Dear Church Family,
When I first entered the military, I enlisted in the Army Reserve right out of high school. Immediately following my initial basic training, I began attending “drills” with my Reserve unit, one weekend a month. Simultaneously, while attending college, I enrolled in R.O.T.C. So, for a couple of years, I sort of had a dual identity in the army. One weekend a month, I was Private Dietsch (an enlisted soldier); at college, I was Cadet Dietsch (an officer-in-training).
Now, because I had a little more military experience than most of my fellow cadets, the instructors made me a squad leader with the rank of cadet staff sergeant. The rank means something only among cadets, but to the untrained eye, it sometimes looks like real staff sergeant rank. Well, one weekend, while operating in my cadet role, we were training at Fort Dix, NJ and sharing a dining facility with the basic trainees. That’s when the dual identities that I had been living caused me to have an identity crisis.
As my fellow cadets and I entered the dining facility, one of the privates who was waiting in line there to get his food hollered, “At ease! Make way!” All of the trainees (the privates) and one cadet (myself) slammed our backs against the walls in the position of parade rest in order to give a clear path to whatever sergeant or officer might be coming into the dining facility. I stood at the position of parade rest, eyes fixed straight ahead, waiting. No one came. Just then, I heard the voice of one of my fellow cadets whisper in my ear, “It’s for you, man. Let’s go eat.”
Apparently, one of the privates saw my rank – and although he probably didn’t quite recognize it – decided to play it safe and assume I outranked him. Also, I assumed that I was still a private, and not a cadet officer-in-training. I acted according to who I assumed myself to be, rather than who I really was according to the rank that had been bestowed upon me.
Priests to our God
I find that many Christians have a similar identity crisis in their spiritual lives. They act like sinners, rather than the saints whom God has justified. They act like orphans, rather than the adopted sons and daughters of God. They act like outsiders, rather than the holy priests that God has called them to be.
In our continuing sermon series in the book of Exodus, this past Sunday we looked at Exodus 29:1-46, God’s instructions for the ordination and consecration of priests who served in the tabernacle of the old covenant. That may seem extremely distant and far removed from our context as new covenant Christians living in the twenty-first century; however, it actually has a direct correlation to understanding our proper identity as God’s redeemed people.
You see, in the New Testament, the high priests of the old covenant are seen to be foreshadows of Christ (e.g., Hebrews 4:14-16; 9:6-12): Jesus is like the high priests of the old covenant, but He is so much better. When it comes to the general priesthood of the old covenant, however, the New Testament describes them as foreshadows of all of God’s people in the new covenant. Christians are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:5), a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), a kingdom and priests to our God (Revelation 5:10).
Washed and Anointed to Make Sacrifices
More specifically, we find a direct correlation between the ordination and consecration of the priests of the old covenant and all believers in the new covenant. In their ordination as priests, those who served in the tabernacle were washed and cleansed (Exodus 29:4) and anointed for service (Exodus 29:7) so that they would be able to make daily sacrifices (Exodus 29:38-41). With this idea of how the washing and anointing of the priests prepared them to fulfill their duties of daily sacrifices, consider the Apostle Paul’s description of the new birth in his letter to Titus:
4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)
The priests of the old covenant were washed and anointed for service; likewise, in verse 5 of this passage, the Word of God describes how God saved us by washing us (“the washing of regeneration”) and anointing us (“renewing by the Holy Spirit”).
But what about the sacrifices? Well, the Lord doesn’t save us in order that we might offer up lambs on an altar to him like the priests in the old covenant did. As the once-for-all sacrifice for our sins (Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 10:10), Jesus has paid it all; no more sacrifices for the atonement of our sin is needed. At the same time, the Lord does wash us and anoint us to perform a sacrifice of a different kind: good works.
Consider the next verse in the third chapter of Titus. Having just explained the gracious work of God in saving us “by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,” Paul reminds Titus to speak confidently concerning these things, “so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds” (Titus 3:8). He says, “Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful” (Titus 3:14).
You hear a lot of people talking today about the concept of “self-identifying” – determining one’s identity according to whatever one desires to be (usually related to gender or sexuality). Well, “self-identifying” is a silly concept as it denies that God has created us and given us an identity apart from our own desires. What’s more, for the Christian, we do not “self-identify” because we have been “divinely-identified” by the Lord Jesus Christ. He has declared and identified us to be a spiritual house for a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:5), a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), a kingdom and priests to our God (Revelation 5:10).
If He has saved you by the washing of regeneration and the renewing by the Holy Spirit, then that’s who you are. Therefore, be who you are! Don’t stand against the wall, waiting for someone to come along and give you orders. He has already told you what to do. The Lord has washed and anointed you so that you might learn to engage in good deeds, to live out the job-description given to you in the Ten Commandments. If you have been born again, then you are a member of God’s royal priesthood, washed and anointed for holy service to Him.
The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch