Monthly Archives: April 2013

You Are a Holy Priesthood

“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices,
acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5; see also 1 Peter2:8, Revelation 1:5-6).

Each and every individual member of the body of Christ (the Church of Christ) is a priest of God, truly an holy office. As priests we have three areas of service to God:

·         To offer acceptable spiritual sacrifices and offerings to God.

·         To teach and instruct one another in the Word of God, and to teach the Word of God
to whomever wishes to know the will of God.

·         To be an intercessor with God by prayer for others.

Spiritual Sacrifices and Offerings

This can be divided into two parts: our individual lives lived as an offering to God, our public meetings where we as a body offer our adoration to God.

Brethren, let us be very humble and immensely grateful that God has given to the Church alone the right and great privilege of offering spiritual sacrifices and acceptable worship unto the Almighty God:  “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3:21).  Our individual lives, day by day, are to be offerings to God.  All of those, and only those, who have been baptized into Christ are able to offer acceptable worship to God since they, and only they, have been purified and appointed priests of the Living God.  The unbeliever and disobedient cannot have access to God through the Holy Spirit. The prayer of an impure heart cannot be heard by a Holy God (1 Peter 3:10-12).

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

We must realize that as priests of God, every day of our lives must be offered to Him (see also Colossians 3:1-29).  Everyone in the body of Christ is to be a living example of His will.  Think of the shame that will be ours if we present lives that are a reproach to our Lord and are a stumbling block to others.  Let us be very careful to walk in the way of life. If we do make a mistake, we are to pray for forgiveness and He will forgive (1 John 1:6-9, 2:1-2).

Our public worship is very clearly outlined in the Bible (see Colossians 3:15-17, 1 Corinthians 14:1-40, Ephesians 4:15-16, Acts 2:41-42,    1 Corinthians 11:23-31).  Inspired men have given to us a clear picture of the simple pattern of Divine service that we are to follow on the Lord’s Day.  Each according to his ability, and all united in a spiritual offering to God:

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16)

Thus as priests of God we offer our lives day by day in obedience to Him, and on the first day of the week we meet together to offer the worship of our hearts to Him in sincere love and reverence to God, and to strengthen one another.

Teach the Word of God

As priests in the Old Testament were teachers of the Law, so Christians also have the great responsibility today of teaching the will of God to one another and to all who will listen to the Word of God!  God has given to the Church the exclusive right and responsibility to teach the Word:

“To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:10-11, see also1 Peter 1:9-12).

Christ sent His apostles, prophets, and evangelists to take the Gospel to the world (Matthew 28:19-20).  We find in the book of Acts that the gospel was spread through the world by the church.  Congregations were established through much of the world; all this was accomplished by Christ through the church.  No other organization was used.  The church and the church alone will carry out the will of God to the end of time.  Let us be grateful to God that He has given to us a simple, plain church which needs no alterations or so-called improvements to prepare us as God’s children in all civilizations and in all ages to be acceptable to Him.  Follow the gospel plan faithfully and you will be saved. God has promised.

Intercessors in Prayer

As priests of God we have the right and responsibility to be intercessors for others:  “For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (Ephesians 2:18).  Hence we have ready access to God on behalf of others.

We need to pray for one another as Paul prayed for the brethren and asked for their prayers for Him:

“Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me” (Romans 15:30).

If Paul needed their prayers on his behalf, how much more should we pray for one another, knowing our need for the Lord’s help.  So let us intercede with God for one another with prayers, realizing that God hears our prayers and cares for all of us:  “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).  The prayers of brethren are heard by God.  They are not useless but are strong and heard by God.  They are not always answered as we wish because God knows best, but He wishes to hear our prayers and they are always considered.

We also need to pray for those who do not have the right to pray to God:

“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour” (1 Timothy 2:1-3).

As intercessors we need to pray for those who are not able to pray for themselves:  “pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).  Many of us need to realize that we do have influence with God and learn to intercede with God on behalf of others.  It will not only benefit them but will be a blessing to us.

Richard Riggins
124 Locust St., Barnett, MO  65011-1004

The Faith of Samson

Samson is the last of the judges in the book of Judges, and one of the most difficult to understand.  He did not use other men.  He worked solely by himself.  He did great feats of strength.  If he had been intended to raise an army, there would have been no need for the extra strength.  Not one of the judges who raised an army was so enabled.  Samson’s principal work was in keeping the Philistines off balance.  As long as Samson lived, their attention was so taken with him that little was done against the rest of the Israelites.

