The General Office of Believers is taught as a contrast to the Special Office of the Ministers, Elders, and Deacon. Next week we will focus our preaching about the institutional ministry of the visible church but for now we will put our attention to the organic role of believers not only as members of the church but also our individual and collective roles as Christians in this world.
Our Heidelberg Catechism asks the question to list down these roles of us:
Q#32. But why are you called a Christian?
Answer: Because by faith I am a member of Christ and so I share in His anointing. I am anointed to confess His name. to present myself to Him as a living sacrifice of thanks, to strive with a good conscience against sin and the devil in this life, and afterward to reign with Christ over all creation for all eternity.
So in context, our role as prophets, priests, and kings are connected to Christ in his mediatorial office. He is the final prophet, priest, and king who was pointed out as a type in the Old Testament. As these roles were fulfilled by Christ in the New Testament, we find it extended to us as those united to Him through faith and by the Spirit.
This means Christ who is our prophet reveals God to us in creation, redemption, and new creation. He who is our priest become the atoning sacrifice for our sins and now intercedes for us in heaven. And as our king, he rules and reigns in his church by his Word and Spirit.
Now by extension, we share his anointing by becoming prophets who confess his Name, priests who offer themselves as a sacrifice of thanksgiving, then finally, as kings who rule with him today until eternity.
This is the content of preaching this morning and before we begin, let us pray.
Prophets who Confess Christ
Peter made it clear that all believers share in the calling of the office of Christ. He wrote: 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 marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). This means Peter addressing the elect exiles of the dispersion (chapter 1 verse 1) consider them as God’s holy people, the saints of the church, and called “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
What does it mean to proclaim Christ? And using the catechism’s own word, what does it mean to confess his name?
All believers who believe in their hearts are also called to confess him with our mouths. Paul in Romans 10 made it clear to us by saying: “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (verse 9).” This means those who believe also profess their faith publicly.
Guido de Bres penned these opening words of the Belgic Confession: “We all believe with the heart and confess with the mouth…” He uses it because he knows how important for any believer to confess the truths Scripture. We are called as witnesses to the truth of the gospel. We are called to proclaim the saving work of God in Christ and by his Spirit.
Of course, not of all of us are called become ministers who become preachers and teachers of God’s Word but as disciples of Christ we are all called to the prophetic office of confessing God’s truth in Scripture. As believers we are all witnesses of everything God proclaims in his Word.
Practically speaking our lives as salt and light of the world bring about the fruit of saving faith in the life of others surrounding us in own families, work, circle of friends, and even in the society at large. As partners of the gospel ministry we invite others to study God’s Word and even encourage them learn deeply about these truths. In every opportunity providence provides we are called to become helpers in the ministry.
This will allow us to actively participate in the gospel ministry of our church. There are opportunities in our own local church for becoming a volunteer to teach or assist in our Sunday school. Also, we can also volunteer to organize study groups either with our own family, relatives, and friends. At the same time, if we are skilled in writing, we can publish our own books, blogs, and video promoting the reformed faith. Lastly, we can counsel others promoting godly wisdom from Scripture.
Priests who Offer Themselves to Christ
Martin Luther insists on the priesthood of all believers. Rather than designating sainthood to a privilege few, he taught all elect believers are true saints set apart by God in Christ and by the Spirit. Of course, this does not mean the clergyhood of all believers as not all are called to be officebearers of the church, but as disciples of Christ, all members of Christ’s body are called to offer their lives as living sacrifices to God.
Paul called the congregation of Ephesus as the saints who are in Ephesus (Ephesians 1:1) and in 1 Corinthians 1:2 it reads, “to the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord…” This pertains to whole body of believers at the particular place called church.
Now as saints they were called by Peter as those belonging to the “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). This simply means as those united to Christ through faith and by the Spirit are also called priest before God. They, as specified by our Catechism, are called to present themselves as living sacrifices before God. This calling as priest pertains to Romans 12:1 where Paul concludes with “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
Now sacrifices in the Old Testament are offerings made in the temple as part of the requirements of the law. The book of Hebrews in the New Testament makes an excellent case of asserting its fulfilment in the once and for all atoning sacrifice of Christ in his death at the cross. This means the priesthood of the Old Testament is now made obsolete.
So if Christ’s atoning work is considered complete how come we are called to offer our lives as living sacrifices before God? Because our lives which receives the imputed righteousness of Christ for our justification also progress in holiness by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. It means all believers will live the remaining days of their lives here on earth in gratitude before God and will continue to offer sacrifices of thanksgiving praises before Him.
Becoming priest in the office of Christ means we live out lives in gratitude and in obedience to Him. It also means we will continue to intercede for one another’s needs. Paul reminds us in Romans 15:16, “…in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” The offering referred to here are financial assistance aimed to help those who are in need.
Our role as priest in Christ points to the ministry of mercy and even the service of hospitality in the church. To offer ourselves as living sacrifices means we simply do not live only for ourselves and for needs but more so we are mindful of others and their needs. It is our duty as priest in Christ to pray for one another and attend to spiritual as well as material needs of others. Volunteering to become ushers, joining the list of sponsors in our Food committee, and even sacrificially giving to help the finances of the church are some of the practical ways to answer our priestly calling.
Kings who Rule with Christ
Lastly, we are called as kings to rule with Christ. The HC specifically laid down two ways we demonstrate our rule in Christ; the first is in this life related to our redemption and the second is for the life to come related to our glorification.
Our life as pilgrims here on earth is marked by perseverance in the faith. We are called to become living members of the church. Peter referred to his readers as those who belong to a “royal priesthood”. As Christ continues to subdue everything under his feet (Philippians 2:10), those who are united to him by faith and Spirit are also called to mortify sin and live in righteousness.
All believers are called to put off the flesh and put on Christ. We are exhorted to put on the armor of God who is Christ. We who are clothed by the righteousness of Christ are instructed to walk in a manner worthy of our calling. We are encouraged to lead godly lives.
The church growth movement, by lopsidedly focusing only on the Great Commission, muddled this work of striving to subdue sin in our own lives. They often equate activeness in the “ministry of evangelism” with holiness and we know how often we are found ourselves inadequate for both. We cannot pretend to live as ambassadors for Christ when in reality we are living in rebellion to him and his Word. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is not increased by the number of your followers in Twitter. Rather, they are produced by the Spirit as we walk in the path of godliness.
As kings in Christ, we are called to persevere in the end and as God preserves those who are his, we are called to examine ourselves and continue to practice self-denial and watchfulness. As soldiers in battle, we know the war is won by those who are more disciplined. And since the war of death and sin has been won by Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, our battle against sin and temptation is never a losing proposition. God will continue to sanctify God’s people and we can trust God in his promises. He will truly cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
So in the end, we will rule and reign with Christ in new creation. This is our eternal destiny in Christ. We will glorify him and enjoy him forever.
ZCRC (Imus), Christ shares his office to those who are united to him through faith and by the Spirit. As believers, we are called to become prophets, priests, and kings in Christ. Let us continue to confess his name, present ourselves as living sacrifices to God, and strive to subdue sin and reign with Him forever. Amen.
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.