FRESH OIL – The pouring out of the Holy Spirit in Power on the believer.

(Chapter 5 from Dr. Hyle’s excellent book, Meet The Holy Spirit) This is the same as the sermon FRESH OIL

A pastor requested that I bring my message on “Fresh Oil” to his people. I refused to do so using as an excuse that the sermon was more adapted to preachers rather than to laymen. After the service that night I returned to my room and the Holy Spirit began to convict me and rebuke me for limiting to preachers the doctrine about Himself. He reminded me that His fulness was for everybody, and He led me to reexamine Joel 2:28, 29, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out My Spirit.” He especially pointed out to me that He would pour out His Spirit on all flesh. That would include our sons and daughters, our old men and young men and even servants and handmaids. I fell to my knees asking His forgiveness and promised Him that I would make the doctrine of His fulness as plain as I could so that young men and old men, sons and daughters, handmaids and servants could understand. This blessed truth is for the busy housewife who goes about her duties. It is for the mother who rocks the world in her lap. It is for the steel worker at the blast furnace. It is for the service station attendant who pumps gas. It is for the maid at the motel who cleans rooms. It is for everybody. So, in simple language, understandable by the layman and the clergy, I approach this vital truth.

First came the light. Then came the firmament. Then God lit the starry host of the nighttime. After that came the fist of the sea and then all the tribes of the animal kingdom. Now God was ready for man. He made man in his own image, and it was marvelous. Man walked in the garden of Eden fellowshipping with his Creator. They walked in splendor. Every tree that grew was pleasant to the eyes. Rivers flowed peaceably through verdant valleys. Every sound was a melody. Every scene was a delight. There was no war to unrest the beast. There was no sickness to cause a fear of death. The leaf never withered; the wind never chilled. No perspiration moistened the brow. No profanity cursed the ear. There was no weariness, no heat and no cold. No blossoms were smitten by a tempest. Man had not yet learned to sigh or weep. There was no withering frost to chill the rose. There was no shadow of guilt ever known. Choirs of birds serenaded man. It was wonderful!

Yet something was missing. There was no kindred creature on earth with whom man could share this beauty and this wonder. Then there she comes, dressed in all the beauty a human being could possess. Grace was in her step. Heaven was in her eye. Every gesture possessed dignity and love. Perfection was stamped upon her. The sons of God shouted for joy. The morning stars sang together, and Eden was transformed.

How wonderful it was! Man and woman, made for Him, sharing fellowship with God in Edonic splendor. They knew not the definition of sorrow. They had never seen a funeral. There were gardens of perpetual bloom, orchards that surrendered their fruit daily. No child was dying with leukemia. Garlands of flowers covered their path. Brows never furrowed, faces never wrinkled, hands were never palsied, the step was never offensive.

All the while the Lord Jesus was with the Father in Heaven. Torches flared as He walked the golden streets. Trumpets announced His every arrival. Demonstrations dogged His heels. Multitudes adored Him; worshipers bowed before Him. Angels ministered to Him. The planet sang His praises. All of the earth’s diamonds could not fill His scepter. All of earth’s gems could not fill His crown. He was always in the presence of the Father. The sun and the moon obeyed His voice, and the four living creatures sang His praises!

Then one day it happened! There were groans heard in Heaven because something tragic had happened on earth. God’s race had fallen. Ruin had blighted His creation. Now the winds howl, the serpents hiss, the brow furrows, the shoulder stoops, the hands tremble, the eyes grow weary, the mind grows dull, the hair turns gray. Sin had blighted the human race.

God’s mercy wanted restoration, but God’s justice would not allow it until the penalty was paid. The only was the inhabitants of earth could be salvaged for God was for the Lord Jesus Christ to go to earth. This He did. He fled to a virgin’s womb. There was no welcome for Him. The only open door to Him was a barn door. He was born in another man’s stable, ate at another man’s table rode another man’s beast, slept on another man’s pillow, cruised in another man’s boat and was buried in another man’s tomb.. He was King of kings, but He had no throne but a cross, He had no crown but a crown of thorns, He had no scepter but a walking stick, He had no royal robe but a borrowed coat from a soldier. He had no subjects but a jeering mob. He was despised and rejected of men. He was a man of sorrows; He was acquainted with grief. He bore our griefs, He carried our sorrows, He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities. He was oppressed, He was afflicted, He made His grave with the wicked, He gave his soul an offering for sin, and worst of all, He became sin and stood before the judgment of God bearing the sins of the whole world! He was pronounced guilty by His Father, and on the cross He paid the penalty for the sins of mankind. He was buried and rose after three days and three nights. Now the message is complete. It is time to send that message out to a lost world. Twelve men are chosen to begin this task.

But there is still a problem! The message is unbelievable! Imagine twelve common men starting out to convince a world of unsaved people that Jesus was born of a virgin! Imagine how that will be received by the natural ear, the natural mind, and the natural heart! Imagine trying to convince a sinful world that Jesus lived for 33 years and never committed one sin! Imagine how difficult it would be to convince the world of the vicarious death and bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ!

So God made it possible for Someone to accompany these men Who could talk to people from within as these missionaries told the story from without. This One talking from within would be the Holy Spirit. God would make it possible for these preachers and missionaries to be so filled with the Holy Spirit that while they preached the message from without, the Holy Spirit would convince the listeners from within that the message is true.

For example, a preacher who is filled with the Holy Spirit stands in his pulpit and preaches. While he is preaching the truth, a voice talks from within to the congregation saying, “That’s right! What the preacher says is true. Jesus was born of a virgin. He did live a sinless life. He did die on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins. He did rise again after three days and three nights. He did ascend back to the Father. He is at the right hand of the Father interceding even now. He is coming again.” The preacher keeps preaching. He says that those who accept Christ go to Heaven. From within the Holy Spirit says “He’s right. He’s right. Listen to him. He’s telling you the truth.” the preacher preaches about Hell and judgment. The Holy Spirit from within says, “He’s right. Believe him. He’s telling you the truth. Listen to what he says.” Ah, what a blessedness it is to preach in the power of the Holy Spirit so that while the words come from the lips of the pastor to the ear of the hearer, the Holy Spirit comes to the heart of the hearer and confirms what the pastor is saying!

