by J. Paterson jnr, Scotland
THE CHALLENGE OF HIS PRIESTHOOD
The offices of our Lord Jesus Christ as Prophet, Priest and King are key to the purpose of the Incarnation. His prophetic office was involved with the revealing of God’s message; the priestly office is related to His intercessory work; His kingly office gives Him the right to reign over Israel and the entire earth. All the Divine intention of these three historic offices has been perfectly culminated in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Prophet was the voice through which God spoke to mankind. While the office of prophet was established in Deut.18.15-18, it looked forward to its ultimate fulfilment in the Lord Jesus Christ. When He came, He completely revealed the Father to the people. Jn.1.18, "He hath declared Him."
In Gen.49.10, Jacob prophesied that Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah and reign as king. In Ps.2.6 God announced that His Son would be installed as King in Jerusalem. Psalm 110 indicates that as king He would dominate, subjugate and rule over His enemies: v.1, "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool."
Whereas the prophet revealed God to man, the priest represented man to God. Previous to Moses’ time, the head of the family offered the sacrifices. In Abraham’s time the priest was the father or senior member of the family. Historically, as the family grew to be a tribe the head came to be a king as well as the priest, so he was the priest/king of his tribe. When the 12 tribes had grown to be the nation of Israel, which God delivered out of bondage, priesthood was created from Aaron out of the tribe of Levi which became the Levitical priesthood, administering the sacrificial order of service as defined by God.
Later another family, the line of David, would be set aside to be the kings. No king could be a priest, although he could be a prophet. No priest could be a king although he too could be a prophet. However the Lord Jesus will hold the three offices eternally. While He holds them eternally, He functions in them chronologically. As prophet He is seen while moving in His public ministry, Jn.1.18. His position as prophet is alluded to in Jn.4.44, "For Jesus Himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country." He was announced as King at His first advent, Matt.2.2, "Where is He that is born King of the Jews?" However as King He was rejected, Jn.19.15, "We have no king but Caesar." At His second advent He will be realised as King, and function as such, Matt.25.34-45. At present He currently holds and functions in the office of High Priest, Heb.5.10, "called of God a high priest".
- Great are the offices He bears.
- And bright His character appears,
- Exalted on the throne.
- (Samuel Medley)
HIS PRIESTHOOD CONTRASTED
The writer to the Hebrews shows clearly that the priesthood of Christ is in absolute contrast to the Aaronic priesthood. These contrasts are clearly delineated, and while there is not opportunity for amplification in this publication, it is worthwhile to highlight them for further personal development.
From Heb.7.21 it is seen that the priest of the Old Testament became a priest "without an oath" whereas Christ became priest by an oath Heb.7.20,21. The priesthood of the old economy consisted of "many priests" Heb.7.23, but the word of the Lord to Him is, "Thou art a priest for ever", Heb.7.21, making Him the only everlasting Priest and removing the need for a priesthood functioning before God on behalf of the people. Death prevents the prolonged function of Aaronic priests, Heb.7.23. This led to a priesthood marked by continual change. The contrast of Christ is glorious, One Who remains for the ages, Heb.7.24, "but this Man, because He continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood". The limitations that marked the Old Testament priest are over; the Priesthood of Christ is unlimited and since He lives for ever, He saves for ever, Heb.7.25. Sin caused the constant defilement of the Old Testament priest and consequently required continual personal cleansing, "first for his own sins, and then for the people’s", Heb.7.27. Whereas Christ is "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners", 7.26; His sacrifice is singular and the effect of it is continuing, 7.27, "this He did once, when He offered up Himself". The former priesthood consisted of men who were subject to infirmity and therefore weak, but He is the Son of God "who is consecrated (perfected) for evermore" 7.28. The service of the Old Testament priest was carried out unto the "example and shadow of heavenly things" and they served in an earthly tabernacle erected by men, 8.5. Christ in contrast has entered the true tabernacle "which the Lord pitched" and accomplishes His ministry at the right hand of the "Majesty in the heavens" 8.1,2. The priesthood of the Old Testament no matter how correct and glorious it was, could not accomplish God’s ultimate purpose for it. As a result "another priest", 7.17, must replace it. Now that Christ has come, a better priesthood and sacrifice, and a better way have been provided so that the believer can draw near to God and approach the throne of grace through the blood of Christ. In this new and better covenant we see the saving ability of the new Priest, "And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this Man, because He continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them" 7.23-25. Within the Aaronic priesthood each priest had a definite end to his service due to his own death. Num.20.28, "And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there in the top of the mount." Josh.24.31, "And Eleazar the son of Aaron died." (Josephus lists as many as 83 different high priests from Aaron until the destruction of the temple in A.D.70). So there were no priests who were permanent and enduring. The glory of the new priesthood is that it is eternal. The Aaronic line was changing, transitory, temporal, interrupted, and transferable. In contrast the priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ, is unchanging, unalterable, uninterrupted, and non-transferable. Therefore He is able to accomplish that which the Old Testament priesthood never could. He is able to remove sin by His perfect sacrifice, and the application of the sacrifice continues forever due to His endless life.
