Christianity Knowledge Base

The priesthood of all believers is a Protestant doctrine founded on 1 Peter 2:9: "But 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 marvellous light." (KJV)

Several ideas of Protestant theology begin from this text. It is used to show that the Christian faithful are a chosen people in a similar sense that the descendants of Abraham were a chosen people, called by God for His special purpose.

Many Protestants believe that in likening the whole body of believers to the priesthood of ancient Israel, it removes the possibility of a spiritual aristocracy or hierarchy within Christianity. God is equally accessible to all the faithful; no Christians have been set above others in matters of faith or worship. In this, it meshes with texts that say that God is no respecter of persons, and in him there is neither Hebrew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. (Galatians 3:28)

The idea was found in a radical form in Lollard thought. Martin Luther later picked up on the idea, and it has become a central tenet of Lutheranism.

It is also particularly strongly asserted within Methodism, and can plausibly be linked to the strong emphasis on social action and political radicalism evident within that denomination.

In addition, some Protestant Church governments that operate on a form of "congregational polity" where each member has a voice in collective decisions can be traced to this concept, (seen for example in many modern Baptist movements).

The vast majority of Protestants nonetheless draw some distinction between their own ordained ministers and lay people, but regard it as a matter of church order and discipline rather than spiritual hierarchy.

Non-Protestant Interpretations of 1 Peter 2:9[]

Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholic Christians traditionally believe that this passage gives responsibility to all believers for the preservation and propagation of the Gospel and the Church, as distinct from the liturgical and sacramental roles of the ordained priesthood and consecrated episcopate (see Apostolic Succession). This is justified biblically with the citation of Exodus 19:6, to which Saint Peter was alluding in the First Epistle of Peter:

" And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.' These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel." (KJV)

In spite of this Old Testament verse, the Kingdom of Israel had a priesthood distinct from the common priesthood of the Israelites, the chosen people of God. The Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox Churches have always taught implicitly that a Christian's personal relationship with God is independent of whatever ordination they have received.

This article was forked from Wikipedia on March 29, 2006.

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