THE ROYAL PRIESTHOOD DURING THE GOSPEL AGE
The Father's elect children are his holy and royal priesthood during the gospel age of salvation, which the apostle Peter notes:
"You also are living stones that are being built into a spiritual house; moreover, you are a holy priesthood who are to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to the Father through Jesus Christ. . . But you are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for possession, so that you may openly speak of the One [the Father] who has called you out of spiritual darkness into his marvelous light" (1.Pet.2:5, 9 Para.).
Because the New Testament is full of scriptures that speak of the elect as priests, the following important questions need to be answered if one is to fulfill one's responsibilities as a priest during this age of salvation: Just what are the responsibilities of a priest today, and what authority does one have as a priest during this age?
In this study, we hope to answer these and other important questions concerning the Father's priesthood that exists during the gospel age of salvation.
The Priesthood of Ancient Israel
The priesthood of ancient Israel was given great authority by the Creator God in order to carry out its many civil and religious responsibilities of service to him and his people. Being a priest in ancient Israel was an extremely important profession, which required much preparation and training and a serious commitment of time and effort in order to properly fulfill the responsibility.
Israel's High Priest
Israel's high priest presided over the priesthood who served as a bridge between the Creator God and his chosen people. The high priest communicated directly with God and made intercession to him on behalf of Israel's priesthood, himself, and the people of Israel. However, his intercession was inadequate because he and the priesthood over which he presided were sinful by nature. Therefore, he also had to be cleansed of sin each time he appeared before God.
The priesthood's primary function and reason for being was to serve the Creator in his temple, represent him to his people, and help maintain a harmonious relationship between him and his people. Because the priesthood of ancient Israel are clearly physical analogies of the reality of the physical and spiritual authorities and responsibilities of the Father's elect children who participate in his spiritual household as his priests, representatives, and servants on earth, it is important to note the following authorities and responsibilities of Israel's priesthood:
The Spiritual High Priest
Today, during the gospel age, Jesus Christ is the high priest who rules over the Father's priests on earth to make intercession for them through his office as high priest. Additionally, Jesus Christ is the administrator of the various attributes, qualities, and functions of the holy spirit:
"Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? Will God? No! He is the one who has forgiven us and given us right-standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? Will Christ? No! For he is the one who died for us and came back to life again for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us there in heaven" (Rom.8:33-34 LBP).
"Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come to God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them" (Heb.7:25 KJV). See also 1.Tim.2:5; Eph.2:18.
"My little children, these things write I to you, that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is a propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1.Jn.2:1-2 KJV). See also 1.Jn.1:7-9.
"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus" (1.Tim.2:5 KJV). See Eph.2:18.
As the heavenly high priest, Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of the Father as an intercessor and mediator on behalf of the Father's elect children on earth (Heb.7:14-28). As an intercessor, Jesus represents the elect to the Father, standing in their place as they go before the Father's throne to ask for forgiveness and mercy. As a mediator, he explains the elect's various circumstances and why God the Father needs to have mercy on them and forgive or help them. Jesus' primary function as the elect's high priest is to maintain and rebuild a harmonious relationship between the elect and the Father.
Jesus led a sinless life; therefore, he qualified to come before the Father without physical or spiritual cleansing. Moreover, Jesus' eternal qualification enables him to qualify his Father's priests, so they can also come before him as sinless individuals in order to fulfill their responsibilities as priests and communicate with him (see Heb.5:8-10; Rom.5:8-10):
"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. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched by our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb.4:14-16 KJV). See also Heb.2:14-18; 9:7-25.
"For through him [Jesus] we both have access by one spirit to the Father. Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God" (Eph.2:18-19 KJV). See also Heb.4:14-16.
A New Priesthood
On the Feast of Pentecost after Jesus' death and resurrection, God the Father sanctioned and established a new priesthood that is substantially different from the priesthood of national Israel. The Father's priesthood is not under the direction of a physical high priest but it is directed by Jesus Christ who is a spiritual high priest in heaven. Jesus Christ presides over an earthly priesthood that consists of the Father's first-born sons of his new creation. God the Father has delegated the following functions and responsibilities to his earthly priests who serve him through earthly temples of flesh:
These are but a few of the functions, responsibilities, and opportunities that the Father has given to his priesthood and to specific individual priests in order for them to serve him on earth.
