The Ministry Of A Priest
Derek Prince
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Strength Through Knowing God Series
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The Ministry Of A Priest

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Part 3 of 4: Strength Through Knowing God

By Derek Prince

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Be encouraged and inspired with this Bible-based sermon by Derek Prince.

Be encouraged and inspired with this Bible-based sermon by Derek Prince.

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Now we’re going to go back to the scripture that we spent a good deal of time on yesterday evening, that’s Exodus 19:4–6. And we will simply recapitulate very briefly the essence of what I tried to communicate yesterday. This is God’s purpose in redeeming his people, bringing them out of slavery and bringing them to Mt. Sinai; the place where he made his covenant with them. And he says to them:

“You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to me above all people; for all the earth is mine and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (NKJ)

So those are the purposes of God in redemption. And I believe those purposes are always true. Wherever God’s redemption is in effect those are the purposes. Let’s look at them briefly. I explained yesterday evening that God’s primary purpose was to bring his people to himself. And that there is a tremendous danger among the redeemed people of God to overlook this and to go for the benefits and bypass God himself. And I think that has caused perhaps all the problems that have come upon God’s redeemed people can be traced to that one cause: That we have neglected God and the knowledge of God and we have gone on to things that are important and wonderful but they’re secondary in importance to the knowledge of God himself.

And then we come to the further conditions God states. Very simple, in verse 5:

“If you will obey my voice [or if you will listen listening to my voice] and keep my covenant.”

Again, these two requirements are unvarying in all God’s dealings with his redeemed people. Those are the two great basic requirements. First of all, that we will listen to his voice and secondly, that we will keep his covenant. I pointed out that listening to his voice is more than just studying the Bible. It’s having a personal relationship with the Lord in which we are sensitive to what he actually says. I thank God for the Bible, it’s the basis of all understanding of God, it’s the way in which we must test every revelation. But it’s not the end. The end is that personal relationship with the Lord in which we hear his voice.

And the second requirement there is keep his covenant. And I suggested that you could express that in one English word; loyalty. I believe the key requirement in a covenant relationship is loyalty. Loyalty to God first and foremost before all else. And then loyalty to the rest of the redeemed people.

Covenant relationship, in a certain sense, can be typified by the cross which has two beams, the vertical and the horizontal. The vertical beam represents the relationship with God. The horizontal represents our relationship with the redeemed. And it is simply a fact of the way things work in this world, that if one beam is out of line, the other will be also. If our relationships with one another are out of line, that is sufficient evidence that our relationship with God is out of line. And if our relationship with God is right, our relationship with our fellow believers will be right also. And as I say, the key word, I think, is loyalty. In the Bible, faith is not primarily an intellectual conviction. There is an element of the intellectual in it but primarily it’s a personal commitment of loyalty.

Now I want to point out to you that this purpose of God for the redeemed, which was originally stated to Israel, is very clearly restated in the New Testament for Christians, whether they are Israelites or not Israelites. So let’s look on to 1Peter 2:9:

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, his own special people.”

If you compare that with Exodus 19 you’ll find that Peter simply restates God’s original revelation, he slightly changes the order. A chosen generation. Let’s be clear that everything ultimately proceeds from God’s choice, not man’s choice. This is the great error that tends to creep into our thinking, that it all happens because we decided. Oh no. It all happens because God decided. Jesus said to his disciples, you have not chosen me, I have chosen you. I don’t believe that was the choice to salvation, that was the choice to apostleship. But the emphasis was on the Lord’s choice.

James says about all of the born again people; of his own will God begot us with the word of truth. It didn’t start with the will of humanity, it started with the will of God. We have to get God in his right place, otherwise that vertical beam is out of line and the horizontal beam will be out of line also. So everything begins with God’s choice. And Romans reveals that God’s choice was made in eternity. That’s a wonderful thought, isn’t it? If you could really grasp the fact that God chose you before he created the world, you’d be able to relax. A lot of your tensions would just fade away.

I feel the Lord wants me to emphasize this. Keep your finger in 1Peter, we’re coming back in a moment. Just look in 2Timothy 1:9 which speaks about God, the last word in verse 8:

“God has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace; which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.”

