The Biblical Distinctives of Baptists
Priesthood Of The Believer

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Introduction:A number of years ago I had a student on my bus ask me some questions about what it was like being a preacher once they found out I pastored this church. They wanted to know if I listened to people telling me all the bad things they had done so that I could ask God to forgive them. I assured them that though people did talk to me, and at times speak to me confidentially, it was not my job to forgive them of their sins, that was Godís job, and the folks needed to talk to God.

The idea of a "Baptist priest" sounds strange. Baptists designate certain men as pastors or deacons, but who ever heard of a Baptist priest? Baptists do not believe that God has ordained any special class of people today to be priest for other people.

The conclusion expounded by Peter in 1 Peter 2:5,9 that "you are a holy priesthood'' helps us to understand that though there is not an order of priests in the local church today, each individual believer is a priest. The New Testament teaches that all genuine believers in this age are priests before God.

During the Old Testament times, the Biblical priest went before God on behalf of other people. He was a mediator between God and human beings. But that priesthood ceased with the finished work of Christ at Calvary. As Christ hung on the cross, the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom, indicating that anyone, not just priests, could enter the presence of God on the merit of Christís death.

So what is meant by Baptists and others who recognize the authority of the Word of God when they say that they believe in the priesthood of all believers? It means that all believers in the Church Age have the same standing before God, and all have direct access to Him through Jesus Christ. We need no human mediator to approach God. No special group of Christians today has more acceptance by God or power before God than others.

So why make a special emphasis on this privilege of each individual believer? One obvious reason is so that each believer here realizes and then obeys what Godís Word says on this subject. Another reason - there are some religious groups who still maintain that God never closed the door on the office of the priesthood, and as such it needs to remain. So which is it? Has God closed the door on the hierarchy of the priesthood as it is found in the Old Testament, or is such a hierarchy still to be in place today? Since our authority is the Word of God, we will go to it today to determine the answer and to see how God ordained to work in this special time of grace called the Church Age.

I. What Do the Scriptures Say About The Priesthood of All Believers?

A. Our priesthood is based on Christís priesthood--Hebrews 4:14-16
Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

1. These three verses present two tremendous concepts: the high priesthood of Jesus Christ and the priesthood of all believers. We cannot fully understand our position as believer-priests until we understand the position of Jesus Christ as our Great High Priest. Although we need not go through any human mediator or priest to enter Godís presence, we must go through the mediatorship of Jesus Christ.

2. The teaching that Christ is our Great High Priest, and that we are to hold fast our profession that Jesus is the Son of God, held special significance for the recipients of this letter. As Hebrew Christians, they were struggling with the temptation to return to Judaism - partly because in the Old Testament ritual they could observe a priest who mediated with God on their behalf. The temple functions kept priests active and visible, but in Christianity, no such priest functioned on behalf of others in a visible way. The author of Hebrews assures the Hebrew believers that they do have a priest. Although He cannot be seen, He truly exists and is greater than any human, Old Testament-type priest.

3. Like the Hebrew Christians, we, too, may feel the need for someone to go to God on our behalf. However, this is an unfounded feeling, because God has told us in Hebrews 4:1-16 that Jesus, the Son of God, is our Mediator. He is seated at the Father's right hand and lives forever to make intercession for us. "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus," I Timothy 2:5 assures us.

4. According to Hebrews 4:15, our High Priest is understanding and sympathetic. He is able to help us because He was tempted in every way we are. Were His temptations real? Yes, indeed! All His temptations, including those described in Matthew 4, were real. He knows what we are going through - and He can help us!

5. Though Jesus was tempted as we are, there is one major difference. He did not sin. In fact, he could not have sinned. Christ was the God-Man, simultaneously true God and genuine man. As God, He could never sin, and since His two natures were joined in one Person, He could not have sinned independently of His deity as a man. As a result, we have a Great High Priest Who knows what we are going through. Furthermore, He has invited us to come to the throne of grace with confidence. The Sovereign of the universe sits on this throne, yet we don't have to fear that He will reject us if we approach Him. At His throne we find mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.

