You are a Priest

Written by Devon Bowman

If you are a Christian then you are a priest. I know this might sound strange but it is true. There are different ideas that come to mind when people think about a priest. Some may be thinking of Catholicism. Others may think of the Old Testament sacrifices. Some could be thinking of other religions.The role of priest that I am talking about is different from these. I want to show you in the Scriptures why you are a priest and why this is good news for not just you but your neighbors as well.

The priesthood in the Bible is begun in the Old Testament. God ordained the priesthood to be those who perform the rites and sacrifices that were necessary for the people of Israel to have a relationship with the Almighty. This is where the entire Levitical law comes into play. Yes, that book of the Bible that you hear audible groans in the congregation when you say to turn. But this is so important. The law had a purpose. The priests were to look after these commands because if not, they and the people could not enter the presence of God. The high priest was to be the one who entered the presence of God on behalf of the people. This was essential for the nation of Israel to be the people of God. 

The reason God chose Israel was not because they were better than everyone else. They were not a great people or did anything that would make them the obvious choice as the people of God. They were chosen out of God’s sovereign purpose to be the people with which He dwelt. Now the key point here is that they were not just simply chosen to be His only people. They were chosen to be the people through which the nations would receive Him.

This fundamentally changes everything! Just as the priests were to represent the people before God, the people of Israel were to represent the nations to God. The people of Israel were to be the priests of the world. The covenant relationship that Israel had with God was not simply to the exclusion of all other peoples. But we see constantly that foreigners and sojourners in the land could be a part of that covenant relationship as well. In truth, the way that Israel interacted with the people around them was one of the biggest reasons that God had to bring judgment on them at various times. The way that they interacted with those around them was important in their covenant with God. 

The reason the treatment of other people was so vital to the Israelites and to God was because of the priestly calling that they had received. They were to be set apart from the nations for God’s purposes. However, the Israelites were influenced by the nations instead of being the ones who led them to God. This is vital. If the priests were defiled and tried to enter the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement they would die. They would be like Nahab and Abihu who offered strange fire and were struck down in the presence of God. Just like the priest, if the nation was defiled, they could not offer up sacrifices for the ungodly nations around them. They could not be the people that brought them to the throne of God. They missed their purpose. 

The church participates in that covenant relationship through the work of Jesus. We are the people of God through the cross of Christ. Therefore, we who are people of God have the same call that the Israelites had in the Old Testament. We are to be priests of God. This is stated in 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Peter acknowledges what we call the “priesthood of all believers.” We are “to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4). The sacrifice we offer up to God is not a lamb or goat or bull but instead is a spiritual sacrifice. 

Why do we make these spiritual sacrifices as believers? Is it so that we can enter the presence of God like the Day of Atonement? No, Christ is our atoning sacrifice once and for all. Is it so that God will hear our prayers? No, we have assurance that God hears our prayers through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The purpose is clear later in the passage. We make these sacrifices of a holy life and spiritual purity so that when Gentiles (unbelievers) look at our lives and revile us they will instead glorify God. We make these spiritual sacrifices so that others may enter. 

As a priest of God our lives are to point the nations around us to the glorious God that we serve. The heart of our service and our sacrifice is so that the people around us will be able to taste the sufficiency of the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus. We are to be priests in our homes so that our families can enter into the presence of God. We are priests who go out and spread the gospel to the ends of the Earth because we know that all the ethnic groups of the world with their diverse languages and cultures need to have a testimony of our God! 

This is why our priesthood is so important and a role that we should take seriously! To be a priest of God is to be a faithful Christian. It is not about a title or a role. It is not just for those who have the title pastor in front of their name or are on the church payroll, it is for all believers. It is for all believers for the sake of all unbelievers. We as priests in our spiritual sacrifice go before God on behalf of the nations. This is good news for us and all those around us!

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