What an astonishing statement. Bear in mind that when God saves you he also calls you. There is a calling for every saved person. A special way of life, a special task, a special responsibility. If you are saved, God has a calling for you. If you have not yet discovered it, you’re really not finding the purpose of life. And his calling was given to us out of his grace before time began. That’s really a staggering thought, isn’t it? Nothing that happens is just an accident of time. It all proceeds out of the eternal mind and counsel of God. It depends on his choice. Now it’s true that at a certain point we have to respond to God’s choice. But if God had never made the choice we would have nothing to respond to.

So let’s turn back to 1Peter 2:9:

“You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood...”

What noun does the word royal refer to? What kind of a person? A king, that’s right. So if it says a royal priesthood or a kingdom of priests, it’s the same thought. We are to be a kingdom of priests. We are to be a holy nation. The church is a nation, it’s not a nation of New Zealand or Australia or America or Britain or any other single nation. It’s a new nation brought into being by rebirth through faith in Jesus Christ. And it’s a holy nation. It’s a nation set apart for God for his purposes. And we are his own special people. That’s a staggering thought again, that we are God’s own special possession in the earth. I’ve often asked myself what is God after out of human history. What is he seeking? And I believe the answer is found in Deuteronomy 32:9:

“The Lord’s portion is his people.”

What is God getting out of history for himself? His people. And everything centers around the people of God. If you put God in right perspective you’ll see yourself in right perspective. Paul wrote to the Corinthians who were not always the most spiritual Christians, and he said all things are for your sakes. Everything that happens happens with reference to you. The sun rises for you. The sun sets for you. The tides ebb and flow for you. The jet airplanes fly for you. Cassette recorders were invented for you. P.A. systems were invented for us. Everything is for our sakes, understand? Why? Because we’re God’s own special people. His special treasure. The thing on which he has bestowed the greatest amount of his creative ability.

If you want to turn—I think I can release you from 1 Peter 2. Some people complain they don’t have enough fingers! Try and turn to Ephesians 2:10.

“For we are his workmanship [God’s workmanship] created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Again, the same truths are brought out. We are God’s workmanship. The Greek word there is poemawhich gives us the English word poem. We are God’s creative masterpiece. We’re not an afterthought. And what really blesses me every time I meditate on this is when God wanted to bring forth his masterpiece to dazzle the whole universe, just to prove what he could do, he went to the scrap heap for his material. Just to show the limitless capacity of his creative ability. We are his workmanship, his masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus for good works. Bear that in mind. We’re not created to please ourselves. We’re not created to do our own thing. We’re created for good works which God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. That’s the same truth as is brought out in 2Timothy 1:9.

“God has saved us and called us with a holy calling which was given us before time began.”

You do not have to make up your mind what you are going to do as a Christian. What you have to find out is what God has chosen you to do. He has good works prepared beforehand for every born again child of his in this congregation here this morning. And you will never find fulfillment until you find those good works and walk in them. And they are not according to your works, they’re not based on your natural ability. They proceed from God’s supernatural grace.

And God tends to choose the most improbable people to do things. Not always. I was born the only child in my family. I never had brothers or sisters. And for me, girls were a kind of mysterious entity which I didn’t understand and really was content to leave unexplained. But in the purpose of God, when I married in l946, I married a Danish lady with a very different cultural background to my own and the day I got married I was presented with eight adopted daughters. So I was the only male in a household of ten. And believe me, the adjustments required by all concerned were tremendous. But it was not according to my works, it was according to God’s purpose and grace. Do you understand? So don’t limit God to what you think you can do. I think you’ll find that every man that was called by God for a special task in the Bible felt incapable of it. If I ever meet a Christian who says God has called me to do this and I know I can do it, I’m almost sure God hasn’t called him to do it. Because God always shuts us up to operating out of his grace, not out of our ability.

So let’s focus now on that one statement that we are to be a royal priesthood or a kingdom of priests. I want to devote my study this morning to what is involved in being a kingdom of priests. Obviously there are two things; you have to be a king and you have to be a priest. Now, almost everybody can answer without effort what is the primary special function of a king? It is to rule, or, if you want to use a word directly related with it, reign. Now everybody knows that.