Ah, this will transform a Sunday school teacher! The Spirit-filled teacher can stand before his class and teach the Word of God. What would have been a boring lesson suddenly becomes life-changing because the Holy Spirit is saying to the pupils, “Listen to your teacher. He loves you. That’s right. Believe him.” This is the need for our Sunday schools.

Imagine a Spirit-filled soloist singing in the public services and as the song is sung and the message is heard by human ears there is a Voice from within speaking to each member of the congregation saying, “That song is right. Jesus does save. He does comfort. His is your need!” This would transform the music program of our churches. While Spirit-filled choirs sing, a Voice from within speaks to the congregation saying, “That choir is right. Believe them.” Their hearts begin to burn. Conviction settles in and decisions follow.

An organist or pianist is playing the offertory on Sunday morning. That organist is filled with the Holy Spirit after having paid the price in fervent prayer and after having met the conditions for His fulness. the organist plays the offertory and as she plays a song like “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” a Voice speaks to the hearts of those in the congregation: “That’s right. Prayer is sweet and it does call you from a world of care. It is the answer for your life.” The Voice continues to say, “You should pray. You should pray often. You should pray before you eat. You should pray before you start the day. You should have seasons of prayer.”

The Spirit-filled Christian school teacher stands before his or her class, and as the teacher teaches, the Holy Spirit says to the pupils, “Your teacher is right. Believe what your teacher is saying. Listen carefully.” Ah, that will help the deportment and behavior in the classroom.

Imagine a Spirit-filled soul winner knocking at the door of a house. A person comes to the door and suddenly the holy Spirit speaks from within. The soul winner begins to tell the wonderful story of Christ and from within the heart of the hearer there is this Voice saying, “Believe him. The man is from God. He is telling you the truth. This is the way to Heaven. This is your only hope.

At Pentecost that Voice even spoke different languages so that people who could not understand language that was used in the preaching could hear the message of Christ and be saved!

Oh, preacher, this is your answer! Sunday school teacher, this will transform your class. Singer, this will give life to your special numbers. Instrumentalists, this will multiply your effectiveness. Christian school teachers, this will help us to produce dedicated young people. Nursery worker, this will help the children even in the nursery. Imagine a nursery worker telling a baby about Jesus; the Holy Spirit can even speak to that little heart. Mothers, this will help you rear your children properly.

The question immediately comes: How may this power be obtained? Of course, there are obvious steps such as separation from the world, faithfulness to the cause of Christ, hours of studying the Word, obedience to the commands of God and to the will God, etc., but the main thing is for a Christian to be so sincere that he pays the price in agonizing and pleading and tarrying, begging God for His power. Notice Luke 11:5-13, “And He said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, saying unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?” The word “importunity” in verse 8 means “much begging.”

This chapter is being written at my desk. On my desk I see the words, “Pray for power.” Behind my desk I see the words, “Pray for power.” In the Bible that is in my lap I see the words, “Pray for power.” On the mirror where I shave I see the words, “Pray for power.” On the door leading from my office into the hallway I see the words, “Pray for power.” Hundreds of times a day I plead with God for His power. Then, of course, there are seasons of prayer when I go alone with God to plead for the power of God.

I am commanded in the Scripture to be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” Notice that in the same passage about Spirit-fulness, drunkenness is mentioned. It would seem then that it is just as wicked for a person to do God’s work without the fulness of the Holy Spirit as it would be to do God’s work drunk with wine wherein is excess.

As a child I was very nervous. We were very, very poor. My father was an alcoholic. He left our home when I was a boy. Through a series of events, God called me to preach His Gospel. I was very sincere. When I was 21 years of age, I began to pastor. For one lonely year I pastored with no results. No one walked the aisle for salvation, no one walked the aisle to transfer membership. It was a long, barren year. I decided to find the answer. I went to a library at a Baptist college. I began to read the biographies of great men. I read how Dwight Moody was filled with the Holy Spirit while walking down Wall Street one day. I read how his ministry was changed and how he would preach the old sermons where he at one time had five conversions and then he had fifty! I read how his ministry was transformed,, and my heart began to burn from within. I wondered, “Could that be available for me? Could that which Dwight Moody received when he was filled with the Holy Spirit be available for a little Texas preacher?” I continued reading. I read about Savonarola, who went to his pulpit one day and realizing he was powerless refused to preach until thee power of God came upon him. For five hours he sat and waited until the power of God came, and then he was filled with the Holy Spirit as he preached. I read about Christmas Evans, who was riding his horse on his circuit one day and suddenly the power of God came upon him. He knew for the first time in his life that he was filled with the Holy Spirit. I read about Charles G. Finney and his Spirit-filled life. I began to ask God as a young preacher, “Is that for me? Is that for today? Is there actually a power that can come over me where the Holy Spirit can speak to people from within as I speak from without?”

I read about John Wesley, who at three o’clock in the morning on October 3, 1738, after having prayed with a number of preachers for most of the night was filled with the Holy Spirit. His ministry was never the same. I read about George Fox, who went alone for two weeks begging for the power of God, and how his life was transformed. I read about Peter Cartwright, who had been filled with the Holy Spirit and mighty power came upon him. I read of George Whiitefield, who on June 20, 1736, was ordained to preach. As he knelt at the altar, Bishop Benson laid his hands on the young preacher and George Whitefield know then and there that he was filled with the Holy Spirit! I read about George Muller, who was filled with the Holy Spirit the first time he ever saw Christians on their knew in prayer. I read how Billy Sunday used to preach every sermon with his Bible open to Isaac 61:1 and how the Spirit of God came on him. My heart began to burn from within! “Was this for me as well as for them? Was that power that Moody had and Wesley had and Whitefield had and Billy Sunday had available for little Jack Hyles, a poor country preacher in east Texas?”

