"We are priests. In two different sections of scripture God calls every believer a priest." - Floyd McElveen (Author and Lifetime Evangelist)
Mr. McElveen is here claiming that the doctrine of "priesthood of all believers" is Biblical. This Biblical interpretation holds that there is no special priesthood authority, but that the authority to act in God's name is given to all faithful Christians.
Mr. McElveen wishes to prove that the LDS claim to a restored priesthood authority is unnecessary.
However, the Bible paints a quite different picture.
- In Old Testament times, the authority to act in a religious capacity did not belong to everyone. Even kings could not act as priests of the Lord without authority. (1 Samuel 13:11-14, 2 Chronicles 26:18)
- Critics may claim that this changed in New Testament times, but Hebrews teaches that the same principle applies:
- 4 And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.(Hebrews 5:4)
How was Aaron chosen? By direct revelation from God to a prophet:
- And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron's sons.(Exodus 28:1).
Jesus also called apostles, set them apart, and made certain it was clear who had authority (see Mark 13:34, Matthew 16:18). Following Judas' suicide, the remaining apostles met and sought God's will regarding a replacement, demonstrating that this authority was meant to persist, and needed to be conferred upon someone, not just assumed to exist because they believed (Acts 1:21-25).
The apostles called others to assist them, and gave them authority by laying on hands (see Acts 6:1-6). Paul and Barnabas were called and given authority in the same way (Acts 13:2-3). Bestowing the Holy Ghost was viewed as requiring the laying on of hands, and not something that every believer could accomplish—those with authority had to come and do so (Acts 8:18-23, Acts 19:1-6).
Jesus insisted that others did not choose to wield His authority—He chose them, and made it clear who was chosen by ordination:
- Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.(John 15:16)
Clearly, the conferral and proper transfer of authority is of key importance within the Old and New Testaments. One must accept one of two positions: either this authority continued, unbroken, through the Church of the Middle Ages down to the present day, or the authority was lost and a restoration was necessary.
Since Mr. McElveen's denomination is of recent origin, it is not surprising that he would want to dispense with the idea of an ordained line of priesthood authority. But, the Bible clearly teaches another view.
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Claim: "Yes it has been said that the Mormon Church does believe that there is a special priesthood that is separate from other individuals in the Church and it’s interesting that Peter goes on to tell us, now Peter was the one who was given the keys to the kingdom of heaven; he wasn’t the first Pope or anything but, he was given the gospel, he could tell people how to get into heaven..." - Scott Gallatin, Pastor, Calvary Chapel
While one could debate whether Peter was the first Pope (an issue that Rev. Gallatin should take up with the Catholic Church), it seems that he’s overly quick to denigrate Peter’s importance as one of the first Twelve Apostles. We need only look at Matthew 16:15-19 to see that Jesus Christ put him into a preeminent role:
- And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:19)
These verses indicate that Peter clearly could do much more than “tell people how to get into heaven.” They declare that Jesus Christ will “give unto (Peter) the keys to the kingdom of heaven.” To the membership of the Church—to say nothing of the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox churches—the “keys” in question are representative of the authority necessary to act in the name of God. Indeed, once Peter received the promised keys, he could, and did, do far more than “tell people how to get into heaven: he altered Church practices through new revelation, led the apostles in decision-making, and exercised judgment over Church members.
The priesthood keys in the early church were:
Given in turn by Peter and the other apostles to those who were called and ordained:
Given by the laying on of hands
These priesthood holders, referred to as:
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Claim: [Peter] "didn’t write it to one particular individual or an individual that is better than another person..." - Scott Gallatin, Pastor, Calvary Chapel
The Latter-day Saints do not believe that holding the priesthood makes anyone "better than another person." Priesthood is a call to service from God; it is not an office to which one aspires because of perks or social prestige.
As Jesus told his apostles:
- Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you (John 15:16.) (emphasis added)
He further instructed them:
- ...Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister....(Matthew 20:25-28)(emphasis added)
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Claim: "...in 1 Peter 2:9, he said, “...you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood” and he didn’t write it to one particular individual or an individual that is better than another person, he wrote it to all of us in the Church because we have been given the responsibility as priests—all of us in the body of Christ to represent Christ—and that’s really what a priest, or a pastor, should do. And so, Peter wrote to everybody in the body of Christ to be a good representative of Christ as a royal priest." - Scott Gallatin, Pastor, Calvary Chapel
Pastor Gallatin is determined to defend the doctrine of "priesthood of all believers," and so does not mention all the scriptures from the New Testament (discussed above) that clearly demonstrate that priesthood was held by specific members, and that this authority was conferred, not assumed.
He here invokes a single verse as a proof text for the idea of a priesthood of all believers. A closer look in context demonstrates that this is a misinterpretation.
- If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious...(1 Peter 2:3-4)
Peter begins by speaking about Jesus as "a living stone," to whom the Christians are to come.
- Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.(1 Peter 2:5)
Peter then compares the members to living or "lively stones" (miniature imitations of Christ, filled with His life and power, as it were). These lively stones are built into a "spiritual house" with the "living stone" (Christ) as the cornerstone.
Peter here invokes temple imagery—the members are compared to the building blocks of the Jewish temple, in which a holy priesthood officiates, and where sacrifices are offered (though here the sacrifices are "spiritual"—a broken heart, and a contrite spirit, etc., rather than animal).
The point which Pastor Gallatin overlooks is that this is a metaphor or allegory. Are we really to believe that Peter saw Jesus as a literal stone? Or, that the members were literal rocks, or actually constituted a physical building? Of course not.
Peter goes on in his allegory, and compares Jesus to:
- "the chief cornerstone" to those who believe (again invoking the temple building)
- "the stone which the builders disallowed" to those who rejected him
- "the head of the corner"
- "a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense" to the disobedient (see 1 Peter 6:8.)
Now we get to the verse which Pastor Gallatin has quoted:
- But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people;1 Peter 2:9
This a clear allusion to the Old Testament, in which God tells Israel:
- Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: 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.(Exodus 19:5-6)
Even though Israel is a "kingdom of priests," and God here addresses all of Israel, that does not mean that every Israelite held the priesthood. Clearly, only Levites held priesthood in Israel.
Thus, Peter's remarks in 1 Peter 2 are allegorical comparisons, in which the Christian believers are compared to the temple, in which a holy priesthood officiated to give offerings to God. That priesthood and the people with whom it worked were the Israelites, who were discussed in the same terms. But, this does not mean that every member of the community in which that priesthood operated were priesthood holders.
This is made extremely clear by Peter's reaction to Simon Magus' attempts to use priesthood power.
Simon was a convert, and a believer:
- Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.(Acts 8:13)
If the doctrine of a priesthood of all believers was true, then Simon ought to have had the priesthood authority to heal, work miracles, and lay on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. But, Simon clearly was not taught this doctrine because he realized he didn't have the power, and wanted it. He attempted to buy it, and was rebuked by Peter.
There would have been no need to offer to buy the priesthood power if Simon had been taught that all believers held the priesthood. But, Peter clearly did not believe this doctrine, and did not teach it in 1 Peter 2.
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