Entering into Your Priesthood

In the sixteenth century, Martin Luther formulated the concept of the priesthood of all believers. Contrary to widespread misconceptions of this doctrine, Luther did not mean to reduce the supernatural concern of personal redemption to a core or essence of social concern.

In reaction to the modernist-fundamentalist controversy, many evangelicals, zealous to retain the biblical concern for personal redemption, began to minimize or even reject the social agenda of the New Testament. Social concern and relief ministry became identified with liberalism. Ministry to the poor, the homeless, the hungry, and the imprisoned was often all-too-willingly surrendered to the state or the liberal church.

This reaction was utterly foreign to and in violation of the clear mandate of Scripture. James wrote concerning the essence of pure religion: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27, NIV).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

What are you doing to help those around you who are in distress? Are you keeping yourself clean from the world’s pollution, as James admonishes?

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Finding Your Identity

Several images are used in the Bible to describe the church: the body of Christ, the elect, the house of God, the saints. One of the most meaningful expressions the Bible uses is “the people of God,” the laos theon.

The church, then, is people. The Roman Catholic Church once declared, “Where the bishop is, there is the church.” The Reformation declared, “Where the people of God are, there is the church—the church under the Lordship of Christ and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.”

The church is neither a building nor the clergy nor an abstract institution—it is the people of God. When Martin Luther articulated his vision of the priesthood of all believers, he did not denigrate the legitimate role of the clergy. He understood that Christ has given pastors and teachers to His church, along with other offices, with specified tasks. What Luther was getting at, however, is that the priestly ministry of Christ is passed on in some measure to every believer.

Cordam deo: Living before the face of God

Give thanks that you are part of the body of Christ, the elect, the people of God.