The Priesthood of All Believers in the Reformation

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1. The Catholic Doctrine
2. The Reformation and Beyond: Luther, Calvin, the Anabaptists, the Wesleyans
3. Modern Abuses of the Doctrine: Anti-Intellectualism, the “Super-Anointed” Leader, Hyper-Individualism


Some years back three opera singers formed a trio, and took the name “The Three Tenors.” With their recordings and concerts, they became a megahit and came to be even more famous. Ah yes, the people said: The Three Tenors! The magnificent Luciano Pavarotti! The incomparable Plácido Domingo! And the third guy. Yes, what was his name? (Ah, yes! The unforgettable José Carreras!)

We are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, when believers came to reject certain tenets of the Roman church and attempted to restore biblical doctrine. And everyone remembers that doctrinal superstar, the final authority of the Scriptures; also, the famous justification by faith alone. But according to many experts in the field, without the “third tenor,” the third principle, there would have been no Reformation. This is the doctrine of the universal priesthood of all believers; that is, that Christ is the one and only high priest, and that because we are united with Christ, and anointed by the Spirit, then each and every Christian is a priest.

Its biblical basis, among other texts, is:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation (1 Pet 2:9, the NIV here and elsewhere in this paper). This is lifted textually from the promise made to Israel in Exodus 19:6 LXX – “you will be for me a kingdom of priests.”

[Christ] has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father (Rev 1:6).[i]

Theology Puzzle: Circle the priest in this photo. It’s fun!

Interestingly enough, the Protestant and the Catholic both are in agreement with respect to the importance of the doctrine, since priesthood is not a peripheral doctrine or secondary; it is one vital component of how we understand salvation itself.

1. The Catholic Doctrine

The Roman doctrine is that, of course, there is only one high priest, Christ, after the order of Melchizedek. Therefore, the ecclesiastical priesthood cannot be said to be a separate entity, but rather a participation by the ordained in the one true priest in heaven. The technical term is that the Catholic priests act in persona Christi, that is, “in the person of Christ.” They and only they may offer the sacraments, most particularly the sacrifice of the mass.

The doctrine of the Greek Church is a little different; nonetheless, there exists the same emphasis on being the channel of divine grace through the sacraments.

The Catechism of the Council of Trent, published in 1566, was the official reaction against the Reformation. For four centuries it served as the authoritative voice of the Roman church. It affirms that, of course it is true that according to Revelation 1:6, all the faithful are a kingdom and priests. Nevertheless, there are priests and there are priests:

Sacred Scripture describes a twofold priesthood, one internal and the other external…Regarding the internal priesthood, all the faithful are said to be priests, once they have been washed in the saving waters of Baptism…The external priesthood, on the contrary, does not pertain to the faithful at large, but only to certain men who have been ordained and consecrated to God by the lawful imposition of hands and by the solemn ceremonies of holy Church, and who are thereby devoted to a particular sacred ministry. This distinction of the priesthood can be seen even in the Old Law.[ii]

As part of Vatican II, Pope Paul VI emphasizes the necessity of the external priesthood:

The same Lord, however, has established ministers among his faithful to unite them together in one body in which, “not all the members have the same function” (Rom 12:4). These ministers in the society of the faithful are able by the sacred power of orders to offer sacrifice and to forgive sins, and they perform their priestly office publicly for men in the name of Christ.[iii]

The same tension comes up in the official Catechism of 1992, compiled by the future Pope Benedict XVI:

Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church “a kingdom, priests for his God and Father.” The whole community of believers is, as such, priestly… [Nevertheless, just as in the Old Testament,] through the ordained ministry, especially that of bishops and priests, the presence of Christ as head of the Church is made visible in the midst of the community of believers.[iv]

It is true that, from Vatican II onward, there has been a greater appreciation of the laity, as reflected in Paul VI’s “Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity” in 1965.[v] In the “Aparecida Document” (2007), Benedict speaks of the “common priesthood of the People of God,” and the conference expresses the desire “[t]o promote a mature laity, steward in the mission of announcing and making visible the Kingdom of God.”[vi] And Pope Francis has articulated the same mission, notably in his discourse for the Congreso del Foro Internacional de Acción Católica (FIAC), in April 2017.[vii]