But when it comes to the function of a priest, I find very few people have a clear, specific understanding of what is the function of a priest. And it’s expressed either in a verb or in a noun. And it’s quite precise. There’s no blurred edges. If you take the noun, what is the one thing that belongs exclusively to a priest? Anybody say it? That’s right, sacrifice. You’ll find in the Bible only priests are permitted to offer sacrifice. And if you want the verb, I’ve just used it, it’s to offer. And so, as priests, it’s our responsibility to offer sacrifices. And I want to point out to you that since it’s a kingdom of priests, the only people that qualify for the kingdom are priests. Let me illustrate this with two examples that I use. If we were talking about a race of giants, what would you have to be to be in that race? A giant, that’s right. Or if we were talking about a society of botanists, what would you have to be to be in that society? A botanist, that’s right. We have some real theologians here this morning! So if it’s a kingdom of priests, what do you have to be to be in the kingdom? A priest, that’s right. So you can’t be a king until you’ve learned to be a priest. That’s the problem with God’s people. All of us would like to be kings. But few of us have mastered the duties of a priest. So I want to take a little while this morning to look into the specific particular ministry of a priest.

Now, if we were to turn to the Old Testament, which book in the Old Testament has the specific order and instructions for priests and what they do? Leviticus, that’s right. If we turn to the New Testament, there’s one book that corresponds to Leviticus which has the same regulations, what is it? Hebrews, that’s right. Let’s look in Hebrews just for a moment [Don’t believe me when I say just for a moment!] at some of the statements about priesthood. Turning to Hebrews 3:1:

“Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the apostle and high priest of our confession, Christ Jesus.”

Actually, Hebrews contains a revelation that is unique. It is without parallel anywhere else in the New Testament. It is the revelation of the high priesthood of Jesus. You really will not find it touched on anywhere else in the New Testament. And it is of tremendous importance. And here we find in this verse Jesus is given two titles. The apostle and the high priest. The word apostle means one sent forth. No one can be an apostle who has not been sent forth. There’s a lot of rather loose talk about apostles in the church today. The primary requirement for an apostle is to be sent forth. Anyone who has not been sent forth by definition is not an apostle. An apostle is not a static person. So Jesus was the apostle. He was sent forth by whom? By God the Father, that’s right. He said in John 10, “Say of him whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world, thou blasphemest because I say I am the son of God.” The Father sanctified Jesus and sent him forth. Sanctified not in the sense of making him holy, because he always was holy. But setting him apart for a special task which no one else could do. And having set him apart, he sent him into the world. And so he became the apostle of our confession, that which we state as what we believe. As the apostle he went forth into the world and did that which no one else could do, procured our redemption and laid the foundation of the church. Then he returned into the presence of God to represent us forever as what? Our high priest, that’s right.

Now the ministry of Jesus as an apostle is familiar to all Christians, it’s recorded in the gospels. But the ministry of Jesus as a high priest is not familiar to most Christians at all. And yet he’s been in that ministry for two thousand years. He was an apostle for just three and a half years, he’s been high priest for two thousand years. And as I said, the epistle to the Hebrews is the epistle that contains a revelation of the high priesthood of Jesus. One of the things that few of us really understand is that without a priest, no one can approach God. There is no possibility of an approach to Almighty God without a priest. You cannot offer God a gift or bring him a sacrifice unless you have a priest to present it to God for you. We tend to have the attitude, well, here I am God, here’s my offering, I hope you’re pretty glad to get it. That’s not the way it is. The truth of the matter is it’s your privilege to be able to offer to God, and you couldn’t do it if you didn’t have a priest.

Let’s look in Hebrews 5 now for a moment. Verse 1:

“For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God [to do what? Notice the key] that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sin.”

Without a priest you cannot offer a gift, you cannot offer a sacrifice. We are totally dependent on our high priest for our communication with God. Without him we would have no relationship with God. No communion, no communication with God.

Now, speaking about Christ in his earthly life, the writer goes on in this chapter in verse 4:

“No man takes this honor to himself [what’s the honor? It’s the honor of being called high priest.] but he who is called by God just as Aaron was.”

Aaron did not choose himself, God chose Aaron. And when the choice was contested by the leaders of the other tribes, God said I’ll settle the question once for all. And he did by causing Aaron’s rod to blossom buds and bring forth almonds in 24 hours. We may come back to that later. Verse 5:

“So also Christ did not glorify himself to become high priest, but it was he who said to him, you are my Son, today I have begotten you.”

