Priesthood of All Believers
Israel, as a nation, was saved by the grace and power of God, led on through the wilderness by grace, God fulfilling His Word to them in spite of all their murmuring and rebellion and unbelief. Encamped at Sinai (Ex. 19:1-6), God had told them what He would do for them. But they claim it on a new ground. It was to be dependent on obeying His law. God knew what was in them. He new that they could not inherit blessing on that footing, but they did not know it, and it was necessary that they should learn it, and this was the only way they could learn what was in themselves. Thus they were put under law, so that they might be taught by experience how unable they were, how absolutely impossible it would be for them to inherit any blessing on this new footing. The whole nation was to be "a kingdom of priests" unto Jehovah, if they obeyed. But they failed, they did not obey Godís voice, they did not keep His covenant, and so they forfeited the blessing. They could not be a kingdom of priests on that ground, they have never been so yet, but they will be in a future day under a new covenant. Yet God gave them a priesthood, in Aaron and his house, chosen out of all the tribes, and set apart to minister in the priestís office. Exodus 28:19 gives us an account of their consecration and their dress. They stand thus as typical of the priesthood of Christ and His people in this dispensation of grace. Then turn now to the first Epistle of Peter. There are three prominent things in the first chapter. First, Election by God the Father (ver. 2). Second, Redemption by God the Son (ver. 19). Third, regeneration by God the Spirit (ver. 23). Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all engaged in the salvation of sinners. And with what result? That all whoa re thus chosen, redeemed and regenerated, become a priesthood unto God (see Ch. 2:5). "A holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God," "A royal priesthood to shew forth the virtues of Him who hath called us," etc. (ver. 9). As a holy priesthood "to offer up spiritual sacrifices," as a "royal priesthood" to proclaim abroad the virtues of Him who called them out of darkness into His marvellous light. What a marvel of Divine grace, true of all who are saved now!
In the Old Testament, under the law, there was one man and his family called out of the whole nation to minister to Jehovah in the priesthood. Only one family. Anyone else coming near the altar would have been put to death. Uzziah the king, went in to offer sacrifices contrary to the Word of Jehovah, and God smote him, so he became a leper until the day of his death, for his presumption. And the true priests of God took the smitten king and cast him out, saying, "It is not for thee to come into this place and offer sacrifices to the Lord." What a warning to all who presume to worship without being His priests, without being born of the Spirit. What an awful sight it is to see crowds of unconverted people going through a form of what they call worship, who are enemies of God and in their hearts hate Him. Only born again people are priests, able to worship God in the Spirit (Phil. 3:3), and they all have been called to this holy privilege. Here is one way in which what is called "Christianity" has been utterly corrupted. There is not the slightest likeness between the popular Christianity of this day and what we read in the Word of God. The popular Christianity of our time is not what is revealed in the New Testament, but a kind of an improved Judaism, instead of a contrast to it. It is a bit of Judaism, a bit of heathendom, and a bit of what the Scriptures teach, all mixed up together.
There was one man chosen in Israel with his family, and set apart to the priesthood. This is what Romanism and Ritualism have as authority for their priesthood now. You see a man with a certain cut of coat, clerical robes, and so on. They call him a priest, he is "in holy orders;" he only is to pray and preach. The sects all have their man. They may not all call him a priest, but he is "the clergyman," "the minister," supposed to be high above and nearer to God than the people, to present all the worship and administer "the sacraments" to the people. Where did they get that? From Israel. Did not Israel have a priesthood? Yes, but if we divide the word of God aright, we see that Israelís priesthood is but a type of the common priesthood of all Godís people. The whole nation of Israel was divided into three classes: the servants, the soldiers, and the tribes. The tribe of Levi was to minister to the Lord; they did not go out to war with the rest; they were not numbered among the fighting men. They took down the tabernacle, they carried it when during their journeys, and they set it up when the cloud rested, their whole time was spent ministering to it, and after they came into the land and the temple was built they ministered still. Then there was a family chosen out of that tribe, for Aaron must be a Levite, and he and his family were set apart to the priesthood. But instead of these three classes in Israel representing three different classes of Christians, the whole three are represented in every Christian on earth. Every child of God on earth is a priest to worship, a Levite to serve, and a soldier to fight. This is the threefold character of every true Christian.
I was not long saved till I knew I had to fight, and the person who professes to be saved and does not know what it is to fight, I would not give much for his conversion. All Godís people are called upon to serve Him in the Gospel, and to minister to each other, for all are servants as surely as all are priests. In Israel there were two classes of priests; there was the high priest and his sons. Aaron, the high priest, was a type of Christ, and Aaronís sons are a type of all Godís people in this dispensation. Aaron went into the holy place once a year, and our Great High Priest has entered into the holy place once for all, into the presence of God. "We have such a great High Priest", only one. All who presume to get above their brethren, and claim a place of greater nearness, railing themselves off and claiming clerical title and place, are simply arrogating a place of superiority nowhere given them in Godís Word. In Rev. 1:5, we have a song, "Unto Him that loveth us and washed us from our sins," &c. It is not the song of saints in heaven but on earth. When the Lordís Name is mentioned, it is not the Church in heaven that makes this response. It is a song from earth, from the church on earth. They knew this truth, that they were all made "kings and priests unto God," a holy priesthood. Here is a spiritual sacrifice going up to God from the Churches in Asia, and such should go up from all the assemblies of Godís people with one voice and one heart still. There is a marked difference between priesthood and ministry, which is utterly ignored in the worldís religion.
Priesthood is Godís people ministering to God, giving something to God, offering up to Him. Ministry is God giving something to His people for their joy and comfort, and fitting them to minister in their priestly office. God makes all His people priests the moment they are saved, but ministry is intended to help us to enter into our priestly privileges and fulfill our priestly offices. It is God speaking through those whom He has called and fitted. Preaching the Gospel to sinners is the word coming from God to men, but nothing comes form a sinner to God until he is saved. No unsaved sinner can worship God or give to God. Turn now to Heb. 13:12. The Lord Jesus was cast out of Jerusalem. His people are to go outside the camp "unto Him". "Here we have no continuing city," strangers and pilgrims in the world, where He was a stranger and a pilgrim, cast out. We share rejection with Him; that is separation, there is nothing else worthy of the name. It is "unto Him," and if we are with Him, then we are with all whoa re with Him. Christ is the Center. It is not trying to make a union or a sect. He is the attraction, and, if only two or three are gathered by the Spirit of God to Him, there He is. They may lose everybody, but they cannot lose Him, and so they go on. There is one Man "there in the midst," and He is never absent, He is never late, and when His people are gathered together unto His Name (Matt. 28:20), then they have the blessed privilege of exercising their high calling as priests unto God. May we know much of it, and be able to take the place of purged worshippers, a holy priesthood, brought right to God to offer up to Him, not standing afar off in legal fear with a man between, but worshipping God by the Spirit, rejoicing in Christ Jesus.