I began to walk in the woods at night. Night after night I would walk and cry and pray an beg for power. My heart was hungry. I got a Cruden’s Concordance and looked up the terms, “Holy Ghost,” “Spirit of the Lord,” “Spirit of God,” etc. I looked up every Scripture in the Bible that had to do with the Holy Spirit. I read in Judges 6:34 that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon and in Judges 14;6 how the Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson in and in I Samuel 11:6 how the Spirit of God came upon Saul. I read in I Samuel 16:13 how the Spirit of the Lord came upon David. I read in Acts 9:17 where Paul was filled with the Holy Ghost and in Luke 4:1 where Jesus was full of the Holy Ghost. My heart burned! I needed something. I needed the blesses power of God. I needed the fulness of the Holy Spirit. I didn’t understand all the Scriptures. I read in Luke 3:16 the words, “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” I read in Acts 1:4 the mention of the “promise of the Father.” In Luke 24:49 I found the words, “be endued with power from on high.” In Acts 1:8 I found the words, “after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.” In Acts 2:17 I learned of the “pouring out of the Spirit” and in Ephesians 5:18 I found the term, “filled with the Spirit.”

I was no seeking sinless perfection nor was I trying to name what I wanted God to give me. I had no desire to speak in tongues not did I even desire to have some kind of an experience. I just wanted God to work in the hearts of the people while I preached and witnessed. Could it be for me? Yes, it was for Samson, for Gideon, for Torrey, for Moody, for Billy Sunday, for Jonathan Edwards, for Muller, for Whitefield, for George Fox, for Christmas Evans, for Savonarola, for Peter Cartwright, for John Rice, for Bob Jones, for Lee Roberson, but was it for me? I was just a country preacher. I can recall how my eyes fastened on Isaiah 40:31 and Acts 2:4 and Acts 4:31. I was hungry!

“I must have results. I must have power.” I can recall saying to God, “I’m not going to be a normal preacher. I’m not going to be a powerless preacher.”

Night after night I would walk through the pine thickets of east Texas, up and down the sand hills, begging God for His power. If you had driven down Highway 43 outside Marshall, Texas, on the way to Henderson, Texas, in the wee hours of the morning, you could have heard me praying, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” and begging God to give me power.

I was losing weight. I couldn’t eat. What I did eat came back up! My family was worried about me. My deacons got together and said to me, “Pastor, you’ve got to take care of yourself. You are going to get bad sick.”

Then came May 12, 1950. All night I prayed! Just about sunrise I fell to my face in some pine needles and told God I would pay the price, whatever it was, for the power of God! I did not know what I was saying. I did not know what that meant.

In less than four hours, my phone rang in our little country parsonage. The operator said that it was a long distance call for Reverend Jack Hyles. She put the call through and a voice said, “This is Mr. Smith. I work with your dad. Reverend Hyles, your dad just dropped dead with a heart attack.” I put the phone down. I could not believe what I had heard. Just a few months before I had preached to my Daddy, but I was powerless. He did not get saved. I had witnessed to him, but once again I was powerless and he did not get saved. He had promised me the first of January, 1950, that in a few months he would come back to east Texas and receive Christ as his Saviour. He never made it. As far as I know, he died without Jesus under the influence of alcohol. We drove to Dallas to the same funeral home that later embalmed President Kennedy when he was killed. On May 13, 1950, Mother’s Day afternoon, we had a little service in the chapel. We then followed the hearse about 50 miles south to a little cemetery on the northeast corner of Italy, Texas, where two of my little sisters were buried. Down near the creek was a hole in the ground. They lowered my daddy’s body in the grave. Not long after, I returned to that grave and fell on my face and told God I was not going to be a powerless preacher any more and that I was not going to leave that grave until something happened to me. I don’t know how long I stayed. It may have been hours; it may have been days. I lost all consciousness and awareness of time. I did not become sinlessly perfect nor did I talk in another language nor was I completely sanctified, but my ministry was transformed!

To God be the praise, there has not been one single Sunday since that day without conversions in the churches I have pastored. That’s been over 31 years now, and though I’m not the preacher I ought to be, I have seen the mighty power of God over and over and over again. Over a quarter of a million people have walked the aisles in the churches I have pastored professing faith in Christ. I am no great preacher. I am no giant of the faith. I just found out there was a way that a person could be filled with the Holy Spirit, enabling Him to speak from within as I preached from without.

One of the great mistakes that Christians make, however, is believing that fulness of the Spirit is a one-time happening. The truth is that the New Testament church was filled with the Spirit over and over again. They were filled with the Spirit in Acts 2:4, “And they were filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Again they were filled with the Spirit in Acts 4:31, “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the Word of God with boldness.”

Several years later I was called to pastor the Miller Road Baptist Church of Garland, Texas. Twenty-one people voted on me-eighteen voted for me, two voted neutral and one voted undecided. The church enjoyed unbelievable growth. What a ministry God gave us, and how blessed was the Holy Spirit’s power! The church grew so fast that it was too big for me and I felt that I must resign. On December 31, 1954, I went to my study on New Year’s Eve. I went alone with God and told Him the church was too big for me and that I would have to resign and let someone more qualified and capable continue the ministry. I would be content to go to some smaller church and start over again. I wrote out my resignation, laid it on the floor of my study and told God that unless He gave me a new power I would have to read the resignation on January 1, 1955. I did not want to resign, because I loved my people dearly, but there was no other choice. I prayed from 9:00 until 10:00; from 10:00 until 11:00; from 11:00 until 12:00; from 12:00 until 1:00. Sometime past midnight, there was a knock on the door of my study. I went to the door. It was one of my deacons. He was weeping. He said, “Pastor, what’s wrong?” I said, “Why do you ask?” He said, “The Holy Spirit told me something was wrong with my preacher tonight. I called your house and they did not know where you were, so I thought I would come to the study. What’s wrong?”

