Conditioned as we are by our culture, the desire for individualism is strong. We do not want to be responsible for anyone but ourselves, particularly not when it comes to sin. Yet, God clearly deals with people as nations in the Old Testament, as we see from the conquest of Canaan, the judgment of Edom and other neighbors of Israel, along with Israel herself through the exile. For us as believers, we are not dealt with as individuals, but under our corporate head, Jesus, as we receive the benefits of his redemptive work, not our own personal efforts.
Even though I watch from Australia, the other side of the world doesn’t seem so far away. The turmoil and grief of my native country, of my black brothers and sisters, fills my mind and heart as I pour over news articles and podcasts and grasp for some way to act wisely and faithfully in response.
Muddled though my thoughts and emotions are, one idea has surfaced again and again this week: the priesthood of all believers. Might there be something in this precious doctrine relevant to the church in this moment?
Of all the doctrines to come out of the Reformation, the priesthood of all believers holds a beloved place in the Protestant heart. This doctrine proclaims an incredible privilege: because Jesus is the perfect high priest, each believer shares in that priesthood and can come to God without needing any other earthly priest. As the writer of Hebrews says, “We have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh” (Heb. 10:19-20). No other mediator is necessary.
Yet, the privilege of each believer as priest does not only have personal implications for our relationship to God. Indeed, the role of priest in the Old Testament, both that of the Levites and of Israel as a kingdom of priests (Ex. 19:5), is a role directed outward for the sake of the non-priests in Israel and to the nations.