February 04, 2006

The Priesthood of the Believer: The 'P' in Baptist

Part three in a continuing series on Baptist distinctives. Part 1 is on Biblical Authority, and Part 2 is on the Autonomous Local Church

One thing that sets Protestants in general apart from Catholics is the idea that each believer is a priest in his own right, and can approach God directly through prayer with no intermediary. Unfortunately, many Protestants who believe this in theory don't believe it in practice.

How often do we rely on ministers to pray for us, as if their prayers get answered first? How many televangelists have made fortunes from people buying prayer cloths that somehow give them "special access" to God? How many of us believe that the pastor has some form of special revelation from God because he is the pastor? How often do we neglect personal ministry because we think that's the pastor's job?

John to the seven churches that are in Asia:Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
(Revelation 1:4-6 ESV)
Christ has made us all priests, according to this passage. Peter writes that we are "... a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9 ESV)

What does that mean? The priests offered sacrifices to God in the temple -- they were the only ones who could do that. This function of the priest is no longer needed, though, as the greatest sacrifice of all has been made for us. The atoning sacrifice has already been made for us by Christ.

Priests were also set apart for service. Paul makes it clear in his letter to the church at Ephasus that we are all called to service: "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, "(Ephesians 4:11-12 ESV). The work of the ministry is the job of every believer -- not just a priestly class.

The priesthood of all believers places a huge responsibility on the shoulders of all believers -- we are all responsible for the ministry of the Gospel. If you know of a ministry that your own local church needs, the question shouldn't be "Why isn't anyone doing that?" but "How can I help start that?" If we all had that attitude, Christian churches would be far more effective in ministering to their communities.

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 01:44 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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