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God's People

1 Peter 2:9-10 

 

 "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a HOLY NATION, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; [10] for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." (NASB)

 While snipers, soldiers, and biochemical experts are hard at work keeping athletes at this summer's Olympic Games safe, elite priests will also be on duty to deal with matters of the soul.  Orthodox priests from the Church of Greece will be available to any athlete at any time. They will also hold morning and evening services every day at the Olympic Village.

 A spokesman, Father Economou, said the priests are multilingual and speak European or Slavic languages and have received special instructions.  They will have printed material in foreign languages for athletes.  Economou added, "Not just any priest could do this work, they have to have special qualifications."  The church of Greece also instructed area churches to clean up their property, ring bells sparingly, and have brochures ready for tourists who are interested in the country's Orthodox heritage. (Http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

 I'm glad the church of Greece is providing this ministry for the athletes and am sure the spokesman is right when he says these priests are especially qualified for the job they are doing. But even if he is right, I wince when I read his words, "Not just any priest could do this work..."  The whole concept of "Elite Priests" helps to widen a troubling gap between ministers.   There is a sense in which ministers  need special qualifications to do the work of the Lord, but that doesn't mean there isn't something for everyone to do.  God has placed us in us special spiritual gifts that allow us to do the work He's called us to do.  Everyone, not just priests and pastors are ministers.

 The scripture never taught the division of laity and clergy.  All of God's people are to live holy lives and to serve Him.  In the Old Testament, there was a priestly order, but its function was to serve and guide the people of God.  The New Testament declares Christians are " . . . a royal priesthood . . ."  If the division isn't biblical, when did it appear? Kenneth Scott Latourette answers that question in his book, A History of Christianity Vol. 1.  He writes, "As early as the beginning of the second century a distinct cleavage had begun to appear between clergy and laity, and this in spite of the fact that in the first century every Christian was held to be a priest unto God.  By the end of the second century the clergy had clearly become a separate order . . . " (p. 133)

 Latourette refers to the priesthood of the believer here.  I've casually mentioned the Doctrine of the Priesthood of the believer the past few weeks and haven't had time to fully develop in those sermons.  Unfortunately, there isn't time to do so today either.  But I have prepared a two page paper for you to take home and read if you are interested.  You can pick one up at the information table at the back after the service. (Http://www.freshministry.org/pob.html)

 For now, I'd like to develop the idea of being the people of God, beginning with The Exclusive People of God.

 The Old Testament records the calling of the exclusive people of God, the Jewish race.  God calls them His chosen people.  Of particular significance is Abraham's obedience to God, in offering the son of his old age as a sacrifice.  Isaac was the sole heir  born to Abraham and his wife.  Isaac was a miracle child,  he was the result of a promise made to Abraham.  Yet God called on Abraham to sacrifice that precious son. 

 Obediently, Abraham went to the altar to sacrifice his promised son.  God stopped him, providing Abraham with a ram for sacrifice.  Abraham sacrificed the ram in place of his son.  Paul, commenting on the faithfulness of Abraham said:  "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." (Romans 4:3, NASB)  Faith led to righteousness, and God blessed the seed of Abraham. 

 In Genesis 22:17-18, God gave a promise to Abraham.  ". . . indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice."  (NASB)

 Thus the children of Israel became God's chosen people to impact history, commissioned to change the world.  The promise was to be blessed and to be a blessing.  The Jewish nation was the exclusive people of God. 

 We are not the exclusive people of God, but because of what Christ has done for us, we are the people of God nonetheless.  We are the Inclusive People of God.

 Our text says, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a HOLY NATION, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; [10] for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." (1 Peter 2:9-10 NASB) 

 Abraham offered his son Isaac, and God stopped that sacrifice and formed the exclusive people of God.  However, God did not stop Himself from offering His only Son to form an inclusive people of God.  Romans 8:32 says, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He also not with Him freely give us all things?" (NASB)  God's sacrifice made it possible for Him to include the excluded. 

 Just when Abraham was about to kill his son, God in effect said, You are faithful.  Because of your faithfulness, I will count it as righteousness, as if you made the sacrifice.  Then God stopped Abraham and provided a substitute for death on that altar. 

 Yet, when God watched His only Son dying on the cross, the Scripture records that He did not stop the death blow.  Instead He turned His back on Jesus, allowing His only Son to die.  Jesus died to buy all His people back, to give everyone an opportunity to become part of the people of God.  Romans 9:26 states, "And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, ' you are not My people,' There they shall be called sons of the living God." (NASB)  All Christians are the people of God.

 God specializes in using His ordinary people to do extraordinary work.  Elisha was plowing in the field when Elijah confirmed his call.  He was doing ordinary labor.  There are a number of times in the Bible ordinary people were called by God for ministry.  Moses was tending sheep!  Exodus 3:1 says, "Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God." (NASB) That was not only an ordinary position, it was a loathsome one.  It was not a position of high esteem. Moses was an ordinary person tending sheep, yet he became the law-giver.  God used him in a special way.

 Gideon was beating wheat!  Judges 6:7 says, "Then the angel of the Lord came and sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press in order to save it from the Midianites." (NASB)  It is ordinary, dirty work. 

 David, the great king of Israel, was tending sheep--just another shepherd.  "He also chose David His servant, And took him from the sheepfolds;" (Psalms 78:70, NASB)

 Amos, the fiery prophet, was a herdsman, and a grower of sycamore figs.  Amos 7:14 says, "Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, 'I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet; for I am a herdsman and a grower of sycamore figs.'" (NASB)  Throughout scripture God takes hold of ordinary people, then does extraordinary things with them.

 He can use people like me and people like you.  This week we will be reading about the fourth purpose for our lives: Ministry.  I pray you will read with open hearts and open minds because I believe God wants to use you to do great things.  God builds His kingdom through the ministry of His people.  But He does more.  Ministry is also how He builds his people.  Are you a minister? 

 For more information on "every member a minister" go to: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0966177819/freshministry

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