The prophet is compelled to go into the world, before the public; he must dare to fight, he must confront the enemy, he cannot escape having “enemies”. He is obliged to draw sharp lines of difference; he must point his finger directly at those who are against God. He must openly brand those who appear to him to be ungodly and expose himself to the attacks of others whom he challenges in the name of God. In a sense he anticipates the Judgement in that he calls upon the Lord God to be the judge of the present….
The priest does not need to take this way. His influence is exerted privately. The place where he works is that of brotherly and fatherly ministry in pastoral encounter. He calls people to prayer, his mission is the ministry of the pastor of souls in which heart addresses heart and conscience speaks to conscience. This may be the reason why so little is known in history concerning the work of the priestly man. Those who work in secret have no great name in public….
In one of his earliest writings, Karl Barth gave classical expression to the essence of priestliness. “To uphold God´s cause in the world and yet not wage war against the world; to love the world and yet be wholly faithful to God; to suffer with the world and be sensitive to its need, but at the same time open to the redeeming Word of salvation for which it is waiting; to lift up the world to God and to carry God down into the world; to be an advocate of man before God and a messenger of God who brings peace to men…”
To be able to be and advocate before God he is forced away from the world into solitude before God. One who is not able to subject himself to the discipline of this solitude cannot be a priest. But at the same time he must be bound to men, keep in intimate contact with them, learn to know their cares and put himself in their place. He must be able to be a brother and a father.
But above all he must know the peace, the great reconciliation with God, the reconciliation that has been effected between God and men, which also makes peace possible among us men…
Every ministry of the Word of Christ lives by the miracle of divine grace. Every ministry is a matter of the fulness from which we may draw grace upon grace, truth upon truth. Every ministry has its own peculiar task. Thus, the teacher must endeavor to know the truth in its whole breadth and insist upon it in its stringency and exactitude. It cannot be otherwise than that he should become “fundamental”, a stickler for principles; he must reckon with the insinuation that the is an orthodox pedant. With the prophet the situation is different again. He too serves the truth, but at any given time he must grasp the decisive point of the truth which is at stake at the great turning points in the history of the kingdom of God. By grasping it and holding to it one-sidedly, he lays hold on the decisive continuity of the past and foresees the fulfilment of the future. Thus he is able to link faith and hope together. “If you will not believe, surely you shall not be established,” says Isaiah – and Luther translates: “Glaubt Ihr nicht, so bleibt Ihr nicht!”. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” reads the superscription of that great chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews which sums up the whole of Old Testament prophecy. The Christian social worker, on the other hand, must devote himself to love. But in their work all of them are priestly, for priestliness has its place where peace is proclaimed, the peace which passes all understanding, the peace from which joy is born, which brings the presence of the Lord in the church. But this is why the “priest” too has his place and why he too must come to the fore at times, called as a “mediator” who bears witness to the great High Priest who mediated for us.” (Dobberstein Pg. 374f)