A Family of Royal Priests: Why the Priesthood of Believers Must Be “In Christ” (My ETS Presentation)

etsThis week the Evangelical Theological Society is meeting in Denver, Colorado. And this morning I am presenting a paper entitled: “A Family of Royal Priests: Why the Priesthood of Believers Must Be In Christ

The topic of priesthood is one that has long captured my attention. It was the subject of my dissertation. Next year, I am planning to publish a book on the subject with Crossway, in their Short Studies in Biblical Theology series. And last year, I read and reviewed Andrew Malone’s book God’s Mediators: A Biblical Theology of the Priesthood.

In that book, Malone makes the case that the priesthood of believers is not derived from the high priesthood of Christ. This view, which Malone argues for with surprising vehemence, divides Christ from his covenant people, at least with respect to the priesthood. It does not attend to the way Scripture explains the “making of priests,” nor does it do justice to many passages that conjoin the priesthood Christ with his kingdom of priests.

So in response to Malone, I wrote this paper, to make a theological and exegetical case for the unified priesthood of Christ and his people. It’s not short, but if you read it, I’d love to know your thoughts.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

The Church as New Covenant Levites (Numbers 25; Malachi 2–3; Ephesians 4)

priestcolorThe Church as New Covenant Levites (Sermon Audio)

I am __________.

In individualistic cultures, these words are usually filled with various accomplishments, activities, or vocations. I am a musician. I am a doctor. I am a (recovering) alcoholic. However, in more communal cultures, this sentence is more likely completed with relational predicates. I am a son. I am a mother. I am a husband.

Of course, studies that have employed this fill-in-the-blank test have only produced general trends. Nevertheless, it is interesting to consider what words you use to introduce yourself. Are you first and foremost defined by what you do? Or by who you are with? Or is it some combination of the two?

This Sunday we will again consider the priesthood in Israel and how the family vocation of guarding the temple defined the Levites. At the same time, we will see how the events of their history inform the backstory to our own priestly calling. As Isaiah 66:21 says of the nations who will come to Christ in the new creation: “Some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites.”

Indeed, for those in Christ we find that we both have family and a vocation that fills in the blanks of our life and gives us both redemption and service in God’s kingdom. Like the Levites given to the priest to serve God in his house (Num. 8:19), we too are servants given to Christ, who in turn has given us to the church (Eph. 4:8, 11–12).

Therefore, learning the history of the Levites is not just learning someone else’s family history. If you are in Christ, it is your family history, not to mention a key part in how God has brought redemption to the world.

This week’s sermon can be heard online. Response questions are below, as additional resources.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds Continue reading

Our Great High Priest (Exodus 28–30)

priestcolorSermon Audio: Our Great High Priest (Exodus 28–30)

Last week we celebrated the Reformation Day (October 31) and the recovery of the gospel brought about by men and women like Martin Luther and Katherine von Bora. Both of these Reformers fled the monastic life in order to follow Christ. Yet, in departing the Roman Catholic system of priesthood, they did not abandon the priesthood of Christ nor the priesthood of believers.

In fact, Martin Luther was one of the most prolific exponents of the biblical teaching that all followers of Christs are saints—a priesthood by faith in Jesus Christ. Thus, in a very real sense any Protestant view of the Bible that denies the place of priesthood actually denies the very gospel which the Reformation recovered. Jesus Christ is our great high priest, one whose sacrifice for sin and priestly intercession makes faith possible.

Thinking again, therefore, about what Scripture says about priesthood, we considered in Sunday’s sermon the necessity of a high priest, and what means that Jesus is our great high priest. Going back to Exodus 28–30, we considered the original purpose of the high priest in Israel and how Jesus came to both fulfill and exceed those original expectations.

If the priesthood is something you care about, or if its something you don’t care about, this sermon is for you. You can listen to it online. Response questions are below as are a few additional resources. Continue reading

A Kingdom of Priests: Washed, Worshiping, Working, and Witnessing (Exodus 19:6; 1 Peter 2:9)

priestcolorA Kingdom of Priests: Washed, Worshiping, Working, and Witnessing (Exodus 19:6; 1 Peter 2:9)

Are you a royal priest? How do you know? What is a kingdom of priests? And how does that really apply today? Is this title for individuals? Or should it be a community identity?

Many questions swirl around the biblical idea of priesthood. And on Sunday we considered Peter’s words to the church: “You are a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). In examining his words, we learned that they go back to Exodus 19:6 and come in the context of worship on the mountain God.

By examining Exodus 19:6, therefore, in its original context and comparing it to 1 Peter 2, we were able to learn how God makes a priestly people, what a kingdom of priests do, and how this title of royal priesthood applies to us today.

You can listen to the sermon online. Discussion questions and additional resources can be found below. Continue reading

You Were Made For This: An Introduction to the Priesthood (Genesis 2:4–25)

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You Were Made For This: An Introduction to the Priesthood (Genesis 2:4–25)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people for his own possession,
that you may proclaim the excellencies of him
who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
— 1 Peter 2:9 —

From Genesis to Revelation, the themes of priesthood and kingship overlap and intertwine in the history of redemption. In this new sermon series we are examining how royal priesthood applies to Jesus, the church, and our identity in Christ.

In this first sermon, we consider how Adam and Eve were created in God’s image to be royal priests serving and worshiping in the Garden of Eden. You can read about the background to this sermon series here and listen to the sermon online here. Response questions and Additional Resources can be found below. Continue reading

You Were Made for This: An Introduction to the Priesthood (and Yourself)

priestcolor“You were made for this!”

This phrase seems to be thrown around quite a bit these days: Sports commentators talk this way about athletes; teachers about pupils; mentors about those they coach. In short, it is a way of speaking that comes from a recognized “authority” on someone who is ascending in their field. It is language meant to boost esteem and put everyone on alert, that the next star is rising.