In 7.15-17 the writer states that the priesthood of Christ is not likened to the Levitical order but rather to the order of Melchizedec. The reason for this being that the priesthood of Christ is not founded on the fleshly commandment, but rather on the power of His endless resurrected life. This is the point being made by the writer in associating the priesthood of Christ with that of Melchizedec, that the person who blessed Abraham had no recorded beginning, no recorded ending and yet he was a "priest of the most high God" Gen.14.18. So the priesthood of Christ is not confined within the earthly order of the Mosaic covenant: It is not temporal, nor is it a shadow, but the actual reality, 8.5,6, "Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount. But now hath He obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises."
HIS PRIESTHOOD COMPARED
At the end of Hebrews chapter 6 and into chapter 7 the writer reconvenes his exposition on the subject of the priesthood and reintroduces Melchisedec and his comparison to the Son of God, 7.1. The definitive description of this man comes at the end of v.3, "abideth a priest forever," and alludes to the description of him typically in relation to the Lord Jesus. We know very little of this man except for the narrative of Genesis chapter 14. Abraham either recognised him as one who worshipped the most High God or heard of him from others, because he freely offered a tenth of his spoils from the battle, so it implies some previous contact or knowledge. Abraham received the meal and blessing from this priest after his victory and Melchisedec vanishes from the recorded history. He is the first in Scripture who is mentioned as a priest. We must take care to state that it would be misleading to take as literal the description of the genealogy of Melchisedec in v.3. The meaning of the statement being that he had no recorded father and mother. In the important record of the genealogies of the priesthood, there would be no mention of this name. Of course he had natural parentage and as having such should not be thought of as some miraculous, mysterious person, rather that his genealogy is not found on the register of the Levitical priesthood. It may be helpful to note that although it has been suggested, the appearance of Melchisedec in Genesis chapter 14, is not a Theophany. The writer to the Hebrews states, "now consider how great this man was" Heb.7.4. One of the requirements for being a priest was that one had to be of human ancestry. This is a strong argument against this appearance being the pre-incarnate Christ. Another strong reason for not being Christ is that in the Old Testament, Theophanies came and went. He gave the message and disappeared, and did not stay on earth permanently to function in the office of priest or king. This man whoever he was, is recorded as being the King of Salem (Jerusalem). When Scripture compares Christ to the Melchisedec priesthood, it states, "made like unto the Son of God" 7.3. What is stressed in Scripture are some similarities paralleled in ministry, but not in the nature of his being.
So in this way he was a type of Christ in his mediatory office but not Christ Himself. The author contrasts the two priesthoods. The Lord Jesus did not serve as a priest on earth because He was not of the tribe of Levi, but of Judah, 7.14, "For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood." Again in 8.4, "For if He were on earth, He should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law." As we have seen in the Old Testament a priest was required to be a descendant of Levi. High priests who functioned before God were required to be descendants of Aaron, Levi’s great grandson. To be an Aaronic priest one had to be able to trace his ancestry to Aaron, to be a priest after the order of Melchisedec was by Divine appointment. This priesthood seen typically and symbolically in Melchisedec is realised essentially in the Son of God. It would do no harm to use this truth as confirmation of the eternal Sonship of Christ. Of His relationship of Son with the Father there is neither beginning nor end, nor is there any idea of subjection or inferiority in His eternal relationship as Son with the Father.
