03 Mar 2024

Sanctified To Serve [Leviticus 21-22]


The Levitical priests submitted to a higher standard in Leviticus 21, for they are to be holy, clean, sanctified and unblemished in their ministry unto God. Whilst those specific prohibitions are uniquely for the Levitical priests, the principle of holiness in service is applicable for priests of God. So we see the principle of being "sanctified to serve" in 3 groups biblically. 1. Christ the Lord Jesus is our sinless, holy, innocent and unstained high priest. His virgin birth and holiness in the face of the Temptation are crucial for our salvation and for God's glory. He alone, is "sanctified to serve" as our Great High Priest. 2. Church Leaders Church leaders or pastors/elders are given higher qualifications. And they are not qualifications regarding IQ, wealth, societal status or networks, but regarding character and holiness primarily. Church leaders are thus also to be "sanctified to serve. " 3. Christians All Christians are priests - 1Pe 2:5,9. And we are to offer sacrifices of praise/generosity/lives and proclaim the excellencies of God. And in order to do just that, we are to abstain from fleshly passions and conduct ourselves honorably before the world. The church is therefore also called to be "sanctified to serve".

Listen on Google Podcasts



Sermon Transcript

We are looking for sermon transcribers/transcript reviewers.

Email [email protected] to serve or to report transcription errors.

Leaders are people who are expected to have a higher standard of living, isn't it? It's not easy to be a leader, because anytime there is a personal indiscretion, it's likely that he or she will be out. So we read about politicians being caught up in scandals, not just politicians, but also CEOs and teachers and religious leaders and even pastors. Because as leaders, even in this fallen world, we expect them to be living up to a higher moral standard.

During the times of Moses, the priests are called to be leaders of the nation. They are supposed to teach the people the Word of God. And in the same way, the leaders, the priests, are also called to a higher moral standard as it were. So you may be asking, why are we coming back to priests in the book of Leviticus? Seems a little bit like a deja vu because we have talked about priests before.

Well, I hope to remind you about the structure of the book of Leviticus. It's like a chiasm or a mirror image on both sides. We start off with rituals, about the offerings, thank you and sorry offerings. Then we looked at priests in chapters 8 to 10, and then we moved on to purification in chapters 11 to 15, about leprosy, about clean and unclean food, about bodily discharges, and the purification rites that are needed. So that it all leads to the climax of this book, which is about the day of atonement, the enactment, the dramatization of the atoning work by Jesus Christ.

So it leads up to this high point, and now on the other side, we have the mirror images coming up again. So in chapters 17 to 20, we looked at purification, or moral cleaness, cleanness, about the way the people should live. We covered that in the past two weeks. And so today we come to the corresponding teaching on priesthood on, in chapters 21 to 22, and then we are soon going to come to the end about the rituals. So, we are coming back to priesthood because that's the way Leviticus is arranged.

Now I want to remind you a little bit about what we learned about priesthood in chapters 8 to 10. We learned that a priest serving in a Levitical priesthood is someone who has been called by God, not someone who volunteers. Priesthood must be a calling. God has specified and ordained that the tribe of Levi will serve Him as priests.

Then we looked at the priest's clothing, that their dress code is supposed to communicate values and responsibilities of the priest. Everything he puts on has a message, from the turban, to the sash, to the breastplate, and so on and so forth.

Then we looked at the consecration of the priest. He cannot serve as a priest until he is set aside for God in number one, the atoning work that the animals are supposed to bring, and number two, the anointing that he has to receive. And then we also read in chapter 10, the caution that is given to the priest. When Nadab and Abihu offered strange fires to God, they were struck dead on the spot.

So it is a message of caution that anyone who serves God must serve God exactly the way He has appointed.

Today we come to chapters 21 and 22, which talks about the cleanness or cleanness of the priests that are required. In order to serve God as priests, they must be seen as clean and pure and set apart. Now, that is a very clear message if you just go through the verses and look at the number of times the words clean, unclean, profane, sanctify, blemish will come up.

