Friday, January 7, 2011

The Priesthood of All Believers and why Christian churches end up, stooping to gimmickry

Definitions:

Scriptures on the teaching of the Priesthood of all Believers:

Exodus 19:5-6 ; Psalm 50:23 ; Psalm 51:17-19 ; Psalm 141:2 ; Matthew 28:18-20 ; Hosea 14:2 ; Acts 8:1-4 ; 1 Peter 2:5-9 ; Heb. 13:10-16 ; Revelation 1:4-6

This emeritus (former Christian parish pastor) comes from a segment of Christianity which is known to highlight the “priesthood of believers” in some of its theological writings. But its “profession” of the priesthood of believers is more “lip service” than the practical embracing of the Scriptural reality. Clergy, by an large, along with their ecclesiastical [structure] “counterpart,” will not seriously teach and preach about the high privilege which Christians have regarding the priesthood of believers, because they are uncomfortable (and, perhaps, paranoid) with its reality.

Secondly, Christian clergy will not seriously preach and teach about the priesthood of believers, because they, themselves don’t have a grasp of the teaching. They simply cannot conceive that Christian discipleship is based upon Scripture's teaching that all believers in Christ are given both the calling and responsibility to communicate the Gospel – both in its narrow [God's love] and wide [God's Law and Love] sense. Generally speaking, Christian clergy [falsely and only] see themselves as the legitimate communicators of God’s Word to a fallen world.

Thirdly, it is this Christian emeritus pastor's conviction, that Christian pastors who possess their specific calling at local congregations [“mediate ‘call’”] are under the (mistaken) impression that Christ’s Great Commission to all believers usually and / or, only begins and takes place within the context of the local church. Hence, [for instance -- as, an example] when you hear a sermon at a local Christian church about “missions,” its framework is cast in denominational perspective.


Remember when Christ sent out 70 of his disciples? That was before Christian churches with their perspective leadership (structure) elders [pastors] were formed, as recorded in the Book of Acts. But "modern day" pastors of local congregations will end up making the application to the sermon, (applying this historical account, recorded in the one Gospel), to be the following [only] modern day model for the average rank-in-file church member. That “model” is to pray for seminary [or Bible college] students and to contribute to the particular “church at large,” [denomination] for those students to enter theological academic training and to graduate for the purpose of becoming ["called"] local pastors.

Most always within Christianity, is the following overlooked and discarded:

There is no New Testament Christian evidence for seminary and / or Bible school training, - none, whatsoever. The invention of formal theological training under the auspices of church hierarchy grew out of the control and manipulation of post century Christianity.

The Scriptural New Testament model is, rather straight forward, as opposed to the modern and contrived [legal] requirements of denominational and church body conferences. Read the New Testament epistles and note how elders (pastors) were selected [called] and appointed. Specifically zero in on the Book of Acts 1:1f and the "Pastoral Epistles," of 1 and 2 Timothy 1:1f - and, the book of Titus 1:1f.

Local pastors and their congregations praying for and encouraging their own membership’s discipleship tasks in the community, are as scarce as hen’s teeth. Why? -- Because of the myopic view of Christ’s Great Commission charge. [Matthew 28:18-20] Christian discipleship and ministry are most often, only understood in the context of the local [four walled] church [building]. If various church members don’t belong to this or to that [function] in the local church and aren’t busy within its structured four walls, those church members, despite their discipleship endeavors in the community and culture, are often sterotyped and viewed as lesser (committed) church members.

What is the “Priesthood of all [Christian] believers?” What is the Scriptural basis?

The Lord God’s call to all Christian believers, is to be his disciple, “priests.” Principle source Scriptures for this privileged function, are: Matthew 28:18-20 ; 1 Peter 2: 7-9 ; Acts 8:1-4 ; Revelation 1:4-6

Why is it that our culture lacks “Christian” influence and is becoming more ungodly?

Failure to understand and implement Scripture’s teaching of the Priesthood’ of all Believers thwarts the carrying out of Christ’s Great Commission Command

One of the major reasons for this decline is that of the lack of clear understanding of church [congregational] pastors and non clergy Christians. That lack of “clear understanding” is in the area of the proper role that Christians are to play in the culture, vis-à-vis Christ’s continued call to discipleship. Matthew 28:18-20 ; Luke 14:25-35 Pastors of local congregations are to proclaim by word and life, the divine revelation. [Matthew 28:18-20 ; Matthew 5:16 ; 2 Timothy 3:1f] They are also to equip the congregational saints not only to live that same divine revelation of Law and Gospel – but to practically articulate that same divine revelation of Law and Gospel by their life and voice witness. Matthew 5:16 ; Acts 1:8

A (very) large part of equipping God’s [congregational] believers is to make them aware of their high calling and privilege in the “priesthood of [all] believers.” They are the ones working in the marketplace and culture. They are (as the Scripture says) "living letters to be read by all people." [2 Corinthians 3:2] Hence, the pastor of a local congregation of believers, is to help equip its membership to intelligently preach and teach God’s written revelation, via the Scriptures, by word and life witness. Pastors who utilize the four walled church to corral church members for this and that committee, board, function and / or, activity, are not doing their job equipping [God’s] living saints for works of "ministry," as God's "royal priests" in the community and culture. 1 Peter 2: 7-9

Those pastors who view their called and ecclesiastical position as a “be all and end all,” entirely miss the mark, and disgrace their calling in playing their part in Christ’s Great Commission call to all believers. Instead, these pastors, (in effect), often manufacture for themselves, along with their church councils, a local hierarchy, impervious to the genuine needs of individual congregational members. Rather, than "building up" the "body of believers" in their local church, pastors, along with the church structure of boards and council, impede the Great Commission Call and the realization of the Priesthood of all believers for every member of the local flock.

Pastors are to pray for, preach and teach their flocks the Scriptures, and to encourage them to take the Scripture message of both God’s law and love [as revealed, in the Scriptures] into the “street” -- [the public -- wherever they work, socialize and conduct their business].

Equally important for pastors of local congregations, are to teach church members to “contend for the faith, once delivered to the saints.” [Epistle of Jude 3-4] This entails, educating -- teaching and preaching in a practical and understandable manner how members of the Christian congregation can best stand against the ever encroaching culture which would squeeze all of us, into its mold. [Romans 12:2] It is one thing to enjoy as a pastor, the congregation’s faithfulness, but to become thrilled with their ability to defend the Christian Faith in the culture, has to be most satisfying, indeed [2 Peter 1:2-11] -- that is, of course, if the pastor can lay aside his own [self] importance (pride) and humble himself. Philippians 2:3-11

Why is there often, such a huge “gulf of disconnect” between members of Christian congregations and their called pastors?

Christian churches often resort to “gimmickry,” [explained, below] because:

They no longer hold the Scripture to be God’s "inspired" (word) communication for all peoples. They no longer (either) care about Christ’s Great Commission Call – or, have lapsed into a state of indifference – allowing the cares of the culture to consume them. Matthew 13:3-23

There is a “gulf of disconnect” between members of Christian congregations and their called pastors, because there is lack of learning and understanding of the proper Scriptural “roles” to be “played” [exercised] by each party.

Christian gimmickry can range from a continued practice of church sponsored chicken dinners and / or, bingo, to [supposedly] cute church road signs.Some churches go to great lengths to advertise in the media. I’m always suspicious when I view elaborate TV or print ads –- just as I’ve been always suspicious of church “greeters.” I’ve even [jokingly] been known to state that I could tell whether a church was friendly or unfriendly, because of the “over-kill” of greeters upon entering a church. Have you ever noticed how quick and easy it is for one to be greeted – but, after the church service, there is little or no contact?

Finally, Christian churches either diminish or do away with the carrying out of Christ’s Great Commission Command, because they basically have disregarded the Scriptures of which they are to trumpet and communicate. Christian pastors often mislead their flocks. Christian church members make it unbearable for their pastors to lead and educate them. Those same church members will often avoid their Christian responsibility and duty in the community and culture and attempt to exert undue influence within the Christian congregation, thus squeezing the pastor between unreasonable demands in the local congregation and unnecessary expectations of the church [denominational] structure, exercised by stubborn and unyielding ecclesiasts [church hierarchical figures].