Despite all this, the Church preserves, as it has for centuries, the presupposition that the laity has a priestly role only in the sense of the internal priesthood; and on the other hand, that there exists always a wall of separation between them and the external priesthood, composed of the ordained. And the other presupposition is that just as the priesthood of the Old Testament manifested itself in a group of anointed (external) priests within a greater nation that was also a kingdom of priests, so then, in effect this dual application of Exodus 19:6 remains in effect in the New Testament.

Many have pointed out, however, that what is now regarded as the “traditional” Roman doctrine is medieval in origin, but not the teaching of the church of the first two centuries. The church fathers quoted as proofs of the universal priesthood such texts as these:

I urge you, brothers and sisters…to offer your bodies as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1)


And you will be called priests of Yahweh, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast (Isa 61:6)

And, of course, 1 Peter 2:9 and Revelation 1:6.

From the writings of the early fathers we have a reflection of those Scriptures. Why, even as late as the 4th-5th centuries AD, Augustine could preach on 1 Peter 2:9 and say that, “In ancient times only one high priest was anointed, but now all Christians are anointed.” And Clement of Alexandria (2nd century) said: “We are a priesthood because of the offering which is made in prayers and in the teachings by which souls which are offered to God are won.”[viii]

Not even Ignatius in the early 2nd century, that great promoter of the monarchical bishop, used the term “priest” for the clergy.[ix]

But bit by bit, this universal priesthood came to be played down, in favor of another doctrine, one closely associated with Cyprian of Carthage in the 3rd century: the ordained priesthood is necessary, because they have to perform the Eucharistic sacrifice on an altar:

There is one God, and Christ is one, and there is one Church, and one chair founded upon the rock by the word of the Lord. Another altar cannot be constituted nor a new priesthood be made, except the one altar and the one priesthood.[x]

It is this idea which the reformers argued was a deviation from the Scripture and also from the earliest Church fathers.

2. The Reformation and Beyond

We have said that one sine qua non of the Reformation and the Protestant Church, is the priesthood of all believers. Some claim that the Reformers rejected all tradition and used only the Bible. This is not exactly the truth, since Luther said that the ancient fathers stood with him and with the Bible, and against the medieval Roman theology. And in the case of our theme, Luther and the rest pointed to the fathers of the church for proof that it was not a novel doctrine, but an ancient one.

Martin Luther

Many good Catholics were complaining of the ecclesiastical corruption of the church in the late medieval period: for example, Luther’s contemporary Erasmus of Rotterdam, that great thinker, and the editor of the Greek New Testament, taught that the priests ought to study the Bible and return to the old gospel ways. Nevertheless, Erasmus did not seek a revolution – he explicitly rejected the Protestant Reformation – but rather a purification.

The other approach, in the 14th century and beyond, promoted by John Wycliff and Jan Hus, was this: that corruption in the priesthood was not the root problem, but rather a corrupt doctrine of the priesthood which inevitably resulted in spiritual decadence. In great part, it was Martin Luther who developed this doctrine in two early books: Address to the Nobility of the German Nation (1520) and later that year The Babylonian Captivity of the Church. And it was Luther who began to introduce groundbreaking changes.

According to Luther, the medieval Roman priesthood did not fulfill its claim of reconciling the world to God; in reality, it was blocking the way to God. This is because the church promotes

implacable discord, whereby clerics and laymen should be separated from each other farther than heaven from earth, to the incredible injury of the grace of baptism and the confusion of our fellowship in the Gospel. Here, indeed, are the roots of that detestable tyranny of the clergy over the laity; trusting in the external anointing by which their hands are consecrated, in the tonsure and in vestments, they not only exalt themselves above lay Christians, who are only anointed with the Holy Spirit, but regard them almost as dogs and unworthy to be included with them in the Church. Hence they are bold to demand, to exact, to threaten, to urge, to oppress, as much as they please. In short, the sacrament of ordination has been and is a most approved device for the establishing of all the horrible things that have been wrought hitherto and will yet be wrought in the Church. Here Christian brotherhood has perished, here shepherds have been turned into wolves, servants into tyrants, churchmen into worse than worldlings.[xi]

