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Sunday, August 28, 2011

2032--priesthood of believers

            The following is a lengthening to five minutes (speaking time) of the commentary I posted in December, 2010, which was #32.  One of the notable features here is that I quote from Jon Zens’ The Pastor Has No Clothes, which was only released this year.  I guess that is one thing we can all look forward to as we live this life, both spiritually and physically, is the continual incorporating of ideas from others wiser than ourselves.

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2032—priesthood of believers

            My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  First Peter chapter 2 verses 4 to 6 say, “Coming to Him (that’s Jesus) as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 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.  Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion, A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame”.  Revelation chapter 1 verses 5 and 6 say, “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.”  Believers are the house of God, and Jesus is the Cornerstone, and every believer is a priest before God.

These scriptures speak of the church, which is God’s people, who desire to build up each other to honor Him.  According to scripture, the church is not a building or a special type of not for profit organization.  Nowhere in those scriptures describing the goings on of the New Covenant people, or any other verses, are the words church, temple, or house of God used to refer to a building or corporation.  The church is a group of believers, even where two or three are gathered.  The theologian Jon Zens has written that the modern English word that is closest to what the early church meant by “church” is “town meeting.”  First Corinthians chapter 3 verses 16 and 17 and chapter 6 verse 19 tell us that we (plural) are the temple of the Holy Spirit, the temple of God.

            A priest, both in the Old Testament and in the pagan beliefs surrounding Israel, was an intercessor between God and man.  When Jesus was tortured to death, God made an earthquake to happen that, in the temple in Jerusalem, tore the veil that separated man from the ark that represented God’s seat.  That signified that, by Jesus’ death, there was no longer a need for an intercessor between God and man.  That’s basic Christian teaching, but after faith in Jesus was made legal by the Roman Empire, one of the things that disappeared soon after was the informal encouraging of each other, replaced by a ritualistic ceremony led by one head person, who eventually was called a priest.  The people who were foremost in the Reformation recognized that the title was incorrect, but among churches that rejected the title priest, they continued to operate with one person in charge, even though First Thessalonians chapter 5 verse 11 tells us to build up each other, and that is practically impossible to do when one person feels he or she (usually he) is responsible to do all the building up, oftentimes in part to justify collecting a salary.

            In this world, I may feel more like a prisoner than a king, and in many parts of the world our brothers and sisters in Jesus may be actually prisoners, but Jesus has made us priests—we can speak to God directly in prayer, without any human intermediary, and the Spirit can communicate the groanings of our spirit, and the Spirit can speak to others through us, as scripture tells us that He gives spiritual gifts, not titles.  We are commanded to pray without ceasing.  I have come to understand that as an attitude of desiring constant communication and communion with God.  I can’t do my job, drive to work, care for my family with my eyes closed and hands folded, but God never defined that as being connected to prayer. 

            The Roman Empire either forced, or somehow allowed pagan customs into the newly organizational church.  They had buildings built over the tombs of the apostles, and named churches after the apostles, like paganism named temples after pagan deities. 

              You can email me at simplechurchminute@yahoo.com or phone me at 757-735-xxxx.  If you would like to go over what I just said at your own pace, a transcript of this talk I have on my blog, tevyebird.blogspot.com, in the entry dated August 28, 2011. You can find out more about non-corporation oriented meetings of believers at www.hrscn.org.

All the scripture quotations, above, are from NKJV.  Zens made the statement I refer to in his book, The Pastor Has No Clothes (Lincoln, NE: Ekklesia, 2011).  I said that God does not give out titles; I address 1 Timothy 3:1 in the commentaries on elders.

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