A Book Review from Books At a Glance
by Jacob Hercamp
David Schrock in his book The Royal Priesthood and the Glory of God does a masterful job of describing how the theme of the priesthood is biblical in its scope. He makes the compelling and I believe correct argument that Adam was a priest—a royal priest at that—in the first chapters of Genesis. Due to the Fall, Adam lost this dual office. Yet, by God’s grace, Adam and his children were promised that a new and better priest would come.
The aim of Schrock’s study is to follow the Bible through the actions of the priest, seeing how the priesthood was intended in the beginning, how it fell, what actions God took, and how God took it upon Himself to reunite the office of priest and king in the Person of Jesus Christ. Then from Jesus Christ comes the creation of the priesthood as described in Peter’s Epistle to which all believers in Christ are called as members.
The Royal Priesthood is part of Crossway’s Short Studies in Biblical Theology Series. The target audience for this series is the laity of the church, and Schrock does an exceptional job making this book accessible. Schrock also offers much for the Biblical scholar to consider as he writes. I think this is because of his topic. The priesthood, it seems, gets little airtime in theological discussion until recent developments, such as this book.
Schrock has brought the theme of the priesthood into the Biblical Theology conversation through the use of typology. Though Schrock does not use the terminology, nor is it found in the index accompanying the book, Schrock often practices typology in this book. He speaks most often of following the pattern that is laid out in Scripture concerning the royal priesthood that finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. For instance, Schrock makes the argument that Adam and David both fit into the pattern of the coming royal priest, that is Jesus. This approach is welcome. Though I think a section speaking about typology would have been well received by the target audience. Also, while Schrock offers footnotes, there is no bibliography at the end of the book. While this is written for and directed towards the layperson, it would have been nice to see, at the very least, a suggested list of additional readings on the topic of the priesthood.
In the Introduction, Schrock gives his working definition of the priesthood: “Priests are consecrated mediators between God and his covenant people, who stand to serve at God’s altar (1) sanctifying God’s Holy Place, (2) sacrificing God’s offerings, (3) speaking God’s covenant. This definition gives the reader the opportunity to consider where priests serve and what they do.” (Pg. 21). In the first chapter, Schrock begins with Genesis and the creation of Adam, who is a priest. He is not just a priest, but Adam is a royal priest because he bears the image of God. (Pg. 27). Both offices of priest and king are placed upon Adam. After the Fall, the two offices of priest and king diverge from one another (sons of Aaron and Judah). Schrock notes how Adam is a priest in the garden of Eden. Eden is God’s Garden Sanctuary. The Tabernacle of the Wilderness wonderings of Exodus and Solomon’s Temple would incorporate images of the Garden. Every sanctuary would harken back to Eden, and every priest back to Adam as well as points forward to the new and better priest to come in Christ.
As mentioned above, this book is a short study. It does not speak to every single character, and how they fulfill the role of priest. Schrock does take time to speak of Abraham as well as Abraham’s meeting with the enigmatic character Melchizedek. Schrock argues that Melchizedek, serving as king and priest, foreshadows the reunification of the two offices upon one person. Ultimately, that will come when the Son of God, Jesus Christ, comes in the flesh (Pg. 43–45).
In the second chapter, Schrock dives further into the priesthood as it is established at Sinai. The particular point that needs to be understood is that, originally, it seems that every single firstborn son of Israel was called to be a priest. But after the golden calf incident, the tribe of Levi was the only tribe to stand with the Lord. This event was the impetus of the Levitical priesthood. Schrock does point out that the term Levitical priesthood is used only in the book of Deuteronomy. It is important to note that there is a difference made between the sons of Aaron and the rest of the sons of Levi. Only sons of Aaron are called to be priests in the sense of Schrock’s definition. The other sons of Levi are assistants to their brothers and guardians of the Lord’s house and the instruments contained therein.
In the third chapter, Schrock shows how often the priesthood fails at its calling. He uses the term compromise. The priesthood often compromises and fails at keeping God’s commands. This is apparent nearly every step of the way. Perhaps the only book that shows the priesthood in a good light throughout is the book of Joshua. However, in Judges, as often is the case, everything falls apart very quickly because it seems the priests and fathers, in general, did not teach the faith to the subsequent generations. The priesthood as established via the sons of Aaron would not cut it. They were sinful men. A better priest would have to come, and of course, that priest was already promised.
At this point, it would have been beneficial to speak to the canon of Scripture. Schrock uses the terms “Law”, “Prophets,” and “Writings” to speak of the Old Testament, following the Hebrew Bible. While that is easily understood by scholars, it might have been helpful for the lay reader to have that information explained further.
