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Acts 8:26-39

 

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, "Go over and join this chariot." So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" And he said, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: "Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth." And the eunuch said to Philip, "About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?" Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, "See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?"  And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.

(ESV)

Priestly Work

Tuesday in Pentecost 10 

4 August 2015

The office of the ministry is involved in priestly sacrifices. The Apostle Paul describes his ministry as a "priestly service." Yet how is this so? The priest ministers by offering sacrifices. What are the New Testament sacrifices offered to God? They are the people whom God has sanctified through faith given by the Holy Spirit. They are to be offered to God as acceptable sacrifices. The New Testament does not offer symbolic sacrifices as did the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, when a man desired to make an offering to God, he chose what was his to become the sacrifice, such as a lamb from his flock. In the New Testament, such half-measures are unacceptable. They are simply insufficient; both to God and to those who are making the offerings. The Lord has no desire to receive what is yours, He desires you (2Co 12:14). He wants us, not merely ours. And He is willing to pay the price for us. He offers His precious Son as the sacrifice to receive us for Himself. Christ's offering of Himself makes us an offering acceptable to God through Him.

 

The priestly work of our pastors is the priestly work of all the people; pastors are among the priesthood of the baptized too. They aren't mere religious functionaries, not mere substitutes for the sacrifice of the people. They are also offering themselves, not just what is theirs. If they are believers (and we expect them to be), they are priests with the people. What they do among the people and for the people is the people's own priestly work. If the people are priests, so are the pastors. To say otherwise, is to deny the priestly work of the people. If the people are priests, so are the pastors. Only in this way can they make the offering of the people to God; offerings acceptable to God. Such offerings are priestly work.

 

Our pastors are expected to offer intercessory prayers for the people. Do the people do the same thing because they are priests? Yes, of course (1Ti 2:1). But all the more so do the pastors intercede for the people. They agonize over their hurts, weep over their bruised and broken marriages, and worry about their pitfalls, crying continually to God for divine rescue; pure miracles from God. If God would not be gracious, He would have gotten sick of listening to me a long time ago. Our pastors offer intercessions, which is a primary priestly function.

 

Our pastors are to stir up the works and life of the Spirit among us. They are not conferring something new by preaching to us and encouraging the life of Christ in us. That fire has long ago been lit by the Spirit of God. They are stirring up the fire that has been kindled within God's people by the Word of God, just as the priest tending the fire at the altar of incense stirs it back to life in the morning after it has been banked against the night. They are simply stirring us up to be who we are in Christ.

 

John Chrysostom

 

"'But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit' (Rm 15:15-16). Paul is not speaking of mere service, as in the beginning (Rm 14:18), but of service and priestly ministering. For to me this is a priesthood; this preaching and declaring. This is the sacrifice I bring. Now no one will find fault with a priest, for being anxious to offer the sacrifice without blemish. He says this to elevate their thoughts, and show them that they are a sacrifice, and also in defense for his own part in the matter, because he was appointed to this office. For my knife, he is saying, is the gospel, the word of the preaching. Its purpose is not that I may be glorified, not that I may appear conspicuous, but that the 'the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.' That is, that the souls of those taught by me, may be accepted. For it was not to honor me, that God led me to this place, so much as it was out of concern for you.

 

"How are the Gentiles to become acceptable? In the Holy Spirit. There is need not only of faith, but also of a spiritual way of life, that we may keep the Spirit that was given us once for all. For it is not wood and fire, nor altar and knife, but entirely the Spirit that is with us. For this reason, I take all means to prevent that flame from being extinguished, as I have been commanded. You may ask, 'Why then do you speak to those who already have the Spirit?' 'This is just the reason why I do not teach you, but rather remind you,' he replies. As the priest stands by stirring up the fire, so I do likewise, rousing you to zeal.

 

"Notice that he does not say 'the offering of you...' but 'the offering of the Gentiles.' But when he says of the Gentiles, he means the whole world, the land, and the whole sea, to take reduce their pride, that they might not despise  him as a teacher, who was stretching  himself forth to the very end of the world. As he said in the beginning, 'That I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles.  I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish' (Rm 1:13-14)." 

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 29
 
Prayer

O eternal, merciful God, You have spoken through Your own dear Son, saying that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few and that we should ask You, the Lord of the harvest, to send laborers into Your harvest. Hear now our prayer on behalf of our pastors, who are ordained and consecrated to be Your ministers in the church. Strengthen them to take up the Word of truth and faithfully to administer Your holy Sacrament; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen.

 

For all those seeking work, that they would be granted labor in keeping with their calling from God

 

For Walter Friend, that he would be strengthened in body and soul

 

For Leslie Doiron Roch, that she would be freed from cancer

Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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