In our celebrity-crazed culture, everyone wants to be special. Indeed “special” is the carrot that has motivated so many to aspire to greatness. I’ve felt this pull and have thanked God that my dreams of athletic glory were mercifully cut short. Still, the hunger for this kind of glory remains.

And it remains with such a strong pull because we were made for glory! Not just some of us, but all of us were made to enjoy and exhibit the glory of God. And thus, until we discover the true source of glory, we will chase glory in vain. Therefore, we must see what Scripture says about the glory of God.   Continue reading

Read the Whole Bible as a Whole Bible: Rejecting Critical Source Theory and Reconciling Genesis 1 and 2

alexander-michl-724529-unsplashOne of the great questions about the opening chapters of Genesis is the relationship of the two creation accounts. Are Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 two different accounts? From two different sources? Or is there a rhyme and reason for the repetition and ostensible differences between the six days of creation in Genesis 1 and the formation of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2?

Since Julius Wellhausen—a pioneering German scholar in the 19th C who advocated a source theory to the Pentateuch and who fabricated a competition between priests and Levites behind the Bible—there has grown a small cottage industry arguing that the books of Moses and the opening chapters of Genesis have multiple authors. While various “documentary hypotheses” have been put forward, four sources have often been posited. Labeled by the letters E, J, P, D, these four sources are various traditions in Israel—respectively, Elohim, Jehovah, Priestly, and Deuteronomist.

I first encountered this higher-critical approach to the Bible in my liberal arts college—stress on the word liberal. Though I had no way of knowing how to counteract this teaching at the time, I have since seen how reductionistic and unfaithful this approach is to the Bible. In particular, it short-circuits any theological intentions of the original author. In other words, whenever a tension or apparent contradiction is observed, the solution is to attribute contrasts to various sources behind the Bible. Consequently, it denies the need to wrestle with the text and understand the author’s original text.

In this way, it actually diminishes scholarship and the theological glory of the biblical text. That is, it reduces the weight of the full revelation of God. And thus, I happily and unswervingly repudiate the source theory of the Bible. Likewise, I give praise to God for Old Testament scholars who stand against the critical consensus and write for the upbuilding of the church. Continue reading

From Covenant-Breakers to Covenant-Keepers: How Christ Redeems Marriage and Divorce (Matthew 5:31–32)

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From Covenant-Breakers to Covenant-Keepers: How Christ Redeems Marriage and Divorce (Sermon Audio)

What does the Bible say about divorce?

Unfortunately, it says quite a bit. As a book that gives us everything we need for life and godliness, the Bible gives instructions about marriage and warnings about divorce. But that is not all that it says.

If our minds jump too quickly, we may only remember the words of Malachi 2: God hates divorce. But we can’t read that prophetic utterance without reading Jeremiah 3, a passage that tells how God issued a certificate of divorce to his covenant people Israel, when their sin destroyed their covenant with God. Moreover, we cannot forget the grace God gives to heal past sins, even as we read and repeat his instructions about covenant marriage and the sinfulness of divorce.

Accordingly, we must understand divorce according to the full gospel story of creation, fall, redemption, and new creation. In this context, we begin to see how the whole Bible gives comfort and conviction about this and every subject.

But why are we taking about divorce?

Well, to our series on the Sermon on the Mount, we had to return to one section of the Sermon our schedule forced us to postpone—namely, Jesus’s teaching on marriage and divorce in Matthew 5:31–32. With help from Jeremiah 3, I preached a message on the root problem of divorce (a hard-heart) and how Christ enables covenant-breakers to be covenant-keepers.

You can listen to the sermon online. Response questions are below, as are additional resources—both ethical and practical—regarding marriage and divorce.   Continue reading

Cornerstone: Finding Life in the House of the Lord (Matthew 7:24–8:1)

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Cornerstone: Finding Life in the House of the Lord (Matthew 7:24–8:1)

Hurricanes. Tornados. Floods. Fires. Earthquakes.

In our world, not a week goes by that we are not confronted with extreme and life-threatening weather. Yet, there is a storm coming that exceeds anything that we have ever known. It is the storm of the Lord that will purify everything on the earth, on the way to making all things new.

On Sunday, our last sermon from Matthew 7 considered this storm and the shelter which is found in the words of Jesus Christ. Indeed, considering the way Christ finished his Sermon on the Mount, we hear again his clarion call to prepare for the last day.

You can find this sermon and the whole sermon series online. There are also response questions below. Continue reading

Wake Up! Look! Listen! And Live! How Your iPod Playlist Reveals Your Eternal Destiny (Matthew 7:15–23)

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Wake Up! Look! Listen! And Live! How Your iPod Playlist Reveals Your Eternal Destiny (Sermon Audio)

We live in a world filled with competing voices. Modern day prophets come to us at all times and from all angles. And how we respond to them has great impact on our daily living and our eternal destiny. Or at least, that’s the argument I made in Sunday’s sermon from Matthew 7:15–23.

As Jesus warns his disciples of Israel’s false prophets, he gives us great insight into who we should listen to today. And more than just giving us a church-approved playlist, he gives calls us to look at the fruit of our teachers—especially our spiritual leaders—and to listen wisely. While we can learn from all kinds of people, we should beware of who we are following.

Therefore, in this sermon, we hear a word that calls Christ’s disciples to examine themselves and those to whom they look for spiritual nourishment. Indeed, created by the Word of God, we creatures of the word, and therefore we should think carefully about how we listen and to whom we listen. And that includes this sermon!

So with that caution, you can listen to the sermon online. Discussion questions and additional resources are below. In particular, there are resources about Bethel Church and Free Grace Theology. Continue reading