by Shawn Brasseaux
Have you ever heard the expression “the priesthood of the believer?” Are we Christians “priests,” or is this just vain religious tradition? We want to study the Bible God’s way in order to reach a sound conclusion regarding this issue.
First, we want to examine and consider the Bible passages that people often use to promote the idea that we Christians are “priests.” Then, we will be able to determine what to believe about this matter.
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One of the most widely used passages in this regard is 1 Peter 2:5,9,10. Let us read those verses as found in the King James Bible:
“5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ….
9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.”
Another verse used to teach the “priesthood of the believer” doctrine is Revelation 1:6 KJV: “And [Jesus Christ] hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” And Revelation 5:10 KJV: “And [the Lamb, Jesus Christ] hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.”
Certainly, we the Bible does call believers “priests,” but there is one thing we need to clarify—which believers? Who is the “ye” and the “us” in the above passages? Oftentimes, it is wrongly assumed that everything in the “New Testament” (that is, Matthew through Revelation) applies to us members of the Church the Body of Christ. This is why there is abounding confusion in Christendom. Understand that some New Testament passages are written to Israel, not to us. We need to exercise caution before we follow verses in the New Testament, lest we claim something that God promised Israel and not us.
If we return to the Bible passages 1 Peter 2:5,9,10, Revelation 1:6, and Revelation 5:10, it is apparent from the context that these verses do not apply to us members of the Church the Body of Christ. For instance, the people spoken of in 1 Peter 2:9 are called “a royal priesthood,” but they are also called “an holy nation.” Are we the Church the Body of Christ a “holy nation?” Certainly not, therefore this verse is not talking about us Christians in this the Dispensation of Grace. Revelation 1:6 and Revelation 5:10 not only say that believers are “priests,” but also “kings.” Are we “kings?” Again, the answer is NO. But there is more Scriptural evidence that indicates these passages do not apply to us.
In order to understand any Bible topic, we must use dispensational Bible study. The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:15: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” The only verse in the Bible that tells you to “study” the Bible is the also the solitary verse in the Bible that tells you how to study the Bible: “rightly dividing the word of truth.”
Right division means we are recognizing divisions that God has placed in His Word. All of the Bible is for us, but not all of the Bible is to us or about us. Not everything in the Bible is directed to us, and we know that because we cannot follow every instruction given in the Bible (In fact, some Bible verses teach doctrines opposite to what other Bible verses teach, so what then?). So, how do we solve all these so-called “contradictions” in the Bible? The key is to use the context of the Bible verse/passage to determine the people to whom God is speaking. Is God speaking to us, or is He speaking to someone else?
Undoubtedly, 1 Peter 2:5,9,10, Revelation 1:6, and Revelation 5:10 all say that believers are “priests,” but dispensational Bible study demands that we ask these two questions: (1) “Who wrote these passages?” and (2) “To whom were these passages written?”
Answer to Question #1: Obviously, the Apostle Peter wrote 1 Peter (1:1) and the Apostle John wrote the book of the Revelation (1:1).
Answer to Question #2: Galatians 2:9 says that Peter and John are apostles of Israel. Peter and John are not writing to us Gentiles; they are writing to Jewish believers, the believing remnant of Israel! The Bible verses 1 Peter 2:5,9,10, Revelation 1:6, and Revelation 5:10 are written to Jewish believers. We are Gentiles, not Jews; therefore, these passages do not apply to us.
Lest someone charge us with not providing enough biblical support for this conclusion, we will offer additional verses for consideration.
God’s message to us as members of the Church the Body of Christ is found in Paul’s 13 epistles, Romans through Philemon. Our doctrine, duty, walk, and destiny as members of the Body of Christ are found in Paul’s epistles alone. The remainder of the Bible focuses on God’s purpose and program for the nation Israel. Christendom refuses to recognize the distinction between Israel’s prophetic program (Acts 3:21) and our mystery program (Romans 16:25); hence the abounding confusion about the Bible.
Re-read 1 Peter 2:5,9: “Ye also,…a spiritual house, an holy priesthood,…a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people.” Let us look at the Old Testament parallel passage, Exodus 19:5-6 KJV: “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.” These words were clearly spoken to Israel. Peter simply repeated to Israel what God told them through Moses many centuries before. Notice how the word “nation” appeared in Exodus chapter 19 and 1 Peter chapter 2. Again, is the Church the Body of Christ a nation? No, but Israel is a nation! See, the Bible makes perfect sense if we use it God’s way.
From Abraham to the time of Christ’s earthly ministry (Four Gospels), Israel was God’s chosen people on earth. When Israel killed her Messiah (Jesus Christ) and refused to repent in the early Acts period, ultimately stoning her prophet Stephen and blaspheming against the Holy Ghost in Acts chapter 7, God changed the program. Today, in our Dispensation of Grace, the Apostle Paul writes that the nation Israel is “fallen,” “cast away,” and “spiritually blinded” (Romans 11:11,15,25). Because Israel rejected her Messiah-King Jesus Christ, and demanded His crucifixion, Israel’s kingdom was never established on the earth.
Israel has never been a “kingdom of priests”… yet. The passages of 1 Peter 2:5,9,10, Revelation 1:6, and Revelation 5:10 all belong to a future time period, beyond our present day.
In our dispensation, God has temporarily set Israel aside. Consequently, for nearly 2000 years now, the nation Israel has not enjoyed that privileged status she once held. The day is coming, however, when God will remove Israel’s spiritual blindness, “and so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob [Israel]: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins” (Romans 11:26-29). This is the “New Covenant,” which God will establish with Israel at Christ’s Second Coming (Acts 3:19-21; Hebrews 8:8-13; Hebrews 10:15-17).
Once the Church the Body of Christ is complete, it will be raptured from the earth and taken into the heaven, and then this Dispensation of Grace will end (1 Corinthians 15:51-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). After the rapture, there will be a seven-year period of God’s wrath, known as the Tribulation (Daniel’s 70th week, or Jacob’s trouble). The Tribulation will conclude when Christ returns at His Second Coming to establish His kingdom on the earth, and this is when Israel will be a “kingdom of priests.”
Let us consider what Isaiah 61:1-6 KJV says:
“1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.
4 And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.
5 And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.
6 But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves.”
According to Luke 4:16-21, Isaiah 61:1 and the first one-third of verse 2 were fulfilled during Christ’s earthly ministry (His First Coming). The remainder of verse 2 down through verse 6 has yet to come to pass: “the day of vengeance of our God,” for example, is the seven-year Tribulation, and “to comfort all that mourn” refers to the subsequent 1000-year earthly kingdom where the curse on creation will be removed and Israel will dwell in her land safely. Verses 3 through 6 describe the earthly millennial reign of Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords. Israel will be restored and comforted, she will dwell in peace and prosperity, and Jews will be “Priests of the LORD” and “the Ministers of our God” (Isaiah 61:6).
Israel will be restored and comforted, she will dwell in peace and prosperity, and Jews will be “Priests of the LORD” and “the Ministers of our God” (Isaiah 61:6). Notice, Revelation 20:6, “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” Israel will not be a kingdom of priests until Christ sets up His millennial kingdom.
This is in perfect accordance with Exodus 19:5-6, 1 Peter 2:5,9,10, Revelation 1:6, and Revelation 5:10.
In this future kingdom, lost Gentiles will seek JEHOVAH, but the only way they can approach Him is if they come through Israel! Jews will be the mediator between Gentiles and God Almighty (see Zechariah 8:20-23, Isaiah 42:1-6, Isaiah 60:1-3, and Matthew 28:18-20, for instance). Please note that none of these Scriptures relate to us today because we are not the nation Israel and we are not living in her prophetic program.
In fact, 1 Peter 2:10 tells us that these Jewish believers “in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” “Not God’s people” describes Israel today (Hosea 1:9; Romans 10:1-3). In the future, our dispensation will be seen as this period of “time past.”
WHERE WE FIT IN
So, as Christians, members of the Church the Body of Christ, we are not “priests.” What are we then? We need to go to our apostle, the Apostle Paul: Paul is “the apostle of the Gentiles,” so he is God’s spokesman to us (Romans 11:13; Romans 15:16; 2 Timothy 1:11). Never does Paul use the term “priests” to describe us believers today. *NOTE: Modern Bibles (NIV, NASB, NRSV, ESV, et cetera) insert the word “priest” into Romans 15:16, but was Paul ever a priest? Then, why do modern Bibles say that he was? (Because they are being dishonest!)
The Apostle Paul speaks of us in 2 Corinthians 5:20 as Christ’s “ambassadors.” An “ambassador” is one sent to a foreign territory to represents his or her homeland. As Christian ambassadors, our lives (should) represent heaven: “For our conversation is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). Furthermore, we are not a kingdom because Jesus Christ is not our King; He is Israel’s King. Paul wrote that Jesus Christ is our “Head,” the Head of the Church that is His Body (Ephesians 1:22,23; Ephesians 4:15; Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18; Colossians 2:19).
We as members of the Church the Body of Christ are not “a kingdom of priests;” we are “a body of ambassadors.”