The Royal Priesthood – Part Two

You and I – a Royal Priesthood

So, Jesus is a king-priest. How does that distill down to us, as a royal priesthood? How does it relate to you and me? How does it “happen” for us?

Answer in one word: Pentecost.

Guess what Scriptures the apostles used in describing the events of Pentecost? No surprise if you have been following me at all: Psalm 2 and Psalm 110 (among others). That which applies to the Messiah individually, applies to His body corporately in union as joint-heirs with Him. 

Over the centuries there’s been no shortage of commentary, debate, and fulminations on all the implications of Pentecost.  I have often marveled that those within a Protestant tradition who routinely celebrate Easter in the “church calendar,” have Pentecost nowhere in sight.

How like human nature to celebrate what has been done for us by Another for our benefit, and ignore what has been done in us by the same resurrected Lord for others’ benefit. It is at Pentecost that all that was in Jesus individually is distributed to His body. Because we are integrally and genuinely connected with Jesus, the Head, what is His . . . is ours. He is Father’s idea of what a Spirit-filled human being [sons and daughters] looks and acts like.  He is the prototype of a new kind of humanity.

Pentecost is a two-sided coin. There was a heavenly activity, with an earthly outcome or result. The heavenly action is rarely discussed. So much argument is made about what believers receive as a result of the Spirit outpouring and Spirit infilling, that the matter of what God receives/d is overlooked.

As glorious as the human-ward side of Pentecost is, there is a God-ward side, an eternal purpose dimension, with human implications, that is rarely discussed. We can argue about what believers received, how, and when they receive it, etc., and miss what God received as a result of Pentecost, and in my opinion, miss the greater matter because of focusing on a lesser one.

I am not looking to pick a fight or to be provoking for the sake of provocation. I hope if I confess my bias here, you will be able to receive the greater part of what I am about to say, and perhaps overlook my bias if you strongly disagree with it.

My heritage is somewhat along the lines of traditional Pentecostal teaching of “Spirit baptism.” I have spoken in tongues for almost my entire Christian life. I don’t apologize for that. However, I differ with my Pentecostal cousins in their theology of the experience.

I believe tongues are a legitimate and valuable, present-day manifestation of the Spirit. However, I do not believe they are the centerpiece of the Pentecostal experience, and I do not believe they are mandatory and evidentiary in a traditional Pentecostal sense.[1]  This conviction makes me a “man without a country” among my own tribe, and I am all right with that.

Like a necklace in a treasure chest, I believe tongues are part of the treasure, but they are not the whole treasure. I want to be thankful for the necklace, but appropriate the whole treasure, not just the necklace.

It is the whole treasure that I want to address in this blog. The reason I need to mention this is because I want to use the phrase “baptism in/with the spirit” and not lose anyone, or bog down in tongue-speaking debates.  So with my mea culpa out of the way, let’s look at the entire treasure.

The apostle John makes a very significant association regarding the Spirit of God:

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, if any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believes on me, as the Scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spoke he of the Spirit which they that believe on him should receive, for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:37-39

John associates the gift/outpouring of the Holy Spirit as something unique to the new order, intimately associated with Jesus’s glorification. The “full gospel” message that must be preached includes the birth, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and glorification of the Messiah and Spirit-outpouring, and Spirit indwelling of the new creation race. The first half is what has been done by Messiah for us, the latter is what has been done in us for Father by Messiah! Father has an “interest” in the new creation race.  It’s His dream!

Jesus makes a key association of His ascension with a change in relationship to the apostles/disciples/brethren:

Jesus said unto her [Mary Magdalene], “Touch me not[2]; for I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God and your God.” John 20:17

On the surface, this is a very odd thing to say to a crowd of Jews. As Jews they had surely known Yahweh, God, after a manner, even as Abba. However, something was going to change as a result of His resurrection and ascension. Something of a degree of oneness and union, previously unrealized, was about to happen. There had never been a resurrected and glorified God-Man on the throne of the universe before . . . but there was about to be One!

Jesus also talks about how profitable it will be for others, for Him to die:

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient [profitable, advantageous, beneficial] for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I sill send him unto you. John 16: 7

His death was required so He could “pour out” His own spirit. It wasn’t possible for Jesus to release His own spirit as long as it was contained in His mortality.

His ascension and glorification were required so He could receive first, individually, upon Himself, that which was soon to be released into the cosmos: His anointing and investiture as king and priest.

That’s why He could say that it would be “advantageous” for His followers that He should “go away,” so the Comforter would come.  Seeing the glories of what I hope I present here, “advantageous” has to be the understatement of all understatements! Something unique was going to happen in relationship to His ascension and glorification, and that uniqueness exploded into time and space on the day of Pentecost.

On the day of Pentecost, Peter quotes Joel 2[3], but he also quotes Psalm 2 and Psalm 110 (and others) in association with the resurrection of Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit. He uses those two Psalms to explain who Jesus is, what has happened “cosmically,” and what has just happened to them subjectively at the feast of Pentecost: the “end” has begun.  The new creation has begun, and the new creation race of prophetic royal priests has been born.

