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Isaiah: Prince of Prophets—“And You will be called Priests of the Lord”

Notes & Transcripts

The speaker in the opening verses of chapter 61 is not identified, but one can hardly doubt that it is the Servant-Redeemer. Therefore Isaiah 61:1-11 is considered the fifth and last of the Servant poems. In any case, the speaker claims to have been anointed with the Spirit for the purpose of being God’s Herald. If you remember it is Isaiah 61:1-2 that Jesus quotes in his home town Synagogue of Nazareth. At the end he exclaims, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus expressly believed the passage was Messianic and quotes it as he inaugurates his ministry.

In his proclamation the Herald would accomplish seven things. He would (1) preach glad tidings to the afflicted; (2) bind up the brokenhearted; (3) proclaim liberty to the captives (4) and freedom to prisoners; (5) proclaim the year of acceptance, i.e., the period of God’s grace; (6) announce the day of judgment; and (7) comfort mourners. In the synagogue at Nazareth Jesus read this passage and announced that it was fulfilled in his ministry (Luke 4:17–21).

One of the results of his ministry is that those who believe on the Anointed One of Israel is that they will become a nation of priests.

“And you will be called priests of the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast.” (Isaiah 61:6, NIV84)

All citizens of Zion would constitute a priesthood to the world.

This passage give me opportunity tonight to preach on, for Baptists, one of the most important doctrines of our faith—the Priesthood of Believers.

Because we hold to the absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ in the believer’s life and because we teach the sufficiency of the Bible alone for faith and practice, we have come to accept to parallel doctrines. They are Soul Competency and the Priesthood of Believers. These two doctrines are like the two faces on a coin. They are different, but intrinsically related.

I. “COMPETENCY OF THE SOUL”

            1. Soul Competency is not again, I say is not the ability of the sinner to stand before God in his own righteousness
            2. soul competency is the right every man has to decide religious matters for himself
                1. it a doctrine precious to Baptists
                2. it’s precious because Baptists have not always been free to worship according to the dictates of their conscience
                3. in the early history of our country, admitting you were a Baptist, often entailed a jail sentence
                  • ILLUS. In the pre-Revolutionary War Colonies, Baptists were at first a small and despised sect. We were considered dangerous religious radicals because we did not support established state churches. We were considered the enemies of political and social order. We were an annoying people because we insisted upon our right to believe and worship as we saw fit. One historian of the day complained, “You can’t meet a Baptist on the road, but that they must ram a text of Scripture down your throat.”
            3. it should come as no surprise that soul competency is important to Baptists

A. SOUL COMPETENCY IS ROOTED IN BOTH THE NATURE OF GOD AND MAN

            1. God is the infinite, supreme Person
            2. He created man in His likeness
                1. this means that man is endowed with understanding and the privilege of choice
                2. we are persons, not puppets
            3. God does not coerce man against his will—we are free to choose, but we are also responsible for the choices we make
                1. while our choices may affect those around us, our ultimate accountability is to God
                2. so what does this mean practically?
            4. a true Baptist insists that every man shall be free to decide for himself in matters of religion
                1. it means that no governmental authority, no ecclesiastical council, no priest, or pastor, or pope has the right to command or coerce a certain belief
                2. Baptists have always been the champions of soul freedom, not only for ourselves, but for all men
                    1. this means that a person has a right to be a Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Jew, infidel, atheist, or whatever he chooses to be
                    2. and we will defend their right to peacefully worship and organize
            5. true Baptists believe that men are to be won to faith in Christ first (and the superiority of Baptist doctrine second) and we are to do so by persuasion and the power of the Holy Spirit—not manipulation of any kind
                1. a Baptist, who is being true to distinctive Baptist doctrine is one of the most broad-minded of all people
            6. true Baptists grant to every man the right that he shall be free to believe as he wants
                1. but we also insist upon the same right for ourselves
                2. the moment that a Baptist seeks to coerce another person—even another Baptist—in matters of religion, he violates the basic belief of Baptists

B. SOUL COMPETENCY CANNOT IGNORE THE DEMANDS OF GOD ON A PERSON’S LIFE

            1. when Baptists talk about soul competency we do not refer to competency in the sense of human self-sufficiency
                1. men are free to believe what they want, but they must ultimately answer to God for the things they have believed
            2. as Baptists, we grant all men the right to believe what they want, but at the same time we do not believe that one can believe anything he or she wants and be a Christian
                1. nor do we believe that a Christian can believe anything and be a Baptist
                2. the competency of the soul in religion must always be guided by the authority of the Scriptures and the Lordship of Jesus Christ
            3. this is why evangelism and missions and Bible teaching rank high on the agenda of importance to us as Baptists
                1. because we are Baptists, we grant all men everywhere the right to believe what they want
                2. but because Baptists are a people of The Book, we also believe that Jesus was serious when he told His disciples:
                  • “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV)
                3. because we believe that Jesus is the only way unto salvation, we have taken the Great Commissions as our supreme agenda and motivation
                  • “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:19-20, KJV)
            4. for over two-hundred years, a people called Baptist have dedicated their lives, their talents and their gifts to “go into all the world and preach the gospel” because we seek to persuade men that Jesus is the light of the world and that they will only know true freedom of soul when Jesus Christ become their Lord

