Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Priesthood of All Believers

Thou Art Worthy by C.V Lacroix
In my previous article, Clergy-Laity Distinction unbiblical, I explained that there is no Scriptural basis for limiting the priesthood to a special class of people within the Church, nor is there any biblical grounds for excluding all others in the Church from the priesthood. In this present post, I would like to expand on the priesthood of all believers.

All disciples in the kingdom of God are priests. A priest, according to the Word of God, is one who represents men before Almighty God and performs a holy service in God’s house. Let's see what the Scriptures say.

A Holy Priesthood
The apostle Peter wrote, “You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1Pe 2:5).

Peter used the expression “holy priesthood” in this passage. This sets us apart from all other priests on earth, including pagan priests. We are a holy priesthood, which is a high calling. The emphasis is on holiness to the Lord in our service to Him.

As holy priests, we are called to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. According to the apostle Paul, the spiritual sacrifice we offer is our body. He wrote:

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Rom 12:1).

Instead of placing dead animals on the altar as the Israelites did, or placing our children on an altar as the pagans do, he said we should present our own bodies a living and holy sacrifice. This is our spiritual service of worship as priests.

A Royal Priesthood
Not only are we a holy priesthood, we are a royal one, since we are a kingdom. In John’s Revelation, he wrote:

“He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father--to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (Rev 1:6).

“And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.’" (Rev 5:9-10)

Jesus is the Lamb who was slain, who purchased for God with His blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.  He made us to be a kingdom and priests to our God. And it says we will reign upon the earth, which is in line with what God told Moses to prophesy to the Israelites:

“And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exo 19:6a).

Moses used the expression “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”, rather than “a kingdom and priests” as we see in Revelation 5:10, but it carries the very same meaning.

The apostle Peter agreed with this when he wrote:

“But you are a chosen race, A royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”  (1Pe 2:9-10). 

Peter’s use of the expression, “royal priesthood” comes from the Greek Septuagint, which translates Exodus 19:6 in part to say, “a royal priesthood and a holy nation.” He said the reason we were made to be a royal priesthood and a holy nation was so that we may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. Proclaiming His excellencies refers to praise and worship, as well as telling others what God has done for us, which is our testimony, and what He can do for them, too. All disciples are supposed to do this.

Our Offerings to God as Priests
Paul referred to himself as one ministering like a priest. “But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 15:15-16 NASB). In Paul’s priestly service, he was offering up Gentiles to God. The Gentiles became acceptable to God through the gospel of God that Paul ministered to them, and through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.

Paul also referred to another type of offering that we as priests make to God, which is our praise and thanks to God. God is pleased with such sacrifices. He said, “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Heb 13:15-16). Not only is God pleased with the sacrifices of praise and thanks that we offer to Him, but He is also pleased whenever we offer to Him such sacrifices as good deeds and sharing with others.

But notice that even though we are all priests offering sacrifices to God that He is pleased with, that does not mean we are all called to function in an oversight role. Paul said in the very next verse, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” (Heb 13:17 NASB). This shows us that although it is true we are all priests, we still need to obey our leaders and submit to their authority, since they keep watch over our souls

Direct Access to God
Beware of any church that teaches you must go through a priest in order to obtain access to God. For example, they may teach that you must confess your sins to a priest in order to receive forgiveness, which is false. That’s what I was once taught and I believed it.

However, the apostle Paul said, “…there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…” (1Ti 2:5). The only Mediator between God and men is Christ.

Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (Joh 14:6). The one and only way to the Father is through Jesus – nobody else.

As priests of God, all believers have direct access to the Father through Jesus Christ, not through any man. This is a big blessing, but it is also a big responsibility!

Keeping People Clean
One of the problems with the priests in Israel is that they failed to do what they were called by God to do. They broke the Law of God, defiled His holy things, and made no distinction between the holy and the profane. They did not teach the difference between the clean and the unclean, and they neglected keeping the Lord’s Sabbaths. The Lord said through Ezekiel the prophet, who was also a priest:

"Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane, and they have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they hide their eyes from My sabbaths, and I am profaned among them. (Eze 22:26)

Because these priests went astray, they lost some of their privileges that had been given to them by God. They were left with the task of keeping charge of God’s house and all its service and all that was done in it, but they were no longer allowed to come near to the Lord. Instead the Lord chose to have the sons of Zadok, be the ones to come near to Him and stand before Him to minister to Him and offer sacrifices, because they were holy and did not go astray like Israel and the other Levites did. Since the Zadok priests were faithful, the Lord told Ezekiel He would give them a most holy place as their allotment with the sanctuary of the Lord in the middle of it. He said:

"It shall be for the priests who are sanctified of the sons of Zadok, who have kept My charge, who did not go astray when the sons of Israel went astray as the Levites went astray. (Eze 48:11).

It’s very important to God that we as priests keep ourselves holy and do not go astray from the Lord. We are supposed to make a distinction between the holy and the profane and between the clean and the unclean.

God requires purity in our lives. But there are priests today, as in the days when Israel went astray, who do not teach the need for purity. The Lord requires holiness, but some preachers teach that the only holiness we need is the inward kind. They deny that God is concerned about the rest of our lives, such as our bodies and how we attire and adorn them. God is certainly interested in our whole lives, and commands us to be holy in all we do, not just in certain select areas, such as the inward parts, but in everything. As Peter said, “But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Pe 1:15-16, NIV).

Putting it All Together
Scripture teaches that all believers are priests and are part of God’s holy priesthood. We all have direct access to God through Jesus Christ. The spiritual sacrifice we offer to God is our own body, as well as our praises. The service we perform for Him is to proclaim the excellencies of Christ, as well as the gospel of God. When people through our ministry believe the gospel, come to Christ, and become sanctified by the Holy Spirit, then as priests we offer them also to God.

The term priest is not reserved for a select few individuals, but is used for all disciples in the kingdom of God. Let’s be sure that we order and align our lives with this calling in everything we do, including all of our plans, decisions, prayers, thoughts, attitudes, deeds, and words. We must keep ourselves pure and be holy even as God is holy. Our lives are not our own. We’ve been bought with a price. We are set apart for God. We are not supposed to live our lives for ourselves, but for Him who died for us and rose again on our behalf.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Most other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, unless otherwise noted. "Thou Art Worthy" illustration by my seventeen-year old daughter, C.V.  You can find more of her lovely artwork at A Brush with Life.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, you may also like the other posts in this blog available through the Home page directory on this blog. I also recommend reading Clergy-Laity Distinction unbiblical, A Tale of Two Kings, Baptized with the Spirit, Supernatural Power for All Disciples, How to Treat Leaders, Accountable, correctable, and teachable, and Unbiblical Practices of the Catholic Church. You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master." 


Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.