Priesthood of all Believers
21st Century Theology of a Transformational Ministry as Rooted in the Biblical Priesthood of Believers
Christian ministry in all spheres necessitates sound theological foundation. For that reason, being the Executive Minister of the Davao City Alliance Gospel Church, I endeavor to articulate and synthesize the 21st century theology of ministry that provides framework in pursuing the mission of the church. The absoluteness of the biblical truths necessitates expressions consistently relevant to the context of the believing community. Consequently, sound theology determines the practice of the ministry that brings about transformational implications.
The 21st century theology of the ministry finds its fundamental origin in the biblical theology of the priesthood of all believers. The Bible both Old and New Testaments lend credence to the conceptual framework of tracing the historical identity and functions of God’s chosen people. The identity and ministry function of God’s people are fundamentally situated within the theological framework of the believers’ priesthood.
Old Testament Foundation of the Theology of Ministry
In Exodus 19:5-6, the text states, “Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words, which you shall speak to the children of Israel (NIV).” Here, God makes a covenant with all the people of Israel. Apparently, based on this text, the people become “God's possession,” and are chosen for the privilege of service.
The nature of the service was in direct connection with God's claim upon “all the earth.” Accordingly, Israel is called from among all the peoples to serve as a “kingdom of priests” and a “holy nation” on behalf of the kingdoms and nations of the world. God instituted the priesthood of Israel as a congregated unit for the purpose of service to the world. This is the vocation of the “people of God” of which each member stands under God's call, and each is accountable for his or her response to it.
Another major Old Testament passage that supports the concept of priesthood of the entire people of God is Isaiah 61:5-6 which states, “Aliens will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. And you will be called priests of the Lord, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of the nations, and in their riches you will boast.” Here, the entire people of God, the Israelites, are called to be God’s priests. As a nation, Israel is enlisted to be a kingdom of priests, that is, offering service to God.
The monarchical period, however, marks a shift in the concept of the Old Testament priesthood where a sharp distinction is made between the priestly caste and the common people. In this context, the king takes charge of everything, and, under his control, the priests become responsible for religious matters.
This era sees the rise of ritual practices and the organization of the cult that spread from the principal sanctuaries to others. As a result, the head of the families loses its ancient privilege to offer sacrifices.However, the passages mentioned above indicate that God’s original intention was for the entire nation to be a kingdom of priests (Exodus, 19:5-6; Isaiah 61:6). God instituted the levitical priesthood to represent for the entire nation in the matter of honor, privilege and obligation.
New Testament Foundation of the Theology of Ministry
Echoing the major Old Testament passages pointed out above, 1 Peter 2:9 states, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” God’s people, as the text maintains is a “royal priesthood” with no marked distinction between leaders and community members. Furthermore, the text speaks of one unified body of believers in Christ.
Verses 4 and 5 of I Peter 2 provide the backdrop to the motif of a collective priesthood. Evidently, the text speaks of a spiritual community constituting the new Israel, the only effectual priesthood. Distinctly, the above text speaks of the risen Christ who serves as that “living stone.” Christ forms around himself “a spiritual house” that is composed of those who exercise faith “like living stones,” who become the new “priesthood.”On a similar comment, Paul speaks of the body of Christ as “God's temple” where God’s Spirit dwells (I Cor. 3:16). In Paul’s logic, God's “dwelling place” on earth is no longer conceived of as a building set apart from the world, but as a people, the laos, the entire body of believers. As a matter of fact, the New Testament knows nothing of a sacerdotal priestly class in contrast to the laity. God instructs his people, i.e., all believers, to offer spiritual sacrifices individually and collectively.
The New Testament believers constitute the succession to the priesthood in old Israel, having been given the right of direct access to God through Christ. Consequently, the levitical priesthood found its fulfillment in the New Testament believers through Christ. Furthermore, the ministry in the church has replaced the ancient priesthood. Hence, all the believers in Christ are priests in the New Testament (Rom. 12:1; Phil. 2:17; 4:18; Heb. 13:15, 16; Rev. 1:5).
Theological Perspectives on “Clergy” and “Laity”
The terms laos and kleros deserve attention in relation to the study of the concept of the priesthood of believers. Etymologically, the Greek word laos means “a people for a possession,” that is, as pertaining to God. The term does not refer to “untrained” or “ordinary” people, but specifically applies to God’s entire people (Acts 15:14; Rom.9:25; 1 Pet. 2:9). On the contrary, the Greek word laikos, meaning “layman,” does not appear in the Bible.
In the New Testament there is only one ministering people with leaders, who were also members of the laos. The leaders are distinguished through their willingness to serve. The exercise of spiritual gifts equips the people of God for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). Evidently, the traditional titles of honor ascribed in the Old Testament to Israel as the “people of God,” the laos now applies to the believing community in the New Testament without reservation and without distinction. The transfer of such title from Israel to the New Testament believers is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy.The whole system of the Old Testament priesthood was typical. It was a shadow of the New Testament body of Christ. The Old Testament priests all prefigured the great Priest who offered “one sacrifice for the sins of all” (Heb. 10:10-12). Consequently, there is no more Old Testament system of priesthood. The term priest is now applied to all believers, but the concept implies no sacerdotal functions.
The word “clergy” derives from the Greek kleros, which means “lot,” “portion” or “heritage” necessitates attention.” In 1 Peter 5:3, the word in the plural means the community allotted to each presbyter. This indicates that the term refers to a functional office, not a state of life. The so-called “clergy” were allotted a special portion of work from among the whole people of God. Hence, the term “clergy” is not a special status within the body of Christ.
The New Testament usage of the word hiereus refers to the Old Testament office of "priest" (e.g., Heb. 10:11). It means a sacred or consecrated person who has been set apart for God’s service. The word presbyteros refers to the New Testament office of "elder" to whom the leadership is entrusted (e.g., 1 Pet. 5:1). In this regard, the church traces the Christian office of "priest" not to the temple priesthood (hierateia) of the Old Testament, but to the New Testament presbyteriate (presbyterion). Peter, in fact, claims himself as a “fellow elder,” not as a priest.The term kleros does not refer to any certain group of elite individuals within the church. All of God’s people are part of the “priesthood.” In a strict sense, the so-called “clergy” are members of thelaos whose ministry is directed to the believing community itself. The New Testament maintains a strong leadership. Such leadership, however, was without a class distinction between the clergy and laity. There exist differences on ministerial functions,
e.g., apostle, prophets, evangelists, teachers among others (Rom. 12, 1 Cor. 12, Eph. 4). Nonetheless, the believers’ priesthood status individually and as a community remains.
The “Priesthood of All Believers” During the Reformation Era
During the Reformation era the concept of the priesthood of all believers became very contentious within the structures of the Institutional Church. The Reformation era provides a framework in tracing the concept of the priesthood of all believers. An elucidation on how Martin Luther and John Calvin formulated the doctrine of the priesthood of believers will be dealt with in the pages to follow.
Historical Factors Leading to the Rise of the Reformation
The rise of the Reformation era owes a great deal to the theological debates on the status and role of the lay people. Through the centuries, the Roman Catholic hierarchy and other religious groups make a sharp distinction between the laity and the clergy. Such distinction was foreign to the early church where the ultimate authority in ministry traces back to the risen Lord. Believers simply depend on and share in the same ministry. Early on, Clement of Rome (95 A.D.) would appear in historical records as the first person to establish a sharp distinction between the priests from the laity. This distinction contributes decisively to the establishment of the structural hierarchy in the priesthood. Along with the structural hierarchy is the sacrament of ordination. The church in Rome imposes the sacrament of ordination that results in the marked separation between the clergy and the laity, including the evident tyranny of the former over the later.
