The New Covenant brought a wonderful equality and calling in the Church unknown under the Old Covenant, but created a tension we must maintain.
Today’s reading: Ezekiel 41-42; 2 Peter 1
14 When the priests enter the Holy Place, they shall not go out of it into the outer court without laying there the garments in which they minister, for these are holy. They shall put on other garments before they go near to that which is for the people.” Ezekiel 42:14
1Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 2 Peter 1:1-2
In the new temple of Ezekiel’s vision, provision was made for the priestly functions and the designated places for those functions. Great care had to be taken in the ordering of the ministry. Priests wore holy garments for their service and they were not to leave the Holy Place and mix with the people in those vestments. God was teaching them to respect His holiness and the service being offered to Him.
What a contrast with the New Covenant! Peter identifies himself as a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, but then tells his readers that they “have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours…” That standing is based on “the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” No wonder there was equality in the Church of Jesus Christ not known in ancient Israel. The old covenant people observed sacrifices that could, at best, point to the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world ((Isaiah 53:4-7; John 1:29-35). All those who believed in Christ were and are on equal standing before God. As the saying goes, “the ground is level at the cross.”
Of course, this equality is not absolute. There are differences in gifts and calling within the Church. Believers will distinguish themselves by their growth in God. Not everyone will “make every effort to supplement [their] faith with virtue (vs 5).” Some will be more or less ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of Christ (vs. 8). Some, but not all, are called to shepherd the flock (1 Peter 5:1-5). There are a variety of gifts given by the Spirit to the members of the Body (1 Corinthians 12:4-31; Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:11-16;1 Peter 4:10-11). The equality is not of gifts and calling but of standing before God based on the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Peter models both a respect for the office to which he was called and a respect for all other believers who, like him, stand before God because of Christ alone. In your relationships with fellow believers, be sure to maintain the tension between the equality and calling each of us has.