The Priesthood of all Believers
As I listen to the cultural voices, there are many things to bemoan. Christianity is no longer a cultural force in the West. People don’t care what the Bible says. Church attendance seems antiquated if not unhelpful for people interested in spiritual things. I could go on.
But there are a few things our culture seems to respect that should characterize us as Christians. Things like being positive, helping the poor – both financially and with service – and being genuine. Obviously our culture may have different definitions of exactly how these virtues should play themselves out, but that shouldn’t stop us from leading the kind of lives that are honoring to the Lord and will attract others to him.
The Lord’s Desire for His People
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). If you have turned from your sin to God by simply putting all of your confidence in Jesus Christ to deliver you from your sin, then you are a royal priest to God. In other words, you are a representative of God.
God tells us that we are priests and this obviously means that there is a lot of similarity between our service to God and the Old Testament priests. Of course this is not a one to one comparison since the Old Testament priesthood was only “a shadow of the good things to come” (Heb. 10:1). Christ is the High Priest of a new and better covenant which “has made the first obsolete” (Heb. 8:13). But we can find New Testament applications for many of the activities of the priests under the law.
Old Testament Connection
In Exodus 28-29 the consecration, or setting apart, of a priest is described. There are seven things that happened to the priest as he became set apart to God. Here is the first step in becoming a priest. As believer priests we can see clear similarities to our priesthood in this practice.
- He was taken from the people (Exodus 28:1). We are set apart from our former lives the moment we are saved (Ephesians 2:1-10).
- He was brought to the door of the tabernacle (Exodus 29:4). We enter salvation through Christ alone who is the door to acceptance with God (John 10:7-9).
- He was washed with water (Exodus 29:4). We are washed by the Holy Spirit when we are born again (Titus 3:5).
- He was clothed with special garments (Exodus 29:5). We are clothed with the righteousness of God when we believe in Christ (Romans 3:21-22; Isaiah 61:10).
- He was anointed with blood and oil (Exodus 29:21). The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7) and we are sealed with Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30).
- His hands were filled with a sacrifice (Exodus 29:22-25). We are given sacrifices to offer to God (Romans 12:1; Philippians 4:18; Hebrews 13:15-16).
- He was sanctified (Exodus 29:44). We are set apart to please God (1 Peter 2:9).
The Practice of our Priestly Service
Notice that all the things we need to qualify to be a priest were given to us at the moment of conversion. No more special ceremony needs to take place. During the Reformation the truth of the priesthood of all believers was recovered and the Reformers broke with the tradition of the Roman Catholic Church.
These Bible students saw that every Christian had a special service and place before God and did not need a man or institution to represent them before God. But it wasn’t until the Brethren Movement in the 1800’s that the practical side of this doctrine was considered. Bible teachers associated with this movement like John Nelson Darby and J. G. Bellet saw that it wasn’t enough to simply not have a special class of priests, but that according to the Scripture every believer should be worshiping the Lord.
This line of biblical thinking led to the practice of the open breaking of bread, in which every saved man is encouraged to audibly participate in worship.
The Priesthood of All Believers Isn’t Just for Sundays
As wonderful as that time of remembrance is at the Lord’s Supper, there is no need to stop the practical outworking of our priesthood there. From point six we see that there are at least four types of sacrifices we are given that we can offer back to God. The Old Testament counterpart of these sacrifices can be seen in the free-will offerings of Leviticus 1-3.
- Ourselves (Romans 12:1)
- Financial gifts (Philippians 4:18)
- Our words (Hebrews 13:15)
- Doing good (Hebrews 13:16)
In a culture where we are encouraged to give our opinion and comments every time we check the internet for something, we can practice our priesthood of offering everything we say as a sacrifice to God (Hebrews 13:15). We can do good to all people in order to attract them to our Savior (Matthew 5:16).
We can give to the Lord by helping the poor and so be a good witness (Luke 16:9). And of course we should offer up everything we do and all that we are as a sacrifice to God, just as the Lord Jesus showed us (1 Peter 2:21).