II. Priesthood of the Bliever

    • “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16, NIV)
            1. this is the doctrine of the Priesthood of the Believer—the right and the privilege of every believer to meet their Savior face to face
                1. Baptists have always insisted on every believer’s right to have direct access to God
                    1. no ordinance should come between a Baptist and his God
                    2. no tradition should come between a Baptist and his God
                    3. no ecclesiastical council or religious creed should come between a Baptist and his God
                    4. and no priest or clergy should come between a Baptist and his God
                      • “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:5, NIV)

A. WE ARE PRIESTS WITH ACCESS TO A HOLY GOD

    • “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:5,9, NIV)
            1. of all the distinctive doctrines held by Baptists, this is the one I cherish most
                1. I Peter 2:5,9 teaches us that not only are we the temple of the living God but we are also a holy priesthood who minister within that temple
            2. I believe the model of our priesthood can be found in the privileges and responsibilities of the Old Testament Levitical priesthood
                1. their priestly functions were a shadow of the New Testament doctrine of the priesthood of all believers in Christ
                2. the privileges included:
                    1. access to a holy God in His sanctuary
                    2. the offering of sacrifice
                    3. the right to offer prayer and intercession
            3. as a holy priesthood we too, have privileges in Christ
                1. we too, have access to a Holy God in His sanctuary
                    1. we need no human mediator to come before God, for Christ is the only mediator between God and man
                    2. Paul reminds us in Hebrews, that believers can come right into the Holy of Holies
                2. we also have the privilege of offering sacrifice to God we read,
                  • "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--which is your [reasonable] spiritual worship." (Romans 12:1, NIV)
                    1. many in the Body of Christ today see this sacrifice as a burden
                        1. our notion of sacrifice is the wringing out of us something we don't want to give up, full of pain and agony and distress
                    2. in actuality, the ability to offer sacrifice was always considered a privilege by the Old Testament priest
                    3. we should equally consider it a privilege
                    4. Paul asserts that this sacrifice of our own will and self upon the altar of holy commitment is our reasonable spiritual worship
                      • ILLUS. A number of years ago, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston found itself in some rather dire circumstances. At one point they were ordaining only 5 new priests a year—45 fewer than were needed to maintain staffing levels. Then someone hit upon an idea—advertize for priests! A local ad agency even agreed to produce the advertisement free of charge. It was well done well and was quite entertaining. Each commercial begins with a blur of affluent images: A gold watch, a diamond bracelet, champagne, cocktails, pearls, poker chips, and caviar. Then the scene goes black, followed shortly by a tag line: "A world that doesn't deny itself anything could use a few men who do." The closing depicts a priest's hands holding up a communion wafer. Whether or not advertising for clergy is appropriate, the tag line is very relevant. With all the glitter and glitz in our world today, there is a desperate need for people who are willing to forsake it all for a higher calling. Paul talks about that higher calling when he encourages us to be living sacrifices.
                    5. if Jesus Christ is God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him
                3. lastly, the ability to come before God in prayer and intercession--what a joy
                    1. when Jesus prayed, he called God Abba--i.e.--daddy!
                    2. only the Christian has the right to call a holy God, Father

B. WE ARE PRIESTS WITH A RESPONSIBILITY

            1. in Baptist life it seems to me that the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer has been applied almost exclusively to the right of Baptists to interpret Scriptures for themselves
                    1. surely this is a very important aspect of the doctrine
            2. but in doing so, we've emphasized the privileges of our priesthood over our responsibilities of priesthood
                1. the responsibilities of the Old Testament priest included
                    1. representing God before the people
                    2. holy living as an example to others
                    3. proclaiming God's message of sin, judgement and righteousness
                2. would that Baptists begin taking the responsibilities of being a priest as seriously as they take the privileges!
            3. it is because of the Priesthood of Believers that Baptists have emphasized every member of the church using his or her gifts and abilities in ministry

For the first eighteen years of my life I was taught that only a human priest can hear my confessions and remit my sins. Then I met a Baptist! What a joy it was to learn the truth that Isaiah revealed 750 years before Christ established his church: “And you will be called priests of the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast.” (Isaiah 61:6, NIV84)

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