A Royal Priesthood
If you are a follower of Christ, then according to 1st Peter 2:9,
you have become a Royal Priesthood.
What is a 'Royal Priesthood'? In order to understand this terminology, and its implications concerning your position in Christ, consider the meaning of each word. 'Royal' implies kingship or royalty. 'Priesthood,' of course, speaks of being a priest before God. When you came into Christ, He conferred upon you the role of both king and priest. Some ministers have taught that you are either a king or a priest in Christ, but Revelation 5:9-10 clearly states that He has “made us kings and priests to our God” [NKJV]. If you were merely king alone, then you would be called ‘royal’ but not ‘priesthood’. Conversely, if you were priest alone, you would not be called ‘royal’. Given that the Scripture calls you a ‘Royal Priesthood,’ it follows that you are not merely one or the other, but rather you are both king and priest in Christ.
Why would you want to be both king and priest? What is the benefit of having such titles? For years, even after studying the Word of God extensively, I lacked an understanding about what it meant to be a 'Royal Priesthood'. To be perfectly honest, the whole concept seemed strange to me. I used to ask the Lord why I needed to be a king and a priest. Was it not enough simply to know that I am a Christian and that I will go to Heaven when I die? Furthermore, if all believers are to be kings, who will our subjects be? Perhaps those questions sound ignorant or even comical to you, but nonetheless, those were my musings whenever I studied 1st Peter 2:9. As ridiculous as my questions were, when I started looking deeper into the Word,
God began to reveal to me the magnitude of what He did for us by conferring upon us both royalty and an eternal priesthooD.
In the Old Testament, the roles of king and priest were very different. We find no examples of anyone who served as both (with the exception of Melchizedek, who lived before the Law). Each role had distinct capacities. A king was able to make authoritative decrees, while a priest did not have the authority to do so. Priests, however, held the right to offer sacrifices and to apply the blood of the sacrifice - a privilege that was not afforded to kings. Saul is an example of a king who was rebuked for attempting to fulfill the role of priest. In 1st Samuel 13, Saul made an unlawful sacrifice and the Prophet Samuel said that Saul had "done foolishly" [1st Sam 13:10-13, NKJV]. Though Saul was the King of Israel, the Law did not permit him to fulfill the priestly duties. There were duties unique to the priesthood that would have been unlawful for a king.
If you were simply one or the other, either king or priest, then you would be quite limited as a believer. As king alone, you could make authoritative decrees according to the Word of God, but you would not have the right to apply the Blood of the Sacrifice. As priest alone, you would have the right to apply the Blood of Jesus to any area of your life, but you would not have the right to make authoritative decrees. But Jesus did not merely make you one or the other. Instead, in His infinite wisdom, He made you both! How did He do it, and why does it matter?
First, let us address the question of why being a Royal Priesthood matters. Recall the verse in Revelation 12:11 that states, "And they overcame him by the Blood of the Lamb and by the Word of their testimony" [NKJV]. Based on this passage, God has given us two primary tools for overcoming the evil one – namely the Blood of the Lamb and the Word.
When Jesus made you a Royal Priesthood, He was not simply bestowing a fancy title upon you. Rather, He was equipping you with the Divine Right to use both the Word and the Blood, so that you could overcome any enemy that you could ever encounter in this life.
As King you decree the Word, and as Priest you apply the Blood. No force of the evil one can ever overpower you when you are speaking the Word and applying the Blood! As for "how" Jesus made us a Royal Priesthood, our natural minds will never quite comprehend how He did so. Nevertheless, it would be useful to examine both the Kingship and the Priesthood of the Lord Jesus, in order to understand better our position before God as a Royal Priesthood.
Jesus received Kingship, both naturally and spiritually, through inheritance. In a spiritual sense, He received Kingship the moment the Father declared, "You are My Son; Today I have begotten You" [see Psalm 2:7, Acts 13:33, Hebrews 1:5, and Hebrews 5:5]. According to the Flesh, Jesus was of the Tribe of Judah and of the lineage of David. When His birth was announced, the Angel declared to Mary that God would give to Jesus "the Throne of His Father David" [see Luke 1:32]. Herein, we find a profound revelation of the dual legitimacy of the Kingship of the Lord Jesus.
A careful reading of the Old Testament reveals that GOD never intended for Israel to have a king other than God, Himself. In the days of the Prophet Samuel, Israel wrongfully demanded a king to rule over them and judge them. Though Samuel was displeased with the demand of the people, God told Samuel, "Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them" [1st Samuel 8:7, NKJV]. Shortly thereafter, Saul was anointed king over Israel. After Saul fell from Grace and God removed the Kingdom from him, God selected David to reign as king, making a promise that David's Seed would possess the throne forever [See Psalm 89:24-37 and Jeremiah 33:17]. Many generations later, Jesus, Himself, became the Seed and by natural inheritance took back the Throne as a Man in the lineage of David. Even though Israel moved to undermine God's authority by demanding a flesh-and-blood king, God remedied the situation by, Himself, becoming the Flesh-and-Blood Seed, in the Person of Jesus, thereby taking back the Throne of Israel.
