The Royal Priesthood and the Nations

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Passages for Further Study

The whole nation had a priestly function: they were to be a consecrated and holy people Deut. Moses was explicitly commanded to inform the children of Israel of their calling Exod. In other words, they had to know about their new status. He did not choose Israel as His people because they were numerous, impressive, or significant in themselves.

His election was in fulfillment of His covenant promises Deut. The requirement of obedience is made emphatic elsewhere, for instance in Deuteronomy —19, where God promises praise, fame, and honor for an obedient and consecrated people. The covenant was initiated by a sovereign God and confirmed through the shedding of blood Gen. Exodus —8 records a fascinating event of covenant making, as Moses read the book of the covenant and sprinkled the people with sacrificial blood.

New Testament Christians also have a holy calling as priests and kings. The New Testament deliberately employs the language of Exodus 19 to describe the royal priesthood of the church 1 Pet. The passages are excellent examples of the continuity between the Old Testament people of God and New Testament believers. Peter writes to a persecuted and scattered church 1 Pet. The status of believers now a people, having received mercy is clearly contrasted with their previous condition not a people, not receiving mercy. The church is also given an unmistakably evangelical task—to proclaim the excellencies of the One who called them out of darkness into light.

What Does the Bible Say About Royal Priesthood?

The terminology of a royal priesthood is also used in the book of Revelation. Scripture, then, from Exodus to Revelation, testifies to the position of believers as royal priests. Their commission is evangelical: testifying to the nations of the mercy and greatness of the Triune God. But when a commitment to the priesthood of all believers is lost, the church invariably loses its vitality and mission. A hallmark of the Reformation was the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. The Roman Church was hierarchical, priest-ridden and ecclesiastically dominated.

Protestant Reformers were intent on developing a more Biblical view of the Christian priesthood. At the beginning of the Reformation, for instance, Martin Luther stressed the priesthood of all believers. He especially disliked the authoritarian papacy and the corrupt priesthood. The higher and lower callings, as in the prior distinctions between monks and laity, are abolished.

King James Version (KJV)

The doctrine of the priesthood of believers influenced Reformed polity. The most recent issue of Church History includes an excellent comparative article on the ruling eldership. Presbyterian eldership illustrates the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. In this new kind of authoritarian, quasi-Presbyterian polity, the minister functions as the official priest-bishop, and elders and deacons are considered but lay helpers.

And I also gathered that neither had a high view of the eldership. Hierarchical churches will vigorously oppose Biblical Presbyterianism and despise the Reformation doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. In The Institutes of Biblical Law , Rushdoony shows the importance and relevance of the doctrine of the royal priesthood. In his task of dominion, man acted as a king or a vice-regent subduing and protecting the earth. The church has the responsibility of equipping the saints to do the work of ministry and service.

The church trains priestly princes and princesses. It is a functional, not a terminal, institution. Rushdoony further argues that Christian leaders are necessary in every sphere of action: in the church, the state, education, and various vocations.

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In the Old Testament, the leaders of these spheres were called elders , those with age, wisdom, and the ability to rule in their various spheres of calling. Rushdoony does not want an ecclesiastical apparatus to control all aspects of life. Those who present him this way—and many have—clearly misunderstand him. The elder [ elder is used generically for leader] is not governed by the church as a subordinate officer who is sent out as an imperial agent into the world. Rather, the elder governs in his sphere, even as the church in her area, each as imperial agents of Christ the King.

Hierarchical institutions, and particularly the state, bitterly resent the Christian royal priesthood. How, then, can Christians be successful in their spheres of influence? How can they serve as priests and vice-regents under Christ the King?

How can they retard the centralization of institutional and statist power? Most importantly, how can they, as royal priests, best serve Jesus, their Savior and King? Christians must have a sense of calling. They are called as priests and kings, and that is an honorable status.

They are called to service, and they perform labor of eternal value. I do a good deal of hiring in my job, and I look for Christians who have a sense of calling and mission. I know that when committed Christians work, they will labor as unto the Lord Eph.

King James Bible

A few years ago, I hired a secretary who had a special vocational goal. She wanted to be a servant of Christ at a Christian university. I liked that; it is exactly the sense of calling I want in employees. Later, to my wife, the secretary gave a corollary goal—to make her boss look good. My wife liked that! She had a clear macro-goal: to serve Jesus. She also had a clear micro-goal: to be a servant to her immediate supervisor.

This is precisely what royal priests should do. Christians must be willing to serve. Those who view themselves as servants will be willing to work, and to work hard. They will be less inclined to whine and complain.

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  4. Royal priests must be willing to work faithfully, as unto the Lord. Sometimes Christian service involves dull and uninspiring tasks. I know of one church where elders, at their ordinations, are issued brooms.

    Sabbath Afternoon

    It is a reminder that, first of all, they are servants. Most churches, however, have a problem. These efforts not only relieve discomfort and pain, they also brighten the smiles, lift the spirits, and gladden the hearts of homeless patients. In the Philippines, the Church provides assistance to the Mabuhay Deseret Foundation, which aids hundreds of children to receive operations to repair deformed palates and lips and to correct untreated fractures or burns. Children once shunned now live normal lives. Generous contributions of wearing apparel to Deseret Industries are being used to clothe men, women, and children around the world.

    Clothing is sorted, sized, and shipped to locations as far distant as Romania, Peru, Zimbabwe, and Sierra Leone, as well as to cities in North America. This clothing has warmed and comforted those exiled in refugee centers and orphanages. The bright patterns and sound fabrics considered surplus by the donors are now new and wonderful attire to the aged and impoverished. Much of this food starts its long journey on production projects managed by local agent stakes. Food is processed and packaged in Church canneries and distributed through storehouses, where Church welfare recipients and volunteers labor to assist their poor and needy neighbors within and outside the Church.

    Far away in the foothills on the western slopes of Mt.

    Kenya, along the fringe of the colossal Rift Valley, pure water is coming to the thirsty people. A potable water project has changed the lives of 1, families. In cooperation with TechnoServe, a private voluntary organization, the Church is assisting in a project that will pipe drinkable water through twenty-five miles of pipes to waiting homes in a fifteen-village area.

    The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ provides all of us this cherished blessing. Brethren of the priesthood, each of us is so employed. An example of true love and inspired teaching was found in the life of the late James Collier, who had, through his personal efforts, reactivated a large number of brethren in the Bountiful, Utah, area. I was invited by Brother Collier to address those who had now been ordained elders and who, with their wives and families, had been to the Salt Lake Temple to receive those eternal covenants and blessings for which they had so earnestly strived.

    At the banquet honoring this achievement, I could see and I could feel the love that Jim had for those whom he had taught and rescued. Unfortunately, Jim Collier at that time was afflicted with a terminal illness and had to persuade the doctors to allow him to leave the hospital to attend this final night of recognition. As he stood at the pulpit, a large smile came over his face.

    With tear-filled eyes, he expressed his love to the group. His funeral service was held just a few weeks later. May I conclude with two experiences from my own life: one from boyhood, one from manhood. When I was a deacon, I loved baseball; in fact, I still do. My friends and I would play ball in a small alleyway behind the houses where we lived. The quarters were cramped but all right, provided you hit straight away to center field. However, if you hit the ball to the right of center, disaster was at the door.

    Here lived a lady who would watch us play, and as soon as the ball rolled to her porch her English setter would retrieve the ball and present it to Mrs. Shinas as she opened the door.

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