I was thinking yesterday morning about the "priesthood of believers". Kind of an odd topic I know, but I have frequently heard this term used in the context of not needing church leadership. Something does not ring true in my spirit about this because of the affirmation of church leadership in the scriptures. In a culture of individualism, the "I don't need anyone to help me" perspective can fester and isolate people from the plan of God. In a culture of equality, the "there are no leaders, we can all get to God" perspective can thwart growth and removes protection that Biblical leadership is to provide. (OK, those last two sentences may seem a bit hyperbolic, but I hope you can see where I am going.)
A couple of background statements to help understand where my mind has been....... I believe, as Peter (I Pet 2:9) and John (Rev 1:6, 5:10 and 20:6) said, we are a kingdom of priests and that we do have access, because of what Jesus did, to the very throne room of God. What an AWESOME reality to consider. The whole "access to God" thing has been quite distorted because for many years, people were led to believe that they needed a pastor or priest or reverend as an intermediate between them and God (which is not true or Biblical). To some degree, we are trying to dig out of this historical hole.
On to what I think the point of Peter and John were making...... When I started this exploration, I went back to the Old Testament and looked at what the Levitical priesthood's position was and what the focus of their duties were. Positionally, they were the only ones who could go into the presence of God; and that only once a year. Positionally, they were the only ones who could handle the sacrifices. They were positionally unique. As I began to examine their function or duties (see Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Dueteronemy), that had to do stuff like look a people's skin to see if they were healed, teach people how to access God, review clean and unclean, etc. - all sorts of interesting things that were directly related to the lives of the people around them.
As I thought about this, it became apparent to me that the function of the priest was to lead people to God; to help them understand how to relate to God; to serve as examples of how to live a life that was dedicated to service of the Holy God. They were appointed by God to lead the people to God; not to isolate them from God.
So what does the kingdom of priests that Peter was talking about look like? What is my FUNCTION as a priest? I beleive that my priestly function is no different that an Old Testament priest's: is to lead people to God. Yes, I have the BENEFIT of being able to directly access God, but my FUNCTION is to lead people to a relationship with God. The reason for my priesthood is to serve; serve the people around me by being an example and by leading them to God. At its core, my priesthood is missional; it really is synonomous with the Great Commission that Jesus gave us to go into all the world and make disciples, teaching them to obey the words of God (Matt 28).
I am afraid that what I have latched onto before this time is the BENEFIT of being a priest, without understanding its function. Yes, I do receive the benefit, but I have the responsibility of leading others to a deeper relationship with God.