Who, then, is a priest? Every believer is, all the baptized:

If they were forced to grant that as many of us as have been baptised are all priests without distinction, as indeed we are, and that to [the Roman clergy] was committed the ministry only, yet with our consent, they would presently learn that they have no right to rule over us except in so far as we freely concede it. For thus it is written in 1 Peter 2:9, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, and a priestly kingdom.” Therefore we are all priests, as many of us as are Christians.[xii]

…[not just the clergy, but] all Christians are truly of the spiritual estate, and there is no difference among them, save of office alone. As St. Paul says (i Cor. xii), we are all one body, though each member does its own work, to serve the others, This is because we have one baptism, one Gospel, one faith, and are all Christians alike; for baptism, Gospel, and faith, these alone make spiritual and Christian people.[xiii]

And so, “every Christian is someone else’s priest, and we are all priests to one another.”[xiv] And this truth brings with it many implications, for example: if every believer is a priest, then it is essential that everyone ought to be able to read the Bible translated into his own language.

It should be mentioned that, Luther continued to distinguish between preachers of the Word and other Christians, since preaching is based on a special calling and ordination; and also, that no woman can teach the church.

John Calvin

Calvin went on to develop this doctrine, and like Luther, he believed that the Roman priests in practice were obstructing, not facilitating, the way to God.

He begins with the truth that, only Christ is the true high priest, because only he could open the way to God through his blood and because he is the only intercessor we need. Calvin rejected the Catholic doctrine that the priest acts in persona Christi, since, according to Hebrews, now we have a priest according to the order of Melchizedek, and he has offered the only necessary sacrifice; we need no further sacrifice in the mass:

But if Melchizedek’s offering were a figure of the sacrifice of the Mass, would the apostle, I ask you, who sifts even the least things, have forgotten a matter so serious and grave? But now (whatever they babble) they will try in vain to annul the argument which the apostle himself brings forward: that the right and honor of a priesthood among mortal men has ceased, because Christ, who is immortal, is the sole and eternal Priest [Heb. 7:17–19].[xv]

Positively, Calvin went on to say:

…when the Jews, who by their refusal of Christ had departed from the covenant, still improperly gloried in this title, [Peter] claims this honor for the members of Christ only, saying, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood,” etc. (1 Peter 2:9).[xvi]

And thus it is that every believer has a high priest in Christ, and is also a priest:

Christ now bears the office of priest, not only that by the eternal law of reconciliation he may render the Father favourable and propitious to us, but also admit us into this most honourable alliance. For we though in ourselves polluted, in him being priests, (Rev. 1:6) offer ourselves and our all to God, and freely enter the heavenly sanctuary, so that the sacrifices of prayer and praise which we present are grateful and of sweet odour before him. To this effect are the words of Christ, “For their sakes I sanctify myself,” (John 17:19) for being clothed with his holiness, inasmuch as he has devoted us to the Father with himself, (otherwise we were an abomination before him,) we please him as if we were pure and clean, nay, even sacred.[xvii]

The Anabaptists

The Lutheran and Reformed movements preserved the idea of ordaining ministers of the Word. At the same time, other groups charge that the Reformers had not taken the doctrine of the universal priesthood to its logical conclusion: anticlericalism.[xviii] Some Anabaptists, the Quakers, the Mennonites, the Brethren, and other groups – in another direction, one should mention the Latter Day Saints – went further and rejected all distinctions between clergy and laity. After all, the apostle recognized multiple leaders of the church: “And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.” (1 Cor 14:30-31)

In my own region in New England, the universal priesthood of believers began to crystallize in the concept of full freedom of the conscience in matters of religion.[xix] One Quaker woman, named Mary Dyer, denounced the Puritan-Reformed clergy of Boston and argued that the government must have no authority over individual conscience. A hundred years later, and in part due to her efforts, the new Constitution of the United States would include the declaration that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Unfortunately for Mary Dyer, in 1660 that idea had not yet come to fruition, and she was hanged on the gallows as a threat to the established clergy. Mary Dyer was my nine-times great grandmother.

