Question: "What is a priest?"

Answer: A priest is a minister of any religion—true or false, good or evil—who is given authority to teach the sacred information and perform the sacred duties to preserve and bring that faith to others.

Priests usually serve as a representative between people and a higher power, being, or set of beings. Priests are intermediaries between people and spirits, deities, gods, or God. They teach the proper reverence, gratitude, praise, sacrificial giving, worship, and way of life that define the faith. In many religions, a priest’s most important role is as mediator and intercessor, offering prayers and sacrifices on behalf of believers in order to secure the deity’s forgiveness and favor in this life and, in the afterlife, eternal bliss.

Christianity differs from all other religions in many ways, including the priesthood. Here are two of the most important ways the Christian priesthood differs from that of other religions: 1. In many religions, believers have no direct interaction or influence with their god; priests are the only way to reach the distant deity. But Christians do not need to go through an earthly priest to reach God the Father. Rather, we all have direct access to Him through our risen High Priest in heaven, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 8–9). Christ is the only way to God the Father (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). As a result, Christians may pray directly to God for all their needs and wants (Matthew 7:7–11; John 16:23–26).

2. The Bible teaches that all Christians are priests; the Christian church is actually a kingdom of priests (1 Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation 1:6). Under the Old Covenant, the priests were chosen from the Levitical tribe and separate from the rest of Israel. Exodus 28–29 and Leviticus 8 describe the main priestly duties for the Levites to perform. These priests ministered in the temple, where the Ark of the Covenant rested in a room called the Holy of Holies which was closed off to everyone but the high priest by a large, heavy, ornate curtain. The blood of sacrificial bulls was sprinkled on top of the Ark’s Mercy Seat to atone for the sins of the people. But, when Jesus was crucified, the curtain split from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51), showing that all believers now have direct access to God’s presence. We approach God through faith in His Son’s blood instead of the blood of animals. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, “we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body” (Hebrews 10:19–20).

The death of Jesus ended the Old Testament priesthood, replacing the endless animal sacrifices with one final, perfect sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. Now forgiveness is offered freely to all who believe in the risen Lord Jesus Christ as our sacrifice for sin (John 3:16–17; Romans 3:23–25; 10:9–10). That is the gospel message—the good news—that we Christians share as “priests” of God’s kingdom.