Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 2 Peter 2:9-10
Did you see that? You’re a chosen race! A holy nation! A people for God’s own possession! A royal priesthood! You all, you as members of God’s Church, are priests, priests by virtue of your faith in Jesus, priests by virtue of your baptism. Jesus, the priest by the order of Melchizedek, has made His Church a nation set apart, chosen to be His priests. But what does that mean?
First, let’s ask the question, what did a priest in the Old Testament temple do? He prepared, and offered sacrifices. He prayed for the people. He taught the Word of God to the people. He served in the temple. The priest was the go-between between God and the people, a mediator. He was the one who saw the sacrifice on the altar and then brought the news that he saw with his own eyes that the blood of the sacrifice has atoned for the sins of the people.
That great work has now been given to you in your baptism. You’re part of a royal priesthood, usually called the priesthood of the baptised. You now have that special relationship with God. You can go to Him directly in prayer through Jesus Christ. You can serve as a go-between between God and your neighbour, whether they believe or not, lifting them up in prayer to God, and also speaking God’s Word to the people. You get to proclaim His excellencies that have called you out of darkness. You can proclaim to someone that Jesus has died for them and has forgiven them their sins. How can you do that? Because you’ve seen it, it’s already happened to you, you’ve seen the blood of that sacrifice that’s atoned for the sins of the world in the Word and the sacraments. It’s happened before your own eyes, and you get to proclaim that witness to the world around you.
And you serve. You serve offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (2 Peter 2:5; Romans 12:1). What are those spiritual sacrifices? Your service to your neighbour. Whether that’s the neighbour who lives next to you, or that you run into on the road and will never see again, or the neighbour related to you by blood, or by the body & blood of Christ. You serve your neighbour at home, on the street, or at church. You serve God by serving your neighbour in your vocation. It can happen anywhere—at work, in your home, even at the altar. There you serve God, there you come before God as His priest, one who has the backstage pass to come before Him through Jesus Christ. And there you offer your service as your spiritual sacrifice. Whether you’re Jew or Gentile, slave or free, man or woman, God has made you a part of His royal priesthood, this holy nation, in your baptism.
In your baptism you enter something bigger than yourself. Not only do you put on Christ, but Christ then puts you into the priesthood of the baptised. To give you total access to God, to proclaim His Word to one another, to serve each as other as the spiritual sacrifice you offer to God, and are made acceptable through Jesus Christ.
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Tim Schneider