WE ARE UNDER A NEW PRIESTHOOD:
A PRIESTHOOD OF BELIEVERS

FROM BELIEVERS TO DISCIPLES TO MINISTERS
 "A guidebook on accessing the life of God
Without being sidetracked by religious tradition."

  By Charles Pinkney


The Clergy and Laity Tradition

  "A guidebook on accessing the life of God without being sidetracked or hindered
by the pitfalls of religious tradition."

Has Christianity become a Religion? I think most everyone would respond that it is and that is the way it is supposed to be. The most familiar aspect of Christianity and the way it is experienced by the millions of believers would look something like this: We go to "services at a church," sing hymns or songs, listen to a choir, experience some form of ritual, recite prayers, and hear an address from the pulpit prepared and presented by the priest or pastor. This pastor is the individual who is trained to officiate in a correct form of doctrine and to preach or teach the parishioners in the Christian life. This is the norm to us for this is all we know and all we have experienced. But it was never designed to function is this way. At the time of the church's beginning, believers in Christ Jesus were all called to be discipled and to function as ministers of their own unique Spiritual gifts. Thus the whole body of believers who were referred to as "the church" (called out believers) would grow, bond together and influence the civilizations of which that they were part.

The idea of the ministry as a single leader, later to be identified as clergy goes back to the first centuries of Christendom. Overseers were set in place to guard incorrect doctrine. There was clearly no intention that they should dominate the entire body of believers. As we study the New Testament Scriptures, we see that there is a clear pathway of revelation which leads
away from the doctrine of priesthood, a system in which one man (person)  intervenes with God on the behalf of others. The Gospel revelation points to a new dispensation of priesthood; a priesthood of all believers.

In the time period before the Messiah, Jesus Christ (the Son of God) was manifested in human form, the mankind for the most part, could not know God. A select few men and women, chosen by God throughout the centuries and anointed to be prophets. Some few such as Enoch, Gideon, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, and other prophets of Israel, could meet with Him or have fellowship with Him. After Jesus Christ it was possible that all could know Him, meet with Him, have fellowship with Him, even call Him Abba, Daddy. Friends,
this is
the reality of the Good News!

From the beginnings of the Christian faith the question has been asked and must continue being asked, "Should we obey God or man?" In order to distinguish between these two voices something is required of us. Each of us must search the Word of Truth and trust to be a valid source of correct doctrine, Secondly to listen to the voice of the Witness which God has given to all his children. Even then the discernment of truth is not always easy to discern. Religion presents teachings or stipulations which become obligatory upon the followers. Are we to question the teachings of traditional authorities? Are we to question the doctrine of our church or church leadership?
 
ATTRIBUTES OF RELIGION "MINISTRY"
Who Ministers?

In the New Testament Bible, the word ministry comes from the Greek (Diakonia) and it generally translates as SERVICE. Thus ministry literally means service. Through the centuries of religious practice, ministry has come to mean something else, something formal and liturgical. Within the context of "church" practices ministry has been restricted to that which is done behind a pulpit and then only by a select few with "credentials."

According to the New Covenant Scriptures, discipleship is the keystone of the gospel. Yet, it is rarely taught to church congregations. All believers are trainees or disciples in the Kingdom of God and are expected at some time to become equipped to minister. "As every person has received the (free) gift, so minister the same to one another." (1Peter 4:10) To grow in the Spiritual life of God we are instructed that we are to become transformed into him and become partakers of the Lord's ministry and as well as his spiritual attributes. These attributes include all forms of compassion  to serve in kindness, (charity) through the Spirit of Love. Through such service all human life can be restored and perfected. 

Unfortunately old habits and traditions die hard, and few question the role and appropriateness of a trained clergyperson who may not even know God in all of his promises and power, who presumes to substitute sermonettes for the power of the Spirit.

The Clergy and the Laity

The Clergy-Laity doctrine divides the flock into two disparate parts rather than making it more unified and homogeneous. The good shepherd story described in John's gospel chapter 10 describes the characteristics of a good shepherd. It list among the virtues, intimacy and closeness of the shepherd to the flock. The shepherd knows each of his charges by name; he will sacrifice his personal comfort and life for the flock. Finally we are told that Jesus is this shepherd. The psalmist has written almost a thousand years before, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." It is unlikely that a human shepherd could duplicate the qualities of Christ Jesus the true bishop (overseer) and shepherd (pastor) of our souls."