Samson judged for the twenty years between the battle of Aphek (1 Samuel 4:1-11), when the ark was captured by the Philistines, and the battle of Mizpeh, when Israel defeated the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:2, 7-13).  The total Philistine oppression of forty years (Judges 13:1) which ended with the Mizpeh victory, was half over when Samson entered the picture.  The first half of the oppression was serious enough, but nothing like it would have been following the Aphek battle, had not something been done to interfere.  The ark of God was seized, Hophni and Phinehas were killed, and Eli died.

A countermeasure was needed.  Yet because the oppression had been imposed because of sin, there had to be a true repentance before victory could be granted.  This did not exist yet, so only a stopgap measure could yet be taken with Samson.  He would “begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines” (Judges 13:5).  Samson would only begin the deliverance.  Others, like Samuel at Mizpeh, would finish it (1 Samuel 7:7-13).

The material culture of the Philistines shows their dominance. They held a monopoly over the Israelites in smelting iron.  A sword of iron could completely sever a sword of bronze.

There was a supernatural announcement of Samson’s birth.  Nothing is mentioned regarding the births of the judges before him, except that Jephthah was born illegitimately.  When the angel of the Lord came the second time, he did not give any additional information.  Everything the parents needed to know had already been stated.  The desire to know all the steps ahead is not usually honored by God.  God wanted Manoah to trust Him and be content.  When the angel of the Lord was asked his name, he said his name is “wonderful” (Hebrew pele, Judges13:8).  Gideon asked for an authenticating sign, while Manoah did not.  God knew they each needed a sign, so he gave them.  When the angel ascended in the flame, he did so “wonderfully,” using the same basic word.

The usual time for the duration of a Nazarite vow was thirty days.  Both Samuel (1 Samuel 1:11) and John the Baptist (Luke 1:15), whose births were also of mothers who had been barren, were probably Nazarites all their lives like Samson was.

Samson was a living miracle in having greater physical strength than any other man.  He needed to learn to live correctly with his unusual ability, and not use this strength for selfish ends or personal honor.  The Nazarite form of life provided the discipline of a daily and continual reminder of his responsibility before God.

The Spirit of the Lord began to move or impel Samson (Judges 13:25).  He was strong all the time he had his hair and kept his vow, and that strength was sufficient for most tasks.  Occasionally there was need for a greater strength, and the Spirit provided it.

God used Samson’s wedding as an occasion by which to provoke the Philistines.  This does not excuse Samson for marrying a Philistine.  He should have known they could not be trusted.

The attitude of the Israelites in apprehending Samson for the Philistines at Lehi (Judges 15:11-13) shows that the Israelites were in no mood to fight the Philistines.  The Philistines were greatly concerned regarding Samson, and any further effort to subjugate Israel was by-passed.  Thousands of Philistines came for the purpose of capturing one man.  In their slaughter, Samson gave himself unstintingly, and was dehydrated.  God opened a spring which continued to run, as emblematic of Samson’s faith.  A period of peacetime judging started for Samson shortly after his slaughter of the thousand Philistines.  Following their complete failure to capture him, the Philistines may have ceased trying.

Only a small part of Samson’s life is known.  The account is limited almost entirely to the first year and the last year of his judgeship.  Nearly nothing is said about the intervening eighteen years.

Samson was duped by Deliliah in a shocking example of the power of lust.  There must have been a serious decline in his sense of dedication to God.  Recognition of his special assignment had grown dim.  The natural weakness that had been there all the while could now raise its head.  This is a commentary on the power of passion to control and ruin any man.  Samson was a weakling in the hands of Delilah.  Entanglement with people of impure motives is like playing with fire.  The close of Samson’s life saw his weakness coming to the fore in all its strength, to bring degradation.  The degree to which his effectiveness was damaged is impossible to assess.  Samson’s life could have been greater had he not given in to his weakness for women.  That the Philistines offered Delilah so much money shows how much they wanted to be rid of this man.  That shows how well Samson had been accomplishing God’s assignment.  Samson must have wished he could live those few days over again.  But there was nothing to do but suffer the consequences.  The wages of sin run high.

In the moment of death, Samson slew more Philistines than in all his life.  He was successful in his job of beginning to deliver Israel.  There’s no indication that the Philistines made any further inroads during Samson’s twenty years of judgeship.  His failures should not make us forget the commendable life he lived.  God didn’t forget it.  Hebrews 11:32 shows God’s evaluation.

Rick Sparks
13318 S. Harris Rd., Greenwood, MO  64034-8970