The Gospel Age Priesthood
Today, during the gospel age of salvation, God the Father has a spiritual high priest (Jesus Christ) who serves his people from heaven. Moreover, the Father has a physical priesthood who serve him and the sons of his new creation on earth. The priests who serve him on earth are given great authority to carry out their many civil and religious responsibilities of service to him and his people. Being a priest in the Father's spiritual house today requires a greater degree of preparation, training, and commitment than the priests of ancient Israel, because the actions and responsibilities of the Father's priesthood have both spiritual and eternal consequences today.
THREE PRIMARY AREAS OF RESPONSIBILITY
The priesthood of ancient Israel were to serve the nation as its civil and religious leaders; however, today, the Father has given the following three primary areas of collective and individual responsibility to his earthly priesthood:
Preparation to Serve Humanity
The first area of responsibility concerns the preparation to serve humanity as priests after Jesus Christ has returned and established the Kingdom of God on earth. This preparation entails ongoing study and practical application of the Father's laws, precepts, and principles on a daily basis in one's life. The following are a few of the many scriptures that pertain to the subject of the elects' responsibility to prepare themselves to serve humanity through positions of kings and priests in the Kingdom of God after the return of Jesus Christ:
"And he that overcomes, and keeps my works to the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
And he shall rule them with a rod of iron . . ." (Rev.2:26-27 KJV).
"And they [the elders] sung a new song, saying, You [Christ] are worthy to take the book, and to open its seals: because you were slain, and have redeemed us to God [the Father] by your blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And have made us to our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth" (Rev.5:9-10 KJV). See also Rev.1:5-6; 20:4
Being stewards of God's laws, precepts, and principles teaching them to God's people were the responsibilities of priests in ancient Israel:
"For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts" (Mal.2:7 KJV). See also Lev.10:9-11; Deut.17:9-12; 33:8-10.
One of the primary responsibilities of the Father's priests after Jesus returns will be to teach the Father's laws, precepts, and principals to humanity. The writer to the Hebrews speaks to the lethargic attitude of some of the elect of his day and their need to expend the time and effort that is necessary to become proficient in the word of God and mature spiritually in order to be able to discern the difference between good and evil:
"We have many things to say, that are hard to explain, because you do not listen well. By now you should be able to teach others. However, you still need to be taught again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have become people who need milk, and not solid food. Everyone that uses milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is an infant. But solid food is for those who are spiritually mature, even those who because of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Heb.5:11-14 Para.).
In order to please the Father and his Son and be worthy to teach other people the ways of God, one must first learn how to live a righteous life themselves. One of the best ways to learn God's ways is through diligent study of his word and through the examples and instruction of people who became proficient in righteousness. See 1.Thes.4:1-12; Col.1:9-11; 1.Jn.3:6-7, 21-22; Rev.22:20-11:
"Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2.Tim.2:15 KJV). See also 2.Pet.2:5-7.
Service to the Priesthood
The second area of responsibility concerns one's ongoing priestly service to one's brothers and sisters within the Father's household:
"For, brethren, you have been called to liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another" (Gal.5:13 KJV).
Serving one's fellow priests within the Father's household is multi-faceted and requires the diligent effort on the part of each priest in order to accomplish the common goals that the Father has set for his elect children. The following are some examples of the ways that one can fulfill one's responsibility to serve one's fellow priests within the Father's household:
Being a Righteous Example
One of the best ways to serve one's brothers and sisters in the priesthood is to be an example of how to live a righteous life and how to accomplish the goals that the Father and Jesus Christ have set for the priesthood. The following three excerpts from letters written by the apostles are examples of the many instructions that one will find in the New Testament to help one accomplish the responsibility to set a righteous example to one's fellow priests:
"This I say then, Walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that you cannot do the things that you would. But if you be led of the spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, sedition, heresies, Envying, murders, drunkenness, reveling, 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. But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the spirit, let us also walk in the spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another" (Gal.5:16-26 KJV).
