The true priesthood of Every Believer

Most religious systems, the world over, establish criteria for their spiritual leaders that are very different from the Bible teachings of what constitutes a spiritual guide. Some of these religious systems require that their leaders live celibate lives in housing complexes. For others, it is blood lineage or the outfit that is worn to denote holiness. Yet you find Christ working to establish in His disciples a different set of ideals for His ministers. The Melchizedek priesthood, according to Hebrews, is what Christ establishes in and through His disciples. This priesthood, which is the true priesthood of every believer, took men from regular walks of life and trained them to work as spiritual leaders, hence debunking the myths of ministry, which put pageantry and ceremony above saving souls and changing lives. To study the order of Melchizedek is to the study what constitutes true ministry, which was what Christ had always tried to have in various time periods of Biblical history, which again is ministry with substance over ministry with style. 

When we study about Christ while he ministered, we are presented with a total different set of behaviors for what constitutes religious leadership. The criteria, which Jesus displayed, are similar to those displayed by the various personalities in the Bible, yet when comparing Christ’s ministry to the Jewish church of His day, we find glaring differences.

Here are some of the characteristics that Christ displayed and taught His disciples: (1) Respond to the call to enter into God’s service (2) Shoulder the burdens with Christ for lost souls (3) Personally being purified in character by the Bible and Holy Spirit (4) Going around doing good, just like Jesus (5) Learning obedience by trials and resisting temptation (6) Delivering souls from sin’s grasp by witnessing the gospel (7) Right thinking evident in words and decisions (8) Holiness shown in one’s lifestyle as an example to others (9) Coming close to the people to share with them a better way (10) Be willing to sacrifice to save others.

Christ did not fit the man made criteria set up by the Jewish church of His time, as to what constitutes being a true minister. No outward costume of holiness, Luke 20:46 “Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes…”. No course from their ordained institution, John 7:15 “And the Jews marveled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?”  Christ did not have the blood lineage, Hebrews 7:14 “For [it is] evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood”. Christ claimed no sinless flesh, Hebrews 4:15 “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as [we are, yet] without sin”. Christ did not take His calling to mean He could do as he pleased, 2 Peter 1:10 “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall”. Christ’s criteria for ministry were to fulfill the requirements of the job. Matthew 20:28 “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many”. Christ did not come for “a show”, but like Melchizedek, came to minister unto others, with no pretence.  

The Bible teaches about the order of priesthood Christ was from, and it is called the Melchizedek priesthood, which in essence is summarized in the first two paragraphs. Here is Paul’s explanation of Christ’s priesthood, Hebrews 5:6 “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” The priesthood is describe in Hebrews 7:1-3, 7, 11, 14-16; verse 1 “For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, verse 2 to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,” verse 3 without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the son of God, remains a priest continually. Verse 7 New beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better. Verse 11 Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? Verses 14 For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. Verse 15 And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest verse 16 who has come, not according to the law of fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life”. Christ priesthood is unique because, He, like Melchizedek was the only person to be both priest and king. They have no beginning and no end; Melchizedek appears in the Bible with no explanation of his genealogy and the Bible does not explain what happens to him after mentioning him. Melchizedek blessed Abraham although Abraham is the father of the faithful. Melchizedek rules over a city called Salem or peace. Melchizedek’s priestly office does not come from anything or anywhere but God’s blessing. Melchizedek’s work, like Christ, was to present the truth of God to set the captives free from sin, instead of focusing on pageantry and ceremony.

Speaking to every believer Peter said, 1 Peter 2:9 “But ye [are] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” “There is, however, no royal priesthood organized in the Bible. What tribe had the kings? Judah! What tribe had the priests? Levi! You can easily trace those two services, one of priestly ministry and one of regency, for centuries… The Lord has given only one example, in the whole spectrum of the Old Testament, in whose life these twin rays of royalty and priesthood are blended successfully… Melchizedek is the example of royal priesthood. When we, God’s people, become kings and priests, it is not after the order of Aaron but it is after the character of Melchizedek”. (Shadows of His Sacrifice p. 16 Leslie Hardinge)

Every believer is called to be a witness for Jesus. The task and the degree of engagement might be different, but the call is “freely you have received, freely you give”. We have moved too far away from lay people taking part in professional and volunteer missionary activities; so much so, that we are having problems staffing local church offices. We are moving into the direction of the spiritually dead church and setting up criteria for ministry that is making our members ignorant of how to minister and making micro-managers of our clergy. We, like the mainline churches, have become worship focused instead of witnessing focused. The sad direction we have taken is that Christ would not be able to teach in our seminaries and preach in most of our churches and yet most say they worship Him who was the lowly carpenter. The focus of ministry today is not whether the member has learned how to be a better follower of Christ and be a better person for tomorrow, but is whether they know how to worship. Where was this the centerpiece of Christ work or the Bible teachings?  Is not this the evidence we are moving in the direction of the Catholic and mainline protestant mega church? Jesus and the Bible are out and Santa, Easter and worship are in.

God is seeking men and women from all backgrounds to carry His message of salvation to lost souls. The Melchizedek priesthood is the ministry model we are to follow and describes the character of the workers and job description. Through this model “God has never left his church without a witness. In all the scenes of trial and proving, of opposition and persecution amidst moral darkness, through which the church has passed, God has had men of opportunity who have been prepared to take up his work at different stages, and carry it forward and upward” (Special Testimonies, p. 11). “Thus the message of the third angel will be proclaimed. As the time comes for it to be given with greatest power, the Lord will work through humble instruments, leading the minds of those who consecrate themselves to his service. The laborers will be qualified rather by the unction of his Spirit than by the training of literary institutions. Men of faith and prayer will be constrained to go forth with holy zeal, declaring the words which God gives them. The sins of Babylon will be laid open” (Great Controversy, p. 606).

Written by: Lloyd Grubb