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I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.


For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (ESV)

The Priestly Life

St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles

29 June 2015

Sometimes Martin Luther is accused of inventing the priesthood of believers, as though the Wittenberg reformer intentionally imposed a new doctrine on the church to reduce the influence of the medieval clergy over the church's life. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Even the ancient church fathers had a developed doctrine of the priesthood of the baptized, which, unsurprisingly, they drew from Scripture. The Apostle Paul certainly talks precisely of this in Romans 12, where priestly status was conferred on believers, by reason of their life of self-sacrifice in true worship to the God who poured such abundant blessings down upon His people. John Chrysostom makes reference to the priestly life of self-sacrifice in a sermon on Romans 12.


Every Christian is a priest. Every priest offers sacrifices. "For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer" (Heb 8:3). What is the offering of the New Testament priesthood? The priests offer themselves. In this, they follow the priestly life of the high priest of the New Testament, Jesus Christ, who was both victim and priest at the altar of Calvary's cross. Animal victims are no longer required as they were in the Old Testament. Paul calls the priestly sacrifices of the New Testament "logical" (Rm 12:1). What does this mean? It means that the offering is given not by the dumb animal, who has no understanding, but is offered by his owner. The offering of the New Testament is the one who offers. This is the reasonable service, that is, it is done intentionally in self-offering. The priest is making a spiritual offering of himself to the needs of the neighbor, for the sake of God. He does so intentionally; mind and spirit engaged in the act.


Because of our connection by faith to Christ, the high priest of the New Testament, what is lacking in our self-offering is taken care of by Him. Even as we are learning to offer ourselves in humility and loving concern for our neighbor, He is taking the edges off our hardness of heart, shaping our offering with the chisels of time and trouble, so that our offering is truly shaped by Him, who knows best. I heard from a correspondent, who lamented the vicious treatment she had received from a close relative. The family member had attacked her faith, her sincerity, and the faithfulness of her gracious God. What does the Christian priest do with that? How do you live under such burdens? We must see such things as rubbing the sharp edges from our hearts as we live our priestly lives in this world.


John Chrysostom


"We also may say as Paul did, 'For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come' (2Ti 4:6). For he was purer than any sacrifice, so he speaks of himself as ready to be offered. This will be brought about we kill the old man, if we put to death our earthly members and if we crucify the world to ourselves. In this way we will not need the knife anymore, nor altar, nor fire. Rather we will want all these, but not made with the hands, but all of them will come to us from above, fire from above, and knife also, and our altar will be the span of heaven. For if when Elijah offered the visible sacrifice, and a flame, that came down from above consumed the whole water, wood, and stones (1Ki 18:38), how much more will this be done upon you? If you have anything in you too lenient and worldly, and yet offer the sacrifice with a good intention, the fire of the Spirit will come down, and both wear down that worldliness, and make complete the whole sacrifice.


"But what does 'spiritual worship' mean (Rm 12:1)? It means spiritual ministry, conducting life according to Christ. As he who ministers in the house of God, when he officiates, no matter what sort of person he is, collects himself and becomes more dignified when he serves; so we ought to think about all our life as serving and ministering. And this will be so, if every day you bring Him yourself as a sacrifice, and become the priest of your own body and of the virtue of your soul. For example, offer sobriety, charitable giving, goodness, and patience. For in doing this you offer 'a spiritual worship,' that is, one that is not bodily, external, visible. Paul has raised the hearer by the names bestowed, and shown that every person is a priest of his own flesh by his way of life."

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 20

Lord Jesus Christ, You are the high priest of the New Testament, who offered Your life for us poor sinners on the altar of the cross. Send Your Spirit to lead us into our priestly lives shaped by Your cross, that we might be enabled to offer our proper spiritual worship. Amen.


For President Matthew Harrison of the LCMS, that the Lord Jesus would be all his strength and stay


For military personnel, especially Donald Ehrke, (US Army), that the Lord would watch over them


For those who are suffering persecution at the hands of the members of their own family, that they might faithfully confess Christ and recognize God's gracious care for them in the midst of trial
Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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