The scene is pretty familiar to most. A "priest", "pastor", "minister" ect...stands at the front of the church building/temple at a pulpit and conducts various orations and ceremonials. This is what most people expect to see when they "go to church".
Where did this whole business of the priesthood start ? Well, it got started under Moses in the Old Testament, and more specifically it was given to the Levites to be the tribe designate to be the priests and to perform the duties and ceremonies required of the priesthood. A whole bunch of rules of behaviour and provision were also attached to the position of priest, as well as one particular individual became the "high" priest, a designation all of it's own. It fell upon the High Priest to perform the rituals for the sanctification of the people and the cleansing from sin ect... It was his responsibility to enter into what was known as the "holy of holies" once per year and offer a blood sacrifice in atonement (reparation for an offense or injury - Webster's) for sin.
"For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all."( He 9:2-3) The original "temple" was a two-compartment tent, and eventually grew into a brick and motar building. Most modern denominations are still set up somewhat the same way, excluding the blood sacrifice in a secondary chamber part. But what of the priesthood as a whole ?
Many people have been led to believe that the "priest/pastor/minister" is there to mediate (occupying a middle position - Webster's) between God and the people. But what does the Bible say ? "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;."(1Tim 2:5) Through His own blood sacrifice Jesus Christ has taken over the position of mediator/High Priest and what is left to do is to come to Him for the forgiveness of sins. There is no other method, ceremony, "sacrement" or penance that can ever justify one from the penalty of sin. Sin is something that is cleansed by blood, as demonstrated in the Old Testament's representation of things which were to come in the sacrifice of Christ.
The apostle Paul wrote,"For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law."(He 7:12) The rules have changed. We no longer have to have a "priesthood" ! Jesus Christ Himself is now our High Priest and has abolished the former priesthood with all it's ceremonies and rituals ! "Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people." (He 2:17).
Probably the most significant testimony to this was at the moment of Christ's death on the cross when the Bible says,"And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;" (Mt 27:51) The "veil" spoken of here was none other than the one leading into the "holy of holies", that secondary chamber reserved for the High Priest alone, where atonement for sin was conducted by the shedding of blood. The tearing of this veil signifies that Jesus Himself has entered into this "holy of holies" (the veil of His flesh as Paul called it - He 10:20) and shed His own blood once and for all eternity for the remission of sin to all who will call upon Him and seek forgiveness and atonement.
What of the priesthood ? In the traditional sense, it is abolished ! Although it has taken a different path, and a different set of responsibilities. It is no longer left up to one person to come to God and atone for your sins, it is now up to you to do it for yourself. In the same respect, the sins of the fathers no longer follow the generations to come as all are responsible for their own actions before God. Each and every person who has been called to the altar of God's sacrifice in Christ is now responsible to perform the "right" of atonement ... coming to Christ in all humility and seeking forgiveness for sin. " But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;" (1Pe 2:9)
You, each one, is now called as a priest unto God, whosoever he be that has received His gift of Salvation by Jesus Christ. You no longer have to atone yourself for sin as Christ has done it all for you through the sacrifice of His own blood on the cross. This does not mean that you don't have some responsibilities to perform, although it does mean that you no longer can rely on anyone else to have a relationship with God for you. "Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have."(2Cor 8:11)
So, what of priest, pastors, ministers ect...? They are there as teachers and guides and spiritual leaders to instruct in the ways of God. They are the ones who are accountable to God for what they say and do that influences those around them. They are there to teach you how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and to plot a course so that you will learn and become strong in the Lord and be able to in turn do the same for others. It is an awsome responsibility; pray for those who have the "charge"over you, as they must give account to God Himself, and He takes the instruction of His children very seriously. "And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea." (Mk 9:42)
"Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;." (He 3:1)