Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: Holiness And The Priesthood of the Believer

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Holiness And The Priesthood of the Believer

“5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. 7 Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, 8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. 9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (I Peter 2:5-9).

“And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:6).

Holiness is the practical responsibility of our position in Christ. Every truly “born again” believer is a “saint” before God. The word “saint” is from the Greek word hagios (hag'-ee-os). It is a word that describes a most holy, sacred thing. It refers to something or someone that has been set apart for God’s use and God’s use alone. As it refers to believers, it refers to their particular calling as servants of God. It refers to their position “in Christ.” It refers to the Priesthood of all believers.

The Priesthood of the believer refers to the ministry that is common to all believers. The word ministry defines God’s work. The word “priesthood” describes both the believer’s position in this world and his responsibility. The word “priesthood” is associated with a job description and the responsibilities of that job description. Any time a believer fails to fulfill his job description as a priest before God, in any way, that individual believer is living in sin.

Every true believer is a Sanctified One. All believers are God’s representatives before lost mankind. They are representatives of the character of God to restore His image and bring Him glory by being living embodiments of the Word of God. They are to represent God by working to replicate His character in their lives. When the Word of God says “for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), it is saying that we come short of replicating the character of God in our lives and therefore do not deserve His blessings or praise. The character of God is what distinguishes Him from every other being. The central and foremost responsibility of every Believer Priest is to replicate the character of God in our lives through the enabling power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Therefore, a major part of the “work of the ministry” relates to this issue of personal holiness. Again, we must remind ourselves that the word holy does not refer to moral perfection or personal piety. (Those realities may be achieved to some degree by personal holiness.) The twofold reality of personal holiness is defined on two spiritual battlefronts:

1. Separation from worldliness
2. Separation unto God

These two realities are essential to the “work of the ministry” of the Believer Priest. The “work of the ministry” refers to the “spiritual sacrifices” that the Believer Priest offers up to the Lord. In order for those “spiritual sacrifices” to be “acceptable” to the Lord, holiness is an absolute essential.

“10 In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, 11 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, 12 If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. 13 Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean. 14 Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the LORD; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean” (Haggai 2:10-14).

The “work of the ministry” is spiritual work. It is unlike any other kind of work. Spiritual work is a supernatural endeavor that brings the physical world into contact with the supernatural world. Anytime that happens, sparks start to fly. The separated Believer Priest becomes the spiritual conduit through which God works. Before a Believer Priest can be that spiritual conduit, all that he is and can be must be absolutely and completely given to the Lord and separated from the world.

“1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

When a Believer Priest sins in any way, he defiles himself before God and makes himself “unclean.” What are some of things that defile the Priesthood of a believer? Any sin defiles the Priesthood of the believer. However, there are certain practices that are common that many Christians do not consider as defiling. Worldliness comes in many forms and is usually evidenced by the presence of any one of the “works of the flesh.”

“16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:16-21).

None of us would have any problem with identifying the first seven things listed (“adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred”) and understanding that they would defile a Believer Priest from being used of God. However, many Christians do not see that the next seven things listed are equally defiling (variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings).

The word “variance” is from the Greek word eris (er'-is). It refers to a spirit of contention and strife. It refers to the wrangling that goes on behind the scene when someone wants to get their way or force their opinion on others. Bitterness results from self focus and a high self opinion that believes a person does not get what he deserves. This contentious spirit is absolutely defiling and almost always generates factions and bitterness between believers.

“14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:14-15).

The word “emulations” in Galatians 5:20 is equally defiling. It is from the Greek word zelos (dzay'-los). It refers to an angry, contentious rivalry of a person or group of people that seek to punish or banish anyone that is not willing to bow down to their opinion. It refers to a selfish misdirected zeal. “Variance” and “emulation” are almost always the inseparable twin sisters of carnality. They are defiling sins.

The next defiling sin listed is the sin of “wrath.” It is from the Greek word thumos (thoo-mos'). It refers to the fierce kind of anger that blows up and vents itself against the person disagreed with. It comes from the Greek word thuo (thoo'-o), which means to sacrifice or slaughter. Although this wicked spirit may not seek to kill a person, it almost always seeks to sacrifice another person to get its way.

The word “strife” is from the Greek word eritheia (er-ith-i'-ah). It refers to the person who practices electioneering to gain power or position. It is almost always done through gossip and in secret. I call this politicking. It is probably one of the most destructive defiling practices that destroy more local churches and individual lives than any other sin. God condemns it on numerous occasions in Scripture.

“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Philippians 2:3).

“13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. 14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. 15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. 16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work” (James 3:13-16).

The word “seditions” is from the Greek word dichostasia (dee-khos-tas-ee'-ah). It is from two Greek words. The word dis (dece) means twice or again and stasis (stas'-is), which refers to insurrection. In other words, “seditions” is referring to an ongoing, standing insurrection against authority. “Seditions” refers to an ongoing, continuous work (not just a single act) of rebellion. Before God can use a Believer Priest, or a local church of Believer Priests, this spirit of insurrection must be rooted out.

The next defiling sin that destroys the usefulness of individual Believer Priests is that of “heresies.” “Heresies” is from the Greek word hairesis (hah'-ee-res-is). It refers to the act of taking a captive. A false teacher leads people astray from the right way (righteousness) by false teaching. A heresy is anything that generates wrong practices. That can come through the perversion of Biblical truth or through a practice of life. This type of person always tries to gather a following. He captures a person when that person follows him in doing what he is doing (usually sedition). Any one of the “works of the flesh” can generate “heresies.”

The last of these defiling sins we want to look at in this text is “envyings.” It is from the Greek word phthonos (fthon'-os). Although it simply means to envy, it probably relates more to its root word, which is phtheiro (fthi'-ro), which means to corrupt or to destroy. In the opinion of the Jews, the temple was corrupted or destroyed when anyone defiled it or damaged anything in it to the slightest degree. In the context of Galatians 5:21, it refers to a selfish, prideful attitude that results in leading a church away from the knowledge and holiness in which it ought to abide.

As Believer Priests, every Christian needs to regularly examine and cleanse his heart from these corrupting, defiling sins of “variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies and envyings.” We need to understand that God not only puts them in the same category as “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, murders, drunkenness and revellings, but that God presents them as equals. They render a Believer Priest unclean and useless to God.

Pride keeps a person from acknowledging the wickedness of these particular “works of the flesh.” Pride will keep a believer from even looking at his heart and seeing the corrupting influences of these sins in his own life and in the lives of others. Pride will keep a heart closed to the pointing finger of conviction as the Holy Spirit directs us all to repentance and commitment to change.

“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Pride not only produces the “works of the flesh,” pride keeps feeding them. Without pride they will die. But pride will also keep a person from seeing his sin, acknowledging it as sin and repenting.

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