TL;DR- What is the priesthood of all believers? The priesthood of all believers means that God has appointed every person who calls on the name of Jesus to be His representative in glory and honor.
Have you ever stopped to think what does it really mean that you believe in Jesus Christ? Your faith in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit should be more than a mental consent or a label you give yourself when you want to be different or you feel you want to belong. You have been called by God to be a priest.
A royal priesthood.
You have been called to a position of responsibility. You have been called to care about the Triune God, the people around you, those that treat you wrongly, those that betrayed you, those that ignore you, those that consider you an enemy, and those that look up to you. You have been called to be a representative of Christ’s glory, a demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power and a vehicle of the Father’s love.
This calling is not for the chosen few. It is not for the well-read. It is not exclusive to the seminary graduate. It’s a call placed on everyone who calls upon the name of Jesus Christ. You and I, we are all priests.
Why is the priesthood of all believers important? Take a walk in your neighborhood, watch the news and see if the bad news around us is not a testimony of a generation that has been sleeping on duty. It’s time for you and I to admit this:
3 Responsibilities We Have Neglected
- we’re partly responsible for how kids are turning out these days
- we’re partly responsible for the low turn-out of young people in churches
- we’re are partly responsible for failing to minister to the hurting and reaching out to the rejected.
In my country, the most well-run hospitals and schools were built by missionaries. Missionaries stood up against racial segregation during colonialism. And every year, Christians from around the world visit Zimbabwe not to watch Victoria Falls or to go on a safari but to help people with eye diseases, cleft lip, and many other health problems. Christianity as a whole has done greater good than any other religion in the world.
Christianity has done tremendously well for the social good of many nations. Unfortunately, there is a trend among most Christians to abandon responsibility to organizations and institutes. Yet God called us to become his voice and his feet.
I wrote this article to help you understand that God has called you to a position of responsibility that requires character and commitment. He called you to be a royal priest. He called me to be a royal priest. He called us to be royal priests. We’re all priests. And this is why understanding the priesthood of all believers is important.
The priesthood of all believers means every believer has a full access to the throne of God, to minister to and for him in faithfulness, truth, and power. I believe the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers is the most important teaching in the Christianity. And anyone who truly want to grow in their faith has to take a time to understand it.
Growing up I hated the festive season. But also the rain season. This means it was the time to prepare fields and to plant corn, groundnuts, round nuts, cucumbers, and pumpkins. This is the part I loathed.
Most of my relatives didn’t own a tractor or any fancy farming equipment. They had hoes. Dozens of them. We used hoes to prepare the fields, to plant the crops, to remove weeds, and our bare hands to add fertilizer. There was nothing to love about that.
My Mom once sent my brother and me for holidays at a relative’s rural place. At 14, I was the oldest man at the farm. They were three other boys, aged 7, 12 and 14. But they were more than a dozen girls and the youngest was 13.
Yet, only boys went to the fields. We dug the ground preparing to remove weeds and aerate the ground. We dug holes in straight lines to plant the seeds. We removed the weeds with backs aching and girls drinking tea. I hated the festive season.
Having older girls to sit around the house cleaning and cooking wasn’t fair. Division of labor can be productive but this was wrong. Honestly, it was borderline abuse. How else could you explain having 14-year-old boys breaking their backs in the fields while girls in their 20s are sitting at home?
Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do about it. It was the tradition. That’s what my culture taught: men take care of women and they should learn to do that from a young age. Families around us didn’t do that because they didn’t belong to my tribe. We, the Chikunda, take care of our women.
The problem with cultural traditions isn’t that they don’t have merits, but they often deteriorate to lifeless belief systems that isolate the very people they are trying to serve.
In an article published by Christian Today, Roger E. Olson, a professor of theology at Truett Theological Seminary, argued on the importance of a balanced treatment of tradition among believers. He wrote:
The consensus of Christian belief throughout the ages provides a compass for navigating the often treacherous waters of modern and postmodern religious confusion. It also serves as an anchor when the ship of evangelicalism is prone to drift into market-driven and merely therapeutic preaching.
-Roger E. Olson
Having boys work the fields while girls worked in the kitchen was probably a good idea many centuries ago. People worked in communities and a lot of manpower was available. But today following cultural shifts, communities are becoming more individualistic. Thus having 10 girls cleaning the house while 4 little boys work in the field is counterproductive.
