Why Are All Christians Called Priests?
Unlike the Old Testament priest who in the name of the people offered sacrifices and entered the tent of meeting to perform worship, and the high priest who acted as an intermediary between God and the people in the Holy of Holies (e.g., in the presence of God) to offer blood sacrifices for the forgiveness of people’s sins, New Testament
believers occupy a more exalted position. They approach God with their prayers
through the sacrifice that was offered once and for all. Jesus Christ is their only mediator before God:
“For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men.”
On the basis of such mediation, the author of Hebrews encourages believers to approach God with full freedom on the basis of Jesus’ shed blood. The following citations will show parallels between the priestly ministry in the Old Testament and access to God by Christians through the Priest of a new covenant (Testament):
“When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.”
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”
“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
To anyone who knows Scripture, there is an evident parallel between the sacrificial ministry unto the Lord in the Old Testament and that of Christ in the New Testament. The High Priest entered the most holy place in the Tabernacle (Temple) with the blood of animals in the Old Testament. Christ as High Priest of the New Testament entered the most holy place in heaven before the presence of God by His very own blood. New Testament believers approach God as priests who are washed once and sanctified only by the blood of Jesus. The only sacrifice that New Testament believers as a holy priesthood can offer in this world is a godly life:
“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name.”
As we can see, Scripture teaches exactly what evangelical Christians believe – the universal priesthood of all believers under the New Covenant of Christ. Of course, this fact at least does not diminish the importance of the diversity of spiritual gifts and ministries within the Church of Christ (i.e., the diversity of the functions of different limbs of the spiritual body of Christ, Eph. 4:15-16). These Scriptures state that within the Church, there are some people with more prominent ministries and others with less visible ones, in accordance with the abilities that God gave them during physical and spiritual birth. In addition to mutual love and respect that should exhibit all the believers (Phil. 2:3), the fact remains that the Church should particularly respect those elders who preach and teach, or in the words of the apostles “to ascribe a double honor” (1 Tim. 5:17) to those elders. Nevertheless, even having mentioned all this, neither Christ nor the first apostles mention anything in the Bible about the institution of special priestly hierarchies modeled on the Old Testament. Nothing in the Bible supports the false premises of Orthodox apologists attempting to prove their existence.
In the next section of this chapter, we will concentrate on the Orthodox teaching on the establishment of the clerical hierarchy in the Apostolic Church of the first century.