So, we read, speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them, no one shall make himself unclean, he shall not make himself unclean, and so profane himself. Profane means to defile or to pollute or to make dirty. They shall be holy, set apart, that's the meaning of the word, and not profane, defile, pollute, make dirty. Therefore they shall be holy, the priest is holy, you shall sanctify him, he shall be holy. And then in verse 17 we say, none of your offspring who has a blemish may serve God in offering bread. Uh, the blemish here would result in a profaning of the sanctuary.

And then we see clean and unclean again in chapter 22. And again in verses 4 to 7, unclean, uncleanness, uncleanness. So, these words repeat many times in this one or two chapters. The message, I think, is very clear, therefore, that serving God as priests require them to be clean, not to be profane, not to be defiled.

Now, in what ways are they going to be defiled or unclean? Well, God says, number one, the priests are not to go near the dead. So they must not touch the dead nor be near the dead. There are some exceptions that are allowed for the priests in general, like those of his closest relatives who should pass away, he is still allowed to go.

But for the great high priest, amongst all the priests, there is a great high priest. For the great high priest, the standard is even higher, in that even when his father or mother should die, he should not go near them. So there is a higher standard for the priests, and even higher standard for the great high priest. And then we read that they shall not make for themselves or make bald patches on their heads, shave off the edges of their beards, nor make any cuts on their body. I explained last week, this is likely related to pagan priest practices, and so the priests who serve the True and Living God are not to copy and follow the ways of the pagan priests. They are to be set aside or set apart.

Then priests are not to marry a prostitute or a woman who has been defiled, neither shall they marry a woman divorced from her husband. Why? For the priest is holy to his God. So very specific qualifications for marriage for the priests. By the way, priests in the Bible are not called to celibacy. It's not a requirement. They are allowed to marry, but for priests, specific prohibitions.

But for the great high priest, the prohibition is even more, because the great high priest can only take a wife in her virginity. In other words, a great high priest cannot marry the people that we have just seen, and on top of that, he cannot marry a widow, someone who has lost her husband. So these are the standards given to the priest and the great high priest.

Besides that, we read that for priests, they must not have any blemish, and the blemish refers to a defect physically, and it will refer to things like being blind and lame and mutilated, limb too long, injured foot, and so on and so forth.

So the message in Leviticus 21 and 22 is that priests must serve God when they are clean, and they are made unclean if they should be involved in any things that are mentioned in chapters 21 and 22.

Now if I've lost you, I can understand why, but this sermon is, that's the hardest part of the sermon already. So if you survived the past five minutes or so, you've, you've done well. I just want to say that the sermon is a very straightforward, short message about one thing, and the one thing is that if you or if anyone is to serve as priests, they must be clean, they must be set apart, they must be sanctified. So this is a one-point sermon. You can't walk out at the end of the day and say, what did you talk about? Just remember these three words, can, sanctified to serve.

In order to serve God, from the lives of the priests, God communicates that people who serve Me must be sanctified, must be set apart. Now let me try to apply this one point several ways, three to be exact.

Number one, we apply this principle of, now first of all, I say it's a principle. The Bible is not saying that anyone who serves Jesus must have limitations in marriage as what the Levitical priests had to go through, or that we cannot go to any funeral services and shave our beards and so on and so forth. That's not the point. The practices are not actually applicable for us, but the principle of being sanctified to serve, I think, is applicable to us, as I will try to show you.

Christ the Lord

Number one, we look at the application of sanctified to serve, most of all, in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is a priest. He's a priest after the order of Melchizedek, not after the order of the Levites. We learn that in Leviticus, or in Hebrews. So He is a priest of a different family or order, but nonetheless, He's a priest. And as a priest, He too was set apart, holy and pure, in order to serve God.

The Hebrews author makes this clear, we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have a High Priest who is in every respect, having been tempted as we are, yet without sin. So the point is clear, Jesus is our High Priest, and He is our High Priest because He is One who is without sin. Because if He is sinful, if He has committed sin, then He cannot serve as our priest anymore.