Christian traditions are not immune to such corruption. One such tradition is the practice of dividing believers into laypeople and the clergy. I believe it was well intentioned trying to ensure the church always have people learned in the matters of Scripture who’re quick to teach, accurate in correct and graceful in reproving.
Sadly, the popularity of this gospel resulted in two things: an overworked clergy and a clueless congregation. The church created a monster, and sadly everyone is comfortable hanging around it. Neglecting the priesthood of all believers is responsible for many woes bedeviling the church today.
I love my cousins, but watching them eating made me hate them. They were old enough to work the fields. But they never realized that one day they would be married to someone who didn’t come from my tribe.
Working the fields was a good life hack for them but they didn’t know blinded by tradition. Many people have been blinded by tradition. You can claim you believe in the universal priesthood but how you conduct your life may speak otherwise.
For that reason, you and I need to heed Prof. Olsen’s advice:
Nevertheless, we should resist any tendency to pull Scripture down to the level of tradition; the evangelical house of authority must remain solidly on the foundation of sola (prima) scriptura. When a new theological idea arises among evangelicals, our first and foremost question must be “What saith the Scriptures?” and not “Is it consistent with tradition?”
-Roger E. Olson
Therefore, what does the Bible say about dividing people into parish and clergy? Does it condone such practice? If it does, then how can we embrace the priesthood of all believers in the 21st century?
They’re several signs that can help you see that you don’t fully believe in the priesthood of all believers. And you do yourself a favor if you can examine yourself to see if you’re not believing any of these lies.
7 Signs You Don’t Believe Priesthood of All Believers
You don’t believe in the priesthood of all believers if:
- you’re only comfortable listening to the pastor on Sunday mornings instead of reading your own Bible on Tuesday night.
- the only way you think people can come to Christ is after listening to your pastor’s sermon (Matthew 28:19-20).
- you think only people with a seminary degree are qualified to comment on matters of doctrine (Acts 6:1-7).
- you believe only a pastor or a church elder can effectively and fervently pray for you or your loved ones when you’re sick or troubled (James 5:16).
- you think the church is the holiest place, the Holy of holies, and you’re free to be sinful you anywhere else (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
- you get offended when another Christian corrects you and you believe only a Christian counselor or your pastor is qualified to do that (Galatians 6:1).
- Sunday and a midweek prayer meeting, small group or any other formal church meeting are the only occasions you think God’s presence is availed to believers (Matthew 18:20).
Ignoring the priesthood of all believers does a great disservice to all believers. It limits and skews your knowledge of God and the true meaning of your justification, adoption, and salvation. I believe understanding what it means to be a priest will go a long way in paving the way for your spiritual growth.
In an article entitled The Priesthood of all Believers, Arthur Lindsley, a Scholar-in-Residence at the C.S. Lewis Institute observed, “for whatever reason, the priesthood of all believers has been much less understood, taught, and expounded upon in writing.” As a result, many believers fail to see the relevance of their faith in their everyday work. Christianity is a marketplace and workplace faith. Though we practice our acts of righteousness in secrecy we demonstrate our faith in public.
If the Church teaches that working in business, communications, politics, or any other profession is just as impactful as working directly in the ministry, it allows Christians to connect their beliefs to their everyday actions, giving them purpose in their jobs and equipping to them to serve others and improve society though their daily work.
During the old times, women were not trusted enough to be farmers in my culture. Farming was a men’s job. Of course, there’s no proof that women are bad farmers and only good cooks. Yet, my relative held on dearly to this tradition. And my brother and I suffered because of that silly tradition.
Not only that, my cousins who got married to farmers suffered too. They had to figure out how to properly hold a hoe when they were already married. Considering how farming is important in most Zimbabwean communities, I pretty confident that my cousins’ ignorance caused some marital problems.
Your ignorance of priesthood of all believers might be the root of the problems you’re currently battling. And the tragedy is this: you don’t even know it and if you do most people don’t even care.
They’re comfortable with being spoon-fed by their pastors. They’re at peace with waiting for a church leader to pray for them. They’re satisfied with taking unbelievers to church but not showing them Jesus.
That’s very sad.
