The Priesthood of All Believers

1st Peter 2:4-10
by Derek Gentle


One of the doctrines confessed by Southern Baptists is that of the Priesthood of all believers. That is not to say that Baptists are the only ones who confess it. Others do also. What is meant by this phrase?

Actually, there are two terms that need to be defined, soul competency and priesthood of all believers:

Soul Competency: Because man is created in the image of God, he has an innate awareness of God and has a religious nature. He has a capacity for God and the ability to contemplate God and immortality. He is capable of making moral judgements. Man bears ultimate accountability to God. Man is competent to stand before God and be held responsible.

Because of the fall and sin, mans religious nature is perverted. He has moved toward idolatry and self-centeredness. He stands responsible, yet inexcusable before God. Therefore, in regard to salvation, as Timothy George points out, it would be more accurate to refer to soul incompetency.

Soul Competency pertains to all persons, not to Christians only. But the Priesthood of all Believers refers to Christians only. The Bible does not teach the priesthood of all human beings.

In discussing the priesthood of all believers, we refer first to the believer having access to God. This access is secured by Christ's gracious work on the cross. We have "boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:19). The Holy Spirit enables our access, as we "have access by one Spirit to the Father(Ephesians 2:18).

We may go further and state that this access to God is direct access. Direct, that is, through Christ - and without the intervention of any other human. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ? (1st Timothy 2:5).

Believers are priests in their abandonment to God. That is, we are set aside as, A holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ(1st Peter 2:4). The first and foremost sacrifice offered up by the Christian is himself. Paul told the Roman believers, to, Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1).

Another such sacrifice is prayer. Revelation 8:3 provides an example of this: Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. And he was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. Notice the priestly implements, the censer and altar. The intercessory prayers of believers are pictured.

There is the sacrifice of praise. The writer of Hebrews urged us to, Continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name (13:15). One may wonder why prayer and praise would be considered a sacrifice. It might be considered that one must give time to each, and the effort of thought. In our busy generation, each is certainly a sacrifice!

Giving may not be merely sacrificial; it may also be a spiritual sacrifice. Paul reported back to the church at Philippi that gifts sent by the hands of one of their members, were, a sweet aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God (Philippians 4:18).

A believer is a priest as he appeals to God in intercession for others. The Bible requires, That supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men?(1st Timothy 2:1).

Old Testament priests were anointed with oil. In the New Testament, believers have an anointing from God: The anointing you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things (1st John 2:26-27). John tells the church that the Spirits anointing rendered them able to discern false teaching when they saw it. They shouldnt need someone else to expose a false prophet.

Believer-priests are announcers of God. You are called out from the world, That you may proclaim the praises of him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1st Peter 2:9). Evangelism is the great priestly work of the Christian church.

The Bible speaks of the priesthood of All Believers, NOT, The Priesthood of THE Believer. It does not mean, I am my own priest. It does not mean that a church is not free to define the boundaries of its fellowship. The term refers to what takes place in and through the Christian community in the context of ministry. Priests represent God to people through evangelism and represent people to God in prayerful intercession. One may not take this doctrine out of this context and understand it.



Outline for Studying this Doctrine


1. Access to God

1.1 Access to God
"Therefore, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus"  - Hebrews 10:19

"For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father"    - Ephesians 2:18
 

1.2 Direct Access to God
"For every priest taken from among men is appointed for men [NIV - appointed to represent them] in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins" - Hebrews 5:1

"For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ"   - 1st Timothy 2:5


2. Abandonment to God
". . .A holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ"   - 1st Peter 2:4
 

2.1 The Sacrifice of Total Life Commitment
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that your present you bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service"   - Romans 12:1
 

2.2 The Sacrifice of Prayer
"Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. And he was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne" - Revelation 8:3
 

2.3 The Sacrifice of Praise
"Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name"   - Hebrews 13:15
 

2.4 The Sacrifice of Giving
"Indeed, I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, a sweet aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God."   - Philippians 4:18


3. Appeals to God
"Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men"   - 1st Timothy 2:1
 

4. Anointing by God
"These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. But the anointing you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true and is not a lie. . ."   - 1st John 2:26-27
 

Soul Competency: Because man is created in the image of God, he has an innate awareness of God and has a religious nature. He has a capacity for God and the ability to contemplate God and immortality. He is capable of making moral judgements. Man bears ultimate accountability to God. Man is competent to stand before God and be held responsible.

Because of the fall and sin, man's religious nature is perverted to idiolatry and self-centeredness. He stands responsible, but inexcusable before God. Therefore, in regard to salvation, it would be more accurate to refer to soul incompetency.

Soul Competency pertains to all persons, not to Christians only. But the Priesthood of all Believers refers to Christians only. The Bible does not teach the priesthood of all human beings.
 

"Priesthood of All Believers" - NOT- "The Priesthood of THE Believer"

It does not mean that "I am my own priest"

It does not mean that a church cannot define the boundaries of its fellowship
 
 

5. Announcers About God
". . . That you may proclaim the praises of him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light"   - 1st Peter 2:9