I showed him the letter of resignation and told him that God was going to have to give me something more than what I had I f I stayed, He said, “Pastor, let’s pray.” We prayed from 1:00 until 2:00; from 2:00 until 3:00; from 3:00 until 4:00; from 4:00 until 5:00 and sometime between 5:00 and 6:00 in the morning the sweet power of God settled upon us, and I knew that God had given me some fresh power,, some fresh oil, as spoken of by the Psalmist in Psalm 92:10, “But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: Ishall be anointed with fresh oil.” I tore up the letter of resignation. My deacon and I danced for joy and hugged and lifted our hands in holy praises to God. Oh, the sweet years we had after that!

Then in December, 1958, I received a letter from Hammond, Indiana. For months I wrestles with the possibility of becoming Pastor of that Chicagoland church. I did not want to go, but the Holy Spirit led in that direction, and I became Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Hammond in August of 1959. Soon the problems mounted. The church and I were different. It seemed there was no way I could continue pastoring that church.

I was preaching for a week at the Bill Rice Ranch. Every night I wrestled with the calls from other churches to return to Texas. It just seemed that I was not cut out for the First Baptist Church of Hammond. On Friday night I could not sleep. The Holy Spirit kept me awake. About ten o’clock I knelt to pray beside the bed in room 11 of the Widner Inn at the Bill Rice Ranch. I told God I was going to resign the church the next Sunday, but God wrestled me through the night. All night long I pleaded for God to give me something I must have if I were to stay in Hammond. After a night of prayer and a night of wrestling with the Holy Spirit, that “something” came. Again I knew that I was filled with the Holy Spirit in a new and fresh way. Fresh oil had come! The rest of the story is legend. The great First Baptist Church of Hammond was born that night.

It has been over 21 years since that all-night prayer meeting but I find myself again and again needing a new fulness of fresh oil. That’s my only hope. I need that Voice talking to people as I preach. I need Him to speak from the inside as I witness from the outside.

Dear reader, you too need that fulness. Dear music director, you need that power; and so do you, choir director, choir member, Sunday school teacher, bus worker, Christian school teacher, Christian school administrator, instrumentalist, youth worker, and Sunday school worker; and, blessed be God, it is available for you! It’s for sons and daughters, for young men and old men, for bondmaids and servants. Joel says it is for all flesh! Praise the Lord!

Won’t you now bow your head? Promise God several things. Promise Him that you are going to be clean and separate from the world. Promise Him that you are going to live in His Book. Promise Him that you are going to be sure that He gets what is His financially and in every other way. Promise Him that you are going to work hard and be faithful and loyal to Him. Then promise Him that you are going to pray and plead and wrestle with Him. Don’t be concerned about having some kind of an experience, just be concerned about the Holy Spirit talking from within as you talk from without. It may be that that power will come upon you the next time you preach or teach or sing. It may be that it will be a gradual thing and that more and more you will be aware of His presence and power as you serve. Don’t be concerned about having some kind of stereotype experience and don’t be concerned about getting up and telling what happened to you. Just yield your self; sanctify your self; pray an pray and pray and pray until you see people moved as you speak by that Voice that speaks from within! When you see this, continue to pray, continue to ask Him for His fulness and continue to love Him and serve Him. Crown Him, honor Him, and praise Him until the veil is pulled and we shall se Him as He is!

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THE PRIESTHOOD

The Bible speaks of the ministry of the priesthood. This ministry consists of a group of people wholly separated from the world to serve God. They have no other occupation or duty other than to serve God. Such people are called priests in the Bible.

I. THE HISTORY OF THE PRIESTHOOD IN THE BIBLE

Beginning from the book of Genesis, we find God calling men to be priests. Melchisedec was God’s first priest. In Abraham’s time, Melchisedec separated himself and gave himself solely to God’s service.

A. From Genesis to the Period after the Lord’s Ascension

From Genesis to the forming of the nation of Israel and thereafter, the priesthood was always present. At the time the Lord Jesus was on earth and even after His departure from the earth, the priesthood did not cease. The priesthood has been on earth for a long time. The Bible shows us that even the Lord Jesus became a priest before God after His ascension to the heavens. He is there now fully consecrated for God’s service.

B. In the Dispensation of the Church

The priesthood continues throughout the dispensation of the church; there is no interruption of any kind.

C. In the Millennial Kingdom

At the beginning of the millennial kingdom, those who share in the first resurrection will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years (Rev. 20:6). God’s children will continue to be God’s priests and Christ’s priests for a thousand years. They will be kings to the world and priests to God. This priesthood will remain unchanged; they will still serve God.

D. In the New Heavens and New Earth

In the new heavens and new earth, the term priest will cease to exist. At that time, all of God’s children as His servants will do nothing except serve Him. In the New Jerusalem “and his servants shall serve him:” (22:3). In other words, God’s children will continue to serve Him.

Here we must point out a most wonderful thing. The priesthood commenced with Melchisedec, the one who was without father, without mother, without genealogy, who had neither beginning of days nor end of life (Heb. 7:3), and it extends to the end of the millennium, which means that it extends to eternity.

II. THE KINGDOM OF PRIESTS BECOMING THE HOUSE OF PRIESTS

According to the revelation of the Scripture, God’s purpose is not to have only one or two persons as His priests. His purpose is to have all His people as His priests.

