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"Every Christian a Priest: A Royal Priesthood" (posted March 1, 2006)
       Read Parts 1 and 2 of this series:
       "Every Christian a Priest: Living Stones"
       "Every Christian a Priest: A Holy Priesthood"

You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
   - 1 Peter 2:9

We must now look, for a moment, at the third and last branch of our present theme. This is presented in that highly expressive word "royal." This completes the lovely picture of the Christian priesthood. All believers are priests, and there is no such thing as a priest upon earth save in the sense in which all true Christians are priests.

As holy priests (1 Peter 2:5) we draw nigh to God, and present the sacrifice of praise. As royal priests we go forth among our fellow-men, in all the details of practical daily life, to show forth the virtues, the graces, the lovely moral features of Christ. Every movement of a royal priest should emit the fragrance of the grace of Christ.

Again, the apostle does not say, "You ought to be royal priests." He says "you are;" and as such we are to show forth the virtues of Christ. Nothing else is becoming to a member of the royal priesthood. To be occupied with myself; to be taking counsel for my own ease, my own interest, my own enjoyment, to be seeking my own ends, and caring about my own things, is not the act of a royal priest at all. Christ never did so; and I am called to show forth His virtues.

He, blessed be His name, grants to His people, in this the time of His absence, to anticipate the day when He shall come forth as a Royal Priest, and sit upon His throne, and send forth the benign influence of His dominion to the ends of the earth. We are called to be the present expression of the kingdom of Christ---the expression of Himself.

And let none suppose that the actings of a royal priest are to be confined to the matter of giving. This would be a grave mistake. No doubt, a royal priest will give, and give liberally if he has it; but to limit him to the mere matter of giving would be to rob him of some of the most precious functions of his position. The very man (Peter) who penned the words on which we are dwelling said on one occasion, and said it without shame, "Silver and gold have I none;" and yet at that very moment, he was acting as a royal priest, by bringing the precious virtue of the Name of Jesus to bear on the lame man (Acts 3:6).

The blessed Master Himself, we may safely affirm, never possessed a penny; but He went about doing good, and so should we, nor do we need money to do it. Hence, therefore, let no one imagine that he cannot act as a royal priest without earthly riches. What riches are required to speak a kindly word, to drop the tear of sympathy, to give the soothing genial look? None whatever, save the riches of God's grace---the unsearchable riches of Christ, all of which are laid open to the most obscure member of the Christian priesthood. I may be in rags, without a penny in the world, and yet carry myself blessedly as a royal priest, by diffusing around me the fragrance of the grace of Christ.

But, perhaps, we cannot more suitably close these few remarks on the Christian priesthood, than by giving a very vivid illustration drawn from the inspired page: the narrative of two beloved servants of Christ who were enabled, under the most distressing circumstances, to acquit themselves as holy and royal priests.

Turn to Acts 16:19-34. Here we have Paul and Silas thrust into the innermost part of the prison at Philippi, their backs covered with stripes, and their feet fast in the stocks, in the darkness of the midnight hour. What were they doing? murmuring and complaining? Ah, no. They had something better and brighter to do. Here were two really "living stones," and nothing that earth or hell could do could hinder the life that was in them from expressing itself in its proper accents.

But what, we repeat, were these living stones doing? These partakers of the rock life, the victorious, resurrection life of Christ---how did they employ themselves? Well, then, in the first place, as holy priests they offered the sacrifice of praise to God. Yes, "at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God" (Acts 16:25). How precious is this! How morally glorious! How truly refreshing! What are stripes or stocks, or prison walls, or gloomy nights, to living stones and holy priests? Nothing more than a dark background to throw out into bright and beauteous relief the living grace that is in them.

Talk of circumstances! Ah! it is little any of us know of trying circumstances. Poor things that we are, the petty annoyances of daily life are often more than enough to cause us to lose our mental balance. Paul and Silas were really in trying circumstances; but they were there as living stones and holy priests.

Yes, and they were there as royal priests, likewise. How does this appear? Certainly not by scattering silver and gold. It is not likely the dear men had much of these to scatter. But oh! they had what was better, the virtues of Him who had called them out of darkness into His marvelous light. And where do these virtues shine out? In those touching words addressed to the jailer, "Do yourself no harm." [Note: After an earthquake destroyed the prison where Paul and Silas were, the jailer prepared to take his own life because he thought the prisoners had all escaped.]

Those words were the accents of a royal priest, just as the song of praise was the voice of a holy priest. Thank God for both! The voices of the holy priests went directly up to the throne of God and did their work there; and the words of the royal priests went directly to the jailer's hard heart and did their work there. God was glorified and the jailer saved by two men rightly discharging the functions of "the Christian priesthood."

Charles H. Mackintosh

[excerpted from "The Christian Priesthood" in The Mackintosh Treasury (pp. 790-794). Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1976.]
The entire article may also be found online at the STEM Publishing website.

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