Does the Bible say anything about having priests in the Church?
Yes it does. God told his people through the mouth of Jeremiah, “I will give you shepherds after my own heart who will feed you with knowledge and understanding” (Jer 3:15). It was through His holy priesthood that God guided his people and provided for their worship and holiness both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament.
In the Old Testament, there was the high priest (Aaron, cf. Exo 28:3), the ministerial priests (Aaron’s sons, cf. Exo 28:40-41), and the universal priests (Israel, cf. Exo 19:6). The New Testament priesthood also has three offices: High Priest (Jesus Christ, cf. Heb 2:17; 3:1), ministerial priests (the ordained bishops and priests, cf. Rom 15:16; 1 Tim 3:1,8; 5:17; Titus 1:7), and the universal priests (all the faithful, cf. 1 Pet. 2:5,9; Rev. 1:6). The whole of salvation history evidences this hierarchy within the People of God.
Note that there is a high priest and a ministerial priesthood, but there is also a universal priesthood. In other words, Catholics affirm a universal, or a “spiritual” priesthood just like Protestants do. The Church teaches that we are all incorporated into the priestly office of Christ upon our baptism. We are all priests, called “to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 2:5).
But, the Church also believes that, from among these people, Jesus Christ calls certain individuals to make His authority, His priesthood, His very Person present in the Church in a more profound way. These individuals make up the ministerial priesthood, those special men who God has called to make the sacraments available to us and to “feed” and “tend” the flock of the Lord (Jn 21:15-17).
In Scripture, we are commanded to obey these “elders” (Gk. presbuteros, or “priests”) of the church (cf. 1 Thes 5:12-13; 1 Tim 5:17; 13:7,17; 1 Pet 5:5), and those who reject their authority are looked down upon and judged harshly (cf. 2 Pet 2:10-12; 1 Jn 4:6; 3 Jn 1:9-11; Jude 1:8-11). After all, God says of his priest that “men should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts” (Mal 2:7).
Peace of Christ to you,
WIMM Board Member
Director of Religious Education, Blessed Mother Catholic Church
Feel free to email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org