building His one Church, how can there be divisions among Christians?
The answer is, it is not Christ who is building His Church. It is well intentioned believers who think they know what the Lords will is and are doing the best they can. Obviously they are going to be in competition with other believers who think they know what the Lords will is and are doing the best they can.
It is time to cease from this guessing. It is time for us to work with the Lord Jesus instead of for Him.
Praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:47)
Did the Lord add people to the early churches? It appears so.
What were the people doing in this instance?
They were rejoicing in the Lordso much so, apparently, that outsiders were attracted. They had the "favor of all the people," which means, I suppose, that outsiders were impressed with their behavior.
But if we just worship God can we count on Him to know what He is doing? This is a big question that each Christian must answer to his or her own satisfaction.
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." (Acts 13:2)
It sounds more like they were worshiping God than they were planning missionary activity.
They could not have realized the magnitude of what God had planned for the spread of the Gospel through the world at that time and during the two thousand years that were to follow. There is evidence in Pauls writing that at one point he supposed he would live to see the return of the Lord.
So it is today. We have no idea of what God has planned for our time. We can plan this or that, but until God speaks clearly, as the Holy Spirit did in the calling of Barnabas and Saul, we are only guessing.
I believe we need to "think out of the box," as the saying goes. We have a tiny boxed-in vision of how we might reach many people of the world. We have a Gospel message that lacks the breadth and timing of the Lord God.
I think God has planned something far, far beyond what we imagine in the present hour. I think God has told me He is going to chasten America, England, and Israel because these three nations have known God and today are not pleasing God with their behavior. England and America are backslidden, and Israel is looking to America instead of the Lordso it seems to me.
I think God has said at the same time He is going to bring revival to America, but in the midst of severe troubles.
Beyond these immediate renewings, I believe we are going to see an outpouring of the Holy Spirit far greater than any outpouring of preceding history. Before this harvest outpouring has been concluded, the majority of earths people will have made at least a profession of faith in Christ.
I am hoping this revival will turn multitudes of Arab people to Christ, because they have been sorely deluded. They will make fine fruit for the Lords table when they turn to Christ.
What am I going to do about this?
I am going to listen to Jesus, just as I am doing right at this moment. One tiny step along with the Giant whom I believe is with me and with you. The Elephant and the mouse. We do our chattering and He moves the logs.
The Lord worked with them and confirmed the Word with signs following. There has to be two witnesses, not just one. There has to be the visible member of the Body of Christ, and then there has to be the invisible Christ working with that member.
It will be well if the member who is working with Christ considers himself or herself to be as the donkey the Lord rode into Jerusalem. In the days of great revival, and the crowds are shouting "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord," the donkey may get the idea they are admiring his glossy coat or his pretty ears.
We need to understand there is Someone we are bringing with usand never forget it.
"We would see Jesus," the Greeks said.
I have no more use for great preachers or their marvelous plans to save the world. I want to see Jesus. How about you?
"On this rock I will build My Church." Do we dare allow Him to do it, or are we going to rush about in distraction trying to do that which only God can do?
"Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain."
God has chosen us out of the world that we might know Him, and that we might be His hand extended to the remainder of His creation.
Some of us may be guided into ministry to people during our lifetime on earth. Others may spend many years in the shade, as it were; for spirituality grows best in the shade, as someone said.
But when the Lord returns, all who have been faithful in this present life will have the opportunity to bring eternal life to the multitudes whom God has chosen to save. Then we will experience the greatest possible joy, as we bring forth the waters of eternal life to human beings.
The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. (Revelation 22:17)
Your personal calling is to be a member of Gods elect, chosen from the beginning of the world. The calling to be a saint is the most glorious opportunity possible to the individual. It will require your utmost diligence, and it remains possible for someone to take your crown if you are not careful.
What are you going to do about your unique role among the multitudes of the earth?