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: The Consecration of the Priesthood of the Believer

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Consecration of the Priesthood of the Believer

The Priesthood of the believer of the New Covenant is an overwhelming truth. There are few who call themselves Christians that grasp the uniqueness of this position before a holy God and the overwhelming responsibilities that accompany this vocational calling, which in every aspect is what really defines the meaning of the word Christian. Sadly, even those who profess to believe in the Priesthood of all believers have very little understanding of the doctrine and the depth to which these truths are intended to manifest the grace of God through believer’s lives.

All believers of the Church Age live under the scrutinizing gaze of our High Priest Jesus Christ, Who is carefully examining all that we do, the motives of our heart, and the desires of our wills for anything that defiles us. He wants to bless us and use us to His glory and to the glory of the Father if we are simply willing to offer our lives as a burnt offering to Him every moment of every day. This is what defines consecration (Rom. 12:1-2). To merely acknowledge that our new life in Christ belongs to Him is not enough. We must actually live every moment of that new life completely to His glory by becoming “doers of the Word” (James 1:22).

3 For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. 5 And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. 6 Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: . . . 11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. 12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. 14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:3-6 & 11-16).

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is unique to believers living after the Day of Pentecost. Another unique aspect of this indwelling is that these New Covenant believers are all priests before God. Under the Mosaic Covenant, only the priests could approach God. After Pentecost and the beginning of the New Covenant every believer became a priest with direct, intimate access to the “throne of grace.” The “throne of grace” is the state of existence from which flows God’s blessings, fellowship, and spiritual empowerment (anointing) for ministry. Merrill F. Unger[1] provides some insight into “three elements” of the Mosaic Covenant priesthood from Numbers 16:5, which is typical of the New Covenant Priesthood “in Christ.”

And he spake unto Korah and unto all his company, saying, Even to morrow the LORD will shew who are his, and who is holy; and will cause him to come near unto him: even him whom he hath chosen will he cause to come near unto him” (Numbers 16:5).

“Moses furnishes us with the key to the idea of OT priesthood in Num. 16:5, which consists of three elements – being chosen or set apart for Jehovah as His own, being holy, and being allowed to come or bring near. The first expresses the fundamental condition, the second the qualification, the third the function of the priesthood.”

God initially intended for all of the children of Israel to be a kingdom of priests and to be able to come near and communicate directly with Him. Initially, the children of Israel agreed to this new arrangement that God proposed to them at Sinai.

1 In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount. 3 And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; 4 Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. 5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: 6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. 7 And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him. 8 And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD” (Exodus 19:1-8).

This acceptance of God’s offer to be a kingdom of priests before Him was then followed by God speaking directly to them out of “the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking” (Ex. 20:18) giving to these people God’s expectations of them in what has come to be known as the Ten Commandments. The context of the giving of the Law to the children of Israel is to this kingdom of priests and what would define the qualification of holiness before the LORD in their service before Him. After God spoke to the children of Israel, they understood the extreme holiness of God and the extreme responsibilities that would be theirs as priest before Him after which they had second thoughts about their original agreement.

18 And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. 19 And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. 20 And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not. 21 And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was. 22 And the LORD said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. 23 Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold. 24 An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee. 25 And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it. 26 Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon” (Exodus 20:18-26).

The children of Israel were not wrong in being fearful of God. In fact, according to Exodus 20:20, showing Himself to the children of Israel in the way He did was to accomplish the purpose of them fearing God because they saw awe inspiring things of God that promoted their fear. Only a fool would see these things and hear the extreme expectations regarding personal holiness that God expected from His priests and walk away from that without trembling in fear, especially if they were not willing to serve God under the conditions He defined in the Ten Commandments. Therefore, the Ten Commandments were given especially to define the conditions of holiness that God requires of His priests before they can come before Him in service or ministry, offer sacrifices, offerings, or have fellowship with Him.

As Exodus 20:19 tells us, the children of Israel rescinded their acceptance of the enormous responsibilities of the priesthood and the privilege of direct communication with God. They asked Moses to communicate with God and that God no longer speak with them directly. They were asking for a mediator between them and God. As priests, being a mediator between Him and the world is what God wanted them to be. They were ALL to be God’s believer-priests through whom God would communicate to the lost world. Therefore, they were intended to be a nation/kingdom of prophets, priests, and evangelists of the grace of God that flowed from God through an intimate fellowship with them into all the world.

Granted, other than the books of Jonah and Nahum, there is little historical evidence that God had much concern with the lost world outside of the Jewish people. However, the books of Jonah and Nahum regarding the city of Nineveh should be sufficient evidence for us that God was stilled burdened by, and with, the Gentiles and their sinful practices by the fact He communicates with them through these two prophets. We must remember that after the Tower of Babel incident and the confounding of languages, the world was divided into warring city-states that sought the destruction of one another in most part. Each city-state would conquer other city-states, progressively and barbarously acquiring real estate, wealth, larger armies, slaves, and a pantheon of pagan gods (Henotheism). The kings of these evolving nations, as their nations grew into empires, began to be considered descendents of the gods and the idea of royal blood came into existence. The idea of absolute sovereignty of the kings developed in that their thoughts and words were considered divine, not merely human. Every word from their mouths was recorded by a Scribe as inspired of the gods. This political dynamic made evangelism almost impossible, but that does not mean there were not varying degrees of belief in Jehovah integrated within the pagan idolatry of these nations. This integrationism was common even among the Jews throughout most of their history.

