the weblog of Alan Knox

We still want to HAVE a priesthood and not BE a priesthood

Posted by on Jan 22, 2013 in discipleship | 15 comments

We still want to HAVE a priesthood and not BE a priesthood

My friend Eric at “A Pilgrim’s Progress” just finished a great series on the new covenant priesthood under Jesus Christ. He wrote four posts describing this priesthood: “Priesthood and Responsibility,” “Priesthood and Self-Sacrifice/Service,” “Priesthood and Reciprocity,” and “Priesthood and Intimacy.”

Eric began this series with this statement: “All Christians are an equal part of the priesthood of all believers. This is both a great privilege and a great responsibility.” In that statement, he linked to 1 Peter 2:5-9 in which Peter describes the church like this: “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices sacceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5 ESV)

As Eric works through the various privileges and responsibilities related to the priesthood of Jesus Christ, something becomes fairly obviously. In many ways, we still want to HAVE a priesthood and not BE a priesthood.

Every religion on earth has a priesthood of some kind – a special class of people who are somehow closer to the divine, are endowed with special privileges, and are given special responsibilities.

Interestingly, in the New Testament, the role, privileges, and responsibilities of the priesthood are given to everyone who follows Jesus Christ – that is, to all Christians. There is no longer a special class of people who are somehow closer to the divine, are endowed with special privileges, and are given special responsibilities.

But, we still want there to be a priest class. We want to give that role, those privileges, and those responsibilities to someone else. We want them to do the priest stuff for us while we live as normal non-priestly people.

Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on how you look at it – you cannot give away (or sell) your priestly role, privileges, and responsibilities in God’s family. And, by the way, no one can take them away from you either.

So, read through Eric’s posts, and tell him what you think.

Then, I’m hoping you’d be willing to answer a few questions for me:

1) Why do you think people want to give up their role, privileges, and responsibilities as a priest?

2) Why do you think people want to take the role, privileges, and responsibilities of a priest from others?

3) What practical steps would you recommend to someone who wants to start living as a priest?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 1-22-2013

    1. Equal parts laziness (it is easier to subcontract the work of ministry to others) and a culture that tells most Christians they are unqualified to do the work of ministry.

    2. Equal parts a deisre for control and power and a culture that sees every other Christian as a potential heretic that needs to be quarantined lest they infect the flock.

    3. Stop waiting for permission to minister and serve, just do it!

  2. 1-22-2013

    Alan, Alan, Alan… (sigh…) Don’t you realize that we can’t just expect that the Holy Spirit is gonna “speak” to us all willy-nilly like? The only way to hear from the Holy Spirit is through scripture, and while we ALL are responsible for reading and studying it we NEED to have those that have studied the scriptures in both the Greek and Hebrew to REALLY understand what’s going on. It’s almost as if your suggesting the Church “de-evolve” from the grand structure it now possesses! We need a system of checks an balances to ensure that people just don’t go around believing in free-will, infant baptism, and the like.
    You’re treading on thin ice my friend…

  3. 1-22-2013


    Thank you for the links and kind comments. Oh that we would all be the priests God desires us to be!

  4. 1-22-2013

    The Holy Spirit that I know can speak through a donkey, a dream, an alcoholic, !!! And while I wouldn’t use the words willy nilly to describe the communication I have experienced, it will do here in order to draw a contrast. The Holy Spirit dwells within and convicts, instructs, encourages, inspires etc. and I can entreat the help of the Holy Spirit whenever and wherever I am without the help of a Bible scholar. I am not quite sure if Genoise’s comment is tongue in cheek…certainly hope so, but if not, well then I just have to disagree.

  5. 1-22-2013

    1. I think perhaps because we are so programmed…and when first saved not in challenging mode. I think it takes some intense preparation through experience, to be able to realize the full extent of the liberty we have in Christ as priests and kings in His kingdom. I think through the exercise of “home church, organic church et al” there will be new generations of believers that do not have the conditioning of institutional church to wade through and might find more freedom and its accompanying responsibility sooner and without the mental struggle.

    2. Again, ignorance, innocence and conditioning without full knowledge of the difference between the kingdom and this world’s systems.

    3. I think it is the work of the Holy Spirit in a life to lead them into living in their priesthood. The revelation of real liberty in Christ. The truth that sets us free. It is a new life, old things have to pass away…that is a process that can take some time unless there has been a continuity that has led one to receive true liberty at the crossroads of decision. Challenging old thinking about church is quite an undertaking I would imagine if one tried to do it in their own power. Living as a priest comes pretty naturally and organically if one has stepped over that threshold and into the broad place (liberty). Expecting to hear from God, the Holy Spirit in every aspect of your life and at any moment of your life without feeling inferior to “the learned” would be an important component. Another would be learning to test the spirits.

