14 November 2008

The high priest and the priesthood of believers

This post is in response to a comment posted on a previous thread. The entire comment can be read there; excerpts are included here.

No one can aspire to become a priest; he must be called of God as was Aaron. -God directed Moses to choose Aaron (Hebrews 5:4). …

So, the question is this: who exactly did your minister get his authority from and can he trace his power to Christ or some other person known to hold the priesthood power?

A follow up question is: What kind of priesthood does he have? Melchisedec? Aaronic? (Hebrews 7:5-11)

Everyone who trusts in Jesus Christ is a priest (1Pet 2:5,9; Rev 1:6; 5:10) and has been granted the power of the Holy Spirit living in us (Mt 3:11; Lk 12:11-12; Jn 14:26; Ac 2:38; 5:32; 10:45-47; 15:8-9; Rom 5:5; 8:10-11; 1Cor 3:16-17;6:19; Eph 1:13). Jesus is our high priest, in a priesthood that does not depend on lineage. (Heb 2:17; 3:1; 4:15; 5:6;6:20; 7:13-17,21-25; 8:1-2; 10:21-22) The Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ, himself, are our intercessors. (Rom 8:26-27,34; Heb 7:24-25) Wherever two or more are gathered in his name, there Christ is with them, and with him the full authority of the church. (Mt 18:18-20; Lk 10:19-20)

So, to answer your questions, my pastor and elders — and I, for that matter — are priests in the order of Melchizedek, receiving their authority directly from Christ, our high priest. They do not need any other priest to intercede for them; nor does any other priest have the power or right to do so. (That is not deny that there are proper authorities in church life; only to affirm that these authorities are not priests interceding between God and man.)

Likewise, all who put their faith in Jesus are sons of God the Father, brothers of Christ, and co-heirs with Christ of the promise made to Abraham. (Jn 1:12-13; Rom 8:15-17; 2Cor 6:16-18; Gal 3:6-7,26-29; 4:4-7; Eph 1:4-6; 3:6; Tit 3:4-9; Heb 2:9-11,17; 12:4-8; 1Jn 3:1) There are no intermediate generations. No one has the Father as a distant ancestor. If you do not receive your “power” directly from Christ, through the Holy Spirit, then you have no power at all.

First, I believe that one cannot “commend” himself authority to conduct ordinances; it must be given from the Lord. (2 Corinthians 10:8)

That being said, I find it very possible that the priests/ministers who administer the ordinances in your church do not hold this authority themselves- let alone the members. …

So, we continue with the understanding that Jesus has authority (also, there is such thing as authority to preach- not gained by education alone). (St. Matthew 7:29; Mark1:22)

Jesus did not keep this priesthood power to himself. Jesus gave the “authority” and power to his 12 disciples -(the leaders of the Church must have the authority) (St Matthew 10:1; 16:19) …

Finally, I believe that the ordinances of the Gospel and are precise in nature and not open to interpretation or to be conducted by those without the proper authority (1 Corinthians 11:2).

For instance, if your baptism was not performed by one holding the authority and priesthood power, it may be invalid. A second baptism (in a person's lifetime) may be required (Acts 19:1-6).

You are right, of course, that the Holy Spirit gifts different people for different ministries. For instance, not all are called to fill the office of shepherd or apostle (Eph 4:11). Some (including my pastor, I think) would argue that only those who are vested with appropriate authority by the broader church should administer sacraments such as baptism and communion. I don't agree, but they could change my mind if they can demonstrate this is a Scriptural teaching, and not just a tradition. At any rate, we can disagree on such minutiae and still worship the Lord together in complete unity. The pastor and elders would surely agree that baptism is not a priestly function; that salvation derives from Jesus' sacrifice, the power of God, and the faith of the believer, not the authority of an earthly priest. (See passages cited previously regarding priesthood and co-heirs with Christ.)

In fact, I believe that there is a church currently on earth with members and leaders that hold the priesthood mentioned above. Wouldn't it be worthwhile to investigate and see if this could possibly be the true church of God as it was in the ancient days?

For any one person or group to claim exclusive right to the authority and ministry of the Holy Spirit is egregious pride, bordering on blasphemy. (1Cor 1:11-13; 3:3-7, 18-23; 4:6-7; Jam 4:6; 1Pet 5:5; Mt 12:32)

Anyone who tries to revert to a gospel of works after receiving the gospel of grace is condemned. (Gal 1:9; 5:2-4; 2Pet 3:16)

Likewise, anyone who treats the Holy Spirit as a source of power to be manipulated and owned has “no part or share in this ministry.” (Ac 8:18-23; Mt 12:32; Heb 10:29)

There is a high probability that my pastor's authority traces back in line of descent to the original twelve apostles. However, no one has bothered to keep track of such things, because the Bible warns us not to, as it only leads to foolish controversies and divisions. (1Tim 1:3-7; Tit 3:3-11)

If you have not read these last two passages recently, you should do so. Apparently others in the first century church raised the same issues you raise, and Paul addresses them.

Again, don't take my word for it. Measure everything you are taught against the Scriptures (Ac 17:11; Rom 15:4; 2Tim 3:15-17; 2Pet 3:16); love your neighbor as yourself (Mt 22:37-40; Rom 13:9; Gal 5:14; Jam 2:8); and you will do well.

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