God’s Royal Priesthood (10)

The New Testament priest is a dedicated man.

As we have seen, the Old Testament priest was consecrated and dedicated to the service of God in the tabernacle and temple. And even before the tabernacle was built by Moses the priest of God was one whose life was devoted to God.

He knew but one God, Jehovah the sovereign God of our salvation, and for Him he lived. This God he loved with all his heart, with all his soul, with all his mind and with all his strength. This God he worshipped. To Him all his praise, thanksgiving and adoration ascended. This God was in his thoughts the moment he awoke from refreshing sleep. All the creatures were to him as so many means whereby he could serve that God. He ate His food, drank His water, walked on His earth and in His sunshine and breathed His air in order that he might render unto Him the service and worship which is due to His holy name.

He saw all things as God’s creation. The cattle on a thousand hills, he declared, were God’s. The sun, the moon and the stars he considered to be God’s jewels and treasures. The vastness of the sea, in his opinion, was God’s and so were also the host of creatures to be found in this sea. The majestic mountain spoke to him of God’s glory. And the little grain of sand manifested His wisdom to this priest. With the New Testament apostle this Old Testament priest said, “. . . of Him and through Him, and to Him are all things, to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” Romans 11:36. And therefore he himself also lived for this God consciously and willingly.

This was true of Adam as the first priest over God’s earthly creation in the full sense of the word before he fell in paradise. But make no mistake about it, this was also this same Adam after his fall according to that new principle of life which he received by the Spirit of Christ. And in principle it is true of every regenerated child of God today. He has, besides all this wickedness of the old nature and all the deviltry of the old man of sin a new principle of life that is wholly dedicated to God and lives ONLY for His glory. And as such he is God’s royal priesthood.

The Apostle John speaks of that although in another connection and in other terminology. John says in I John 3:9, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” What we receive in regeneration is not the life that Adam had before he fell. It is not a life that can serve God but can also fall away into sin. No, the text says very clearly that the regenerateh CANNOT sin because they are born of God. In the old nature we not only still can sin, but in that old nature that is all that we do. We sin and sin and sin in wholehearted and continual dedication to the works of darkness as priests of the devil. O, it was wicked to be a priest of Baal and to stand before Elijah on Mount Carmel opposed to the living God and His worship. Of course it was. But let us not strain at a gnat and swallow a camel in this respect. Let us understand that our own flesh, as we are by nature, is not simply a Baal priest—this we may not be at all since we have adopted some more modern idol of the “cultured” twentieth century—but we are that which all the Baa1 priests were in the depth of their hearts: we are Satan’s dishonorable priesthood. And yet, by the wonder of God’s grace, we are God’s royal priesthood. A priesthood that God has established for Himself and realized by the grace of the cross, but also a priesthood that is wholly dedicated to Him because these priests are born of God.

And so we may say that the New Testament priest is wholly dedicated unto God. He lives for God alone. God is his whole life. And when we say that this is the case with the New Testament priest, we do not mean thereby that this was not the case with God’s people in the Old Testament dispensation. From Adam onward the elect children of God were all born of God; and therefore every one of them has in him this absolutely sinless life as well as the hopelessly sinful life of the old man. But we say that the New Testament priest is wholly dedicated unto God and lives for Him alone, because we would again remind you there is in the New Testament a priest of God as surely as there was in the days of Aaron. Peter speaks of it in that text to which we have been referring so repeatedly, I Peter 2:9, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood . . .” He had also made mention of it in verse 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.”

There is here a new element concerning the New Testament priest to which we would call your attention at this time. This New Testament priest offers up “spiritual sacrifices.” Since the cross of Christ he does not come with a burnt offering. He does not slay a lamb or sprinkle blood. And although he still does gather in God’s house and bring offerings of gold and silver which are material and not “spiritual sacrifices,” yet the truth in the text stands: The New Testament priest offers up spiritual sacrifices. Another text that teaches the same truth is Romans 12:1, 2 where we read, “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. 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.” Note that this royal priesthood presents its body as a living sacrifice, while in the Old Testament dispensation the priests slaughtered the lambs and bullocks and came with a bloody sacrifice. The New Testament priest presents his body unto God. And he presents everything wherewith that body comes in contact, all that which this body uses, sees and experiences, all these as “spiritual sacrifices” he offers up to God every day. He does not kill the body but uses it in the service of God. He dedicates it and consecrates it to God in His service. In is fear is in His service. And the royal priesthood is consciously and willingly in the service of his God and King.

O, as far as that flesh is concerned, we fall so far short of these things. That Aesh cannot even begin to desire to live for the glory of God. The flesh does not pray, “Hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The royal priest of God does according to that new principle of life that cannot sin. But the flesh never does. That flesh never prays to God. As a priest of the devil that flesh prays to Baal and his modern equivalents. Not being dedicated to God in love, that flesh cares for no fellowship with God. It does not speak of “sweet communion, Lord with Thee.” And that flesh does not live for God. It does not see all things as God’s creation which is of Him, through Him and must be used by us unto Him and His glory.

And that is why, although, as we wrote before, Matthew 6:33, which is such an important and beautiful text for God’s royal priesthood, is hated so vehemently by the flesh: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and its righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Shame must cover our faces as God’s royal priesthood when we see how little our bodies are offered up as living sacrifices to God and how few the spiritual sacrifices are that we present to Him because we are instead seeking the things which are below and exactly for the lust of our wicked flesh. We are almost ready to deny that he that is born of God doth not commit sin. We are inclined to go further than Elijah who said, “I even I only am left”; and we are apt to say, Is there indeed a royal priesthood of God in this evil day? At times we cannot find it in our own souls; and the works of men round about us also cause the question to rise in our souls, When the Son of man returns, shall He find a royal priesthood yet on this earth? Men are constantly being dedicated and rededicated to everything under the sun but unto the glory of God’s name. The things which we seek, and even which we deceive ourselves into thinking we must seek for joy and peace, multiply with every age and generation. Priesthood in the service of I our God is old fashioned. Only the narrow-minded, the odd characters and misguided conformists who will do no independent thinking, only these still make a foolish and feeble attempt at priesthood of Jehovah.

You may test yourself as to how faithful a priest of God you are by setting yourself before these texts. Spiritual sacrifices, are they your daily offering up to the Living God? Your body, is it a living sacrifice together with all that stands in connection with it, is it presented to God or to sin? The things which you seek, are they the things of God’s kingdom and characterized by His righteousness, or are they the things of Baal’s kingdom, of Satan’s realm, of the devil’s dominion?

The prophet knows God in love. The king serves God in love. The priest seeks Him in love. And he seeks that kingdom of God because he seeks God. Because his heart goes out in love to that God and he covets that righteousness of God which is in Christ, he finds delight in all the things of that spiritual realm and seeks that kingdom. And as God adds to him the things of this life which are necessary for his life, he dedicates these things also to his God and purposes to use them only as means whereby again he may seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

That priest does not say, “Yes, I would like to bring a bigger offering with me to God’s house on the Sabbath. I would like to meet my budget; but you know there are so many other things today . . . .” Ah, yes, there are so many other things today. And the trouble is that we are other priests also today than priests of God. But, other things? Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. And Jesus tells you about those other things. All these other things shall be added unto you by that God to whom you offer your gifts in the seeking of His kingdom. Truly where your treasure is there will your heart be also. The treasure of God’s royal priesthood is in heaven. Is yours there?

Next time, the Lord willing, we want to say something more about this living for God as His royal priesthood in His fear.

—J.A.H.