By Titus Chu
The Priestly Service
The tabernacle is a picture that represents our entire Christian experience. Many have passed through the entrance, that is, they received Christ as their Savior, are regenerated, and even attend church meetings, but not all of these are on the altar, that is, not all saved ones are fully consecrated. Of those who are consecrated, not all realize they need to pursue the experience of serving as a priest. Thus, while every believer should be a priest, the priesthood today is sorely lacking.
Two Aspects of Service
The priest was to first wash at the laver. From there, he went in one of two directions, each representing a different aspect of service. One route took him to the altar to serve his brothers by helping them with their offerings. Today, this is to help our fellow believers overcome whatever distracts them from finding and pursuing Christ. We as priests should help others into the presence of God to consecrate themselves and begin their own spiritual journey. As Peter wrote, “In this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you” (2 Pet. 1:11).
The other route took the priest into the holy place with its showbread, lampstand, and incense altar, to eventually arrive at the ark of God in the holy of holies. In our experience, this is to fight for our own growth and progress in the Lord. These may have been two very different aspects of priestly service, but they are very much tied together.
We need to fight to enter the holy place to experience eating Christ as the showbread so we can grow; to enjoy Him with other believers so that together we can become the lampstand, the Lord’s corporate shining testimony; and to become the incense altar, people mingled with Christ and one with Him for His purpose. As a result of these experiences, we can enter into the holy of holies, the holiest place of all, with its ark, representing the deepest experiences of God. Only then are we qualified to offer ourselves in service to our fellow believers.
Experiences Unique to
the Serving Life
In the Old Testament picture, only the serving priests could experience the holy place, and only the one serving as High Priest could enter the holy of holies. Therefore we must learn what it is to serve as New Testament priests if we are to have these deeper experiences of Christ. Actually, we cannot even experience the reality of the laver in the outer court adequately unless we are serving in this way.
Many serve according to their concept of serving, but it may not be the service that God desires. We may serve only according to our human culture and thought, but not according to Christ. If we only bring people to a kind of social life full of love feasts with delicious food, but not to Christ, that is not the service of a New Testament priest. Of course we do not want a cold church life, and love feasts may help, but we must always be careful to serve people the real thing.
A brother in China told me that he often traveled one and a half hours by train to attend a Christian gathering with a huge congregation. The place he was describing has many such places. There must have been something there to draw such large numbers. Perhaps they had good music, good speaking, or good food. But when it was all done, this brother could find no one willing to talk with him. He would stand there desiring fellowship, but could find none. It seemed that no one there was really pursuing the deeper things of Christ, and if they were, they had no desire to bring this desirous brother into it. I fear we could easily be the same, playing our religious games but offering no real service.
We may bribe ourselves into thinking that we are serving God and man when we are actually doing neither. Mere social activities and making people happy with spiritual entertainment will not work. Real service requires real priests, those who spend themselves to get the deeper spiritual experiences.
Service as a Pattern
Only those who are fighting for their own spiritual growth can help others do the same. If the Lord commits a number of younger believers to us, it will be hard for them to grow beyond where we are. This is a sober thought. When they see us relying on programs, activities, or anything other than Christ, they will learn the same. When they hear our loose talk and see us waste time on things we should not, this becomes their pattern. We become both their help and their limitation. This is why our second generation can have such a hard time, and why I sometimes encourage them to branch out and produce something on their own. In this way, if the Lord has mercy, they can break through and really begin to develop.
The experience of the tabernacle only belongs to those who serve. The more we advance in our serving, the easier it is for those who follow us to do the same. The more spiritual our lives are, the easier it is for those watching us to be the same. I hope that all the leading ones in all the churches would be such patterns. If they are pursuing, everyone in their church will advance. Otherwise they will just wander in and out of the outer court enjoying a sweet church life and the Lord will be unable to use them.
The Lord must gain a group of people who are consecrated and willing to serve. He wants those who do more than dream of spiritual things. He is looking for those who will fight to grow into the experiences of the holy place and into the experience of standing one with God for His testimony in the holy of holies. In the Old Testament this was reserved uniquely for the high priest, but at the Lord’s death, the veil at the entrance to the holy of holies was torn, opening the way for all who would aspire to be a New Testament priest (Mark 15:38: Heb. 10:19). It is more than worthwhile for us to invest the time and effort necessary to obtain a rich entrance into this realm.
Such experiences are not for common Christians. They are for the servants of God. Any Christian who lives a lonely Christian life with no one else around can love Jesus, but no service is involved, no growth is involved, and no advancing is involved. The more we serve, however, the more our need grows and the richer our experience of Christ will be.
All Christians should be honored. But are they all going through this process? Their pastors rarely even have such a thought. Most are satisfied if those in their congregation are happy, love one another, and have a good time together. Spiritual entertainment seems much stronger than Christ Himself. It is the easier way because there is no struggle. This is a sad situation.
When we finally tell the Lord that we desire to serve, He provides us with many rich provisions to make it possible. First, we discover that we are not alone—we are part of a priesthood. God did not ask Aaron to serve by himself, and neither does He ask that of us. There are many others serving with us. Every servant of the Lord has others to serve with, lean on, and learn from.
Second, we have the offerings. In spite of our desire to serve the Lord, we have serious problems that immediately disqualify us. We have not only committed sins but, according to the Bible, we are sin. God could never allow sin to serve Him. What is more, we are completely natural. There is nothing spiritual with us. Even our humanity is poor. Unless God had stepped in and provided Christ as the reality of all the offerings, we could never serve Him.
Third, we have the priestly garments to cover us. Without such garments, all that would disqualify us from service would be exposed. Every time we looked in a mirror we would disappoint ourselves and come under the accusation of the devil. The Lord covers us with the priestly garments to protect us and to remind us that the priesthood is His, not ours.
We who desire to give ourselves to serve as New Testament priests must praise the Lord for these provisions. He desires such service, and He desires such a priesthood. He has done everything. Now He is only waiting for us to offer ourselves.