At the dawn of the Reformation era, the institutionalized church already would have two major distinguished bodies within the community of believers: the clergy and the laity. Records show that the authority of ministry and leadership reposes in the clergy. The status of lay people, both in principle and in practice, would not only subordinate to the priests, but also widens the gap between clergy and laity. The gap became synonymous with the sacred and the profane.
Richard Norton asserts that at the core of the historical context of the Reformation was the clergy. He points out that without the officially ordained clergy there was no church. With the establishment of the hierarchical cleric, there was the church in spite of their immorality, corruption and spiritual impoverishment. Hence, during the dawn of the Reformation the church existed even without the participation of the lay people. Consequently, the Reformation rose in reaction to such conditions of the institutionalized religion.
Given this historical context, two leading personalities who would champion the biblical teaching of the priesthood of all believers rose to prominence, namely, Martin Luther and John Calvin.
Martin Luther on the Priesthood of all Believers
Martin Luther's Formulation of the Concept
During the Reformation, like the endeavors toward it in the preceding Conciliar movements, Martin Luther tolled the bell that called forth new religious awakenings. Kreamer asserts that it was mainly a movement of the lay people. Martin LutherDuring the Reformation, like the endeavors toward it in the preceding Conciliar movements, Martin Luther tolled the bell that called forth new religious awakenings. Kreamer asserts, that it was mainly a movement of the lay people.4646Martin Luther, A Treatise on Good Works [CD‑ROM] (Albany, OR: Ages Software Version 1.0, 1997), 5. For further discussion see, Kraemer, 32. Luther theologically departed from the institutional church with his concept that everyone who is baptized may maintain that he has been consecrated as priest. This principle epitomizes the concept of the priesthood of all believers. With Luther’s theology of sola gratia, sola scriptura, and sola fides, the concept of the priesthood of all believers had been proclaimed as the great formal principle of the Reformation.
John Owen points out that the concept of the priesthood of all believers occurred to Luther after he was convinced that in and through Jesus Christ a believer possessed the righteousness of God.James Atkinson also points out that for Luther, believers have immediate access to God without mediation of an arrogant Roman variety of priesthood.
Accordingly, all believers who are clothed in the perfect righteousness of God are welcomed in the presence of God.
Luther argues that the priesthood status of all believers in Christ was vitally connected with the teaching of the Scripture regarding free grace and salvation for all through faith. Luther emphasizes that believers have one baptism, alike; one gospel, one faith, and are all Christians. Such baptism, gospel and faith, alone make spiritual and Christian people.Evidently, for Luther, it is faith that makes men priests and faith that unites them to Christ. Likewise, it is faith that made believers the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, whereby they become filled with grace and heavenly power. Accordingly, Luther’s emphasis on faith undermines the Roman variety of priesthood. Luther heightens his theological stance asserting that the works of priests and members of the religious orders are not in any way more sacred in God’s sight
than those of a farmer in his field or of a woman in her household duties. It becomes apparent therefore, that for Luther, whatever vocation a believer has is sacred in the same manner as the vocation of a clergy before God.
The Roman hierarchical priesthood, along with other abuses, denied lay people their full rights and responsibility to function as God’s redeemed. By virtue of ordination, the Roman priests assumed the sole privilege of mediating believers to God and claimed as the sole dispenser of the grace of God.
On the contrary, Luther asserts that such ordination had been invented by the Church of Rome. For him, the ordination rite practiced for many ages was not to be condemned. He believed that ordination is simply a ceremony for choosing preachers in the church. Luther, however, emphasized that all Christians are priests. With Luther’s assertion, Latourette adds that what is called by the church as priesthood is simply a ministry entrusted to those who exercise it. Moreover, the exercise of such ministry requires the consent of the body of believers.
Luther’s principle of “justification of the sinner by faith,” calling the saint a sinner and the sinner a saint if accepted by God, likewise, fundamentally contradicts the principle of hierarchical priesthood.
The principle of sinners’ justification by faith in effect theoretically demolished the priestly power. Luther’s sola fides was taken in the religious realm as the foundation of the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers and in a social-political realm as the foundation of the democratic principle of equality of every person.
One of the particular abuses Luther opposed was that service to God be undertaken as good work by which a person wished to obtain God’s grace and salvation. In this way, the importance of faith in the institutional church was diminished. As a result, people wished to endow churches or to become a priest, monk or nun, instead of simply believing the gospel.
Wilhelm Pauck claims that Luther formulated the concept of the priesthood of all believers with a firm conviction that every believer is a priest, and all Christians are ministers and priests by virtue of their faith in the Word of God. This concept counters the emphasis on good works for the sake of forgiveness and salvation. Furthermore, it was a direct assault to the distinction between the clergymen and lay people.
Luther’s concept of priesthood means that every believer has the power of the keys to forgive sins, administer the sacraments and everything else a priest is capable of doing. For Luther, this means that a believer has all the spiritual powers which in Roman Catholicism, belonged only to the pope, bishops, priests, and monks.
Gordon Rupp writes the English translation of the German Brunotte’s summary of Luther’s formulation of the concept of the “priesthood of all believers.” Rupp says,
1.Before God all Christians have the same standing, a priesthood in which we enter by baptism.
2.As a brother of Christ, each Christian is a priest and needs no mediator save Christ. He has access to the Word.
3.Each Christian is a priest and has an office of sacrifice, not a mass, but the dedication of himself to the praise and obedience of God, and to bear the cross.
4.Each Christian has the duty to hand on the Gospel that he has himself received.
Based on the above summary, Luther’s concept of spiritual priesthood is evidently a status and vocation of every believer in Christ. This summary further highlights the theology of
Luther asserting that every believer in Christ by status is a priest. Cyril Eastwood’s comment in this regard is worth noting. He points out that “unless our priesthood is actually regarded as a status and vocation its significance is lost.” However, the concept of the “priesthood of all believers” for Luther did notmean, "I am my own Priest." Luther emphasized rather that in the community of saints, God has so tempered the body that the believers are all priests to each other. All the believers stand before God and intercede for one another, proclaim God's Word to one another and celebrate His presence among the believers in worship, praise and fellowship.
Luther’s priesthood concept emphasized that the priestly ministry of a believer does not terminate upon the person. Priesthood status propels believers into the world in service and witness to "show forth the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light" (I Pet. 2:9).
John Calvin on the Priesthood of All Believers
John CalvinCalvin seldom used the precise term “priesthood of all believers,” but the same emphasis is seen in his doctrine of the ministry, in the idea of vocation, and in the necessity of offering spiritual sacrifices. It is evident however that for Calvin, the believers’ priesthood is one of the direct benefits of the death of Christ. He believed that through the death of Christ believers are made righteous, worthy of the calling to the ministry of priesthood.
In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin asserts that Christ now bears the office of priest.By the eternal law of reconciliation Jesus Christ renders the Father favorable to the believers, and admits believers into the most honorable alliance of priesthood. Calvin asserts that for believers, though in themselves polluted, in Christ being priests (Rev 1:6) offer themselves to God, and freely enter the heavenly sanctuary. In Christ, the sacrifices of prayer and praise which believers present are grateful and acceptable before him. For Calvin, all Christians are called “a royal priesthood,” because by Christ believers offer that sacrifice of praise. Calvin added that through Christ, believers participate in the office of sacrificing. He based this conception on 1 Pet. 2:9 and Heb. 13:15 wherein the apostle speaks of the fruit of one’s lips, giving thanks to his name. With this assertion, Calvin was denying the possibility of any expiatory sacrifice offered by any priesthood including that of the established church. It is evident therefore, that Calvin’s theological conception radically departed from the teachings of the institutional church on priesthood.
