Royalty under Jesus – the King of kings

Please read 1 Peter 2: 4-10 and John 14: 1-14 and then pray; Almighty God, King of the universe, open my eyes that I may see and receive wonderful truths from your holy and precious word, through Jesus Christ my Lord and King. Amen

I hope those of you who were able to watch the service of worship held yesterday at Westminster Abbey for the coronation of King Charles III enjoyed the outstanding spectacle on what was a supremely historic occasion. The service was notably solemn, deeply moving, gripping, inspiring, and intensely spiritual. This service provided a strong and categorical reminder that the heritage and foundation of our nation and its monarchy rest squarely on the Christian faith and gospel. The central and vital role of the Church of England was obvious as the King and Queen were carefully attended to by specially chosen Bishops, and as the Archbishop of Canterbury led and directed the whole of the proceedings. The great congregation were welcomed into that celebration in the name of the King of kings. So many of the prayers were addressed to the King of kings – namely Jesus Christ. The service was dominated and suffused with prayer and liturgical music of the highest standard. The anointing and crowning of our new Sovereign were powerful and highly significant religious moments that had their origin in the anointing of Solomon by Zadok the priest. (1 Kings 1: 28f)

The service contained carefully chosen readings from the bible which emphasised the uniqueness and glory of Christ who is Lord over all (Colossians 1 read by the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak) and Jesus’ anointing for mission and service by the Holy Spirit (Luke 4 read by the Bishop of London). The reading of the Word of God was surrounded by the singing of sacred song extolling the authority of the Word, and then the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke in his brief sermon about the need and the challenge for sacrificial service which should always be modelled on the Servant King himself – our Lord Jesus Christ. Later the Archbishop prayed for the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the king, and led a traditional service of Holy Communion. Towards the end of the service, many blessings were pronounced upon King Charles and his reign by different religious leaders. This was a profoundly Christian service, but one which also contained careful elements which spoke of the monarch’s warm acceptance and respect for the role played by other religions in the UK and beyond.

The anointing and crowning of the King were obviously the most significant points in the service. The screening of the King whilst the anointing took place was an intentionally private and personal moment for His Majesty. The Archbishop had blessed the sacred oil specially prepared in Jerusalem, and the words of this blessing provide a lovely and poignant link and connection between yesterday’s coronation service and our humble gathering today. This is because the Archbishop’s prayer contained amongst other things, some words extracted from I Peter 2:9, a verse which is contained in one of today’s lectionary readings; 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.

And here is the prayer for the blessing of the oil which was offered by the Archbishop;

Blessed art thou, Sovereign God, upholding with thy grace all who are called to thy service. Thy prophets of old anointed priests and kings to serve in thy name and in the fullness of time thine only Son was anointed by the Holy Spirit to be the Christ, the Saviour and Servant of all. By the power of the same Spirit, bless and sanctify this oil, that it may be for thy servant Charles a sign of joy and gladness; that as king he may know the abundance of thy grace and the power of thy mercy, and that we may be made a royal priesthood for thine own possession. Blessed be God, our strength, and our salvation, now and for ever. Amen.

1 Peter, as we discovered a few weeks ago, is a letter written to Christians who were suffering persecution for their faith. The apostle Peter is anxious to remind them of who they are “in Christ,” and how unique and special is the universal Church to which they belong.

I Peter teaches that Christians are intimately and eternally connected and related to the Lord Jesus Christ, the risen and triumphant Son of God. Christ is the living Stone, chosen and precious to God, and his people are also living stones, connected and united to Jesus who is chief cornerstone. Together with Christ as the supreme foundation, the church is being built into a holy temple, a spiritual house, filled with the Spirit of God. The Church is a holy priesthood who are enabled to offer spiritual sacrifices of praise, service, and worship to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul shares a similar idea in Ephesians chapter 2: 20-22 when he states that the Church (Jew and Gentile) are members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Peter who has described the Church and Christians as a holy priesthood goes on to say that the Church is also a royal priesthood. This is what I want us to dwell on for a few moments today; this incredible thought that the people of God are a HOLY and ROYAL priesthood.

