What is the ‘Priesthood of the Believer’?
What is meant by the priesthood of the believer? First, we need to look at the Old Testament example of a priest.
Priests in the Old Testament
We know that God called the nation of Israel to be God’s chosen people, that they might witness for Him, but they failed to do it. In Exodus 19:6, God says:
“And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
So this verse explains why He chose a group of people to be His priests.
In Isaiah 61:6, God is speaking to Isaiah concerning the nation of Israel. He says:
“But you shall be called the priests of the Lord; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; you shall eat the wealth of the nations, and in their glory you shall boast.”
The key word here is “minister.” Certainly, the priesthood of the believer, first, deals with the fact that we are to be ministers. In 1 Peter 2:5, Peter is speaking of the born-again believer, who is now part of a priesthood, to offer up sacrifices acceptable to God when he says:
“You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Priesthood of the Believer in the New Testament
In Revelation 1:6, the Word of God, again, talks of the priesthood of the believer, that God has made us kings and priests unto God. In Revelation 20:6, He says that those priests (born-again believers) of God and of Christ … shall reign with Him a thousand years. So the priesthood of a believer is twofold: first, in the Old Testament, we find that the priest was an intercessor between God and man.
The same thing holds true today, that we, as believers, are to be witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ to the world as His children (priests) in that sense. We also have the responsibility of prayer. This does not get anyone into Heaven, but we are to pray for the lost, and their needs.
Certainly, some people would not come to us as they would come to a priest, as some denominations believe priests have powers to answer prayers. I do not have power to answer prayer, but I do have the power at my disposal to take someone’s needs to God. This is the primary purpose of the priesthood of the believer — that we have direct access to the Lord.
Also, concerning the priesthood of the believer, we know that Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, who would guide us into all truth. So, in this respect, we have the ability to study His Word, that God Himself may illumine our hearts and teach us.
As we are told in the Gospel, when Jesus Christ was crucified — when the veil was rent in the Temple — that made bare the Holy of Holies. So today we have direct access to God as His children. This, basically, is the priesthood of the believer.
As believers, in relationship to our priesthood, we need to realize that we have a responsibility to each other — to pray for one another, to assemble ourselves unto God, to worship together. God has set aside the church today — local assemblies of born-again believers, that we might, in every aspect, be priests through that church — to reach out to a lost and dying world. We have a responsibility to the lost — to tell them about Christ. Of course, as believers in Christ, the ultimate responsibility should be our love for the Lord, and our worship of Him. In this, we are priests, a holy nation, separated unto God.