1 Peter 2:4-5
To whom coming, as to a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,…
Christians are a royal priesthood; they are united together in the Church to be a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ: the joy of priesthood should be the tasted joy of every member of the Church of Christ. True it is that in its fullest sense there is but one priest — Jesus, the anointed of the Father. No other priest can be, since He ever lives and ministers in His priesthood. But He ministers as priest under two conditions — in heaven in His glorified human body: on earth in His mystical body — the Church. When He was on the earth "in the days of His flesh," He ministered to men through His natural body. In it He interceded for them with God, and instituted and offered the holy Eucharistic sacrifice. By it He spake to them God's words, and did among them God's works. But when His body was taken up into heaven, it could not be the instrument of His priesthood on earth. So He created His mystical body — the Church. Thus the Church, as the mystical body of Christ, is the extension of His natural body, and so is the fulness of Christ, As, then before His ascension, Christ ministered on earth in His natural body, since His ascension He ministers on earth in His mystical body. Hence His Church is a sacerdotal society. It is a kingdom of priests, because its members are the ministers of Christ's priest hood. Its priesthood is not one existing side by side with, nor is it supplemental to, the one priesthood of Christ. It is not the delegated representative of an absent Lord fulfilling priestly ministries on His behalf; it is the organism of a present Lord. It is the organism whereby Christ intercedes with God for men in prayer and Eucharist on earth, and by which He teaches men God's faith, and ministers to them God's grace. This sacerdotal vocation and character is not the exclusive possession of any one section of the mystical body of Christ — it is common to all Christian men. Each member of the mystical body of the Great High Priest is himself a priest unto God. But he is a priest called on to minister in the unity and in the order of that mystical body. Each member in it is placed in his position in its structure to fulfil the ministry proper to him as the organ of the whole body. The priestly character is common to all, but all are not called to the same measure of priestly ministries or gifts. The priesthood of the laity is recognised by the Church in confirmation. Christians are born to priesthood in the sacrament of regeneration as sons of the second Aaron, just as Aaron's sons were born to the priesthood of Israel. But as in Israel of old those thus born were at a given age solemnly consecrated and commissioned to execute the priest's office; so in the Church of Christ the regenerate are consecrated, commissioned, and dowered, for the lay priesthood in the sacrament of confirmation. This priesthood of the laity has, as priesthood always has, a two-fold aspect — Godward and manward. The Church, as a sacerdotal society, has primarily to minister to God — to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. The first duty of the lay priesthood is by cooperation with the consecrated ministers of the Church to offer to God continual worship in Christian sanctuaries. Closely allied with the ministry of worship is the ministry of intercession. He whose soul ascends to God and rests in God in adoration will share with God His love to men, and, sharing this love, he will breathe it out in intercession. Moreover, as God's priest, the layman is called to minister to man for God in active service. He has his place in that great mediatorial system by which God wills to give to men the two great gifts of truth and grace. Each Christian Churchman is here in a position of grave responsibility. All wealth is a trust held by each for all. And, in addition to this, as the priest of God, the layman is called on to do what he can to bring his fellow men into the knowledge of the truth as he knows it, and with those gracious conditions of life in which he is privileged to live. He must be an evangelist — the bearer to others of the good tidings in the joy of which he is privileged to live. Let me conclude with two cautions bearing on this question of lay priesthood.
1. Avoid individualism in its exercise. Priesthood is an official status; it exists in the body of Christ, and can only be rightly exercised according to the will of God in the unity of that body. All its ministries must be performed "decently and in order." God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, in all churches of the saints, "and peace is," as St. teaches us, "the harmony of ordered union."
2. The one motive of the layman in his priesthood must always be to reveal to men and to bring them to submit to the One Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, as He ministers in and through His Church. No one can rise to the realisation of his lay priesthood except he be one who, in the unity of the Church, tastes and sees the goodness of the Lord.
Parallel VersesKJV: To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,