The Doctrine That Causes So Many Church Leaders Heartache
1 Peter 2:4-5 says: As you come to Him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 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.
The Priesthood of All Believers was one of the most controversial beliefs put forward in the Reformation because of the implications it had for the clergy/laity/church authority divide within the church during the 16th century. The church, according to Luther and other reformers, was not absolute, only God was absolute. Because, in Christ, there was a new and better priesthood, things were different, the order was different, and people were given the opportunity and commission to accomplish things that had once been reserved for the priesthood. The redeemed people of God were now joined with the priests because of the sanctity of God’s ministry of reconciliation and freedom in Jesus Christ.
This doctrine freed people to do amazing things for the Kingdom of God.
It was controversial because it called into question the nature of the authority that God gave to His church.
Some observations I have on the doctrine of The Priesthood of All Believers:
(1) Authority and leadership are always a struggle.
Leaders want to do the right thing. The church wants to do the right thing. The church wants to follow our Lord and His wishes. The church wants to accomplish the mission that Christ set forth in the Great Commission.
Because we want to accomplish great things for God, we all want a piece of the action. And it can become, because of our different levels of expertise and knowledge, a trap where we think we know best. The leaders of the church must understand that they don’t always have the best answers for how to reach the “common” person, no matter how much studying they do or how many conferences they attend. The laity must always be careful to listen to the advice of pastors and other church leaders as a defense against haste and becoming a lone wolf who, “has it all figured out.”
I believe this passage is a powerful one on the necessity of fellowship and wise counsel. It compels the church leaders to welcome the gifts and passion of God’s people into the work of a particular church or ministry. It is meant to stir us to believe that we can affect a hurting world beyond a sermon or a Sunday worship service. But, it also means that there is an example to follow, and that example said that He did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it.
(2) In Christ, something must be different.
The Incarnation. The sinless life. The death of sin. The Resurrection. The book of Hebrews proclaims that Christ has made things different, especially how we can approach God. We are free to approach God with confidence because Christ has opened the way and given us a model unlike any other.
1 Peter 2 says that we are being built up as a spiritual house, after the model of the One who was different. We can be built up by other people through encouragement, but these words speak to something deeper and greater. God is building us up for something different. In an Old Testament sacrificial system that was largely built on personal purity, Christ sends us to be ministering people who are able to reflect His holiness. We offer up what we have as gifts, spiritual blessings that others may benefit from, and to give glory to God because of our desire to be better because the way of Christ is better.
(3) We must be united.
It would seem, that God intends for it to be a united message. You can’t have a house with one piece here and one piece there. People won’t recognize it as a house, just a scattered mess.
This doesn’t mean that we all have to think exactly alike or share the same gifts or all do exactly the same thing. But, we must share the characteristic of what makes a house a house. Some are meant to be a brick. Some are meant to be a window. Others are meant to be shingle. It’s the same idea as coming together as the Body of Christ. When people see us and our work, they must recognize that it is a part of the house or the body, not a shiny doorknob laying fifty feet away, looking nice on the ground but not having a purpose compared to the well-crafted house it is in proximity to.
Make sure your work edifies the spiritual house and doesn’t just draw attention to the chimney.
The world continues to be impacted by the commitment of those who believe that Christ makes all things better. It is empowering to know that God gives permission to His holy people to find satisfaction in serving for something greater. We often downplay that message as churches hire more and more staff people to accomplish what they want. What if, we could trade in some of these singularly focused ideas for the opportunity to raise up a generation of people who would take the initiative to bring glory to that spiritual house that transcends borders and a singular generational timetable? God has worked. God continues to work. And God will work even more. Will we work with Him? Amen.