And has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (NKJV)
For the most part, we live in the moment. That’s all any of us really have. The past is over with and done, and we have no guarantee of the future, even to our next breath. So this, right now, this is it. That doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t plan for the future, but simply that we realize, as James 4:15 says, If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.
And we live in the flesh, that is, our natural bodies. This means that we see and know and experience what our physical bodies are able to see and know and experience, abilities which can diminish or be destroyed. And even in this world, we know that there are things we can’t see or hear, things in the light spectrum or as sound, things which animals or other creatures can see or hear. When it comes right down to it, even with all the advances mankind has made over the centuries, I’m not sure we really know any more about our environment than an ant knows about its.
This is especially true about this thing we call salvation. Without getting into any of the other things we could think about, when was the last time you heard a sermon or read something on our verse today?
What does it mean: “kings and priests”?
The second word is easy: “priests”.
This simply means that, through the Lord Jesus, every single believer has direct access to God. This is called, “the priesthood of the believer.” This is something largely lost in the denominational view of the church that has sprung up over time. But there is no NT office known as “priest” which divides believers into “laity” and “clergy.” This is an idea which was born out of the effort to mold NT believers by an OT pattern.
There are men who are called as pastors and such, but that doesn’t give them a monopoly on God’s presence. Through the Lord Jesus, the humblest believer in the pew has the same access to God as the man behind the pulpit. The believer out in the middle of nowhere has the same access as the believer in the most ornate cathedral, and perhaps more, because we tend to get distracted by all the glitter and pomp and ceremony in such places.
Through the Lord Jesus, we can come directly into the presence of God. We don’t need saints or ceremony or our Lord’s mother. There is one God and one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus, 1 Timothy 2:5. Through Him alone, we come to God.
But we must come through Him. There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved, Acts 4:12. Without Him, we are shut out from the presence of God. With Him, we are completely welcome.
The other word is a little more difficult: “kings”.
After all, look at John himself. He was no “king” as the world counts it, but a criminal, exiled onto a tiny and barren island in the Aegean Sea.
To the Corinthian church, Paul wrote, For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence, 1 Corinthians 1:26-29.
There aren’t many among the world’s intelligentsia and elite who name the name of Christ in truth. There are a few, but not many. For the most part, God’s people are made up of those whom the world ignores or hates.
So what does it mean?
I think it’s a promise.
It’s a promise for the future.
Without getting into all the discussion about the future – I do that enough, as it is – let me just say that Scripture says that this world isn’t the end-all and be-all of our lives. There is coming a time when wickedness and error will be put away, and righteousness and truth will be all there is. And Scripture seems to indicate that believers will have a key role in the administration of things in that future time.
Paul wrote to the Corinthian church about all the troubles they were having in their midst, Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?…Do you not know that we shall judge angels? 1 Corinthians 6:2, 3. Cf. also our Lord’s parable in Matthew 25:14-30.
But I think it’s also a promise for the “right now, this is it.” It may be that, with the Psalmist, we can say that the lines have fallen to me in pleasant places, Psalm 16:6. This was a reference to the division of the land early in Israel’s history, as also seen in v. 6, with the reference to inheritance. But it may be that, like Daniel in the lions’ den or his three friends in the furnace, Daniel 6 and 3, we have to spend some time in less than pleasant places.
God said to Israel, “But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the LORD your God…,” Isaiah 43:1-3a. While it’s true that the whole chapter is addressed directly to Israel, I think we can take shelter under a corner of the promise in these verses because God refers to “everyone who is called by My name,” v. 7. While that also refers to descendants of those in vs. 1-3, are not true believers also called by the name of Christ-ians?
The promise in Isaiah doesn’t mean that Israel won’t suffer as it goes through the river or the fire. And it doesn’t mean that believers won’t suffer in this world. As I write these words, and as you read them, many are suffering in ways that words can’t describe. Many throughout church history have suffered. And the idea of “kings” doesn’t mean that we “rule” these things. We still live in a world in which Satan is its “god.” As his presence becomes increasingly evident, as it has recently in the political and social upheavals, I expect things will get worse for Christians.
Some Christians seem to have the idea that life should be “without a care,” as a “gospel” song I’ve mentioned before says. It should all be health and good times. But Scripture and life itself tell us that that isn’t so. I think Paul gives us the idea in Romans 8 when he wrote, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Some Christians seem to think that God’s love can’t possibly include such things.
But Paul continues: As it is written: “”For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, Romans 8:32-39, emphasis added.
The word “kings” does have a promise for the future, but it has a promise for the present. It means that God has made it so that we can rise above whatever our circumstances might be. Sometimes when one is asked how they are doing, they’ll reply, “Under the circumstances….” That’s a terrible place to be. God intends for us to be above the circumstances.
There’s nothing that life can throw at us that, by the grace of God, we can’t catch.