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Training For The Royal Priesthood
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 1 Pet. 2:9
The apostle is contrasting those who accepted Jesus as the Messiah with those who rejected Him.
The word generation seemingly is used in this text to signify a race. God first called the nation of Israel to be His chosen people, His holy nation. (Ex. 19:5-6) for over eighteen hundred years they were trained under the law to demonstrate whether they were worthy to be God’s people. But God foreknew that even with their best endeavors they could not keep His law, because they were imperfect. He knew that they could never thus gain the prize of everlasting life. (Lev. 18:5; Rom. 10:5) He had arranged, however, for the redemption of Israel and of all the world through the death of our Lord Jesus Christ; and He knew that the Mosaic law would be the schoolmaster to lead the Israelites to Christ. Gal. 3:24
The Israelites hoped God would make of them a great people, that eventually would rule the world as God’s kingdom. Because they were the natural seed of Abraham, they considered it a foregone conclusion that God’s promise to Abraham could apply to no others than themselves. They overlooked the fact that the true seed of blessing would have the faith, the heart obedience, of Abraham. The Jewish nation lacked this faith and obedience.
When the Messiah came, long foretold by their holy prophets, they rejected Him and slew Him. Only a few, “Israelites indeed,” of humble, teachable heart, received Him. But God had foreknown the rejection of His Son by the nation, and had prearranged that when the faithful few had been gathered from Israel, the call for this Seed class should go to the Gentiles.
In Jehovah’s plan, this Abrahamic seed of blessing was to be composed of 144,000--12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, under the headship of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Hence when the 20,000 or more Israelites who proved worthy had been brought into the Christian church, the Gospel message was sent to take out from the Gentiles a sufficient number to complete what was lacking from each tribe. These Gentiles thus became members of spiritual Israel, all of whom have had the faith of faithful Abraham.
SPIRITUAL ISRAEL -- A NEW NATION
The Israelites having been rejected as regards the Gospel call, a new nation was to be formed, composed of the faithful few from both Jews and Gentiles. God then opened up a new way of life, through Christ Jesus. (Heb. 10:20) The calling out and preparation of this new nation of spiritual Israel has been the work of this Gospel age. The way opened to them has not been a failure, as was the way opened for natural Israel. The Gospel church is “not under law, but under grace.” God’s provision in Christ enables these to succeed who are walking in the new way of life. They keep the Divine law in spirit, and the robe of Christ’s merit covers all the imperfections and blemishes of their flesh which are unavoidable.
Those who were chosen from amongst the Jews became dead to the law covenant, under which their nation had been bound for over sixteen hundred years. Those who were chosen from amongst the Gentiles became dead to their former sins and wrong condition. Together these became espoused to Christ, the middle wall of partition separating them having been broken down. They are to be the Bride of Christ. Those who constitute this bride class lose all their former relationships as men, and become heirs of God, joint-heirs with Christ. They are now new creatures. 2 Cor. 5:17
THE KINGLY PRIESTHOOD
It is to this class that St. Peter says, “Ye are a royal priesthood.” The office of a king is to rule, to reign; the office of a priest is to teach, to heal and to bless. These two offices are to be united in the work which this class is to perform when they shall have been exalted in the kingdom. “Ye are a holy nation, a peculiar people,” adds the apostle. This class have become separated from all other people. They are strangers and pilgrims on the earth. With their Head, Christ Jesus, they are to constitute the new government of Messiah’s kingdom, soon to be set up on the earth. It is not as human beings, however, that they are to reign, to teach and to bless the peoples of the world, but as spirit beings after their glorification in the first resurrection. (Rev. 20:4-6)
For more than eighteen hundred years these royal priests have been in process of training, developing the character necessary to make them worthy and capable rulers of the next age. The character tests applied to this company of prospective rulers are very rigid. They must first learn to judge and govern themselves before they would be fit to judge and govern others. They are placed in the school of Christ to be taught of Him. They are to learn lessons of meekness, self-control, patience, faith, gentleness, sympathy, love. Without these important characteristics this class would not be able to deal properly with the sinful, fallen world. but if they have these qualities well developed, they will, the Apostle Peter tells us, have “an abundant entrance into the everlasting (age-lasting) kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 1:5-11)
Our Lord Jesus, who was perfect, learned obedience, we are told, by the things which He suffered. (Heb. 5:8-9) The finest quality of character can be developed in no other way. Therefore all who are to be associated with Him in the Messianic kingdom work must suffer. If obedience were always easy, we could not learn what it really means. All who hope to be of the kingdom class must develop faith and obedience from the very first. There can be no real growth without these characteristics; and they must continue to increase.