No local church is perfect. And, I believe that no church denomination is perfect. No matter how much a particular church body [denomination] professes itself to preach and teach the Word of God in all of its truth and purity –- there will be [and, are] “aberrations.” Local churches and their perspective church denominations are rife with under-emphasis and over-emphasis of Biblical teaching and, also sins of omission.

Friends, be encouraged. Christ stated that His church would prevail against the very “gates of hell.” [Matthew 16:13-19] As Christians confess in the words of the Apostle’s Creed – there is the “holy Christian church” – “the communion of saints.” It is to this [greater] “church” that one must belong and be a member. This membership was purchased by Christ, who was born a perfect individual; lived among the human race; suffered and was sacrificed for all human sin, to assuage God’s anger and just damnable punishment in hell for the sinner.

It is this priest's hope and prayer, that all of you reading and hearing this message, will, (by God’s grace) more fully realize Christ’s significance and impact upon your life and hereafter [eternal] destiny. Your soul is priceless. Flee to the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures for your daily guidance and comfort. And put your faith in the Triune God’s never failing gift of Christ, your Savior.

Amen.

Related Scriptures [below] -- Intended to be utilized in a simple worship format:

Also: For a couple of other (more formal) worship formats:
The Order of Morning Service
The Order of Matins

Exodus 19:5-6a: Please note, regarding this Exodus Scripture -- "Because of unbelief Israel failed to realize the promise of God, and the nation forfeited its place as God's own people. During the present age, the church occupies the favored place that Israel lost through disobedience."

[William MacDonald, "Believer's Bible Commentary, commenting on 1 Peter 2: 7-9]

Some Old Testament Background: ……Now, as the Old Testament priesthood foreshadowed Christ, so it was also a shadow of the universal priesthood of believers. According to prophecy, Christ was to have a following, a priesthood of believers, who through faith in Him would be His own, have free access to God through Him, and would serve Him in holiness and righteousness. Addressing the eternal Priest after the order of Melchiizedek, David declares: “Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power” (Ps. 110:3). God’s people of the New Testament are told (Isaiah 61:6): "But ye shall be named the priests of the Lord, men shall call you the ministers of our God.” Speaking of the time when the Levitical priesthood would be no more, God says: “For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto My name and a pure offering, for My name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of Hosts” (Mal. 1:11). With these words He predicts a priesthood not the tribe of Levi or the house of Aaron. In the New Testament we see the fulfillment of these prophecies. All believers in Christ, but only these, are priests of the Most High. Peter, contrasting believers and unbelievers, addresses the former with the words: “Unto you therefore which believe He [Christ, the chief Cornerstone] is precious: (1 Pet. 2:7, 8, 9). These words include all to whom Christ is precious, that is, all believers………. --

["The Universal Priesthood of Believers" by L.W. Spitz; Centennial Series: "The Abiding Word" -- CPH; St. Louis, 1958]Matthew 28:18-20 -- Christ's Great Commission Command [Call] --

Note: See also, John 20:22, in context. Also note other Scripture references in the above topical message.

Also, very noteworthy: ......"A Priest is not identical with Presbyter or Minister -- for one is born to be priest, one becomes a minister." All are priests, not all are ministers. There is priesthood and there is a ministry. They are not the same, yet both are God-given, and there exists between them a contrapuntal relationship........

[Above, taken from the chapter on "The Ministry," -- "The Church and Her Fellowship, Ministry, and Governance," by Professor Kurt E. Marquart; Published by The International Foundation for Lutheran Confessional Research, Fort Wayne, Indiana]



Pastor (emeritus) Nathan Bickel

Please also note: The "Words in Season" topical messages and related worship format are not intended to discourage or replace the Christian worship and assembly of Christians at their particular places of church worship. As this website's author, it is my prayer and hope, that many souls will find the topical messages, related worship format and other material, a useful and valuable Christian resource.

The Christian Faith: Parts 1-3

Note: The above sermon message (with minor editing) was previously posted online by Nathan Bickel

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