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Our Great and Priestly Commission

November 2, 2018 No Comment

By: Timothy Teuscher

Rev. Timothy Teuscher

It is perhaps surprising to note that Matthew 28:19-20—“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”—is never referenced in our Lutheran Confessions in the way we usually do today. You know, as the “Great Commission” which Christ has given to His Church. Instead, it is quoted in connection with our Lord’s institution of Holy Baptism and the Office of the Holy Ministry.

This begs the question: What, then, is the Great Commission passage in the Scriptures—the one which describes who we are as a Church and what are task is to be? I would submit 1 Peter 2:9—“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 

Let us take a closer look at just one of the things that the Apostle mentions: “you are a royal priesthood.” In this regard, the Reformer, Martin Luther, says, “Every baptized Christian is a priest, not by appointment or ordination, but because Christ Himself has begotten him as a priest and has given birth to him in Baptism.” Or as the founding father of the Missouri Synod, C.F.W. Walther, writes, “All believing Christians are priests and the whole Christian Church is the temple, the house of God in which they serve under their only High Priest, Jesus Christ.”

In the Old Testament we are told that the service or work of a priest was not to be done for himself but for the sake of others. A priest was to stand before God as a representative of the people and, conversely, to stand before the people as a representative of God. Moreover, even before God established that specific Aaronic or Levitical priesthood who were to serve in the temple, He says of and to all the people of Israel: “You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). In the New Testament, St. Peter summarizes the work we have as members of God’s royal priesthood in this way: we are to “offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).

What then are some of these priestly, spiritual sacrifices we are to offer? Or, to put it another way, what is our mission, our duty, our task, as Christians and members of Christ’s church? The answer:

  • To offer the priestly sacrifice of repentance – “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).
  • To offer the priestly sacrifice of praise to God – “Through Jesus let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name” (Hebrews 13:15).
  • To offer the priestly sacrifice of living according to God’s will and commands – “I appeal to you, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Romans 12:1).
  • To offer the priestly sacrifice of sharing our material gifts with others – “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:16).
  • To offer the priestly sacrifice of our monetary offerings for the support of the Gospel ministry – “The gifts you sent are a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18).
  • To offer the priestly sacrifice of praying for others – “Let my prayer be counted as incense before You, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice” (Psalm 141:2).
  • To offer the priestly sacrifice of speaking God’s Word to others – “For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth” (Malachi 2:7).
  • To offer the priestly sacrifice of bringing others to salvation in Jesus by proclaiming the Gospel – “Because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the Gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:16).

What a great privilege, what an awesome task has been given to us—to be priests of God, to render to God and to others spiritual sacrifices! That is the one office which has been given to us all in our baptisms. And that is the mission, the task… yes, the “Great Commission”… that we all have as part of a royal priesthood – to “offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).