That’s in Psalm 2 and that does not refer to eternity. That refers to time. God the Father begot Jesus Christ as Son, from the dead by resurrection. And having begotten him he said you are my son. You’ll find that in Psalm 2. If we go into Psalm 2, we’ll never get out of it again this morning so we’ll just have to bypass it.

Verse 6, as he also says in another place:

“You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

So God the Father both declared Jesus to be his Son and ordained him a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Now, verse 7 speaks about the priestly ministry of Jesus in his earthly life, in the days of his flesh. And notice because he was a priest he had to offer sacrifice, otherwise he would not have been a priest, you understand? Because he was not of the tribe of Levi he could not offer the animal sacrifices which were exclusively reserved for the tribe of Levi, so he had to offer another kind of sacrifice. And verse 7 tells us the kind of sacrifice that he offered.

“Who, in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up [notice that’s the key word] prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to him who was able to save him from death and was heard because of his godly fear.”

Notice that. Remember what we were talking about last night? The fear of the Lord. Why was Jesus heard? Because he prayed out of the fear of the Lord. So what was the sacrifice that he offered in the days of his flesh? What did he offer up? What’s the key word? Prayers, that’s right. Remember prayer is the earthly sacrifice for Jesus in the days of his flesh. And he offered them up to the one who was able to save him from death.

Now the Greek says out of death. God did not keep Jesus from dying but he resurrected him out of the dead. So his prayer was heard. I think that’s a certain truth in our lives. Sometimes we pray to be kept from something. God hears our prayers, permits us to go into it but gets us out of it.

Now turn to chapter 6 for a moment. Speaking now about the very theme that we dealt with yesterday, the Holy of Holies, beyond the second veil, it says in verse 19:

“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the presence behind the veil.”

Isn’t that a blessed thought? I could preach on this for an hour but I mustn’t. Remember that hope is the anchor of your soul. Why does your soul need an anchor? Because it’s like a ship on water. And there is nothing in water that you can hold on to. There’s nothing in water that will secure the ship. So in order to secure it you have to pass your anchor from the ship through the water into some other element. Rock or soil. And the writer of Hebrews says we have an anchor for our soul because we’re like that ship. We’re in an element of time which is totally unstable. There is nothing stable in this temporal world. Not one stable thing. If you want stability you have to pass your anchor of hope through time into eternity. And you anchor it within the second veil, in the immediate presence of God.

See, Hebrews talks about two things; faith and hope. Faith is in the now, hope is in the future. Faith is the substance of things hoped for. If you have faith, it’s the basis for your hopes. But your anchor is not faith, it’s hope. Hope is in the future. See, the suggestion that everything we have is now is an error. We don’t. No matter how good we have it now there’s something better to come. And if you are always taken up merely with the things of time, you are like a ship without an anchor. Sooner or later a storm is going to arise in your life. God won’t cause it to rise and you’ll discover you lack an anchor. The anchor relates us to eternity. That’s one of the issues that I feel is so important. It’s that we do not become solely preoccupied with the things of time because our hope is in eternity. You’ll find that to a certain extent, the Christians who have it least good in this world usually have the strongest anchor in eternity. Because they’ve been brought face to face with the fact that this world is very temporary and very impermanent. As the writer says, here we have no continuing city but we look for one which is to come. That’s hope. Hope is in the future.

Now, going back to verse 19:

“...and steadfast which enters the presence behind the veil.”

That’s the immediate presence of God where there is no other light except God’s presence.

“Where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus.”

When it calls Jesus the forerunner entering beyond the veil, it means he’s gone there to get us there, to prepare the way for us.

“...having become high priest for ever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

He has become our high priest forever within the second veil, representing God, our forerunner preparing the way for us to follow him there. And he’s a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Now Melchizedek is one of the most fascinating persons in the Bible. And there are probably a lot of things about Melchizedek that I don’t understand. But there are some things that the Bible reveals. We’ll read verses 1 and 2 of chapter 7. Remember the chapter divisions are put in much later by translators. And sometimes they obscure connections which I think is true in this case.

“For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem meaning king of peace, without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.”

