The Priesthood of all Believers

“If, as has already been stated, the church knows no organizational continuance, it follows that pattern is not the prime mark of the New Testament assembly. Not that pattern is unimportant, but a church cannot be established by merely setting up what is thought to be a scriptural form. It is not simply a matter of applying the correct technique. The New Testament does not specifically set down rules and regulations whereby the fellowship of the church should be governed as, for example, instructions were given for the building of the tabernacle in the Old Testament.

“What may be deduced as details of a church pattern in the Acts or the Epistles were but the natural reasons whereby the outflow of the life of the Spirit manifested itself. Scripture always commences there, with life, and where spiritual life is truly uninhibited, spiritual pattern follows. That does not mean that the churches will show wide diversity of pattern. Differences there will be from one place to another, just as there was not a rigid sameness about the assemblies in apostolic times, but we have seen amply demonstrated through the centuries that although churches may grow up in different countries completely independent of one another, yet the pattern of their fellowship is not greatly dissimilar. Just as spiritual life determines doctrine in the church, it also determines pattern.

“The principle of fellowship, for example, in the family of God where all believers are priests, immediately excludes the acceptance of a distinction between clergy and laity and the adoption of an episcopal form of government. Wherever people are willing to obey the implications of spiritual principles as found in the Word of God, they will find that assembly order does not leave a great deal to be determined by human choice, neither does it allow the application of a cold, mechanical form. The development of the highly organized systems of denominational Christianity as we know them today has no valid, spiritual reason, and has but served to preserve ‘Churches’ which could otherwise exist no longer since the life of the Spirit has departed from them.

“The spiritual life and the scriptural order of the church go together. The order is the outcome of life, but it is also conversely true that the continuance of life is dependent on the order. All believers are priests and all are witnesses. The assembly does not recognize any member of its fellowship as a non-participant. The assembly is the focal point of Christian service and responsibility. Its order must encourage the constant flow of spiritual life, otherwise the order itself will be destroyed.”

(John W. Kennedy, The Torch of the Testimony, pp 242-3)

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