Priesthood of the beliver: Misused, misunderstood
November 18, 2003
Postmodern thinking has walked right down the aisle and into the membership of our Southern Baptist Churches.
It has invaded us in the form of probably the most misunderstood and misused doctrine in Baptist life today — the priesthood of the believer.
What is the priesthood of the believer? The roots of this doctrine are found in Exodus 26:31 when God divides the Tabernacle into the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. Only the High Priest could come into the Holy of Holies. Even then, the High Priest could come only with a blood sacrifice once per year. On this Day of Atonement, the High Priest received all the information and instruction God would give the nation for the entire year.
Later, the Roman Catholic Church’s dogma taught that the only access any common man or woman had to God was first through his local priest. The priest then brought intercessions to Mary and she would present the prayer requests to Jesus. Jesus would then present them to the Father. So, the Roman church set up an earthly priesthood for access to the eternal.
We Baptists and our other evangelical friends don’t believe in an earthly priesthood that requires intercession through a priest to Mary, etc. The practice of intercession through intermediaries has been eliminated. How?
The old covenant practice of the Day of Atonement came to an end at a very precise moment in time. It ended at the moment Jesus died on the cross. That is the very moment the veil in the Temple (that divided the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies) was torn in two from the top to the bottom (Matt. 27:50-51). The veil was torn by the very hand of God. The Priest was in the Holy Place at that very moment to witness the act. In that moment, Jesus tore open the partition wall between God and man. In that moment, He gave every believer access to God the Father!
Today, we do not need an intermediary to carry our prayers to God. Jesus is the only intermediary we need. This is why you hear people pray “in Jesus’ name.” Jesus is our door (John 10:9) of access to God. He is our High Priest (Heb. 3:1; 7:24-28). Therefore, we each have access to God as priests once did in the Old Testament. You and I can, in prayer, enter into God’s very presence.
In summary, “the priesthood of the believer” means that every believer has ACCESS to God to petition Him and receive instruction from Him.
Therefore, the priesthood of the believer is NOT a license to make up doctrine and practice. What we believe and practice must be consistent with the Word of God. Further, it does not mean that each of us have God available to bless whatever belief or practice we want. God’s character is such that He will never give us revelation in prayer or experience that is contradictory to His Word. His Word will never pass away.
In these days, I hear people pervert and espouse every kind of doctrine they choose under the guise of it being “truth” because they have a right to this belief by virtue of “the priesthood of the believer”. At best this is foolish. But it is actually very dangerous heresy.
This is where post-modernism and New Age thinking have invaded the church. In the 1980’s actress Shirley McLaine, declared that she had discovered her own version of “truth.” She would say that the “truth” for Baptists is Jesus Christ, but not for her.
Let me remind us all that truth is exclusive. There is only ONE Truth, not many. That one Truth is Jesus. He said, “I am the way THE Truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Therefore, there are not many forms of “priesthood of the believer truth.” There is only ONE doctrine of the priesthood of the believer — one that says you have access to the throne of mercy. But this doctrine does NOT give anyone the right to believe what they want to believe.
Now, just a quick application for an example: Does the “priesthood of the believer” give some the right to now say that women can serve in the role of pastor and/or deacon? First Timothy 3:1-12 uses very explicit Greek pronouns to describe overseers (pastors) and deacons in MALE terms. We are also told that overseers and deacons should be the HUSBAND of one WIFE. Again, the word is very explicit with regard to genders. How can a woman be a husband? Does “the priesthood of the believer” therefore give someone spiritual authority to change the exact Words of God? I think not.
I realize that I may be on some ground where others may fear to tread. But if, under the guise of “priesthood” a person or church can make up doctrines and practices as they see fit, then they have become a ship without an anchor and will be destroyed on the rocks of the secular world. These churches will die. If you don’t believe this, just look at history. There are churches in this state that have died and some near death because they think “priesthood” gives them the right to do what they want. The seven churches of Revelation 1-3 teach us that God will remove the lampstand of blessing and power from churches that depart from the Truth.