A Kingdom of Priests

The role of the Church in our world is hinted at well before the New Testament era, all the way back in the time of the Exodus. After God leads the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt, he gives them instructions about what kind of people they are to be and what their relationship with him is to be like. The law, the instructions for building the temple, and the carefully spelled out role of the priests are all part of this. But before all the details are given, God gives the people are very brief overview of what their purpose in the world was to be.

“If you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
– Exodus 19:6

Fast forward to the church era, in Jesus’ life and death, he fulfilled the terms of the covenant and so those who believe in him become the fulfillment of Israel’s original purpose: to be a kingdom of priests. What was the role of Israel is now the role of the Church. Peter makes this clear when he calls the Church “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9).

This begs the question: what does it mean to be a kingdom of priests? What is it that priests do? In a sense there were two types of priests in the Old Covenant. There were the Levitical priests, men from the tribe of Levi, who worked in the temple, sacrificing on behalf of the people so that they could be right with God. But God told Moses that the rest of the nation were priests as well. The Levitical priests represented the Israelites before God, but the nation of Israel as a whole was to represent God to the nations.

The church is the fulfillment of Israel. God intends to do through us what he started to do through them. So, it is now the role of the church to represent God to a lost world. But how do we do this? Much of the Old Testament Law was designed to make Israel stand out: what they wore, what they ate, the holidays they celebrated, would tell the nations around them something was different here.

Today, the kind of community we form amongst ourselves should make us stand out. How we act and relate should be an indication to rest world of something different, a counterculture based on unconditional and self-sacrificing love (John 13:34-35), a rejection of partiality or prejudice (James 2:1-13), on grace and non-retaliation (Matt. 5:38-40), on love for enemies (Matt. 5:43-37) on dedication to the truth (John 8:31-32) on radical forgiveness (John 8:1-13, Matt. 23:33-34), and on other means of following Christ’s example and teaching (e.g. The Sermon on the Mount, the epistles).

If we are to be a royal priesthood, a city on a hill, then we are to represent Christ not just in our personal behavior, but in the kind of community we form together, that lost people may see the revolutionary grace and love of Christ on display and be invited to join in themselves.

Sean's Picks

What If Jesus Was Serious? by Skye Jethani - If you're a consistent reader of this blog, you know that Skye is one of my favorite Christian authors. In this book, he reflects on the Sermon on the Mount and what it means for us to take Jesus' teachings seriously. Short chapters and doodle-like illustrations make this a fun and engaging read, yet deeply challenging at the same time. Here's a quote, "Jesus is smart. Jesus is serious. Imagine how your life would be different if you took Him at his word. Imagine how our world would be different..." Click the image below for more:
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