1 Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), 2 and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:” (Galatians 1:1–2, NKJV)
Neither human proclamation nor physical lineage approved and appointed Paul to be an apostle (v. 1). How unlike the assertions and attestations of the churches, councils, and synods that install men to be popes, prophets, presidents, and priests. Jesus Christ chose and commissioned His apostles (Mark 3:13-19; Acts 22:14-15; 26:16-17). Under His authority, He sent them into the world to teach His gospel (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-20). God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead, approved of the appointment and commission of the apostles, including Paul (v. 1). Heaven’s approval did not mean the apostles were above sin. Peter was rebuked for hypocrisy and influencing others to join him (Gal. 2:11-14). Paul’s explanation of heaven’s endorsement of his apostleship laid the foundation of authority by which the churches of Galatia (and thus, all the churches) were to receive and follow his instructions (Gal. 1:6-10). Just as Paul’s apostleship was “not from men nor through man,” neither was the gospel he preached (Gal. 1:11). How unlike the assertions and attestations of the churches, councils, and synods. These religious bodies convene to approve and codify their self-defined “orthodoxy” and bind it on adherents. What an affront to Christ, His gospel, and the apostles He commissioned to preach His gospel (Gal. 1:6-9)! What to believe and obey has been revealed by Christ through His apostles (Gal. 1:12; 2 Thess. 2:15; 3:1, 4). Straying from apostolic doctrine amounts to departing from the faith (1 Tim. 4:1-3, 6).
22 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 23 Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: 24 “The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; 26 The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:22–26, NKJV)
This priestly blessing drew Israel’s attention to the presence of Jehovah and His providence over them. Israel was favored when the Lord God was with her, guarding the nation and being gracious to His people. As the sun warms the body, the face of the Lord looked mercifully in love and salvation upon the souls of His chosen ones (Psa. 27:1; 44:3). (But, the Lord’s face was turned against Israel when the nation sinned against Him, resulting in destruction and death, Deut. 31:17-18; Psa. 34:16.) This priestly blessing would remind the Israelites to keep their faith focused on the Lord God as their Provider, Protector, and Giver of peace. Surely these things have been written for our sake (1 Cor. 9:10; 10:11; Rom. 15:4). Christ’s church is the Israel of God, with Christians composing a royal priesthood (Gal. 6:16; 1 Pet. 2:9). The Lord shines down His eternal favors of grace and salvation to us, His children, compelling us to walk in the warm light of His truth (Jno. 8:12). We are “kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” and inherit a blessing when we are faithful to the Lord (1 Pet. 1:5; 3:8-12).
47 But Solomon built Him a house. 48 However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says: 49 ‘Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. What house will you build for Me? says the Lord, Or what is the place of My rest? 50 Has My hand not made all these things?’ (Acts 7:47–50, NKJV)
Humans have invested untold blood and treasure to build, maintain, and secure temples, cathedrals, and sundry edifices as testimonies to their faith, zeal, and devotion to their deities. Under the guidance and approval of the Lord God, King Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem for Israel (1 Chron. 28:6, 11-13; 1 Kings 5-8). Yet, God was not contained by that temple built with hands, nor would that temple timelessly endure (Matt. 24:1-35). As Sovereign over heaven and earth, the Almighty is not defined or confined by structures of human art and design (Acts 17:24-25). Today, His temple is the church His Son built (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 2:19-22). The church is the “true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man,” over which Jesus Christ serves as High Priest at the right hand of God (Heb. 8:1-2). The church of Christ is not an afterthought of God. It is the fulfillment of His eternal purpose to redeem sinners in Christ Jesus our Lord (Eph. 3:10-11). Christians serve God as priests in God’s temple (1 Pet. 2:5). As such, we must be holy, as He is holy (1 Pet. 1:15-16; 2:9). Praise God for such a habitation of holiness!
He measured it on the four sides; it had a wall all around, five hundred cubits long and five hundred wide, to separate the holy areas from the common. (Ezekiel 42:20, NKJV)
Ezekiel’s visionary temple (Ezekiel 40-43) was measured by a man whose appearance was like bronze and who had “a measuring rod in his hand” (Ezekiel 40:3). Ezekiel was to look, listen, and fix his mind on everything God showed him in the vision so he could tell the house of Israel everything he saw (Ezekiel 40:4). This is not a literal temple to be built sometime in our future. It is a figurative, prophetic description of the temple of God that exists today, the church (Ephesians 2:19-22). The description of this temple was to cause Israel to “be ashamed of their iniquities” as they “measured the pattern” (Ezekiel 43:10, 11). Notably, Ezekiel’s temple is distinguished by the presence of God’s glory and by its holiness (Ezekiel 43:1-5, 12). The wall surrounding the temple marks a separation between holy places and what is common or profane (Ezekiel 42:20). God, who is holy, demands that His people are also holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). Defiled priests could not serve in Israel’s tabernacle and temple (Leviticus 21). Neither can Christians (who are priests in God’s house) serve God with defiled hearts, hands and lives (1 Peter 2:1-12). To dwell with God we must come out of sin and live separately unto Him (2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1).
