A Qualified High Priest – Part II

You can only come to the Father in heaven through His Son Jesus Christ. He is the merciful and faithful High Priest appointed by God to compassionately bring sinners into His presence. Jesus truly fulfills all the qualifications of the priesthood, since He is God’s sinless Son. And you can be certain He will lead you to God.

Jesus fulfills everything the Old Testament priests symbolized in their ministry. Aaron and his descendants were called by God to compassionately guide the Hebrews in true worship. The sacrifices they offered in their service reflected the need for blood atonement and the worshiper’s need to trust God for the ultimate, effective sacrifice for their sins. But the priests in Aaron’s line were also sinners, and they needed to offer sacrifices for themselves as well (5:1-4). Their ministry was limited to the Law, which emphasized sin but could not effectively provide salvation.

However, Jesus is both sympathetic to our weakness and sinless (4:15). He is the faithful Son of God (3:1-7) and the Great High Priest who offers Himself as the sacrifice to make atonement for sin and provide righteousness for the believer. He is the Apostle and High Priest of our confession (3:1) in whom we can confidently trust.

Hebrews 5:5-11 explains that Jesus fulfills all the qualifications of God’s High Priest. However, unlike the imperfect and incomplete priesthood of Aaron and his descendants, Jesus’ priesthood is eternal and effective.

A Qualified High Priest (5:1-11) – Part II
Jesus’ Fulfillment (vv. 5-11)
His Priesthood is Eternal (vv. 5-6, 10-11)
It is the prerogative of the true and living God to establish a priesthood to represent the way He desires to be worshiped. He is holy, and we are sinful. Therefore, we cannot come to Him by our own choosing or methods. There is no variation of God nor any variation in the way we approach Him that is acceptable. In Scripture and most fully in His Son, He has revealed His holy nature and eternal purpose for creating and redeeming us (1:1-3), and we are accountable to His Word (4:11-13). It was established in eternity past that we either come to God through Jesus Christ, or we are judged as rebels (4:3).

As the ultimate High Priest who offers the ultimate sacrifice of Himself for our sins, “Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest.” Of necessity, our Lord was a sinless Man appointed by the Father in heaven to lead us into His presence. He is the chosen Captain of our salvation (2:10) and the forerunner (6:20) of redeemed humanity who satisfies God’s wrath toward sin with His own life’s blood (2:17). He alone is qualified to lead us into the true worship of God by faith now and by sight in the glory of heaven.

The eternal nature of Jesus’ priesthood is by God’s design just as Aaron’s priesthood was intended to be a temporal foreshadowing of the reality of Christ. Before the world was created, God not only appointed Jesus as His faithful Son, but He also appointed Him as the Great High Priest.

The writer emphasizes these truths by again quoting from the Messianic Psalms. Regarding Jesus’ eternal sonship he says, “it was [the Father] who said to [the Son]: “You are My Son, Today I have begotten you” (v. 5). That is a quote from Psalm 2:7 (cf. 1:5). The same God who declared the Christ to be His Son is the same God who “also says in another place: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (v. 6). This quote from Psalm 110:4 identifies Jesus’ ministry as High Priest to be an appointment from God of a different order than Aaron.

Jesus is “called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek” (v. 10). Who is Melchizedek? He was the king-priest of Salem (Jerusalem) in the days of Abraham. He was recognized by Abraham and his contemporaries as a true worshiper and priest of God Most High. Abraham both blessed this king-priest and was blessed by him (Gen. 14:18-20). However, nothing further is known about him from the Old Testament revelation other than God’s reference in Psalm 110:4, which places the Son as an eternal priest in that order. The New Testament revelation identifies him as a type of Christ — another foreshadowing.

The writer will “have much to say” about Melchizedek later in chapter 7, which is “hard to explain” to those who are slow to accept the Scripture (“dull of hearing”) — those who are admonished in 5:12-6:20. But we are told here that our Lord’s priesthood is eternal, being from a different order than Aaron’s.

This does not mean that Melchizedek was an eternal priest. He was simply not of the Aaronic priesthood, but his priestly ministry was obviously similar in its foreshadowing of Christ. There is no genealogical relationship between Christ and Melchizedek. However, he was the king of Salem and priest of God Most High. That is, he was a king and a priest, which Jesus is also but Aaron was not. Therein lies the similarity. Christ’s kingship was emphasized in 1:8-2:9ff. Christ is the eternal, incarnate Son of God who alone has a throne as well as a priesthood that is eternal by God’s design and declaration.

His Priesthood is Effective (vv. 7-9)
This is why only Christ’s priesthood could be effective. He meets the qualifications of being chosen and compassionate by way of His humanity, but so were Aaron and Melchizedek as Scripture testifies. What makes Jesus the ultimate fulfillment of the high priestly office is His sinless perfection as God’s faithful Son. And that perfection was demonstrated “in the days of His flesh” (v. 7).

