Priests in Action
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, God's special possession, that you
may declare the praises of him who called you
out of darkness into his wonderful light.
1 Peter 2:9
As believers, we are priests. It's one of our roles. Priests have several functions, but I want to talk about four of them:
To go directly to God. In the Old Testament, the priests were the only ones who could enter the Holy of Holies where God resided, and only once a year. Now, through Christ, you have direct access to the throne of God at all times. Scripture says, "Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, (Heb. 10:19)" and " Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Heb. 4:16). Ephesians 3:12 tells us, " In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence."
J. C. Ryle, the Bishop of Liverpool and English Reformer in the 1800's, says:
Nothing seems to be too great, too hard, or too difficult for prayer to do. It has obtained things that seemed impossible and out of reach. It has won victories over fire, air, earth, and water. Prayer opened the Red Sea. Prayer brought water from the rock and bread from heaven. Prayer made the sun stand still. Prayer brought fire from the sky on Elijah’s sacrifice. Prayer turned the counsel of Ahitophel into foolishness. Prayer overthrew the army of Sennacherib. Well might Mary, Queen of Scots say, “I fear John Knox’s prayer more than an army of ten thousand men.” Prayer has healed the sick. Prayer has raised the dead. Prayer has procured the conversion of souls. “The child of many prayers,” said an old Christian to Augustine’s mother, “shall never perish.” Prayers, pains, and faith can do anything. (J. C. Ryle, Practical Religion [Darlington: Evangelica]l, 2001), 73).
Although we know it is God who does the things mentioned in the quote above, I believe the point Ryle is making is that God answers our prayers, not our thoughts or wishes. He is giving examples of God answering prayer.
To offer spiritual sacrifices. Old Testament priests offered sacrifices to God for a variety of reasons. They sacrificed bulls and goats, but we sacrifice in other ways. 1 Peter 2:5 says as a priest you offer, "spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." and Romans 12:1 urges you to, "offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship." The Philippians sent gifts to Paul, and he tells them that, "They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God (Phil. 4:18). And " Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that openly profess his name (Heb. 13:15)."
To declare His praises. That is the way the NIV puts it in our opening verse. Other versions say, "Show others the goodness of God (NLT)"; "proclaim the excellencies of him (ESV)"; "proclaim the virtues of Him (BSB)"; or "proclaim the wonderful deeds of the one (ISV)." God is the One who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light. Psalm 105:2 says, "Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts." And Colossians 1:13 says, "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves," Why? In part, so you will tell others what He did for you; what He is doing for you, and what He can do for them.
To intercede or stand in the gap for others. Intercession is what you do already for your prodigal loved ones and for others that you know who have strayed from the Lord. 1 Timothy 2:1 says, "I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people--." Prayer is a partnership. Our part is to pray, and God's role is to answer. It is His power in conjunction with our prayer that makes things happen. Can God do things without someone praying? Certainly. But in Ezekiel 22:30 and Isaiah 59:16, we see that He is looking for people to stand in the gap and intercede. When no one does, the result is different than it could have been.
Can you change God's mind? When Abraham wanted God to spare Sodom if there were fifty righteous people, God said He would even though He had just declared He was going to destroy Sodom. When that many weren't found, Abraham asked God to relent for forty-five righteous people. And then in his boldness and humility, Abraham continued asking for forty; thirty; twenty; and finally ten. God said He would spare this city if He found ten righteous people. So it appears that God may plan one thing, but if He can find someone to stand in the gap for that matter, He will relent or do it differently. God longs to show mercy, but it seems as if prayer is where it often starts.
As priests in action, we represent God to our prodigals. We stand in the gap! We don't give up because what we do is too important! God loves them more than we do and He longs to show them mercy. Don't let Him be looking for someone who will pray for your wayward one; let Him see you before the throne of grace, crying out for Him to have mercy and do what only He can do!