THE BIG CONTROVERSY – Are Church Age Believers Priest?
We have all heard the phrase, “priesthood of the believer,” But are Church Age believers Priests? Many authorities say yes while many others say no. It appears to be a “split decision,” but is the priesthood of believers supported by Scripture? It all comes down to how one understands (2Ti 2:15), “be diligent to present thyself approved to God–a workman irreproachable, rightly dividing the word of the truth.” This is Young’s Literal Translation, which matches both the KJV and the Greek: (G3718) to make a straight cut, i.e. (figuratively) to dissect (expound) correctly (the divine message): translated, “rightly divide.” To “handle,” as many translations read, is obviously an error. It is not the “handling of the word (whatever that means), it’s the “correctly” dividing, examining, the word. In other words, CONTEXT! Context – who is speaking to whom about what, when, where, and why. What effect does 2 Timothy 2:15 have on whether the Church represents a priesthood or not? The Context makes the distinction clear!
Examine the Scriptures, just as the Bereans did, to understand what the function of a priests actually is. Then, read through the New Testament (especially John and the Pauline epistles) to understand what the function of the Church is. Simply, the function of the priesthood it to represent the people and plead their case before God. Conversely, the function of the Church, in this dispensation of Grace, as representatives – ambassadors – of God, is to plead with the people on God’s behalf. Priests plead upwards to God. God pleads downwards, through Christ and His Church, to the people. Salvation is a free gift from God to the mankind, offered through preaching of the Gospel of Grace by the Church (God’s official representatives on earth). Salvation can be offered because Jesus Christ, the Divine, offered Himself in our place as payment for our transgressions against a Holy and loving God. This is the commission and function of the Church – to present this gospel, this “Good News” to the world
- “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” Joh 3:16.
To better understanding the difference between the function of priests and the Church – that is, “rightly dividing the word” – consider the following:
Who are the priests? God, in establishing His plan of redemption for humanity, says to Moses, “And you shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak unto the children of Israel” Ex 19:6. Peter, clearly speaking to the Jews (1Pe 1:1-2) says to them, “and ye [are] a choice race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people acquired, that the excellences ye may shew forth of Him who out of darkness did call you to His wondrous light” 1Pe 2:9. Young properly translates the word “kin” as race.
Speaking of Israel, God continues, “Who in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy” 1Pe 2:10. This is not the Gentiles. This is not the Church. It is Israel, the obedient, the remnant. God says to Israel, “Then said God, Call his name Loammi: for you are not my people, and I will not be your God” Ho 1:9.
“As he says also in Hosea, I will call them my people, who were not my people (Israel); and her beloved, who was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, You are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God” Ro 9:25-26 – See Hosea 2:23.
In no sense has the Church ever been called a kin, a race, or a nation. In Re 1:6; 5:10; 20:6 Israel is also referenced as priests. Conformation of this is embedded in Ezekiel chapters 40 – 48 which describes the millennial Temple and defines those who serve in it – like the sons of Zadok, “And the chamber whose prospect [is] toward the north [is] for the priests, the keepers of the charge of the altar: these [are] the sons of Zadok among the sons of Levi, which come near to the LORD to minister unto him” Eze 40:46 KJV.
The sons of Zadok serve along with all the Levites, “And the Levites . . . they shall be ministers in my sanctuary, [having] charge at the gates of the house, and ministering to the house: they shall slay the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister unto them” Eze 44:10-11 KJV. A reading of Ezekiel 44:10-14 provides a complete explanation.
Did you observe that the Levites are sacrificing “burnt offerings” for the people. Keep in mind, the millennium is reigned over by Christ – who is seated on David’s throne – through Israel. Thus, Israel rules over the nation, not all of whom are yet redeemed. Children are being born and will need to come to Christ as their Lord and Savior to find eternal life.
The point: Offering “up” burnt sacrifices is the function of priests, not of Apostles and not of the Church, ambassadors of God and Christ (2 Cor 5:20).
Having reconciled us unto Himself by Jesus Christ, He has also given to us the ministry of reconciliation. Having brought us into this blessed position through grace, He calls us to make it known to others and lead others to Him. What we have received we are to use in our ministry. And every reconciled one is
called into His service to exercise the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18) and be soul-winners.
“We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. Him who knew no sin, He hath made sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” This is the great message of the true minister, and all believers can be true ministers and proclaim the message in Christ’s stead and point sinners to the cross, where He who knew no sin was made sin for us, where redemption full and free is offered to all.”
Gaebelein’s Annotated Bible
Israel was given a mission by God in the wilderness and that mission will be carried out during Christ’s thousand-year reign.
Numbering The Apostles
“And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both 1Peter, and 2James, and 3John, and 4Andrew, 5Philip, and 6Thomas, 7Bartholomew, and 8Matthew, 9James the son of Alphaeus, and 10Simon the Zealot, and 11Judas the brother of James. (Ac 1:13) . . . And they cast their lots; and the lot fell upon 12Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles” Ac 1:26.
How Many Apostles Are There?
So far, counting 13Paul, “a slave of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle and singled out for God’s good news” Romans 1:1, we have thirteen – (eliminating Judas “the son of perdition” Joh 17:12).
14James, the half-brother of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem church—Galatians 1:19.
15Barnabas – Ac 14:14.
16Apollos – 1 Cor 4:6-9 (“…us apostles…” v.9).
17Timothy and 18Silvanus – 1 Thes 1:1; 2:6.
19Epaphroditus – Phil 2:25. Although many Bibles translate at this verse the Greek word apostolon as minister, it is actually apostle as in Young’s Literal Translation, “And I thought [it] necessary Epaphroditus–my brother, and fellow-workman, and fellow-soldier, and your apostle and servant to my need–to send unto you…”
20-21Two unnamed apostles – 2 Cor 8:23 Again, this is translating apostolon as “messenger” rather than “apostle,” as it should be. Now we have 21 apostles including the 12 and Paul.
Obviously, the initial Twelve are special in their calling, ministry, authority and power, as they were the ones Jesus specifically chose to begin His ministry. In Rev 21:14 they are mentioned as being the foundations of the new city. They are those who Paul called “chiefest or most eminent” in 2 Cor 11:5! That should give some idea to their special status amongst the Church.
Beyond the 21, there are potentially two more apostles mentioned in Rom 16:7, 22Andronicus and 23Junias, who are called “prominent among the apostles.” Theologians argue the meaning of the phrase “prominent among the apostles.” Were they prominent as apostles or simply “prominent” in their work? Considering the definition of apostle – a delegate; specially, an ambassador of the Gospel – they seem to fit right in, especially because Andronicus and Junias are kinsmen of Paul, blood relations who came to Christ before him (Rom 16:7).
If we include them, it raises the count 23. And if we include 24Jesus, “the apostle and high priest of our confession“ Heb 3:1, then we have 24 apostles mentioned throughout the N.T.
Curiously, there are twenty-four elders encircling God’s throne in Rev 4:4. Including Jesus Christ, the “most eminent” of the apostle, our count is also twenty-four. Coincidence? (Probably, but curious).
One of the qualifications of being an apostle is that you had to have seen Jesus after His resurrection. Paul makes this clear in 1 Cor 9:1 where he says, “have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?” Paul says in, “And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of over five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain until now, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one untimely born” 1Co 15:5-8. Considering the Biblical text, it is quite reasonable to believe that all of the twenty-three people we numbered above had seen our risen Lord. Luke mentions in Ac 2:5, “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.” These people came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Pentecost. In verses 6-12 Luke lists the nations. We have an Awesome God.
Maranatha – Come Lord Jesus!
Exploring Scripture~because it matters-it really does!