Calvin emphasizes that Christ is the Mediator, and through Christ’s work believers offer sacrifices to the Father. For Calvin, Christ is the High Priest, who, having entered into the upper sanctuary, opens up an access for the believers. Furthermore, Christ is the altar on which believers lay gifts. Whatever believers do attempt, they may attempt in Christ for He “has made us kings and priests unto God and his Father” (Rev. 1:6). Calvin further emphasizes that every Christian is mandated to be a representative of Christ in His redemptive outreach to the world. Consequently, for Calvin, this mandate is not a prerogative on which believers can rest. It is a commission, which sends believers forth into the world to exercise a priestly ministry not only toward the Christian community, but also for others. Such priestly ministry is not exercised instead of Christ, but for the sake of Christ and at his behest.
The priesthood of all believers, as conceived by Calvin, was not only a spiritual privilege. It is also a moral obligation and a personal vocation for every believer. For Calvin, the whole church is a priesthood, not only the so-called ordained ministers. He points out that Peter’s words “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9), was given to the whole church. The Roman priesthood, however, teaches it had been said to them alone, that they alone had been purchased by the blood of Christ, that they alone had been made by Christ kings and priests unto God.Calvin’s ethical orientation for the lay people toward demonstrating the reality of their state of election has been a consequence of the “universal priesthood of the believers.” He believed that in Christ’s priestly role, believers are received by God in the office of priesthood. Calvin maintains the same view with other early Reformation leaders on basic theological teachings. These teachings include the superiority of faith over good works, the Bible as the basis of all Christian teachings, and the universal priesthood of all believers.
In summary, Calvin’s concept of universal priesthood emphasizes that all believers are considered priests. This concept appears to be the reaction of Calvin toward the Roman Catholic Church that imposed various ranks of priests. Such hierarchy of priesthood separated the clergy from lay people. Calvin’s theological conception emphasizes that the priesthood of all believers is not to be considered as some obscure bypath, but as a main road every believer frequently traveled. He regards the universal priesthood as being dependent upon the Priesthood of Christ. The ministry of priesthood is for the whole church.The concept of the universal priesthood is expressed in the worship, intercessions, witness, and service to the community.
Based on Calvin's formation, the priesthood of all believers emphasizes participation of the entire Christian community in Christ's ministry. To confess Christ's name to others is the believers’ prophetic task. To pray for their salvation is the priestly task. To disciple people is the kingly task of the believers. Apparently, Calvin’s concept of the universal priesthood of believers provides a theological foundation for the ministry. Furthermore, his formulation of the concept encourages ministerial involvement of every member of the body of Christ.
Theological Coherence of Luther and Calvin on the Priesthood of all Believers
For Calvin, the high priesthood of Christ is the point of reference for the universal priesthood of believers. It is through the priesthood of Christ that the believers are made priests. Thus, Calvin was specific. The believers’ priesthood is dependent upon the priesthood of Christ.
Luther, on the other hand, traces the concept of the priesthood of all believers from the theology of free grace and salvation for all through faith. For Luther, believers have one baptism, one gospel, and one faith. Such baptism, gospel and faith, alone make believers priests. Thus, the priesthood of all believers was made possible because of free grace and salvation for all through faith.
Calvin and Luther both emphasized on the ministry of the clergy. They consider it as a “special ministry” like the one that the laity has, and rooted on free gifts that the Holy Spirit has given to all Christians. The emphasis is not that the laity is excluded of the privilege to preach or administer sacraments, but so that the church may fulfill them in an orderly way. Ministers were set aside to serve the Church, not as those who are above the congregation, but within the universal priesthood.
Calvin emphasizes the importance of the community in matters of religious faith and practice. He fully realizes that uncontrolled private judgment means subjectivism, eccentricity, anarchy, and chaos. Therefore, believers cannot trivialize universal priesthood by equating it with modern individualism or theological minimalism.
In like manner, Luther’s formulation of the concept includes the emphasis of the community of saints. For Luther, individual believers cannot be their own priests, but are priests to each other. Hence Luther’s concept of the priesthood of all believers does not terminate upon the individual person. The emphasis on the context of the community of saints is an essential element of the concept of the priesthood of believers as formulated by Luther and Calvin.
Cyril Eastwood comments that using the phrase "priesthood of believers" a synonymous with "private judgment" is most unfortunate and is certainly a misrepresentation. "Private judgment" is always controlled, checked, and corroborated by the corporate testimony of the congregation. Grenz, on the other hand points that Luther’s conception highlights a personal experience with God. This seems to contradict the above comment of Eastwood. Yet, Grenz also emphasizes that the individual identity consisted in each person functioning in, contributing to and deriving personal identity from the group. Accordingly, the context of the Christian community from Luther and Calvin’s perspectives remains significant.
Luther and Calvin were consistent in their theological formulations, that the community of believers is a priesthood. Such priesthood is fundamentally different from the Roman variety of hierarchical clericalism. The believers’ priesthood is a status and a spiritual privilege. It is also a moral obligation and a personal vocation that every believer needs to fulfill. Based on Luther and Calvin’s formulation of the concept, all Christians have the same status and calling. Every believer is incorporated into the priesthood by baptism. Believers have direct access to God and do not need mediators except Christ. Believers have an office of sacrifice expressed in self-dedication in obedience to Christ.
All believers, therefore, have equal privilege and responsibility as God’s redeemed people. Such privilege and responsibility were previously thought of as exclusive property of the hierarchical priesthood. Such teachings were opposed by the major reformers. Hence, the theology and practice of the established religion during the Reformation encountered the most theologically formidable critiques in Luther and Calvin. The concept of the priesthood of all believers is a precious and irreducible part of the Reformation heritage. It is a call to ministry and service; it is a barometer of the quality of life for every believer in the Body of Christ and of the coherence of their witness in the world.
Stanley Grenz asserts that the Reformers did not invent the idea of the believers’ priesthood. Their teaching arises from the New Testament. The Scripture spoke of all believers as priests (1 Pet. 2:5; Rev. 1:6; 5:10; 20:6), who may approach the throne of grace through Christ (Heb. 4:15-16; 10:19-20). The believers were to acknowledge no exclusive mediatory hierarchy among them (Matt. 23:8-12; Mark 10:42-44; 1 Tim. 2:5). Each believer has the privilege and responsibility to engage in priestly functions such as offering spiritual sacrifices to God (Heb. 13:15; Rom. 12:1; 1 Pet. 2:9), and interceding for others (1 Tim. 2:1-2; 2 Thess. 3:1; James 5:15).
The “Priesthood of All Believers” During the Modern Era
The priesthood of all believers in the modern era delves into the study of the theology within the context of ecclesiology and within the context of the broader Christian community. It is noted in the previous section that controversy existed in the Reformation era regarding the status and functions of the lay people. It may be significant to consider that in the modern era, churches showed more concern regarding the position of lay people. The lay people in history were marginalized institutionally. However, there appears to be an increasing recognition to their status and function in the modern era.The growing concern to recapture the status and function of the lay people is a positive development with regards to the concept of the priesthood of all believers. Furthermore, the development indicates that the institutional church who previously opposed the believers’ priesthood now affirms the scriptural authenticity of the concept in the modern era. The context of ecclesiology and the context of the broader Christian community provide a framework in tracing the concept in the modern era.
The “Priesthood of All Believers” Within the Context of Ecclesiology
Modern scholars trace the concept of the “priesthood of all believers” within the context of ecclesiology. Howard Snyder for example is convinced that biblical theology is impossible without biblical ecclesiology. This indicates that the concept in the modern era is often articulated within a theological premise. Timothy George substantiates this assertion that priesthood of believers is really a part of the doctrine of the church.