The Wesleyans

John Wesley in the 18th century developed the Reformation doctrine of the universal priesthood in still new directions. He was not anti-clerical as such, but he did perceive that each Christian must participate in a priestly function, and further than they had gone before. One way was found in his dictum that lay preachers can and must extend the kingdom of heaven:

Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergy or laymen, such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven upon earth.[xx]

These “laymen” included lay women; he trained and sent out female preachers of the gospel.

The other contribution of Wesley is, for me, one of the most impressive expressions of the universal priesthood: his Class Meetings. The twelve members of each society would meet weekly for an hour and a half; they would be held accountable one to the other, confess their sins, and pray. They would pose a set of questions of one another, especially these five:[xxi]

  1. What known sins have you committed since our last meeting?
  2. What temptations have you met with?
  3. How were you delivered?
  4. What have you thought, said, or done, of which you doubt whether it be sin or not?
  5. Have you nothing you desire to keep secret?

“The design of our meeting” said Wesley, “is, to obey that command of God, ‘Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed’” (from James 5:16a). That is, instead of confessing one’s sins to a priest in a confessional, each one may confess his sins to the other priests who are present.

The influence of the Wesleyan movement may be found, not only in the Methodist church, but also the Christian and Missionary Alliance, the Nazarenes, the Pentecostals, the Assemblies of God, the Salvation Army, the Holiness Movement, and more remotely, Neo-Pentecostalism, that is, among millions of believers who perhaps have never heard the name of Wesley. As we shall see next, some of Wesley’s descendants have turned his doctrine on its head.

3. Modern Abuses of the Doctrine

For every gospel truth, there exists its mutation, or maybe even its perversion. For Satan does not need to invent new ideas, not when it is possible to simply give a twist to the truth. And the universal priesthood of the believer is found in forms which, from my perspective, would have scandalized the apostles and the Reformers.


We first come to a strange recipe, in which the idea of the universal priesthood is stirred into another, and poorly-interpreted, text, that “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Cor 3:6) This leads some to scorn the life of the mind. The Reformers would have had no patience with anti-intellectualism, nor would Wesley: he possessed a bachelors and a masters from Oxford, and was a tutor there. His “Holy Club” consisted, among other things, of meeting each evening from 6-9pm for prayer, Psalms, and readings of the Greek New Testament. Wesley read various ancient languages, and wrote grammars of Hebrew, of Greek, of Latin, of French, and of English; he wrote a volume on the properties of electricity; a history of England; another of Rome. His lay preachers were not clergy, but they had received deep training in the faith before going forth. This demonstrates that we might intertwine the Great Commandment and the Universal Priesthood in this manner: “that each of you believers, being a priest, must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and soul, and yes, your mind.”

The “Super-Anointed” Leader

If I had to identify, What is the most obvious area where the church is ignoring the doctrine of the universal priesthood, especially in Latin America where I minister, it would be the rise of the Super-Anointed Leader, be he an apostle, patriarch, or simply “pastor.” We have seen this in churches small, medium, and large; it does not have to be a megachurch, since it can happen even in a group of 50, where there are 1-2 persons on the platform and the rest are spectators, watching, while the evangelical priests do their work. Another verse poorly applied within this dynamic is the one about, “Thou shalt not touch the Lord’s anointed.” (1 Sam 24:6) – nor question his opinions, nor put his “prophecies” to the test.[xxii] And since he is the “priest,” he must receive the priestly tithe of the people.

