By Scott T. Sharp
Pastor, First Baptist Church Nashville
Question: “How do you understand and practice the protestant doctrine of the “priesthood of all believers” (I Peter 2:5)?”
Most people have heard the terms “born again” or “saved” but some do not understand what they mean. Jesus used the term “born again” in a discussion He had with Nicodemus about eternal life. Being born again or saved occurs when a person confesses their sins to God, places their faith in the shed blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of those sins, and invites Jesus to take up residence in their heart. Every born again or saved person then becomes part of the body of Christ – the priesthood of believers and the righteousness Jesus brings into their lives changes everything.
Before Christ came to die on the cross, people interacted with God through a priest – a mediator – because God could not look upon people’s unrighteous nature. The priest interacted with God in a part of the temple known as the Holy of Holies and before he could do so, he went through a cleansing process in order to be presentable before God. However, since Jesus died on the cross for the sins of men, every person who places their faith in His shed blood also receives His righteousness as part of their new nature. So when God looks upon the born again person He doesn’t see their unrighteousness, He sees the righteousness of Jesus. Thus, every born again person is part of the priesthood of believers and has the ability to approach God’s throne of grace directly without a mediator.
Hebrews 4:14-16 explains it this way: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Being part of this priesthood also means believer’s lives should exhibit traits that are radically different from those of an unbeliever. Writing to the church in Rome, Paul describes this change in person’s life. Romans 8:12-17: “So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. You have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”
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