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Are we all Priests?

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

According to the New Testament yes, all believers are priests. In the New Testament believers, that is, the church, are spoken of as being a ‘holy priesthood’ , a ‘royal priesthood’ 1 Peter 2) and In the plural, as for example we read in Revelation 1:6 ‘and has made us a kingdom of priests.

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. Providing the opportunity for each of the members to discover their gifts and contribute them to the church. “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

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!” “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 of their members 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 to 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. 

So if we go back to the bible, in Acts, to see how new Christians were formed. In Acts 19 we get a glimpse at how Paul instructed new Christians. “He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.” The first thing I take from this is the time spent in discipling. It wasn’t a brief baptism course over say 10 weeks. Paul spent two years instructing the new disciples. Which has been guessed to be five hours at a time, the standard break time of 11am to 4pm which would put the instruction time to roughly 3000 hours. My formation of baptism, confirmation and Alpha courses together would have been around 33 hours.

Currently if I were to devote myself to this type of discipleship I would have to leave my work and enroll in a theological college or seminary. The 3000 hours of study would be equivalent to a Masters degree in theology. There is no mention of Paul setting up a college of seminary because the first academic to call itself that didn’t occur until 1564. Before then Priests were trained in their church, it was in house. If in house training were to resume there would be no need for the congregation members to leave their work as they could do their study while at church. Without the cost of a theology course their would be no impediment for congregation members to go deeper in their faith through the study of theology. The congregation should be actively encouraged to study theology so that we can all become the Priests that we are meant to be.

One of the reasons so many have left the faith is that they never had the understanding of what they were leaving. They had a superficial faith of obligation to their parents, virtue signaling to society or just a feel good religion. Well the Christendom has died and along with so has that generation of parents, now the obligation is over. Christendom has died there is no virtue in Christianity to signal anymore, society doesn’t care. Christendom has died and has been replaced with a feel good, self-improvement cult that as soon it doesn’t feel good it’s followers will abandon it for the next feel good craze.

Christendom had a wonderful foundation of theology going back thousands of years. We could of had a theological foundation of rock that a Christian could build his faith upon but the church neglected this foundation and instead simply asked people to turn up to a dumbed down undemanding faith that boiled to whole faith down to a nauseating niceness.

The current structure that most churches have is of one or a small team of ministers for a much larger congregation. So the large responsibility of running the church, conducting services and the pastoral care of the congregation rest on the shoulders of the few paid clergy. If instead the situation was inverted so that there were a large number of unpaid clergy with fewer laity then burden of running a church would rest gently on the shoulders of many clergy. For most of the congregation being laity would be just a stepping stone in their discipleship to becoming clergy.

For someone to become clergy they must be as described in Titus 1 “ He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” There needs to be an Elder/Bishop willing to start up a home Church and together with the others in the Church they develop a curriculum. How extensive should the curriculum be? We can let the bible be a guide there too. From beginning to end 3000 hours. That should be enough to keep the congregation busy for quite a few years, with the difference that their discipleship will be directed during all that time and now they will have a faith built on stone.

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