"It is of particular interest, then, that priests hardly feature in earliest Christianity. We can be more precise. According to Luke's account in Acts, many priests joined the new sect in the earliest days of the movement (Acts 6:7). But there is no hint that they functioned among the believing congregations as priests. Instead we find the idea that believers as a whole are priests (Rev. 1.6; 5.10; 20.6), 'a holy priesthood', 'a royal priesthood, a holy nation' (1 Pet. 2.5, 9). Paul describes his own ministry in characteristically priestly terms (Rom. 15.16), but by doing so he probably was not thinking of himself as part of a distinct order of priesthood within the earliest Christian community. For it is his mission work, rather than his pastoral work, that he describes in these terms. And he uses such language elsewhere to refer to the responsibility of all Christians (to offer sacrifice) and to the kindly ministry of Epaphroditus in coming to his aid (Rom. 12.1; Phil. 2.250. Any and all ministry in or on behalf of the gospel could thus be described as priestly ministry.A couple of brief remarks about this passage. First, I found it interesting that Dunn points out that the transfer back to a separate clergy and laity happened as early as the second century. I have usually read and heard that this happened later and was directly a result of Emperor Constantine. If, in fact, it was as early as the second century then we can see how this would only help pave the way for the further rise of a clergy caste that was separated apart from the rest of the people. Second, I think this issue is a crucial issue for the today today and for the future. I don't think this is the only issue but it is a big issue. The church is good about talking and teaching the "priesthood of all believers" but when the rubber meets the road I think we are lacking in general. I would be the first to admit that my church needs help here as well. But I truly believe that if the church is going to multiply, not just add, in the future it will be because the laity realize their priestly role and embrace it.
The key point, presumably, was that the first Christians had no need of priests. They did not need anyone anymore to mediate between them and God or the Lord Christ. They did not depend on any order to open the way into the sacred space of divine presence. The way had been opened by Christ for all to follow...The reality now is that only one priest is necessary - Christ himself, a priest according to the order of Melcchizedek. No other can share that priesthood, since no other shares the qualification that only Christ has (Heb. 7.3)....The argument of Hebrews began to be lost to sight in the second century, as the desire for Christianity to be recognized as a religion resulted in the re-emergence of the concept of a separate order of priests within the christian community. But for the first Christians, the existential experience of knowing God immediately, without any mediation other than that of Jesus, was too real and too precious to be quickly lost to sight. (pgs. 51-52)"
What do you think?