45 Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them. 46 But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet. (Matthew 21:45–46, NKJV)
How do you react when the Scriptures pierce through to your heart and you know they are addressing your life? Are you receptive and humbly responsive to God’s call of repentance, redemption and spiritual renewal in Jesus Christ? Or, do you castoff its rebukes and promptings like these priests and Pharisees did? They knew Jesus had been addressing their rejection of Him and God’s punishment for doing so (Matthew 21:42-44). But, they obstinately tried to silence God’s Son instead of accepting His message of truth. And, so it goes today. The truth of God’s word melts the tender heart even as it hardens the prideful heart of unbelief. Receive its indictments of sin and offerings of redemption. God’s warnings and rebukes bring life in the Son to those who are corrected by them. Those who oppose the word of Christ will be ground to powder (Matthew 21:44). Those whose hearts are broken by it will not be put to shame (Romans 9:33).
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (1 Peter 2:9, NKJV)
Some nations are ungodly, like Assyria (Isaiah 10:5-6). Some nations are angry and headstrong, like ancient Babylon (Habakkuk 1:6). Israel was a “sinful nation” during the days of Isaiah (Isaiah 1:4). But, the church of Christ is a spiritual nation of holy people (saints). We are sanctified in Christ Jesus – set apart from sin and made holy before Him (1 Corinthians 1:2). The call of the gospel is a call to holiness in heart and life, not a call to continue living in the defilement of sin (1 Thessalonians 4:1-7). “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17). Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, therefore, as its citizens we must not be of this world and we must not love this world (John 18:36; 1 John 2:15-17). The church is a holy nation that constitutes a holy priesthood, serving in the house of God under the kingly and priestly rule of Jesus Christ (Zechariah 6:12-13; Psalm 110:1-4; Hebrews 1:8-9; 5:5-6). Therefore, let us “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, 6 and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:5–6, NKJV)
Majestic attributions are given Jesus Christ in verse 5 (faithful witness, firstborn from the dead, and ruler of kings). Then, John draws our attention to Christ’s actions toward us. First, Jesus “loved us” (v. 5). The full expression of His love is witnessed in His cruel death of suffering and sorrow, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18: John 15:13). Second, Jesus “washed us from our sins in His own blood” (v. 5). God does His work of redemption when the sinner is baptized into Christ’s death. It is in this action of faith that His saving blood cleanses sins (Romans 6:3; Acts 22:16; Colossians 2:12). (Only baptism puts sinners into the death of Jesus, Romans 6:3.) Third, Jesus “made us kings and priests to His God and Father” (v. 6). Every Christian is a priest who offers spiritual sacrifices of service and praise to God (1 Peter 2:5; Hebrews 13:15). Christians compose the church, Christ’s kingdom (a “royal priesthood” and a “holy nation,” 1 Peter 2:9). Christians share in the blessings of Christ’s kingdom now, while expecting entrance into the everlasting kingdom of the Lord (Colossians 1:13; 2 Peter 1:10-11). As so, we praise and honor Jesus Christ, “to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
30 “An astonishing and horrible thing has been committed in the land: 31 The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own power; And My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?” (Jeremiah 5:30–31, NKJV)
When Jeremiah penned this warning from God, Judah was facing punishment for her sins (“Shall I not punish them for these things? says the Lord,” Jeremiah 5:29). This passage gives us insight into God’s great displeasure with false teaching and religious oppression. Devastating and horrible things were happening in Judah, because false prophets were speaking lies in the name of God (Jeremiah 14:14). Yet, God’s people “loved to have it so.” The priests, who should have taught the people to be holy before the Lord, seized power for themselves at the expense of the people. And still, God’s people loved to have it so. In the end, they did not escape God’s judgment. Even now, some Christians are content to be deceived by false teachers. Instead of following God’s word, they are willing to be ruled over by the tyranny of human wisdom. Why? Perhaps, because it has always been easier to run with the crowd to do evil than to stand up and stand against unscriptural teaching and immoral practices (Exodus 23:2). God sees false teaching and unholy conduct as devastating and horrible things, that bring destruction upon those who “love to have it so.” May we resolve never to love what God hates (Psalm 97:10; Romans 12:9).
4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4–5, NKJV)
God chose Jesus Christ as the living stone – risen from the dead – from whom and by whom His house would be built (Matt. 16:16-18; Acts 4:11-12). Christians are “living stones” in God’s spiritual house, the church (1 Tim. 3:15). We were dead trespasses and sins, but He made us alive, saving us in Christ, the living Son of the living God (Eph. 2:1-7). And so, Christians are priests, composing a “holy priesthood” that offers up spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ. Because we are priests, our hearts and lives must be pure, respecting the holiness of God. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:1-2). Take your role as priest seriously. Come before God with clean hands and a pure heart to do His revealed will (Jas. 4:8).