Joel 2 covers the prophetic aspect of what was happening to them, in fulfillment of Numbers 11:29 when Moses desired and prayed that all of God’s people would prophesy. Psalm 2 and Psalm 110 cover the kingly and priestly aspect of what was happening to them at Pentecost.

In Acts 2:33, Peter describes the heavenly activity on the day of Pentecost as something being “shed forth.” The meaning is an outpouring, a pouring forth of a substance, a literal transference of “substance.” Something in one place has been transferred to another.  We saw earlier in Psalm 2 that when Jesus was “set” as king, that this referred to a literal anointing. The literal anointing of Jesus as king-priest in Psalm 2 is “transferred” out of the heavenlies, into time and space, into, and upon, His followers. What glory!

In Acts 2:36, Peter says, “God has made” Jesus both Lord and Messiah, quoting Psalm 2 again. The phrase “has made” means to endow a person with a certain quality, to appoint, or constitute. Jesus was always Lord and Christ, but in His ascension and glorification, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High, and He received investiture to the office and ministry of king and priest, after the order of Melchizedek. 

In Acts 13:32, Paul quotes Psalm 2 in the context of fulfillment of all the promises made to the fathers. The begetting of the Son in Psalm 2 is the resurrection from the dead, and His investiture as king, not His generation or creation as a being from Mary. His is the first begotten from the dead, in fulfillment of the promise made to the fathers.

In Acts 2:30, Peter quotes Psalm 2 again relating to the resurrection, and in verses 34-36 he quotes Psalm 110 in reference to the resurrection.

Here’s the kicker . . . in verse 33 he ties it all together. Peter contextualizes the Spirit outpouring and indwelling on the Day of Pentecost with Jesus’s coronation in the heavenlies by quoting Psalm 2 and Psalm 110!

The things they were seeing and hearing on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit outpouring, is the result of Jesus’s investiture as king and priest after the order of Melchizedek, in the power of endless life.

His resurrection, ascension, and glorification in the heavenlies, is the means by which Christ has received investiture upon David’s throne as king-priest, resulting in the outpouring of the Spirit being witnessed and experienced by them all on the day of Pentecost.

In the Pentecostal outpouring, God accomplished a magnificent act of recovery to His eternal purpose for humanity: the indwelling of deity and the means of filling the universe with His self-expression, specifically, a prophetic nation of royal priests, in the power of resurrection. For the believer, baptism in the Spirit is the empowerment for priestly ministry after the order of endless, resurrection life.  For Father, it is the fulfillment of the Psalm 2 promise made to the Son.

What was the promise?

The Son was promised He would inherit something: the rebellious nations.  How does the Son get the rebellious nations? By transforming them! By making alienated rebels and enemies into beloved sons![4] By putting the Spirit of the resurrected God-Man in glory into humanity! The Messiah gets the nations as His inheritance! His eternal “setting” in as King, preemptively interdicts the rebellion of the nations. The rebellious nations become Messiah’s. They belong to Him. The rebellion is overcome by making the nations His own. It’s too late! It’s over! Won before it started!

Out of every tribe, kindred, nation, and tongue, a new race is created, not defined by bloodline or geography, but defined by royal priesthood in resurrection life! Yahweh fools the nations and their princes! By eternally setting His King on Zion, and by putting the Spirit of this King into humanity, he doesn’t conquer the nations by force. He wins them by love and transformation! He makes them His! He makes all the nations, one-new nation, the priest nation. And in doing so doing He has the last laugh!

The essence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is much more than speaking in tongues.  The Spirit of the God-Man in resurrection was loosed into the earth for the first time in history. The eschatological age was initiated: the powers of the age to come were made available for the first time to all humanity. The disciples were empowered as participants in the eschatological age with a quality and degree of anointing for ministry and witness, not previously available to humanity, and this quality is yours and mine . . . as surely, and as genuinely, as it was for them.

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the overflow of the  “set” and “shed forth” investiture in the heavenlies. What Jesus received on His literal head as king-priest after the order of Melchizedek, literally splashes over into time and space into, upon, and in the gathered disciples for the first time, and upon every believer since.  

Oh, the glory of sonship, the glory of a new covenant nation of sons, relating to Father just as closely and dearly as Jesus himself. Oh, the glory of Jesus not being the only priest, but the first of a new, worldwide, multination, multi-ethnic royal priesthood! God’s glory and power resting upon human flesh, in new covenant priesthood, after Melchizedek, is the foundational revelation of the incarnation and the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Summary

The New Testament is careful to never describe believers as kings in the sense of an office, position, or rank. Kings rule. We are called to carry kingly authority and dignity, but we are called to rule over no one in a carnal sense of coercion or force.[5] We serve everyone. There is only One King, one kingdom. But this kingdom of Jesus is made up of priests who carry themselves regally, with the dignity and the delegated authority of Him who is King of kings. Our “rule” is the same order of “rule” that He manifested in His mortality: ruling by laying down one’s life.

