As with most errors, this unbiblical doctrine that the man is the priest of his home consists of truth mixed with error. A father is to train up his children in the instruction of the Lord. A husband is to love his wife and promote her sanctification. He surely must pray for his family. These are good and noble things. But none of them make him a priest. None make him a mediator between his family and God. That office belongs to Christ alone.
This office of mediator between God and man is proper only to Christ, who is the prophet, priest, and king of the church of God; and may not be either in whole, or any part thereof, transferred from him to any other ( 1 Timothy 2:5 ). The London Confession of Faith, Chapter 8, Of Christ the Mediator
If you have had contact with what we will call the patriarchal teachings of various individuals and organizations (Vision Forum, Doug Phillips, Family Integrated Churches, Voddie Baucham, Geoff Botkin, etc), you already know that a common plank in their teaching is this business of the husband and/or father functioning as a priest to his wife and children. Numbers of abuse victims we have interviewed have related how this teaching increased their suffering as their church and their abuser used it to enslave them. The husband must disciple and purify his wife. Hey, doesn’t Ephesians 5 say that? It is his prayers that make intercession for the family. It is his teaching of the Word to wife and children that is his unique duty.
As with most errors, this unbiblical doctrine that the man is the priest of his home consists of truth mixed with error. A father is to train up his children in the instruction of the Lord. A husband is to love his wife and promote her sanctification. He surely must pray for his family. These are good and noble things. But none of them make him a priest. None make him a mediator between his family and God. That office belongs to Christ alone. Furthermore, consider this:
1Pe 2:5-9 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (6) For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” (7) So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” (8) and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. (9) But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
So what people constitute this holy priesthood that offers spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ? Who are the members of this chosen race, this royal priesthood? Well obviously it is the church. This priesthood is made up of every single Christian, whether male or female, slave or free, from every nation and language. This means then that not only is a Christian husband and father a priest, but a Christian wife and mother as well. And a Christian son or daughter. Besides the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ, is there any other priesthood in the New Testament? No. Most emphatically, no. This is why the Reformers, and we Protestants today, reject the validity of the Roman priesthood or any other priesthood.
Sam Waldron has written a book entitled A Man as Priest in His Home (Reformed Baptist Academic Press, 2012). While I have very much appreciated other books by Waldron, this one is a book he should never have penned. It is careless in its handling of Scripture, it is not in agreement with the London Confession of Faith (which Waldron and RB Academic Press profess), and like most all of the basic tenets of patriocentric teaching, this book will certainly promote abuse in the church and in families. Here are the titles of chapters 4-8:
- A Man as an Intercessor in Prayer
- A Man as a Director of Religious Worship
- A Man as a Mediator of Divine Blessing
- A Man as an Instructor in Sacred Scripture
- A Man as a Judge in Holy Things
As is so often the case when we deal with patriarchal theology, we are struck not only with what the author or speaker says, but also with what they do not say. These chapter titles illustrate that this is the case in Waldron’s book. A man, a man, a man…. But what about the wife of the man? It surely would be one thing to write a book about how fathers and mothers function in some ways toward their children as priests serve the people they minister to. But Waldron views the man, the husband/father as priest. Not the wife/mother.
1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Hebrews 7:26-27 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. (27) He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.
There are NO benefits of the New Covenant that are exclusive to men or to women. All are taught by the Spirit, all have the law written on their hearts, all are children of Abraham and thus heirs of the Promise, all are true Israelites, citizens in God’s household, and all are priests! As priests, Christians offer themselves as living sacrifices (abuse victims – did you hear that? LIVING sacrifices, not dead ones!), and they display Christ to a lost world:
Romans 15:15-16 But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God (16) to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
1 Peter 2:4-5 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, (5) you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Revelation 1:4-6 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, (5) and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood (6) and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
It doesn’t take a Greek or New Testament scholar to sort this out. All you need to do is a computer Bible search of “priest” and related forms and read the verses for yourself. Every Christian is a priest. Christ is our High Priest. We make living sacrifices of ourselves as we serve Christ and display Him to this fallen world. Like Paul, we function as priests when we go into all the world and preach the gospel. And like all priests, we have a temple in which to serve. Only in this case WE are the temple, the foundation of which is Jesus Christ:
Ephesians 2:19-22 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, (20) built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, (21) in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. (22) In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (17) If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
In his first chapter, Waldron acknowledges that all Christian ministry is priestly. He discusses five aspects of our priestly ministry which he derives from Hebrews 4:14-5:3. He says, “To support the ultimate conclusion of this book that a man serves as a priest in his his home, we must begin with the idea that all Christian ministry is priestly in character.” But in his second chapter he leaps to this conclusion: “The idea that a man is a priest in his home follows naturally from the thesis that all Christian ministry is priestly in character.” He adds “…we’ll look at the scriptural warrant for the man as a priest in his home.” In part three of this blog series I will critique Waldron’s argument which he claims is derived from Scripture.
One final note at this point. I suppose it is possible that Waldron would say “I am not arguing for the husband/father forming a formal priesthood of its own in his home. I just want to encourage men to perform their spiritual duties in their home in regard to their wives and children. I am simply drawing similarities between a biblical priest and a husband/father.” But if that is Waldron’s purpose, he certainly did not state it plainly. Nor did he explain that it was not his purpose in this particular book to talk about the priestly role of the wife/mother and that is the reason he only speaks of the husband/father as priest. The conclusion the reader will draw is that the husband/father is the priest of his home, mediating Christ to his wife and children in a way that is unique to him alone, not to his wife. And besides, in chapter three Waldron steps up the clarity of what he means:
The whole sphere of Job’s priesthood as it is presented in Job 1 has to do with his family and children and nothing else. He was a priest because he was a father. If we have families and if we are fathers, we too are priests.
Boom! There it is. And all of us who know abuse and abusers will agree: abusers will rub their hands with glee at this conclusion. Power and control ordained by God Himself!
Jeff Crippen is the pastor of Christ Reformation Church in Tillamook, Oregon and has been a pastor since 1983. Jeff has studied the subject of domestic violence and abuse since 2009. In 2012 he co-authored a book entitled A Cry for Justice: How the Evil of Domestic Abuse Hides in your Church. This article first appeared on his blog, A Cry for Justice, and is used with permisison.