“Everyone in the entire community is holy, and the LORD is among them!” That’s what a band of rebels from the tribes of Reuben and Levi declared when they revolted against Moses and Aaron before going on to demand, “Why then do you exalt yourselves above the LORD’s assembly?” (Numbers 16:3). The rebels were consumed by earth and fire the next day, suggesting that God may not have agreed with their assessment of the situation. And yet, we must admit that their question made some sense. God had, after all, designated all of Israel as a royal people and a holy priesthood (Exodus 19:6; 22:31; Leviticus 20:7, 26). If all the people participated together in kingship and priesthood, why were leaders needed?
This question becomes even more acute in the New Testament, particularly in the letter that we know as 1 Peter. In this letter, Simon Peter refers to God’s new covenant people as “a holy priesthood” and as “a kingdom of priests” (1 Peter 2:5-9)—and he says all of this after making it clear that the Holy Spirit is no less present in the laity than in their leaders (1 Peter 1:2).
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you—no less than the leaders who proclaim the Scriptures each week from the pulpit and who lead the congregation in worship—participate in a holy priesthood.
Why, then, are leaders necessary?
Or are they?
And, if they are necessary, what does it even mean for the people of God to be “a holy priesthood”?
That’s the question that I explored in this message.
Learning to Lead a Kingdom of Priests
A few months ago, I had the privilege of discussing these questions with a group of eager and hospitable women and men training for ministry in the newly-renovated Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia. I explored these issues by unpacking the meaning of “holy priesthood” in light of Claude Bernard-Costecalde’s work Aux Origines du Sacre Biblique. Here’s the message I preached there:
Discuss in the Comments:
Listen to this message that I shared with the students at Moore Theological College. How did this message change your perspective on the phrase “holy priesthood” in 1 Peter 2? How might this change the way you serve and lead in your church?
If you are interested in exploring this issue further, you may find it helpful to read The God Who Goes Before You.