As noted earlier, the church is a universal priesthood. The believers in Christ are priests, and all are ministers. The universal priesthood applies to those who, through repentance and faith, have been admitted into the covenant of grace and, consequently, have been made participants in the priestly ministry of their Mediator, Jesus Christ. The theology of the ministry as rooted in the priesthood of all believers is traceable to the following metaphors of the church often used in the modern era: the people of God, the body of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit. These metaphors express the identity and unity of the body of believers in Christ as priests.
The People of God
The church is the people of God.Hans Kung for instance, asserts that all believers, in fundamental equality, are the church and are members of the people of God. For Kung, the whole people is to be a priesthood, belonging to and sharing in Christ’s dignity. Kung emphasizes that all people who believe in Christ from every nation now belong to the priestly people of God.
Membership of God’s people goes beyond specific ethnic group. Believers in Christ from all over the world are called to belong to God. The church therefore as people of God, is an international fellowship comprised from “every tribe and language and peoples and nation” Rev. 5:9).
In the modern era theologians are concerned about the visible unity of the church. It is argued that membership in the church, the body of Christ, not membership of any denominational affiliation, constitutes the fundamental identity for the people of God. Belonging to the “people of God” does not depend on earning acceptance, but on receiving freely of the love of God. Snyder echoes a similar concept pointing that the church is essentially the community of God’s people. An organization, biblical faith, program, or buildings are simply components of the church. Grimes considers these components as “settings” in which the modern functions of the church are seen.By faith in Christ, believers become the true people of God. “Once you were no people but now you are God’s people” (1 Pet. 2:10). Consistent with the historical assertions, believers are seen as the people of God. Regardless of race, believers in Christ have become God’s own people (2 Cor. 6:16-18; Rom. 9:6, 23-25).
The Body of Christ
The Church is the body of Christ.Christ is the head of the body; therefore, the church is subject unconditionally to Him. As the head Christ must be understood as the fountain of the believer’s lives and the giver of strength to the body. Members of the body of Christ are important and have a part to play. Thus, every believer is important, not just a few especially distinguished members.
On the basis of fundamental equality, every member has equal dignity and functions. Through the knowledge and experience of Jesus, every believer became part of the body of Christ, the church. By virtue of Christ’s priesthood, the church itself became a priesthood. The priesthood of Jesus Christ has been expanded to include the whole body of believers. Every believer in the church, all the people of God, belongs to the priestly order. Winston Pearce asserts that anyone who has voluntarily believed in Christ is incorporated into Christ’s body, into priesthood. Likewise, Grenz maintains that the ministry of priesthood is shared by all. As members of Christ’s body, each one entered into a covenant relationship with the head, accepting the obligations and benefits.
Every believer has distinctive and irreplaceable functions in the totality of the body. This indicates a kind of collectivism which contests church imperialism. The church therefore, cannot be understood as being constituted by a few elite members. As members of the body of Christ, all are important. There are no first and second class parts in Christ’s body.
Believers are united with Christ as the head of the body (Col. 2:18-19). As the body of Christ, believers are also interconnected to each other (1 Cor. 12:12). Moreover, every believer contributes to the others (Eph. 4:14-16; Gal. 6:2). Hence, the believers in Christ is a unified and universal entity whose membership defies qualifications such as race or nationality (Col. 3:11).
Modern scholars employ several scripture texts emphasizing the church as the body of Christ. Such texts include 1 Cor. 12:13 referring to “the one body” and Eph. 2:16; 4:4, to “one body” specifically referred to as “the body of Christ.” 1 Cor. 12:27and Eph. 4:12 further strengthen the claim. Louis Berkhof even regards this metaphor as a complete definition of the church.
The Temple of the Spirit
The Church is the temple of the Holy Spirit. This metaphor emphasizes that the body of believers has become a temple of God because the Spirit of God indwells in them. As a temple of God, a believer is holy; he or she belongs to God. The people of God as a unified body is a spiritual house (1 Pet. 2:5; Eph. 2:22) and a dwelling of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:9).
God is building a holy temple of universal dimensions as a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. As a spiritual house, the church underscores the character of the
people of God, a holy priesthood. Being the temple of the Holy Spirit, the believers are led, taught, and supported by the Holy Spirit directly without mediation.
The Holy Spirit has been given not just to a few, but to the whole priestly community. The whole people, filled by the Holy Spirit, is a priesthood. The Holy Spirit vivifies and quickens the temple through individual believers. Grenz concludes that the focal point of God’s presence is no longer a special building, but a fellowship of His people. The church is indwelt by the Holy Spirit as individual believers and collectively as a body. The physical building is no longer perceived as the house of God, but the believers in Christ. The physical building, although important, is no longer called a “holy place,” rather it is the believers in Christ who are called to be a holy people. God intends that his dwelling should be his people, rightly referred as the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16). The three metaphors presented above emphasize a unified body of believers who belong to God, enjoying the same status, dignity, and responsibility as priests. Consequently, the metaphors delineate the concept of the believer’s priesthood in the modern era. Furthermore, these metaphors describe the identity and unity of the believers in Christ without a hint of hierarchical distinction. Hence, in the modern era, the concept of the priesthood of all believers is asserted within the context of ecclesiology.
The “Priesthood of All Believers” within the Context of a Broader Christian Community
The concept of the priesthood of all believers is evident within the context of the broader Christian community. In locating the believers’ priesthood within the context of the broader Christian community, the following categories are utilized, namely; unified identity, corporate responsibility, glocalized applicability, ministerial practicability, and methodological diversity.
As emphasized, the identity of the believers is described in Scripture as the “people of God,” and “royal priesthood.” This is a unified identity that refers to the entire believing community, indicating the absence of dichotomy from within the body. The scriptural distinctiveness of believers as affirmed in history remains normative in the modern era.
The picture of the believers in Christ is not of two separate groups - the “professional clergy” and “ordinary laity,” but rather the whole people of God. The clergy-laity dichotomy was an undesirable development of church history. It marked a drift away from biblical faithfulness. The affirmation of the identity of the believers as priests is essential toward the modern conception of the Christian community. This is similar to the formulations of Luther and Calvin that the church is a company of believers who are priests called by God to minister in the world.
The emphasis is the unified identity of the broader Christian community. The importance of the individual believer largely anchored in the person’s role as a microcosm of the whole and as functioning element within the whole. With this assertion, the personal identity is derived from the group, the unified identity of the believers as priests.
God’s calling for the community of believers is always a corporate concept. It has an intensely personal element, but it is never isolated individualism. Every believer is expected to function as a faithful and responsible part of the community (Eph. 2:19f, Rom. 12:4). This speaks of a personal implication of God’s call to the entire people of God. Evidently, what is true of the entire people of God as a community is equally true to all its members. With this regard, the significance of the responsibility is reduced when the community diminishes the privileges of each member. In the same way, the effect of the privilege is hindered when the responsibility is not emphasized.
Christians in modern times are faced with a challenge toNormative Biblical Identity grapple with the truth regarding the priesthood of all God’s people. Each believer is a priest and thus, each one is called toward the ministry.The gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to the whole people of God as priests for the ministry.
The entire church is given the authority to baptize. Thus, every Christian has the power to baptize. Even the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is a charge given to the whole church. Every Christian is empowered to take an active role in serving the meal.
Lawrence Richards and Gilbert Martin argue that the lack of emphasis on the status and responsibility of every believer is a cause for failure of the church to reach the world with the gospel.
The modern era conceives that every believer is a minister, servant and priest of God. Every believer is called to ministry and all God’s people needs to be equipped to minister.
The concept of the priesthood of believers in a modern era goes beyond the experience of personal privilege and freedom. It also means responsibility and servanthood.
