‘“Now therefore if you will obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you shall speak to the children of Israel (Exodus 19:5, 6).”
Our understandings of things change over time; hopefully we grow wiser, and more knowledgable.
I distinctly remember, when I was a boy, the awe I had for the priest of the church of which I was a chorister. We choirboys referred to him as the ‘vicar’, and we always held him with great respect. He was the one who taught us the tenets of the Christian faith. Before confirmation we had to be able to recite the Apostles’ Creed. This I learnt with great difficulty; for my understanding of it was shallow, and my ability to learn by rote was abysmal.
A priest for me was someone like the ‘vicar’. He was a man of the cloth, a man in holy orders. I can’t remember his name, but my Mum and Dad addressed him as the ‘Reverend’. To me he had a status that set him apart from us ordinary people. He was up there with the angels. If he were to visit the house, my mother would politely usher him into the guest room, where the best crockery and tea set would have been made ready for the occasion – not that we as a family had many such meetings. They would only come about through necessity for sorting out the details of things like weddings or funerals.
I struggled in my mind to come to grips with the hierarchy the Church. There were archbishops, bishops, canons, curates and deacons, and why were they treated as if they were superior and separate from the laity? In addition to the churches, there were monasteries, friaries and nunneries. It was very perplexing, but for sure, all of them were closer to God than me and my Mum and Dad!.
Why was the church divided into Catholics, C of Es, Methodists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Unitarians and Baptists? Why all these denominations, and yet they all claimed to worship the same God? Their leaders claimed they were priests of God. Doctrinally they set themselves apart on account to their creeds, professions and statements of faith – even their administrations within their ‘institutions’ were different, as were their buildings in which they worshipped. Nearly all of the ‘clergy’ when conducting their ‘services’ dressed in ‘priestly’ garments.
Not much has changed, and those in positions of authority within these ‘institutions’ still consider themselves as priests of God. They conduct the eucharist, sing vespers and keep to the church calendars of their denominations.
True Priests of God
As I said at the beginning: “Our understandings of things change over time; hopefully we grow wiser, and more knowledgable.”
For me it has been a lifetime of change, but now at last I am convinced I know the true nature of what constitutes a real priest of God. It’s simple: He or she is a ‘believer’ and a ‘follower’ of Christ. All genuine priests are chosen by God (1 Peter 2:4), and they are made priests by His Son (Revelation 1:5, 6).
Peter the Apostle in his first Epistle wrote these words: ‘Coming to Him as a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:4, 5).’
He also wrote: ‘But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy (1 Peter 2:9, 10).’
So priests are ‘holy’ and ‘royal’. They ‘offer up spiritual sacrifices’ and they ‘proclaim the praises of Him who called’ them ‘out of darkness’ into God’s ‘marvellous light’. Collectively they present their bodies as a ‘living sacrifice’ acceptable to God (Romans 12:1).
The writer of Hebrews comforts them with these words: ‘For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathise with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).’
While living on this earth, God’s priests are tempted to sin, but nothing can change their status in Jesus. He has made them forever, ‘kings and priests to His God and Father (Revelation 1:5, 6).’ They reign now on earth (5:10; 20:6) and with Him in heaven. Together they are God’s ‘kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Cf. Exodus 19:5, 6).’
If we [believers] are priests of God, by Jesus Christ, then ‘let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God,’ while not forgetting ‘to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased (Hebrews 13:15, 6).’
Let us rejoice because we have a great High Priest who sits ‘at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens (Hebrews 8:1).’
We are God’s holy priesthood and His special people.