Friday, October 7, 2011

Of Kings and Priests

 In 604 a King was born in Deira, Northumbria.  A few years earlier, in Ireland, a boy was born who would later become the “apostle to the English”.  It was a time of great division both in the kingdoms of the British Isles and within the Church.  For such a time as this, did God send Oswald and Aidan.  A King.  A Priest.
Shortly after his coronation, Oswald asked for the Irish to send a Bishop to facilitate the conversion of his people to Christianity, for the majority of the population had backslidden into paganism and idolatry, and the kingdom was on the verge of crumbling into chaos and division.  Enter Aidan.  Aidan’s gentle, relational approach to evangelism slowly won the hearts and minds of the people of Northumbria and endeared himself to the beloved King Oswald.
The relationship between Oswald and Aidan shaped the course of Christian history in the West.  Only heaven will fully reveal the enormity of impact that this priest-king duo had upon the church universal and the world for that matter. Later, we will discuss how this unlikely pair modeled how kings and priests can and should work together for the glory of God and the extension of His Kingdom on earth.

Revelation 1: 5-6 states, “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth.  Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God his Father; to him be the glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."

Which are you? King? or Priest?.............................................

You might be saying to yourself, “Well I’m not a priest, and I’m certainly not a king,”  but my friend, i would have to disagree and submit to you that if you are a Christian, you are one or the other!  We may not be acting like it or functioning as we should be at this time, but our destinies and callings are wrapped up in this reality.  In fact, we are a kingdom made up of Kings and Priests.  Now that's good news! 

Please know that i understand and believe in the priesthood of all believers, but there is also a small percentage of the Body that are called to be equippers or overseers.  These, in a typical evangelical church, would be known as pastors, teachers, and evangelists.  In more liturgical churches, they would be known as priests and Bishops.  Some charismatic churches may even be so bold as to title their leaders prophets or apostles.  Regardless of the title given to these equipping and overseeing “priests”, it suffices to say that they have a distinct call from others in the body of Christ. 

This distinction does not make them better or more loved or more precious to God, it simply makes it a matter of function.  In Scripture, we can come to the conclusion, that we will not be judged according to our calling, rather by our love for God and our stewardship of the gifts, talents, and abilities He has given us.  i am fully convinced that a praying grandmother who faithfully tithed and cared for the poor will receive the same, if not greater, reward than a great evangelist who reached a million souls for Christ and did not love well. The role we play is of little consequence; rather the faithfulness we demonstrate in our role is what matters most to God and His Kingdom. 

"And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry..." Have you been called to minister in the marketplace and help support the priests in their function to equip the saints, or have you been called to equip the church for the works of ministry as an Ephesians 4 five-fold minister (apostle, prophet, teacher, evangelist, pastor)? 
Let there be no mistake, all Christians are called to ministry.  Notice the above passage says, "for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry."  There is a small percentage of Christians called to equip the saints in a full-time, vocational capacity.  This precedent is set forth in the Old Testament with the separation of the Levites for their ministry in the temple.  The remainder of Israel was called to provide for and support the work of the Levites, as well as live their lives in such a way that the nations would be drawn to God and give Him glory.  When God sets up a principle, it is usually eternal, and in the case of the equipping ministers, we can see how they fit the role of the Levites by ministering "in the temple (the Body of Christ/Church)".  Since Christ has died and risen, WE are now the temple, but the temple still needs those who have been intrusted with its care to properly steward, nourish, train, and send those who make up its stones.
With that said, let us examine the role of the “king”.  In my assumption, a “king” is anyone who exists within a realm of influence and is responsible for providing for the priests.  In other words, if you are a single mom, who works as a medical assistant at the cardiac clinic and attend a fellowship with spiritual oversight, then you are a “king”.  If you are the CEO of a fortune 500 company and happen to be a Christian, then you also are a “king.” 
  Suppose you are a financial planner, or an 8th grade Social Studies teacher, or a little league coach, or a bank teller, or someone who hangs dry-wall with a crew, you are a “king”. We have a responsibility to govern and rule our spheres of influence as such.  We also have a responsibility under the sovereign reign of the KING of kings to support the Levites (or God's priests/equipping ministers).  As kings, we have been granted a territory of influence, and the better we steward that territory, the more "land" we will be given to steward.

As kings and priests, we are not two classes of people, rather ONE community: the community of the redeemed, who happen to have different functions and roles to play within the Kingdom of our God.  There are far too many kings in the Church worldwide who think too little of themselves as a cop-out not to be used mightily by God. They think to themselves that ministry is for the priests, and miss out on their high calling in God. Instead these slaves that would be kings bury their talent in the ground and are unaware of the fearful judgment that awaits them when the KING of kings comes to call them to account.  What is the root cause of this faulty understanding between kings and priests within Christendom?

The understanding of clergy and laity in my opinion has done more harm to the Kingdom than perhaps anything.  It is the idea that those who are not clergy (or of the cloth) are simply to "pray and obey."  Scripture clearly insults this assumpption as we have seen in the passage from Ephesians 4 mentioned above.  The term laity was meant to identify those who "sit and listen" while the clergy did the "real ministry".  The clergy-laity divide has crippled the Church's mandate to extend the Kingdom. 

Instead of equipping the people to do the works of ministry, many traditions mistified the role of the priest and made them untouchable, creating a sort of "class warfare" within the Church that eventually erupted into the Protestant Reformation, where the division only continued to perpetuate except for a few name changes and a little less ritual!  It was not until the Asuza Street Revival and the Pentecostal awakening in the early 1900's that Christians began to break out of the clergy-laity divide and began to do the works of the ministry themselves! 

Thankfully, much of the church worldwide is beginning to creep back to its early apostolic roots where the saints are being equipped as ministers to affect the destiny of the world around them. The children of God are slowly beginning to realize that the Church is not the building where they go to worship on Sundays, rather it is the eclesia or called out assembly made of living, spiritual stones!  Even now, forerunners in the spirit of Elijah and John the Baptist are calling the Church out of her grave clothes and into her destiny as a nation of kings and priests; a royal priesthood!

However, there still remains a divide between the kings and priests that is continuing to slow the forward momentum of the Kingdom of our Messiah.  Please check back soon for part two of "Of Kings and Priests" as we dive in to discover the wound that needs to be healed so that the Bride of Christ can go forth in wholeness and power!

In the Lion, In the Lamb,

mark whitten


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