Are you a royal priest? How do you know? What is a kingdom of priests? And how does that really apply today? Is this title for individuals? Or should it be a community identity?
Many questions swirl around the biblical idea of priesthood. And on Sunday we considered Peter’s words to the church: “You are a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). In examining his words, we learned that they go back to Exodus 19:6 and come in the context of worship on the mountain God.
By examining Exodus 19:6, therefore, in its original context and comparing it to 1 Peter 2, we were able to learn how God makes a priestly people, what a kingdom of priests do, and how this title of royal priesthood applies to us today.
You can listen to the sermon online. Discussion questions and additional resources can be found below.
‘Kingdom of Priests’ in Scripture
1 On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, 3 while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” 7 So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. 8 All the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord.
1 Peter 2:4–5, 9–10
4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. . . .
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
- What is your first reaction to the term “kingdom of priest.” Is this / was this a familiar term?
- Read Exodus 19:1–8. What do we learn about the phrase kingdom of priests? How does remembering it’s placement in the book help us?
- Can we apply these words directly to ourselves? Why or why not? How does Peter teach us to apply them to the church today? (Hint: Keep your eyes on Christ in 1 Peter 1–2).
- What had to happen in Exodus before Israel could become a kingdom of priests? How did that work out for Israel? What makes our “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9) different (read: more effective) today?
- From Exodus 19 or 1 Peter 2, what are we supposed to do as priests? What is unique about the priesthood in the New Testament (read 1 Peter 2:9–10)?
- How does the corporate dimension of royal priesthood impact worship, work, witness?
- Why does it matter so much that God’s people are washed before working? Does the call to “work” as priests threaten grace? (Look again at the place of the new birth, 1 Peter 1:23)
- What would happen at (y)our church if we thought more consistently about our status as a royal priesthood? How can we grow together to be a priestly people? What’s one step you can take to grow in worship, work, witness?
The most helpful resource on the priesthood of believers is the book Representing Christ: A Vision for the Priesthood of All Believers by Uche Anizor and Hank Voss. The outline of “worship, work, and witness” comes from them.
Worship leader Ryan Hoselton writes a short piece on our new covenant “priestly duties” in Put on Your Priestly Robe.
Don’t Use Prophet, Priest, and King as a Modern Leadership Typology by Timothy Paul Jones — The title is negative, but the article is very positive and helpful for understanding our community identity as a kingdom of priest.
You can also read my article on Exodus 19:6 in this months Southern Baptist Journal of Theology: Restoring the Image of God: A CorporateFilial Approach to the “Royal Priesthood” in Exodus 19:6.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds