You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.1 Peter 2:9
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth.Revelation 5:10
Over the next few Hope Canteen articles, I will be meditating on the idea of being a disciple. This is such an important identity for us to claim as Christians. But it is also one of those words that can lose its rich flavour from overuse.
I mentioned last time that the word disciple actually meant student. We are students of Jesus, and we live into that identity by imitating him. This is part of what it means to be a disciple, but it is also not the whole truth. The word disciple doesn’t fully capture the enormous vision of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. This is what I want to start talking about today. To understand the word ‘disciple,’ we have to understand what the first letter of Peter called ‘a Royal Priesthood’.
“Disciple” is sort of like the word ‘Christian.’ If you look it up in the dictionary, it might tell you that a Christian is a person who believes in the creeds, or maybe a synonym for someone who is nice and does good deeds. But those are actually poor pointers to something that is much more interesting.
The Deeper Meaning of Disciple
To understand the deeper meaning of what a disciple and a follower of Jesus is, we have to step back and remind ourselves of where we came from. We need to revisit a central truth that comes out of the first few chapters of the book of Genesis, that humanity was made in the image of God. What this means is that humanity was placed in a unique place in the structure of creation. We are the meeting place of heaven and earth.
We are like the animals in that we have bodies, eat and drink, sleep and live on the earth. But we are also not like the animals in that we have the unique spiritual capacity to be moral: we have the ability to choose between good and evil. We also have the capacity of love to a certain degree like God does. We are also the part of creation that can give vocal praise to the Creator.
To be made in the image of God also means that we have a job. We are to be representatives of God to the rest of Creation. God trusted the care of the creation to us. The biblical word for this care is ‘stewardship.’
Reaching Towards God and Creation
One way to think about being made in the image of God is to see yourself fundamentally pointed in two different directions and, at the same time, being the meeting place of these two directions.
The first direction is towards God. Our purpose is to be in relationship with God. To say that God loves you means that God wants to walk with you. God wants you to draw close and to know him intimately. This is the great gift he has given us in Jesus, that our hearts can know him through the Holy Spirit. We walk this out daily in prayer, worship and praise.
The second direction is towards Creation, towards the world, towards our neighbours. God calls us to be good stewards of our lives and the things we have responsibility for. God calls us to reach out in healing and compassion. We do good deeds for our neighbours as signs of love. We bring grace into the world through our actions. As image bearers, we have been given a great honour and responsibility.
Royal + Priesthood
To put it in the terms of the quotations above, when we direct ourselves to God, offering worship, we are priests. When we exercise the high calling of stewardship and care, we are royal. We are exercising the authority of the Kingdom of God that has been given to us. In other words, being a disciple means being part of a Royal Priesthood. For me, it is a beautiful and profound vision of the bigger picture of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. In the next article, I will explore what that means for our daily Christian walk.