Tags

, ,

This is the second Sermon that I preached explaining how the preisthood of all believers as traced through the Levitical covenant gives a proper biblical foundation for understanding our priestly duty within the vocation that God sovereignly calls us to do. I focus on the practical implications for this on vocation in the family and occupation at the end.  I only added a few sentences to this transcript for clarification on a few parts. This sermon builds off the previous sermon I posted on my blog, so you should read that sermon transcript, which goes over the Local Church and the Great Commission, before reading through this sermon transcript:

https://1689reformedbaptist.wordpress.com/2015/06/16/the-local-church-the-great-commission/

The Doctrine of Vocation & Biblical Principles for Evangelism

Outline:

  1. The “Radical” Paradigm of Evangelism
  2. A Biblical-theology of the Priesthood of believers
  3. Application of the Priesthood of believers for evangelism & vocation

1.Before tracing the biblical doctrines of vocation of the priesthood of believers in Scripture I want to briefly summarize the novel “radical” view promoted in David Platt’s book, Radical: Taking Back your faith from the American Dream, to provide some contrast in how an unbalanced view of vocation will have significant ramifications for how believers understand their role in evangelism within their vocation.  Here are some quotes from his book giving a summary of his position:

“We have taken this command, though, and reduced it to a calling-something that only a few people receive[1]”.

“What if the very reason we have breath is because we have been saved for a global mission?  And what if anything less than passionate involvement in global mission is actually selling God short by frustrating the very purpose for which he created us?[2]

“It sounds idealistic, I know.  Impact the world.  But doesn’t it also sound biblical?  God has created us to accomplish a radically global, supremely God-exalting purpose with our lives.  The formal definition of impact is “a forcible contact between two things,” and God has designed our lives for a collision course with the world[3]”.

There are two pillars in Platt’s position that make it unbalanced and ultimately guilt driven.  First is that Platt’s ecclesiology, doctrine of the church, is unbalanced because he only accepts a Calvinistic view of salvation often abbreviated by TULIP.  As a result Platt denies a confessional and biblical doctrine of the Church encompassing a biblical framework for the function of the Church as it relates to the Great Commission such as the Lord’s Day and Means of grace as discussed in the previous sermon on the local church & the Great commission.  Evangelism needs to be understood in its context to the local church, not just individually, so that evangelism can be seen in its connection to the Church via the means God has given the Church for the sanctification of believers in their faith and discipleship.  In contrast Platt argues for a more individualistic model of the Great Commission that reduces the Church to more of an organization to fund missionaries to send out, but neglects the importance of the local church in evangelism.  Secondly, Platt ignores the doctrine of the Priesthood of all believers and as a result fails to explain how the doctrine of vocation is related to evangelism creating an unnecessary burden on believers with unrealistic expectations of evangelism and missions.  This is essentially a return to Catholicism by creating a spiritual hierarchy where the only spiritual Christians are pastors and missionaries, but members of the local church with other occupations are viewed as less spiritual in Platt’s view.

  1. An important foundation for understanding the doctrine of vocation is by understanding the biblical teaching of the priesthood of all believers. This is clearly taught in 2 Peter 2:4-9,

“And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  For this is contained in Scripture:“Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, “The stone which the builders rejected, This became the very corner stone,” and, “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;[4]

In order to better understand what this means we need to examine the Old Testament Levitical Covenant which looks at the duties of the priesthood via the covenant God made with Levi, and its fulfillment in the perfect high priest, Jesus Christ.  There are three primary Old Testament passages that refer to this Levitical Covenant, as distinct from the Mosaic Covenant, here are two of those passages: Numbers 25:12-13, and Jeremiah 33:17-22.

