Summary of a paper written by John Nelson Darby entitiled, ‘Who is a Priest and What is a Priest?’ It is published in Collected Writings Volume 10 (Doctrinal 3) page 209.
The establishment of a human priesthood, as a class distinct from all other Christians, is a denial of the truth of Christianity. According to the New Testament, all Christians are priests: they offer prayer and praise to God..
In the New Testament we have:
- Jewish priests
- The pagan priest of Jupiter
- Melchisedec (contemporary with Abraham)
- Christ Himself as the Great High Priest
There are absolutely no references to certain Christians having the distinction of being priests. Rather all Christians are priests. A distinct class of priests among Christians on earth is totally foreign to the New Testament. All Christians belong to a holy and royal priesthood – anything else is false and unscriptural.
See the following scriptures:
- 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 (1 Peter 2:5)
- 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 (1 Peter 2:9)
- Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests to God and his Father (Rev 1:5-6)
- By him [Jesus] therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving praise to his name (Heb 13:15) [The word ‘priest’ is not used here, but only priests offer sacrifices].
Christ is the Great High Priest; all Christians are priests. In the old system priests offered gifts and sacrifices for sins on behalf of the people who were not allowed to approach the altar and do so. This was, of course, before Christ’s own sacrifice on the cross. Christianity is founded on the perfect sacrifice of Christ, the value and efficacy of which are eternal. Hebrews emphasises that, as Christ’s work was once and for all, there cannot remain any further sacrifice for sins (see Heb 10:26).
In the Jewish tabernacle there were two veils. Common people could enter neither. Priests could enter the first to offer incense, but the veil into the Holy of Holies, the high priest entered alone once a year, with the blood of propitiation to put upon the mercy seat. Thus God was hidden within the veil. The ordinary worshipper could not approach God directly to offer his gifts or sacrifices. The priest received the them, and he offered them. God dwelt in thick darkness.
Christianity is the complete opposite of all this. The veil was rent from the top to the bottom (see Mark 15:38); God has revealed Himself. Instead of our not being able to approach God, God has approached us. This even applied to the chief of sinners (Paul). Now,
- The grace of God which bringeth salvation hath appeared. (Titus 2:11)
- The darkness is past, and the true light now shineth (1 John 2:8).
- God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them. (2 Cor 5:19)
- The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (John 1:14).
- In him [Christ] was life, and the life was the light of men (John 1:4).
- God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life (1 John 5:12).
By this we deduce that, when a Christian assumes the exclusive authority to conduct a communion service or mass, he is hanging on to the old Jewish order. He is, in effect, saying, that the ordinary person cannot approach personally, but must get an ordained church officer to approach for him. This is a denial of the whole efficacy of Christianity, and the place in which all Christians are set.
But the light of God has shone forth, and it is for me to walk in the light as he [God] is in the light (1 John 1:7). I approach through the blood of Christ, the light showing me that I am perfectly clean. If I require another go into Gods presence on my behalf, I must not be regarding myself as clean. But I am clean, because of Christ’s work. I am therefore a priest, and am to offer praise, thanks and worship to God myself. And I can do it at any time.
Summary by Sosthenes