A Royal Priesthood
A Royal Priesthood
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
Other passages in the New Testament equally speak of Christians as being priests or doing what would be considered “priestly duties”.
- “and He made us to be a kingdom of priests to His God and Father” (Revelation 1:5; 5:10).
- “You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).
- “To be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:16).
In addition the language often associated with priests is used in reference to Christians as well:
- “To offer up spiritual sacrifices” (1 Peter 2:5).
- “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for which such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:15-16).
There are times I know that I do not fully appreciate my role as being a priest before God, so I wanted to ponder this role and help all of us greater appreciate the fact that we are priests with a vital task to fulfill.
A Long and Rich History
The role or function of a priest goes far back into the Biblical record, in fact, the information in Scripture points out that even before the Levitical priesthood was established in the Law, the head of a household in a godly family functioned as a priest. For example:
- Job offered sacrifices for his children in case they had sinned (Job 1:5-6).
- Seth functions as the beginning of a movement back to God (Genesis 4:26). Noah faithfully leads his family (Genesis 6:9).
- Abraham offered sacrifices, built altars and instructed his family concerning the commands of God (Genesis 12:8; 18:19).
- Jacob likewise built altars and instructed his family and extended family to put away the foreign gods or idols which some of them had accumulated (Genesis 35:1-2).
Along this line some have noted that among other things the basis for the New Testament calling Esau not only immoral but “godless” (Hebrews 12:16), is that in selling the birthright of the firstborn, he was despising the above mentioned priestly role that had been occupied by this grandfather Abraham and father Isaac. Such reveals that Esau had no real interest in being the spiritual leader of the family, teaching his children about God and offering the appropriate sacrifices.
Even in Other Nations
Paul in his sermon delivered in Athens noted that all nations go back to Adam and Eve (Acts 17:26). One proof of this is that all races face the same basic temptations and have the same basic needs or desires. Another proof is that all cultures have a flood story that resembles in many specific points the account in Genesis. And another proof is that all cultures share a common understanding when it comes to the basic role of a priest, altar and sacrifice. Early on in the Biblical record we find priests, who were not directed related to Abraham who knew about the truth God (Melchizedek/Genesis 14). In addition, Moses married Zipporah, daughter of the priest of Midian (Exodus 3:1). Thus (1) The selection of priestly mediators is universal among the nations (2) The principle of atonement by blood was firmly established (3) The death of an innocent victim for guilty sinners was clearly recognized.
The Functions of Priests
In the Old Testament the following were stated as the duties of the sons of Aaron:
- “At that time the Lord set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the Lord, to stand before the Lord to serve Him and to bless in His name until this day” (Deuteronomy 10:8).
- “So you shall attend to the obligations of the sanctuary and the obligations of the altar” (Numbers 18:5).
- “The priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle performing the divine worship” (Hebrews 9:6).
So the priests in the Old Testament offered sacrifices, were continually serving in the tabernacle, and also functioned as judges/teachers (Deuteronomy 17:8-9) and health inspectors (Luke 5:14).
Caring for the Tabernacle
The priests were in charge of making sure that all the worship and service connected to the house of God was according to Scripture. For example, David rebuked the priests for they had not informed him concerning the Scriptural method for moving the ark (1 Chronicles 15:2,13-15).
- Yes, it is the responsibility of elders and evangelists to make sure that we stay faithful to Scripture (2 Timothy 4:2; Acts 20:28).
- Yet it is equally the responsibility of every Christian, for we are all priests. Therefore, we must never adopt the attitude that it is the job of the elders or evangelist to keep us in check, or if the elders sign off on some new practice, they are the only ones who will answer to God for it.
Helping People Get Straight or Right
Even though we don’t offer animals in sacrifice because the ultimate sacrifice has been offered, we still function as priests in the sense of helping people get themselves right with God.
- We know the plan of salvation. We can teach someone what to do to avail themselves to the blood of Christ (Acts 2:37-38). We actually know the right sacrifice, for the world is filled with all sorts of human attempts and systems of getting close to God. We actually know the correct path.
- We know when a person is right with God. That is, the moment when a person goes from being lost to being saved. With confidence we can tell people both what to do to be saved and when they are actually forgiven.
- We can tell a Christian who has wandered into sin what to do to get back to God (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:8-10).
- We serve as points of light to both the lost non-Christian and to the Christian who has fallen away. We know the path that leads back. On this point it is significant that the word “religion” means to “bind back”, which has within it the idea of man’s original departure from God.
In these verses God centuries later looks back upon the covenant that He made with the tribe of Levi and mentions the duties for which they were selected.
2:5 “My covenant with him was one of life and peace”: Levi stands in this verse for the whole priestly class. God had said to Phinehas, “Behold, I give him my covenant of peace” (Numbers 25:12). God had intended for the priesthood to bless the nation, and bring spiritual life and peace to the people through teaching, instruction, example, and sacrifices which would maintain their relationship with God so that He could bless them. So as I Christian, what I have to offer to the world around me is “life” and “peace”.
2:5 “And I gave them to him as an object of reverence; so he revered Me, and stood in awe of My name”: Here is a good description of a faithful priest. He was one who stood in awe, not of himself or men, but of God, and one who is impressed more by God than anything else. “Malachi is suggesting that those original priests took their responsibilities seriously and carried out their functions reverently” (Smith p. 634). Compare with Hebrews 12:28 and 1 Corinthians 11:28.
2:6 “True instruction was in his mouth, and unrighteousness was not found on his lips; he walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many back from iniquity” : “They taught not their own views, human theories, and speculations, but the infallible, invariable truth the Lord had revealed in His Word. This they taught without addition or diminution, without fear or favor. They were reliable, trustworthy witnesses of God’s will” (Laetsch p. 522). They had found security in being faithful to God’s will, they were at peace because they knew they were doing the right thing, and as a result they brought people back from destruction.
2:7 “For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts”: Consider the word “preserve”. The same command is given to preachers to “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2), and hand down the truth without blemish to the next generation (2 Tim. 2:2). Do we feel the responsibility of “preserving” the right view of God, the Scriptures, and all other Biblical doctrines? God expected the priests to be able to answer questions about spiritual things; the people should be able to find the answers they need from him. How sad when a preacher will refuse to tell anyone what they believe about a particular Bible subject, even sadder, when he will refuse to instruct people about a Bible subject. Do we see ourselves as being “messengers” from God to dying men and women (2 Timothy 2:15; 1 Peter 4:11; 2 Timothy 4:2).