This cult of personality has produced a generation of church leaders who claim an authority that is de facto greater than their local Catholic priest, bishop, or even the pope in Rome. And they use this priestly power, not to bless or build up, but to rob and crush. To paraphrase Luther: Hence they are bold to demand, to harangue, to threaten, to push, to oppress, as much as they please. Justifying their monstrosities that they have done up to now and that they continue to perpetrate in the church. The super-pastors have been turned into wolves, servants into tyrants, and the New Apostles into worse than the worst people of the world.[xxiii]

One mega-priest, surrounded by his mega-victims

In Neo-Pentecostalism, there is a phenomenon that is as fascinating as it is contradictory. On the one hand, “classical” Pentecostal theology promises liberation for all, since all may experience the Holy Spirit and his gifts. It thus opens the door to people without an education, to women, to the poor, to the disenfranchised, to all, perhaps in relatively small and marginalized churches. Nevertheless, a hierarchy grew up with and within the movement, in subsequent generations and in the megachurches. And so today, once again, the disenfranchised find themselves passed over, the super-pastors are male (or the wives of the pastors, or the occasional female leader), and in the Prosperity Gospel, poverty becomes a symptom of spiritual failing among those “of little faith.”[xxiv]


Perhaps this temptation is the one we might typically encounter, and so we will consider it in more depth. It is the idea that, I have no need of pope, bishop, priest, pastor, or apostle. And so I have in myself alone everything I need to live and flourish in the Lord.

I am a blogger, and that leads me into a lot of interacting with other bloggers. And I have noticed a certain personality type: the Christian who insists – better, boasts – that he is not held accountable by anyone in any church or in any Christian structure. The idea, apparently, is that “It’s just me and the open Bible, and that’s that. And so, since I am totally independent, I can speak without fear about what I see going on in the church today.” What is more, these same people tend to boast about having no education, or – and I have no idea why this would be so! – that they are engineers or that they used to consult for NASA. Maybe it is another coincidence, but these same people tend to set dates for the Second Coming or lift themselves up as experts on how the Bible should be translated. And when I write to them, politely I hope, they often respond with a complete lack of courtesy, because, they imply, there is nobody to call them on it.

This means that, there are evangelicals who would probably go ballistic if someone told them they should obey the pope, but in a very real sense, they are their very own popes. When they claim, “Just us two, God and I!” in actual practice they have become as God, alone knowing the difference between good and evil.

This was never the vision of the Reformation, where the universal priesthood works only when we are part of a congregation of the saints; where the other saints are not labeled as judgmental meddlers, but function as the body of Christ toward us.


Your pastor is not your priest; nor is your “apostle”; the father of the family is not a house priest;[xxv] the leaders of the church are people who train and support a congregation of priests.

As a priest you represent God before the world, principally in evangelism, and by all that you do in the name of Christ. And in prayer, you represent the world before God.

Your ministry for God among his people is to offer the sacrifices of praise and prayer; to edify, instruct, forgive, encourage, and by every means bless the other priests. Instead of a mass with a priest doing all that is necessary; or a pastor or even a handful of people doing all the ministry, Paul had this vision: “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.” (1 Cor 14:26)

Another place to begin to study this dynamic is to simply read through the list of “one another” texts in Paul:

Rom 12:10 – Be devoted to one another in love;
Rom 15:5 – have the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had;
Rom 15:7 – accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God
Rom 15:14 – you are filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another;
1 Cor 12:25 – there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other;
Eph 5:19 – speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit;
Col 3:13 – Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Luther complained that people were investing tons of money in the adoration of saints in heaven. Instead of this, he said, let us turn our attention to other Christians we know, who are living saints:

Whatever it is that you want to do for the saints, turn your attention away from the dead toward the living. The living saints are your neighbors, the naked, the hungry, the thirsty, the poor people who have wives and children and suffer shame. Direct your help toward them, begin your work here.[xxvi]

I will close with a prayer written by John Calvin:

Grant, Almighty God, that since You have been pleased to choose us as priests to Yourself, not that we may offer beasts to You but consecrate to You ourselves with all that we have. Grant that we may with all readiness strive to depart from every kind of uncleanness to purify ourselves from all defilements, so that we may duly perform the sacred office of priesthood and thus conduct ourselves toward You with chasteness and purity. May we also abstain from every evil work, from all fraud and all cruelty toward our brethren, and so deal with one another that we may testify with our whole life that You are really our Father, ruling us by Your Spirit, and that true and holy brotherhood exists among us. May we live justly toward one another so as to render to each his own right, and thus show that we are members of Your only begotten Son, so that He may acknowledge us when He shall appear for the redemption of His people and shall gather us into His celestial kingdom. Amen.[xxvii]



[i] The Textus receptus has βασιλεις και ιερεις τω θεω (thus the NKJV – “kings and priests”); the critical text NA28 has βασιλειαν, ιερευς τω θεω (NIV – “kingdom and priests”). The manuscript evidence leaves little doubt that the critical text is correct. Exod 19:6 LXX has yet another form: βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα (“royal priesthood”), which is followed precisely by 1 Pet 2:9 in all modern editions of the Greek text.

[ii] The Catechism of Trent 2.7.23, 24. Emphasis added. (

[iii] Pablo VI, Decreto Presbyterorum Ordinis, “Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests” (1965) 1.2. (

[iv] Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992) §1546 and §1549; see also §1547. ( See too the following from Pope Leo I: “Although the universal Church of God is constituted of distinct orders of members, still, in spite of the many parts of its holy body, the Church subsists as an integral whole, just as the Apostle says: we are all one in Christ…For all, regenerated in Christ, are made kings by the sign of the cross; they are consecrated priests by the oil of the Holy Spirit, so that beyond the special service of our ministry as priests, all spiritual and mature Christians know that they are a royal race and are sharers in the office of the priesthood. For what is more king-like that to find yourself ruler over your body after having surrendered your soul to God? And what is more priestly than to promise the Lord a pure conscience and to offer him in love unblemished victims on the altar of one’s heart?” (

[v] “Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity” (

[vi] “Concluding Document,” Aparecida 2007. CELAM. (

[vii] Pape Francis, “A los Participantes en el Congreso del Foro Internacional de Acción Católica (FIAC),” 27 abril 2017. (

[viii] Augustine, Sermon 198a; Clement of Alexandria, Adumbrationes. Both quotes are found in Gerald Bray, ed., James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (ACCS; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2000), 87. According to Calvin, Augustine in his Contra epistulum Parmeniam 2.8 wrote that, when a bishop claims that he himself an intercessor between God and man, he is “antichrist.” See Institutes 4.18.10.

[ix] Ignatius, Philadelphians 9.1 (Holmes) – “The priests [of Israel], too, were good, but the High Priest, entrusted with the Holy of Holies, is better; he alone has been entrusted with the hidden things of God, for he himself is the door of the Father, through which Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and the prophets and the apostles and the church enter in.” One encounters the term “priest” applied to pastors in the later, inauthentic Ignatian corpus, for example in the longer recension of Philadelphians 4 (4th century), where he speaks to presbyters as “high priests”; also in the spurious A Hero 3 (from the 3rd century or later) – “Do nothing without the bishops; for they are priests, and thou [as deacon] a servant of the priests. They baptize, offer sacrifice, ordain, and lay on hands.” (both from ANF 1)

[x] Cyprian of Carthage, Epistle 39.5, ANF 5:318 (

[xi] Martin Luther, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church 7.8. (

[xii] Luther, Babylonian Captivity 7.9.

[xiii] Martin Luther, Address to the Nobility of the German Nation. Luther adduces Matthew 18:15-17, and states that anyone could take any two or three members of the church and rebuke any Christian, up to and including the pope. (

[xiv] Timothy George, Theology of the Reformers (rev. ed.; Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2013), 96. See too Lesslie Newbigin, “Can a Modern Society be Christian?” given as 1995 Gospel and Culture Lecture, King’s College, London – “The priesthood of the whole membership is not primarily executed by sitting on church committees or in church assemblies. It is exercised in the life of the world…The sacrifices acceptable to God are to be made in all the acts of loving obedience, small or great, which a believer is called up to make in the course of daily work in the world.”