It is clear from Isaiah that part of God’s plan in choosing the nation of Israel to be a kingdom of priests was intent upon the redemption of sinners from every nation in the world. However, it is also clear that because of the failure of Israel at Sinai to accept God’s commissioning of the nation as a kingdom of priests, God could not commission them to do so. Therefore, the Great Commission was put on hold until the beginning of the Church Age and the establishment of a New Priesthood in all Church Age believers as the new kingdom of priests as the Church Age transitions into the Kingdom Age.

1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. 3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 5 O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the LORD” (Isaiah 2:1-5).

20 Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save. 21 Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. 22 Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. 23 I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. 24 Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed. 25 In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory” (Isaiah 45:20-25).

Obviously, as we apply an inductive methodology to interpret these Scriptures from the perspective of God’s ultimate purpose through dispensational transitions, we can readily see the already, not yet perspective of the fulfillment of these prophecies in the priesthood of all believers in the Church Age and the giving of the Great Commission by Jesus Christ to all Church Age believers to be fulfilled, in part, during the Church Age. This is clear from the introductory verses in the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: 2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. 3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. 4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; 5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, 6 And hath made {Aorist, Active, Indicative} us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. 8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:1-8).

Revelation 1:6 could be translated “hath made us a sovereignty of priests unto God and His Father.” The intent is to reflect Christ as High Priest and Supreme Sovereign (“King of kings”) over an order of priests who will sovereignly rule directly under Him, but with His sovereign authority delegated to them and through them.

26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: 27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father” (Revelation 2:26-27).

This was God’s intent in the Age of the Law and the Mosaic Covenant to establish the nation of Israel as a Theocracy that would conquer the world and then rule the world as a “kingdom of priests” (Ex. 19:5-6). Because the children of Israel rejected their call to all be priests before God, then God chose (elected) the tribe of Levi to be His priests. Two primary characteristics of God’s priesthood are communicated to us in Exodus 19:6 in the words “peculiar treasure” and “holy nation.” All of these words are used of Church Age believers in I Peter chapter 2.

4 To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, 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 {Church Age believers} are a chosen {eklektos; elect} generation, a royal {basileios; kingly or sovereign} priesthood, an holy {hagios; morally pure, set apart distinctively to serve the LORD, and nothing else, and fully consecrated to that purpose} nation, a peculiar {peripoiesis; a purchased possession} people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy” (I Peter 2:4-10).

One of the transitional issues of the Church Age was that this new priesthood that would become a worldwide sovereignty under the Supreme Sovereignty of Jesus Christ during the Kingdom Age would also be a tested and proven priesthood. This is the substance of what God is doing in believer’s lives during the Church Age; i.e., to test and prove believers BEFORE they are installed as a sovereignty of priests during the Kingdom Age. The Levitical priesthood was tried and found guilty of failure in preserving peculiarity and holiness. Therefore, they were disapproved or cast away. The Greek word used to translate this concept is adokimos.

1 This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. 2 I told you before, and foretell you, as if I were present, the second time; and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare: 3 Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you. 4 For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you. 5 Examine {peirazo; test or scrutinize} yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove {dokimazo; to test for genuineness and approval} your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates {adokimos; disapproved and rejected due to disingenuousness or pretense}? 6 But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates {adokimos; disapproved and rejected due to disingenuousness or pretense}” (II Corinthians 13:1-6).

24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway {adokimos; disapproved and rejected due to disingenuousness or pretense}” (I Corinthians 9:24-27).

15 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. 16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate {adokimos; disapproved and rejected due to disingenuousness or pretense}” (Titus 1:15-16).

An unfaithful believer will be cast away vocationally, as a priest, during his lifetime on earth for failure to maintain his practical sanctification, failure to be fully consecrated to serve the LORD in the “work of the ministry, and/or failure to study to learn the Word of God (II Tim. 2:15) so as to know how to do the “work of the ministry” as approved by God’s instruction book. However, the outcome of being cast away during our lifetimes is that we have also been disapproved for the priesthood of the Kingdom Age and will NOT rule and reign with Christs as a sovereignty of priests. Those who are disapproved and cast away will be like the unfaithful priests of Levitical priesthood, who will spend the Kingdom Age in shame.

10 And the Levites that are gone away far from me, when Israel went astray, which went astray away from me after their idols; they shall even bear their iniquity. 11 Yet they shall be ministers in my sanctuary, having charge at the gates of the house, and ministering to the house: they shall slay the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister unto them {in shame; see vs. 13}. 12 Because they ministered unto them before their idols, and caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity; therefore have I lifted up mine hand against them, saith the Lord GOD, and they shall bear their iniquity. 13 And they shall not come near unto me, to do the office of a priest unto me, nor to come near to any of my holy things, in the most holy place: but they shall bear their shame, and their abominations which they have committed. 14 But I will make them keepers of the charge of the house, for all the service thereof, and for all that shall be done therein. 15 But the priests the Levites, the sons of Zadok {sons of righteousness or the justified ones}, that kept {guarded, protected, or preserved} the charge {custodial watch} of my sanctuary {dedicated or consecrated place or things} when the children of Israel went astray from me, they shall come near to me to minister unto me, and they shall stand before me to offer unto me the fat and the blood, saith the Lord GOD: 16 They shall enter into my sanctuary, and they shall come near to my table, to minister unto me, and they shall keep my charge” (Ezekiel 44:10-16).

[1] Merrill F. Unger, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, R.K. Harrison, Editor, Howard F. Vos & Cyril J. Barber, Contributing Editors, Moody Press, Chicago, IL, Revised and Updated Edition 1988

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Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist.
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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