The Hebrews author repeats this emphasis in chapter 7, Jesus is our High Priest, it is indeed fitting that we should have such a High Priest who is holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners. So Jesus served as a High Priest for us because He's sanctified to serve. Jesus did many things when He was on planet earth. He healed, He taught, He discipled, but I tell you, if He did not live a sinless life, He cannot save you and I from our sins. He would not qualify as our High Priest. And we would still be in our sin.

So that's why we see that the virgin birth of Jesus Christ is a very important doctrine. It is not just an interesting fact or trivia. It is fundamental to the Christian faith. Because if Jesus is born after Adam's line, born of man, He would have the inherited sin from Adam. And that would mean He's not qualified to save us since He would be a sinner. But because Jesus is of the Holy Spirit, He's conceived of the Holy Spirit, He is sinless, without sin, fit to be our priest and Saviour.

And that is why also the temptation of Jesus Christ is such a crucial event. When He was there, being tempted by the devil, if He had just succumbed one time, if He had just disobeyed God one time, then He cannot be our Saviour, He would not save us from our sins, we would still be in our sins. We would have no hope of eternal life, but we would face hell forever. There would be no salvation, there would be no new heaven and new earth, there would be no display of God's grace, there would be no glory of God in the realm of salvation. It is a momentous event.

So Jesus, He resisted the temptation, came forth victorious, lived a sinless life, offered Himself without blemish to save us from our sins. So as our Great High Priest, Jesus is sanctified to save and to serve.

So today, there is only One who can save you from your sins. It's not anyone here, it's not anyone that you see today in your life, it's Someone who has lived, Someone who has died, and Someone who has risen. His Name is Jesus. He offered Himself, He's both the Priest and the Sacrifice. He offered Himself without blemish to pay for your sins so that you might be reconciled with God.

The Bible therefore tells us there is no name given under heaven whereby man can be saved except the Name Jesus. So, Jesus exemplifies this principle, sanctified to serve. When we read about the Levites, we think about Jesus, the priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Church Leaders

But a second application I think we need to learn is that Christian leaders serve God with an understanding that we must be sanctified to serve. Now one of the most frequently asked questions, we get in our church probably, and sometimes I get, is, did your pastor graduate from seminary? Which seminary did he graduate from? Well, the answer is, when I tell them I did not go to any Bible school, generally the response I perceive is that they take a step back, they open their eyes, and I think in their head it goes, hah, like that legit meh? Junbo like that can meh? Like that can serve as pastor meh? I thought must come from some training, because we are so used to that, isn't it?

Uh, if you say you want to see a doctor, you would want to find out which school the doctor came from. Cannot be that the doctor learned about medicine by himself at home what. I mean he can't operate on chickens and pigs and say, wah, I learned surgery. So I can understand the sentiment when people ask, where did your pastor graduate from?

But the reality is, I did not graduate anywhere, and if you look at the Bible, there is no requirement that the person must come from a seminary. In fact, seminaries are not something that is found in the Bible, it's something that is actually quite recent, in the past hundred or two hundred years. But what this triggers is this question, what qualifies a leader? What does God say are the requirements to serving in spiritual leadership? We don't actually have to guess at all, because God made it very clear, I think, via Paul when he wrote 1 Timothy and Titus.

Paul's instruction is that an overseer, by the way, an overseer, the word there is someone who watches over, a bishop. Uh, it is used, I think, interchangeably with the words like elder, pastor, shepherd. So the qualifications of an elder, a pastor, a shepherd is that one, he must be above reproach. Not that he's perfect, but he must not have something blameworthy in his life. He's the husband of one wife, and we can say a lot about that, but maybe we'll say that next time when we go through 1 Tim. He must be sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable.

You know what's the meaning of hospitable, right? Yah, uh he loves of, he loves strangers, he is welcoming to strangers, able to teach. So from this one line, we see many qualities that are required, and just one skill that is required, able to teach. So it is heavy not on skills or intelligence or knowledge, but a lot about his manner of life, his conduct, his character. That's the emphasis.