[xv] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.18.2 (Beveridge).

[xvi] Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries on Exod 19:6. (

[xvii] Calvin, Institutes 2.15.6 (Beveridge). Also 4.18.17 – “This kind of sacrifice is indispensable in the Lord’s Supper, in which, while we show forth his death, and give him thanks, we offer nothing but the sacrifice of praise. From this office of sacrificing, all Christians are called ‘a royal priesthood,’ because by Christ we offer that sacrifice of praise of which the apostle speaks, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name, (1 Peter 2:9; Heb. 13:15.) We do not appear with our gifts in the presence of God without an intercessor. Christ, our Mediator, by whose intervention we offer ourselves and our all to the Father; he is our High Priest, who, having entered into the upper sanctuary, opens up an access for us; he the altar on which we lay our gifts, that whatever we do attempts we may attempt in him; he it is, I say, who ‘has made us kings and priests unto God and his Father,’ (Rev. 1:6.).”

[xviii] “Anticlericalism” on the one hand is the movement to remove earthly power from religious (often Catholic) clergy; one might mention the 1917 Mexican Constitution or the weakening of the church in post-Revolution France. Luther argued for the same in 1520 in his Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation. But here we are using the term in its Protestant sense, of groups that reject the clergy/laity distinction and who try to take the universal priesthood of believers to its logical end.

[xix] Westminster Confession 23, “[the magistrate] has authority, and it is his duty, to take order that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire, that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed, all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed, and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administrated, and observed…” (

[xx] John Wesley, “Letter to Alexander Mather (August 6, 1777),” in The Letters of John Wesley, ed. John Telford (London: Epworth, 1931), 6:271-272. (


[xxii] See in both Spanish and English, Guillermo Maldonado, “¡No toquen a mis ungidos! ¡No maltraten a mis profetas! 1 Crónicas 16:22,” (; Juan Stam, “No toques al ungido de Dios” (

[xxiii] Paraphrasing Luther, Babylonian Captivity 7.8.

[xxiv] Gary S. Shogren, “The Ultracharismatics of Corinth and the Pentecostals of Latin America as the Religion of the Marginalized,” Tyndale Bulletin 56.2 (2005): 91-110. In Spanish, Gary S. Shogren, “Los ‘Ultracarismáticos’ de Corinto y los Pentecostales de América Latina como la Religión de los Marginados.” ( Also Juan Sepúlveda, ‘El desafío de la educación teológica desde una perspectiva Pentecostal,’ Ministerial Formation 87 (Oct. 1999): 35-41.

[xxv] For the “domestic priest” teaching, see Gary S. Shogren, “‘Dad, are you my priest?’ The role of the father in the Christian home.” (

[xxvi] First sermon for the 1st of November, All Saints Day. In Festival Sermons of Martin Luther, ed. Joel R. Baseley (Dearborn, MI: Mark V Publications, 2005). Also found in WA 10/3:407. Nuestra traducción del inglés: “Whatever it is that you want to do for the saints, turn your attention away from the dead toward the living. The living saints are your neighbors, the naked, the hungry, the thirsty, the poor people who have wives and children and suffer shame. Direct your help toward them, begin your work here.”

[xxvii] John Calvin, from his Lecture 10 on Mal 3:4–8, in John Calvin: Writings on Pastoral Piety, eds. Elsie Anne McKee and Bernard McGinn, The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist, 2001), 245.

“The Priesthood of All Believers in the Reformation,” Gary S. Shogren, Ph. D. in New Testament Exegesis, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

5 thoughts on “The Priesthood of All Believers in the Reformation

  1. Excellent blog. I learned a lot from it. I would like to read your take on the Sabbath and it’s Biblical truth in light of our use of Sunday rather than Saturday. Or has there been one?

      1. As an FYI, we met once at Iglesia Bíblica in Atenas a few years ago when you spoke there. Maybe in 2013 or so.

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