Thank goodness that Luther guy came along and re-gave us the priesthood of believers (though not in those exact words). In his writings, Luther referred to believers as priests hundreds of times (18). “The doctrine, according to Luther, denotes the believer’s sharing in Christ’s royal priesthood through faith and baptism. It’s primary implications are every believer’s access to the Father through Christ and responsibility to minister to other believers, especially through the proclamation of the Word” (18).
Uche Anizor (PhD, Wheaton College) is associate professor of biblical and theological studies at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University and an instructor at Los Angeles Bible Training School. He is the author of Kings and Priests. Hank Voss (PhD, Wheaton College) is national director of church planting at World Impact and senior national staff with The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI). He is the author of The Priesthood of All Believers and the Missio Dei. Anizor and Voss locate God’s calling of his people as a kingdom of priests (Exod 19.6; 1 Pet 2.5, 9) within the context of Scripture and show how those who are part of God’s royal priesthood are to respond to God as his witnesses in the world.
In Chapter 1 Anizor look at how the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Protestants define the idea of the priesthood of believers. In this book they’ll seek to define what a priest is, and show that it is all who are in Christ. Speaking in terms of the Trinity, in Christ the baptized believer has access to the Father, we have the privilege of serving one another in Christ, and we have all received the Holy Spirit’s anointing for this service to one another and to the world (19).
The argument is developed in four stages:
In Chapter 2, the biblical argument, Anizor outlines the story of the priesthood of believers as seen in the Scriptures. Beginning in Eden, our story ends at the New Jerusalem, the new creation. He gives a brief, pointed look at a few texts in the Pentateuch, in Psalm 110, Isaiah 52–66, the life if Jesus, 1 Peter 2, pieces of Pau’s letters, and Revelation.
In Chapter 3, the historical argument, Anizor “details Martin Luther’s theology … and presents it as a fruitful and concrete attempt to integrate and develop Scripture’s teaching on priesthood—both ordained and universal” (22). After looking at Cyprian and the Gregorian reforms, Anizor looks at the seven “priestly practices” Luther believed Christians had.
- Preaching and teaching the Word
- Administering the Lord’s Supper
- Binding and loosing sins
- Judging doctrine
“Christians have access to God and his Word in order that they might minister the latter in its many forms to one another” (82).
We become like what we worship, and Christians worship the triune God. In Chapter 4, the theological argument, Voss shows “what it means for the royal priesthood to worship, work and witness with a Christocentric-Trinitarian vision” (86). This is important, for, as Fred Sanders’s Trinitarian axiom goes, “The more Trinity-centered we become, the more Christ-centered we become, and vice versa” (88). Voss examines what a Christocentric-Trinitarian royal priesthood is, what it looks like in real life, and a few inadequate versions of a Protestant priesthood of all believers. This chapter asks, “Who is the God the priesthood of all believers serves?”
In Chapter 5, the theological argument, Voss asks, “How do we as members of the royal priesthood faithfully and fruitfully respond to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?” Voss lays out seven central practices (which are basically the same as the list in ch 3 but in a different order):
- Lectio divina (divine reading)
- Church discipline
- The Lord’s Supper
To give one example, lectio divina means to listen for God’s voice as it speaks through Scripture. Looking at Psalm 119, four markers of covenant loyalty are:
- Fear of the Lord – the living God, the maker of heaven and earth, speaks through Scripture. Not us.
- Humility – We are not Christ. We are polluted by sin.
- Delight – God’s priests delight in God’s word more than a pile of gold. It is wisdom, it is joy, ir brings us closer to the living God who has made us his “sons and daughters” (2 Cor 6:18).
- Holy obedience – lectio divina is dangerous (134). We will suffer and we will grow if we listen to God’s voice. We will continually learn how to be unselfish and to care for and love others as Christ has loved us.
In Chapter 6, Voss wraps up, summarizes the book, and asks, “So what?” If believers (myself included) took our ministries before God seriously, what difference would this doctrine make? How could Christians transform society? There will always be unbelievers, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work to make the world better, to use wisdom to implement new ideas, technologies, and care and concern for our next-door neighbor and our third world neighbor. We do it all to the glory of the beautiful Lord who adorns his bride with jewels (Is 61:10).
Anizor and Voss have done excellent work in writing Representing Christ. It’s clear and easy to read. I hope to see more books out on this particular topic, along with more by these two authors. Some parts will be more difficult to read, not because of the style of language used, but because of subject matter. My favorite chapter was chapter 2 as it dealt with the biblical argument for the priesthood of all believers and took me through pivotal texts in the Bible. The historical argument (ch 3), though good and important, was more difficult for me to read. Regardless, the authors write in such a way that they don’t load you down with details, but they only give you what you need to know. It’s easier to read through some parts because you know it’s going to be important to the argument. This is a book that all believers should read, with the hopes that we will be humbled and will see our responsibility before the triune God who rules from heaven and has bestowed his people with great honor.
- Authors: Uche Anizor and Hank Voss
- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: IVP Academic (June 6, 2016)
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Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.