“The Church is the only organization in the world that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members.” ~ Archbishop William Temple.One of Martin Luther's favorite passages of Scripture, a building block of his important ideas on "the priesthood of all believers," says this to all Christians:
"...you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).I love this passage! In it, Peter says that through Christ, Christians are blessed to be "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, God's own people..." But the exalted status that list describes is not about being better than others or having some sort of cosmic bragging rights! Christians are saints and sinners at the same time, saved from sin and death only by the grace of God that comes to us through faith in Jesus Christ. And so, there isn't a scintilla of arrogance in the status Peter claims that Christians enjoy.
How can I say that?
Did you notice a simple three-word phrase? The phrase, "in order that"? We are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation," Peter says, "IN ORDER THAT." Those three words tell us what God's purpose in making us part of "God's own people": "in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."
The status that Christians enjoy with God is pure gift, something we never could earn, attain, achieve, or bargain for. God has acted for the human race in Christ. In response to God's grace, Christians repudiate their sin and believe in Christ and, as a consequence, our status before God and the human race is transformed. BUT GOD DOESN'T WORK THAT TRANSFORMATION FOR US ALONE!
The Church, or as the Bible also calls it, "the body of Christ," is an organization that does not exist primarily for its members. Its members already confess that we have received benefits beyond all imagining: We confess that God died on a cross and then God rose from the dead again to buy us out of slavery to sin and death. All who believe in Christ and are baptized have those eternal privileges! Our possession of them has nothing to do with our intrinsic value, beyond the value that an omnipotent, righteous, infinite God has placed on us.
God doesn't call Christians to our privileged position to sit back smugly on our "blessed assurance."
God has given us our privileged status "in order that":
- We will tell others about Jesus
- We will serve others in Jesus' Name
- We will advocate justice for the hurting and despised in Jesus' Name
- We will make disciples of all nations
- We will teach others all that Christ has taught
- We will call the world to repent--to turn from sin and futility--and to believe in Jesus--to receive forgiveness, life, purpose, and joy
In Christ, we know that God has our back. God has taken care of us. Now the God Who gave Himself "for you," has commissioned us to live a "for you" life for those outside the fellowship of the Church, those outside of a relationship with Christ, those who desperately need to know the will of God, the power of God, and the incredible grace of God.
May God help us to live in such constant certainty of His provision for us that we can focus where God frees us to focus:
UP to Christ“The Church is the only organization in the world that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members.”
OUT to our neighbor