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A few years ago, a repairman came to my home on a service call. As we talked, I was thrilled to find out that he was a Christian. But then he went on to tell me that he didn’t go to church and didn’t belong to any body of believers. He explained that church was only for people with weak faith; he was strong enough without the “extra boost.” It was discouraging to hear because, while he claimed to be a disciple, he didn’t understand what discipleship means. He was the worse for it, and so was the church.

“Every man for himself” might apply in some circumstances, but it can never be true in regard to our calling as disciples of Jesus Christ. First Peter 2:9 says, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood . . . that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Jesus gave His disciples the sacred task of serving as priests together. Every believer shares in the calling to the priesthood, which goes beyond maintaining personal piety. We serve together to bring praise to God, to intercede in prayer for His people and for the world.

As our High Priest, Jesus “loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood” (Rev. 1:5). Now, because disciples are in Christ, He has called us to share in His ongoing priestly work and has made us “a kingdom, priests to . . . God” (v. 6). Martin Luther writes that for the community of believers,

all things are common. . . . No one possesses anything that is his own. As a result, all prayer and all good works of the entire community help me and every believer; they all stand by and strengthen each other in every time of life and of death so that each one bears the others’ burdens.

There is a beautiful overlap between Christ and the Christian. Jesus was raised, never to die again. Likewise, believers share everlasting life through faith in Him. Jesus is a Priest forever; so also every Christian now shares in the priestly work that is still needed. Jesus once and for all offered Himself as our atoning sacrifice (Heb. 10:12), but the ongoing ministry of interceding for the saints and offering sacrifices of praise remains our holy calling.

It is the privilege and ministry of every disciple to pray on behalf of other Christians and for the world. We join with the Lord Jesus in His prayer that believers will not be destroyed by their sins but that they will repent and be restored (James 5:16, 19–20). We pray that their faith will be strengthened and that our own faith will sustain and encourage theirs. The prayers and encouragement of God’s people bolster not just the individual being prayed for but the whole community. Our intercession becomes God’s means of working grace in us. “He draws me to himself by having my brothers serve me,” Luther says. Furthermore, He uses His people’s prayers for the salvation of the lost. In 1 Timothy, Paul urges that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people” because God “desires all people to be saved” (2:1, 4). James declares, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power” (James 5:16).

Disciples also bring sacrifices to God. We worship as priests together, sharing in Christ’s priesthood. When we gather to worship, we bring our hearts, our praises, our songs, and our prayers, “lifting” these things from earth to God in heaven with the prayer that He will be pleased and will accept our offerings (see also Phil. 4:18). The writer of Hebrews exhorts us:

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have. (13:15–16)

He then assures us that “such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (v. 16).

When we become disciples, we gain a community of indescribable spiritual worth and privilege. It is not a community that exists only for our personal encouragement. To the contrary, it is where we serve. It is the only place on earth where the forgiveness of sins is found, the only people who can do what is truly pleasing to God.

Living Stones in the Temple of God

The Sheep of the Lord

Keep Reading Called to Discipleship

From the July 2023 Issue
Jul 2023 Issue