Questions From Readers
● Would it be correct to say that the “royal priesthood” refers only to the anointed Christians but that the term “general priesthood” includes both the remnant of anointed Christians and the “great crowd” of praisers to Jehovah?—V. K., United States.
The teaching concerning a “general priesthood” is a doctrine in Christendom and as such it is also called “the priesthood of all believers.” It is defined by Webster’s Third New International Dictionary as “a doctrine of the Protestant Christian Church: every individual has direct access to God without ecclesiastical mediation and each individual shares the responsibility of ministering to the other members of the community of believers.” The term basically carries the thought that every Christian should tell others about God’s Word and purposes and not leave the responsibility up to a “clergy” class. “This doctrine,” says The Interpreter’s Bible, “is a declaration not so much of right as of responsibility.” (Vol. 11, p. 619) Viewed from this standpoint—every Christian’s taking on the responsibility of preaching—it can be said that this principle, implied by the term “general priesthood,” has application to all Christians.
However, if one were to say that both the anointed remnant and the “great crowd” are in the “general priesthood,” this would not be Biblically correct. Why? Christendom’s belief is that “all Christians are priests before God.” (Theology Today, October, 1958, p. 303) Actually what the Scriptures teach is that every spirit-begotten Christian is a priest. Hence, viewed Scripturally, the terms priest and priesthood apply solely to the 144,000 members of the “holy priesthood” or “royal priesthood.”—1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 14:1-4.
To those spirit-anointed or spirit-begotten Christians of the “holy priesthood” Peter’s words about offering up “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” particularly apply. However, since the year 1931, a “great crowd” of sheeplike worshipers of Jehovah God out of all nations and languages have associated themselves with the remnant of the “holy priesthood.” (Rev. 7:9-15) Though not of the “holy priesthood,” this “great crowd” who have earthly hopes are precious in God’s eyes and He fills his house with glory by reason of the fact that so many of these sheeplike worshipers become associated with the priestly class. (Hag. 2:7) Because of all this close contact with the priestly remnant, this “great crowd” have the same obligation that the remnant have; that is, to declare abroad the excellencies of Jehovah God. This the “great crowd” are doing. In their assisting the remnant of the “royal priesthood,” the “great crowd” are compared, not to priests or Levites, but to the Nethinim and Gibeonites who were loyal adherents to the remnant of the faithful Jews, the ancient witnesses of Jehovah. The antitypical Nethinim and Gibeonites have associated with the priestly remnant in worshiping Jehovah alone as God, willingly becoming temple assistants in support of the remnant of “living stones” of the spiritual temple.
Thus it is in the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses, not in Christendom, that we really find the “general priesthood”—not only the successful application of what is implied by that term but also the existence of a remnant of the “royal priesthood,” whose priesthood is truly general because each and every one of them offers up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Pet. 2:5) Because the Scriptures themselves limit the words priest and priesthood to anointed Christians, it is Biblically accurate to say that the general priesthood embraces only the spirit-begotten Christians.