Many people think of Christianity, if and when they do think about Christianity, as a religious path to get to Heaven when they die. If they know the main message of Christianity, then they know that a man named Jesus died on a cross and rose again on the third day to be a Savior.
That tends to be the extent of what people know about Christianity, and unfortunately, for many Christians, that’s also where their knowledge of their own faith stops. Responding to the gospel, though, involves far more than merely checking off “belief in Christ” from the to-do list.
Christians, once they have repented of their sin and placed their hope in Christ, have a calling on their lives. They are to become a part of a new order, a new way of doing life on earth.
Kings and Priests
If you ask someone in your church why God left Christians in the earth once they’ve been saved, that person will likely give the correct answer: “To tell others about Him.” Yet, if you ask that person why or how, the conversation might quiet down a little bit. We oftentimes know the “what,” but we are not always great at answering the other two questions.
There are three passages of Scripture that highlight God’s plan for those He has saved. Quite fittingly, they show up as commands for Israel after the Exodus, statements about the Church after Christ’s work had been accomplished, and as a portrait of what the people of God would be like in Heaven.
If you check out Exodus 19:3-6, 1 Peter 2:9-10, and Revelation 5:9-10, you’ll find similar descriptions of God’s vision for His people. In each of those passages, the saved of the Lord are called “a kingdom of priests” or (in 1 Peter) “a royal priesthood.”
When you hear the word “priest,” you likely think of a person in a long robe sitting in a confessional booth. Or perhaps a picture of an Old Testament figure managing the worship in the Jewish Temple comes to mind. Whatever image pops up into your head, its likely not an image that you would say fits you very well.
If Christians don’t think of themselves as priests, they certainly don’t see themselves as royal kings or queens. Still, this is the description God uses for all of His people.
Ambassadors of the King
Paul, in relaying this concept to a different audience used another, less religious image. He calls believers “ambassadors for Christ.” An ambassador serves as a representative for a nation whose ruler is more powerful than he or she. The ambassador declares the message and goals to the inhabitants of another nation.
A priest’s job is very similar to that of an ambassador. They intercede on behalf of people and for God. They serve as an intermediary between the High King of Heaven and His creation.
When God sought to make Israel a kingdom of priests in Exodus, the clear implication seems to be that they were to be a nation filled with people who represented God to the rest of the world. To combine Paul’s metaphor with the Old Testament language, one might have described Israel as something of an embassy in the middle of the human kingdom on earth.
As Israel’s national story unfolded (indeed, starting right after the declaration made in Exodus 19), they would fail to live up to this lofty calling. Jesus Christ would, however, succeed in establishing this order of kings and priests during His earthly ministry (see the Revelation passage).
Being, Not Doing
Before we take a look at what Christians should be doing as kings and priests, we need to understand a key concept first. How are we to be? While there are important tasks that we are supposed to accomplish, Christians need to recognize that Jesus’ mission was saving and changing hearts.
Every time we seek to accomplish the mission that God has given to us, we need to remember our desperate need to hold fast to Christ. We must continue to seek His face so that His Spirit can continue transforming and satisfying our souls.
We need to meditate on Ephesians 5:8-14. While the second half of the verse describes something of what we are to do as Christians, verse eight opens up by reminding us who we once were and who we are now in Christ–once darkness, now light.
We will fail in our mission to bring light if we don’t rest in the truth that we need Jesus Christ to make us light.