The Lord Jesus has become an eternal priest, "after the order of Melchisedec" Ps.110.4; Heb.5.6,10; 6.20; 7.11,17, 21. He is the eternal Son who died once, was resurrected, and continues in His priesthood for ever, based on the, "power of an endless life" 7.16. Therefore His mediatory role in the order of the Melchisedec priesthood is superior. This new priesthood is based on the promise, "And inasmuch as not without an oath He was made priest: (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by Him that said unto Him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec), 7.20-21, and also based upon Him as the One Who can guarantee it as the Mediator of the New Covenant, 7.22-28. This is a perfect priesthood continuing forever unlike the old that changed, this is administered by the eternal Son of God to all who are in the house of God, 9.15–10.21. While the Levitical priesthood ministered to one nation only, the Melchisedec priesthood ministers to all. Melchisedec also prefigured the Lord Jesus in that his titles refer to Christ as King of righteousness and peace, 7.2.
HIS PRIESTHOOD CONTINUING
The Lord Jesus Christ as Son of God, and according to the glory into which He has entered through His sufferings and death, is high above the angels. It was necessary for Him to pass through sufferings and death in accord with the Divine plan. Through His sufferings and death He glorified the Father; He put away sin; He abolished death; He destroyed the power of the devil, Heb.2.14,15, and is crowned with glory and honour, 2.9, "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man."
The Sacrifice for Service
The Lord Jesus offered Himself to God to be a sacrifice for sin on the cross. The writer to the Hebrews compares the sacrifice and ministry of Christ with that of the Levitical sacrifices and services. Christ as Sacrifice and High Priest fills the book. Type and antitype, shadow and reality, blend together to show the nature of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice and His high-priestly ministry that follows. The Lord Jesus came to earth to do a complete work. Prior to the cross He stated, "I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do" Jn.17.4. To emphasise the finality of His sacrifice, the writer to the Hebrews uses the phrase, "the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once" 10.10. The sacrifice of Christ fulfils and replaces all the typical sacrifices. Christ’s sacrifice of Himself is the gift of His life for mankind. Such a sacrifice is as eternal as Himself. It cannot be repeated. In contrast to the Levitical sacrifices, "Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this He did once, when He offered up Himself" 7.27. The Levitical priest stood to offer continually, his work unfinished and incomplete. From the morning sacrifice through until the evening sacrifice there was a continual shedding of blood and carcasses consumed by the fire. Those sacrifices pointed forward to the real sacrifice for sin, the genuine atonement to come which was made once and for all by Christ on the cross. In Him we have a sacrifice that far transcends the sacrifice of animals, for it involved none other than the Son of God. On the cross He was the true paschal lamb. He has entered into the heavenly sanctuary, into the presence of the Father by virtue of His blood, having obtained eternal redemption for us. Christ bore man’s sins once, on the cross. He bears them no more, "who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree" 1 Pet.2.24.
The finality of the redemptive work of Christ leaves no room for questions or arguments. His sacrifice is the solution to the sin question. He is not one of many solutions. He is the only solution. He is not one aspect of truth or some branch of world religions. He is the Truth. His sacrificial work is all embracive, all-inclusive, incomparable truth. "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" Acts 4.12. The finality of Christ’s sacrificial work for man’s redemption is the great central truth of the Scriptures. Every other truth is influenced in relation to this theme. The sinful soul can be redeemed only through the work that Christ wrought out upon the cross. The cross was ever before Him, hence Heb.10.5, "Wherefore when He cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared Me." The cross was His appointed hour. On several occasions previous to the garden, men had sought to kill him but it came to nothing, because, "His hour was not yet come" Jn.7.30. But when His appointed hour came, nothing could prevent the slaying of the sacrifice. The foundation of Christ’s work as High Priest is His shed blood. The New Testament always depicts the blood of Christ as having positive redemptive qualities. While the blood of man and animals is corruptible, in no way does the blood of Christ defile. It is absolutely fundamental in the work of salvation.
