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What is the Priestly Service?

In God’s New Testament purpose and plan, the priesthood is the believers’ primary, indispensable ministry. The meaning and function of the physical Old Testament priesthood is presented straightforwardly in the Scriptures. However, the understanding of the spiritual New Testament priesthood has been obscured by centuries of erroneous tradition. The New Testament Greek language uses two different words for the English equivalent of priesthood: one means the office, function, or ministry of the priest, while the other refers to the corporate body of priests. Much inaccurate and inadequate understanding of the meaning of the office or function of a priest persists even today.

What does the New Testament say about the priesthood? According to Revelation 1:6 and 1 Peter 2:5, every believer is a priest to God. While the dictionary may define a priest as a professional who makes a career of serving God, the New Testament reveals that God intends that all His people serve Him as priests. Hence, the believers in Christ are “a kingdom of priests” (Rev. 1:6), “a holy priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:5), and “a royal priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:9). Contrary to religious thought, the New Testament priesthood revealed in the Word of God does not require taking a vow of celibacy, wearing distinctive priestly garb, or becoming a member of the clergy. Rather, the priesthood is a particular service rendered to God by every child of God.

A New Testament priest is a normal believer who is filled and saturated with Christ as the life-giving Spirit.

Though to be a New Testament priest involves serving God, it is not simply a matter of doing something for God. Rather, a New Testament priest is a normal believer who is filled and saturated with Christ as the life-giving Spirit. Such a priest is simply one who has allowed Christ to make His home in his heart (Eph. 3:17) to have his inward being saturated with Christ’s essence and element. He is occupied and permeated with Christ by continually contacting God through prayer. He serves God by spending time in His presence until he is one with the One whom he serves. Then his service is not so much his work for God as it is the overflow of God from within him. Rivers of living water issue from his innermost being (John 7:37-39). This overflow becomes his Christian service to God.

By being filled with Christ, the New Testament priests experience, gain, and magnify Christ. Christ becomes their true burnt offering as the One who is absolute for God, their meal offering for God’s satisfaction, their sin and trespass offerings to satisfy God’s righteousness, and their peace offering to bring in oneness and harmony between God and man. Then, through their praying, singing, praising, and speaking, they offer to God the Christ they have experienced as the reality and fulfillment of all the Old Testament offerings. What a blessing and privilege it is that every child of God has been called to serve God as a priest with Christ Himself as the content of his offering.

For further reading on this subject, please see The Priesthood and The New Testament Priests of the Gospel, both by Witness Lee, published by Living Stream Ministry.

From Issue No. 33, January 2001

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