Living Free in the Spirit of Christ

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The Priesthood of All Believers to a Lost World

The priesthood of believers is not for other believers

The Protestant Reformation partially restored the New Covenant realization that all believers were considered part of the new Royal Priesthood (1 Pet 2:9) in contrast to the Catholic dominated clergy system. But as Frank Viola pointed out, the Protestant Reformers only restored the theological understanding of the priesthood of all believers, but not the ecclesiastical practice. So all Protestant denominations make the theological declaration but continue the clergy-laity ecclessiology. It is the assumption that house church gatherings are exercising the priesthood of all believers in their open-participatory format. But as I have meditated on the idea, I think the house church advocates are missing it, too.

To understand what I mean, it will be helpful to reconsider the Mosaic priesthood in a short summation. Prior to Moses, there was no priestly cast. This system was established by God in the Mosaic Covenant that He made with Moses. The family of Levi was set apart as the inheritance of Yahweh. The families of Levi’s three sons, Gershom, Kohath and Merari, were given the the jobs of caring for the tabernacle, then later the temple. Only the sons of the brother of Moses, Aaron, were given the distinction of being priests.

During this era before the coming of Christ, Israel had three significant functions that rarely overlapped: prophets, priests and kings. Prophets were the voice of God to the people. Priests were the voice of the people to God, and kings were arm of God over the people. Saul lost his right to the throne because he had crossed the line and acted as a priest which was not in his authority. Jesus was the first of the “Royal Priesthood” who fulfilled all three functions.

Aaron’s family, then, were given the function of interceding on behalf of the people. The Levites were allowed to work in the outer court where the altar for animal sacrifice was placed, but they were not allowed into the Holy Place. Only the priests were allowed into the Holy place of the tabernacle or temple where the show bread table, the menorah lamp, and the table of incense were kept. Only Aaron, then one line of his sons, was called the high priest and were allowed into the Holy of Holies where the ark of the covenant was kept and the shekinah glory of God was manifested, and that was only once a year on Yom Kippor.

When Jesus died on the cross, the veil of the temple, or the two curtains which separated the two rooms of the Holy place from the Holy of Holies from one another, was torn in half (Matt. 27:51). According to Hebrews 10:19-20, that tearing of the veil signifies that all believers with the new birth can enter freely into the presence of God which is signified by the Holy of Holies. However, that does not mean all believers are now considered the high priest. That distinction is given only to Jesus (Heb 3:1). But this is the salient attribute of being called a “royal priesthood.”

What we have in Jesus as a “royal priesthood” are the same distinctions that He alone possessed. Jesus is the only Jew who was all three functions of prophet, priest & king. As the first born of many brethren He has given the same capacity of function to all who abide in Him through the new birth.

So if all of us in Christ can now function in a priestly, prophetic and kingly authority, it begs the question, “to whom?” If we all can come boldly into the throne room (Heb 10:19), then why should we intercede for each other in a “priestly” fashion? If we all can hear God and speak on His behalf, then to whom do we prophetically speak? If we are all kings under the King of Kings, then to whom do we exercise kingly authority? Should we boss each other around? Certainly there are some who try to do so.

The royal priesthood is summed up by Paul in these verses:

2 Cor 2:15-16
15 For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:
16 To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? (KJV)

Like the Greek god Janus, we face two worlds. To other believers we are savour of death to self, but to the lost we are a savour of life.

House church advocates are definitely correct in their understanding of all the “one anothers” found in the New Testament epistles. But do these “one anothers” fall under these three functions? Certainly we all need encouragement. There are times when we do not hear God for various reasons and the Lord will have another brother or sister speak to us prophetically. There are times when the Lord will burden us to pray for other brothers and sisters which is a priestly function. There are certainly times when we need mature leadership to help us which is a kingly function of another brother to another.

But, frankly, I do not believe that this is what is meant by “royal priesthood.” The Protestant Reformers continued the clergy-laity divide in their practice of the ecclessiology. They gave us the theological understanding still in the clergy-laity division. And I believe that house church gatherings have reduced this division but they still apply the thinking in their fellowship in their focus on one another. To other believers these functions of the royal priesthood only work when we function in self denial and humility as a savor of death. For the life of Christ only flows through the body through humility which occurs when believers die daily.

I believe that the three functions of the Royal Priesthood, of prophet, priest, and king, is meant for the body of Christ towards the lost. Our intercession is mostly for those who have no access yet to God not having accepted the gift of life through Christ. We are to be the prophetic voice of God to the lost world who rejects Christ. We are to use our kingly authority in the spirit realm against the principalities and powers of Satan’s kingdom. As we die to self in our behavior towards the lost our words, intercession and spiritual authority bring the savour of life to those who remain dead in their sins and trespasses.

It is time that we take our eyes off our selves and look to the lost and dying world. The royal priesthood is meant more for evangelism than it is for one another since all in Christ already have the fountain of life flowing through them. The lost are the ones thirsty for a taste of that life.

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