THE PRIESTHOOD OF THOSE WHO ARE MINISTERS
Malachi 2:1 “And now, O priests, this commandment is for you.”
In this lesson I aim to deal with this question: Who ministers to the ministers? Or from a different perspective we could ask, who keeps the ministers in line?
I’ve met and dealt with many different pastors in the many years that I have been serving the Lord, and I have dealt with situations where
there was clear and present differences of opinion in regards to the way a certain outreach was handled.
A national ministry had rented a large auditorium in the city and asked for the local churches to help them in their outreach to the community, and our church was one of the ones that volunteered to help: it was a two night event. As I was walking toward the auditorium that Friday night I was met by a few local pastors, and I knew one of them. They were protesting this ministry’s presence in the city, and they were handing out flyers discrediting that ministry.
Almost in shock I asked him what was going on, for this was a very reputable and sincere ministry that we had helped before. The protesting pastor just told me that he disagreed with some of their theology and therefore he reserved the right to protest against those that he disagreed with. I remember thinking that independence is a great thing, but what happens when it is turned against those who by definition are supposed to be one body and of one mind and purpose?
The Lord has very strong words that govern those who are called to be His ministers.
James 3:1-2 “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many things…”
James tells us right at front, that those who are called to teach God’s Word will be judged by a different and more stringent standard than someone who doesn’t, and then he adds that we all stumble, meaning that there is a price to pay for the privilege of serving in a ministry that proclaims the Gospel of truth.
Malachi 2:2 “If you will not hear (God’s commandment for those who minister), and if you will not take it to heart, to give glory to My name, says the Lord of hosts, I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings, yes, I have cursed them already, because you do not take it to heart.”
In verse two we see that what James was talking about is taking place. A curse had fallen upon their blessings, the blessings that are in store for those who minister to the Lord. That curse had landed on them because they failed in their most basic requirement of ministry, and that is, to give glory to My name, their ministry failed to give the glory to the Lord.
Does it give glory to the name of the Lord if I put my fellow minister down when he stumbles? Let’s just say that it is an honest theological disagreement that separates us, does it bring glory to the name of the Lord if I oppose him openly when he tries to minister?
Here is what I see, if we all stumble in many things like James says, and we do, and it is also clear from Scripture that we know only in part, so how can I go into open opposition of my fellow minister with whom I disagree, when we are both limited in our understanding of Scripture to begin with?
Malachi 2:10 “Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously with one another by profaning the covenant of the fathers?
There is a difference between disagreeing and being disagreeable. If my brother believes that his ministry which is based on his understanding of Scripture, is the way that he should minister, then why should I oppose him just because his ministry is not compatible with what my understanding of Scripture is for my ministry. If the aim of my ministry is to bring glory to the name of Jesus, then I can bring more glory to the name of Jesus if I just pray for my fellow minister’s ministry in private instead of opposing his ministry in public. After all Jesus is Lord of both ministries and only in Him is all the fullness of knowledge.
Malachi 2:7 “For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.”
There are honest theological disagreements and there are misrepresentations of the truth that are pervasive in many ministries. It is my job as a minister of the Word of God, to point the believers to the knowledge of the truth so that by their knowledge of the truth they can be made free. But I do not have to tear down another man’s ministry to teach the truth, for the truth stands by itself.
And if I teach the truth in love, in the hope of helping my fellow ministers to build up their churches with knowledgeable servants whose focus is on the things that they as a body agree, and thereby encourage one another to gain knowledge for the purpose of building up the church, instead of gaining knowledge for the purpose of tearing it apart, then that is a ministry that brings all the glory to the Lord. When we do that we are just doing what we are suppose to do.
Malachi 2:6 “The law of truth was in his mouth, and injustice was not found on his lips. He walked with Me in peace and equity, and turned many away from iniquity.”
Here is how we can bring glory to the name of the Lord, by turning people away from iniquity, and not from one another. And notice the blessings attached with such a ministry, the blessings of peace and equity that follow the walk of teaching God’s truth in love.
Malachi 2:5 “My covenant was with him, one of life and peace, and I gave them to him that he might fear Me; so he feared Me and was reverent before My name.”
To have a heart for ministry is to have the heart of God. When we minister the heart of God to His people, we are ministering His life and His peace into the hearts of His people.
We do not have to fear the curse when we are walking in His truth; we do not have to fear man when we are proclaiming His truth in love.
As long as we remain reverent before His name in the full knowledge that that is what our true ministry is: To lift Him up so that He can draw all men unto Himself, then we walk in peace knowing that we are in His covenant and under His blessings and favor.
So, then who is the one who keeps the ministers in line when they get out of line?
Malachi 2:8-9 “But you have departed from the way; you have caused many to stumble at the law. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of Hosts. Therefore I also have made you contemptible and base before all the people, because you have not kept My ways but have shown partiality in the law.”
It is the Lord’s church, and it is in His ministry that we are all servants.
He is the head of the church and when His servants deviate from the truth of their calling, not taking the commandments of the Lord for their ministry to heart, then the Lord’s curse against them goes into effect and their ministry becomes void of the anointing, and there is nothing worse than a preacher without the anointing, that is pretty much what the definition of contemptible is.
If there is spiritual life left in that ministry, God will move in the hearts of the people to pray for their minister who has gone straight; if there is spiritual life left in that minister, he will repent and will be restored.
If there is no spiritual life left in that ministry then they will both be gone, but if there is spiritual life left in that ministry and they pray for their minister who has gone straight and he does not repent, then the Lord will remove him and replace him with someone new.
Malachi 3:7 “Yet from the days of your fathers you have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you…”
But the key here is swift repentance, as soon as the anointing begins to falter, like the oil running low in an oil lamp, that is the time for prayers of intercession to be offered up immediately on behalf of that ministry and for those who are the ministers, do not wait until the lamp goes out.
Malachi 3:16 “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listen and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name.”
It is hard saying this, but sometimes the people get the type of ministers that they deserve. But once the fear of the Lord enters into the heart of the congregation and they realize how much is at stake, if they pray, God will hear them if they meditate in giving glory to the Lord’s name.
Malachi 3:18 “Then you shall again discern between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.”
Once the focus is put in the proper place, that is to bring all the glory to the Lord’s name, whether you are a minister or a congregant, immediately the spiritual eyes of that ministry are opened and the ability to discern between the good and the bad is restored.
And then that ministry or minister once again begins to flow with God’s precious anointing and they all become one in the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace.
Psalm 133:1-3 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing—life forevermore.”