God's Temple and Priesthood
James Smith, 1860
How many and great are the privileges of God's people, by what a variety of figures they are represented, and they all stand connected with Christ. He is the center from which they radiate — the circle within which they all meet. Seldom do the apostles speak of Jesus — but they connect his people with him; and scarcely ever do they speak of the Lord's people — but they associate them with him. If they speak of Jesus as the tree — they are the branches; and if they speak of him as a foundation — they are the building reared upon it. O how blessed to be thus connected with Christ! Peter having spoken of Christ as a living, precious stone, adds, "You also as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 2:5
WHAT ARE THEY? "Stones," for every Christian has that in him which is solid, durable, and ornamental.
The grace of God gives a man solidity — he cannot be as light, trifling, and vain as he used to be. He has solid and settled thoughts upon high and holy subjects, he has solid hopes and joys. He is not carried about with every wind of doctrine — but becomes established and settled in the faith.
He is durable too. Others fall away — but he endures to the end. Once fixed on the foundation, once really united to Christ, he remains built on Christ forever.
He is ornamental too. Some stones are capable of taking a very high polish, and so is the Christian. The polished stones in God's temple will catch the rays of his glory and reflect them; and in every stone, will the great builder see reflected his own lovely likeness.
They are living stones. They are living, each one being quickened by divine grace, and made new creatures. They are lively, made so by divine communications, and kept so by fellowship with Jesus, the life-giving stone. God's temple is to be a living temple throughout, the foundation is his own life-giving Son, and every stone is a member of his mystical body.
THE USE TO WHICH THEY ARE PUT. They are built up. Not thrown together in confusion — but each one is fitted for his place before he is put into it. Every separate stone is laid on the foundation, which bears the entire weighs of the whole building. All the stones are united to the foundation, by a cement so strong, that nothing can ever separate them. The Holy Spirit acts as the cement in this spiritual building, he brings us to Christ, lays us on Christ, unites us to Christ, and keeps us in eternal union with Christ.
So strongly are we united with Christ, that the apostle asks, "Who shall separate us?" And he testifies that he knew of nothing that could separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. We are built up a spiritual house.
The old temple was material, this temple is spiritual. God is a spirit, and this is intended to be his residence, his home, his temple, his delight. "This," he says, "is my rest forever, here will I dwell, for I have desired it."
The worship of God must be spiritual, therefore the temple, in which it is represented, and the priests by whom it is offered, must be spiritual too.
THE OFFICE THEY FILL. They are a holy priesthood.
Being stripped of their natural and carnal coverings,
being washed in the laver of regeneration,
being clothed with the garments of salvation,
and covered with the robe of righteousness,
and being consecrated by the application of the blood of atonement, and the holy anointing oil, the unction from the Holy One — they are prepared and qualified to officiate in this living temple.
They are a holy priesthood, being inwardly purified by the gracious operations of the Holy Spirit, and set apart for the service and praise of God. Jesus is the one great High Priest, and all his people, by virtue of union with him, and the anointing they receive from him, are priests too.
THEIR WORK. To offer up spiritual sacrifices. This they are to do continually, the sacrifices of prayer and praise, which like holy incense, ascends as a precious perfume to God.
They offer no sacrifice for sins, they never attempt to make atonement, for the one offering of Jesus perfects forever those who are sanctified. They bring the sacrifice of a broken and contrite heart and offer it; and they present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, as their reasonable service. Nor as they forget to do good and to distribute their property to the poor, and for the support of God's cause, knowing that with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Prayer to God for themselves, intercessions for others, and thanksgivings for all God's mercies — are the spiritual sacrifices they daily offer to the God of their salvation.
See what the church is, not a material building — but a spiritual house. Its plan is divine, its materials are all spiritual, and its design is the glory of God.
See of what a true church is composed — not of carnal, natural, or dead materials — but of living stones. Souls made alive to God, by the indwelling and operation of the Holy Spirit. Souls built upon Christ the one and only foundation which God has laid in Zion, and united to Christ, so as that they never can be separated from Christ.
See for what the Lord's people are intended to be — priests unto God, and to offer up spiritual sacrifices. We are in office, for we are priests; we are in office for others, and should therefore intercede for the world. Prayers, supplications, intercessions, and giving of thanks, should be made for all men, and be made by us for all men.
Reader, are you consecrated to God? Do you know what it is to draw near to God, and to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus? The office of the priest is a solemn office, an important office; for every priest has to officiate for others. Beloved, if we are priests unto God, a deep and solemn responsibility rests upon us. For sinners we should plead, for sinners for whom Jesus shed his blood, for sinners who never plead or pray for themselves — nor for sinners only — but for saints too, and for saints under all their varied and trying circumstances. Only consecrated people can draw near unto God with acceptance, and enjoy near and close communion with him; let us see to it then, that we are of the royal priesthood, and let us daily pray, that we may be anointed with fresh oil.
If my reader is an unconverted person, I would remind such an one, that God requires spiritual worship, and that only living stones are allowed to form part of God's house, his holy temple. Without spirituality, we cannot worship God aright, for he requires us to worship him in spirit and in truth; and without divine life in the soul, we cannot be built on the foundation of God's temple, or form part of that magnificent structure. Holy Spirit, unfold more clearly, and apply with divine power, this subject to every reader's heart.