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. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
—1 Peter 2:9–10
Different churches have different ways of discussing the same basic concept: through Jesus Christ, we have been offered a chance to live lives forgiven of our sins. While these discussions might vary in their approach, the core message remains the same. Think about how slight variations in the way you have been taught various concepts can influence your understanding of them. How have these variations impacted your thought process? What are some of these concepts? Did you try to overcome the outside influences to gain the best possible understanding?
In the Israelite tradition, the primary role of the priest was to serve as an intermediary between the Israelite people and God, mostly by acting as the one who would conduct sacrifices in the Temple in Jerusalem. In this tradition, those who were not members of the priestly class were not seen as holy enough to be able to approach God, and even the priests needed to offer sacrifices, the blood of which was seen to cover over their sins, making them worthy to draw near to God.
The established church during the 16th century held that based on their understanding of Scripture that in order for people to be able to approach God, even through prayer, it required an intercessor who followed certain church traditions, such as having been ordained as a priest. This view point came primarily from an understanding that those who had received the training necessary to be a priest were holier and therefore more worthy to approach God.
A large part of the 16th century view of salvation came from the understanding that certain rituals and traditions that did not have their roots within Scripture were necessary in order for someone to be forgiven of their sins and to live as God intended for them to do. Luther’s view held that the only thing necessary to achieve salvation was the acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Much of Luther’s view came from his understanding that Jesus serves as the High Priest whose death and resurrection served as the final sacrifice that atoned for all of our sin for all time. Through Christ’s sacrifice, the barrier that the sacrifices of the Israelite priests sought to overcome were no longer necessary.
The Apostle Peter, in 1 Peter 2:9, wrote that we “are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” Martin Luther took this passage to develop the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, which means that all Christians have been consecrated as priests who have free access to God through Jesus, our High Priest. This means that ultimately, no one has a closer relationship to God than any other person as we all reach Him through Jesus Christ, the only necessary intermediary.
Lord of All Creation, thank You that You have called us to You, and that You have made it possible for us to approach You directly. The mystery of just how You have allowed us to draw near to You is not one that we can always understand, though we acknowledge that Your power is greater than we are. Help us to see You in new ways each day, to understand the ways in which You work within the world and within our lives. Open us ever more deeply to Your presence and love that we might truly be the royal priesthood that You have called us to be. In Christ’s Name, we pray; amen.
On October 31, 1517, a young monk and professor posted a list of interesting discussion topics to the local social media of his day, the door of the church. Today, we recognize Martin Luther’s “95 Theses” as a hinge on which all of history turned. What really happened 500 years ago? Why does it matter? Is the Reformation still going on now?