Standing as Priests

Last Sunday, I preached about Paul’s fourfold command to stand in Ephesians 6:10-14. In that sermon, I presented three large implications for standing firm against the schemes of the devil and for withstanding the cosmic powers over this present darkness. Within the second of those points, I cited Hebrews 10:11-14, which presents pointed contrast between the standing of the priests of Levi and Jesus being seated after offering His sacrifice. In this post, I would like to briefly explore a trail of thought from this passage that I did not feel would fit the flow of the overall sermon. Let us reacquaint ourselves with Hebrews 10:11-14 and dive in:

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Clearly presented here is the continual work of the Levites, who stood to perform sacrifice after sacrifice though none were sufficient to remove sin. Christ, however, made a single sacrifice, and its efficiency is evident by His ability to sit down, having accomplished the work set before Him. Therefore, we noted the wonder that Paul calls us to stand, even as in Ephesians 2:6 he also noted that we are seated with the Father in Christ.

Yet Christ as our great High Priest has not been entirely eliminated the priesthood per se; instead, He has instituted a far greater priesthood that is rooted in His perfect priesthood. 1 Peter 2:9 gives a four-part description of every believer’s new status and identity in Christ, saying that we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.” Each description is emphasizing our placement within the new humanity that Christ is creating. God’s people, the church, are now a nation within all the nations and a race within all ethnicities. We still belong to our physical ethnicities and nationalities, yet a greater spiritual race and citizenship has been formed.

Within this context of belonging to a kingdom that is both separate and distinct from and yet within and among the kingdoms of the world, we are able to properly understand our status as belonging to a royal priesthood. The role of priest is to act as a mediator between God and men, and even as Christ is the perfect Mediator between us and God, as His disciples we are now commanded to also make disciples of all nations. We are to be little mediators. We are a people who have been reconciled to God through Christ, and now we gladly proclaim that same reconciliation to all who will listen to our good news. In this way, we are serving as God’s priesthood to the world around us, constantly beckoning sinners to be brought into new life through the sacrificial atonement of Jesus Christ.

And contrary to what many believe, this plan of God began in the Old Testament. From Mount Sinai, God declared to the Israelites this word: “you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). God’s intention was always for His people to be a beacon of His light within a world plunged in darkness. The shift of the New Testament is, as we said, that God’s people are no longer visible nation upon the earth; we instead exist as a people within all the peoples of the earth, a nation within the nations.

Therefore, even as Christ has been seated at the Father’s right hand and seated us with Him, we are still standing today as God’s royal priesthood, offering our very lives as living sacrifices to God that the world around us might come to our great High Priest for forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.

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