Also, what is the difference between priest hood of all believers and priest as clergy?
Jesus was a priest “after the order of Melchizedek.” Melchizedek is a mysterious figure in the Old Testament. He was a “priest of Salem” (later JeruSALEM). But his status as a priest does not fit with Jewish tradition. Abraham greeted him and offered him a tithe of his conquest, and this happened BEFORE Abraham had any children. The nation of Israel came from Abraham’s children, including the priestly tribe of the descendants of his son Levi (the Levitical priesthood). To the Jews, only Levites could be priests. So, how could Melchizedek be a priest before Levi was even born?
Melchizedek was obviously a priest without Levitical heritage (Levi was not yet born). Likewise, Jesus was not of Levitical heritage (he was of the tribe of Judah, not Levi).
Melchizedek was an arch-type of Jesus - a person who prefigured Jesus in certain respects, and helped establish Our Lord’s validity. The fact that Abraham, the father of the Jews, recognized Melchizedek as a priest would take the wind out of the sails of any Jew who complained that Jesus was not a Levite and thus could NOT be a priest.
In the Old Testament, God says,
Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. [Exodus 19:5-6]
This is reiterated in the New Testament:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. [1Peter 2:9]
Both passages refer to the priesthood of all believers - all Christians are given a share of Our Lord’s Sacrifice at Calvary (which makes us all priests). But there is a difference (in both Jewish and Christian understanding) between the priesthood of believers and the ordained (or, for the Jews, hereditary) priesthood. Both Jews and Christians understand the “universal priesthood,” but both also recognize that God has established an “order” of priesthood which is distinct and superior (in office) to the universal priesthood.
It’s kinda like saying that all three-sided polygons are triangles, but only a specific subset are right (or acute, or isosceles, or equilateral) triangles. All Christians are priests, but only a few are PRIESTS.
**TITLE Question: **Yes. Jesus is the High Priest. He delegated and has assistants here on Earth.
Text Question: We all offer sacrifice as part of the priesthood of believers. Beginning with the most important one, acknowledging Jesus’ sacrifice. Priests are people under obedience as are we. Our lives, as part of the “body of Christ”, including our joys, works, prayers and sufferings can be “offered to God.”
We are not all Bishops’ assistants with power to do certain sacramental duties. Like being the celebrant at a mass. Formally forgiving sins in God’s name. Conferring the sacrament of Confirmation in the laying on of hands, etc.
That there IS a New Testament priesthood is also attested to by a reference to it (a new priesthood) in Malachi, the LAST book of the Old Testament. And elsewhere there is evidence of it … including the “Order of Melchizadek” passages. An Order constitutes more than one. Though there be but one “High Priest”.
Malachi Chapter 3
1 Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; And suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek, And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.
2 But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye.
3 He will sit refining and purifying (silver), and he will purify the sons of Levi, Refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.
4 Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem will please the LORD, as in days of old, as in years gone by.
Verse 1 was fulfilled literally when Jesus spoke in the Temple.
Verse 2: Refiners burned impurities out of metals.
Verse 3: When silver is refined the refiner can see His mirror-like image in it. The “sons of Levi” would no longer be just the physical members of that tribe … which was the tribe of priesthood … but the spiritual descendants of those priests who kept the covenant well.
Verse 4: References a future time - but hearkening back to the faithfulness of some of the priests whose sacrifices pleased the Lord.
Much of Malachi chastises the unfaithful, fallen away priesthood of the prophet’s time. It is only 3 chapters long.
The main sacrifice of the Order of Melchizadek is the offering of bread and wine to God … as Melchizadek did … but in the New Testament Covenant receiving back - in faith - God’s covenant gift to man … Jesus Christ … in the form of bread and wine.
At the Last Supper, Jesus, as Priest, Prophet, Victim, Savior and the Bread of Life instituted the Eucharist. To be received in belief, and eaten by those who would obey Christ and keep their part of the offered covenant.
Jesus’ “Do this …” after showing the apostles how … constitutes the liturgy of the Eucharist at Catholic Masses. Catholic Priests act in the person of Christ and in obedience to His “Do this …”. We believe Christ is present in His body and blood because He said so.
And because one of the strongest, most emphasized thing Christ Himself ever said was
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?”
53 Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.
54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.
55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.
57 Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.
58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever."
59 These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
Part of the Passover Covenant was the eating of the Lamb.
But it was just a shadow of the Eucharist.
The Eucharist is not the only thing that Priests do. But their obedient sacrifice of “Do this …” unites us to the sacrifice of the High Priest, Jesus.
While we lay people might receive the Eucharist … or sometimes transport and distribute it … we do not have the power to pray over bread and wine, offer it to God and be at ground zero of the Lord’s transubstantiation with our unconsecrated hands.
But the main things - The Lord intimately coming to us body, blood, soul and divinity and bringing us sanctifying grace to the end of saving us (should we keep on keeping His Covenant and staying free from - or repenting of - mortal sin thereafter) - are there for the rest of us “priesthood of believers”.
Thank you. I enjoyed reading both of your posts. Had never heard the triangle analogy before. In this case a little Geometry with the Theology was pretty cool!
In the OT, the structure of the priesthood looked like this:
- Aaron, high priest
- Levites, ministerial priests
- Israel, a nation of priests
We see a similar structure in the NT.
- Jesus, Our Eternal High Priest
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.” (Hebrews 4:14)
- Bishops, Priests & Deacons - The Ministerial Priesthood
“But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:15-16)
- The Universal Priesthood of All Believers
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
Jesus established the Ministerial Priesthood of the New Testament, and this priesthood has Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.
Bishops (episcopoi) have the care of multiple congregations and appoint, ordain, and discipline priests and deacons. They sometimes appear to be called “evangelists” in the New Testament. Examples of first-century bishops include Timothy and Titus (1 Tim. 5:19–22; 2 Tim. 4:5; Titus 1:5).
Priests (presbuteroi) are also known as “presbyters” or “elders.” In fact, the English term “priest” is simply a contraction of the Greek word presbuteros. They have the responsibility of teaching, governing, and providing the sacraments in a given congregation (1 Tim. 5:17; Jas. 5:14–15).
Deacons (diakonoi) are the assistants of the bishops and are responsible for teaching and administering certain Church tasks, such as the distribution of food (Acts 6:1–6).
In the apostolic age, the terms for these offices were still somewhat fluid. Sometimes a term would be used in a technical sense as the title for an office, sometimes not. This non-technical use of the terms even exists today, as when the term is used in many churches (both Protestant and Catholic) to refer to either ordained ministers (as in “My minister visited him”) or non-ordained individuals. (In a Protestant church one might hear “He is a worship minister,” while in a Catholic church one might hear “He is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.”)
Thus, in the apostolic age Paul sometimes described himself as a diakonos (“servant” or “minister”; cf. 2 Cor. 3:6, 6:4, 11:23; Eph. 3:7), even though he held an office much higher than that of a deacon, that of apostle.
Similarly, on one occasion Peter described himself as a “fellow elder,” [1 Pet. 5:1] even though he, being an apostle, also had a much higher office than that of an ordinary elder.
The term for bishop, episcopos (“overseer”), was also fluid in meaning. Sometimes it designated the overseer of an individual congregation (the priest), sometimes the person who was the overseer of all the congregations in a city or area (the bishop or evangelist), and sometimes simply the highest-ranking clergyman in the local church—who could be an apostle, if one were staying there at the time.
Although the terms “bishop,” “priest,” and “deacon” were somewhat fluid in the apostolic age, by the beginning of the second century they had achieved the fixed form in which they are used today to designate the three offices whose functions are clearly distinct in the New Testament.