Early Baptists saw the principle as crucial in motivating individuals to take seriously the teaching of Scripture in 1 Peter 2:9: “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
The Baptist Faith & Message 2000, a convictional statement of the beliefs of Southern Baptists, points to the “priesthood of believers” and “soul competency” as part of our Christian theological perspective.
In the Old Testament, priests were responsible for the sacrifice of animals and priests were separated from other priests and worshippers by a veil. At the crucifixion of Jesus, however, the great veil in the temple “was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matt. 27:51), meaning each of us now are one in communion with God.
After spending a week in the Middle East—and after touring the Vatican a few weeks ago—I gained new appreciation for the distinctive Baptist faith that is now so much a part of the fabric of my family.
While I appreciate the rich heritage from which my own roots were formed—and the love and respect that was taught to me by my extended Catholic family regarding creation and God—I know that I stand before God on my own.
In the Middle East it is always sobering to remember that in some places—even where Christians are not openly persecuted—it is appropriate to be friendly to Muslims, but you must be careful about speech considered “too” evangelistic. It’s discouraging to note that those who are born Christian are readily allowed to convert to Islam, but those who are born Muslim are not allowed to legally convert to Christianity. Full-grown adults rarely have a “choice” to convert that is not met with intense scrutiny and often, persecution.
And yes, even in the hard places, those who are born “Christian” don’t always embrace that which is offered—much like the masses in America who are Christian in name only.
At the conference I attended in Jordan, one woman who lives under intense persecution told me most of her extended family members are “nominal” Christians and don’t support the work of her and her husband in ministry.
It was heartbreaking but also inspiring to hear this wonderful young woman who instinctively understood the meaning of soul competency so well, and of priesthood of the believer. She, a believer priest, knows that before God and with the power of His Holy Spirit, she is caring for fellow believers and is able to interact directly with God in prayer, praise, confession, and worship.
In a 2001 online article, “Baptist Distinctives,” Wm. M. Pinson wrote: “The believer priest has responsibility to bear witness to God’s love as shown in Jesus Christ and to demonstrate God’s love by ministering to persons in His name. This responsibility is carried out in various ways by Baptists, such as in evangelism, missions, ministry and social action to benefit others.”
In going to the Middle East and hearing first hand stories of persecution—and then going on to Rome and visiting sites like the ancient Coliseum where believers were sacrificed for their Christian faith—I was stopped cold by the thought that no longer is there a “wall of protection” provided by the church. In essence, this teaching that we as believers are priests not only empowers us; but holds us accountable to boldly proclaim the Gospel of Christ to every person, in every tribe, and in every nation!
My visit to the Vatican and the beautiful basilicas reminds me of the tradition throughout the centuries that emulated Old Testament teaching in regard to priests and parishioners. Likewise, in too many of our Baptist churches congregants sit back in the pews and leave the work of teaching and evangelism to pastors and missionaries.
Martin Luther, a Protestant reformer, insisted every believer was a priest, with direct access to God. Luther indicated all persons have a role in sharing the Good News, in sharing the love of God. We may share differently, as in Acts 15, but we are all to share.
Are you a believer priest? Do you value soul competency? I hope so. Join me in sharing the love of Jesus who died so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.
You must be login before you can leave a comment. Click here to Register if you are a new user.