The Church Needs a Revolution

By: Mike Bishop
*originally published on July 1, 2020
Have you ever noticed that the Temple always got Jesus and His disciples in trouble?

Jesus drove out the money-changers from the Temple courts, but if you think that was just about economics, you would be missing a central theme of the New Testament.

The Temple was the center of religious life for the first-century Jewish people. It was where sins were forgiven, guilt was assuaged, holiness conferred, and worship authorized.

Jesus was taking all those functions of the Temple and showing how they were fulfilled through his ministry, death on the cross, and resurrection.

In Acts 3, immediately after the Pentecost revival, there is a familiar story where Peter and John go to the Temple to participate in afternoon prayers. A man who had been lame since birth sat begging at the Temple gate.

Peter heals the lame man and proceeds to share the Good News with the crowds. This gets Peter and John arrested, but instead of a setback, the infant church sees this as evidence of God at work. In Acts 4, it records their passionate prayer which ends in verse 31.

“After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31, NLT).
Several decades later, in 70 A.D., the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the future Roman emperor Titus and his army. If you visit Rome, you can see the treasures of the Temple being carried away in reliefs on an arch built to commemorate this victory.
The arch stands in the shadow of the Flavian Amphitheater, better known as the Colosseum, which was financed by the Temple’s spoils. About this event, N.T. Wright says:
“Jesus believed that Israel’s God was in the process of judging and redeeming His people, not just as one such incident among many but as the climax of Israel’s history. This judgement would take the form of destruction by Rome. It would not be followed by the rebuilding of a new physical temple. It would be followed by the establishment of the messianic community focused on Jesus himself, a strange new entity that would replace the Temple once and for all!”
You Are Priest-Kings
Later in his ministry, Peter wrote a letter to a diverse group of young Christians in Asia Minor. In the letter, he makes these remarkable claims:
“You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests.” (1 Peter 2:4–5, NLT).

“…You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9, NLT).
Many Christians have heard a sermon or two about this passage but miss its significance. Note the implications in Peter’s words, especially in light of what has been already said about Jesus’ actions in the Temple and its imminent destruction:

“You are royal priests.”

Let that sink in for a minute.

     You are royal priests.

Priest-Kings, of a new Temple, centered on Jesus and embodied in his Church.

What does that say to you about your role, and your authority, as the Priesthood of Believers?
Be Like Bezalel
When God commissioned Moses to build the Tabernacle as the Israelites were crossing the desert to the Promised Land, he was not willing to let just anyone throw the structure together:
“Look, I have specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts. He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze. He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft!” (Exodus 31:2–5, NLT).
What I think is so interesting about Bezalel is that the Scripture tells us that he was filled with God’s Spirit. This was not a common occurrence in the Old Testament, and certainly not with someone we would consider to be a glorified General Contractor.

Bezalel knew how to build things that would last. His specialties were working with gold, silver, bronze, and gemstones. The Apostle Paul said these were the same materials that could build an eternal tabernacle.

As Priest-Kings building the new Temple, we have the same Holy Spirit and access to the same, eternal materials. Yet why do so many of our churches look like they were built with wood, hay, and straw?
Do you know the guys at the gym who never seem to get around to leg day? Their chest and arms are massive, but they walk on what look like toothpicks for legs.

Do you know the guys at the gym who never seem to get around to leg day? Their chest and arms are massive, but they walk on what look like toothpicks for legs.
Many churches are like bodybuilders that only know how to bench press and do curls. They look impressive with large crowds, excellent preaching, and dynamic worship, but their core is woefully underdeveloped. Take away the stage, as has happened the past few months due to Covid-19, and you are left with a top-heavy body struggling to stay healthy.

Paul often used the analogy of the body to describe the church. In Ephesians, he says that each of us has been gifted by the Holy Spirit to be builders, just like Bezalel:
“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11–12, NLT).
When the church is built only by pastors and teachers, you end up with a misshapen body. Even worse, when those pastors and teachers are hired professionals, it creates a “clergy” class and a “lay” class. I’m trying to find the Biblical instruction for that. Can anyone point me in the right direction?

Where do people go who have apostolic gifts (fire-starters), evangelistic gifts (Gospel-sharers), and prophetic gifts (truth-tellers)? Often, they get left out of the church’s ministry and mission. But didn’t Paul tell us all these gifts were essential to equip the body to do the work of the Kingdom? It’s time to allow these gifts to be included alongside the pastors (shepherds) and teachers.

Some have wrongly framed the five equipping gifts of Ephesians 4 as an authority structure. Instead of pastors and teachers, we need to be following Super Apostles, listening to special Prophets, and relying on Evangelists to bring revival. That’s plain rubbish!

If anything, Ephesians 4 is a picture of mutual submission. The body is designed to function in harmony, not elevating the importance of one part above another. The body is only healthy if all its parts are healthy and working together!

The Priesthood Unleashed
It’s time to unleash the Priesthood of Believers in our churches. This is both an invitation and a challenge.

First, it’s an invitation, with the Holy Spirit’s help, to discover your unique gifts and calling in mission (outside the church) and ministry (inside the church).

Churches need to become incubators for discovery and discerning the Holy Spirit’s call. After discovery, it’s time to experiment and foster an environment that celebrates failure as much (or more) as success. This will open the door for ministry and mission to be diverse and fruitful in ways church leaders only dream about.

Next, there is a challenge. Will existing churches commit to obeying the Bible? Together, we are God’s Temple and serve as Priest-Kings. All of us, not just the special ones who get to lead from the front, write books, or play in the worship band.

This transformation is going to take sacrificial leadership and humility. Leaders will have to take a hard look at their theology, structures, and methods and ask the question, “Am I helping the Priesthood of Believers grow or am I driving them away?
Kingdom Revolution
The mini-series, “The Chosen,” has helped many followers of Jesus see themselves in the stories of the first disciples. These men and women were far from perfect.

They had contrary and often conflicting reasons for following Jesus. Their faith lagged far behind their simple willingness to go wherever Jesus led them.

Yet, they changed the world.

The early Church was the greatest human revolution in world history. Here was a group of people with no power, no government, no organization, very little leadership, and a crucified Messiah. They were the object of scorn from Jew and Gentile. Persecution was their constant companion.

     Yet, they changed the world.

We have been led to believe that the only way to “do church” is to rent a building, buy an expensive sound system, preach “practical” sermons, and try to make people comfortable. I still can’t find anything in the Bible that makes those things a prerequisite for church.

The Priesthood of Believers is the reason why the early Church flourished in the midst of unimaginable persecution. Today, we have a choice. Trust our methods and money to bring renewal. Or trust the Kingdom revolution.

Viva la Priesthood!

No Comments