Every Christian is a Minister: The Priesthood of All Believers

Who leads Christ’s Church? One of the greatest treasures of the Protestant Reformation is a recovery of the “Priesthood of all believers.” This teaching proclaims that every Christian has access to God the Father because the Holy Spirit has united us with Christ. Because of our standing before God, every Christian is a priest (or minister) in our world.

Today I want to emphasize two things: first, where does the Bible teach “Priesthood of all believers,” and second, what the Priesthood of All Believers actually means for the Christian’s daily life.

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Why Church Membership?

Open Church Door

No one needs to be a church member in order to attend the church’s worship services. There are many places where non-members can happily serve and participate outside of Sunday morning. The local church is not like a private golf course where you need to be a member, dress a certain way, and pay your membership dues in order to participate. But does this mean that church membership is unimportant and optional?

The Bible doesn’t contain a verse specifically commanding church membership, but Scripture routinely assumes that the people of God will gather together and be committed to each other. The early Christians did not have the ability to “church shop” or have a casual relationship with their local church. In the same way, Christians who live in the midst of persecution find themselves needing to choose whether or not they’re “in” or they’re “out” of the church, the family of God.

There is a growing trend in American Christianity to minimize church membership. It is certainly possible to be a genuine Christian who is not a member in a local church, but there are many reasons why it is healthy and good for every Christian to be a member in their local church.

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What Does Baptism Mean (and why is it important)?

I didn’t get baptized until I was a Sophomore in college even though I started taking my faith seriously as a teenager. I just didn’t think baptism mattered. At the time, most of the people I knew who were getting baptized were either babies or other peers in youth group who I knew weren’t actively following Jesus outside of Youth Group. So I concluded baptism really wasn’t that important. I was baptized when I was in college after I learned more about the meaning and importance of baptism.

Baptism doesn’t “save” you and you can be a Christian without having ever been baptized. However, the Bible’s pretty clear that we who claim to live for Jesus should be baptized. Time and time again throughout the book of Acts people are getting baptized when they place their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior (Acts 2:41; 8:12; 8:36; 10:48; and tons more). Even Jesus got baptized to set the example for his disciples.

Baptism

What Does Baptism Mean?
First, baptism symbolizes what has happened between us and God. The Apostle Paul writes, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4). Baptism symbolically represents that we “died with Christ” (going under the water is like burying our old way of life without Christ) and we have been “reborn/resurrected in Christ” (coming up from the water is like being born again with Christ). It is a visible demonstration of the new life we have in Jesus Christ.

Second, baptism foreshadows the Christian’s hope that we will be resurrected from the grave when Jesus Christ returns as judge. “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him, because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again” (Romans 6:8-9). The Christian’s eternal security comes from their union with Christ, which is made visible through baptism. 

Third, baptism identifies you as a member of the Church. 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 makes it clear that every Christian is a member of the Church, the “Body of Christ.” Christians throughout history have seen baptism as the rite of entrance into the Church. It is a way to clearly say, “I am a Christian, and my life isn’t all about me anymore. Instead, I want my life to build up the Church for the glory of God.” This is also why baptism and membership in the local church where you attend naturally go hand-in-hand.

Why Baptism Matters
In the Bible (and in many places today) it was a very dangerous thing to be publicly baptized and identify yourself with Jesus Christ. This act of faith took guts and often brought serious opposition. Sadly, many Americans take their freedom and comfort for granted, and since baptism doesn’t “cost” them anything, they treat getting baptized as a casual and unimportant option.

“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,
you will be saved.”
Romans 10:9

Baptism should not be a matter of convenience. Instead, it is a wonderful opportunity to publicly declare your faith to your nonChristian friends and family. Sometimes people put off getting baptized because they don’t like people looking at them or being the center of attention. When we know the sin and judgment from which we have been rescued because of the truth that baptism represents, then we should take the opportunity to put ourselves aside and confess what God has done through Jesus Christ.

If we are too timid to stand for Christ in a church full of people who believe as we do and before our friends and family (even if they aren’t Christians, they still care for us), then I wonder how we will boldly stand for Christ in the midst of persecution.

Baptism is a biblical and meaningful expression of personal faith in Jesus Christ. Whether you grew up attending church or not, being baptized is a turning point you can look to in seasons of doubt or temptation in order to reaffirm, “I have been buried with Christ, and I have risen to new life with him. He is my life and my hope. I am not ashamed of the gospel.”

A Final Word of Caution
Prayerfully consider getting baptized, but please do not get baptized because you feel pressured by people to do so. If you are not compelled to give your life to worship and obey Jesus Christ then you should not be baptized… even if your parents or friends or youth pastor is encouraging you to be baptized. Simply tell them “I’m not ready yet” and trust them to respect your decision.

Two articles I have found helpful regarding children and baptism: 

Should The Church be Attractive or Attractional?

The gospel is good news of great joy for all peoples. This is a compelling message that builds the foundation of the Church. Unfortunately today, it’s become increasingly common to hear Christians lambasting the Church. 

Sadly, many Christians give the impression that speaking well of the Church is like putting lipstick on a pig. Jesus doesn’t need “hair and makeup” before going on stage. 

We must not be ashamed of clearly and confidently holding to what Scripture teaches, and inviting people to repent of their sin in order to follow Jesus Christ. Jesus is compelling. Jesus is good news. 

Consider a beautiful woman. She does not need to dress a certain way or work especially hard to be recognized as beautiful. Her beauty is obvious. Meanwhile, others dress and carry themselves in order to accentuate what they wish others to notice (while also concealing things they want to remain hidden). 

How often is this a parable of our churches? We do things a certain way in order to make God look however we think people will find attractive. We preach on grace but not judgment. We speed up the music but fear silence. And we work diligently to avoid causing offense or controversy. 

Consider Mike Leake’s article, “The Difference Between Attrational and Attractive Ministry,” which provided the above parable of beauty… it’s a great article.  Here is what I believe to be the most vital portion, 

“My point here is that whenever churches start asking those questions and focusing on whether or not we are “attracting,” we’ve moved off center. When we do this we become like the Pharisees, who were more concerned about how they were viewed than who they actually were. Maybe even more pathetically, we are like the teenage boy constantly checking out his budding muscles in the mirror in hopes that maybe this will help him finally get the girl to pay attention to him.

This isn’t to say that churches should be intentionally unattractive. In fact, if churches focus on doing gospel things they will actually be naturally attractive—at least to some. The Bible gives evidence of this. Jesus attracted crowds. The disciples, too, attracted a ton of folks who were filled with questions and wondering what in the world was going on with them. There was something about the way they were living that attracted folks and caused them to wonder why in the world these Christians had such hope. They were attractive.
Though it’s a subtle difference, there is a great chasm between being an attractive church and an attractional church. One intentionally tries to draw a crowd, while the other goes about doing their ministry and the crowds show up, maybe. Jesus didn’t have healing services in hopes that people would show up. He healed people because that is who He is and people showed up as a result. The attractional model, though, draws a crowd and hopes to slip the gospel in the backdoor. One has confidence in who they are and they other is like a junior high boy who doesn’t have enough confidence in his person to drop the frills and just be himself.

The Church is the People of God, Bride of Christ, and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Christians are the children of God. Let us continue to walk as beloved children of God who have been adopted through Jesus Christ. May our identity as God’s people be the core of the Church rather than a desire to be attractive to the world. 

What is the difference between an attractive gospel and an attractional ministry? One preaches a gospel about Jesus who is truly beautiful, the other feels pressure to portray in him the best possible light. 

How to Share Your Testimony

Talking

A gospel-centered testimony can be a powerful way to share the good news of Jesus Christ with your nonChristians friends (or with complete strangers, as opportunity arises). Over the last decade I’ve heard some people talk about testimony-sharing as “the key” to good evangelism while others decry testimonies as man-centered rather than God-centered.

What is a Testimony?
Your testimony isn’t your autobiography. It isn’t your life-story or an opportunity to talk about the details of your sinful life before Jesus in order to gain “street cred” with nonChristians.