Among several occasions in the Pentateuch where this covenant is alluded to, Numbers 25:12-13 is very explicit in referring to this as a distinct covenant.  In the immediate context of these verses God is addressing Phineas, a descendent of Aaron describing God’s particular covenant relationship with the Levites as a priesthood (Numbers 25:10-11).  Then the particular statement referring to the levitical covenant is found in verses 12-13,

“Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give him My covenant of peace; and it shall be for him and his descendants after him, a covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the sons of Israel’ [5]”.

Henry Ainsworth provides a useful exposition of this passage and how it relates to its fulfillment in Christ,

“So God saith of Levi, ‘my covenant was with him, (the covenant of) life and peace; and I gave them unto him, for the fear wherewith he feared me,’ &c. Malachi 2:5.  So in this place Thargum Jonathan [A Jewish Paraphrase of the Old Testament written in Aramaic] paraphraseth, “Behold I decree unto him my covenant of peace, and I will make him the messenger of my covenant, and he shall live for ever, to preach the gospel of redemption in the end of days.”  By which words Phineas in his covenant was a figure of Christ, who is called ‘the messenger of the covenant,’ Malachi 3:1, and hath an everlasting priesthood, ‘after the power of an endless life,’ Hebrews 7:16-17, and hath both wrought and preached redemption in these latter days, Hebrews 1:1-3[6]”.

The next key passage is in Jeremiah 33:17-21.  In the context of this passage Jeremiah is prophesying about the coming Messiah who will fulfill both the Davidic and Levitical covenants (Jeremiah 33:14-15).  Christ is both the fulfillment of the Davidic and Levitical covenants as the perfect priest and king.

Jeremiah 33:17-21:“and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man before Me to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to prepare sacrifices continually.’ ” The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying, “Thus says the LORD, ‘If you can break My covenant for the day and My covenant for the night, so that day and night will not be at their appointed time, then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant so that he will not have a son to reign on his throne, and with the Levitical priests, My ministers[7]”.

John Gill commenting on verse 18 discusses how the levitical priesthood is both fulfilled in Christ and how this relates to the priestly service of believers,

“Ver. 18. Neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before me, &c.] The Levitical priesthood has been abolished long ago; that was typical of Christ’s priesthood, and is succeeded by it; who is a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek; and who, having offered up himself a sacrifice here on earth for his people, ever appears in heaven, in the presence of God, on their behalf, making intercession for them; and as long as he continues to do so, which will be always, a man shall not be wanting before the Lord: to offer burnt-offerings, and to kindle meat-offerings, and to do sacrifice continually; that is, to present that sacrifice before him, and plead the efficacy and virtue of it with him, which was typified by all those sacrifices, and has superseded them, being much better than they. Some understand this of a continuance of Gospel ministers unto the end of the world, who succeeded the priests and Levites; but as they are never called priests and Levites in the New Testament; nor were they properly the successors of the priests and Levites; rather it may be applied unto all believers now, who are priests unto God, and offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ; but the first sense is best.[8]”.

As I mentioned in the last sermon, Christians do not all have the same duties to the Church, and likewise we must be careful to no draw the wrong conclusion here that since believers are called a nation of priests, that therefore we must all be street preachers or pastors since even in the Old Testament the levitical priests had different duties according to their gifts.  Likewise believers have different duties according to the spiritual gifts that God has given them to be faithful in the vocation God has sovereingly placed them.

3.This is not a peripheral theological discussion in this brief study of the doctrine of vocation and the priesthood of believers since as I mentioned earlier by properly understanding the Old Testament background of the Levitical priesthood, we can better understand Peter’s statement about the church being a nation of Priests (1 Peter 2:9).  Pastor Douglas Van Dorn gives a useful summary of the implications of the Levitical covenant for believers and our priestly function,

“In this way the covenant of Levi continues on forever, in the ordaining of Gentile Levitical priests in the new covenant.  The way these Gentiles are ordained is by undergoing the baptism-clothing ceremony of the priesthood, which was typified in the laws of the Levitical covenant in Exodus 29:4-9, but which are fulfilled now when we are baptized into Christ[9]”.