The implications of the priesthood of all believers are fully illustrated in Mark 2: 23-28. Jesus and his disciples are accused of breaking the Sabbath law. Uche Anizor and Hank Voss observed in Representing Christ: A Vision for the Priesthood of all Believers:
Only the priests were allowed to work on the sabbath since their work was temple work. Second, only priests were permitted to eat the consecrated bread. Third, Jesus and his disciples were not in the temple but in a field. It is possible that what Mark (and Jesus) is conveying is that Jesus as the royal High Priest is himself the location of the sacred space. Therefore, his disciples, being bound to him, are given rights as priests to work on the Sabbath and as priests are also allowed to eat in that holy place, as David and his men did.
-Uche Anizor & Hank Voss
The doctrine of the priesthood of all believers set Christianity apart from all other world religions. There’s no religion in the world where God allows everyone full access into his presence. It’s only in Christianity where God trust a mere human to be his true representative.
The Levitical priesthood taught us one important thing: only people who are set apart are qualified to be a priest. God has equipped you with power and knowledge to serve him in his presence. He has given you the Holy Spirit as a guarantee and a seal of your sanctification.
Jesus Christ reserved a place for you at the throne of grace where you join the angels in declaring honor and glory to the Father. The blood of Jesus Christ purified your filthy hands. Christ exchanged your filthy rags of self-righteousness with his garment of honor and righteousness. All this happened so that you can be worthy to worship God in his presence.
The Old Testament introduces us to two types of priests, Levitical priesthood and the priesthood of the order of Melchizedek. A priesthood runs with the family. Jesus Christ who makes us holy is our brother and he’s a priest of the order of Melchizedek. You and I are royal priests because of our adoption in Christ.
A representative carries the presence of those they represent. And it is the role of the represented or the government to ensure the representative has every resource they need to fully represent them. As royal priests, God has given us something more than a company T-shirt, car or consulate, he gave us himself. The Holy Spirit dwells in us and guides us in matters of our mission.
Therefore, you and I have been given the full rights of Christ to be partakers of God’s divine nature. We’re a royal priesthood, chosen by God.
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith.
Having seen that Christ has called you to be a priest, it is important that this stop being head knowledge but a reality in your life. It’s one thing to give mental consent to a foundational teaching and totally another to embrace it with your life. The priesthood of all believers should be the definition of your life.
How can we realize this truth in our lives? To answer this question, we need to understand what priesthood looks like. Being a priest means ministering to God, fellow believers and unbelievers with the reality of the good news in us found in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Christ used three imageries to describe the priesthood of all believers.
3 Lively Imageries that Shows Priesthood of all Believers
1. Salt of the earth: You have been transformed from a salt that had lost its flavor into a brand new salt. God called you to be a seasoning and preservative of his word and world.
2. Light of the world: God called you to speak right of God before the world, thereby giving light to all who listen. The glory of God should shine in your life and through your life as a testimony of God’s everlasting power.
3. Letter from Christ: You’re a letter written by Christ, not with ink but the Spirit of the living God. God has appointed you to be a witness of his glory and a proclamation of his goodness.
There’s no better universal institute that can teach you the importance of priesthood of all believers than parenting. I am a father of two. And being a father is tough.
And it’s even tougher for me because my father passed away when I was nine. I have a lot to learn about parenting. We all have to learn.
Fatherhood is like working the field with a hoe. You just have to lift the hoe and hit the ground at a certain angle. Nothing more. You just have to do it consistently and continuously. It’s the structure, intentionality and consistency that makes working the field tough. The same applies to parenting.
When you walk into a church it becomes obvious there’s a problem. You won’t find any young people. Churches have become a retirement club. There’s nothing wrong with old folks meeting weekly. But there’s something wrong if they fail to pass on their wisdom to the next generation.
And the sad thing is that most churches don’t know why young people are not attending church. Some churches adopted contemporary worship and seeker friendly theology to win millennials. Rachel Held Evans’ Chasing for Sunday reminds us that this isn’t the answer: young people are not looking for a cool experience; we want an encounter with Jesus Christ.
I believe the church problem is entirely a parenting problem. Millennials in the Global North were raised by a generation of parents that believed a child should choose what they went. Parents trusted child psychologist than they did in God’s word.
Should a parent train up a child in the way they should go or simply remind them they can be anything they want? The majority of parents in the West would probably choose the later, if not in word then in deed. This is the root of the church problem.