The word “testimony” comes from the same root word as “martyr.” To be a martyr is to testify and tell about what God has done through Jesus Christ. It isn’t first about you, it is about God. When you share your testimony, you are talking about what God has done and what God has done for you. It is both objective (who God is and what He’s done) and subjective/personal (what he’s done for you). Unfortunately, I’ve heard many testimonies that only emphasize the subjective (what God has done for them).

A testimony that isn’t about Jesus, the cross, the resurrection, and the freedom that comes through confession of sin and repentance isn’t a gospel-centered testimony.

How to Share Your Testimony
Here are a few things I have noticed about gospel-centered testimonies that put God front-and-center.  Continue reading

How Jesus Built the Church

Wooden Doors

When most of us think of Jesus, he is a meek and mild Savior who brings comfort and peace. That’s certainly true of him, but the Gospel of Mark highlight’s Jesus’ authority and power. This is a side of Jesus we easily overlook after years of familiarity with the Bible.

The opening verses (Mark 1:1-13) set the stage for Jesus to walk into the spotlight. Jesus is identified by John the Baptist as the Messiah, the long awaited “chosen one” who was foretold by prophets of centuries past. When Jesus is baptized, God himself speaks and identifies Jesus as “my beloved son.” Immediately after being baptized, Jesus endures temptation in the desert for forty days and nights. These present Jesus as the Messiah who is both God and human. These opening verses highlight that Jesus was always God’s “Plan A.”

Mark 1:15-19 is significant because Jesus’ first words are preserved for us (since Mark was the earliest-written Gospel in the Bible) are these: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” He identifies himself as the Messiah who has come to bring the kingdom of God, and he welcomes sinners to enter into it through repentance and faith in the gospel. This is Jesus’ mission… and immediately after his mission is announced, he starts to build his Church by recruiting the first disciples.

Mark 1:21-45 highlight Jesus’ authority over demons and sickness. When Jesus is teaching in the temple a demon-possessed man literally cried out for mercy. The crowds begin to flock to Jesus, seeking deliverance and healing. In v.38 the disciples say, “Everyone is looking for you.” But Jesus responds, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” He could have stayed and built a huge ministry-platform, but he rejected the ministry opportunity in order to fulfill his mission. His time had not yet come to be recognized as the Messiah. While the Gospel of Mark was written in the generation after Jesus’ ascension, the gospel was spreading and Christians were being persecuted and Jesus’ authority was the foundation of their perseverance. These verses demonstrate the power and authority of Jesus, and encourage believers to live in faith rather than fear.

When we look in Mark 1 we see Jesus built his Church through two ministry priorities:

  1. Preaching the good news and inviting sinners to repent
  2. Training disciples

The Great Commission was not something Jesus thought of near the end of his ministry. It was the driving force behind everything he did… that all peoples of the earth would repent and believe in the gospel and become disciples who are “fishers of men.” He would not allow miracles and social ministry to distract him from these two priorities. Obviously, he healed many and performed miracles, but the miracles always led to preaching or proved his authority to say what he said.

Jesus is the savior of those who are desperate and weary from their labors. He also causes demons to shudder and beg for mercy. Jesus brought the kingdom of God, and sinners are invited to enter through repentance and faith in the gospel. Speak the gospel to people with confidence, not embarrasment. Remember the authority of Jesus Christ and confidently proclaim the kingdom of God and invite others to enter in as new disciples, because Jesus continues to build his church through the gospel.

The Danger of Deceptive Godliness: Learning From Ananias & Sapphira

As other wealthier Christians were selling their land and donating the money to the church, Ananias and Sapphira saw their opportunity. They wanted to be a power couple in the early life of the church, and this would be how to get there. Perhaps their faith in Christ started off with better motives and they lost their way, but it seems their involvement in the church had become about themselves – not about God, and not about serving others. In the end, they were judged and put to death by God for their deceptive godliness.

question mark on sticky note

This is a Reader Question. You can submit your question by clicking the image above.

I am convinced every church has modern-day Ananias and Sapphiras. Their example reminds us that God cares about motives. It is good to give generously of your time, money, and talents in order to build up the church. However, it is evil to give those things because you want to be seen doing them. The Christian is called to self-forgetfulness, not self-promotion.

in-the-mirror
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