Luther wrote the following in his Treatise: Babylonian Captivity of the Church —
How then if they are forced to admit that we are all equally priests, as many of us as are baptized, and by this way we truly are; while to them is committed only the Ministry (ministerium Predigtamt) and consented to by us (nostro consensu)? If they recognize this they would know that they have no right to exercise power over us (ius imperii, in what has not been committed to them) except insofar as we may have granted it to them, for thus it says in 1 Peter 2, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a priestly kingdom.” In this way we are all priests, as many of us as are Christians. There are indeed priests whom we call ministers. They are chosen from among us, and who do everything in our name. That is a priesthood which is nothing else than the Ministry. Thus 1 Corinthians 4:1: “No one should regard us as anything else than ministers of Christ and dispensers of the mysteries of God.”
Yet the scriptures speak of honoring the leaders who have authority over our souls:
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. ~Hebrews 13:17
Is there conflict here? Was Luther wrong, in forwarding the Priesthood of all Believers (cf. I Pet. 2:9)? Certainly Luther understood that the center of authority for the “Catholic Priests,” was rooted in the concept of their Priesthood; and if that “center” was destabilized by asserting that “all Christians are Priests,” then much of their authority would be gone. So in one sense there is the idea that all believers are “Priests,” and that all believers have the “Keys;” but in what sense should we submit to our leaders? Is it just a matter of respect and honor? Should we “blindly” follow our “leaders,” is that what ‘submission’ entails? The Hebrews passage is easily followed and understood for the Roman Catholic, but how should a Protestant Christian understand this? Is there ever a time, especially given the principle of the “priesthood of all believers,” that there can be dissent by the “laity” toward the “Pastor” (leader)? Is there an objective criteria to be appealed to, an criteria which serves as the basis for “authority” for all Christians?
Sorry, just a probing post; any answers to my string of questions? I have some more thoughts on this, but I want to hear from you all — that is if you want to be heard 😉 .