A Systematic Expository on the book of Hebrews
STUDY 12: CHRIST, THE PERFECT HIGH PRIEST
Hebrews 5:1 - 10
Our passage today introduces the very heart of the Epistle to the Hebrews (chapters 5 to 10). It focuses on the high priesthood of Jesus. The Jews knew the importance of the ministry of the high priest. The priests under the Old Covenant were bridge builders to God. Men could not come directly into God’s presence. The priests acted as a mediator, intercessor and peacemaker. For us under the New Covenant, Christ, the perfect High Priest, is both the Bridge-Builder and the Bridge; He is the Priest and the Sacrifice, the Mediator who offered His own blood, the sympathetic Intercessor. He has provided an opening for man into God’s presence. In one perfect act of sacrifice, Jesus Christ accomplished what thousands of sacrifices by a multitude of priests never accomplished. He has opened the way to God permanently, so that any man at any time, by faith in Christ, might enter into God’s presence.
God did not choose angels to be priests. Angels do not have the nature of men. They have not been appointed to represent men before God and they cannot open the way of fellowship between God and men. Christ, who is God, had to become Man to be a true High Priest. Incarnation, God becoming a Man, was necessary for Him to be our great, merciful, sympathetic, compassionate and perfect High Priest. Christ’s superior priesthood makes the New Covenant better than the Old. He has done what all the priests of the old economy put together did not and could never have done.
PARTICULAR SELECTION BY GOD
Hebrews 5:1,4,5; Exodus 28:1,29,30; 29:44-46; Numbers 16:5; 17:1-10; 18:5-7; 1 Chronicles 23:13; John 1:1,2,14; 3:27; Matthew 3:16,17; John 4:34; 5:37; 8:28,29.
The opening verse speaks of the appointment or selection of the High Priest. The Old Testament high priest was appointed by God Himself. No one was allowed to run presumptuously into the priest’s office. It was not an office that man could fill simply because of his own desires or ambition. From the beginning of the priesthood, the priests ministered only by God’s appointment. Aaron the first high priest was particularly selected and appointed by God. He was also miraculously approved by God before the children of Israel (Numbers 17:1 - 10).
Christ also was selected and appointed by God to be our High Priest. Though He was the Only begotten Son of God, Jesus did not take the position for Himself. He was holy, full of knowledge, mighty and powerful, compassionate, wise, faithful, merciful, prayerful, spiritually qualified in every way, yet He had to be appointed and sent by God.
Ministers in the Church today also have to be appointed by God into specific ministries in the Church (1 Corinthians 12:18,28; Ephesians 4:11,12). Korah, Dathan and Abiram who insisted that any Israelite could be a priest were punished as rebels.
God entrusted Jesus with the authority and honour of the High Priest “after the order of Melchisedec” (Hebrews 5:6,10). Melchisedec was a king-priest who lived in the time of Abraham. He was king of Salem and was a priest of the true God (Genesis 14:18). His priesthood was superior to Aaron’s in two ways. Melchisedec was a king, whereas Aaron was not, and his priesthood was perpetual, (Psalm 110:4) whereas Aaron’s was temporary.
PRIESTLY SACRIFICE FOR MEN
Hebrews 5:1-3, 6, 10: 2:17,18; 8:3; 10:10-14; 7:22-25; Genesis 14:18-20; Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 6:20; 7:15-17,21; John 10:17,18; Hebrews 9:26.
Priests were ordained to make sacrifices for sin. Sin separated men from God and made a deep, great, wide, impassable gulf between a holy God and sinful men. The priests by the appointed sacrifice built bridges between God and men.
Christ has offered the final sacrifice that atones the sins of all who would believe till the end of time. He is the great High Priest. His sacrifice was great and still efficacious today. In offering His sacrifice, Jesus differed in two significant ways from other high priests. First, He did not have to make a sacrifice for Himself before He could offer it for others. Second, His sacrifice was once-and-for-all. It did not have to be repeated every day or even every year. The perfect High Priest made a perfect sacrifice to pardon and purify all sinners who believe on Him.
Christ’s sacrifice provides pardon, peace with God, purity of heart and life, preservation in fellowship with God and protection from the wrath and judgement of God.
PERFECT SUBMISSION TO GOD
Hebrews 5:7-9; Luke 22:41-44; Isaiah 53:3,11; Hebrews 10:5-7; Isaiah 50:5,6; Matthew 3:13-15; John 6:38; Phillippians 2:5-8; John 15:10; Matthew 7:24,25; Acts 5:32; 1 Peter 1: 21-23.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, perfectly submitted to the whole will of God. He obeyed and pleased the Father every moment of His life and in every detail. In the Garden of Gethsemane, on the night before He went to the cross, Jesus prayed and agonised so intensely that His sweat was as great drops of blood. He cried with strong tears. He prayed to do the will of God and He did it perfectly. In His prayer, Jesus was not asking to be saved from dying on the cross but to be saved from dying of heartbreak before going to the cross (Hebrews 5:7).
Now Christ has become “the Author of eternal salvation UNTO ALL THAT OBEY HIM” (Hebrews 5:9). Gracious obedience (not self-righteous obedience) is the evidence of being in a state of salvation. There is no eternal salvation for the backslidden, blasphemous, rebellious or disobedient, sinning people. Our Saviour and Redeemer is the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him. May God grant us His all-sufficient grace to always obey Him.
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