Now the identity of Melchizedek is a matter of discussion amongst Bible commentators. Whether it was a preincarnate revelation of Jesus or whether there is also this person Melchizedek. And I’m quite content to find out when I get to eternity. But let’s look at the specific nature of Melchizedek. First of all, as the writer says, his name means king of righteousness. Melchi; king. Zedek; righteousness. Those of you who have been to Jerusalem, there’s a large new hospital in the west side of Jerusalem called ?Shirehzedek? which means the gates of righteousness. Zedekis righteousness. Melchiis king. Melchizedek is king of righteousness.

Then he was also by geographical location king of Salem which corresponds to the modern Hebrew shalom. And everybody knows what shalom means, don’t we? Peace. So he was king of righteousness and king of peace. But he was also priest of the Most High God. He was a king and a priest. He combined the two offices in one person. He’s mentioned in Genesis 14:18 which you do not need to turn to, it’s the first use of the word priest in the scriptures. And usually when an important concept is introduced in scripture the seed of the truth that will be unfolded is in the first reference. For instance, when God made woman the first thing he said about her was she was to be a helper for the man. That’s the seed truth of woman’s destiny. Women may rebel against it but it still remains true. And the only women who find true fulfillment are those who find their God given function which was ordained by God before woman was created. And you cannot change what God has created. It stands, it’s there. I thank God that God has given me in each of my marriages a woman who has been a helper to me. And I am very glad to acknowledge publicly I could never have become what God has made me without my first or my second wife. And in doing that, each of them found fulfillment which they would not have found if they had refused that destiny. That’s just by the way as I say, but there’s no extra charge for it!

Coming back to Melchizedek, he was a king and he was a priest. You see, it’s very important to see this because this is the primary and the eternal priestly order. Later, under the law of Moses which was an inferior arrangement, suited to the people’s weakness, the two functions were separated. Priesthood went to the tribe of Levi, kingship went to which tribe? Judah. And they were not allowed to interchange. There were two kings who offered sacrifice. Saul and ?Hosiah?. And both of them were judged by God. Saul lost his life and his kingdom. ?Hosiah? was struck with leprosy. Because as a king he was transgressing by exercising the function of a priest. That’s a very important principle. Never get out of your God ordained function, whatever it may be. Because you’re likely to get struck with leprosy if you do. Maybe not visible leprosy but nevertheless.

Then when Jesus came, in him there reappeared on the stage of human history the priesthood of Melchizedek. Now an interesting thing is that Levitical priests had nothing to offer to the people until the people first offered to them. Only when the people brought something for sacrifice could the priest give back part of it to the man who offered it. But Melchizedek offered to Abraham things that Abraham had not offered to him. And he brought out two things which were; bread and wine. And Jesus at the last supper, when the meal was concluded, took the bread and the wine and gave them to his disciples, he was saying here is the priesthood of Melchizedek restored in me.

Now, when we are born again into the kingdom of God through faith in Jesus Christ, we don’t come into the Levitical priesthood, we come into the priesthood of Melchizedek. We are a kingdom of priests. We are kings and priests. See how important it is to understand the nature of Melchizedek.

Now let’s go on a little further to chapter 8, verse 3:

“For every high priest [every high priest] is appointed to [do what? What’s the next word?] offer both gifts and sacrifice.”

See, neither gifts nor sacrifices can approach God except through a priest.

“Therefore it is necessary that this one also have something to offer. [that this one is Jesus] For is he were on earth, he would not be a priest since there are priests who offer the gift according to the law.”

He didn’t need to offer the animal sacrifices because there were priests already offering those from the tribe of Levi and as the writer of Hebrews points out, Jesus came not from the tribe of Levi but from the tribe of Judah which was the kingly tribe. However, because he was a priest he had to offer. See, every priest has to offer. We’ve read in Hebrews 5 he offered prayers and supplications but that was not his final offering. What was his final offering? Himself, that’s right.

If you go on to Hebrews 9:13:

“For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purged your conscience from dead works to serve the Living God.”

Notice what he offered. Himself. He was both the priest and the sacrifice. There was no other priest that could do it and there was no other sacrifice. So Jesus combined in himself, on the cross, the role of priest and the role of sacrifice. And he did it through the eternal Spirit. Note that.

