An Exercising Church

When I was doing my undergraduate study in Los Angeles, I met a precious group of brothers and sisters on campus who helped me to go back to my first loveOne of the most important thing they have taught me, is to exercise our priesthood.

We All Minister as Priests

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

“And you have caused them to become a Kingdom of priests for our God. And they will reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:10)

We were encouraged to minister God to one another. By exercising this privilege, we are also exercising our faith and our freedom in Christ.

The Simplest Way

Perhaps the simplest thing we can all do is to speak Christ: we can all share our enjoyment of God; we can all speak encouragement to one another; we can all pray out loud spontaneously in prayer meetings.

Romans 10:9 says, “believe in your heart and declare with your mouth”. Proclaiming with your mouth is powerful. Romans 10:17 then follows, “faith comes from hearing”. When we speak, those who hear with open ears also receive more faith.

Proverbs 11:25 also says “And he who waters will himself be watered.”.By watering others with the word of God, we also get nourished.

Spiritual Gifts

In his letters, Paul emphasizes again and again that we should all exercise our spiritual gifts that are given by God to build up the Church (Check out my old post, The Goal Of Spiritual Gifts)

 “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” (1 Corinthians 12:7-11 ESV) .

Paul constantly reminds us that these gifts are of and from the one Spirit. This emphasis  tells us three things:

1) Spiritual gifts are not generated by men.

2) The manifestation of the Spirit is of the Holy Spirit, not counterfeit spirits. This is why testing and discernment is needed.

3) All spiritual gifts are of one Spirit, and therefore to be done in one accord.

Each of You

“What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God. Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.” (1 Cor 14:26-31). 

truth-together

Illustration by David Hayward

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul wrote, to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit. Similarly, in 1 Corinthians 14 passage above, Paul wrote each of you. No matter what our occupation, gender, nationality is, each of us has been given various spiritual gifts to instruct and encourage one another. David Hayward’s illustration here is a perfect reminder to us!

Some may think that only the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers as listed in Ephesians 4 are responsible for building up the Church. This cannot be more wrong! Paul wrote that these roles function to equip the saints so that the saints can also function in the ministry. We are all saints, and whether prophet or not, pastor or not, we can all build up the body of Christ.

It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for works of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, as we mature to the full measure of the stature of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13)

The Consumer Church Culture

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Awhile ago I came across the above picture on a brother’s Facebook (I forgot who and please forgive me!). He said this diagram depicts very well our contemporary church culture. This is indeed the experience of many Christians and it reminds me of Francis Chan’s words on his “We Are Church” website, “Often it’s all too easy to attend a church for years and years without ever being equipped to serve and live out the gospel. As consumers of church, we come in, get filled up by the worship and message, and then our only option is to come back week after week to get filled up again and again. However, if all we ever do is consume, how do we ourselves ever become fishers of men? (Matt. 4:19).” How true is that?

In Humility, In Love, In Honour

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor. ” (Romans 12:10 NASB).

Above all, the church body, be it locally or universally, can never fully exercise their priesthood until they have first fully submitted to the Headship of Christ, followed by submitting to one another (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:22; 1 Corinthians 11:3;Ephesians 5:12).