Donald S. Whitney wrote in Family Worship, “But bringing children up “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” does not happen only unintentionally and incidentally.” You cannot leave to chance how to raise your child, you need to be intentional and consistent. Your children’s eternity matters than the grades they get or the kind of job they will get. This is why Prof. Whitney added:
And without some regularity, structure, and purpose, bringing our children up “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” is one of those things that we can assume we are doing but never actually do as well as we might think. Consistent, father-led family worship is one of the best, steadiest, and most easily measurable ways to bring up children in the Lord’s “discipline and instruction.”
-Donald S. Whitney
How can we bring regularity, structure, and purpose, bringing our children up?
The answer to this problem isn’t a hippie worship but parent-priesthood. What do I mean by parent-priesthood? Parent-priesthood is whereby parents embrace their role as royal priests in their families.
As royalty, parents ensure the kingdom of God is preserved in their families. And as priests, they ensure God’s voice is preserved in their families with clarity. Therefore, parents need to be faithful stewards if they are to correctly serve as God’s royal priests.
- Honest look at the past
Being a faithful steward demands an honest perspective of the past. This can only be possible if you can reflect on the past through the eyes of grace and truth. God’s word reveals the failures of our fathers and demonstrates the consequences of those sins. Therefore, the past is a warning to every believer against the effect of sin (1 Corinthians 10:11-12).
- Please God, not your children
The greatest tragedy of the 21st century is parents strive to have their kids like them instead of training them in the way God set for them. A parent is a priest of the Lord, not a politician. There’s no room for political correctness in ministering to our child. Parents should show their children that sinful rebellion stirs the wrath of God.
- Always proclaim God’s glory
Being faithful steward entails declaring to the world who God really is. It’s not about us but about honoring and glorifying God. Every parent should tell their children who God really is, his exact nature, the extent of his power, and how he demonstrated his power in the past (Psalm 78: 4). But this is impossible without a firm grasp of the word of God.
- Student of God’s word
Therefore, a faithful priest-parent should be a student of the word of God. You can only teach about the glory of God revealed in Christ if only you know Jesus personally. The good news Christ came down to earth to show us what God’s glorious works looks like. Importantly, he gave us the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth.
- Teach your children faithfully
The purpose of the gospel isn’t to give information but to transform the listener through understanding and knowing the Triune God (Jeremiah 9:23-24). Therefore, the purpose of the priesthood of all believers is to teach the next generation to remember the works of God, love his commandments and remain faithful to him (Psalm 78:7-8).
How can a parent be a good priest to their children?
You need to understand that being a royal priest means your children are also chosen by God to be a generation of priests. The German Protestant theologian, Franz Volkmar Reinhard carefully revealed this truth in a series of questions in one of his sermons:
Can they be ignorant that their little ones also are ordained to be in their generation priests unto God, and to become a holy people? And can they then fail to be aware, that it is their duty to dedicate their little ones betimes to God, and to prepare them before hand for their high destiny?
-Franz Volkmar Reinhard
So, then how can you be a faithful steward to your family?
- Read the Bible with your family
The Bible was meant to be read aloud. There’s no better way to do this during family worship. It is the duty of a priest to proclaim God’s word to any who hears. This is the responsibility of the parent-priest.
- Study the Bible with your family
You should not just read the Bible but you should study it. The goal of studying the Bible isn’t giving information but growing in the knowledge of Christ. As a parent-priest train your child to question the events, examine the word and apply the word in their life.
- Pray with your family
One of the most important but missing disciplines in family worship is prayer. It is sad that most families resort to crisis prayer and giving grace during dinner. Prayer shouldn’t be just a personal habit; it should be a family living tradition. A priest is sensitive to their own needs, needs of those around them and God’s need for praise.
- Serve with your family
The purpose of the priesthood of all believers is serving one another in love. It’s about making ourselves available to others for the sake of the gospel. It’s about teaching your family to love.
Parenting shows us that God entrusts imperfect people to be stewards of his words. It shows us the importance of priesthood of all believers. It reminds us God’s has a plan for our children. And it encourages us to know God wants to use us to raise a generation of priests.
Furthermore, before you can teach the word as a parent you need to be a learner and student of the word of God. And you can only be diligent in teaching when you’re committed to the knowledge of God (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). Parent-priest should devote themselves to studying the word. This is why God called all of us to be priests.
I will loathe from answering this important question. I would live it to you as a challenge. How are you going to incorporate this understanding of priesthood into your life? What obstacles do you think lie before you? What has God done for you that ensures you remain faithful as a priest before God?
I will be glad to hear your answers. Feel free to leave a comment below and to share with your family and friends.