Do Christians Need Priests?
Bible Teaching About Church Organisation
FOR many people the organisation and traditions of religion create large barriers to its acceptance. Believing that God can be worshipped acceptably by an individual in a forest or on a mountain – places which bring readily to mind His awesome creative power – they shy away from grand robes and imposing buildings. When it is suggested that somehow God cannot he properly worshipped other than through a human intermediary and according to set rites, their worst fears are confirmed. The hierarchy of priests (cardinals, archbishops, bishops, canons, etc.), is confusing to them and also suggests that there are two categories of worshipper – priests and lay people. Possibly, even that those who claim to be ordained by God are more favoured than everyone else.
Churchmen argue that priests and the church speak on God’s behalf; they interpret God’s commandments for men, and plead with God on man’s behalf; only they are allowed to bless the sacraments of communion: the bread and wine shared by worshippers in remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice. They claim that today’s priests are the rightful successors to the Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles; that God speaks today through the church as He spoke in earlier centuries through prophets and apostles.
What can we make of these claims? Has God commanded that He should be worshipped only through the mediation of human priests? Do men today have the right to speak for God? Are there two categories of worshippers, the priests and the laity?
A Reliable Authority
To answer these questions we need to have a reliable source of authority, something that is totally trustworthy, having stood the test of time. Priests speak with the authority they believe they receive from their church. The churches claim their authority direct from God Himself. But we are not interested in claims alone. We need some reliable evidence.
If God has declared anything about how He should be worshipped, that would surely be the reliable authority we are looking for. And God has spoken! The Bible claims to be the written word of God. Nor is this only a claim. If it was, it would be no different from the churches’ claim to speak on God’s behalf. God’s word contains various tests so that His claim can be proved.