PREACHING THE GOSPEL AS PRIESTS OF THE GOSPEL OF GOD
Thus far, after about nineteen centuries of church history, the Lord has not gained His heart’s desire. We know that He wants to have a group of people to be His organic members. This means we have to meet organically, serve organically, function organically, and preach the gospel organically. We should not preach the gospel as mere preachers, but as priests. All the preachers of the gospel of God should function as priests. Priests are not common people. If we are going to carry out God’s ordained way of preaching the gospel by visiting people, we have to learn to do it as priests. A priest is a person who bears four particular characteristics: he bears God’s image to express God; he has God’s dominion to represent God; he exercises his spirit to contact and receive God; and he receives God as the tree of life to live God. A priest is a person who is so close to God and according to God’s heart. As priests, we are in God and God is in us, so we are one with God. We can go to people with God, bringing God to people. The priestly preaching of the gospel brings God to people and brings people back to God. A priest is also a person who knows God’s heart, God’s will, God’s plan, God’s eternal purpose. He is one who can teach people and tell people about God, about what God wants, and about what a man should be before God. This is a priest preaching the gospel, and this priesthood is not just our profession but our life.
In the Old Testament, the serving by the priests was their daily life. What they ate, how they dressed, and where they lived was part of their priestly service. Their living of the priesthood was their job, their business. A priest serves God by bringing God to man and bringing man back to God. This is the priests’ daily life and also their daily job. Today the New Testament believers are all New Testament priests. As such priests, they should always live a life of being one with God to bring God to man and to bring man back to God. Their living becomes their ministry, their work.
This is why I was so deeply impressed when the Lord showed me Romans 15:16. This verse shows that Paul preached the gospel as a laboring priest of God. He was God’s priest to carry out God’s gospel. He was not carrying out the priesthood in a light way. He was a laboring priest, a ministering priest. In the Old Testament, God wanted the types of Christ offered to Him. Therefore, the priests daily offered all kinds of sacrifices typifying Christ to God. In the New Testament, God wants the New Testament priests to offer saved sinners to Him as parts of the corporate Christ. All the sinners that we bring to God become Christ’s members, parts of the enlarged and corporate Christ. The Old Testament priests offered the types of Christ, but the New Testament priests offer the parts of Christ. In Colossians 1:28 and 29, Paul said that he announced Christ, warning and teaching every man in all wisdom to present every man to God full-grown in Christ. This shows that Paul eventually offered the saved sinners to God full-grown in Christ, as parts of Christ. This is what we should do as priests of the gospel.
What is revealed in the New Testament concerning the preaching of the gospel is not shallow. All those who preach the gospel must do so as priests. These priests bring God to people and bring people back to God. They offer these people to God as spiritual sacrifices, as parts of the enlarged, corporate Christ. This is what Romans 15:16 reveals.
First Peter 2:5 and 9 show that Peter had the same thought as Paul. Peter said here that we are living stones being built up into a spiritual house, and this built up spiritual house is the priesthood. The priesthood in these verses refers not to the priestly service but to the priestly body. This is a group of priests built together to be a “hood,” a body. This priesthood tells out the virtues of the One who called them out of darkness into His marvelous light. To preach the gospel is to tell out God’s virtues. By His virtues we have been called out of darkness into His marvelous light. This was our enjoyment of God Himself as our salvation. Some of His virtues are love, kindness, and mercy. Through God’s virtues we were saved in a subjective way, being brought out of darkness into His marvelous light. To tell out these virtues is to bring God to people. If we merely tell people that we are bringing God to them, they may not realize what we are talking about. This is why we must live a life of telling out God’s love and mercy to us and of telling out His forgiveness of our sins. We must live such a life. Then we go to people to bring such a God in all His virtues to them.
(A Summary of the Study of the New Testament Way of Christian Service, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)