Jesus proved His perfection as a completely righteous human being when He endured suffering and remained totally obedient to the Father’s will. This is what makes Him the prince and pioneer of the redeemed human race (i.e. Captain of our Salvation). His absolute trust in God and obedience in suffering confirms that He is God’s faithful Son and our Great High Priest. The writer spoke of this earlier in 2:10-18 and highlighted it again in 4:15 as it pertains to His effective priesthood.

Here we are given more insight into Jesus’ grief as He suffered and His trust in the Father. We are told how He demonstrated His perfection as a righteous man, and it reflects just how completely our sinless King-Priest identifies with us.

While experiencing the trials and temptations of human life, the “Son…learned obedience by the things He suffered” (v. 8). He thoroughly understood obedience because He is God. But He “learned obedience” in His humanity by humbly yielding Himself to do the Father’s will regardless of the consequences. His total dependence on the Father was demonstrated as He fervently prayed to the Father “who was able to save Him from death” (v. 7). That is, He knew the end result of His obedience in this world would be the death of the cross (Phil. 2:8), and He trusted the Father to deliver Him from death through resurrection (Jn. 10:18).

Jesus lived as every human being should live — in total dependence upon God (cf. Matt. 4:1-11). He “offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears” to God. And He was “heard because of His godly fear” (v. 7). He did not simply offer “prayers” as religious activity. The Son of God daily and repeatedly poured out His heart to His heavenly Father and expressed His needs (“prayers”) to the only One who could meet them (“supplications”). His reverence and trust were pure and passionate (“vehement cries and tears”). Such prayer marked Jesus’ earthly life at every stage (e.g. Lk. 3:21; 6:12; Matt. 26:36-46; Jn. 17).

As verse nine tells us, Jesus was “perfected” (i.e. completed; Gr. – teleioo) in His humanity. In other words, after fully identifying with mankind in every way but sin, “He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” God’s sinless Son is so completely human that He is able to save from sin and death all who trust Him. He became the means our salvation, and those who sincerely trust Him will also obey Him as He did the Father (Jn. 14:15). He is the prototype of righteous humanity and the instrument of God by which redeemed sinners are made righteous (Rom. 3:23-26). And that is precisely why Jesus’ priesthood is effective.

Aaron and Melchizedek respectively provided a qualified and accurate foreshadowing of Christ’s ministry as our regal High Priest. But their priesthood was neither eternal nor effective to bring us to God because they, too, were sinners who needed a perfect Savior.

The Father in heaven has established His Son as King and Priest over His children. But you need to ask yourself if you are really listening to what God is saying about Jesus Christ. Do you believe what the Scripture says about Him, or are you dull of hearing?

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© Copyright 1997-2017 Richard E. Clayton, Jr. All rights reserved.

A Qualified High Priest – Part I

Since God is holy and we are sinful, how can we come into His presence in heaven? That question drives all of mankind’s religious efforts. However, there is only one way to have access to our Father in heaven, and that way is through His Son Jesus — the Christ of Scripture. There is no other qualified human being appointed to bring us to God.

This is a major theme of The Epistle to the Hebrews. The writer carefully presents Jesus as the Great High Priest of humanity who mediates God’s New Covenant of salvation. He draws us to this conclusion by explaining that the incarnate Son is God’s greatest revelation regarding His eternal purpose and plan for the creation (1:1-3). He is heaven’s greatest messenger who fulfills heaven’s great gospel message as the prince and pioneer of a redeemed humanity (1:4-2:18). Jesus is God’s faithful Son whom we must fully trust to lead us into salvation rest (3:1-4:13). He is the Apostle of our confession in that regard as 3:1 stated.

But 3:1 also identifies God’s Son as the High Priest of our confession, and 4:14-16 introduced Him as such. There we were told that Jesus has complete access to the Father. He also sympathetically, yet sinlessly, reconciles us to God and gives us access to the Father’s grace to receive righteousness and to live righteously.

Now the writer begins to explain more fully Jesus’ high priestly office (5:1-7:28) and His high priestly ministry (8:1-10:18). Also, as he did while teaching about Jesus’ apostleship, there is again an appeal to the reader to evaluate his or her faith in the Christ God has revealed in His Word to which we are all accountable (cf. 4:11-13).

Hebrews 5:1-11 begins the explanation of Jesus’ high priestly office, and it answers the question that the initial Jewish readers most certainly would have had when considering faith in Christ: “How does Jesus qualify as our High Priest?” We are told that Jesus meets the qualifications of being called by God and being compassionate toward sinners. First, God’s established requirements are presented. Secondly, it is explained how Jesus fulfills them. We consider the requirements in part one of this study.

A Qualified High Priest (5:1-11) – Part I
God’s Requirements (vv. 1-4)
A Priest is Called (vv. 1, 4)
God alone has set the standard for the priestly ministry. While the world’s religions have priests of all sorts, none are qualified to bring sinners to the true and living God in the way He requires. The LORD first established a true priesthood through the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel). From the tribe of Jacob’s son, Levi, the LORD “appointed” (v. 1) only Moses’ brother, “Aaron” (v. 4) to perpetuate a priestly line under the Old Covenant of Law (Ex. 28-29).