A. God Choosing the Israelites to Be a Kingdom of Priests

After the Israelites came out of Egypt, they came to Mount Sinai. God charged Moses to speak to the Israelites, saying, “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” (Exo. 19:6). God told the Israelites that they would be a kingdom of priests. This expression is somewhat difficult to understand. Why did God say that they would be a kingdom of priests? He meant that He wanted the whole nation to be priests. No one in the nation would be an ordinary person; the whole kingdom would be priests. This was God’s purpose.

When God chose Israel to be His people, He set this goal before them. This nation was to be different from all other nations on the earth. It was a kingdom of priests. All the people of this nation would be priests. This meant that every person in the nation would have one unique occupation, the occupation of serving God. God delights in separating men from the earth for His service. He delights in seeing men live solely for His affairs. God wants all of His children to be priests and to serve Him.

God told the people of Israel when they reached Mount Sinai that He would make them a kingdom of priests. This is a wonderful calling. We call England “the kingdom of the navy,” the United States, “the kingdom of gold,” China, “the kingdom of manners and virtues,” and India “the kingdom of philosophers.” But here is a kingdom which is called “the kingdom of priests.” This is a wonderful thing. Everyone in this nation is a priest. Men, women, adults, and children are all priests. Everyone in this kingdom serves only God. Both adults and children have only one thing as their occupation—offering sacrifices and serving God. This is a wonderful picture.

After God promised to establish Israel as a kingdom of priests, He told Moses to go up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments which were written upon two tablets of stone. Moses remained on the mountain forty days while God wrote the Ten Commandments on the stone tablets. The first commandment says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” The second says, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image” (20:3-4). It seems that God was dictating the commandments one by one.

B. The Israelites Serving the Idols

While Moses was up on the mountain, the people at the foot of the mountain wondered about his delay. They said to Aaron, “Up, make us gods, which shall go before us” (32:1). Aaron succumbed to their words, collected gold, and made a golden calf. The people then worshipped the golden calf and said, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” (v. 4).

They began to worship the idol. They sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play. They indulged in great celebration. At last they had found a visible golden god for themselves. The God that Moses taught was mysterious; one could not identify where He lived or where He could be located. Even Moses, the one who worshipped this God, was nowhere to be found. Now there was a visible golden calf which they could worship. God had appointed them to be priests, but even before they were able to be His priests, they became priests to the golden calf. God’s desire was for them to be a kingdom of priests. But even before they could do that, they had turned to idol worship and served the golden calf. They established other gods and other forms of worship apart from Jehovah their God.

This is man’s concept of God. Man always tries to make his own god and worship according to his own ways. Man likes to worship a god created by his own hands. He does not accept God’s sovereignty in His creation. He does not like to acknowledge Him as the Creator.

C. God Assigning the Priesthood to the Tribe of Levi

While Moses was on the mount, God told him to go down. Moses turned and went down with the two tablets of testimony, the Ten Commandments, in his hands. As he drew near to the camp and saw the condition of the people, his wrath waxed hot and he cast down the two tablets. Standing at the gate of the camp he said, “Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me” (v. 26). All the sons of Levi gathered around him. He said to them, “Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor” (v. 27). Regardless of whom they saw, they had to kill them all. Because the people had worshipped the idol, the golden calf, those who were faithful had to draw their sword and slay them, no matter what kind of relationship they had with them.

Many people think that this order was too cruel. Who can slay his own brother? Who has the heart to kill his own friends? Eleven of the twelve tribes did not move. They felt that the cost was too high. As a result, only the tribe of Levi drew their swords, went to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slew about three thousand men on that day. Those slain were the brothers, relatives, and friends of the Levites.

Let us consider this a little. After the incident of the golden calf, God immediately told Moses that from that time on the nation of Israel could no longer be a kingdom of priests. Although nothing was said explicitly to that effect, God had reassigned the priesthood to the tribe of Levi alone. The priesthood was originally for the whole nation of Israel. Now, the priesthood was limited to the house of Aaron of the tribe of Levi.

D. God’s People and God’s Priests Becoming Two Separate Groups

From that time on, there were always two groups of people in the nation of Israel. One group were God’s people and the other were God’s priests. God’s original intention was for all His people to be His priests. God had no intention of separating His people from His priests. He wanted the whole nation to be a kingdom of priests. God’s people and God’s priests should have been one. Whoever were God’s people should have been His priests. As long as a person was one of God’s people, he should have been God’s priest. To be His people meant to be His priests. All His people were to be His priests. However, many loved the world and succumbed to human affection and turned away from faithfulness to worship the idol. As a result, God’s people and His priests became two separate groups. Henceforth, if a man did not love the Lord more than his father, mother, wife, children, brother, sister, and all, he became unfit to be a disciple of the Lord. Many could not meet this requirement or pay this price. From that day forward, the nation of Israel was divided into two groups—God’s people and His priests.

E. The Priesthood Becoming the Privilege of a Household

From that day forward, the kingdom of priests became a tribe of priests. The scope of the priesthood was reduced from a kingdom of priests to a household of priests. The priesthood became the matter of a household instead of a nation. God’s people and God’s priests were one and the same in the tribe of Levi; that is, His people were His priests. In regards to the other eleven tribes, God’s people were only God’s people; they could no longer be God’s priests. This was most serious. It is serious for a person to be a believer, one of God’s people, and yet not be a priest.

III. THE CHARACTERISTIC OF THE PRIESTHOOD—BEING A MEDIATORIAL CLASS

From Exodus until the time of the Lord Jesus on earth, no other tribe could function as priests except the tribe of Levi. They could not offer sacrifices to God. Their sacrifices had to be made through the priests. They could not even come to God to confess their sins; they had to confess them through the priests. They could not separate themselves from the world because they had no authority to touch the anointing oil. The priests alone could anoint and sanctify a person. All the spiritual services had to be carried out by the priests on their behalf.