I remember when I was confronted for the second time in a Pentecostal church with the gospel. The first time when they asked people to raise their hands I felt extremely indignant that anybody had enticed me into a place where they asked me to do something so unbecoming and embarrassing as to raise my hand in public. And as I sat there meditating on this the Holy Spirit raised my hand for me—to my intense shock! I mean to say I was both scared and embarrassed. Nothing much more developed out of that in that particular service but they did say in this particular church, Tuesday night there’s going to be a revival in the Assemblies of God.

Now I had no idea what revival was and less idea of what the Assemblies of God were. But I thought whatever this thing is that got started, I’ll see it through. So Tuesday night found me in the Assemblies of God. It was much the same kind of congregation. Being wartime it was mostly old ladies and not many of them. Here was I, soldier in uniform. Now this time the speaker preached about Enoch, he was not because the Lord took him. And he dealt with that in some detail even to the point of the human cry that arose after the disappearance of Enoch, how they sent for the CID which is probably the same here in New Zealand, is it? What do you have here in New Zealand. The CID or what they call the FBI in America? Anyhow, the Criminal Investigation Department and they came with their tracking dogs, followed the trail of Enoch to a certain point and after that there was no more scent. Neither north, nor south, nor east, nor west. So the logical conclusion was that he had gone up. Well I was a professional logician. I saw the logic of that although its application was unfamiliar to me. And when he came to the end of his message that time I knew what was going to happen, I was on my guard. Every eye closed, every head bowed...

So I thought to myself the last time somebody else raised my arm for me but I couldn’t expect that to happen twice. So here goes, so I put my arm up. And as always, once I got my arm up the whole service breathed a sigh of relief because I was probably the only sinner in the place. And they finished off the service. Well this time the preacher came to me and he looked at me and I looked at him and I think he thought he had a problem on his hands, which he was quite right about! And he asked me two questions which I remember vividly. The first one was, “Do you believe that you’re a sinner?”

Well, my specialty was definitions. So I quickly went over in my mind every reasonable definition of a sinner and every one of them fitted me exactly! So I said, “Yes, I believe I’m a sinner.”

Then he said, “Do you believe that Christ died for your sins?”

And I remember saying to him, “To tell you the truth, I can’t see what the death of Jesus Christ nineteen centuries ago could have to do with the sins that I’ve committed in my lifetime.” And I could not. I could not see any possible way that it would make sense.

So they left me to God and God dealt with me and about two days later I met the Lord. However, when I began to study the Bible I discovered Hebrews 9:14 which answered my problem. “Through the eternal Spirit he offered himself to God.” Now with my knowledge of languages I knew immediately what eternal meant. It meant something that’s out of time. Something that’s not within the limits and framework of time. So in that act of sacrifice on the cross, by the Holy Spirit, Jesus comprehended the sins of all humanity; past, present and future in one single sacrifice. So I just offer that as an explanation. But you’ll notice the sacrifice he offered was himself.

Now if we are to be priests in the order of Melchizedek and Jesus is the great high priest, obviously our priestly ministry must be patterned on his. Isn’t that right? So we have to offer two kinds of sacrifice. The first is prayers, supplications and all that’s included in that word prayer. The second is what? Ourselves. Well, the Bible requires both of us. Let’s look on in Hebrews since we’re in that book, into Hebrews 13:15.

“Therefore by him, [Jesus] let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God.”

What’s the sacrifice? Praise. I use the all inclusive word prayer to include every kind of activity like that. Praise, thanksgiving, supplication, intercession, petitions. All of that is covered in the one general word prayer. So we’re to use one general word for our specific type of sacrifice; it is prayer.

“Continually to God. That is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name.”

You see that praise and giving thanks are both specified there. And we’re to offer that continually. The life of the Christian should be a life of continuing praise and giving thanks. It’s not something we do merely when we come together in a church service, it should be the continual outflow of the divine life within us. And I want to tell you if you want to keep the devil away from you, the best thing you can do is to be continually praising God. Because the devil hates and fears praise as much as anything there is. Don’t clam up. Don’t shut yourself in. Don’t spend your time focused on yourself and your problems. The more you focus on them the worse they get. Turn your face outward, lift it up to God and begin to praise him. And remember it’s a sacrifice. A sacrifice costs something. It’s most important to praise God when you least feel like it. Those who only praise God on the basis of feelings have not learned the priestly ministry. If you do it on the basis of your feelings, when you’re down, you’ll go further down. Praise does not depend on our circumstances. We praise God why? Because he’s worthy of praise. And he’s always worthy of praise. There’s never a time when he is not worthy of praise. Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised. Praise is the acknowledgment of God’s greatness just as worship is the acknowledgment of God’s holiness. And thanksgiving is the acknowledgment of God’s goodness. If you continue in thanksgiving, praise and worship, your life will be a life of victory. We are required to offer these sacrifices. They’re not optional. They’re part of being a priest.

