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Priesthood of All Believers

The doctrine of the Priesthood of all Believers means that all Christians have direct access to God, have authority to interpret Scripture, and have the right to minister. 


Direct Access to God

The doctrine of Priesthood of all Believers means that Christians need not go through the clergy for access to God.The modern day pastor is not equivalent to the Old Testament priest.He is not the mediator between common people and God.If a pastor attempts to mediate, in essence, he denies the priestly role of Jesus.John Calvin was no friend of the Papacy.He comments on the Roman priest as mediator:"They confess in words that Christ is a Mediator, but in reality they make the power of his priesthood of none effect, and deprive him of his honour."1Jesus is our great high priest.He completed His work, He has made reconciliation possible.Sinful people can approach a holy God with confidence and boldness because of Christ's finished work.

The sacrificial system of the Old Testament provided a means for sinful people to be reconciled to a holy God.Reconciliation came through the priest sacrificing for the people.The priest served as a mediator between God and people.The new covenant brings a new emphasis, Christ is our great high priest."For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin."2Jesus became the mediator between people and God.3Every believer now has direct access to God, because of His finished work as our great high priest."Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need."4

God intended direct access from the very beginning.". . . and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation . . ."5Because of Christ's work of reconciliation,God accomplished His goal. ". . . and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever.Amen."6We are a kingdom of priests.We have direct access to God.

Authority to Interpret Scripture

The doctrine of the Priesthood of the Believers also means that every Christian has the authority to interpret scripture.The believer does not need an interpretative edict from clergy to understand God's will as revealed in scripture.Herschel Hobbs comments, " So in reality, Baptists are the most broad-minded of all people in religion. They grant every man the right that he shall be free to believe as he wants."7

Authority to Minister

This doctrine also implies the need to re-examine some modern views of the distinction between the secular and the sacred.When God made the material world, He pronounced that it was very good."And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day."8Later He would teach Peter that uncircumcised people were not profane.Rather, if God has cleansed them, they are no longer unholy."But Peter said, 'By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.'And again a voice came to him a second time, 'What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.'"9

Gnostics

The Gnostics taught that the spiritual dimension of life was good but the material dimension of life was evil. Although the early church rejected gnosticism as a heresy, some of the same concepts crept into the structure of the church.It viewed some work as secular in nature, and other as sacred and holy. 

This concept made it easy for the church to view some people as having ordinary, secular professions while others had sacred, holy professions.The Doctrine of the Priesthood of the Believer teaches that holy people can do ordinary work and that ordinary people can do holy work.

Christ 

Christ did not show any distinction between the secular and the sacred."Christ did not see the spiritual and the material as two separate kingdoms. Instead, He viewed them as two parts of one kingdom of which He was Lord."10The church created the distinction, Christ did not."God never breaks up life into sacred and secular chunks.Nor does He intend that His work in the world should be done by a few selected people."11

Baptist History 

Baptists, historically, have used ordinary people to perform 'sacred' functions.They have not required educational nor denominational credentials to perform pastoral functions.Benjamin Keachtypifies the frontier Baptist minister, he was "self-educated, intenselyevangelical and orthodox."12In 1746 a query came to the Philadelphia Association asking:"Query from the churchof Philadelphia:Whether it be lawful or regular for any person topreach the gospel publicly without ordination?Answer: that which we have both rule and precedent for in the word of God, is, and must be, both lawful and regular."13These citations demonstrate that Baptists place a greater concern upon God's call than any educational or denominational credentials.

During the frontier days God poured out His Spirit to the saving of souls and the quickening of back-slidden spirits.Latourette, commenting on this era wrote: “The Great Awakening spread through the Colonies, mostly throughPresbyterians and Congregationalists.After 1750, it was to give rise to many Baptist preachers who, mostly men of little education, could speak the language of the lowliestand won an increasing following among the humblest of theunchurched.”14

It was this appeal to the "humblest of the unchurched" which allowed the Baptists to be effective. These lay preachers were not without the support of the ordained.The Philadelphia Association answered the questions of the uneducated and inexperienced, thus increasing the level ofknowledge.A common practice was for a learned pastor to aid in theeducation of a younger pastor.John Gano was one such man, The Philadelphia Association sent him to evangelize Virginia,"Neighboring pastors tutored him in the classics and he attendedclasses at Princeton University although not matriculated there."15

There is a need for the modern Baptist Church to recapture the fervor of the past.The ordained ministers and the non-ordained ministers must work together to accomplish kingdom goals.



1.John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to The Hebrews, trans. John Owen (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981), p.110.
6.Revelation 1:6, NASB.
7.Herschel H. Hobbs,The Baptist Faith and Message (Nashville:Convention Press, 1971), pp. 9-10.
10.Cecil A. Ray, Living the Responsible Life (Nashville: Convention Press, 1974), p 33.
11.Nolan P. Howington, A Royal Priesthood (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1986), p. 39.
12.Robert G. Torbet, A History of the Baptists (Valley Forge:Judson Press, 1982), p. 68.
13.A.D. Gillette, ed., Minutes of the Philadelphia Baptist Association(Minneapolis:A.M. James Publishing Co., 1851), p. 50-51.
14.Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, Vol. 2 (New York, Hagerstown, San Francisco, London:Harper and Row, 1973), p. 959-960.
15.Norman Wade Cox, ed. Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists, Vol. 1 (Nashville:Broadman Press, 1958), p. 524.


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