For example it Cleanses, 1 Jn.1.7, "the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." It Justifies, Rom.3.24, "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." It Reconciles, Col.1.20, "And, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself." It Redeems, Eph.1.7, "In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins." It Sanctifies, Heb.13.12, "Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate." So we understand that the blood of Christ is the currency of heaven. The sinner cannot make his appeal to anything else, for there is nothing else available. Man can only plead before God the merits of the blood of Christ and His perfect sacrifice. The believer has nothing to offer in himself.
- But richer blood has flowed
- from nobler veins,
- To purge the soul from guilt
- and cleanse the reddest stains.
- (Horatius Bonar)
Scope of Service
The overall function of a high priest is to mediate between man and God. The need for this work arose because of the separation that resulted from sin. Satan temptation in the garden of Eden resulted in the disobedience and thus the fall of man. In the person of His Son, God has stretched out His hand to man and sought to recover man to Himself. This reconciliation can only be realised through the reconciliatory work of Christ who has made peace by the blood of His cross. "And, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven" Col.1.20. The reconciling grace of God is worked through Christ alone. As we have seen the sacrificial work of Christ is complete and forms the basis of His on-going high priestly work.
What is the scope of the present high priestly service of our Lord Jesus Christ? Because He is a priest forever it is important to understand the priestly work that He continues to perform. It cannot be sacrifice, for that work has been completed once and for all. However the effect of that work is ongoing; Christ has entered upon His work as High Priest in the power of His sacrificial work, and in relation to the believer, the application of the redemptive work is realised in Christ’s on-going work in heaven. Christ no longer sacrifices, but intercedes. "Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them" Heb.7.25. The literal meaning of the word intercession is "to pass between." It denotes the mediating between two parties with a view to reconciling differences. In the New Testament the word means every form of acting on behalf of others, but in particular emphasising the supplicating for favour from God for man. In Jn.17.9-20 there is a view of this work as the Lord Jesus prays before entering the garden, "I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine. And all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to Thee. Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, as We are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Thy name: those that Thou gavest Me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. And now come I to Thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through Thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word." These words show something of the heart of Christ for His own and are a beautiful example of His intercessory work.
We also see Christ’s intercessory work while He was on earth. In the upper room in respect of Simon, Lk.22.32, "But I have prayed for thee." This example in the experience of Peter shows His action on our behalf with regard to Satan. If Satan had his way he would overthrow and destroy completely the child of God on earth. If it depended on our strength, we would soon fall. But He knows, His eyes watch the enemy as they watch us. This is still the case with us, He prays for us even before the evil one can ever approach us and so we can be victorious in the conflict. His request for the comforter to be sent, Jn.14.16, "And I will pray the Father …" shows His interest in our spiritual protection.
Two other passages in Hebrews reveal some of the blessed details of the present priestly work of the Lord Jesus on our behalf. "Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are [being J.N.D.] tempted" Heb.2.17,18. "Seeing then that we have a great high priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God; let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" Heb.4.14-16. The first passage tells us of the propitiation He made for the sins of His people. He suffered, being tempted, and this is the basis of His intercessory service. The passage from ch.4 tells us how He was fitted while on earth for this great office. While He was here He was tempted in all points as we are, apart from sin. He could never be tempted by sin within for in Him is no sin. He has gone through every possible difficulty that a man could face on earth, with the exception of sin. Now He can be the merciful and faithful High Priest and as such enter into all our sorrows and trials. He sympathises with us in all our conflicts and difficulties down here. However He does not intercede for the flesh. He has no sympathy with sin. By His gracious and unbroken intercession in the sanctuary He upholds us individually in the path of life. He gives us strength to endure, for if it were not for His intercession we would fall by the way. With the trial comes the strength to bear it, because the great High Priest lives and intercedes. He knows all about our circumstances and in the tenderness of His love and the strength of His power, He takes us in His loving arms whenever the trials and troubles come upon us. He is our representative before God, and we are forever on His heart.
