The Glorious Body of Christ VII: A Kingdom of Priests - Rev. 1:4-6

In our series exploring the Church as “The Glorious Body of Christ”, we are now considering the idea of office in the Church; that is, positions of authority and responsibility that enable the Church to carry out her mission. Many of you will be familiar with calling the elders and deacons the officers of the Church, and this is correct, but if we jump straight there, we’ve missed something very important.

The central thing you need to know about office in the Church is that every baptized believer is an officer. Every believer, by virtue of their baptism, has been ordained to priestly service in God’s house. The office you bear is the office of member, which is a position in the Church that carries with it tremendous responsibility, authority, and blessing. This is what is being taught in Rev. 1:6, and also in 1 Pet. 4:9, where the Church is described as a royal priesthood.

This is what is called the universal or general office, since it is an office that all of God’s people share, as opposed to the special offices such as elder and deacon. This is one of the great treasures recovered by Martin Luther and the Reformation of the 16th century, leading them to speak of the priesthood of all believers, as opposed to viewing only ordained clergy as priests before God. So when you think of elders and deacons as officers, you’re not wrong, but if you miss this universal office, then you’re going to end up thinking wrongly about Church and missing your priestly calling as a member.

When I say “priest”, I mean “church member”, but I want us to keep using the term “priest” so that we think of ourselves as servants in God’s house, which is what a priest is. You are not just an attender; you are a priest. An attender passively receives, but a priest actively serves. So how are you called to serve as a priest? As we consider our priestly service today, I want us to continue looking through the lenses of worship, community, and mission.

First, consider your priestly role in worship. As we think about the Church gathered, one of the things that sets our Church and our denomination apart is our liturgy, our pattern of worship, not only what we do in our service, but who it is that is doing it. Because we believe that all of God’s people are priests, and worship is our key priestly work, our service of worship is one where you are called on to participate in a big way: our music is congregational singing; many of our prayers are prayed together; we recite the creeds together; we exemplify our unity together as we pass the peace; and we all partake of the Supper as one body. Even in those parts of the service where the congregation is silent and the minister speaks for God, we respond back to God with our affirmations and amens. Our worship isn’t a performance for the people, it is a key part of the priestly work of the people.

As the Church scatters into smaller groups in community, we still carry out our priestly service towards one another. We exhort and encourage one another, we rebuke sin and error, we sing and pray and eat and work together, and all of this is priestly service. In a healthy church, most of the spiritual service is carried out by the universal priesthood, not just by those priests who are called to the special offices of elder or deacon. So when you see someone in need of spiritual care, whether instruction or encouragement or comfort, your first thought should not be, “I’d better find a trained religious professional.” You should think “I’m a priest; I can help!”

And finally, mission is the most scattered aspect of the Church, but even there your priestly calling follows you. You are not just a priest at church; you are a kingdom of priests, and your priestly work extends as far as the kingdom does! This doesn’t mean that everyone ought to work for the Church full-time; it means that all lawful work that Christians do is holy, priestly work. God calls some of His priests to construction, some to pastoral ministry, some to politics, and some to birth and raise children, but because Jesus has made you a priest, everything you do is priestly work.

Every baptized Christian is entrusted with the office of church member, because the one who loves you and freed you from your sins by His blood has made you a kingdom of priests to His God and Father.

Posted on Thursday, March 05, 2020 by CJ Bowen