"Let every one that names the name of Christ depart from lawlessness. In a wealthy house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor. If a man removes himself from these, he shall be a vessel to honor, sanctified, and fit for the master's use, and prepared to every good work. Flee youthful lusts and follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that these cause strife. The servant of the Lord must not strive; but must be gentle to all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will" (2.Tim.2:19-26 KJV Para.).
"There is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, Barbarian, Scythian, bond or free: but Christ is all, and in all. Therefore put on as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a quarrel against their brother or sister: even as Christ forgave you, forgive them. And above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to you are called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell in you in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Col.3:11-16 KJV). See also Rom.12:1-18.
Being a righteous example to others within the Father's household is a major responsibility that should not be taken lightly, because what one person does can impact the lives of all those of the Father's house, either negatively or positively. While instructing the church at Corinth about the necessity of teamwork and proper concern for one another, the apostle Paul says the following:
"There should be no division within the body, because each member in the body should be equally concerned for all members. If one member of the body suffers, every member suffers, if any one member receives honor every member rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ and every one of you are a part of it" (1.Cor.12:24-27 Para.).
In order to fulfill the responsibility of being a productive member of the Father's household, each family member must show the proper love and concern for each family member. But, in order to do this, each member must endeavor to be a righteous example within the priesthood. When this happens all members of the family can rejoice.
"Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You shall seek me: and as I said to the Jews, Where I go, you cannot come; so now I say to you. A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another" (Jn.13:33-35 KJV).
The love that Jesus speaks of is the kind of sacrificial love that he had for humanity; it is the kind of love that is seen through the Father's willingness to allow Jesus Christ to come to earth and give his life for humanity. This kind of love is selfless love that is given with one's whole being for the benefit of another person. This is the kind of love that the Father's priests should have for one another.
"Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. . ." (Rom.12:10-16 KJV).
"Seeing you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit to unfeigned love of the brethren, see that you love one another with a pure heart fervently" (1.Pet.1:22 KJV). See also 1.Jn. 4:7-21.
Compassion and Encouragement
"And finally, be of one mind, having compassion for one another, love as brethren, be tenderhearted, and courteous. Do not return evil for evil, or slander for slander: but on the contrary give a blessing; knowing that you were called to this that you should inherit a blessing. For he that desires to love life, and to see good days, let him restrain his tongue from speaking evil, and his lips from speaking guile: Let him shun evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and pursue it" (1.Pet.3:8-11 Para.).
Not all the elect are at the same place in their spiritual growth; therefore, one should have compassion on those who are not yet spiritually mature and deal with them as children in the faith, forgiving them for their errors and offering spiritual support to them when they need it. This is the way of God for those who are truly seeking the Kingdom of God.
"Continue to encourage each other to grow spiritually. And we appeal to you, to know them which labor among you, and rule over you in the Lord, and we caution you to respect them for what they do and be at peace among yourselves. Now we exhort you to warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient toward everyone. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone; but continue to follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all other people" (1.Thes.5:11-15 Para.). See also 2.tem.2:19-26.
It is the duty of each priest to work toward the common good of the entire priesthood through encouraging one another, supporting those who are in leadership positions, and fostering an atmosphere of teamwork within the priesthood through mutual respect and attention to the things of the spirit.
Intervention on Behalf of Another
It was the responsibility of the Levitical priesthood to represent a sinner before the Creator God and offer sin offerings and peace offerings before him on behalf of the sinner in order to heal the breach between the sinner and God. During the gospel age of salvation, it is the responsibility of each priest in the household of God to care for the spiritual welfare of their fellow priests.
When one becomes aware that a brother or sister in the faith has committed or is committing a sin in ignorance that is not a capital sin, which requires the death penalty, one has the duty to go to the Father on behalf of the errant brother or sister to reconcile that person with the Father:
"If anyone sees a brother commit a sin that will not bring the death penalty, that one shall ask, and the Father shall give that person life that does not commit a sin worthy of death. There is a sin worthy of death. I'm not saying to pray for that one. All unrighteousness is sin: but there are sins that are not worthy of death" (1.Jn.5:16-17 Para.).
