The Church (a 19-part study)

Priesthood has a long history stretching back to the Old Testament.

We are introduced to Israel's priests shortly after their captivity in Egypt. From among the twelve tribes that composed the nation of Israel, God chose the priesthood from the tribe of Levi. Priesthood was therefore based entirely on ancestry.

Every sin we commit is against God and must be confessed. In confession, we are not telling God anything he does not already know. In confession we are acknowledging we have sinned against God and stand in need of his pardon. We are affirming the truth about ourselves - that we are sinners - and the truth about God - that he is gracious. Our confession needs to be specific so that we can take full responsibility for what we have done wrong. Hearing ourselves itemise our sins prevents us from slipping into denial, which is easy to do. Furthermore, confession keeps us humble. When we confess our sins we have the assurance of a full pardon. John says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)

Tradition has its place in both society and the church and many times it has served us well. However, tradition must not become a sacred cow that cannot be touched. This is particularly true for churches that are faced with the need to change.

Christian unity has been on the religious agenda for the past several decades and the question being asked is this: "How can all the churches be one, thereby presenting a united body to an unbelieving world?" The aspiration is honourable and noble, but unity must be grounded in what the Bible teaches.

The Bible makes clear that we do not have apostles today who fit the category of the twelve selected by the Lord Jesus Christ. The ministry of the twelve was unique and could not be passed on to successors. Through their ministry, the full will of God was revealed for all the people of God and we submit to their authoritative teaching. The word "apostle" is not used exclusively of the twelve; it is used on several occasions to describe messengers or servants of the church who carried no "apostolic" authority. We will discuss this point later.

The Message Revealed

Everything that Jesus taught he entrusted to his apostles. Speaking to them on the night of his betrayal, he said that he would send them the Holy Spirit to equip them for ministry. The Spirit would (1) teach them all things, (2) bring to their mind all he had taught them, and (3) guide them into all the truth. (John 14:26; 16:13) Paul also affirmed the divine source of his message: “I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12)

Their Unique Position

The apostles hold a unique position in the church. Through them the Lord has made provision to ensure that the church, which he purchased with his blood, is sustained throughout its pilgrimage here on earth. Our spiritual well-being has been provided for in the following way: "And in the church," Paul says, "God has appointed first of all apostles..." (1 Corinthians 12:28) Why? To teach and instruct us through the written word, which was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, "[i]t was he [Jesus] who gave some to be apostles ... so that the body of Christ may be built up..." (Ephesians 4:11-12) Spiritually mature Christians will be like the early church; it was said of them, "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching..." (Acts 2:42). So should we.

The Lord Jesus Christ died for his church, for his redeemed people. The same Lord has entrusted his people to the care of godly, gifted men whose work it is to watch out for their spiritual well-being.

The controversy surrounding the ordination of women to the priesthood could be easily resolved by accepting what the Bible says on the subject.