By Joshua Franks
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Bruceton
On April 2, 2005, Pope John Paul II passed away. At the time, I knew very little about the Catholic church but I remember being fascinated by all of the pomp and circumstance surrounding the selection of the next Pope. I watched the news as thousands of people crowded into St. Peter’s square and waited for the white smoke to billow out of the chimney perched on the roof of the Sistine Chapel. It all seemed so strange and it forced me to ask some questions, namely, what exactly does a priest do?
I knew the Catholic church had it wrong. But I also knew that genuine believers were called “to be a holy priesthood.” This is language that is rarely used in a Baptist church so what does it mean?
According to Peter, being a part of the priesthood means that we are all stones in the same structure (I Peter 2:4-8). When Jesus first spoke of the church, He compared it to a structure saying, “I will build my church.” This church is not a structure of wood and stone. Rather, every time a person comes to saving faith, Jesus quarries a stone out of the muck and mire of sin and places it exactly where it belongs. These stones are used in many different places, but no matter where the believer is placed, we all have the same function.
We are all servants in the same house, (v. 5). In the old economy, Israel had a priesthood. In the new economy, believers are the priesthood. Every believer has the honor and privilege of serving the Lord.
We all have a different role. Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12 make that clear. But while everyone has a different role, we all have the same goal. Our goal is “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness.” In other words, our job as servants is to use our individual gifts in order to reveal the glory of Christ to those around us.
That was always God’s plan. God designed a system whereby a holy people would be a spiritual influence for godliness in a lost world. In the Old Testament, Israel was to be those people. However, they failed and instead of being an influence for godliness, they were corrupted by those nations around them.
Today, God’s people are His holy nation. This doesn’t mean that God is through with Israel, but it does mean that, for now, the church is fulfilling the role that God intended for Israel to occupy.
This means that we are all citizens of the same nation, (I Peter 2:9-10). We have been set apart from the rest of the world and belong exclusively to the Father (Philippians 3:20). Further, because we are no longer citizens of this land, we obey a different set of laws.
When we pull these three thoughts together, we begin to see a portrait of the role of priests. Because we are all stones in the same structure, we must pursue unity with genuine brothers and sisters in Christ. Because we are all servants in the same house, we must work together in order to accomplish His purposes. And because we are all citizens of the same nation, we must live our lives differently than those around us. That’s the purpose of a priest, to live, work, and look differently so that others can see the glory of God.