Moltmann asserts that the community of the baptized is the people of those who have been called. All are called and commissioned for eternal life, the glory of the kingdom and messianic fellowship, charged to live in the messianic presence of this eschatological future and to bear witness to it. There are no distinctive divisions within the body of believers because God’s call is not just for a few, but to all believers.All believers are gifted.This truth becomes especially clear when theologians inquire into the concept of the priesthood of all believers. The New Testament used the word “priest,” but it does not connote any special priestly class. The same idea is affirmed by theologians like Moltmann and Erickson among others in the modern Era.
The concept of the priesthood of all believers in the modern era emphasized glocalized applicability.Theologizing tasks in the modern era employs a glocalized paradigm. Pannenberg for example asserts that in doing theology, each theologian should have in mind the global Christian community and do the task of theologizing within one’s particular context. The theologian needs to caution oneself not to be caught in the particularity of that context, but to express what can claim universal truth.The concept of the priesthood of all believers then is a universal truth that can be applied within a certain locality. Consequently, within the various dimensions of God's creation every domain is an avenue for the application of the believers’ priesthood. This means that believers do have positive contributions to culture where ever he or she is situated by God.
The concept of the priesthood of all believers in the modern era includes the idea that the people of God can engage legitimately in cultural works. Saucy refers to this as the universality of ministry that manifests the beauty and harmony of God’s creation. Thus, the ministerial call of the people of God includes all good work in the world that glorifies God.
All aspects of life are proper spheres of sacred service. With this conception, the theoretical distinction between the “religious” and “secular” may be eliminated eventually. This may occur as believers in the modern era are more advocative of God’s call by making use of their God-given capacity for the ministry in their own sphere of influence. The corporate and personal elements of God’s call require each believer to reflect theologically in a certain locality but with a global perspective.
Every place where a believer is located is a place of ministry. This means that every activity of the people of God in the world, whether public or private, business or pleasure, labor or leisure, social or political, is a religious activity.Modern Christian movements acknowledge the concept of a ministry that calls every believer to the service of Christ not only in the local church but also in the marketplace and in the global context. The ministry of this community is rendered in the world. It is performed in the daily lives of its people, in their participation and involvement in the structures of a complex society, in their sacrificial obedience in "worldly affairs," in their mission to the world. This suggests that the involvement of the believers from the theological perspective goes beyond the four corners of the local church. As noted earlier, the concept is of universal value, but the application of the concept may be localized.
Roman Catholics maintain the hierarchical distinction between ordained and non-ordained as consistent to their theology of apostolic succession. They are opposed to the perception that sacramental ordination took place later in history, which could lead to the Protestant thesis that the idea of such ordination was simply cultural.
The concept of the sacramental ordination in the Roman church maintains the hierarchical distinction between the clergy and laity. Evangelicals are contesting the idea of sacramental ordination within the apostolic succession and separate order of priesthood whose titles suggest elitism. In the modern Era, the use of the titles such as “Reverend” or “Clergy” and like terms are still common. Such titles continue to allude to the traditional hierarchical distinction that finds traces even among modern evangelicals.
Jon Zens suggests that the use of these titles should be subjected to further theological inquiry, as they tend to reinforce unbiblical patterns. These titles may appear difficult to avoid because they have become culturally embedded. Nonetheless, adhering to Jon Zens’ suggestion, a conscious effort is needed. Continues adherence to such traditional titles to
some extent inhibits believers from affirming their status as priests.Following the New Testament pattern, there is clear evidence that leaders take care of the body of believers. With this pattern, Christian leaders serve as catalysts in fulfilling God’s call to the ministry. This is in view of Christ’s model of leadership in taking the role of a servant, leading the laos to spiritual maturity and equipping members for ministry. God’s people in turn, are to equip others and the work continues until Christ comes.
Moltmann suggests that those who are in ministerial leadership must resist the tendency to professionalize ministry to an ever-greater extent and insists that the service of the people of God be shared by all. This suggestion is an affirmation that all believers are called to the ministry as members of one body having equal status and responsibility. The concept, therefore, carries the idea of ministerial practicability as leaders, and everyone affirms their calling and appropriates their giftedness.
About the Author
Levi P. Quir, M. Div. Th. D
Dr. Quir is the Executive Minister of Davao City Alliance Gospel Church since 2003 and was ordained as minister by the Christian and Missionary Alliance Churches of the Philippines (CAMACOP, Inc.). Sixteen years of his extensive ministry experience includes teaching, pastoring and leadership training. He had his short-term Mission exposure to Malaysia, Brunei and Thailand. He earned his Doctor of Theology (Th. D.) in Systematic Theology in 2003. He is married to Rosalinda with two children.
The word “priest” comes from the Hebrew noun kohen that is used 741 times in the Old Testament. Kohen means to act as God’s priests or servants. Even before the institution of the high priesthood and priestly office, there were records of priesthood like that of Melchizedek in Gen. 14:18 and of the Midianite "priests" in Exod. 2:16; 3:1; 18:1. Exod. 19:24 mentions other "priests." Vine argues that the priestly functions were performed in pre‑Mosaic times by the head of the family, such as Noah, Abraham, and Job. For example, in Gen. 8:20‑21, Noah built an altar to the Lord after the Flood. At Bethel, Mamre, Moriah, and Abraham built altars. Gen. 22:12‑13 states that Abraham was willing to offer his son as a sacrifice. In Job 1:5, Job offered up sacrifices for his sinning children. See Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, (1985), s.v. “Priests.” This description is substantiated in, Dictionary of the Bible vol. 4, s.v. “Priests and Levites.” Cf. John I. Durham, Word Biblical Commentary: Exodus (Waco, TX: Wod Books Publishers, 1987), 262-63. For further details, Unger’s Bible Dictionary (1985), s.v. “Priesthood.”
Walter B. Shurden, The Doctrine of the Priesthood of Believers (Nashville, TN: Convention Press, 1987), 14.
The term “people” comes from the Hebrew word ‘Am which means “people as a congregated unit.” A specific example is the tribe as those of Israel, collectively, troops or attendants. Figuratively, a flock. The New Testament equivalent is the word laos like in 1 Pet. 2:9 that connotes the same meaning. See Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionary, (1994), s.v “people.”
In the earliest known social pattern of ancient Israel, priests as a class did not exist. Any Israelites man could present offerings to God, usually the eldest son or a tribal leader, e.g., Abraham (Gen. 22:13); Isaac (Gen. 26:25); Jacob (Gen. 33:20); Gideon (Judg. 6:25); and Manoah (Judg. 13:16-19). This provides a picture of the cultural practices of the ancient Israel. The society respects the eldest men and had given them the prerogative to offer sacrifice on behalf of the family or community. See Harper’s Bible Dictionary, s.v. “Priests.” This claim is substantiated in,A Dictionary of Life in Bible Times (1960), s.v. “Priests.” Cf. Paul D. Hanson, The People Called: Growth of Community in the Bible (San Francisco, CA: Harper and Row Publishers, 1986), 35, 39-40. John F. Walwood and Roy B. Zuch, The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the Old Testament (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 138. For further details see Thomas W. Gillespie, “The Laity in Biblical Perspective,” Theology Today vol. 36 no 3, (October 1979), [Journal on-line]; available from http://theology today.ptsem.edu/oct1979/v36-3-article.htm; Internet; accessed 12 February 2002, 2-3. Cf. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, “Priests and Levites.”
John D. W. Watts, Word Biblical Commentary: Isaiah 34-66 (Waco TX: Word Books Publishers, 1987), 304. God covenanted with all the people and declared them to be His priests. His specific invitation was for all the Israelites to relate to and to act and act for God and made Himself known to them. See Shurden, 14.