We go on and read that he must not be a drunkard, not violent, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not the lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity, keeping his children submissive. For if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit, being now appointed as an elder or bishop or overseer, and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders. In other words, he has a good reputation even amongst unsaved people, amongst non-Christians, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

So you see a huge emphasis on character. One skill required, and no mention on seminary. Seminary is good, I'm not putting down seminary at all. It can be useful. I'm just saying it's not a prerequisite scripturally. Paul did not just write this to Timothy, he has another protege, Titus, to whom he wrote in chapter 1, If anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife and his children are believers. Now this is tricky. It almost seems as if that you cannot be an elder if your children are not saved. Then it's very hard, the day your children is born, you cannot serve already. Uh, but, the word believers here is the word pistas, or pistis, which can be translated faithful, which is really the essence of what it means. Because comparing 1 Tim and Titus, we know that it is about children who are faithful or obedient. That's the idea.

Children are, are faithful and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. So that is what the criteria or yardstick should be. For an overseer as God's steward must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. Very similar characteristics.

And then he adds on, he must hold firm to the trustworthy Word as taught. He must be loyal to Scripture. He must be able to give instructions in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. So in other words, to be a leader of the church, you are not really looking for someone who has a lot of seminary graduation degrees or someone who is very smart or someone who is a CEO. You must look for someone who is sanctified, set apart, holy, higher moral character as it were.

Now these are higher standards because these are the requirements. Not everyone possesses them. Therefore Paul says if anyone wants to be an elder, a bishop, a pastor, these are the minimum requirements. And that is why I think Paul would go on to say to both Timothy and Titus, let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example.

An example in what? In your life, speech, conduct, love, faith, purity. He says the same thing to Titus, show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works and in your teaching, show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned.

Now these are the qualifications of an elder and you may be sitting here saying, I'm never going to be an elder, what? Well I hope you don't have that attitude, huh. I think it's actually very helpful and Biblical that every single person should look at 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1 and say, I want to be that kind of a guy. Don't you? Don't you think you should be this kind of a person? Holy, ruling the household well, not a lover of money, not a drunkard, gentle, don't you think these are the things we should aim for? So whilst not everyone should be an elder because if everyone is an elder, there's no one to elder over, but all of us should aim towards these qualifications.

Many of you have great, big goals for your career, but do you have big goals for your life? I think 1 Tim 3, Titus 2, or Titus 1 is a wonderful portrait for us to say, I want to shoot towards that by the grace of God so that I can be an example and model for others. I think that is what we should think about because Paul also says in Titus, older men are to be sober-minded. You say, what's older? I don't know lah, uh to a 10-year-old, 20 or so older, to a 20-year-old, 30 or so older. So you judge for yourself, are you older or not? But older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love and in steadfastness.

Older women, ah, this is why I lagi don't dare to say what is older, older women likewise are to be reverent in behaviour, not slanderous or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind and submissive to their own husbands that the Word of God may not be reviled.

Men should shoot towards such goals of godliness, women should also shoot towards such goals of godliness. But the point is, as leaders, well, the basic criteria is that we must all be sanctified to serve.


So we see this principle applied to Jesus Christ. We see this principle applied to church leaders. Finally, we see this principle applied to you and everyone here, Christians to the church at large. You see, you may say, but this is for priests, what? This is for leaders, what? No, we are all priests. You and I, if you are a Christian today, let me tell you, you are a priest. We've already looked at these verses in 1 Peter 2 previously. You yourselves are built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood.

So I actually want you to face each other and say you are a priest, but I'm scared of doing that because the person you are pointing may not be a Christian. So don't do that, but you say to yourself, I am a priest, and if you are a lady, I am a priestess. Sounds, sounds actually eerie lah, but, but it's a reality, alright? You are a priest, you are a priestess.

