Woon Hin Swee
What is our purpose for salvation? A common belief is that the Christian faith is a means by which you are saved through faith in Jesus Christ, so that your sins are forgiven, your soul escapes hell and damnation forever, and you are blessed by God.
While this is the truth, it is not all there is to why Jesus died for us. In fact, we were saved to be granted access to the larger calling that God had prepared for His people: to be a priesthood.
Such a term may elude our modern understanding and we can find it hard to apply what it means to be a priest in our day and age. Thankfully, the answer is actually simpler than you would imagine. Hinging on the 12th instalment of the Unstoppable sermon series preached by Elder Woon, we explore the practical application of living as a priest unto the Lord today.
a. Can you think of a person in your life who demonstrates a similar lifestyle? What is to be admired about this person? What is to be disliked?
b. Based on Stephen’s ministry appointment (see Acts 6:2-5), do you think that he was an individual with a public and prominent standing? Why is his story significant?
a. Why does Stephen make this speech? What is he making a case for? Refer to Acts 6:8-15 for the context.
b. Read Acts 7:2-34. Identify the various incidents that the family line of Abraham had been threatened, and contemplate on God’s steadfastness and sovereignty prevailing throughout the timeline. Respond by giving thanks and lifting up worship to Him as a group, and consider how these qualities change the way we view the events of our world today.
c. Meditate on verses 6-7 with further reference to Exodus 19:4-6. What was God’s ultimate purpose for delivering His people?
d. Read Acts 7:35-40. Why did the Israelite ancestors reject Moses’ leadership, in turn, rejecting God? What are other instances in the Bible where the Israelites’ rejection of God takes place?
e. What was God’s response to the Israelites’ rejection?
a. Acts 7:44-50 tells us how God instructed His people to build Him a dwelling place (reference Exodus 25:8)
i. What does verse 48 tell us about God’s true intention for a dwelling place?
b. Scripture tells us that ever since Jesus paid for our sins on the cross, we are now able to enter into God’s presence (Hebrews 10:19-22). Not only that, the priesthood is no longer reserved for the Levites alone (Revelation 1:6, Revelation 5:10, 1 Peter 2:9), and that God now dwells in a new temple – our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
i. Now that our bodies are the temple of God, how do we keep the fire of the Holy Spirit burning within us?
ii. Refer back to the description of Stephen in Acts 6:8-15. What does this tell us about what it looks like to be God’s temple now?
iii. Can the Holy Spirit abandon the body of the believer? Read Ephesians 1:13-14.
a. How does the response of the people affect our thoughts and feelings about being priests and a temple?
b. What does Stephen’s martyrdom mean for us?
WHAT WILL YOU DO
As believers, we are given a gift of the Holy Spirit, who dwells inside of us. In His dwelling, He renews us by writing the law of God in our hearts (Hebrews 10:16), sanctifies us by empowering us to turn from our sinful behaviour and live in alignment with Him (2 Corinthians 3:18), and also gives us the ability to expand His Kingdom by doing His works (John 14:12).
How do we know the Holy Spirit is at work within us? Here are some ways He speaks:
Let us not quench the Holy Spirit’s communication line with us. As a royal priesthood and the temple of God, we are called to cultivate and fan the flame of the Spirit who dwells within us. As we do so, we can grow confident in leaning on His leading! Adventures of a purpose-driven life await when we learn to walk in partnership with the Holy Spirit!
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light;” – 1 Peter 2:9 NKJV
At first every man was his own priest, and presented his own sacrifices before God. Afterwards that office devolved on the head of the family, as in the cases of Noah (Genesis 8:20), Abraham (12:7 ; 13:4), Isaac (26:25), Jacob (31:54), and Job (Job 1:5).
The name first occurs as applied to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18). Under the Levitical arrangements the office of the priesthood was limited to the tribe of Levi, and to only one family of that tribe, the family of Aaron. Certain laws respecting the qualifications of priests are given in Leviticus 21:16-23. There are ordinances also regarding the priests’ dress (Exodus 28:40-43) and the manner of their consecration to the office (29:1-37).
Their duties were manifold (Exodus 27:20 Exodus 27:21 ; 29:38-44 ; Leviticus 6:12 ; 10:11 ; 24:8 ; Numbers 10:1-10 ; Deuteronomy 17:8-13 ; 33:10 ; Malachi 2:7). They represented the people before God, and offered the various sacrifices prescribed in the law.
“The priests were not distributed over the country, but lived together in certain cities [forty-eight in number, of which six were cities of refuge, q.v.], which had been assigned to their use. From thence they went up by turns to minister in the temple at Jerusalem. Thus the religious instruction of the people in the country generally was left to the heads of families, until the establishment of synagogues, an event which did not take place till the return from the Captivity, and which was the main source of the freedom from idolatry that became as marked a feature of the Jewish people thenceforward as its practice had been hitherto their great national sin.”
The whole priestly system of the Jews was typical. It was a shadow of which the body is Christ. The priests all prefigured the great Priest who offered “one sacrifice for sins” “once for all” (Hebrews 10:10 Hebrews 10:12). There is now no human priesthood. (See Epistle to the Hebrews throughout.) The term “priest” is indeed applied to believers (1 Peter 2:9 ; Revelation 1:6), but in these cases it implies no sacerdotal functions. All true believers are now “kings and priests unto God.” As priests they have free access into the holiest of all, and offer up the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, and the sacrifices of grateful service from day to day.