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The Christian: A Priest At God’s Altar – Part 2

Saturday, October 07, 2023

The Christian: A Priest At God’s Altar – Part 2

Wade Webster

In the last installment of this study, we began considering the Christian as a priest.  We noted three words in connection with being a priest - honor, holiness, and hopefulness.  In this installment we are examining holiness. 

Holiness

I suppose that no concept is as closely connected with being a priest as holiness.  Obviously, when we think of priests in the Old Testament, the book of Leviticus comes to mind.  Consider the holiness that it associated with this work: “They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God, for they offer the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and the bread of their God; therefore they shall be holy…Therefore you shall consecrate him, for he offers the bread of your God. He shall be holy to you, for I the LORD, who sanctify you, am holy” (Lev. 21:6, 8).  To prepare them for the holy work that God had for them to do, blood was shed for them and applied to them.  We read, “You shall also take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands on the head of the ram. Then you shall kill the ram, and take some of its blood and put it on the tip of the right ear of Aaron and on the tip of the right ear of his sons, on the thumb of their right hand and on the big toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood all around on the altar. And you shall take some of the blood that is on the altar, and some of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and on his garments, on his sons and on the garments of his sons with him; and he and his garments shall be hallowed, and his sons and his sons’ garments with him” (Exod. 29:19-21).  The garments of the priests were to be kept spotless.  A scene from the book of Zechariah pictures this for us.  We read, “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel. Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And to him He said, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the LORD stood by” (Zech. 3:1-5).

We see these same characteristics in New Testament priests (Christians).  We read, “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:13-16).  Again, Peter wrote, “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5).  Like Old Testament priests, New Testament priests are consecrated by blood.  However, it is better blood than that of bulls and goats - the blood of Christ.  We read, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied” (1 Pet. 1:1-2; cf. 1:18-19).  Our garments also are to be unspotted by the world.  James wrote, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this:  to visit orphans and widows in their trouble and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (Jam. 1:27).

The Christian: A Priest At God’s Altar – Part 1

Saturday, September 30, 2023

The Christian: A Priest At God’s Altar – Part 1

Wade Webster

As we have noted in previous lessons, there are many pictures of God’s people given in the Bible.  These pictures help us to understand who God wants us to be and what God wants us to do.  In past lessons, we examined the images of a farmer and a soldier.  In this lesson, we are examining the image of a priest. 

Christians are called priests several times in the Bible.  Peter described Christians as a holy and royal priesthood and a royal priesthood.  He wrote, “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:5, 9).  In similar fashion, John described us as kings and priests.  He wrote, “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Rev. 1:6).  Three words stand out when we think of priests - honor, holiness, and hopefulness.

Honor

It is a great honor to be a priest at God’s altar.  Peter wrote, “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5).  We get to be stones and servants in a spiritual house.  We get to offer up spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God.  We get to proclaim the praises of the One who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9).  It is a great honor to be God’s priest and to offer worship to Him.  Peter spoke of Christians as chosen, royal, holy, and special (1 Peter. 2:9).  Think of the selection of the Old Testament priest.  In the book of Numbers, we read, “Therefore you and your sons with you shall attend to your priesthood for everything at the altar and behind the veil; and you shall serve. I give your priesthood to you as a gift for service, but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death” (Num. 18:7).   In like manner, in the book of Deuteronomy, we read, “Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come near, for the LORD your God has chosen them to minister to Him and to bless in the name of the LORD; by their word every controversy and every assault shall be settled” (Deut. 21:5; cf. Joel 1:13-14).  It was a great honor for the priests to be chosen to minister to God and to His people.  The prophet Joel wrote, “Gird yourselves and lament, you priests; Wail, you who minister before the altar; Come, lie all night in sackcloth, You who minister to my God; For the grain offering and the drink offering Are withheld from the house of your God. Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly; Gather the elders And all the inhabitants of the land Into the house of the LORD your God, And cry out to the LORD.” (Joel 1:13-14).  Again, he wrote, “Let the priests, who minister to the LORD, Weep between the porch and the altar; Let them say, “Spare Your people, O LORD, And do not give Your heritage to reproach, That the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” (Joel 2:17).

We should count it a great honor to be numbered among the priests today.  We should count it a great honor to stand at the altar and to offer sacrifices to God.

The Christian: A Soldier In God’s Army – Part 2

Saturday, September 23, 2023

The Christian: A Soldier In God’s Army – Part 2

Wade Webster

The Bible gives us a number of pictures of the Christian. These pictures show us who God wants us to be and what God wants us to do.  We began last week to notice the image of a soldier. What are some things we associate with soldiers?

Solidarity:  There is a special bond that soldiers share because they have gone through many of the same things- training, separation, hardships.  Furthermore, they often share similar values- honor, love of country, courage, etc.  They will gladly risk their lives for each other.  If necessary, they will even give their lives for each other. In like manner, there is a solidarity shared by spiritual soldiers.  In the book of Philippians, Paul spoke of the bond that he shared with a soldier named Epaphroditus.  He wrote, “Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need” (Phil. 2:25; cf. Phile. 2). Epaphroditus had been willing to risk his life for Paul and others.  Paul wrote, “Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem; because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me.” (Phil. 2:29-30). 

Sacrifice:  Sacrifice is a word that we associate with soldiers. They sacrifice many things for the freedom of others.  They sacrifice time with their families, holidays, nights and weekends, etc.  A few even make the ultimate sacrifice.  As you know, we have days of remembrance to remember the sacrifices they have made.  Christian soldiers are also known for their sacrifices.  In the book of Revelation, John wrote, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” (Rev. 12:11).   The greatest love that any man can show is to willingly give his life for another.  Jesus declared, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”  (John 15:13).  Priscilla and Aquila had done this for Paul.  To the saints at Rome, Paul wrote, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.” (Rom. 16:3-4).

