The Priesthood of All Believers: Enabled to Praise Him!
In the Old Testament, the king ruled the people on behalf of God; the prophet represented God to the people, speaking God’s word to them; and the priest represented the people to God, performing sacrifices on their behalf in the tabernacle and later in the temple. As our redeemer, the LORD Jesus Christ fulfilled all three of these offices, serving as prophet, priest, and king both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation.[i] Having served as our great high priest,[ii] the curtain in the holy of holies was ripped open (on earth and in heaven) thus giving direct access to the throne of grace to all believers. Hence all believers, being “in Christ”, and clothed in his righteousness, no longer need a human being to represent them before God. Believers, in essence, become priests. The “priesthood of all believers”, is concisely defined by Alan Cairns:
“The right of all believers in Jesus Christ to approach God without any intermediary other than the LORD Jesus Christ.”[iii]
How grateful we should be! Because there is “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,[iv] we have confidence (boldness) to draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.[v] Because of the finished work of the LORD Jesus Christ on the cross, final and completely sufficient sacrifice for our sins has taken place.[vi] We have access to the mercy seat! Jesus stands at the right hand of the father, continually interceding for us![vii] This under-standing of the “priesthood of all believers” is central, or foundational, to our Christian walk. Is this all there is to the doctrine? Are there further implications?
In the gospel, God does more than, “save us”, and give us access to Himself.[viii] The scriptures state:
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness,”[ix]
“this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”[x]
“the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”[xi]
He does this for a reason. Believers, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.[xii] As a “royal priesthood” we are to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.[xiii]” We have been given all things pertaining to life and godliness, the law is being written on our hearts, the Spirit has been sent; perhaps this is why Paul writes to the Romans:
“I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.”[xiv]
Using the word of God (written and written on the heart) believers have the ability to instruct or “put in mind” the truth of the gospel. Believers instruct each other, it does not require a priest or even a pastor. This should not be taken as minimizing the pastoral office. Pastors are a special gift, given by God, for the very purpose of equipping the saints to be able to instruct each other. Paul works this out for us in Ephesians chapter 4. After listing the “gifts” given to the church by the LORD Jesus Christ (of which “pastor-teacher” is one) he gives the reason Christ gave these gifts to the church: the saints are to be equipped for the work of ministry. In turn the saints are to build up the body of Christ. This process is to occur until:
1) all believers attain the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God,
2) attain mature manhood, and
3) attain to the fullness of Christ (becoming like Him)
Mature believers, men and women, are no longer led astray by false teaching, rather they speak the truth to each other, leading the body of Christ to grow up into Christ, who is the head of the body. When each part of the body works properly, being joined and held together by Christ, the body grows and builds itself in love.[xv] No special priestly office is required to mediate the gospel to the people of God or to the lost. Hence Alan Cairns writes:
The NT knows no other priesthood in the church. It has no official rank of priest that renders a class of men the necessary dispensers of the grace of God, without whom Christian life cannot proceed. That is the intention of the church of Rome and is a mark of her apostasy from the truth of the gospel.[xvi]
Believer – act on your priesthood! Proclaim the Excellencies of Him who call you out of darkness and into His marvelous light! Thus the gospel will spread. Thus the body of Christ will be built up.
Martin B. Blocki has served since 2003 as the Associate Pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North Hills in Pittsburgh, PA since 2002. He is a counselor at the Biblical Counseling Institute in Pittsburgh. Rev. Blocki graduated from Indiana University, Bloomington (BME), Arizona State University (MM), and the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary (MDiv). Martin and his wife, Kathy, have two married sons, one daughter, and two grand children.
[i] Westminster Shorter Catechism question 23
[ii] Hebrews 4:14
[iii] Dictionary of Theological Terms by Alan Cairns P. 278
[iv] 1 Timothy 2:5
[v] Heb 4:16
[vi] Hebrews 7:27; 9:12
[vii] Rom 8:34
[viii] Much, much more can obviously be written about what God has given to us in the gospel!
[ix] 2 Peter 1:3
[x] Jeremiah 31:31-34
[xi] John 14:26
[xii] 1 Peter 2:5
[xiii] 1 Peter 2:9
[xiv] Romans 15:14
[xv] Read Ephesian 4:11-16
[xvi] Dictionary of Theological Terms by Alan Cairns P. 278