I thank the church for allowing me the time to attend the study tour conducted by the Jerusalem University College (JUC). I am also deeply grateful and thankful to God for the privilege of completing the course. The word “study” in this tour differentiates it from other run-of-the-mill tours to the Holy Land. The underlying principle in JUC’s study tours is to contextualise biblical events with their respective geography and history and thereby giving us a deeper significance to the theology of the event. For example, we would read in Matthew 4:13, “And leaving Nazareth he (Jesus) went and lived in Capernaum by the sea…” and not give it a second thought. But by examining the “event” (Jesus leaving Nazareth for Capernaum) in its historical-geographical context we would be better informed of the theology. In this case, it was Jesus intentionally and strategically locating his early ministry in an area (Capernaum) transverse by a major international trade route between East and West. Thus, he was positioning his gospel to reach an international audience (Jews and Gentiles alike) outside of Palestine as traders and merchants carried the stories of his miracles and teachings from East to West and vice versa.
With many such examples, the study of events (and the associated reflection) in their locale in space and time would enhance our understanding and theology.
Today, a modern example “event” for us to reflect on is the 41st anniversary of Sembawang Bible-Presbyterian Church. Now, I don’t mean to place this on the same level as the biblical events we come across in the Bible, but the anniversary of the “mother” of Sembawang-Moriah is a good time for us to reflect on.
It is a good time for us to be reminded why and for what purpose we were “called out” from the world to be members of the body of Christ.
Every believer in Jesus Christ can say with the apostle John: “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion, forever and ever” (Rev. 1:5–6, emphasis mine).
Under the Old Testament, God’s people had a priesthood; under the New Testament, God’s people are a “holy priesthood” and a “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5, 9). And that is where we should be headed.
God’s desire was that the entire nation of Israel be “a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6), but they failed Him and became “a sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity” (Isa. 1:4).
As we reflect on this anniversary, let us be reminded that God wants His church today to be “a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that they may declare the praises of Him who called them out of darkness into His wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).
Believers are described as “living stones” and Jesus as “the living stone” by Peter in 1 Peter 2:4-5. Thus, we are to derive the life-giving principle from Jesus. As “stones” we are the building blocks of God's house.
We are also called out to be “a holy priesthood”. We are to be a community of priests. We are to be mindful of the role that every true Christian is a priest in the household of God. It is a singular honour that God would consecrate us as a temple to himself, in which he dwells and is worshipped. Therefore we are to be seriously concerned with our duty as priests.
The priesthood is qualified as “holy”. This is a good, proper and timely reminder that the priesthood must be dedicated to God and be separated from the world.
As we worship God today, may we all be solemnly reminded to “Be ye holy; for I am holy”.
Pastor Robert Chew