JEHOVAH’S PECULIAR TREASURE
This loyal class are indeed a peculiar people, and the Lord calls them so. This statement of our text has the meaning of an acquisition. The Lord has acquired these as something especially precious. To Israel of old He declared, “Now, therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people.” We know that natural Israel was a type of the spiritual Israel of the Gospel age; and that the seed of Abraham who was to inherit the chiefest promises was to be his seed according to faith and not according to the flesh. This is clearly taught in the New Testament. Rom. 4 :14-16; 9:6-8; Gal. 3:8, 16, 29
Accordingly, the twelve tribes of Israel who are really God’s peculiar treasure are the twelve tribes of spiritual Israel. (Rev. 7:1-4) These are the people who are keeping their covenant with the Lord. They are as dear to God as the apple of His eye. Nominal Christians are not included in this choice treasure. Saints alone are meant. Each one of his class has entered into a special covenant with the Lord a covenant by sacrifice. (Psa. 50:5) Their Lord and Master first made this covenant with the Father, and we are following in His steps.
All during the Gospel age God has been gathering these, one by one. Not many great ones, not many mighty ones, are amongst them, but chiefly the poor of this world, rich in faith. (1 Cor. 1:26-29; Jas. 2:5) These are to be the heirs of the kingdom which God has promised to them that love Him. He is not gathering them to any sect or party, but to Himself. “Gather My saints together unto Me,” is His command. He has not instructed us to gather the world to Him; for the world’s time has not yet come. On the contrary, we are to seek the humble, teachable ones, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.
Those now gathered to the Lord are all covenanters. No one can become a member of the Bride class who does not make this covenant by sacrifice and then live faithfully up to it. The covenant is an agreement to surrender our will fully to God, to consecrate to Him our entire life, with all that we have. Whoever comes to Him during this Gospel age must come in this way. Whoever has not made that kind of covenant with God, has not come into the Lord’s family at all. God’s terms are very definite. We are not to be afraid to yield ourselves wholly to God. His will for us is our very highest good. We are to remember that our Lord has said, “My grace is sufficient for thee; for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” The Lord tells us through His Word that He knows that we are of the fallen race, that He does not call us because we are perfect, but that He has made abundant provision to cover all our need.
THE HOLY SPIRIT ESSENTIAL
Those who will be of this class that follow the Master now must be willing and glad to suffer the loss of friends, of social standing, of all earthly hopes and prospects, for the sake of the heavenly hopes and glories. All of this class will be guided by the Lord, by His holy Spirit -not by hearing words spoken to their inner ear, not by impressions made upon their mind, but by the Word of God, the Bible, by the things written therein aforetime for our learning and our admonition. The spirit of God operates through the inspired Word for the instruction of His people in the Truth. 1 Cor. 10:11; 2 Tim. 3:16
Why do we need to have the guidance of the Lord’s holy Spirit His influence, His mind in order to understand the Bible properly? It is because if we go to the study of the Bible with our own unaided reason, or if we go in a wrong spirit, we are sure to make a mistake and to get wrong views. But if we go prayerfully, in a spirit of meekness, gentleness, patience, love, we are going in the right manner. Then, if previously begotten of the holy Spirit, we shall understand the deep things of God. The Bible says that the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Cor. 2:9-14
St. Peter points out the fact that to some who profess to be the people of God, our Lord Jesus and His cross become “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, even to them that stumble at the Word, being disobedient.” (1 Pet. 2:7-8) This class lack humility and teachableness; they lack loyalty to God, and prefer their own theories, which minister to their pride. They are blinded by their own wrong condition of heart. To the humble and faithful, this Rock, which is a stone of stumbling to others, becomes a refuge, a support, a stepping stone to God.
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