When discussing the priesthood of all believers I tried to highlight the corporate nature of our priestliness. I only find my priestliness in union with Christ and in union with others. Both are essential.
The priesthood of all believers is not a priestliness that is the private possession of each believer. If we argue like this then the very basis for the doctrine is undermined. If I claim priestliness in myself then I can be priestly without you. And if this is admitted then my different gifted-ness and the distinct exercise of my priestly gifts will easily appear as a different order of priestliness to yours. And once we say that we’re a hop, skip and a jump from a priesthood of the few.
No – the priesthood of all believers upholds that, while having different gifts to you and while exercising them in different ways, I cannot be priestly without you. Yet with you I am both priestly and I have your gifts – for you in your giftedness belong to me, and I to you (Rom 12:5ff).
In thinking this through the connections with trinitarian theology suggest themselves pretty readily. In John 17, Christ prays for a priestly church unity. That is, He prays that the church be united as witness to the world. (see v18, 21, 23). In v21 and 23, Christ makes clear the proto-type for such priestly unity: the Father-Son union. So in thinking about Church and gifts, there seem to be some fruitful lines of enquiry into Trinity and attributes.
In this post I’ll consider things from Trinity => church. In my next post I’ll think of church =>Trinity.
As we consider things from Trinity => church. It seems like the major trinitarian heresies are easily seen in our understandings of church.
tritheism: a ‘trinity’ of separable Persons becomes, in church practice, separable priests – lone-ranger, hit and run evangelists divorced from the corporate life of the church.
modalism: a one-ness in which the Persons lose their distinctiveness becomes, in church practice, a forcing of church members into the same mould. Everyone must exercise every gift. Training in mission = making everyone do street-evangelism. That kind of thing.
subordinationism (Arianism): The ontological subordination of Son and Spirit becomes, in church practice, the suborination of the non-full-time Christian workers. It’s the old two-tier way of life first espoused by Eusebius but replicated today. The ‘perfect’ are the priests (nowadays the ‘full-time Christian workers’), the ‘permitted’ are the regular folk (nowadays those whose tithes support the ‘full-time Christian workers’).
The antidote must be to go back to the trinity and understand again how the many are one. Not competitively, not identically, not merely apparently. Rather the one-ness (of God and of church) is a unity of distinct Persons whose belongingness to one another makes them who they are.
I am – in all my differentness to you, in all my distinct gifting and role – one with you in the mission that constitutes both me and the church. Without you I have no mission, in fact I have no ecclesial being – that is, I am not a Christian. I have my life and being and we have our mission to the world only because we belong together at the very deepest level.
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:20-23)
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