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Priesthood of All Believers: What Does It Mean?

By Joel Comiskey

Spring 2013

by Joel Comiskey

The Protestant Reformation exposed the huge artificial wall that existed between the average Christian and the clergy. At that time, the normal Christian was forbidden to read the Bible and had to submit in blind obedience to the dictates of the church hierarchy.

Luther stood against the abuses and revealed the truth through systematic Bible teaching. He translated the Bible into the German language, so that each believer could read the Bible, understand Scripture’s plain meaning, and minister as a priest of the living God (which became known as the priesthood of all believers).

Luther, Zwingli and the other reformers, however, could only apply the priesthood of all believers to a limited extent. After all, the reformers depended on the protection of the government and stability of the entire state to embrace their reforms. The reformers didn’t want Christians meeting in house churches and practicing believer’s baptism (at that time all infants were baptized as part of the state church) because they needed the stability of the state church.

But many believers at that time followed their convictions and practiced thepriesthood of all believers through house church gatherings, believer’s baptism, etc. They were called the “radical brethren” and were persecuted by the protestant reformers!!

The radical reformation is closer to New Testament Christianity and cell church ministry today. The cell church, like the early church, prioritizes thepriesthood of all believers. But what does this look like? We know it means active participation in the cell, discovery of the spiritual gifts, and being prepared to participate on a leadership team. But how else can we practice the priesthood of all believers in today’s church?

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