Obedience And Church Authority: The Problem Of The Book Of Hebrews -- By: William D. Meyer

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 28:0 (NA 1996)
Article: Obedience And Church Authority: The Problem Of The Book Of Hebrews
Author: William D. Meyer

Obedience And Church Authority:
The Problem Of The Book Of Hebrews

William D. Meyer

William Meyer is currently a M.Div. student at ATS, is a lay-person of a year old congregation of the Worldwide Church of God in Geneva, OH. There have been recent major theological shifts in this denomination toward a more Evangelical stance, ed.

The book of Hebrews - with its strong theme of a priesthood of all believers, where each Christian comes boldly through the curtain into the very presence of God in the heavenly Holy of Holies (Heb 10:19–22; 9: 1–3) with no other mediator than Jesus Christ himself (Heb 8:6; 9:15; 12:24) - is certainly antithetical to notions of hierarchy in the church. The lay recipients of the book of Hebrews are urged, at the conclusion of the book (Heb 13:14–15), to offer the sacrifices of the new Christian priesthood continually. These priestly sacrifices of the Christian laity, praise to God, confession of his name, doing good and sharing what we have, are pleasing to God. The Christian priesthood in Hebrews is in no sense limited to a special, separate class of church leaders. Hebrews also emphasizes the superiority of the new universal priesthood in the new covenant to the old hereditary, exclusive priesthood of the tabernacle in the old covenant, the central rituals of which, ordinary people who were not priests or prophets dared not take to themselves (Lev 22:10; 1 Sam 13:8–14). Heb 13:10 assures the church’s new, better priesthood, “We have an altar from which those who officiate in the tent have no right to eat.”

However, within its first few centuries, especially after Constantine, the church began developing a clerical priesthood and a new sacrificial system that resembled that of the old covenant, Aaronic priesthood. A synagogue model of worship was replaced by a temple model. Communion evolved over the centuries into the sacrifice of the Mass, with the clerical priesthood alone qualified to administer it.1 The gap between the clergy and laity widened.

Presbyterian pastor Greg Ogden, in his call for returning the ministry of the church to the laity, observes that even the Protestant Reformation failed to fully obliterate this gap.

We live in the generation when the unfinished business of the Reformation may at last be ...

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