And then let’s read the next verse there, Hebrews 13:16:

“But do not forget to do good and to share; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”

What sacrifices? Praise, thanksgiving and sharing with other people. Sharing what? Whatever God has given us to share. And that’s a sacrifice that pleases God. You want to please God? Do you want to be a priest in the order of Melchizedek? Okay. Then you offer these sacrifices; praise, thanksgiving and sacrificial giving to others. It may be your time, it may be your strength, it may be your finance. But remember, it is more blessed to give than to receive. So while you’re only receiving, you’re living on the lower level of blessing.

Ruth and I have certain scriptures we repeat together. This is our confession. Okay. This is just a little interlude and this illustrates some of the ways that we seek to maintain our relationship with God. 2Corinthians 9:8. Now we’ll slightly adjust these words to make them apply to us.

“God is able to make all grace abound towards us; that we always, having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.”

What about giving them 2Corinthians 2:14 while we’re at it. No extra charge! Furthermore, we’ll give you this in two versions; we’ll do the King James first.

“Thanks be unto God, who always causes us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savor of his knowledge by us in every place.”

Now the NIV:

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.”

Now why did I say that? Because of 2Corinthians 9:8;

“God is able to make all grace abound toward us that we always, having all sufficiency in all things, may abound or overflow to every good work”.

Why does God do that? Because it’s more blessed to give than to receive. And God wants every one of his children to live on the higher level of blessing not just being a sponge, absorbing everything you can get and having to be squeezed to give anything out. Not just being a dead sea which receives the water coming into it, gives forth nothing and has no life. But being a Sea of Galilee which receives and gives and abounds with life of every kind. Do you understand? And it’s grace dear brothers and sisters. It’s not something we earned. It’s grace. Grace is given us that we may abound to every good work. And I want to emphasize that it’s not that we may abound to our own carnal self indulgence. It’s to every good work. Why? Because we are his workmanship. Created in Christ Jesus for good works which God has before ordained that we should walk in.

Now we’re speaking about priests. We’ve spoken about the regular ongoing sacrifice; praise, thanksgiving and sharing. Now let’s look at the other sacrifice that is patterned on the sacrifice of Jesus which is what? Ourselves. And this is very, very clearly stated in the Bible in Romans 12, we’ll read verse 1 to start with and then verse 2.

“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.”

The word service immediately turns our mind toward what? Priesthood. Our priestly service. It’s reasonable, we could do no less. Another translation says spiritual. Whichever you wish, help yourself. What is the sacrifice? It’s our body. Exactly like Jesus. Jesus offered his body on the cross. Now we are asked to offer our body, but Paul is very precise. He says a living sacrifice. Why does he say a living sacrifice? To contrast it, first of all, with the sacrifices of the Old Covenant which were kill, and to distinguish it from the sacrifice of Jesus because he actually also did die on the cross. We are to offer our bodies to God in just the same way. As the Levitical priest placed the bullock or whatever it was on the altar, as Jesus placed his body on the cross, we are to offer our body. Has that ever occurred to you? And you notice it begins with a therefore. Some of you that are familiar with my tapes will remember that I say when you find a therefore you need to find what it’s there for. And the therefore at the beginning of chapter 12 is there because of chapters 1 through 11 which unfold the whole theological basis of the gospel. Romans is the great theological presentation of the gospel. Man’s need and God’s complete provision for man’s need through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

And also the whole issue of predestination and divine election which is worked out in the context of God’s dealings with Israel in chapters 9, 10 and 11. This is not a postscript nor an addendum. It’s part of the basic revelation of the doctrine of the gospel. Bear that in mind. You don’t understand the gospel fully till you understand God’s dealings with Israel because they’re there in those first 11 chapters. In fact, it’s immediately after chapter 11 that Paul says I beseech you therefore. In other words, in the light of all that God has done for us, what is our reasonable response? Paul says there’s only one reasonable response. We offer him our body.

