The Ministry of Intercession
You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual
house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices
acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:5
You will be called priests of the Lord.
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me.
The words in Luke are Jesus’ words. As the fruit of His work all redeemed ones are priests, fellow-partakers with Him of His anointing with the Spirit as High Priest. ‘‘It is like precious oil running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes’’ (Psalm 133:2). As did every son of Aaron, so does every member of Jesus’ body have a right to the priesthood. But not everyone exercises it. Many are still entirely ignorant of it. And yet it is the highest privilege and likeness to Him who ‘‘lives to intercede’’ (Hebrews 7:25). Do you doubt this is true? Think what constitutes the priesthood.
First, there is the work of the priesthood. This has two sides: Godward and manward. ‘‘Every high priest . . . is appointed for men in things pertaining to God’’ (Hebrews 5:1 NKJV); or as it is said by Moses: ‘‘The Lord set apart the tribe of Levi . . . to stand before the Lord to minister and to pronounce blessings in his name’’ (Deuteronomy 10:8; see also 21:5; 33:10; Malachi 2:6–7). On the one hand the priest had the power to draw near to God, to dwell with Him in His house, and to present before Him the blood of the sacrifice or the burning incense. He did not do this work on his own behalf, but for the sake of the people whose representative he was. This is the other side of his work. He received from the people their sacrifices, presented them before God, and then came out to bless in His name, to give the assurance of His favor and to teach them His law.
So a priest is a man who does not live for himself. He lives with God and for God. His work is as God’s servant to care for His house, His honor, and His worship, and to make known to men His love and His will. He identifies with others and serves them (Hebrews 5:2). His work is to discover what sins trouble people so that he can bring them before God and offer sacrifices and incense in their name in order to obtain forgiveness and blessing for them, and then to bless them in His name. This is the high calling of every believer.
‘‘This is the glory of all his saints’’ (Psalm 149:9). They are redeemed for the purpose of being God’s priests in the midst of the perishing around them. In conformity to Jesus, the Great High Priest, God’s priests are to be the ministers and stewards of His grace.
There is also the walk of the priesthood in harmony with its work. As God is holy, so the priest is to be holy. This means not only separated from everything unclean but also holy unto God, being set apart and given up to God for His use. The separation from the world and setting apart unto God was indicated in many ways.
First, it was seen in their clothing: the rich garments, made of fine linen, were made after God’s own design, and these marked them as His own (Exodus 28). Second, it was seen in the requirements for their special purity and freedom from all contact with death and defilement (Leviticus 21). Much that was allowed to an ordinary Israelite was forbidden to the priests. Third, was the injunction that a priest must have no physical defect or blemish; this perfection was to be a type of wholeness and holiness in God’s service. Fourth, was the arrangement by which the priestly tribes were to have no inheritance with other tribes; God alone was to be their inheritance. Their life was lived by faith; set apart unto God, they were to live in Him and for Him.
All of this composed a sign of what the character of the New Testament priest is to be. Our priestly power with God depends on our personal life and walk. We must be those of whose walk on earth Jesus says, ‘‘You have a few people . . . who have not soiled their clothes’’ (Revelation 3:4).
In the surrender of what may appear lawful to others in our separation from the world, we prove that our consecration of holiness to the Lord is wholehearted and complete. The physical perfection of the priest has its counterpart in our being ‘‘without defect’’; ‘‘without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless’’; ‘‘the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work’’; ‘‘mature and complete, not lacking anything’’ (Leviticus 21:17–21; Ephesians 5:27; 2 Timothy 3:17; James 1:4). Above all, we consent to give up all inheritance on earth, to forsake all, and like Christ, to have only God as our portion. To possess as not possessing and hold all for God alone marks the true priest, the man who only lives for God and his fellowmen.
In Aaron God had chosen all his sons to be priests. Each of them was a priest by birth, but he could not enter into his work without a special act of consecration. Every child of God is a priest by right of his birth, by his blood relationship to the Great High Priest. But this is not enough—he will exercise his power only as he accepts and realizes his consecration.