Aaron and his descendants served to foreshadow Christ as the One who truly brings reconciled sinners to God. While Moses and other prophets represented God to the people with His Word, Aaron and the priesthood acted on behalf of the people before God to help reflect their faith in and obedience to His Word. The ceremonial worship established by God under the Law of Moses emphasized His holiness, the sinner’s transgressions that separate him from God, and the need for an atoning sacrifice. In other words, God is holy and approachable only by a perfect sacrifice offered perfectly.

The Aaronic priesthood was designated by God to lead the people in worship based on these revealed truths. The Levites assisted in the work of the tabernacle, but they could not minister in the holy things (Num. 18:1-7). The temple worship was likely still being led by Levitical priests at the time of this letter.

This is the meaning of verse one when it says, “…every priest taken from among men is appointed for men in the things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.” The phrase, “gifts and sacrifices” speaks of the presentation of the sacrifice to honor God. God only accepts worship in the way He has commanded, since it reflects the truth of His redemptive purpose and plan in Christ (Jn. 4:21-26). The Old Testament worship under the Law via the priesthood was a foreshadowing of Christ who is the substance of Old Testament symbolism (Col. 2:17).

The office of a priest cannot be occupied by just anyone. Aaron did “not take this honor to himself,” and neither did any of the men in his family in successive generations. They were “called by God” for His own purpose and glory, and no substitutes were acceptable. Any attempts by others to assume a priestly role — even within the tribe of Levi — were met with God’s judgment (Num. 16-17).

A Priest is Compassionate (vv. 2-3)
Although being chosen by God is one of the qualifications of a high priest, there was nothing special about Aaron and his descendants that qualified them to be chosen. Why the LORD appointed them is unknown and irrelevant to us. What He chose them to do, however, is very significant, and they could not do it unless they were human. A priest of human beings in things pertaining to God must of necessity be human. Why? Because he must be able to compassionately lead sinners to God. He must be able to completely identify with them in order to bring them to worship God who calls sinners to Himself.

Verse two says that a priest, “can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness.” The verb, to “have compassion,” speaks of a moderate, gentle attitude toward someone whose situation you understand. God required priests to be sympathetic toward others, since people are naturally “ignorant” of truth, which fosters sin and leads them away from God (“astray”).

To effectively bring sinners near God, a priest must understand intimately why they go astray. He must know what it is to be “subject to weakness.” That is, he must identify with humanity’s complete inability to do God’s will apart from His supernatural intervention. After all, God created mankind in His image and likeness, and we are totally dependent upon Him for a righteous existence.

Aaron and his lineage were a perpetual line of sinners like the rest of humanity, and they certainly identified when God revealed in His Law that all people have fallen short of His holy standards. Likewise, when the ceremonial portion of the law “required…the people to offer sacrifices for sins,” the priests all understood why they also must offer a sacrifice for themselves (“so also for himself”). They were sinners, too.

So the requirement of compassion toward sinners in and of itself demanded a true understanding of the human condition. But as we learned in 4:15, our Lord Jesus Christ could be sympathetic while at the same time being sinless. He “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” He experienced all the natural human desires and the pressures to satisfy them, but He would not and could not do that in violation of God’s will. He yielded Himself to the Father whom He trusted and obeyed without reservation.

As God’s faithful Son, Jesus was sinless in every way. By the aid of the Holy Spirit, He lived a righteous life in complete obedience to God’s law (Lk. 3:22). But the difference between the Captain of our salvation (2:10) and we who need salvation is that He possessed nothing but a righteous nature, which completely and joyfully desired God’s will (Matt. 4:1-11; Jn. 4:34). His inherent righteousness enabled Him to walk in the Spirit and do God’s will from the heart, and that is why He could offer Himself as the sacrifice for sin. He could bear the sins of believers on the cross, and God could regenerate their spirit, producing faith and repentance, and impute His Son’s righteousness to them for justification.

Aaron and his descendants could serve compassionately as priests because they understood those to whom they ministered. But they could do nothing at all to remove the sin which separates sinners from God. They could represent the people to God with their sacrifices, but they themselves needed to offer a sacrifice for their own sins.

The requirements to qualify as a priest are to be called by God and to be compassionate. Aaron’s priestly line certainly met those requirements, but their ministry was ineffective to completely bring sinners into God’s presence. As sinners themselves, they could only bring other sinners to God under the Old Covenant of the Law. However, God established them to paint a clear picture of the One who would and could bring us into God’s presence forever — Jesus, our Great High Priest!

As we will discover in part two of this study (vv. 5-11), Jesus fulfills the requirements to qualify as our High Priest, and His priesthood is eternal. Unlike Aaron’s priesthood, which was restricted to the limitations of the Law, our Great High Priest brings us to God’s throne of grace (v. 16).

Do you have access to the Father in heaven through His Son Jesus Christ? God is holy, and your sin separates you from Him unless you trust Jesus who is your Great High Priest. He is called by God, and He is compassionate toward you. You can be certain that He is qualified to bring you into the Father’s presence.

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© Copyright 1997-2017 Richard E. Clayton, Jr. All rights reserved.