One special characteristic about the Israelites in the Old Testament was that God was far away from them. Not everyone could contact Him. In the Old Testament we find the evolution of the priesthood, which I call an intermediary class. Man could not go to God directly. God’s people had to go through the priests before they could draw near to God. They could not commune with God directly. God came to man through the priests, and man also went to God through the priests. Between God and man, there was a mediatorial class. Man could not come directly to God, and God could not come directly to man. Between God and man there was a mediatorial class.

This class was not found in God’s original design. God’s original intention was to approach His people directly and for them to come to Him directly. But now there were three parties. The people had to come to God through the priests, and God had to approach His people through the priests. God and man could no longer commune with each other directly. All contact became indirect.

IV. THE CHANGE IN THE PRIESTHOOD

For about fifteen hundred years, from the time of Moses to the time of Christ, God’s people were unable to come directly to God. Only one household was qualified to be the priests. A man had to belong to this household to come to God. If he drew near to God directly, he would die. During that period, the ministry of the priests became a very powerful ministry. Man could not come to God directly; he needed the intercession of the priests. How noble and great the priestly ministry was! There was no way for man to come to God without the priests. But with the coming of the New Testament age, we find salvation and redemption reaching all men. Now we hear the word: “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 2:5).

A. Every Redeemed One Being a Priest in the New Testament Dispensation

In 1 Peter 2:4-7 Peter tells us that Christ is the foundation of the church. He was the stone rejected by the builders who has now become the head of the corner. We have become the living stones and are joined and built up to become a spiritual house. We also have become a holy priesthood to God. It is as if a voice from heaven burst forth announcing, “All who are saved are now God’s priests. All the living stones, those who are part of the spiritual house, are now priests of God.”

B. The Church Recovering the Universal Priesthood Again

Right then a promise which had been set aside for fifteen hundred years was recovered by God. What the Israelites lost has been recovered by the church. The universal priesthood was lost to Israel. In the New Testament age, it is as if a voice from heaven bursts forth with the promise that the universal priesthood is with us once more. All the saved ones are called to be priests.

C. The Church Being a Kingdom of Priests

The same word can be found in Revelation 1:6, which says, “And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” Originally, the whole nation of Israel were priests. Later, this changed. But what about today? Today the church is a kingdom of priests. What the Israelites lost in the presence of the golden calf, the church has fully regained through the Lord Jesus. Today the entire church has become priests. God’s ordained kingdom of priests has now been fully restored.

D. The Unique Occupation of a Christian—Serving God

What God could not secure among the Israelites, He is now securing through the church. The church today is the kingdom of priests. The church is a priesthood. What does this mean? It means that everyone who has tasted God’s grace has only one occupation left, that of serving God. I have said this before to the young people: If a person is a doctor before he believes in the Lord, his occupation is medicine; if he is a nurse, his occupation is nursing; if he is a teacher, his occupation is teaching; if he is a farmer, his occupation is farming; if he is a businessman, his occupation is business. But the moment one becomes a Christian, his occupation completely changes. Every Christian has only one occupation—serving God. From the time we were saved, we became priests to God. Henceforth, we have to serve God in His presence. This is our lifelong spiritual goal.

Every Christian has only one occupation, that of serving God. A Christian doctor can no longer expect to make a name for himself as a famous doctor; his practice as a doctor is only useful in sustaining his living. His real occupation is to be a priest to God. A professor or a teacher can no longer strive to be a famous or outstanding academician. Rather, he must now strive to be a proper priest before God. His teaching becomes merely his vocation; his main occupation is to serve God. Craftsmen, businessmen, farmers, and all the other professionals are no longer living for their own professions. There is now only one profession for everyone, that of serving God.

E. Only One Ambition—Pleasing the Lord

Every brother and sister should set aside their old occupation on the day they are saved. I hope that you will give up all your ambitions and aspirations the day you begin your Christian life. You should no longer aspire to be someone special. You should no longer strive to be someone outstanding or distinguished in your field or line of occupation. You should learn from Paul, who had only one ambition—to be well pleasing to the Lord. You should not have any ambition other than this. All worldly occupations should be put aside. You should no longer have any aspiration to be great or outstanding. You should only aspire to serve the Lord in His presence.

V. THE GLORY OF THE PRIESTHOOD

During the early years of my Christian life, I always felt that it was a hard job to exhort young believers to serve God. It seemed that I had to try very hard to beckon, beg, and plead with others to serve God. But God’s view is totally different from ours. God took the priesthood away from the Israelites when they sinned. In God’s eyes service is a great privilege and a high honor. If a man fails or backslides, God takes away the priesthood from him. God has no intention to persuade or beg man to serve Him. He has no intention of seeking man’s approval. It is man’s glory, not God’s, for him to be called to be God’s priest.

A. God Honoring Us by Calling Us to the Priesthood

Those who offered strange fire in the Old Testament were burned to death. Some died when they entered the holy place. Others died when they tried to offer sacrifices to God. God would not allow anyone except the priests to come to Him. In God’s eyes the priesthood is a trust He has placed upon man. He is bestowing glory and honor to man and uplifting man when He calls him to the priesthood. A person would die if he volunteered to take up the priesthood according to his own will. Uzzah, who stretched out his own hand to steady the ark when it tilted, was immediately smitten to death.

B. Foolish Men Considering Service to Be a Favor to God

There are many people who think that they are granting God a favor by offering themselves to Him. Over the past decades, I have always felt uneasy when preachers pleaded with believers in revival meetings to give themselves to serve God. Many people give a little money to God and think that they are doing Him a special favor. Many people offer themselves to serve God and think that they are doing Him a favor. Some people think that they are bestowing honor upon God when they give up a little position in the world. Their hearts seem to be saying, “I give myself, someone as important as I, to serve God today!” Some give up their little positions and think that they are exalting the Lord. But this is blindness! This is nothing but folly and darkness!