How do we realize this practically? God forbid that after reading this anyone would believe it is now up to us to go out and to start trying to act in a priestly way. No, priesthood is not just another hyper-spiritual item on our Christian to-do list.

Priesthood is our inheritance. It is who we are by birth. It is not about trying to do, or produce anything. It’s about an awakening to what has been given.  It’s about awakening to an identity. You and I have been born a royal priesthood. It is our identity in Christ. It is our calling. It is our function. It is our mission. It is everything that we are, or will be.

Our job is to believe it. Receive it. Appropriate it, and within the unique spheres, assignments and specific endowments that each of us carries . . . live like it. Just get on being who you are, starting with those closest to you: your family, your spouse, your children and grandchildren.

From there, let the same empowering Spirit increase your circle of priesthood into the world. If everyone is faithful in his or her sphere, the world will be filled with God’s dream: the nations filled with a royal priesthood, representing God to humanity, and carrying humanity’s burdens and cares before God, releasing the power of His endless life in prophetic dimensions that the world is longing to see.

If I could shout in a blog, or run the aisles . . . I would!

Perhaps some of what I have shared has sounded strange or difficult to you. I would like to end with some quotes from respected leaders from the past, sharing their perspectives on resurrection, Spirit-baptism, indwelling, and resurrection. What I have shared herein is not some new or strange doctrine. It is basic Christianity. It is an understanding of the riches of our faith shared among a broad spectrum of Christian traditions. That these things might be considered strange or difficult, is to me, an indication of how far we have fallen.

May God awaken us anew to how richly endowed we are, how fully inherited we are, and what it means to live our mortal days on this planet as a royal priesthood.

Andrew Murray said:

In the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the work of Christ culminates.[6] The very life of the Son of God in heaven has been released on earth.

The indwelling must be accepted and treasured until it becomes part of the consciousness of the new man: the Holy Spirit possesses me.[7]

Let us plead with God to show His people what it means that they are Christ’s representatives, just as He was the Father’s.[8]

 The glorifying of Jesus and the streaming forth of His spirit are intimately connected; in vital organic union, the two are inseparably linked.[9]

His Spirit came forth as the spirit of His human life, glorified into union with the divine, to make us partakers of all that He had personally wrought out and acquired of Himself, and His glorified life.[10]

William Law said:

Who could be a greater enemy of the Gospel than those leaders and shepherds of the flock, who write and preach against the manifest power of the Holy Spirit as it were as much to be avoided in our day as Paul said it was vital in his own.[11]

G. Campbell Morgan said:

“. . . this exalted man is our God.”[12]

Gordon Fee said:

The Spirit is the sine qua non of Christian experience.[13]

A. B. Simpson said: 

He has left to us the same power He possessed. This [spirit baptism/indwelling] is the mighty gift of our ascended Lord.  This is the supreme need of the church today.[14]

The mystery of the incarnation is repeated every time a soul is created anew in Christ Jesus.[15]

Edward Irving said:

It is an act of Christ’s whereby he doth give to his church the Holy Ghost [Spirit], to dwell in them, and to work in them all the joy and consolation, all the word and power, which resides in himself; to the end that in obeying, the motions of the Holy Ghost within us, we may shew forth in the world, and to the world, the goodness of God, and the power and glory of the son of Man, who sitteth in God’s throne, and exerciseth all the power of the Father in his presence.[16]

 

Copyright 2012,  Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, www.swordofthekingdom.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact stephcros9@aol.com.


[1]My personal migration of understanding away from my own heritage is best captured in Roger Stronstad’s marvelous little book: The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke. Anything I could write or say to persuade anyone, about anything on this topic, Roger has already done. If his presentation does not convince, I could add nothing.
[2] Very literally: “Stop clinging to me and trying to exert influence upon me according to what you understand.”
[3] An end time, (eschatological) verse.
[4] Not gender specific. Eph. 2:12-13, Col. 1:21.
[5] The promise in Revelation to the overcomers regarding ruling the nations with a rod of iron is perhaps a future fulfillment, but I can’t digress into alternate interpretations here of what it might mean to rule with a rod of iron.
[6] Andrew Murray, The Spirit of Christ. Fort Washington: Christian Literature Crusade
[7] Ibid., 9.
[8] Ibid., 98.
[9] Ibid, 40. [10] Ibid., 39. [11] William Law, The Power of the Spirit, Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature crusade, 1993. 65.
[12] G. Campbell Morgan, The Crises of the Christ. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1989, 283.
[13] Gordon Fee, God’s Empowering Presence; Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994, 368.
[14] A. B. Simpson, The Holy Spirit, Vol. II. Harrisburg: Christian Publications, n.d., 20.
[15] Ibid., 14.
[16] Edward Irving, The Day of Pentecost, or the Baptism with the Holy Ghost, 1831; quoted by Gordon Strachan, Pentecostal Theology of Edward Irving. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1988, 132.

2 comments on “The Royal Priesthood – Part Two

  1. Reminds me of Paul’s prayer for the church in Eph. 1:17-20 and I add may those of us who have the privilege to know, begin to demonstrate that which we believe in its fullness. Amen

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