Shurden, 26-27. Isaiah 61:5-6 suggests that the Israelites, the people of God will serve Yahweh as His "priests." See Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Data Base, [CD-ROM] (Biblesoft, 1997).
George Arthur Buttrick, ed., The Interpreters Bible: Isaiah (New York, NY: Abingdon Press, 1956) 712-13. Cf. Dictionary of the New Testament Theology (1978), s.v. “High Priest.”
The Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible(1991), s.v. “Priests and Levites.”
The Aaronic priesthood was selected for the purpose, till Christ came to fulfill his ministry in offering up himself. Dictionary of the Bible (1963), s.v. “Priests and Levites.”
The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Biblevol. 4, 1978 ed., s.v. “Priests and Levites.” The levitical priesthood did not release the rest of the people from their honor, and obligation as intended by God. Ibid.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1986 ed., “Priesthood of Believers.” Cf. J. Ramsey Michaels, Word Biblical Commentary: 1 Peter (Waco, TX: Word Book Publishers, 1988), 107-12. For more discussion see Bo Reicke, The Anchor Bible: The Epistles of James, Peter and Jude (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company Inc., 1964), 93.
“Priest” from the Greekhiereus means the "one who offers sacrifice and has the charge of things pertaining thereto," is used (a) of a "priest" of the pagan god Zeus (Acts 14:13); (b) of Jewish "priests" (Matt. 8:4; 12:4,5; Luke 1:5), where allusion is made to the 24 courses of "priests" appointed for service in the Temple; (c) of believers (Rev. 1:6; 5:10; 20:6). All believers, from Jews and Gentiles, constitute “a kingdom of priests” (Rev. 1:6), and “holy priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). See Vine's s.v. “Priests.” Cf. Dictionary of the New Testament Theology, vol. 3 (1978), s.v. “High Priest.”
Peter H. Davis, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The First Epistle of Peter (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990), 90-93. Cf. Dictionary of the Bible (1963), s.v. “Priesthood in the New Testament.” For more details see George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreters Bible (New York, NY: Abingdon Press), 108.
As the whole congregation of Israel was formerly considered as the temple of God, so the whole Church is called the temple of God, because believers have God=s Spirit dwelling in them. Adam Clark, Clarke’s Commentary of the New Testament, vol. 7: Romans Through Colossians [CD-ROM] (Albany, OR: Book for the Ages, 1997), 468.
Gillespie, 5. The laos also appears in I Cor. 3:16, 19; Eph. 2:20-22; Heb. 13:10-16. A corollary of the doctrine of the priesthood of Christ is the New Testament application of “priesthood” to the whole company of the faithful in the church. The church is made one with Christ indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
Dictionary of the New Testament Theologyvol. 3 (1978), s.v. “High Priest.” Cf. Hustings Dictionary of the Bible (1989), s.v. “Priest in the New Testament.” George Huston Williams argues that it is a misconception to imagine that the universal priesthood of all believers betokened anciently an amorphous and egalitarian fellowship. This concept suggests, rather, a strenuously self-disciplined company of believers who as a royal priesthood programmatically appropriated selected parts of the ethical code of the superseded priestly caste, sharpening its structures by interiorization and democratization. At the same time, as a priestly kingdom, alluded with Messianic authority other parts of the Law, confident that they would soon be co-ruling with Christ and judging all things, judged by none. See George Huntston Williams, “The Ancient Church” in The Layman in Christian History, edited by S. C. Niell and H. R. Weber (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, 1963), 27-28.
W. Robertson Nicoll, The Expositors Greek Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1951), 55. For more details see Williams, 31.
See The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible vol. 4, (1978 ed.), s.v. “Priests and Levites.”
The people which God has secured as a possession belongs only to him. They are special as being His; and, being such, it may be inferred that they should be special in the sense of being unlike others in their manner of life. See Nicoll, 57. Cf. Barnes Notes on the Bible, [CD-ROM] (Rio, WI USA: Ages Software, 2000), 233.
Jey J. Kanagaraj, “The Involvement of the Laity in the Ministry of the Church,” Evangelical Review of Theology 21 no. 4 (October 1997): 327. Cf. Jon Zens, “The Clergy/ Laity Distinction: A Help or a Hindrance to the Body of Christ?” available from http://www.searchingtogether.
Laosappeared 140 times in the New Testament. The term is used in a literal and imaginistic sense to refer to the people of God. See Geoffrey W. Bromiley, ed.Theological Dictionary of the New Testament vol. 4, (1967), s.v. “Laos.” Cf. Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933), 98-99.
Edge, 36. For further discussion see Robert Banks and R. Paul Stevens, Complete Book of Everyday Christianity, Intervarsity Press, 2000; available from http://www.ivmdl. org/cbec.cfm?study=74; Internet; accessed 14 April 2002, 2.
Allan Richardson, ATheological Word Book of the Bible (New York, NY: The Macmillan Company, 1951), 214. Cf. Harpers Bible Dictionary, 1959 ed., s.v. “Priest.”
Romans 9:24-26 states, “Even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles as he says in Hosea: I will call them ‘my people’ whom are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” and, “It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” If Christ is the fulfillment of the Law, His community is the true laos, the true Israel (Gal. 6:6; 1 Cor. 10:18; Rom. 9:6), the true seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:29); Rom. 9:7f.), the true circumcision (Phil. 3:3), and, the true temple (1 Cor. 3:16). These phrases expressed a certainty which historically binds the Christian community and its religious heritage just as firmly to the Old Testament community on the basis of Christ’s redemption . See Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967), s.v. “Laos.”
Robin Keeley, Eerdman’s Handbook to Christian Beliefs, s.v. “Priesthood.”
See Easton Bible Dictionary (1996), s.v “priest.”
Kanagaraj, 327. For further clarification of the term see Hans Kung, The Church (Garden City, New York: Image Books, 1976), 492-94. Cf. Strongs Hebrew/Greek Dictionary, s.v. “Kleros.”
Avery Dulles, Models of the Church (New York: NY: Image Books Doubleday, 1987), 161-62.
“Do Catholics Reject the Priesthood of Believers?” Available from http://members.aol.com/uticacw/baptist/ other3.html; Internet; accessed 5 August 2002. See Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words. For further discussion see Anthony Pezzota, Truth Encounter (Makati City, Philippines: Foreign Mission Board, 1996), 89.
Dean Flemming, “The Clergy/Laity Dichotomy: A New Testament Exegetical and Theological Analysis,” AsiaJournal of Theology 8, no. 2 (October 1994): 233. See Wolfhart Pannenberg, The Church (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, 1997), 23.
The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 4 (1992), s.v. “Ministry in the Early Church.” Cf. Gillespie, 4-5.
Johannes Daniel Englebrecht, “The Ministry of the laity in the Apostolic Faith” D. Miss. diss., Fuller Theological Seminary, 1996, 2. See also, Robert A. Baker, A Summary of Christian History (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 11; Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary (1986), s.v. “Priesthood.” For further discussion see Eugene E. Carpenter and Philip W. Comfort, Holman Treasury of the Bible (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 141. Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church vol. 2, [CD-ROM] (Albany, OR: AGES Software Version 1.0, 1997), 118. Theodore A. Gill, “Priesthood of Believers” Available from http://theologytoday.ptsem.edu/oct1958/v15-3-article1.htm; Internet; accessed 5 August 2002. Timothy Dudley-Smith, ed., Authentic Christianity: From the Writings of John Stott (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 280.
Iraneus (A.D. 130-200) prior to the Reformation argues that all the righteous possessed sacerdotal rank and all disciples of the Lord are Levites and priest. See David Haney, The Lord and His Laity (Nasville, TN: Broadman Press, 1978), 31.