C. Our Greatest Honor Being to Serve God

If God in heaven has called us to be His priests, we should be on our knees before Him to receive His calling. This is our greatest honor. God has elevated us. We do not say that we can give anything to God. We say that our greatest honor lies in God’s acceptance of what we offer to Him. What a tremendous honor that persons such as ourselves can serve God. This is pure grace! This surely is the gospel! It is not only a gospel about Jesus’ salvation; it is a gospel that even persons such as ourselves can serve God. This is indeed the gospel, a great gospel.

VI. UPHOLDING THE PRIESTHOOD

A. There Being No Church without the Universal Priesthood

In the church today the priesthood is no longer restricted to only a few people; it has become a universal priesthood. The nation of Israel failed; the church cannot fail again. The nation of Israel failed in that God’s people and God’s priests became separated. May the Lord have mercy on us. May there be no separation between God’s people and His priests in the church today. In the church God’s people are His priests. All the people of God are priests of God. There must be as many priests as there are brothers and sisters. Everyone must come to God to offer up spiritual sacrifices and sacrifices of praise. Everyone should take part in spiritual service. This is not a selective ministry. Everyone should come to God to serve Him. A church that comes short of universal and direct access to God is not a church.

Please bear in mind that there is no church if the priesthood is not universal. The nation of Israel failed; the church should not fail again. During the past two thousand years, the scope of the priesthood has never been recovered to include all the people of God. The two thousand years of church history show us a frequent separation between the people and the ministry of the priests. An intermediary class has time and time again come between God and His people. This is the work and teaching of the Nicolaitans.

B. No Longer Tolerating the Intermediary Class

We can no longer tolerate an intermediary class. We can no longer accept a hierarchy. We can no longer allow priests to stand between God and His children; we can no longer accept an intermediary class. We need to see what the church is. The church is the place where every child of God is a priest. We cannot have one person or a few persons monopolizing spiritual service. They cannot be the only ones through whom God speaks or the only ones through whom we approach God to settle spiritual matters. Such an intermediary class cannot exist in the church.

Our controversy with denominations is not a matter of outward forms but a matter of inward content. Today there is a hierarchy in the denominations—one group of people is serving God, while the rest are merely pew members. One group of people is serving God as a profession, while the rest of the pew members, though equally born to be God’s children, need to approach Him through them. This hierarchical practice is tolerated by many organizations in Christianity today. But we cannot accept any intermediary class. We cannot set aside the grace given to the church in the New Testament. We cannot forsake it as the Israelites did.

C. The Intermediary Class Abolished When Everyone Serves

We need to abolish the intermediary class. In order for us to abolish this class, we all have to become part of it. When all of us become a part of that class, the hierarchy is gone. How can we make the three groups two groups? How can we turn three-way traffic into two-way traffic? How can these three—God, the priesthood, and the people—become two? There is no other way except to kneel down before the Lord and say, “Lord, I am willing to serve You. I am willing to be a priest.” When all of God’s children become His priests, the three parties will be reduced to two.

Hierarchy comes from the world, the flesh, idol worship, and the love of the world. If all the brothers deny the world and reject idolatry from the beginning, they will all offer themselves up to God. They will say, “From this day forward, I will live on earth for the sole purpose of serving God.” Then hierarchy will disappear spontaneously. If all the brothers realize that their sole occupation is to serve God and if all of them will serve God in coordination, the intermediary class will disappear!

D. One Needing to Be a Priest As Long As One Is a Christian

I hope you will not allow any intermediary class to come in. Uphold this from the very beginning. Only among the fallen and backslidden ones and among those who walk according to their own way could there be the resurgence of an intermediary class. Among those defeated ones, it is natural for some to serve the Lord and some not to serve the Lord. Those who do not serve the Lord attend to their own affairs, while those who serve the Lord take care of spiritual affairs. Those who do not serve the Lord, at most, offer some money to support those who serve. They may be businessmen, teachers, or doctors, but they all attend to their own affairs and walk their own way. They do not seem to have anything to do with God’s service. In this kind of setting, what does a person need to do to qualify to be a good Christian? He only needs to set aside a little time every week to attend a worship service. If he has some money, he only needs to offer a small portion of it. But this clearly makes God’s people and His priests two classes of people! Today we should realize that either we are not Christians at all or we have to be those who consecrate everything to the Lord. As long as we are Christians, we have to be priests to God.

VII. THE RECOVERY OF THE PRIESTHOOD

A. There Being No Problem in the Early Churches

The danger that haunted the nation of Israel is the same problem that has confronted the church over the past two thousand years. From the time of the Lord’s departure until the time of the writing of Revelation and a little beyond that point, all of God’s children were priests. Everyone who considered himself a child of God was a priest of God. There was no problem then. There was no problem from the first century up through the third century. Individually, there were isolated problems here and there, but as a whole there was no problem. Here and there some of God’s children refused to be priests, but as a whole we did not see any problem. As long as a person was a child of God, he was a priest of God.

B. The Church’s Nature Being Changed after the Roman Empire’s Acceptance of Christianity

When the Roman Empire endorsed Christianity, many people began to creep in. There were material benefits in believing in the Lord; one became a fellow believer of the emperor and a brother of Caesar. Originally, the Lord’s charge was, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21). Now both the things of Caesar and the things of God were rendered to God. This indeed was a big victory for Christianity. Constantine was converted to Christ. The result was a gradual but significant shift for the church. Believers were no longer the same as those who professed their faith at an earlier age. During the ten periods of persecution under the reign of Rome, tens of thousands of Christians suffered martyrdom. It was not easy to pretend to be a Christian. But then the situation totally changed. It became fashionable to be a believer and to share the same faith as the emperor and to call him one’s brother. When this shift occurred, many decided to join Christianity. As a result, the number of people increased, while the number of priests remained the same. It is easy to creep into the Christian fold, but it is absolutely impossible to creep into God’s service.