But you say, in what way am I a priest? I don't dress like a priest, I don't work in a tabernacle, well, that's true, you don't dress like a priest, like the days of Moses, you don't go to a tabernacle, but you are a priest in that you offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God. The priests offer bread and oil and animals to God. But for us today, Peter doesn't quite draw that out, but elsewhere in the Bible we read, for example, the Hebrews author say, we are to offer a sacrifice of praise. The sacrifice of our lips unto God. So we praise God, that's a kind of sacrifice.

The Hebrews author says in Hebrews 13:15 about praise with our lips, he says in verse 16 about doing good and giving to those who are in need. That's another kind of sacrifice. When we see brothers and sisters in need, and we help, and we give, that's a sacrifice to God. And then of course, you can't miss Romans chapter 12, that Paul urges every Christian, because of the Gospel, to present our bodies a living sacrifice. So everything that we do is for the glory of God, and in that sense, we are like priests offering sacrifices.

Now not only do we serve God with our lips, with our lives, with our finances, with our service, the Bible goes on to say, Peter goes on to say, you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood. I think this in part is taken from Exodus 19:6, when God says to Israel, you are to be unto Me a kingdom of priests. So we are a royal priesthood, like Israel 2.0 as it were. And as priests, we are to proclaim the excellencies of God.

So we serve God today by not just offering our praise and our substance and our lives to God, but we are priests in that we teach others about God. We proclaim His excellencies, His character, His attributes, His work, His Gospel, the message of salvation. And this is really the cool thing. Priests during Moses' time can only operate at the tabernacle. Priests in New Testament time does not need to operate within a fixed locality. We can be mobile priests.

You know, nowadays, got a lot of mobile doctors. You don't have to go to the doctor, the doctor comes to you. Priests in the New Testament is supposed to be everywhere. We can serve God anywhere, anytime, 24-7. That's the real cool priesthood that we possess today. So you may be in IBM, you can be in Starbucks, you can be in NUS, you can be in Toa Payoh, you can be in Choa Chu Kang, doesn't matter where you are, God wants you to serve Him as priests right there.

And don't forget, the message today is not just about priesthood. The message is about sanctified to serve, serve as priests. And so it is vital for us to see not just the service, but the part about sanctification. And I think it is not lost on Peter. Peter says to his readers, you are a royal priesthood to offer sacrifice, to proclaim the excellencies of His Name, and it is important for you to serve, but not just to serve, but also to be sanctified to serve. And so he says in verses 11-12, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, to stay away from sin, because it is most important that in our service to God, we should live holy lives.

I heard recently Paul Washer, he is a pastor, he is a preacher, he said that when he was a new convert, he was struggling with different struggles, difficulties, sins in his life. And a friend of his passed him a tract of Leonard Ravenhill, who is a British preacher. And in that tract, Leonard Ravenhill wrote, others can, you cannot. Others can, you cannot.

What Leonard Ravenhill is saying is, others can play with the world. Others can play with sin. Others can live in transgressions, but if you want to be used by God, if you want to be an instrument in the hands of a wonderful, Mighty God, you cannot play with the world. You cannot play with sin. You've got to be sanctified in order to serve.
I think, many times we misunderstand Christian ministry. We think Christian ministry is turning up on Sunday and doing the routine of ministry. It may be ushering, it may be cooking, and we think ministry is just coming here to do something. Now I'm not running down any of these ministries. It is vital, it is useful, it is wonderful, it's encouraging to see people serve the Lord. But I'm saying, I'm cautioning against that thinking that it is a mere activity that pleases God. Because what God is looking for is really holy lives, first and foremost.

God wants us to abstain from passions of the flesh. Because the passions of the flesh wage war. The word there is not just one strike. It's a consistent, persistent military campaign. That's the meaning of the word war there. It is warring against your soul. And as Christians, we must be vigilant to abstain. Keep on abstaining. That's the tense or the, the Greek meaning there. It's not just once off. It's a persistent, deliberate effort, striving against the passions of the flesh.