With Aaron and his sons it took place this way (Exodus 29): After being washed and clothed, they were anointed with the holy oil. Sacrifices were offered. Then the right ear, the right hand, and the right foot were anointed with the blood. Again, the garments were sprinkled with the blood and the oil together. As the child of God understands more fully what the blood and the Spirit, of which he is already a partaker, are to him, the power of the Holy Priesthood will work in him. The blood takes away all sense of unworthiness; the Spirit, all sense of inadequacy.
Let us note what was new about the application of the blood to the priest. When before he came as a penitent sinner, bringing a sacrifice for his sin and seeking forgiveness, the blood was sprinkled on the altar but not on his person. Now, for priestly consecration, there was to be closer contact with the blood. Ear, hand, and foot were by a special act brought under its power, and the whole being taken possession of and sanctified for God. So when the believer, who had been content to think chiefly of the blood sprinkled on the mercy seat as enough for his pardon, is led to seek full priestly access to God, he feels the need of a fuller and more abiding experience of the power of the blood. He needs a true sprinkling and cleansing of the heart from an evil conscience so that he no longer feels any guilt for his sins. As he begins to enjoy this, his consciousness is awakened to his wonderful right of intimate access to God and the full assurance that his intercession is acceptable.
As the blood gives the right, the Spirit gives the power and equips us for believing prayer. He breathes into us the priestly spirit: burning love for God’s honor and the saving of souls. He makes us so one with Jesus that prayer in His name is a reality. He strengthens us for believing, persistent prayer. The more the Christian is truly filled with the Spirit of Christ, the more spontaneous will be his life of priestly intercession. Beloved fellow Christians, God needs priests who will draw near to Him, who will live in His presence, and by their intercession bring down the blessing of His grace on a waiting world. The world needs priests who will bear the burden of the perishing and intercede mightily on their behalf.
Are you willing to offer yourself for this work? You know the surrender it demands: nothing less than the Christlike giving up of all, so that the saving purposes of God’s love may be accomplished among all peoples. Do not be any longer one of those who are content with their own salvation and who work just enough to keep themselves warm and alive. Let nothing keep you back from giving yourselves to be wholly and only priests of the Most High God. The thought of unworthiness, of inadequacy, need not keep you back. Through the blood, the objective power of the perfect redemption works in you. Through the Spirit, its full subjective personal experience of a divine life is demonstrated. The blood provides an infinite worthiness to make your prayers most acceptable. The Spirit provides a divine fitness, teaching you to pray according to the will of God. Every priest knew that when he presented a sacrifice according to the law of the sanctuary, it was accepted. Under the covering of the blood of Christ and His Spirit, you have the assurance that all the wonderful promises concerning prayer in the name of Jesus will be fulfilled in you. Abiding in union with the Great High Priest, ‘‘You may ask . . . for anything in [His] name, and [He] will do it’’ (John 14:13). You will have power to pray the effectual prayer of the righteous man that avails much. You will not only join in the general prayer of the church for the world but also be able in your own area of influence take up your special work of prayer—as priests, to make transactions with God, to receive and know the answers, and so to bless others in His name. Come and be a priest for God. Seek to walk before Him in the full consciousness that you have been set apart for the ministry of intercession. This is the true blessedness of conformity to the image of God’s Son.
My blessed High Priest, accept the consecration in which my soul now would respond to your message.
I believe in the holy priesthood of your saints. I believe that I too am a priest with power to appear before the Father, and in the prayer that avails much to bring down blessing on the perishing around me.
I believe in the power of your precious blood to cleanse me from all sin, to give me perfect confidence toward God, and bring me close in the full assurance of faith that my intercession will be heard.
I believe in the anointing of the Spirit, coming down daily from you, my Great High Priest, to sanctify me, to fill me with the consciousness of my priestly calling, and with love for souls, to teach me what is according to God’s will, and how to pray the prayer of faith.
I believe that as you, Lord Jesus, are in all things my life, so you are also the surety for my prayer life. You will include me in the fellowship of your wondrous work of intercession.
In this faith, I yield myself this day to my God as one of His anointed priests, to stand before His face and to intercede on behalf of sinners and to bless them in His name.
Holy Lord Jesus, accept and seal my consecration. Lay your hands upon me and consecrate me to this holy work. Let me walk among men with the consciousness and the character of a priest of the Most High God.
‘‘To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.’’