Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:4-5
According to the New Testament yes. In the New Testament believers, that is, the church, are spoken of as being a ‘holy priesthood’ (1 Peter 2:5), ‘royal priesthood’ 1 Peter 2:9) and ‘a kingdom and priests’ (Revelation 1:6 and 5:10). This is in the plural, as for example we read in Revelation 1:6 ‘and has made us a kingdom of priests.
Luther encourages us to remember that that the function of a priest (or pastor, elder, minster, bishop) is to correctly present the Word of God to people under their care, recognising that it is through the Spirit-inspired Word of God that the Spirit works in people’s lives. According to Scripture, the key requirement that an elder/bishop should meet—a qualification that is distinguishable from every other Christian—is being “able to teach” (1 Tim 3:2); this competency entails that the elder/bishop must “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine” (Titus 1:9).
The idea that there are three levels of priests: High Priest, Ministerial Priest & Priest. The old testament has High Priest (Aaron), Ministerial Priest (His sons) and Priests believers mirrored by the new testament Jesus the High Priest, Clergy the ministerial Priests and the baptised the Priests. That we have the three levels of priests of Bishop, Deacon and Priest comes form the earliest days of the church. Clements 1 in his letter to the Corinth mentions the roles of Bishops and Deacons “The apostles were proclaiming the good news to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ was sent out by God. So, Christ was from God and the apostles from Christ. Therefore both were in good order by the will of God. So, having received orders and having been fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and having believed in the Word of God, with the full assurance of the Holy Spirit, they went out proclaiming the good news that the Kingdom of God was about to appear. Preaching through countries and cities, they appointed their first-fruits, having proved them in the Spirit, as bishops and deacons of future believers. And this was not new. For, indeed, over a period of many years it was written about bishops and deacons. For the Scripture says thus somewhere, “I will appoint their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith.” (This last bit doesn’t exist in scripture but was mis-remembered by Clement) Interestingly Clement do not mention the role of priest.
As priests: we can read and interpret the bible for ourselves and the church is there to help us. The clergy are not of a higher order but we are all apart of one body of Christ, just as different parts of the body have different functions but no part is more important than another. To me it suggests that the role of the church is not just to help us understand the scripture but to help us find our place in the body of Christ. It could try and discover what the gifts of each member of the church has and give them a matching job to do. “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. ” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
With the destruction of the temple, which Jesus prophesied in Mark 13, As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” 2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” The temple ceased to be the one location that God resided but now all believers are where God dwells. Now instead of needing a Priest to communicate with God we can now have a direct line with him. We also take on the responsibilities of Priests: conducting worship, ministering to God’s people and evangelising. Nowhere, in my reading, in the new testament is there a reference to an individual being called a priest or exercising the function of a priest. However, the prophet Joel prophesied and spoke of the Spirit coming on all people (Joel 2: 28-32) a passage that Peter uses in his sermon at Pentecost (Acts 2: 16-21). This, when linked with Jeremiah 31:31-34, expresses an important aspect of the New Covenant, that being the corporate nature of God’s people.
We should go back to the bible and do what God tells us to do. Jesus as our chief priest, with spiritually gifted people serving that church, with no-one being more important than another. As priests we become the temple of God. We become responsible for introducing people to God. We become a conductor of God’s worship and minister to God’s people.
Churches, almost across the board are losing parishioners. Some slowly and some very fast like the Anglicans and the Uniting Church. It is hardly conceivable that they will exist in any meaningful way in 10 years time. It would seem unless churches learn how to tap into the gifts within the members of their congregations their demise is almost certain. They need to be instructing not just the teachings of the bible but on how the parishioners can go out into the world and bring back new converts. Churches need new blood because when the current crop have moved on there is very little there to replace them. We are all Priests, each with gifts given to us by the holy spirit to be used by the church. The greatest apostasy the church can commit is the ignore those gifts and allow the churches to die. Some say that we can continue on in small, devout groups outside of the traditional church but to me that seems like surviving in life-rafts as the titanic sinks. I don’t wont to be in a life-raft, I wont to be in a restored titanic. We had the reformation, we now desperately need a restoration.