6. Hebrews 4:1-6 establishes the basis for our priesthood. We are not directly called priests in this text, but our priesthood is still in view because we are invited to function as priests. One of our privileges and responsibilities as priests is to come to God in prayer. And we can exercise our responsibilities as priests because of the work of Christ on Calvary.

B. Our priestly privilege of prayer (Heb. 10:19-22)

1. Our Lord performed the office of high priest by offering Himself once for all. This brought forgiveness for our sin (vv. 18). Believers, therefore, have the right to enter the Holy Place based on the merits of Jesus' shed blood (v.19). This Holy Place in the Old Testament tabernacle and temple was the place of God's presence. Thus, the term "holy place" refers here to God's presence in Heaven. During Old Testament times, only the priests entered that part of the building. But now, as priests ourselves, we may freely enter God's presence.

2. We believers are priests, but there is a Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Himself, Who is over the people of God (v.21). Our response to His priesthood should include a constant appreciation of His authority, supremacy and lordship.

3. The application of our priestly privilege is found in verse 22. Because we are priests, we can draw near to God in prayer with full assurance that we are accepted by Him. We know that we have been purified by Him and can, therefore, come to Him. This shows us that one of the privileges and responsibilities of a believer-priest is to come to God in prayer. We are exhorted to "come" or to "draw near."

C. Our spiritual sacrifices as priests (1 Pet 2:5,9)

1. 1 Peter 2:5 and 9 refer specifically to believers as priests ("an holy priesthood" and "a royal priesthood"). Verse 5 begins with a construction metaphor. The Lord is building a spiritual house, and the believers are the living stones He is using in His construction. Since this "house" is made of people, the idea easily shifts to priesthood. Every believer is a part of this priesthood.

2. The priesthood is holy, set apart by God, unto God and for God's purpose. The purpose is "to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." Believer-priests in this age do not offer animal sacrifices, as the priests did during the Old Testament age. Today we offer spiritual sacrifices: doing good and communicating (sharing or fellowshipping), praising God or giving thanks to His name (Heb. 13:15. 16). God is pleased with such sacrifices; they are a sweet aroma to Him.

3. Notice two further ideas from Hebrews 13:15,16

a. These spiritual sacrifices are to be offered "continually." This may be in contrast with many of the Old Testament sacrifices that were offered at specified times. Offering spiritual sacrifices should be the typical behavior of God's children.
b. Hebrews 13 doesn't provide a complete list of spiritual sacrifices, for the writer said in verse 16 that God is pleased with "such" sacrifices. This implies that there are other sacrifices pleasing to God. Romans 12:1 indicates one of these - the sacrifice of the believer's body. Probably any obedience to a command of God or fulfillment of the will of God could become a spiritual sacrifice if it springs from a heart willing to honor God.

4. 1 Peter 2:9 calls believers "a royal priesthood." We are to proclaim the praises of God, Who has called us from darkness to light. This relates to "the sacrifice of praise" in Hebrews 13:15. These two verses in 1 Peter 2 teach us that our responsibility and our privilege as believer-priests is to pray and to offer spiritual sacrifices to God.

II. Hindrances to Fulfilling our Role as Believer-Priests through Prayer

1. Sin - Psalm 66:18 says, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me;"

2. Unhappy homes - 1 Peter 3:7 says, "Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered."

3. Lack of faith - James 1:6,7 says, "But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord."

Conclusion: Maybe you already understood this wonderful Biblical privilege that God has given to each believer before you even heard this message today, but are you and I really utilizing this position of believer-priests that God has given to us? Are we offering up to Him with our whole heart the sacrifices of praise that are due Him? Maybe we each need to take some time each day to really praise the Lord with all our heart. How about that aspect of being a priest and praying for others? How often do you pray for your other believers in this church? How about those who need Christ as their Saviour? How about the missionaries that this local church supports? When we have a time of prayer each Sunday morning, like we did today, that is a wonderful time to put to practice what we studied today. It was a privilege as well as a great responsibility for the Old Testament men to be priests. It is still a privilege and a responsibility even today for each believer here to be a priest unto God and to others. I believe we are going to have to give answer to God one day as to how we used or misused this responsibility of being believer-priests. Letís obey Godís Word.