Can Only Priests and Pastors Make An Impact?

By Dr. Art Lindsley

Church Reformer Martin LutherHow many of us feel our work is not “spiritual” enough or doesn’t matter in God’s grand design? Understanding this concept of a priesthood of all believers can help us see how all our vocations bear great importance.

The “priesthood of all believers” is an important Biblical idea that has great implications for our personal spirituality, our public life in the church and the world, and our work.

So what is the “priesthood of all believers,” and what does it have to do with faith & work?

When Martin Luther referred to the priesthood of all believers, he was maintaining that the plowboy and the milkmaid could do priestly work. In fact, their plowing and milking were priestly work. There was no hierarchy in which the priesthood was a “vocation” and milking the cow was not. Both were tasks that God calls us to do, each according to their gifts.

Priesthood of All Believers in Scripture

The priesthood of all believers is based on the clear teaching of Scripture. This reality is anticipated in the Old Testament:

  • God said to His people at Sinai, “You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6).
  • Isaiah says that a time will come when “You shall be called the priests of the Lord, man shall speak to you as the ministers of our God” (Isa. 61:6).
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The New Testament it points to the reality accomplished:

  • 1 Peter 2:5 says to believers that, “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 2:9 also says that, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession that you may proclaim the excellence of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
  • Revelation echoes the reality prophesied in Exodus 19:6: “Thou hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God and they shall reign on earth” (Rev. 5:10).

The theological background for this idea is Christ’s High Priesthood, outlined in Hebrews 7. Because of Christ’s high priesthood, and because we are now in Him, we all become priests. Because of Christ we are now all prophets, priests and kings. We are now part of a “royal priesthood” that prophetically proclaims His message…

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