Sunday, 1 November 2015

The Communion of the Priesthood. ~ Ganeida

This is a communion Sunday & so we focus particularly on some aspect of the Christian walk that is demonstrated in communion.  I say it this way because the best definition of a Christian is someone who is following Jesus.  

When we come to communion we come with a predetermined set of expectations based on our upbringing & denominational  background.  Nearly all of us grew up with the understanding that only an ordained minister could administer communion & he must be male ~ & this despite the fact 1 Peter 2:9 says very clearly:  But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.

So the first thing I would like to point out is that the word for Church in the Greek is ekklesia;  the word for chosen is eklektos.

The meaning is the same ~ people called out of their homes to gather together in public. Remember ekklesia was originally a political term. Ekletos has a sense of personal responsibility attached to its meaning. It also carries a lot of the same definition as hagios ~ holy ~ separated from common usage; dedicated; righteous.

It is important we understand that when we accept Christ as Lord & Saviour we have a positional shift.  We have been called out from amongst those who are perishing.  We are a new creation.  We are declared righteous in God’s sight through the precious blood of his son, Jesus.  Thus we are equipped to stand in the office of priest.

This was God’s original intent & purpose in separating Israel out from among the other nations, [ex 19:6] then separating the Levites from the other Israelites.  He was looking for the *peculiar people* who would serve Him with the single eye & the undivided heart.

Israel failed ~ spectacularly.  But out of Israel the Messiah was born & he met all the critea of the Torah & all of the qualifications for priesthood. Remember when the High priest was preparing to transfer the priesthood to his son, the son had to submerge in water for purification.  Holy oil was then poured on his head & the high priest publically declared that this was his son.  This is what we see with Jesus’ baptism by John in the Jordan River: the submersion; the anointing of the Holy Spirit; the public acknowledgement by the Father.

As believers this is our pattern: baptism, the infilling with the Spirit; a public acknowledgement that we are the Father’s & as such no longer members of the kingdom of Darkness.

We have looked at the ceasation of the temple sacrifices: the stone for the Lord coming up in the wrong hand on the Day of Atonement because the Lamb of God has arrived; the red thread on the scapegoat no longer turning white because the once & final sacrifice has been made for sin & no scapegoat will again be an acceptable sin offering; the candle in the Holy of Holies going out because now we have the Light of the World to guide us; the fire on the alter replaced with the fire of the Holy Spirit; the bread from the shew table replaced by the Bread of Life.

In Matthew 26 we read how Caiaphas the high priest ripped his garment, declaring Jesus a blasphemer.  By ripping his garment he voided the office he held. We see the transference of the High Priestly Office begin here.  As Jesus goes to the cross as the perfect sacrifice for sin the Office of High Priest in Israel stands vacant.  It cumulates in the last words Jesus uttered from the cross:  It is finished. These were the words the High Priest uttered as the last Paschal lamb was sacrificed. The Old Order has passed; the new has begun.

We now have a new covenant with better promises. Hebrews 8:6 Part of this new covenant is we have become priests according to the order of Melchizedek.  Melchizedek was both a priest & a king ~ the only person in all of scripture who served in both roles.  We don’t have to be born into a priestly family as the Levites did.  No.  We only have to accept Jesus.

Now if we are following the pattern of Melchizedek we have two functions: king & priest.  One is to rule.  The other is to serve the living God.  We understand the name of Jesus is our authority to rule but do we understand our priestly role?

If we look at the Old Testament pattern the first responsibility of the priesthood was to draw near to God; In the morning; at noon; & in the evening.
Numbers 16:5  And he [Moses] spoke unto Korah and unto all his company, saying, "Even tomorrow the LORD will show who are His, and who is holy; and will cause him to come near unto Him: even him whom He has chosen will He cause to come near unto Him.

In English the word priest has a root meaning first. So the priest goes first then others will follow.  Jesus is the first fruits, the High Priest.  Where he leads we are meant to follow. We follow Jesus into the presence of God but we are meant to be leading others as well! And so part of our job is to stand between God & intercede for the world as salt & light but we are also meant to show others how to come into the presence of God.

In our studies we have seen how the priesthood operated in the O.T.  We learnt how they offered sacrifices & brought the forgiveness of sins & reconciliation to the people.  So too we are meant to offer our bodies as living sacrifices because we are not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. [Romans 2:1/2]

So what are these living sacrifices?  You know them, though you may not have seen them as your priestly duty.  There are private sacrifices: Prayer. Praise. Studying the word, reading the word. Done conscientiously they require time.  That is a sacrifice.
There are public sacrifices: Preach the gospel [which is a directive to all believers][Mark 16:15], the ministry of reconciliation [2 Cor 5:18], healing…serving in whatever capacity the Holy Spirit has gifted you.

So you see, every believer is equipped to minister the Lord’s Supper.  We are already priests following after our High Priest. We understand that Jesus partook of Passover & the very first communion was a part of that celebration.  That makes sense in the context of the old order giving way to the new. 

We have been taught since we were children that the bread symbolises Christ’s body broken for our healing & the wine is representative of his blood, shed for our redemption from sin.  We were told to remember his death & resurrection every time we partook of communion. Lost in the larger symbolism Christ says something very interesting indeed.

 “I have looked forward to this hour with deep longing, anxious to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins”.

Why?  What is it that Jesus is saying to the disciples?  I don’t think he had a death wish.  And I don’t think he was a masochist.  I think the clue lies in the final cup. We have talked about the symbolism of the different cups at Passover.  The last one is the cup of the kingdom.

We have also talked about the great hallel being sung before they left for the garden & that Jesus referenced  several psalms from the cross, all of which declared His utmost trust in God the Father.

Jesus is the Living Word of God.  He more than anyone knew , Ye, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil… Through.  What is on the other side of that valley?

Psalm 24:3-6
Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?
He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah.

Jesus didn’t have his sight set on the suffering but the prize.  He has ascended the hill of the Lord.  He has stood in the Holy Place ~ & what will he do there?  He is the first fruits.  Our high priest. We receive blessing & righteousness from Him. We are the generation that has sought His face. Christ is looking forward to the day when we will join him.  Until then we remember!

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