“But when we are baptized in water, it teaches us most of all that we are now made fit vessels through the sanctifying and washing effects of those waters (Eph. 5:26), to serve before God as his priests.  Baptism is our ordination ceremony into the priesthood, and every believer needs to grasp the practical implications of this important truth.  When we are baptized, God expects us to behave as holy, sanctified priests who serve his holy sanctuary (i.e., Christ and the Church; cf. John 2:21; 1 Cor 6:19; Eph. 2:21) as new creations in obedience and purity.  Our obedience is obligatory[10]”.

The doctrine of the priesthood of all believers also has particular relevance with the vocation of the father’s duties to his family.  He assumes the priestly duties to his family, which are not to be done in isolation from the local church, since both are necessary, and the levitical covenant also provides a useful overview for the Father’s duties to his family as a priest,

“These later institutions should not be viewed in opposition to the original priesthood of a man in his home.  Rather, they work together with a man’s priesthood.  On one hand, we cannot abdicate our family priesthood to the church because we expect the church to be a substitute for our spiritual leadership in the home.  O the other hand, we must not seek to apply our family priesthood in isolation from the church[11]”.

“Such spiritual leadership involves performing in the home many of the functions priests carried out in Israel.  Later chapters will expand on these purposes.  For now, it’s enough to note that the five special roles of the priests of Israel line up nicely with the roles a man should play in his home.  The priests of Israel were intercessors in prayer (2 Chronicles 30:27), communicators of blessing (Numbers 6:22-27)[12], directors of worship (1 Kings 4:2), instructors in Scripture (Malachi 2:7) and judges in holy things (Deuteronomy 17:9, 12).  A man must be each of these things for his family if he is to provide the spiritual leadership in his home.  Such parallels strongly suggest that men are indeed spiritual priests in their home[13]”.

A proper understanding of the doctrine of the priesthood of believers it gives a biblical foundation for the doctrine of vocation, so believers don’t have to feel guilty for not meeting the standards of the “radical paradigm”, such as giving a biblical framework for the Mothers role in the family,

Jeremy Walker, “Let no exhausted mother, with her hands full of home and children, bruise her soul with the conviction either that she has no way of serving Christ in this way or that she is somehow prevented by her children and her home from doing something worthwhile.  Rather, that is the very sphere of her labor.  Her mission field is at her feet (and quite possibly under them and in her arms and on her back and currently drawing something indelible on something irreplaceable).  Indeed, for her to feel falsely guilty about what she is not doing or to transfer that guilt to her children in resentment and bitterness will only prevent the good that she is called to do as a minister to her children[14]”.

Jeremy Walker also gives some examples of how Mothers have been used by God within their vocation to greatly impact the Church such as the Mothers of both Augustine and Charles Spurgeon, whom God used as instruments through which the Gospel was preached to them and they were saved.  Both of whom have had a great contribution to the Church, yet God worked through the ordinary means of vocations to accomplish this.

This is also consistent with Luther’s contribution to the doctrine of vocation since it is not limited to one’s employment only, but encompasses multiple areas of life (family, church, government, & occupation):

“It may seem strange to think that such mundane activities as spending time with your spouse and children, going to work, and taking part in your community are part of your “holy” calling, and that the daily grind can be a “spiritual sacrifice.”  It is not as strange, though, as what currently tears many Christians apart: a “spiritual” life that has little to do with their families, their work, and their cultural life. Many Christians treat other people horribly, including their spouses and children, while cultivating their own personal piety. Many well-intentioned Christians lose themselves in church work and church activities, while neglecting their marriages, their children, and their other callings.  But ordinary life is where God has placed us. The family, the workplace, the local church, the culture, and the public square are where he has called us. Vocation is where sanctification takes place[15]”.

