Prophet, Priest, and King

It can be argued that there were three primary offices or stations of leadership within Ancient Israel.  They were prophet, priest, and king (included here is the role of judge, which was the precursor to king).  When Jesus came, he fulfilled all three of these roles.  He is called the prophet in the gospels, he is considered a king in the line of David, and he is a priest in the order of Melchizedek.  As I read through Hebrews 7 this morning, I wondered if these categories might still provide a helpful framework for leadership in the church today.  Could people fall into these three functional leadership roles in church life?

  1. Prophet — Prophets lived out God’s intended order for the world in word and deed.  In our church context prophets would speak and teach about God’s intended order and also live it out.  I see the prophetic role taking shape in teaching roles as well as in organizing and leading justice projects.  Both of these point to the way the world is supposed to be in a prophetic sense.
  2. Priest — Priests were the mediators of salvation for people.  They were the ones who accepted sacrifices on behalf of God and then bestowed forgiveness of sins and healing.  The priestly role in the church today can play a similar role.  As a representative of Christ, individuals can hear confession and extend God’s love and forgiveness.  I see this happening in roles like small group leader, counselor, and mentor.
  3. King — Kings and judges were rulers.  Frequently in the OT we see how this role was abused through exploitation and self-interest, but Jesus shows us what it looks like to be a servant king.  He sacrifices for and serves his subjects.  The kingly role in the church today would look like ministry heads and other organizational leaders.  These people would sacrifice and organize for the sake of the church.

Because these categories are pretty old, I’m not sure they would actually be helpful in a church context.  I also wonder if they’re right.  Do these categories exhaustively cover all the different types of leadership in the church?