3-2-1 We're All Priests
God intended Israel to be " a Kingdom of priests"
(Ex. 19:6). “All the people of Israel” were the builders of the spiritual
house of God, i.e. His people (Acts 4:10,11). All Israel were to lay their
hands on the Levites to show that they were truly Israel’s representatives
(Num. 8:10). When Israel were rejected, they were told that they as a
nation could no longer be God’s priest (Hos. 4:6). By baptism, we become
spiritual Israel; and this idea is relevant to us too. Peter picks up
these words in Exodus and applies them to every one of us: " Ye also
are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual
sacrifices" (1 Pet. 2:5,9). The Lord Jesus is a King-priest after
the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 6:13-18; Ps. 110:4); and through being
in Him, we share this position. Through what He achieved for us on the
cross, we have been made now king-priests, with the future hope
of reigning on earth (Rev. 1:6; 5:10). The religious world around us puts
great emphasis upon having a system of priests and pastors. Christians
are almost the only group who don't have such a system. To me, the fundamental
reason for this is a Biblical one: quite simply, according to plain Bible
teaching, we're all priests.
A Kingdom Of Priests
The duty of the priests under the Old Covenant was to maintain true understanding
of God's word, witness this to the world around them, and teach
it to their brothers and sisters in Israel (Mal. 2:7). Although
there was a special priesthood, it was clearly God's intention that
all Israel should be like priests; they were to be a " Kingdom
of priests" (Ex. 19:6). Israel were all “saints”, and yet saints
and priests are paralleled in passages like Ps. 132:16. Israel in
the wilderness had clothes which didn’t wear out- just as the Priestly
clothes didn’t, and were handed down from generation to generation
(so Ex. 29:29 implies). People from all nations who want to become
part of God’s people in the Millennium will have to join / levite
themselves to Him; they will enter into a priestly covenant, in
order to be counted as part of His people. Being His nation and
being a priest are connected. Israel were to teach every man his
neighbour and brother, saying, Know the Lord (Heb. 8:11). God therefore
saw all Israel as represented by the priests (Hos. 4:9; Is. 24:2;
Jer. 5:31; 8:10); He says in Hag. 2:12-14 that He saw all Israel
as defiled priests. Hos. 4:1,6, in a passage directed to all Israel
rather than just the priests (cp. 5:1), warns the whole nation that
they can no longer be God's priest, because of their sins. There
are many hints throughout the Old Testament that God encouraged
all His people to behave like priests. The early chapters of Proverbs
exhort the average Israelite to love God's Law, study it, talk about
it to their neighbours and children...all of which was priestly
behaviour. They were all priests. The language of the priesthood
is applied in those chapters to the normal, Bible-loving Israelite.
For example, " the priests lips should keep knowledge"
(Mal. 2:7); but the average Israelite was encouraged to study the
Law for himself, " that thy lips may keep knowledge" (Prov.
5:2) (1). Indeed, the principle of
Nazariteship (explained in Num. 6) encouraged the average Israelite,
regardless of his tribe, to in some way aspire to the High Priesthood.
He could grow his hair long to imitate the High Priestly mitre,
and he could chose to have the same commands concerning defilement
by the dead and eating vine-products apply to him, as applied to
the High Priest. The Lord applied this to all His followers, when
He told the man who wished to bury his father to not do
so, but engage instead in His work (Lk. 9:59,60). This would have
sent the Jewish mind back to Lev. 21:1-11, where the High Priest
could not be distracted from his service even by the death of his
When we come to the New Testament, there is no equivalent of the priestly
system of the Old Covenant. This was a big change for the early Jewish
Christians. Because of this, and in order to establish the Christian church,
God temporarily gave the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit to some members
of the early church. Those with the gift of speaking God's word or acting
infallibly in their judgments naturally had to be treated with great respect;
they were speaking and judging on God's behalf. It seems that each of
the early ecclesias had a Spirit-gifted eldership, which Paul and Peter
exhorts should be respected. But now the Spirit gifts have been withdrawn;
they have been replaced by the dispensation of the completed word of God,
to which we all have access. For we're all priests.
(1) Other examples include the way in which Proverbs
stresses that the man who loves wisdom will be able to judge wisely
(2:9; 31:9). Yet it was the priests who were the judges of Israel
(Dt. 19:17), they were the ones to whom hard cases were brought.
Yet Proverbs implies all could act as priests. " To do justice
and judgment is more acceptable (a word elsewhere used concerning
the priests' service, Dt. 21:5) than (the offering of) sacrifice"
(Prov. 21:5). Loving wisdom would give the ordinary Israelite a
crown on his head (4:9), alluding to the High Priestly crown (Ex.
29:6; Zech. 6:11). Proverbs constantly urges Israel not to forget
the Law (e.g. 2:6)- but the priests did just this (Hos. 4:6). There
is good reason to think that Proverbs is a commentary on the Mosaic