Calling relates to all that God has called us to in life, at work, in the church, at home with responsibilities to your family, and your responsibility to the state and government.  Your vocation is not limited to merely a job that you do for 8 hrs. and then you’re done with your vocation for the day.  Ephesians 2:10 is also an important text for understanding the doctrine of vocation as it relates to the sanctification of believers.  “For we are his workmanship, created for good works in Christ Jesus which he prepared beforehand so that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).  Good works are never the means by which we attain salvation as Paul has already stated in Ephesians 2 that we were dead in our sins (Eph. 2:1), and nothing short of a sovereign act of God can raise dead sinners to life in Christ regenerating their hearts and granting them repentance and faith (Eph. 2:4-6, 8-9).  Our good works are part of our sanctification and they fulfill the second part of the greatest commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves, which is why Luther rebuked pietistic individuals who isolated themselves from society deceiving themselves by presuming to be more spiritual.  Therefore believers are faithful to the Lordship of Christ when they do their vocation with excellence and thereby love their neighbor by doing good works whether that is working in construction or working in a grocery store.  We are not faithful to the Lordship of Christ in our vocation if we witness to coworkers to the neglect of fulfilling the obligations of our vocation because there are proper times when we can witness to coworkers such as during a lunch break, after your shift is over, or by inviting a coworkers over to your house for dinner to talk to them and have the opportunity to witness to them as well.

The Lordship of Christ is significant in calling and vocation because it confirms that God uses ordinary means to accomplish his purposes through believers.  And as we turn to the Lord’s Supper in light of the doctrine of vocation we see that the Levitical Covenant not only helps us to understand our vocation, but also points us to the prefect high priest, Christ, and his atoning death on our behalf.

[1] David Platt, Radical: Taking back your Faith from the American Dream (NY: Multnomah, 2010), 72-73

[2] Ibid, 75

[3] Ibid, 83; Platt even makes the argument that if we say that we are concerned with reaching the lost in the U.S. or in our local town, then we have missed the focus of God’s global plan, so Platt goes to the extreme of neglecting evangelism within one’s ordinary vocation and indigenous missions as well by polarizing his view of evangelism making everything global, “But even if we are doing these things, we would still be overlooking the foundational biblical truth when we say our hearts are for the United States.  As we have seen all over Scripture, God’s heart is for the world.  So when we say we have a heart for the United States, we are admitting that we have a meager 5 percent of God’s heart, and we are proud of it.  When we say we have a heart for the city we live in, we confess that we have less than 1 percent of God’s heart”.  Ibid, 76

[4] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Pe 2:4–9.

[5] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Nu 25:12–13

[6] Henry Ainsworth, Annotations on the Pentateuch and the Psalms (PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1991 reprint), Vol. II: 126

[7] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Je 33:17–21

[8] John Gill, An Exposition of the Old Testament, vol. 5, The Baptist Commentary Series (London: Mathews and Leigh, 1810), 595

[9] Douglas Van Dorn, Waters of Creation: A Biblical-Theological Study of Baptism  (Erie, Colorado; Waters of Creation Publishing, 2009), 134

[10] Ibid, 141

[11] Samuel E. Waldron with Benjamin Hoak, A Man as Priest in His Home (Palmdale, CA; RBAP, 2012), 28

[12] “In some respects this is the most difficult of the five roles of a priest to apply to a man in his home.  Speaking of men as mediators of divine blessing does not equate their mediatorial character with that of Christ.  But, there are principles that apply in both cases”.  Ibid, 56; Waldron gives a useful concise definition of a mediator, “By definition, priests stand in the gap between holy God and sinful man.  Hebrews 5:1 says they are “appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God.”  A mediator, then, is one who is a channel or conduit of blessing”.  Ibid, 55

[13] Ibid, 14

[14] Jeremy Walker, The Broken Hearted Evangelist, (Kindle edition), 370

[15] Gene Edward Veith, Our Calling and God’s Glory, Modern Reformation Magazine issue: “Using God” Nov./Dec. 2007 vol. 16 No. 6: pg. 26; online version: http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var2=881