C. A Separation between the Spiritual Ones and the Worldly Ones

The church witnessed a drastic change in the fourth century. During that period, many who joined the church were either unbelievers or half believers. They appeared to be believers, yet they held worldly power in their hands. They had no desire to serve the Lord in the church. At the most they were saved, but they could not serve the Lord. Spontaneously, some spiritual ones rose up to take care of the affairs of the church. The others then said, “You do it! Go and serve the Lord. We are the secular ones.” The word secular was introduced in the fourth century. Some would attend to earthly affairs, while others would attend to spiritual work. As a result many served God, but many more no longer served.

At the time of the apostles in the first century, every believer served the Lord. From the fourth century on, men began to say, “We are merely God’s people. We attend to our own affairs in the world and keep our positions in society. Once in a while, we give a little money. This should qualify us as Christians. Let the spiritual ones take care of the spiritual things for us.” From that time forward, the church followed the footsteps of the nation of Israel; it worshipped “the golden calf” and created an intermediary class. No longer were all of God’s people priests. Some became merely His people but not His priests.

Today, clergymen in the Roman Catholic Church are called priests. In China they are known as fathers. These so-called fathers are actually called priests. Some state churches follow the example of the Roman Catholic Church and give their pastors the title of priests. Those who tend to earthly affairs are called God’s people, while those who manage spiritual things are called priests. The church has been divided into priests and people.

D. The Lord Taking the Way of Recovery

There is something I would like all of us to see: In this end time, God is doing a work of recovery; He is taking the way of recovery. I believe God is leading all of His children up to this position in this last age. Here is one segment of the pathway of the church that is waiting for a fundamental recovery—the universal priesthood of God’s children. As long as a person is one of God’s people, he should be a priest. There are priests today. In the kingdom to come, there also will be priests. God wants to secure His priests. He wants all of His people to be His priests.

VIII. THE SERVICE OF THE PRIESTS

As soon as you become a Christian, you become a priest. If you want to be a Christian, you have to be a priest. Do not expect anyone to be a priest for you. You have to be a priest yourself. There is no intermediary class among us. No one will attend to spiritual affairs for us. No one will work for us. Among us we must not have another class of people called workers.

A. The Need for the Whole Church to Serve

If God is merciful to us, all the brothers and sisters will spontaneously be working, preaching the gospel, and serving the Lord together. The more universal the priesthood is, the more visible the church will be. Once the priesthood becomes non-universal, we have failed and our pathway has been corrupted.

B. God Honoring Us by Allowing Us to Serve Him

We are poor, weak, blind, and crippled. For the Lord to accept persons such as ourselves to be priests is an honor to us. In the Old Testament, such people could not be priests. All who were disabled, lame, or blemished could not be priests. However, today the base, the unclean, the blind, and the disabled have all been called by God to be priests! He is the Lord. I have said this before: We should gladly give ourselves to His service even if it means crawling to His feet to beg for service. We should be happy to kneel down to beg for this honor. I am happy to crawl on my knees and plead with the Lord, “Lord, I want to serve You. I gladly offer myself to Your service. You honor me by allowing me to come to You.” To be a priest is to draw near to God. To be a priest is to have no distance between us and God; it is to be able to enter in directly and to wait for no one. To be a priest means that we can touch God ourselves.

C. God’s Kingdom Realized When Everyone Serves

If one day all the brothers and sisters in all the churches rise up to serve, the kingdom of God will come among us. It will be a kingdom of priests; all the people will be priests. This is glorious. I look forward to the day when all idols are removed from among us. Before the Lord, we should pay whatever price it takes to achieve this. The Levites paid the price; they were faithful in setting aside their personal affection. Only such people can have a share in the priesthood.

D. The Basis of the Priesthood—God’s Acceptance

In order to fully understand the priesthood, we need to understand the way God dealt with the priests in the Old Testament. It is a great matter for God to allow a person to draw near to Him without being smitten. Only the priests could eat the showbread, serve at the altar, and enter the holy place. Only they could offer the sacrifices. Others died when they entered the holy place. God’s acceptance is the basis of the priesthood. Since God has accepted us, should we not enter in today? Formerly, anyone would die if he dared to enter in. But today God says, “You can come!” How strange it is if we still feel reluctant to come.

E. God’s Mercy Enabling Us to Serve in Grace

We need the Lord to open our eyes. It is grace in its highest form for a person to be given the privilege to serve Him. Those who really know God will say, “The grace that allows me to serve God is greater than the grace which brought me to salvation.” The dog under the table can eat the crumbs underneath the table, but it cannot serve at the table. To be saved by grace is relatively simple, but not everyone can serve by grace. Today in the church, everyone who is saved by grace can also serve. It is foolish not to consider this to be a great grace.

F. Rejecting the Principle of Having an Intermediary Class

Today’s Christianity acknowledges the presence of an intermediary class. Christianity as we see it today even divides God’s priests and God’s people into two classes. We look forward to the day when there is no more hierarchy among us. There may be one or two persons in the church who have failed. But the principle does not change. Today it is fashionable in Christianity to compromise principles. In principle, today’s Christianity has fallen and has taken the way of the Israelites—the people and the priests have become two. May we not fall into such a system!

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(Note – In the historical Baptist Church that has existed since the time of Christ, the pastor is the shepherd of the flock and then there are deacons and members. The pastor is similar to the High Priest of Israel.  This is God’s only hierarchy.  Every member is still a priest and they all have different gifts that are used in the service of God.  Even in Israel, the priests all had different jobs.  Some did the music, others offered sacrifice.  Some made and cared for the articles of the temple, and the HIGH PRIEST was the one that entered into the Holy of Holies once a year with the blood for the sins of the people.  Even though there were different positions and a hierarchy, they were still all priests.)

(Written originally by Watchman Nee in China during the Chinese revolution and died in a prison camp but these lessons have been the foundation of my life for 38 years.  David Williams – site Admin.)

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