The intervention on behalf of one's brother or sister in the faith under these circumstances shows one's love and concern and automatically restores a harmonious relationship between the Father, Jesus Christ, and the errant brother or sister in the faith.
"Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, salutes you, and is always persevering for you in prayers, that you will stand perfect and complete in the will of God" (Col.4:12 Para.).
"To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God, whom I serve from my forefather's with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of you in my prayers night and day" (2.Tim.1:2-3 KJV). See 1.Thes.3:10; 1.Tim.1:5-6.
Not only does the Father require his children to intervene on behalf of one another in situations concerning sins that are not worthy of death, but also on behalf of people who are not of the brotherhood concerning things that do not involve sin. God the Father and Jesus Christ are concerned for all people and expect the elect to share this same concern and express the godly characteristics of concern, compassion, and love to other people as well as those of the household of God:
"I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior" (1.Tim.2:1-3 KJV).
Not only was it the responsibility of the Levitical priesthood to teach the ways of God, but also to make people who were sinning aware that they were violating God's law, so they could repent and seek atonement in order have their sins covered and remove the barrier that they had placed between themselves and God by the violation of his law.
When one of the elect becomes aware that a brother or sister in the faith has committed or is committing a sin that will cause them to lose their opportunity for salvation and eternal life, it is the responsibility of the one who has become aware of the sin to go to the one who is sinning and show them the error of their ways in an attempt to restore them to the faith and save them from eternal death:
"Brethren, if a man is overtaken in a fault, you that are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering yourself ,lest you are tempted. Bear you one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal.6:1-2 KJV).
"Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converts the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins" (Jms.5:19-20 KJV).
If a brother or sister in the faith is made aware of their sin and they acknowledge and repent of their error, and reestablish a harmonious relationship with the Father and his Son, the one who made them aware of the sin has fulfilled their responsibility as a priest in the household of God and saved their brother or sister for eternal death.
Censure, Reprimand, and Punishment
Just as the priesthood of ancient Israel were to adjudicate problems between people, make judgments of censure, reprimand, and sentence the incorrigibly wicked to punishment, so are the Father's priesthood. If a brother or sister in the Father's household will not acknowledge their sin and repent after being made aware of sin in their life, censure, reprimand, or punishment must be applied (Matthew chapter 18) in an attempt to bring the person to repentance and save them from eternal death.
Service Within the Temple
The third area of responsibility concerns the performance of one's priestly office within the Father's temple. Although everything one does in one's spiritual life requires the temple for its performance, there is one aspect of this performance that concerns the private relationship between the Father and each individual that he has called to become his son. This aspect concerns one's innermost thoughts that are shared with the Father and one's personal relationship with him.
Become Living Sacrifices
"Therefore, brothers, I call on you through the mercies of God to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service. And do not be conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Rom.12:1-2 Para.). See also Jms.1:5-8.
Although being a living sacrifice can consist of the giving of one's time, effort and physical goods for a righteous purpose, the kind of sacrifice that Paul speaks of is spiritual in nature, which means that what is performed as a sacrifice has eternal benefits. Sacrifices of this nature are considered most pleasing to the Father because they are a reflection of one's righteous spiritual attitude.
Notice also that Paul says to avoid being conformed to this world, which means that one should be conformed to the ways of God instead. Conforming to God's ways requires a transformation of the mind from a worldly way of thinking to a righteous way of thinking. This kind of mental change can only be done through yielding to the righteous law, precepts, principles, and concepts that the Father and his Son hold to be true and beneficial. The transformation and renewal of one's mind takes a determined conscious effort to perform the Father's will for one's life.
Praise the Father
"For here we do not have a continuing city [earthly Jerusalem], but we seek the city to come [heavenly Jerusalem]. Then through him [Jesus] let us always offer up a vocal sacrifice of praise to God the Father by confessing his name" (Heb.13:14-15 Para.).
The giving of praise to the Father (i.e., the acknowledging and declaring his greatness) cannot be done in the same way that the priests and people of ancient Israel gave praise to the Creator God for several reasons. One reason is because that the first agreement with national Israel has been canceled; therefore, no formal worship or praise of God can be performed at a temple in Jerusalem until the Messiah returns to ratify the new covenant and establish a new temple with a priesthood from the bloodline of Zadok. Another reason is that the Father's children must not worship him in temples made with hands; they must worship and praise him in spirit within his earthly temples, which they are. See Jn.4:19-24.
