THE PRIESTHOOD OF ALL BELIEVERS

Scripture Reading:  Ephesians 4:11-16

“And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11,12)

One of the great doctrines that was rediscovered during the Reformation is the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers.  For centuries prior to the Reformation, the work of ministry was done primarily by the clergy.  The priests controlled what information was given to the lay people and priest also monopolized the work of ministry.  The Reformation challenged the clericalism that dominated the church by placing the work of ministry back into the hands of lay people.  Our passage today clearly defines the roles of clergy and of lay people.

The offices of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher were Christ’s gift to His church.  He graciously gave these offices to the church and He also defined their primary role — “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.”  This is the primary responsibility of the clergy.  They are called to be equippers of others.

While the offices of apostle and prophet no longer exist, evangelists and pastors-teachers do.  I don’t want to go into a full discussion about the end of the offices of apostle and prophets now; but suffice it to say that these two offices were revelatory in nature.  God used the prophets and apostles to be his primary agents of revealing the truths that are found in the Scriptures.  The Bible is now complete and there is no need for additional special revelation.  God has given us His Word and His Word is sufficient.

I want to focus primarily on the office of pastor-teacher.  (I believe there is good reason to put these two terms together to describe the office.)  Many in our churches today do not understand that the primary responsibility of the pastor-teacher is to equip the saints for the work of ministry.  They still hold on to a form of clericalism — the pastor is responsible to do the work of ministry.  However, this clearly violates the teaching of God’s Word as we have seen.  Pastors are to prepare God’s people for meaningful ministry and service.  Thus all Christians are called to full time ministry!

When we pastors equip our people for the work of ministry, the body of Christ is built up.  We must recognize that pastors cannot do the work of ministry alone as some lay people expect them to do.  Perhaps this is why so many pastors are burned out and overwhelmed.  Depression is wide spread among pastors.  I suffered from it a few years ago.  Your pastors need your prayers and support.

We must return to the great principle of the Reformation — the priesthood of all believers.  Pastors must let go of the work of ministry and devote themselves to equipping others to do it.  Congregants must change their unrealistic expectations of pastors.  When lay people are equipped for the work of ministry, the body of Christ will continue to be built up and will become more effective in expanding the Kingdom of God.

Lord Jesus, thank You that you have given pastors to churches to lead, equip, and prepare the saints for ministry.  Help me as I attempt to equip others to serve You, Your people and the people of the world.

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