The New International Dictionaryof the Christian Churchvol. 3 (1978), s.v. “laity.”
Ibid. For more details see George Arthur Buttrick, ed., The Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 3. (Nasville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1962), 890.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1986 ed., s.v. “Priesthood in the New Testament.” For further discussion see Haney, 41.
The widening distinction between the clergy and laity had its earlier trace in 306 AD when the Council of Elvira had declared that bishops, priests and deacons must remain unmarried. Celibacy then became the most common symbol of bodily self-denial. This form of asceticism often finds excesses such as discrimination to those who do not practice such. Even in the early years of the practice of celibacy, there were already those who took a firm stand against it. One example is a Roman Christian named Jovinian in the 390s who argued that unmarried Christians are not superior to those are married. Those who fast are not better than those who eat while giving thanks to God. Jovinian emphasized that on the day of judgment all faithful Christians will enjoy an equal degree of blessedness. See William C. Placher, A History of Christian Theology (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, 1983), 124.
Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity: Reformation to the Present, vol 2 (New York, NY: Harper and Row, 1953), 713-14.
Hendrik Kraemer,A Theology of the Laity (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, 1958), 51.
John McManners, The Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), 580. Also see Kraemer, 54. Such historical distinction corresponds to Eliade=s finding in his religious studies of the “sacred” and the “profane.” See Mircea Eliade, ed., The Encyclopedia of Religion(1989), s.v. “Sacred and Profane.”
Norton notes that the community of the faithful was led by an entrenched hierarchy in which there were numerous grades of clerics, each with rights and duties. All clerics were headed up by bishops, and finally by the pope at Rome. This hierarchy held the keys that unlocked or barred heavens door to the common people. Ibid., 61-62.
Patrick Collinson, “Late Medieval Church and Its Reformation,” in The Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity, 245.
Martin Luther,ATreatise on Good Works [CD-ROM] (Albany, OR: Ages Software Version 1.0, 1997), 5. For further discussion see Kraemer, 32.
There are three fundamental principles of the Reformation: the supremacy of the Scriptures over tradition, the supremacy of faith over works, and the supremacy of the Christian people over an exclusive priesthood. The first may be called the objective, the second the subjective, the third the social or ecclesiastical principle. See Schaff, 23.
Kraemer, 62. Luther testified, “Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that the just shall live by his faith. Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through sheer grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. There upon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise.” See Ronald H. Bainton, Here I Stand (Nashville, TN: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1950), 59.
John Owen, The Doctrine of Justification by Faith [CD-ROM] (Albany, OR: Ages software Version 2.0, 1997), 70, 825.
James Atkinson, Introduction to the History of Christianity (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1995), 367-71.
P. G. Matthew. “The Priesthood of all Believers” Grace Valley Christian Center Homepage, 1-2; available from http: //www.den.davis.ca.us/go/gvee/articles/ Priesthood. html; Internet; accessed 26 November 2000.
Martin Luther, Preface to the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans. [CD-ROM] (Albany, OR: Ages Software Version 1.0, 1997), 6. Luther’s idea of the general priesthood led to the emancipation of the laity from priestly control and their participation in the affairs of the Church, although this has been but very imperfectly carried out in Protestant state churches. It destroyed the distinction between higher (clerical and monastic), and lower morality; it gave sanctity to the natural relations, duties, and virtues; it elevated the family as equal in dignity to virginity; it promoted general intelligence, and sharpened the sense of individual responsibility to the Church. Cf. Schaff, 29.
Ibid. For more details see Atkinson, 372.
Martin Luther, A Treatise on Good Works [CD-ROM] (Albany, OR: Ages software Version 2.0, 1997), 3-6, 18. Cf. Martin Luther, The Larger Catechism [CD-ROM] (Albany, OR: Ages software Version 1.0, 1997), 30.
Martin Luther, Table Talk [CD-ROM] (Albany, OR: Ages software Version 1.0, 1997), 231. The actual struggle of Luther with the Roman Catholic Church began in 1517, when he posted the Ninety-five Theses on the door of the castle in Wittenberg. That is where he publicly questioned the church practice of granting indulgence and even the power of the papacy. See Martin Luther, The 95 Theses [CD-ROM] (Albany, Or: Ages software Version 1.0, 1997). For related comments see Stanley Grenz, The Moral Quest: Foundation for Christian Ethics (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 153.
Luther, The 95 Theses. For further discussion see Latourette, 714. The Radical Reformers were the ones who systematized Luther’s teachings on concept of the priesthood of all believers. The Radical Reformers along with their followers used the concept of the priesthood of all believers to support their call for structural change in the Western Christianity. See Samuel J. Mikolaski, “The Contemporary Relevance of the Priesthood of All Christians” in Southwestern Journal of Theology 30, no. 2 (Spring 1988): 8.
Norbert V. Becker. Laymen: The Hope of the Church (Quezon City, Philippines: New Day Publishers, 1974), 21-22.
William R Burrows, New Ministries: The Global Context (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1981), 75.
Luther, Preface to the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans, 16. Latourette, 713.
Luther, Preface to the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans, 4-7. Cf. Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. 3. (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1967), 13.
Martin Luther, The Smalcald Articles [CD-ROM] (Albany, OR: Ages software Version 1.0, 1997), 8. Tillich argues that hierarchy such as the holy order of rulers, disposed in rank of sacramental power. The reality is seen as a pyramid of levels following each other in vertical direction according to the power of being and their grade of value. This is also referred to political, social, and economic inequalities and forms of suppression and exploitation which destroy the potentialities for humanity individually and as a group. For Tillich, the church’s prophetic word must be heard against such form of inhumanity and injustice. See Tillich, 13, 212-216.
Wilhelm Pauck, “The Ministry in the Time of Continental Reformation,” in The Ministry in Historical Perspective, edited by H. Richard Neighbor and Daniel D. Ahlstrom (New York, NY: Harper and Row Publishers, 1983), 111.
Wilhelm Pauck asserts that Luther’s formulation of the concept of the priesthood of all believers is a social one. The believer is expected to transmit to others the power of the gospel that has laid hold on him. He must express his faith in loving social action and thereby communicate it to others. All believers are ministers and as such, they have to but bring about a new kind of society. Pauck, 112.
Luther, The Larger Catechism, 27.
Gordon Rupp, “The Age of the Reformation” in The Layman in Christian History, edited by S. C. Neill and H. R. Weber (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, 1963), 139.
The peasants during Luther’s time believed that priesthood of all believers applied especially to them. The concept potentially became dynamite in the hand of the unrestrained masses. See Carlyle Marney, Priest to Each Other (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1974), 9.
Luther was opposed to the priesthood which assumes the sole mediator to God by receiving indulgence from the people, confessions, assuring absolution of sins. The Roman priests, then, were considered having exclusive privilege of performing all the religious duties. The Dictionary of the Bible and Religion, 1986 ed., s.v. “Priests.”
Cyril Eastwood, The Priesthood of All Believers: An Examination of the Doctrine from the Reformation to the Present Day (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1962), 64.
Timothy George, “The Priesthood of All Believers and the Quest for Theological Integrity,” available from http://www.founders.org/FJ03/article1_fr.html; Internet; accessed 26 November 2000.
Luther, The Larger Catechism, 49.
Hans J. Hillerbrand, The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, vol. 1 (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1996), 238.
John Calvin, Institute of the Christian Religion Book 2. Masters Christian Library, ver. 8, [CD-ROM] (Rio, WI USA: Ages Software, 2000), 370. For Calvin, believers in Christ are all endued with priestly honor: therefore, they can appear with boldness in the presence of God. Ibid.
Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 2, 524.
John R. Crawford, “Calvin and the Priesthood of All Believers,” Scottish Journal of Theology 21 (1968): 145-56.
Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 2, 524. For further discussion see Eastwood, 68-69.
Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 4, 1452.
John Calvin, The Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews, [CD-ROM] (Albany, OR: AGES Software Version 1.0, 1996), 101. Cf. Eastwood, 87.
Calvin argues that the Papal priesthood is spurious; for it has been framed in the workshop of men. The Pope ordains his priests= sacrificing, the book of Hebrews denies its lawfulness. Ibid. 101-02.
Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 2, 475. For more discussions see Ibid., Book 4, 1452-53.
George, 6. For Calvin, it is through the sole mediatorial work of Christ as the eternal high priest that believers are given the access to God. Calvin, The Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews, 95.
Eastwood, 70-71, 90.
See Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion Book 4, 1477.
Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion Book 2, 475. Through Christ’s priesthood, the succession of the hierarchical priesthood is abolished. Ibid. Cf. Matthew, 2.
“The Protestant Reformation in Scotland,” available from http://www.dwilliamso.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/protest ascotland.htm; Internet; accessed 24 July 2002.
See Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion Book 4, 1477.
Joel Beeke, “John Calvin as Teacher of Evangelism,” available from http://www.credo quarterly.com/evan1.htm; Internet; accessed, 24 July 2002.
Controversy exists regarding Calvin’s view on Christian witness or evangelism. Some say that Roman Catholicism kept the evangelistic torch of Christianity lit via the powerful forces of the papacy and the monasteries, while Calvin tried to extinguish it. Others assert that Calvin was responsible for relighting the torch of biblical evangelism during the Reformation. Ibid.
George, 6. The notion that the Western form of individualism introduced into Christianity is traceable to the Reformation is therefore a misinterpretation of the Reformer’s concept. An example to this misinterpretation is what Robert L. Saucy states that because all believers comprise the priesthood of the New Testament church, no particular group may be interposed between any believer and God. Robert L. Saucy, The Church in God’s Program (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1972), 117. See Burrows, 61-62.
StanleyGrenz, The Moral Quest: Foundation for Christian Ethics (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 160.
StanleyGrenz, Theology for the Community of God (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994), 555.
For further discussion see Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, 555.
The New International Dictionaryof the Christian Church(1978), s.v. “Laity.”
Howard Snyder, Liberating the Church: The Ecology of Church and Kingdom (Basingstoke, UK: Marshall Morgan and Scott, 1983) 9. Snyder believes that Protestants have always held, at least theoretically, to the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. Ibid., 169.
Timothy Dudley-Smith, ed. Authentic Christianity: From the Writings of John Stott. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995 291.
John Driver traces the image of the church as people of God from the Old Testament up to the post-apostolic church. See John Driver, Images of the Church in Mission (Scottdale, PN: Herald Press, 1997), 126-38.
Kung,The Church, 473.
The term “people of God” emphasizes the equal dignity and privilege of all members. See David Watson,I Believe in the Church (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1978), 75.
Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, 466.
Paul Schrotenboer, “An Evangelical Response to Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry,” Evangelical Review of Theology 13, no. 4 (October 1989): 292-93.
Watson, 76. The primary emphasis is on the unity of believers with Christ. George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), 545.
Howard Snyder, Liberating the Church, 17.
Howard Grimes, The Rebirth of the Laity, (New York, NY: Abingdon Press, 1962), 66.
James Leo Garrett, Systematic Theology: Biblical Historical & Evangelical vol. 2 (Grand rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing company, 1995), 468. For further discussion see Watson, 78-83.
OrlandoE Costas, The Church and Its Mission: A Shattering Critique from the Third World (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1976), 25-29.
Ibid., 26. Cf. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, 466.
Hans Kung, The Church (Garden City, New York: Image Books, 1976), 474.
In the modern era, the concept of priesthood negates the hierarchical distinction between the priests considered as “sacred” and the laity considered to be “profane.” See McManners, 580.
J. Winston Pearce, I Believe (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1954), 84.
Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, 466.
Grimes, 39. The image of Christ’s body speaks of the interconnectedness between all members who make up the church. This means that the concept of the priesthood of all believers cannot be merely defined in terms of individual relationship with the Lord. Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 1983; reprint, Manila, Philippines: Church Growth Ministries, 1995), 1037.
For further discussion see Erickson, 1036-39.
Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1953), 557.
Driver, 186-89. The metaphor “temple of the Holy Spirit” need not be understood as a spiritualization of the church as though the true church is invisible. The spirituality of the church is based on the presence of the Holy Spirit within it. It is the Holy Spirit who makes the church lives. Ibid., 187-91.
Kung, The Church, 474-75.
Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, 467.
Kung, The Church, 492-94.
David Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1991), 22.
The “clergy” traditionally representing power and authority may yet find its continuation in the leadership paradigm in modern Protestant churches. Darrell L. Guder, “Leadership in the Reformation: From Priests to Pedagogues” in MissionChurch: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 193. On the contrary, Snyder asserts that such practice directly contradicts the teaching of the scripture and is, therefore, invalid. See Howard Snyder, Liberating the Church: The Ecology of Church and Kingdom (Basingstoke, UK: Marshall Morgan and Scott, 1983), 95.
Kraemer, 62. For further readings see, Roland H. Bainton, The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century (Boston, MA: The Bacon Press, 1952), 47.
Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion Book 2, 524.
Grenz, Moral Quest, 159.
Terry Young, “Baptists and Priesthood of all Believers,” The Theological Education Review, no. 53 (Spring 1996): 29.
Gillespie, 5. For further discussion see Herschel H. Hobbs, What Baptists Believe (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1964), 71.
Young, 27. Cf. Shurden, 137.
Jurgen Moltman, Hope for the Church (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1979), 25.
Ibid. Corporate responsibility in ministry is intended to help believers enter into the priestly privileges and fulfill the priestly offices. For further discussion see, Donald Munro, “The Priesthood of All Believers” available from http://www.1shiloh.com/ARTICLES/ PRIESTHOOD_OF_ALL_BELIEVERS.HTML; Internet; accessed, 5 August 2002.
Kung, 485. This is similar to Luther’s claim that every believer has the authority to forgive sins, to administer the sacraments, and all else a priest is capable of doing. Every believer possessed all the spiritual powers which in Roman Catholicism, belonged to the pope, bishops, priests, and monks have. The exercise of such powers in public is done with the consensus of the congregation. See Pauck, 113-114.
Richards & Martin, 12-13.
Since every Christian is called to ministry as priest, Erickson argues that Christians of all types should work together whenever possible. There is therefore a need for cooperation in spite of differences. Erickson, 1146.
Franklin M. Segler, A Theology of the Church and Ministry (Nashville TN: Broadman Press, 1960), 20.
Jurgen Moltmann, The Church in the Power of the Spirit (New York, NY: Harper and Row, 1977), 301.
Moltmann, The Church in the Power of the Spirit, 301. Cf. Erickson, 1084-86.
The term glocalized reflects the idea that the concept is not limited to a certain locality in theology. The concept of the priesthood of all believers is of universal value but the application of the concept may be expressed in a certain locality. Flint James Miller, interview by author, 3 September 2002, Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary, Baguio City. During the conduct of the interview, Miller serves as the Associate Dean of Asia Baptist Graduate Theological Seminary - Philippine Branch.
Wolfhart Pannenberg, The Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1988), 18. For further view on theology see Tereso C. Casiño, A Theology. A lecture presented in the course in Methodology in Historical-Systematic Studies, Asia Baptist Graduate Theological Seminary, Philippine Branch, July 2000. For more details see Erickson, 28-30.
Snyder, Liberating the Church, 124-25.
Hans-Ruedi Weber, “The Younger Churches” in&