Last month I summarized a set of arguments defending the historic definition and role of the Bishop, and now this month I just read a great introductory article on the historic definition and role of the Priest, by my former classmate Joe Merrill. You can read it at the All Saints Center for Theology, an excellent resource to which I have not contributed for some time due to moving and such.
In this article, he primarily tackles the conflict between the Protestant focus on “the priesthood of all believers” and the historic Catholic “Christian priesthood,” showing how they reconcile in Anglican faith and practice (and not just Anglican, for that matter, but historic Christianity in general).
His explanation relies primarily on Hebrews 9 & 10. Chapter 9 gives the summary of Old Covenant priesthood and its functions, and chapter 10 brings it into the Body of Christ. Specifically, the Body of Christ is there described as 1) the perfect offering for sin, 2) that which sanctifies us, and 3) that which separates (or mediates) us and God. From there he brings in Paul’s teaching about the Body of Christ having many parts, and the various roles we have within it. All Christians share in the mediator nature of Christ’s priesthood, but as he explains it:
a Christian priest then is one who is Christian (he is a mediator between God and men) and a priest (one who is a shepherd), he feeds the body of Christ with the body of Christ that it might continue to grow.
This is very much akin to what I observed some time ago regarding Jesus’ command to Peter to feed his sheep.
Joe then closes his summary article with a brief explanation of the development of the office of priesthood in distinction to the office of the bishop – a process which is not clearly documented and seems to be still in process over the course of the New Testament. Sometimes you can see a distinction, and sometimes they seem interchangeable, as a brief word study might reveal.
All in all, it’s a great introduction to the concept of the historic priesthood for those not used to it, and a bit more straight-forward on the definitions of priesthood than a different article I reviewed earlier this year managed to put together.