Schrock moves into the historical books of the Prophets, such as 1 Samuel, and shows how the pattern of the royal priest shows up in the person of David, particularly when he brings the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, and again when David offers the sacrifice on the threshing floor of 2 Sam 24:18–25 (Note: There is a typo in the table offered on pg. 103 that references 1 Sam 24, when it obviously means 2 Sam 24). Also, Schrock notes the similarity between the promise made to David in 2 Sam 7 to the prophesy spoken by the unnamed prophet in 1 Sam 2:35. The word “sure” is the same in both instances. Effectively the promise is made that the Son of David will be both priest and king whose house will be sure and established forever (Pg. 87).
The chapter on the prophets does not only speak to the historical books of this specific grouping. Schrock goes into the prophets like Isaiah and Joel, who have much to say about how the priests of the line of Aaron had fallen in their duties. They were either failing to obey God’s law, guard the Lord’s holy dwelling, teach the people, or offer proper sacrifices. Many times, they were indicted on all counts by the host of prophets. But at the same time, while the priesthood was often lambasted for their many sins against God, the prophets were prophesying of the royal priest who was to come, who would mediate a new covenant (Jer 30–33), “where all covenant members are priests to one another” (Pg. 89).
The next chapter delves into the writings, looking specifically at bits of Chronicles, the Ezra-Nehemiah complex, and the contributions of Psalm 110, 132–34, Daniel 7:13–14, and 9:24–27. Psalm 110 receives the most treatment, as it should, because of its implications moving forward. There, the Son of David is made a priest after the order of Melchizedek. It is in Psalm 110 that we see how the king and priest offices will be reunited in one person again like it was with Adam. Though Schrock does not say this in the book, this should already be in the mind of the reader from the promise made to Adam and Eve (Gen 3:15), if Adam is indeed a Royal Priest. In the promise to Adam and Eve the Lord God, promises that the Seed of the woman would come. If Christ is the “New Adam” as Paul speaks about (Rom 5), then it would make sense to see the coming Seed as a royal priest. Perhaps, due to length constraints, this is not fully explored.
After exploring the various sections of texts that speak to the priesthood to come, Schrock explores the priesthood of Jesus Christ as displayed in the Gospels. While the priesthood is mentioned a whopping ninety-six times, it is never directly applied to Christ. However, Schrock does not allow that to stop him from seeing Christ’s works as priestly in nature. The Gospels show the fulfillment of the promises made in the Old Testament. While Schrock gives one chapter to all the Gospels, he could have easily spent one chapter looking at the Gospel of Luke on its own. There is much to study and appreciate in Luke concerning the priesthood of Jesus.
Schrock offers many points via all the Gospels that Jesus appears as both the true and promised sacrifice as well as the true and promised priest. Though Jesus is never called priest in the Gospels themselves, Schrock, simply following the works of Jesus, shows and argues convincingly that Jesus is priest and king.
In Chapter 6 the book makes a bit of a turn. From this point on, Schrock seeks to spend more time on the implications that Christ’s royal priesthood has for the church. What does it mean for the church today that Christ is a royal priest, and how does that make the church into a kingdom of priests?
In the priesthood of Jesus, there came the end of the Levitical priesthood. No longer was the priesthood only for sons of Aaron. With Christ’s ascension and His commission to his apostles, the church was not only meant for the blood children of Abraham. The apostles were sent into all nations. All people then called by the Gospel of Jesus Christ were to be welcomed into the kingdom. This kingdom is spoken of in Peter’s Epistle. He calls believers a royal priesthood. Everyone then is a priest in Christ, and they are called to (1) sanctify the house of God, (2) offer spiritual sacrifices, and (3) speak the word of God in prayer and evangelism (Pg. 146). Schrock speaks to each of these as he walks through sections of the various NT Epistles.
Schrock, unsurprisingly, spends time in the Letter to the Hebrews, as this letter speaks directly of Christ’s priesthood more than any other NT book. Jesus is still working as the Great High Priest even in heaven, sanctifying God’s holy place, praying for and speaking to His people, and making intercession for His beloved (Pg. 164). The priesthood, sacrifice, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus fuel the priesthood of His people. Effectively, they are made priests in His image. His people are called to be a family of priests “in this age and in the age to come” (Pg. 167). This leads to additional application for the lay reader. They are called to be ‘priests’ in their worship, prayers, service, and witness. Effectively, without using the term vocation, Schrock teaches what each ‘blood bought’ royal priest is to do in this calling (Pg. 170).
Schrock does a masterful job in highlighting and tracing the theme of the royal priesthood through the Bible in a very succinct fashion It leads one to desire to explore further works on the subject of priesthood. This book written and targeted to lay readers is a welcomed addition to the renewed conversation surrounding the often-neglected topic that is the priesthood. Schrock demonstrates just how important the priesthood is for Christ’s people even in our own day. Anyone interested in Biblical Theology and the priesthood, and even those who are not, should take the time to read this book. I have no doubt that after reading, an appreciation for the topic of the royal priesthood will only grow.
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Buy the books
THE ROYAL PRIESTHOOD AND THE GLORY OF GOD (SHORT STUDIES IN BIBLICAL THEOLOGY), by David S. Schrock