Due to the high priestly ministry of Christ, every believer may have full confidence and assurance in his approach to God. There is nothing to prevent the believer from entering into the presence of God. The realisation that Christ has fully identified with the frailties of our humanity is an encouragement for us to come to God. As in Heb.4.14-16, "Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." Additionally, the appreciation that Christ has forever opened the access through the sacrifice of Himself is an encouragement for us to come to God, "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus" Heb.10.19.
- Before the throne of God above
- I have a strong, a perfect plea,
- A great High Priest, whose name is Love,
- Who ever lives and pleads for me,
The Sympathy of Service
So we have seen that the Lord Jesus, our Great High Priest was selected from among men. He was the only one by whom the work of reconciling man to God could be accomplished. Secondly, we have seen His sacrificial work that was wholly acceptable to God. Thirdly, we see His advocacy work on our behalf before God. There was none other to take up our cause. By nature we are lost sinners, deserving only condemnation, not assistance. He has undertaken to represent us before God. Fourthly, we see Christ in His sympathetic service, exercising a ministry of compassion and encouragement. Although it may not be evidenced in the Old Testament, a godly priest would show sympathy and understanding towards those who came to him bringing sacrifices for their sins. The Lord Jesus presently intercedes for His people. In one sense His work is complete, yet He has an ongoing priestly ministry of intercession. He prays for us! He is there at God’s right hand on our behalf. Heb.7.25, "Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them."
Also we have a High Priest who sympathises with us in our trials. When we try to empathise with others who are in suffering, we are limited because we may not have had the experience of the particular trial through which they are passing. However the Lord Jesus understands every trial that His people go through and is able to sympathise with them, Heb.4.15, "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." The writer to the Hebrews uses the double negative to emphasise the positive truth of the statement made in this verse. We do have a High Priest, who does know the feelings of His people, and is touched by them. He is sympathetic to our situation because He was here and was tested and tried as we are, sin apart. As we read through the Gospel accounts of His life on earth we see Him alone, wearied with His journey, hungry and thirsty. He was hated, rejected, mocked, misrepresented and slighted by many. He knew poverty, experienced pain and wept at a tomb. Oh, how able He is to sympathise with us as we experience the trials of life. He has known, while on earth, every possible difficulty, with the exception of sin. He sympathises with us in all our conflicts and difficulties down here. By His gracious and unbroken intercession in the sanctuary, He upholds us individually in the path of life. If it were not for that intercession we should fall by the way. God’s people often fear troubles and difficulties, losses and bereavements, which may possibly come. Often that which we fear comes upon us, but with the trial, with the loss, there comes strength to bear it all. This is because the Great High Priest lives and pleads. He knows all about it and at all times and in all circumstances, He is our representative before God. He knows that we are like the disciples, poor, weak, sinful and ignorant, and treats us as He did them. He loved them, watched over them with unwearied patience; prayed for them that their faith failed not, and understood the weakness of their flesh. As our High Priest, He is filled with tender compassions. He has perfect understanding, having experienced the range of emotions and feelings that we have. He knows what it is like for a soul to be sorrowful and overwhelmed. Therefore we can come to Him expecting full, tender, deep sympathy. We can be strengthened and comforted, healed and restored. He will receive the poor, wounded, tear-stained believer, dry his tears and say to us as was said to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for thee" 2 Cor.12.9. He knows, indeed permits, our times of need, so that we may call to obtain mercy and find grace to help, Heb.4.16. He will send timely help before we succumb to the infirmities and temptations that come upon us. The throne of Grace is accessible and He is the One Who will not suffer us to be tempted above that which we are able. He will send deliverance from the trial at the right moment when the purpose of the trial has been realised, all because of His sympathetic service as Great High Priest.
He is our Great High Priest, continually before the Father. All the help we need is available, the throne of Grace is accessible. Come to it boldly. It is interesting that this exhortation is given after the writer tells us of Christ’s high priestly ministry. The fact that He prays for us should never make us neglect prayer. The blessed fact of the Lord’s loving interest in us and our life in this present evil age, surrounded by dangers and all kinds of evil, will be a great encouragement to us in our prayer life. His praying should motivate us to pray. We can go and tell the Father all about what troubles us. He is interested in us and knows the feelings of our heart; therefore we can go to Him in prayer. He delights to hear us; His ear is ever open. If we become tired and weary in service we tell Him. If lonely and misunderstood, or the fiery darts of the enemy are aimed at us, we can resort to His presence in prayer. What a marvellous Great High Priest we have. What a ministry He is engaged in for us. He died for us, offering His blood to God to atone for our sins, and now, having brought us to faith, He exercises an on-going ministry towards us.
