And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5)
Not only do we enjoy union with our Lord, but we also enjoy access to Him. That is a great privilege.
The vast world around us of unredeemed people do not know God. They have no access to God. They are never admitted into His presence. In fact, the Bible says they are far off. Even the deities that human beings invent are remote, indifferent and apathetic to human problems. Men appease them but do not desire to draw near to them.
But we as believers have full admission to the presence of our Lord.
This was not even true, by the way, in the Old Testament economy of Israel. While there was a sense in which Israelites could pray to God and could draw into His presence spiritually, they could not go near His presence physically.
When God came down on Mount Sinai, He warned the people not to come near or even touch the mountain – not to come near the holy place of His presence. And no one but the high priest one time during the year could ever enter into the Holy of Holies and be admitted to the presence of the Lord God. And yet, that which was saved in the old covenant only for the priesthood becomes the opportunity and the privilege of every Christian.
First of all, Peter says we are the temple – we are the spiritual house. And then he shifts gears in the middle of his metaphor and says, “Not only are you the temple of God, but you’re the priests functioning in the temple.”
It’s not like it was in the Old Testament, when only a certain order of priests could approach God and only a high priest could actually go into the Holy of Holies once a year. It’s not like it was when God was untouchable and men were inadmissible into His presence. Under the Old Testament economy there were signs everywhere, “No admittance. Stay away.”
There was only one priesthood that could offer sacrifices to God. And anybody who stepped into the priesthood and tried to do that without being a true priest was in danger of severe judgment. King Uzziah, feeling proud and invincible because he had reigned for 52 years in the land of God, thought he could enter into the priestly function – and God gave him leprosy and he died.
Saul tried to function like a priest, and God cursed his line and said, “Out of your loins will no king ever come.” Korah and his rebellious cohort tried to enter into the priestly realm, and the ground opened and swallowed all of them up.
You see, stepping into the priestly arena without having been ordained of God to that office meant you put your life in severe jeopardy. But in the New Testament, we are a holy priesthood, all of us who believe. We are separated and given access into God’s presence.
This post is based on a sermon Dr. MacArthur preached in 1989, titled “The Believer’s Privileges, Part 2: Access Part 1.” In addition to serving as the pastor of Grace Community Church and the voice of Grace to You, Dr. MacArthur is the chancellor of The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, Calif. You can learn more about TMU at masters.edu.
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