I love the Bible because it’s so down to earth. Here you have this tremendous theological unfolding which no human mind on its own could have achieved. I was a student of logic. I want to tell you the greatest textbook in logic that I’ve ever discovered is the epistle to the Romans. If you can read that and master it, you’re a logician.

And then at the end of this tremendous unfolding you say God, what do you want from me? God says I want your body. So down to earth. Don’t be superspiritual, just give me your body. Present your body. That’s again, the priestly work, offer your body a living sacrifice. And God says when you do that, I’ll tell you some of the benefits. Verse 2 tells us the benefits:

“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.”

Paul says we are not to be like the people of the world, the unregenerate people of the world. We are to be different. We’re not to be conformed, we’re to be transformed. And he says the transformation is not going to take place from without. You notice religion always tries to change people from without. Grace changes people from within. Some of you have been in legalistic churches where it is all a set of external rules, you mustn’t go here, you mustn’t go there, you mustn’t do that. Your dress must be a certain length and so on and so on and so on. That’s man’s way of trying to change people. Whether it’s Judaism, Islam or legalistic Christianity; it always approaches man from without. But God says let me change you within and that will take care of the way you live. If I change the way you think, you’ll no longer live like the people who think like the world. So God transforms us by changing our mind. And when our mind is changed our lifestyle is changed. How many of you agree that that’s perfectly logical, practical?

Now, but God says I’m not going to do that for you until you’ve given me your body. If you want your mind changed, you put your body on the altar and I’ll take care of the mind change. And then God says with your renewed mind you can prove what is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God. Prove means find out in experience. I want to tell you this and it’s of tremendous importance. The unrenewed mind cannot discover the will of God. He does not reveal his will for a life to the unrenewed mind. Romans 8 tells us the carnal mind is at enmity against God. God does not reveal his plans to his enemies. Do you understand? So there has to be a change in our way of thinking before we can discover God’s plan for our life. He has good works before ordained for us to walk in them. But we cannot discover them until we have placed our body on the altar and as a result, our mind has been renewed.

Then with the renewed mind we begin to discover the will of God in three successive phases. It’s good. God never plans anything bad for any of his children, he never did. It’s acceptable. Once we begin to appreciate what really is involved we’ll accept it, we’ll embrace it. But finally it’s perfect. It includes every area of our lives. Every need, every situation. There is nothing that happens by accident in the life of a child of God who is truly surrendered to the purposes of God. All things work together for good to those who love God. But don’t stop there. Who are the called according to his purpose. When you are walking in the purposes of God and in your calling, in the love of God everything works together for good in your life.

Now we have come to the end of our time for this session but let me just say I want to be fair to you. The Lord told me in l962, he said I don’t want you to merely deliver religious lectures, I want you to give people an opportunity to act on whatever you teach wherever that’s practical. This morning I’ve spoken to you about a specific response that God requires from us which is to hand over your body to him. To place your body on the altar of his service without reservation. See, God says when I got your body I got you. I’ve got the vessel and its contents. You can’t separate your spirit and your soul from your body. So God says give me the vessel and I got all that it contains.

Now I just want to say to you there may be some of you here this morning that have heard this teaching but have never acted on it before. You have never really totally surrendered your body to God. That means you don’t make any further determination about your own body. You don’t determine what it eats, you don’t determine what it wears, you don’t determine where it goes, you don’t determine the job it does. All that is decided for you by the Lord. You may end up a missionary, you may end up a lawyer, you may end up a housewife, you may end up a ditch digger. That’s God’s decision. Are you prepared to let God have that much right in your life? Shall we just pray quietly for a moment? Now as we’re praying I’m not going to ask you to make any outward demonstration or response. But if you really have been confronted by a requirement of God that you’ve never met and you want to meet it, then just take this opportunity in a few moments of quietness between God and yourself without looking around or being concerned about other people, being concerned about me. Just tell God, God, here I am. I place my body on the altar of your service without reservation. From now on it belongs to you. I offer it to you in Jesus’ name. Remember, it’s only through your high priest that your sacrifice will be accepted.

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