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Royal Priests, by Order of Our Great High Priest

When you think of a priest, a lot of terrible news stories might come to mind.

Sins have become public and all too commonly connected with the word priest. This, however, is no modern issue. Even Aaron, whom God appointed as priest over the Israelites in the desert, failed to live up to his calling. He made a golden calf for the people to worship (Exodus 32). Eli’s sons, the priests Hophni and Phinehas, were notoriously evil (1 Samuel 2:22-23). The chief priests in Jesus’ time took part in crucifying Him (Matthew 27:20). The high priest was part of the judicial body that condemned Stephen to death for preaching about Jesus (Acts 7). We Christians are called priests, but what can that mean for us when so many have failed in this calling?

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)

The Bible clearly includes all Christians in the “royal priesthood” mentioned in 1 Peter 2:9. This is not the same as the Old Testament priesthood. In the Old Testament, only the descendants of Aaron were to be priests. In general, they fulfilled the important duties of performing sacrifices and speaking to God on behalf of the people. But these sacrifices were not enough. As hymnist Isaac Watts wrote, “Not all the blood of beasts on Jewish altars slain could give the guilty conscience peace or wash away the stain.” (TLH 156)

Along with the failures of priests recorded in Scripture, we are intimately familiar with our own failures as royal priests. How many times have we passed up opportunities to glorify and spread our Savior’s name? Thankfully, there is one High Priest who lived up to the job: “For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.” (Hebrews 7:26-28)

Christ, our great High Priest, lived a perfect life and paid for all our sins with His innocent death on the cross. He now makes every Christian a royal priest. Literature is filled with stories of the weak finding they have been chosen for something much greater, but we need not look to fiction for the greatest example of this. Miserable sinners are forgiven, raised up to the rank of royal priests, and given the commission to spread the good news of Christ crucified to all people, accompanied by God’s promise “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

“Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)

Ross Kok is a teacher at Holy Cross Lutheran School in Phoenix, Arizona.