06/08/2012 by Chris Green
At the time of the Reformation the church had to learn that it had twisted some biblical vocabulary out of its biblical shape. The word ‘priest’, which is biblically a word ensuring free and open access of all of God’s people, who are all priests, had become limited to a few, who stood as gatekeepers to God, the way to true blessing and the source of spiritual renewal. ‘Priest’ also has a particularly focussed meaning on the person and work of Jesus, the priest who guarantees us access to God by his unique God-man person and work. The clergy who called themselves ‘priests’ were thus not only withdrawing the privileges of priesthood from the remainder of God’s people, they were also stealing the status and authority of Jesus. Part of the Reformation’s engine can be seen in two of its best known phrases: on the one hand, Luther’s famous description of ‘the priesthood of all believers’, and on the other, Calvin’s famous description of Jesus as ‘Prophet, Priest and King’.
In our day there is a similar word which has been distorted out of its biblical shape. It too is a word which can, and should, rightly refer to all of God’s people, but is being withdrawn to refer to a few, high status, people who have the role of being able to bring us into God’s presence. It is also a word which should rightly refer to Jesus in his unique role as intermediary between us and our God, but which is being drawn down on to the shoulders of our high-visibility contemporaries. Just as at the Reformation, then, the misuse of biblical language is robbing God’s people and robbing the Lord Jesus, and giving a dangerously distorted view of how God is to be known.
The word is linked to word just studied, leitourgein, and it is leitourgos: the minister, the one busied day-to-day serving other people (which one sense that Paul will call his team ‘ministers’), but when it refers to Jesus, the High Priest it has a different note altogether: ‘the worship leader’.
Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tentthat the Lord set up, not man.
 Hebrews 8:1