Sunday, May 29, 2011

On Being Siblings and the Priesthood of Believers

I absolutely love the fact that Paul uses the word "brothers" to refer to his fellow Christians (Paul wrote in NT Greek, but the translation is "brothers"). Here are five examples:

Romans 12:1, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship."

I Corinthians 14:26, "What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up."

Galatians 6:1, "Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted."

Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

Colossians 4:15, "Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house."

The use of this particular language shows us that Paul expects us to act as Christian siblings toward one another in the church.  But how do siblings treat one another (or how should they treat one another)?

Siblings love each other.

Siblings talk with each other.

Siblings spend time together.

Siblings depend on one another.

Siblings sacrifice for each other.

Siblings treat each other as equals.

Siblings challenge one another.

Siblings share their hopes and dreams with one another.

Siblings watch out for each other.

Siblings serve each other.

This is a short list of how siblings ought to treat one another.  Surely these are things Paul had in mind when he thought about how Christian brothers and sisters should treat each other.

We also see that Paul's key choice of words indicates a care for the priesthood of believers. If Christians truly act as siblings toward one another, this encourages the priesthood of all believers in Christ. For example, siblings serve one another and depend on each other. If this occurs in the church, then all members are acting out their responsibilities as priests of God. Siblings also challenge each other and spend time together. When the church functions in this way, the full priesthood is living in a God-honoring manner.

Paul had a picture of a family in mind when he thought of the church. God is our Father. We are all siblings in Christ. If we remember this and live according to it, we will be blessed. We will also bless others. Why? Because we will all actively pursue Jesus together.

An added bonus to all this is that an active priesthood of all believers is attractive to the lost world. The world is an ugly place with little support, sympathy, encouragement, and love. The church offers all these in Christ. In this manner, the priesthood has a sort of missions function for the world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ. What a wonderful thought.

10 comments:

James said...

Just studying this morning, Jesus and both Paul utilize the phrase "fellowservants" also. Curiously, they are both saying the same thing, we are all (sundoulos) fellow-slaves.

Not sure I can think of any expression in culture of history that demonstrates preeminence amongst slaves, at least in role status. But, office (Joseph in Egypt) proposes another nuance to role-relationships between brethren.

Arthur Sido said...

Been thinking a lot about this. If we treated other Christians as brothers and sisters instead of just giving it lipservice, how different the church would be.

Eric said...

James,

"Fellowservants" is another wonderful expression of relationships in the church. I need to work on being and living more like a servant. What a beautiful picture of what the church can and should be.

As for Joseph, he's an interesting case. I struggle to know how to apply OT examples like his to the church today. We can certainly learn from his faithfulness and character, but his leadership role doesn't seem to apply directly to church functioning today. What do you think?

Eric said...

Arthur,

Right on brother. I suppose we can start by trying to live it out ourselves with the Christians we know.

James said...

Good question Eric. I do not believe there is a direct parallel to Joseph in the functions in the New Testament except for Jesus. But what I was drawing on was the (sundoulos)comparison. Status in Christ does not change the importance of us all be subject to one another, but the particular gifts given to those in the church vary to such a degree that their particular function ranks in importance (according to Paul).

So gifts all serve the purpose of the church in mutual edification, some more important than others (thus more useful?) But the individual with the gift does not become more important than any other believer, for you are all subject one to another if it is willing and authority is not Lorded.

Joseph had a more 'important' office amongst the slaves/prisoners, but he was still a slave.

Now, look at the account elders will give for those they shepherd...does that make them more important because of a higher level of accountability?

Eric said...

James,

Thanks for clarifying. I see what you mean.

Aussie John said...

Brother,

So good!

I, also, love the fact that Paul uses the term, but surely, when the term "family" is used extensively, in the New Testament, to describe the Body of Christ, the term ought to be expected.

I once addressed a fellow pastor as "brother". His response was a gruff,"Wha-da-ya-mean, Brother"!

Eric said...

John,

Thanks! What wonderful truths we read about the true plan for the church in the bible. Living it out in the challenge.

As for that other pastor, how sad that he didn't recognize the beauty of what you were saying.

Shades of Splendor said...

I read just recently that Paul's use of the term 'brother' was for that very purpose: we are to see one another in the same light as we see our blood siblings. Our affections within the Body of Christ should equal that of our earthly family.
Also, I read elsewhere that the word 'philadelphia' was raised in importance by Paul to a status of that of 'agape' love. Our brotherly love is to be of divine origin and importance in its desemination within Christ's Church.
Thanks for the post!

Eric said...

Shades,

Thanks for commenting. I agree with you. In fact, it seems that Jesus elevates our spiritual family relationships to a position even higher than that of our earthly families. Jesus makes some very hard statements in Matthew 12:46-50.