Peter goes on to say, keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, pure, lovely, attractive. How do we serve God as priests? It's not just how we turn up on Sunday morning. It's how you keep your conduct, how you live your lives in your office, in your school, in your neighborhood. That when people see you, they may say, ah, you bunch of Christians, foolish people. But they cannot deny your good deeds. And on that time that Jesus returns, they have no choice but to glorify God. That's how we serve God.

That's why it is vital for you not just to be in ministry, but you should put in every effort to help yourself grow and be holy. That's why we attend services to hear the preaching of God's Word. That's why we go for Bible studies, care groups, discipleship groups, because we understand we need one another so that we may live pure and holy lives.

This week I was with my classmates. We had a secondary four-class reunion. That's a long time ago, that we were together. And I was chatting with some of my friends there, and one of them, he's a military man, and he's about to hit 50 soon, like all of us. And he says when he hits 50, there's a handsome payout. I can't remember what it's called, some bonus. And he tells me it's a really handsome sum of money. And it, and and so he was very careful not to take any alcohol that day. My friends, they all were drinking. I, I, I don't appreciate wine, I don't. He also keeps away from it. He says, the reason is because during now to then, from now to when he's 50, if he's found to be in any kind of indiscretion, whether drink driving or any kind of crime, all that money will be lost. So he's extremely vigilant. I, I mean, wah, this guy really is, he says just two years, tahan, I'll get that money.

I think Christians can learn a little bit from him, in that we must maintain this vigilance because Jesus is coming soon. And if Jesus is coming soon, let us serve Him. And the way to serve Him is to keep our conduct among the Gentiles honorable. So it's a one point sermon. Very simple, if we are to serve God, He wants clean instruments. He wants clean instruments. He wants His priests to be clean, to be pure.

That's why as Christians, we pursue holiness. That's something I pray for our church all the time. Not just that we grow numerically, every single one represents a precious soul, that's great, but far more important perhaps is that we are not just a growing group of people in numbers, but we are growing in Christ-likeness, increasingly sanctified, pure Godly. Because that's, I think, proportionate to how God would use us.

I think this is why it's important that in our church, we look for leaders based on the right criteria. We don't want leaders who are smart, CEOs, rich, influential. Now if you are all these things, but you are godly, that's fine. But if you are all these things but not godly, may God have mercy on us that we will never appoint such to be examples in the church.

Haven't you been to organizations and even churches where you see that the leaders are there not necessarily because they are godly men, but because they gave the most, they are the richest, they are the most respected in their workplaces, for their professional achievements? Again, nothing wrong with excellence out there, but it must never be at the expense of godliness.

Sanctified to serve, applicable to leaders, sanctified to serve, applicable most of all to Jesus Christ our Lord. The most high of standards, that He lived a pure and perfect life so that He can save us from our sins.

So maybe today you are not a Christian, I say to you, none of us here can save you, but Jesus can. Maybe today you are kind of limping along in your Christian life, I hope to stir you up to have a goal, a portrait to shoot for in 1 Timothy and in Titus. I pray that you will be such a kind of man or lady, that it would never be a shame to appoint you as an elder in the church, to be an example to the flock.

And finally, I hope as Christians, we say, I'm confident actually, if you are a Christian, you want to serve God. You want to serve Him, you want to sacrifice for Him, you want to proclaim excellencies of His Name, but I urge you today, that you should put effort in sanctification, in spiritual growth. In so doing, I think God will be more greatly glorified through your life. Let's bow for a word of prayer together.

Father, thank You again for this morning. We thank You for Jesus, Your Son, who lived a perfect life so that He may be our suitable High Priest. Help one and all to look to Jesus that they may be saved. Please have mercy on Gospel Light, that spiritual leadership in this church will be safeguarded and that we would only have godly people in influential positions.

We want to pray that all Christians here would also think deeply about their conduct, about their sanctification, about abstaining from the passions of the flesh. Help us therefore, again, to drink in the Gospel, that we may live out the Gospel and give out the Gospel. Thank You. We pray all this in Jesus' Name.


We are looking for sermon transcribers/transcript reviewers.
Email [email protected] to serve or to report transcription errors.