In the eyes of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, those who place their trust in Jesus and are forgiven and filled with His Spirit – become royalty. Together they form a royal priesthood. Dear friends, if you have received Christ as your King – you are now a royal son or daughter of the King of all the earth. You are royalty. Have you ever really considered this wonderful truth and privilege?

I am a royal son or child of the Living God. This is true because I have been adopted through my trust and faith in Jesus into the royal family of heaven. (John 1:12-13) God has become my Father; Jesus has become my brother as well as my Saviour and Lord. (Hebrews 2:10) I am related to the Sovereign Ruler of earth and heaven. The bible emphasises that God is the great King who reigns over and above all. Take Psalm 47 as just one example of the teaching of the bible on the sovereign rule of God. Read Psalm 47…

Not only is God (the Father) referred to again and again as the King of all the earth, but his Son, his chosen Messiah, is described to as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. In the Book of Revelation, Jesus is the great and awesome Rider upon the white horse who will come again to judge this world in truth. He is the Word of God attended by the angelic armies of God. On his robe and on his thigh, he has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords. (Revelation 19: 11-16) During the coronation service Jesus was referred to in prayer more than once as the King of Kings. Did you notice that?

So as a Christian – the teaching and the truth is simple yet enormously profound. We are related intimately to this glorious eternal King and therefore we are royalty. We are as Paul tells us in Romans chapter 8, heirs of God and a co-heir with Christ. (Romans 8:17) As royal heirs, we have an inheritance which can never perish, spoil, or fade, and which is kept in heaven for us by the power of the Father and the Son. (1 Peter 1:4) As Jesus promised, there are many rooms in the Father’s house, and one has been specially designated for us because we have placed our trust solely in his Son who died and rose again for our salvation. Jesus knows his own sheep intimately and has prepared a place for each one. As a child and an heir of the King of the universe, you have already been given two precious gifts;

  • A royal robe of righteousness. This is the gift of Christ’s own righteousness bestowed upon those who place their trust in his death for them on the cross. King Charles was specially robed yesterday with royal garments. Christians are each clothed with garments of salvation and a robe of royal righteousness. (Isaiah 61:10) This righteousness is a gift of divine grace given freely to the repentant sinner. These garments of salvation give us access into the royal and heavenly banquet. (Matthew 22: 1-14) We are dressed ready for entrance into heaven. We have been stripped of the rags of sin and self-righteousness, and clothed with the pure righteousness of Jesus.
  • We have been given the Sword of the Spirit – which is the word of God. This is a most precious gift because this is the key to knowing life and eternal life. As the King and the rest of the world were told yesterday; this is the most valuable thing this world affords: Here is wisdom. This is the Royal Law; These are the lively Oracles of God. This is the gift that contains all that is needful for salvation and for equipping us in this world and making us ready for the next. (2 Timothy 3: 15-17) The sword of offering received by King Charles is a symbol of justice and mercy and a reminder that evil must be resisted and subdued. The Sword of the Spirit we receive and use has the power to demolish evil and rescue souls from the kingdom of darkness.

We have already been given the robe and the sword, but we are to receive two more gifts of divine grace; a crown, and a room in the Father’s house. At the end of a life lived in faithfulness to the King of Kings – we can look forward to receiving the crown of righteousness. For the child of God, there is ultimately a robe and a crown of righteousness.  As the apostle Paul approached his death, he wrote to his son in the faith Timothy, expressing hope in the eternal life awaiting him;

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord – the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4: 6-8)

Elsewhere in the NT, this crown of promise is referred to as an “eternal crown” (1 Corinthians 9:25), a “crown of life” (James 1:12) and a “crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:4). It is a crown that will be placed on our heads by Christ, but we will then in turn, cast it down before him in humble worship, praise, honour and with unending gratitude for his love. (Revelation 4:10)

As well as the crown, we are promised entrance into “the Father’s house.” This is one of the most comforting, precious, and glorious promises in the whole of Scripture. Read again John 14: 1-4. A spacious place in the Father’s eternal house is promised to all who put their trust in his Son Jesus. This house is greater than any royal palace. All royal palaces fade and crumble with time. The Father’s house is an eternal house, an everlasting home. Trust in God, trust also in me says Jesus, for I alone can lead you to the Father. The KJV of the bible memorably refers to “many mansions” – but the translation really refers to many spacious rooms. I am reminded of the lovely promises in what I call the Psalm of resurrection (Psalm 16) which is often quoted in the NT in reference to the resurrection of King Jesus.

Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely, I have a delightful inheritance. (Psalm 16:5-6) You have made know to me the path of life: you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalm 16:11).

Those who make up the royal priesthood, the Christian Church, the holy nation, the people belonging to God, the people who know they have been recipients of great mercy in Jesus – have much to look forward to as royal sons and daughters of the living God. We are in the family of the King of all the earth – we are his adopted children, chosen and precious, robed in righteousness divine and kept by the almighty power of God.

Together, Christians form a priesthood – one that is both holy (1 Peter 2:5) and royal (1 Peter 2:9). How is this possible? How are we priests today? In the NT – the teaching is that every Christian is a priest and has a priestly role – just as every Christian is a saint and is uniquely chosen and separated by God. In the OT, the priests were all sons or descendants of Aaron and of the tribe of Levi. They were born into the priesthood. In the NT, individuals are also born into the priesthood, but this time it is a spiritual rebirth not a physical fleshly one, and it is offered to all who put their trust in Jesus. All who are born again, born anew of the Spirit, are born into the family of God and into the holy and royal priesthood. This teaching is part of the Protestant Christian faith and was highlighted at the time of the Reformation. Our nation has been greatly impacted by the Reformation faith.

All Christians are part of the spiritual house being built up and added to by God’s grace. What is it that we can offer as priests? Peter speaks about the way all Christians “offer sacrifices” to God and “serve” God in priestly ways. What are the sacrifices we offer as individual Christians and as a body of believers. There are principally three sacrifices each of us can offer. What are they?

  1. The offering of our bodies as a living sacrifice to be used by God to fulfil his will and his holy purposes. We are to honour God with our physical bodies because we have been bought at a price – the price of the Son of God’s blood. We are no longer our own. (1 Corinthians 6: 18-20) We must honour God with our bodies. Read Romans 12: 1-3. As the hymn writer Frances Havergal puts it; Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to thee; take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise; take my hands and let move at the impulse of they love; take my feet and let them be, swift and beautiful for thee. Our bodies are to be offered as righteous instruments for the purposes and work of God in this world. We are to be living, acting, obedient servants for God. (Romans 6: 11-13)
  2. The offering of our lips – our daily praises and songs of worship and prayers to God. Hebrews 13:15 says; Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name. Christians individually and corporately are to offer daily praise, prayer and worship sacrifices to their King and God. We are intercessors for the world. We mediate on the world’s behalf through prayer. Just as priests in the OT kept the lamps burning continually, so must we continually offer the praise of our lips and hearts. As the hymn writer puts it; Take my voice and let me sing, always, only for my King; take my lips and let them be, filled with messages from thee.
  3. The offering of our service and good deeds. These are to be like an incense offering to the King who strengthens us to live and love with humility, mercy, and justice. Hebrews 13:16 states; And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. As God’s priests, we are called to serve Him in the world in the power of his Spirit with the compassion and mercy of his Son. Bank Holiday Monday is to be a day that celebrates community care and community service. For the Christian Church – every day is a day for serving others, for caring for the needy, for being generous toward the sick and suffering, for reaching out in love toward every neighbour whatever their colour or creed.

There is then the priestly offering of our physical bodies and minds, of our daily worship and prayers interceding for the world, and of our daily service in the name of our King and God. We are the royal priesthood. We are the loyal servants, followers, and subjects of the King of Kings. Yesterday, our new King, rededicated himself to the service of an infinitely higher King, and to the service of his people. Let us also offer our lives to the glory of God and to the service of His Kingdom of righteousness, justice, mercy, and love. Yesterday we heard the oft repeated cry “God save the King.” Today, we give thanks that God has saved us through the gift of His Son who is indeed the King of Kings and Servant of all.

Amen                                                            Revd Peter J Clarkson (7.5.23)