Passages to Play With
Sometimes whole sections of the Bible get overlooked in our normal journeys
through familiar lectionaries or seasons of the church year. You might have some
fun looking at the following portions or passages in the Bible, to see how they
persuade or instruct you regarding the value of individual Christians in God's
But you shall be called priests of the Lord, you shall be named ministers of our
God; you shall enjoy the wealth of the nations and in their riches you shall
In its context this passage assures all God's people — not just a chosen class —
that when their captives are liberated, their brokenhearted cared for, then God
will give them the status, role and function of people who live close to him,
who serve him continually. Because of God's delivering hand, people will be
identified and valued because of their relationship to God, not their national
heritage, race or inherited status (remember that priests became priests first
because of their Levitic heritage).
2 Corinthians 4:7
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power
may be of God, and not of us.
Writing to the motley crew that was the church at Corinth, Paul reminds them of
the importance of knowing both their ordinariness and their ability to carry the
treasure — the power — of God. There can be no mistake made in knowing the
difference between the vessel and the treasure.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to
present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is
your spiritual worship.
In this rich chapter filled with encouragement about the nature and purpose of
the Christian life, religion and daily life blend nicely, one giving meaning and
support to the other.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the
saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of
the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone. In him the
whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in
whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.
For Paul — as with Jesus — the notion of specialized holiness concentrated on
one spot ran against the wider, fundamental belief that God operates throughout
the world, in the lives of people of all kinds. Therefore, the temple — and by
extension, the church — is not the only locus of God's work, nor the only
evidence of God's mission.
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the
calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with
patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the
unity of the Spirit in the body of peace.
This summary word of encouragement is offered here not only to church members,
priests or professionally-employed church workers, but to all who hear the
letter, including those Paul had come to know in his six years of work with them
as a tentmaker/preacher. Note that the calling is extended to all, not because
they make themselves worthy of the calling, but because of God's action.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some,
pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of saints, for the work of the
ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ....
Most translations of this text and its surrounding verses clearly name the
function of pastors, evangelists, prophets and other "church workers" as one of
equipping the saints - "ordinary Christians" - for their lives of ministry. This
text stands as a core passage for redefining the roles of lay and clergy in
contemporary society. Unfortunately, many clergy and lay people still have the