Submission:  A final word that probably comes to mind when we think of soldiers is submission. The military operates by a system of rank.  Those of lower rank submit to those of higher rank.  Without this submission an army cannot function effectively.  Of course, the same is true in spiritual soldiering.  To Timothy, Paul wrote, “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Tim. 2:4). The soldier strives to please his superior.  To the saints at Corinth, Paul wrote, “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.” (2 Cor. 5:9).  In like manner, to the saints at Thessalonica, Paul wrote, “Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God;” (1 Thess.  4:1).  Soldiers must not walk disorderly or out of rank (2 Thess. 3:6).  They must walk in a manner worthy of their commander (Col. 1:10).  They must submit (Jam. 4:7).

The Christian is a soldier.  As a soldier, we should see strength, separation, solidarity, sacrifice, and submission in his life.  Are you a good soldier of Jesus Christ?

The Christian: A Soldier In God’s Army – Part 1

Saturday, September 16, 2023

The Christian: A Soldier In God’s Army – Part 1

Wade Webster

The Bible gives us a number of pictures of the Christian. These pictures show us who God wants us to be and what God wants us to do.  The first picture that we noticed was that of a farmer.  The second picture that we are going to notice is that of a soldier. It was natural for Paul to use the image of a soldier.  Roman soldiers filled his world.  Commonly a prisoner, Paul had much time to observe them and to learn about their work (Eph. 4:1; Phil.1:12-13).  He used military references throughout his epistles - 1st and 2nd Corinthians, 1st and 2nd Timothy, Ephesians, and Philippians. What are some things we associate with soldiers?

Strength:  Soldiers are put through extensive training to make them physically and emotionally strong.  Think of the early morning runs, the push ups, and the pull ups.  To the saints at Ephesus, Paul wrote, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:10-13).  The Christian needs strength to fight and to overcome the enemy (1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Tim. 4:7; 1 Tim. 1:18; Jude 3).  Repeatedly, individuals in the Scriptures were instructed to be strong.  As you likely recall, God told Joshua:  “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them” (Josh. 1:5-6; cf. Heb. 11:34).  In like manner, Paul told the saints at Corinth, “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13; cf. 15:32). To the young men, John wrote, “I have written to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, And you have overcome the wicked one.” (1 John 2:14).

Separation: Soldiers are often separated from those who are not soldiers.  For one thing, they go through intense training or bootcamp to prepare them as soldiers.  During this training they are separated from family and friends. In addition to this time of separation, soldiers often live on base which separates them from those who aren’t soldiers. Deployment is another common time of separation.   In addition to physical separation, there are many other ways that soldiers are separated from their civilian counterparts.  They are different in their thinking, in their dress, and in their actions. Although they may one day be back in civilian ranks, they will likely always be different.  In like manner, the Christian soldier is to be separate.  To Timothy, Paul wrote, “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Tim. 2:3-4; cf. 2 Pet. 2:20). In like manner, to the saints at Corinth, Paul wrote, “Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty.” (2 Cor. 6:17-18; cf. Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Pet. 2:9).

Salvation: It Is Man’s Greatest Need and God’s Greatest Gift

Saturday, September 09, 2023

Salvation: It Is Man’s Greatest Need and God’s Greatest Gift

David Sproule

If you were to ask the average person—“What is man’s greatest need?”—what sort of answers would you receive?  If you were to ask the average person—“What is the greatest gift that man could receive?”—what sort of answers do you think you would receive?  Would the answers to these questions vary?  No doubt!  Did you know that the Bible gives one single answer to these questions?

The Bible teaches that God created man in His image (Gen. 1:26-27).  The Bible teaches that God loves mankind (John 3:16) and longs to have a relationship with each of them (Matt. 11:28-30; 1 Tim. 2:4).  However, the majority of accountable persons are not interested in the will of God and they make choices that violate God’s will—this is called “sin.”  Consider what the Bible tells us about sin.

Sin is the result of violating the will of God, which is called “lawlessness” and “unrighteousness” in the eyes of God, whether one “commits” the violating act or fails to “do” what is commanded (1 John 3:4; 5:17; Jas. 4:17).  Sin is a personal choice (John 8:34; 1 John 2:1) and is not inherited from anyone else (Ezek. 18:20).  The devastating consequence of sin is that it separates man from God, both in this life (Isa. 59:1-2; Rom. 6:23) and in the life to come (2 Thess. 1:8-9).  It is essential to understand the true nature and gravity of sin, so that man can understand his desperate need for salvation from his sin.

Seeing that salvation is man’s greatest need leads easily to recognize that the greatest gift that God could give to man would be the same—salvation from our sins!  Our salvation was part of the eternal plan of God (Gal. 4:4; 1 Pet. 1:18-20).  God longs that we might “be saved FROM wrath through” Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:9).  God longs that we might be saved TO a “reconciled” relationship with Him (2 Cor. 5:10).  God longs that we might be saved “FOR good works” in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:10).

And God offers the gift of His salvation to every person on earth!  The Bible teaches that ALL are lost in sin (Rom. 3:19, 23).  The Bible teaches that ALL will be judged in the end for how they have lived (2 Cor. 5:10; Matt. 25:31-46).  The Bible teaches that God wants ALL to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9).  The Bible teaches that wants the good news of salvation in Christ Jesus to be preached in ALL the world (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15).  The Bible teaches that God has extended His invitation for salvation to ALL people (Tit. 2:11; Rom. 1:16; Rev. 22:17).

Salvation!  There is no greater need among man today!  There is no greater gift from God today!  Do you have it?  I’m not asking if you have some version of it!  Do you have GOD’S salvation from sin?

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