The Spiritual shepherd is a gift to a body of believers. All ministry designations are gifts chosen by God to mature the body. There are a variety of ministry gifts, the mentor, shepherd being one. The concept of pastor as an office of the "church" formal functions which have come into practice in any fellowship so long as he ministers that gift outside of the parameters of religious formalism. The pastoral gift (mentor) will possess the necessary compassion and wisdom to minister hope, encouragement, wisdom and strength to the flock. While being fully aware that he does not hold the full potentiality of certain other ministry gifts which must come into function as needed.

The body has been given the gifts needed to build up (edify) the believers when they gather.

Romans 12:4 " - For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
1Corinthians 12:4 " -Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. (Ephesians 4 NRSV)“When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.” 9(When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) 11The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry for building up the body of Christ, 13until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love

The religious tradition of "Clergy and Laity" is not found in the Bible per se and must be examined in the light of Scripture. The practice no doubt made inroads into common practice through the doctrine of the five public ministry gifts (offices) described in Ephesians chapter 4. Throughout the apostolic letters we are told that mature men of God were to guide and direct and to maintain purity of doctrine and practices. These were to be overseers (Gr. presbuteros) of the local flocks of God. The intention was to keep the our faith and traditions accurate and steadfast, holding the Apostle's teaching as the model. What was written was written with the intention of providing mature guidance to the immature believers who were being discipled in the faith. We do however, find admonitions about those who would seek pre-eminence having control over the body of believers. See reference to Diotrephes in the 3rd Epistle of John; See references to the Nicolaitans doctrine in Revelations. Revelations 2:6

Maturity in faith and spiritual understanding is meant to provide elders or overseers who it is assumed have been properly tutored in examples of the Spiritual life and to provide balance and correction as necessary to assure that true doctrine can be maintained and enforced among the fellowship.
In the course of time, elders, pastors, or overseers began to assume the whole responsibility of "ministry" and later presumed upon itself, singularity of authority. In effect spiritual experience and leadership began to devolve back toward the same kind of a Priesthood which Jesus had annulled in his New Covenant.
 

The Detriments of The
Clergy-Laity Doctrine
The doctrine of a trained clergy class who have been ordained, or credentialed to become religious professionals, introduces some serious problems. To be sure there are more detriments associated with the practice than positives. Here are a few of the negatives associated with clergy and laity:

The Clergy-Laiety Doctrine Divides the body into disparate parts and becomes a barrier of formalism, thus standing in the way of true fellowship. "Do not call common those things that I have cleansed." (Jesus to Peter in Acts Chapter 10:15)

The Clergy-Laiety Doctrine Implies or teaches a superiority of rank among the Christian body; that the spirituality of the clergy is superior to those who are not formally credentialed or ordained. The Bible advances an important principle that "God is not a respecter of persons." (Peter speaking in Acts 10:34, and regarding Jesus in Matthew 22:16 and Mark 12:14)

The Clergy-Laiety Doctrine Presumes to teach that the status of the clergy is superior in terms of Spiritual authority. Jesus addressed a questioning pharisee," Why do you call me Good? There is none Good but one, God"(Luke 18:19; 1 of 3 references)"These signs shall follow those who believe, they shall - -"( Mark 16:17) The ability to minister with signs following gives no reference to role or leadership designation, just "believers."

The Clergy-Laiety Doctrine Suggests or implies that the ordinary believer can not be taught by God. Scriptures especially the Epistles relate how the Body (the church) was designed to edify itself through mutual nurture, all parts ministering life to one another. Mutual sharing through love grows the body. (Read Ephesians Chapter 4 pertaining to unity, edification and the mutual working of all the parts in the ministry gifts.- Ephesians 4:16.)

The Clergy-Laiety Doctrine Suggests or teaches that only the clergy minister. We are all made Kings and priests unto God. As we have shared in Scriptural references already given above and the additional Scriptures found in Revelations 1:6 and 5:10.)

The Clergy-Laiety Doctrine "God is not a respecter of persons." This is the statement Paul made regarding Peter, James and John, apostles who first questioned his Paul's assuming an apostolic ministry. (To understand the doctrine of respect of persons here are a few relevant scriptures, a few of many : Galatians 2:6; Romans 2:11; Acts 10:34; Ephesians 6:9; and James 2:1.)

The Clergy-Laiety Doctrine Impedes the work of the ministry and the Divine commission, wherein every believer is expected to be developed to minister. This is portrayed generally throughout all the epistles which are the council of God to every believer, and is enunciated in particular in  the proper translation of Paul's letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 4, vss. 11, 12, 13.  To suggest that ministry is limited to Clergy is a serious doctrinal error.


"Knowledge makes arrogant, love edifies."

 

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