Malachi 2:7 “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction—because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty.”
It must be remembered that this is the ideal, the desired standard, rather than something that happens automatically with the office. This whole section is actually taking the priests to task for how they have departed from the example set by their ancestor Aaron. In the Protestant tradition, this passage would register more by replacing “priest” with “minister,” but otherwise it stands until Christ returns and makes all things new. Ever since Martin Luther, much has been said about “the priesthood of the believer.” 1 Peter 2:9 is foundational to that. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Many other passages talk about how each of us has direct access to God through Christ, and it is tragic how few people really avail themselves of that privilege. The flip side of that is the many references in the New Testament to specific ministries. After His resurrection, Jesus famously told Peter three times to feed His sheep. Paul talks about what has been called “the 5-fold ministry” in Ephesians 4:11-12, and James points out that “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1) It is a fact of life that, at least until Jesus returns, there are offices, and even levels, within the Body of Christ. Believers aren’t to be passive, letting someone else “be spiritual for them,” but they are also to recognize spiritual authority and the responsibility that goes with it. There are some who want to “go into the ministry” because of the respect and other perks they see as attaching to that. There were some in seminary with me like that. Such a person is not likely to meet the standard expressed in this verse!
As a multi-generation minister (3rd on one side, 4th on the other) I am very aware that ministers are just as human as anyone else. At the same time, I am very aware that people see ministers as servants of God and seek teaching from them, just as this verse says. It has been a continuing frustration of my own ministry that people show such little spiritual initiative, failing to make time for regular personal devotions, for example. Then they want to know why their lives are such a mess! I am to continue to proclaim, as I have been doing, that God wants all of His children to represent Him accurately, just as Peter and Paul (2 Corinthians 5:20) tell us. At the same time I am not to run from my own commission as an enabler of such believers, however tired and frustrated I might get at times. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve had to say the same things to some people, but then, God only knows how many times He’s had to say some of the same things to me! I am to walk in full humility, knowing that I can do nothing on my own (John 14:15), but at the same time not doubting that God can use me as His agent, because it’s all about Him and not about me. I am not to draw back from teaching, but I am not to teach carelessly. I need to confirm what God is saying, rather than just what sounds good to my ears. God has gifted and commissioned each of us differently, but His love and grace are equal, and that is enough to know.
Father, sometimes I feel like people go into ministry from this church because they look at me and figure they can certainly do a better job than I do! Thank You for those who have made that commitment. I pray that their number would continue to increase. At the same time, I ask for Your clear choice of who is to lead this congregation after me. May all of Your children seek You honestly enough to recognize Your commission for them, so that the Body of Christ may be built up and the works of the devil destroyed, (1 John 3:8) for the salvation of many and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!