  6. 1-22-2013

    Rita, it is DEFINITELY tongue in cheek. ;)
    I happened to hear a sermon on Sunday that told me just that though, that you can really only hear from the Holy Spirit through Scripture. The preacher ruled out hearing God speak to us through a “still small voice”, audible voices were out, he mentioned a few other ways, and pretty much covered just about every way I have ever heard the Holy Spirit speak to me. Then he gave an example of a couple who The Lord called to serve in South America. BUT, according to the preacher, they could only have heard The Lord speak to them through scripture, so I’m not sure where the verses mentioning South America are…
    What’s more ironic is that before the pastor preached he started by saying something along the lines of preparing ourselves to hear from God and yet the next thing he shared was his sermon, not the scripture reading. I was flummoxed…

  7. 1-22-2013

    Whew…thanks Genoise!!! I was worried about ya there for a minute. :-)

  8. 1-23-2013

    The lost priesthood of all believers is a serious symptom of a more tragic and fundamental problem in the church – ignorance and unbelief concerning the meaning of Christ’s death on the cross. Historically, when the church lost sight of the truth of Christ’s completed work on the cross, the church then also lost sight of the truth of Christ’s priesthood of all believers. All professing Christians know that Christ died for them (Romans 5:8), but very few know (believe and act on) on the truth that they also died with Christ (Romans 6:8). When the church stopped believing and acting on this crucial provision of Christ’s Atonement, it lost connection to Christ’s headship and life. And without Christ’s life, the church lost its identity as Christ’s priesthood. In order to restore the true priesthood of all believers, the truth of the cross needs to be restored to the church. Otherwise, the church will continue to try to do in the natural what it can only do in the power of Christ. We should pray that the eyes of all believers are opened to see what Jesus Christ has fully accomplished on the cross for us. That is divine truth that will set us free to be His royal and holy priesthood.

  9. 1-23-2013


    Thanks for answering my questions. Yes, it is easier to let other do the work and to protect the church from heretics like me. :)


    Oh yeah. I forgot. Thank you for getting us back on track. ;)


    Thank you for the great series and the reminder that we are priests.


    Thanks for answering the questions. I think you’ve offered some good advice, especially in answer #3.


    I don’t think the priesthood of all believers is lost; but I don’t think it’s practiced and lived as widely as it should be. I’m glad that we have examples in Scripture of the authors encouraging and instructing their readers in living out this priesthood. It reminds us of what the priesthood will look like, and also reminds us that Jesus’ followers have always struggled with living it.


  10. 1-23-2013

    Reading Peter’s comment sparked a thought. I think that like our present political frustrations (well…you know, everyone can add their own adjectives to that word – I tried several others myself)…we Christians have an overly grandiose view of what we can actually embrace as responsibility…even in prayer. Obviously the Holy Spirit can lead us into specific prayer for situations unknown to us personally…however, when we constantly speak in terms of “every” and “all”, it feels like the “global effect” that has brought us to unsolvable problems worldwide…Tower of Babel thinking comes to mind. When I hear those sentiments,”we should pray that all…” it just doesn’t sit right with me. It is overwhelming in some degree and can feed into young or immature ambitions leading some to feel driven to push others rather than walk with them. I think there could be a better choice of perspectives to try and deposit. Make my life effective in accomplishing your will…or affirming our own belief that God is at work everywhere, all the time and that He is with all who believe and that He is in control of all life and will lead us to our destiny in Him. This has been an issue recently in our group and when I read Peter’s last sentences it kind of popped in my mind.

  11. 1-23-2013


    I think presenting this in terms of “all” can be frustrating only if we assume that “all” must function or respond in the same way. If we understand and accept that each one will respond differently – but still be given the opportunities and freedom to respond – “all” can be extremely freeing.


  12. 1-24-2013

    True enough. Certainly regarding the aspects you mention. I need to think through this further and distill my thoughts so that I can express what I feel more clearly. If that happens I will return to this…if not, I will just let it go. Interesting thread regardless.

  13. 1-24-2013


    I look forward to hearing any additional thoughts you might have on this subject.


  14. 2-8-2013

    I think Rita said it…let this all digest a bit, and think it through. For myself, I think of the sphere I “work” in, which thankfully, is relatively small. It’s easy to pray for “everyone” in a small town like I live in…as well as the various activities around here. I have a missionary prayer handbook that lists over 300 missionaries around the world. Instead of praying for them all though, I picked two to put on my prayer list, as well as emailing them fairly regularly.

  15. 2-9-2013


    Yes, you’re right. It’s easy to throw money or projects at “the poor,” or “the homeless,” or “the oppressed,” etc. But, from what I can tell, it’s more important how we treat the specific person who may be poor, homeless, oppressed, etc. Of course, that means that we must not ignore people and must listen to them and must care about them. We can only do this when we surrender ourselves to the work of the Spirit in our lives and listen to him as he brings people into our lives.