Today in the Letter to the Romans, Paul is just wrapping up, making travel plans, etc and then he nonchalantly slips in this little nugget:
15 But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
It’s a good thing we didn’t let it slip buy us! Paul says that he is a minister and in the “priestly service”. Just to make sure we understand the verse clearly, here is Young’s Literal Translation:
15 and the more boldly I did write to you, brethren, in part, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me by God, 16 for my being a servant of Jesus Christ to the nations, acting as priest in the good news of God, that the offering up of the nations may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit
What do we know about Priests from the OT?
1. They intercede between God and the people.
2. They offer sacrifice.
3. They must be set apart, taken from among the people and sanctified by the laying on of hands.
So we see that Paul identifies himself as a Priest and he says that the reason for his priesthood is, “so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable“. What is it that the Gentiles are offering? We know that the sacrifice of Jesus the only sufficient offering. If Paul is a priest, what is the sacrifice he offers and how can the offering of the gentiles be made acceptable by the Holy Spirit.
This is where the proper understanding of suffering, sacrifice and the body of Christ become so critical. By being joined to the Body of Christ our sufferings and sacrifices are made acceptable to God. One can visualize our suffering as a tiny drop of water added into the ocean that is the sacrifice of Jesus. The drop of water is no less real even though it was been joined to the limitless expanse of the ocean, nor did the ocean need that drop of water to be the ocean. Our offerings to God are like that drop of water. They are real and remain real and they are acceptable because they become part of the great expanse that is his Son.
And Paul acts “in the priestly service” to facilitate this. How? First and foremost by spreading the Gospel to bring about conversion and thereby join the converts to the body of Christ. Once converted and baptized the person becomes a member of the body. But Paul remains a Priest and the role of the Priest is to offer sacrifice. How is their offering then made acceptable? Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 5:
7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. 8* Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
So Christ is the sacrifice, the new Passover lamb is offered at a festival (or feast). This new feast is celebrated with new unleavened bread “of sincerity and truth”. Jesus, of course, called himself, “the bread of life” and “the way, the truth and the life“. So Paul is a priest and like all priests his role is to offer sacrifice. This is done with the bread and by consuming it our tiny offering is added to the whole. Literally, since we can do nothing to add to the ocean, the ocean comes to us and joins our tiny drop to itself. In this way Paul’s statement that, “the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” is made true.