The personal and private acknowledgment and declaration of the Father's greatness to him by his children is very pleasing to him and is considered a spiritual sacrifice, because it comes from the heart of those whom he dearly loves and shows him that they also love him.
Draw Near to the Father
"Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. . ." (Jms.4:8 KJV).
One of the ways that the Father's children draw near to him is through continual personal communication with him through the voicing of one's praise of him and the voicing of one's gratitude to him for all that he has given and promises to give. Drawing near to the Father means spending time with him in prayer and in the personal study and meditation of his word. Our time is our life. When we spend time with the Father it shows him that we are serious about building and maintaining a harmonious relationship with him.
Request an Audience with the Father
The prophet Jeremiah recorded the Creator God's desire to communicate with his chosen people and show them the wonders of his awesome realm and the great things that he wanted to share with them:
"Call upon me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know" (Jer.33:3 KJV).
Remember that the Creator God became Jesus Christ and Jesus reflected the mind, character, and desires of the Father. The Father also wants to communicate with each and every one of his first-born children to show them the wonders of his awesome realm and the great things that he wants to share with them. The way is always open for this personal communication with the Father. All one has to do is take the time to call upon him.
Work Out Your Own Salvation
"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but also in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Because it is God who works in you, both to will and to do his good pleasure. Do everything without grumbling and arguing so that you will be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without reprimand, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world" (Phil.2:13-15 Para.).
One of the things that one must do within the Father's earthly temple is work out one's own salvation. Working out one's own salvation is a personal task between God the Father and each of his children. No one else can do this work for another person, because only the Father and his Son can know the mind and the heart of one who is called to salvation. Therefore, this extremely personal work is something that one can only do within the temple where the spirit of the Father and the Son reside.
The opportunity that is given to each person who is called to participate in the Father's holy nation and royal household is almost beyond the ability of the human mind to comprehend. What it means to be among the very few humans chosen before the foundation of the earth to be one of the Father's first-born children and to be offered eternal and immortal life as a ruler in his kingdom and a priest within his temple is beyond the capability of human words or emotions to express.
Concerning the opportunity that the Israelites were given to participate in this awesome calling, the prophet Amos recorded this prophecy concerning their disregard for what they had been offered:
"Only you have I known out of all the families on earth; therefore I will punish you for your lawlessness. Can two walk together, except they are in agreement?" (Am.3:2-3).
This prophecy of Amos also applies to the Father's elect children today, because his elect children today are his holy nation and his royal priesthood who must learn his perfect way of life and live as examples of that way while preparing to rule and lead humanity after his kingdom is established on earth by Jesus Christ.
The prophecies of Habakkuk 1:5, Daniel chapters 11 and 12, Acts 13:40-41, and Rev.3:7-10 show that, just before Jesus returns, he is going to give many who are obedient to the faith tremendous opportunities to serve him and his Father. Because of their obedience to God and their diligence in performing their responsibilities, the elect in this category will be found worthy to escape the horror that will take place during the end of the age (Lk.21:34-36; Rev.7:1-3; 12:12:6).
The Creator God brought the Israelites out of Egypt because he had a job for them to do and a purpose for their existence as a nation. These people were called to be a nation of priests who would represent God and his plan for the salvation of humanity to the world as they practiced his way of life to perfection. Today, the Father's elect are called to these same responsibilities and more.
From what has been presented in this study, it should be apparent that the Father's royal household and holy nation is not a social club; it is a place to grow in spiritual grace and knowledge, a place to obtain a spiritual education, a place to fulfill the responsibilities that one has been called to perform today, and a place to prepare for one's future responsibilities as a spirit-being in the Kingdom of God. Therefore, in order to be a viable and productive member in the Family of God, it is the responsibility of one who is called to participate in the Father's royal household and his holy nation to seek an understanding of one's specific calling and the wisdom to make the right decisions concerning this great opportunity.
By B.L Cocherell, file b6w15