Therefore, by right of both spiritual and natural inheritance, Jesus Christ is the undisputed, doubly-legitimate King of Kings!
What about His eternal Priesthood? It may shock you to learn that Jesus is only Priest according to the Spirit, but not according to the Flesh. In the fifth chapter of Hebrews, we learn that "Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest," but rather He received that Priesthood when the Father said, "You are My Son, today I have begotten You," adding later, "You are a Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek" [Hebrews 5:5-6 NKJV]. This Priesthood that Jesus received was only a spiritual priesthood. Scripture teaches that there were two priesthoods, one spiritual and one natural. The natural priesthood was established under the law and belonged to the Levitical tribe. The Book of Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus, in the flesh, was not a priest under the Levitical system, since He was born of the Tribe of Judah, not as a Levite [see Hebrews 7:11-14]. Nevertheless, in the Spirit, the Lord Jesus is of a much Higher Priestly order, which the Scripture identifies as the order of Melchizedek. The order of Melchizedek predated the Law, from as early as the days of Abraham [see Genesis 14:18-20 and Psalm 110:4]. This same eternal Priesthood continued even after the Law was fulfilled, and it remains even today with Christ as our Great High Priest [see Hebrews 7:22-28].
It is of supreme importance to note that the Lord Jesus, when He walked the earth in the flesh, was not a priest under the Levitical system of the Law [see Hebrews 8:4]. Within the greater, eternal Priesthood, Christ is the Great High Priest forever, but He willingly subjected Himself to a lesser priesthood when He was born under the Law. What, then, was His role under the Levitical system, if not that of priest? The answer to this question reveals why a lesser, secondary priesthood was necessary in the first place. Under the Levitical system, Jesus was not a priest at all, but rather, He was the Lamb of Sacrifice! Stop for a moment and meditate on this revelation. The Great High Priest who occupies the Holy of Holies in the Heavens, because of His infinite Love for you, humbled Himself to such a degree that He chose to be born under a lesser priesthood, not as Priest but as the Lamb. The only reason that God established a secondary, earthly priesthood was for Jesus to be able to come under it as the Sacrificial Lamb. Oh, how great was His Sacrifice! As such, the Blood that our Great High Priest offered on the Altar of Heaven was His own! [See Hebrews 9:11-15]. Even though our Great High Priest is not priest at all in the flesh, He became flesh and therefore knows how to relate to us. For this reason, Hebrews 4:15 declares that "we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" [NKJV].
Now you have some insight into both the Royalty and the Priesthood of our Lord Jesus, both of which are far beyond our natural comprehension. Scripture makes it clear that neither His Kingdom nor His Priesthood will ever end. Though the roles of king and priest were largely distinct throughout the Old Testament, Scripture foretold of the coming Messiah who would occupy both roles. Melchizedek served as a type and shadow of Christ, being King of Salem and priest of God Most High [Genesis 14:18]. Later, when David was King of Israel, he danced before the Lord wearing an ephod, a priestly garment, when the Ark was brought into Jerusalem [see II Samuel 6:14]. David, by donning an ephod as king, prophetically symbolized the coming day when Israel's King would also serve as Priest, though he likely did so unknowingly. Then an astounding Messianic Prophecy was given in Zechariah 6:11-13, when God spoke of the coming BRANCH who would be the Messiah. God declared that the Messiah would "sit and rule on His throne," adding that He would be "a priest on His throne" [Zechariah 6:11-13, NKJV]. Priests did not have thrones, and they did not rule, but God foretold a day in which the Messiah would establish a Royal Priesthood. To make this point, God instructed the Prophet to place a kingly crown on the head of Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the High Priest. Incidentally, the High Priest at that time, Joshua, had a name that is a variation of "Yeshua," the Name of the Messiah. God thought of everything!
All told, there can be no doubt that our Lord Jesus, the King of Kings and the Priest of Priests, possesses an eternal, Royal Priesthood, established in the Heavens. Knowing who He is gives greater insight into who you are in Christ. When you were born into Christ, you came into that same Royal Priesthood. The Scripture declares that "as He is, so are you in this world" [1st John 4:17, NKJV]. As a result, when you come before God, you are welcome to enter directly into the holiest place with the access of a priest and the boldness of a king.
As king, you have every right to decree the Word of God boldly and authoritatively, and as priest, you have every right to apply the Blood of Jesus to every area of need.
Therefore, having divine rights to use the Blood of the Lamb and the Word, you are fully equipped to overcome every scheme of the evil one. Take heart and walk confidently as the Royal Priesthood that you are in Christ!