There is a beautiful picture of Christ’s high priestly ministry seen in the garments of the high priest of the Old Testament. On his shoulders were two onyx stones, each one engraved with the name of six of the tribes. He bore them on his shoulders which is the place of strength, into the presence of the Lord, Ex. 28.9-12. He also had as part of his official regalia a breastplate of twelve precious stones. Each of these was engraved with the name of one of the tribes. These were carried by the high priest over his breast, near to the seat of his affections as he went before the Lord, Ex.28.15-29. What a lovely picture of the actions of our Great High Priest. He bears our burdens and carries us upon His heart. The fact that these names were graven is precious, had they been written they might have been blotted out. They were engraved and could never be erased. How blessed is the truth of our security.
- On His heart our names are graven,
- On His shoulders we are borne;
THE CHALLENGE OF HIS PRIESTHOOD
As the writer to the Hebrews brings to an end his argument for the superiority of Christ, he presents his final exhortation of the book. The section from 10.19 challenges the reader to his responsibility to the superior Christ. There is a Man in the Glory; the believer has a Great High Priest in the presence of God. Bearing this in mind, we then can exercise boldness (confidence) as we enter into the holiest. The believer enjoys freedom to enter the sanctuary that is the presence of God where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father. As this free access has been made available "through the blood of Jesus" 10.19, we are urged to make use of it. The gift is too great and the price paid too high for us to fail to take advantage and enter. All too often we fail to take advantage of the privileges that we have in Christ. There is the danger of neglecting the benefits of Christ’s death and living at the level of cultural Christianity. A living way has been opened which is new in the sense that access to God in this way had never been known before the enthronement of Christ at God’s right hand. Access is available, the High Priest is in place, 10.21, and this brings the following responsibilities.
Draw near – 10.22
This invites us to use the way of access that has been made available in Christ. Those who draw near are described as having "a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water" 10.22. Those who have been cleansed within and who display that cleansing outwardly have been fitted to draw near.
Hold fast – 10.23
Drawing near to God enables a believer to hold fast. The call is to hold fast to our confession of faith (hope). Our life and deportment as believers are brought into focus. We know that we have a way into the holiest, but this exhortation will affect us as we walk in the world. In fact, because Christ has been raised from the dead we can hold fast to our hope, without wavering, and the reason we can do this is that He who promised is faithful.
Consider one another – 10.24,25
Mutual consideration leads to mutual benefit. This consideration is to stimulate one another to the end result that the best qualities are evidenced. The beneficial result of such an exhortation is that the believer will be happy to be present where and when other believers gather, and this fellowship will not be abandoned. This mutual encouragement cannot happen if believers neglect meeting together. Encouragement requires a personal touch; we need to be there to encourage. The danger in the early church was that some would forsake the gatherings of the saints to return to the Jewish synagogue. The church has known from the beginning that being together is a vital part of its ability to function, and as we get closer to the end of the church age, the more important that being together and encouraging each other becomes.
The fact that we have a Great High Priest is not a truth for the holiest only; we are responsible to control our lives in the light of this great fact.
Offer the sacrifice of our praise to God continually – Heb.13.15
"By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name." The Lord Jesus as our Great High Priest presents our spiritual sacrifices to God. Our worship, our praises and our prayers, we present to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. They are somewhat incomplete and imperfect, but as they are presented to God by Him, they are acceptable unto God and for that reason are a delight to Him. Therefore let us not be stinted in our offering.
"We have a great high priest who is passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God" Heb.4.14. How much we owe to the blessed, precious, present work of our Lord in Glory we do not fully know. What a blessed revelation there will come to us when we shall know as we are known, when we look back over our lives and see what the intercession of the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished for us and for all the saints of God.