Before the Old Testament law was given, the head of the family acted as priest, making the sacrifices and being the intercessor for the family. This highlights another importance of Melchizedek‘s role, because he was not the head of the family, but someone to whom the head of the family went. We see Abraham making sacrifices on behalf of himself and his family, and we see Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, being called a priest as head of his family.
The priesthood established through the law in Exodus 28 in the line of Aaron was established as part of a covenant. As part of a covenant, it had a beginning and it had an end. Under this covenant, these priests had specific roles and duties from which they could not break. They could not do whatever they wanted to do. They could not serve God however they wanted to serve. They could not interpret the law in the way that seemed best to them. They were held to a standard that was set by God. God told them a specific way to behave, gave them specific roles, and let them know how the law was to be understood. Any break from that was met with God’s judgement. We see this in Exodus 32 with Aaron, Leviticus 10 with Aaron’s sons, and Numbers 16 with Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.
The meaning of scripture has never been up for grabs or open for various interpretations by each individual. Priests have no more right to personal interpretation than anyone else. And so the belief in Priesthood of All Believers cannot be used as an excuse for beliefs that are at best erroneous, and at worst heretical. The Apostle Peter stresses that even those who authored the books we read in the Bible did not write their own personal interpretation, but wrote according to the Holy Spirit.
We are a royal priesthood, but we do not get to define priesthood for ourselves. Even priests had to follow specific guidelines from which they could not deviate. Being a priest does not mean we can reinterpret doctrines. We follow doctrines because we are priests.
This is Part 2 of a four part series on The Priesthood of All Believers. The first installment was an introduction to why this is an important topic to discuss and makes the distinction between a prophet, who brings God’s word to us, and a priest, who brings our words to God. The third installment clarifies the ministry of a pastor, and the final installment walks through the authority of the pastor as leader of the congregation.