Our text – (Romans 8:28-34; Hebrews 7:1-10:25)
Our theme – Christ is our high priest
God the Father appointed His Son to become our High Priest. Jesus is in glory right now, as both Man and God, on our behalf. He is arrayed in the garments of a high priest and He stands before the Father interceding for us, even as I write. Our Lord was humble and meek. He didn’t insist on luxury nor seek for the possession of material things. He didn’t own or possess any property except for the clothes He wore. In terms of pursuing fame and glory, He walked away from more crowds than He called together. He was the leader, but He knelt to wash the feet of His disciples (John 13). In all things, He humbly submitted to the Father’s will. Yet, with such beautiful humility, there was also an awesome majesty about Jesus. One word or look from Jesus could quiet a crowd, calm a storm, or make a disciple weep. Thousands followed Him as He lived and taught with incomparable power and authority. Death came hurtling at Him as He hung on a cross and took the full penalty we deserved. He heard people cry out to Him to save Himself and come down from the cross (Matthew 27:40). But to save others He chose not to save Himself (v. 42). With divine, sacrificial love, Jesus refused to spare His own life. He died so that He could provide forgiveness of sin. Our Savior stayed on the cross, for you and for me, and after He completed His redemptive work, He ascended to Heaven. There He sat down beside the Father, on the right-hand side (Mark 16:19). From that position He now intercedes, or makes intercession, for us (Romans 8:34). Thus, Christ’s priesthood, after the order of Melchizedek, is final and complete because of:
(1) Its superior nature.
The efficacy of Christ’s priesthood is superior because it is sealed by divine oath. In contrast to the Mosaic Law, which constituted men priests who themselves were sinners, God’s oath in Psalm 110:4 (which was made after the law was given) makes the sinless Son Priest perfected forevermore.
(2) Its qualification is by the power of an everlasting life and not by physical regulations.
Compared with the Levitical priesthood, the order of Melchizedek provides some important advantages. Just as Melchizedek had no recorded end to his life (Hebrews 7:3), Christ possessed eternal life. The Levitical priesthood was limited to a particular family line, and each priest was limited to the span of his own lifetime. The order of Melchizedek, however, is not limited by either of those factors. Though Christ came from the tribe of Judah, He is qualified to be a priest. His endless life, indestructible by sin or death, provides an unending priesthood for His people. Christ is not limited by any of the factors that hindered the Levitical priests from bringing the people of Israel to spiritual perfection.
(3) Its institution is by the authority of the Word of God.
In God’s plan, the Old Testament was a temporary arrangement until Christ could bring the final, perfect solution to the problem of sin. The Law of Moses was like a mirror that revealed to people that they were sinners. The animal sacrifices that the law required reinforced the seriousness of the sin problem, because they had to be repeated over and over. There was no sacrifice that could settle things once and for all for the Old Testament Israelites. Only Jesus, the Lamb of God, could take away the sins of the world (John 1:29).
(4) Its bringing in a better hope with immediate access to God.
With Christ, God’s people can have a better hope than what the Law of Moses provided. The Levitical priesthood kept people away from the holy God, because the priests had to offer the sacrifices and because the way to the Holy of Holies was covered with the veil. Christ the perfect priest; however, brings Christians near to God. Instead of simply pointing out the problem of sin, Christ has died as the complete sacrifice for sin. By doing that, He has reconciled sinful humans with the holy God, something that the Levitical priests and the Law of Moses were too weak to do.
(5) Its finalization is by a divine oath establishing and ordaining Christ’s eternal priesthood.
This oath is a secure guarantee that Christ’s priesthood is the final solution of the problem of human sin. His priesthood is forever, so we will never be superseded. Additionally, God swore with an irrevocable oath. The Levitical priesthood was changeable, but Christ’s priesthood will continue without alteration. This better priesthood provides the basis for a better covenant than the Old Testament could sustain (Hebrews 7:22).
(6) Christ, is the guarantee of a new and better covenant by virtue of the oath’s authority (Jeremiah 31:31-33; Matthew 26:28; 1 Corinthians 11:25).
Jesus Himself is the surety, or guarantee, of a superior covenant. The flawless character of Christ means that He can guarantee a relationship between God and humans that is better than the relationship that the system of Moses allowed. Because Christ the priest is perfect, His people can be ever confident that God will accept them in Christ.
I. The significance of Our High Priest.
Many Christians’ today aren’t familiar with the ministry of a priest in the worship of God. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia defines a “priest” as “one who is duly qualified to minister in sacred things, particularly to offer sacrifices at the altar, and who acts as mediator between men and God.” The function of a pastor as taught in the New Testament is quite different from that of a priest. However, the original readers of the book of Hebrews came from a Jewish heritage, and the Old Testament system of Judaism included priests as a vital part in Israel’s worship. The priests were involved in all of the sacrifices, so they were crucial mediators between the people and God. All the Israelite priests were from the tribe of Levi and were descendants of the first high priest, Aaron, with the exception of Jesus Christ, being from the line of Judah. Believers in Christ today need a High Priest for the following reasons:
(1) To represent us before God (Hebrews 5:1);
(2) To intercede for us to God (Hebrews 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);
(3) To defend us before God (1 John 2:1-2, My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world).
Jesus Christ is the only One suitable to perform all these ministries and is the One ordained of God the Father to do so.
A. His Ordination.
Under the Old Testament system no man could aspire to become the high priest simply because he had the desire to do so. Priesthood was based on sonship. A man had to be born into Aaron’s family to serve as a priest (Exodus 29:9, 29; Numbers 25:12, 13). It was impossible for anyone else to hold that office. As the Aaronic priesthood was connected with sonship, so Christ’s priesthood is connected with His Sonship (Hebrews 5:5; 7:20, 21). Whereas the priesthood of Aaron was based on the provisions of God in the law and on the natural sonship of the persons involved, Christ’s priesthood is connected with His eternal Sonship. There was never a time when He was not a priest. He was a priest from all eternity. According to Psalm 110:4, quoted in (Hebrews 7:21, Christ was constituted a priest by eternal oath of God: “Thou art [at the present time, in eternity past] a priest.”) All who follow human priests today must ask themselves, “Is this a priest appointed by God?” The fact that Christ was a priest of divine appointment is emphasized in Hebrews 5:1, 4, 6, 10).
Scripture clearly teaches that there is but one Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”) and that His position and power belong to Him alone. The writer declares of Christ in Hebrews 7:24, “But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood”. It is an in transmissible priesthood. Christ cannot delegate its powers to someone else. Christ isn’t of the order of Aaron; hence He does not possess the shortcomings associated with that Old Testament priesthood. He was of the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:17), a rather mysterious personage who met Abraham upon his return from battle, blessed him, and received tithes from him (Genesis 14). The order of Melchizedek transcends that of Aaron (Hebrews 7:11-22). Melchizedek’s priesthood was universal. That is, he was a priest associated with no particular people, in contrast to the Aaron priesthood, which was exclusively Jewish. Christ is our universal priest. It was a timeless priesthood. Melchizedek had no recorded genealogy. Hebrews 7:3 – Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually”. So, what is meant by without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days or end of life (verse 3)? When reading this with our western mentality it seems to plainly indicate, that Melchizedek was eternal. However, we must put ourselves back into the eastern world some 2000 years ago to understand what the expression quoted above is not peculiar to the Scripture. It was an expression that we find in secular literature of the day. The expression was used, not to indicate eternality, but to express the idea that an individual did not have a recorded genealogy, but rather lack of knowledge, or obscurity about one’s genealogy. The phrase without descent does not mean the absence of ancestors, but the absence of a traced genealogy. The phrase having neither beginning of days, nor end of life could merely mean that the day of Melchizedek’s birth and death are not recorded.
This would be in stark contrast to other famous men of the Bible who births and deaths are recorded with great accuracy. It would also be in opposition to the importance of one’s age under the Levitical and Aaronic priesthood, for under the Levitical priesthood one had to prove their birth date so it could be determined whether or not they were too young or too old to serve as a priest. The Aaronic priests could not begin to serve as a priest until they were twenty-five (25) years old and had to retire when they reached the age of fifty (Numbers 4:1-3, 22-23, 35, 43; 8:24-25). Age was very important to the Aaronic priesthood, but not to Melchizedek’s. He served as a priest for life. Some have viewed this verse as that which speaks of Melchizedek as being more than human. This is not the case. The difficulty arises in the fact that Melchizedek is seen as one remaining a priest forever. However, we must keep the context in mind. Here Melchizedek is not spoken of as a man but as a priest, which is to suggest that his priesthood did not cease like the priesthood of Aaron and the Levitical line. If he were to foreshadow the eternal priesthood of Christ, this would make all the sense in the world.
Melchizedek was not a superhuman creature, a divine or angelic being, is unequivocally established by Hebrews 5:1, “Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.” To be possessed of human nature is an essential prerequisite in order for one to occupy and exercise the priestly office. The Son of God could not serve as Priest until he became incarnate. Melchizedek was made like, or made to resemble, Christ in description and typical significance. The focus is thus placed on Christ’s royal authority and the unending duration of His priesthood, which, in turn, are based on His person (the eternal Son of God) and His work in redemption (as King of righteousness, Romans 3:25-26; then as King of Peace, Romans 5:1). Our King-Priest now sits “on the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens” “ever living to make intercession.”
As such, he was a type of the timeless One who would serve as high priest. The priesthood of Melchizedek was royal. Contrary to the Aaronic priests, Melchizedek was also a king, even as Christ is both priest and king.
B. His Occupations.
Our High Priest is not idle. He is performing duties vital to the welfare of every believer. Among them are intercession and advocacy. In its fullest sense, intercession includes all Christ’s present work of mediation in Heaven. In a more particular sense, intercession is that ministry of Christ whereby He prays for the believer so he or she might be delivered from sin and temptation. When Peter rashly affirmed his willingness even to die for Jesus, the Savior was fully aware of Peter’s weaknesses and said to him, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:32). Why did Peter need and why do we so desperately need, our Lord’s intercession? Because of the deadly combination of our own fleshly weakness and the cleverness and power of Satan, our adversary.
Satan was to sift Peter as wheat. The sifting process involved trial and testing. In the testing Peter’s weakness would be discovered and he would deny the Lord. Then of what significance was Christ’s prayer? Did Peter’s faith fail? Was Christ’s prayer in vain? The answer is no to both questions. Peter stumbled, but he did not fall. He experienced broken fellowship with the Lord, but he did not lose his salvation. Though he temporarily denied his Lord, he revealed the genuineness and deepness of his faith by returning to Him (John 21:15-17). Were it not for the fact that Christ was praying for him, who knows what would have happened to Peter. Paul states that no one can successfully bring a charge against God’s elect because Christ, on the basis of His finished work, makes intercession for them (Romans 8:34). The ministry of Christ as our advocate is also part of that larger work of His to which we generally refer by the word “intercession.” However, His advocacy deserves special consideration due to its importance for the believer. What happens if a Christian sins? Many teach that the sins of the believer can permanently remove him or her from God and cause him or her to lose eternal life. But that is not the teaching of the Scriptures. Let no one misunderstand. It is God’s desire that believers not sin (1 John 2:1). God repudiates sin on the part of believers. On the other hand, He also recognizes the frailty of the flesh. Therefore, we have this promise, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2). The believer’s propensity toward sin is recognized in 1 John 1:8. The word “sin” refers to the sin nature, that indwelling principle of sin that we all possess. As long as that sin nature is present, we have the potential of sinning. What happens if we sin? Our great adversary, Satan, reminds the Lord of our sin.
He is the “accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10), which presumably means that he is busy accusing the saints of God of violating the law of God. And does not the Devil have a valid case? Are not believers guilty of sin and therefore liable to eternal punishment and separation from God? It is at this point that the doctrine of Christ’s advocacy becomes important. An advocate is one who comes alongside us to help us. In 1 John 2:1 “advocate” has a legal sense and describes Christ as our lawyer, our “defense attorney” who pleads our case. Let’s remember, however, that Christ is not merely trying to make a case where there is none; neither is He endeavoring to get us off the hook when we really have no defense. He is perfectly and righteously defending us from all charges. On what basis can He defend us? On the basis of His finished work, which perfectly satisfied all God’s demands against us: “He is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2)? Because His offering of His sinless life in our place has completely satisfied the righteous standard of God, no sin can sever us from God. The Devil cannot successfully bring a charge against us, because Christ has taken all our charges on Himself and satisfied holy justice. As our advocate, He pleads our cause and wins His case.
II. The sympathy of Our High Priest
A. His sensitivity.
It is human nature to desire companionship with others like ourselves. Apart from the Incarnation, God might seem to people to be distant, unreachable, and remote. God realized mankind’s need and sent His Son to become a Man. This incarnation is directly related to His success as our high priest (Hebrews 2:17). Christ was “made like unto his brethren,” a reference to His incarnation. Hebrews 2:14 declares that He has been a partaker of flesh and blood. Because of His union with mankind, He is able to be “a merciful and faithful high priest.” He knows our burdens, our sorrows and understands our needs. The Lord knows what it is to exist in human flesh; therefore, He is able to be an understanding priest.
B. His suitability.
In describing Christ as our priest, the writer of Hebrews uses a beautiful phrase, “For such a high priest was fitting for us” (Hebrews 7:26; New Scofield Reference Bible). In the preceding portion of Hebrews 7 the writer is careful to acknowledge the imperfection of the Aaronic priesthood. Hebrews 7:11 indicates such imperfection and from this argues for the necessity of Christ’s priesthood after the order of Melchizedek. God has provided for us a high priest that is the very kind of priest we need. He is “fitting for us,” peculiarly and perfectly suited for His task of representing the elect of God before the Father’s throne.
III. The success of Our High Priest
A. His power
The power of our High Priest is wonderfully expressed by the small phrase “he is able.” This is in stark contrast to the Old Testament priesthood, which was not able to bring people to God in the sense that Jesus Christ can. Are we weak? He is able. Do we stumble? He is able. His ability overcomes our inability. The New Testament especially emphasizes that the believer must draw on Christ’s sufficiency at all times. Since He is our high priest, we are cast on Him. The very fact of His priesthood reminds us of our weakness and dependence on Him.
B. His proficiency
The proficiency of Jesus Christ as our high priest is expressed in the phrase “to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him” (Hebrews 7:25). In the word rendered “to the uttermost,” the writer is saying that Christ is able to carry the believer through all the testing’s and trials and bring him or her safely to Glory. Nothing will be too treacherous but what Christ will bring the believer through. How much more secure could a believer be? This is a promise of ultimate victory over all that stands in his or her way. It is certain because it rests on the ability of the great High Priest and not on our own ability. All believers are beneficiaries of Christ’s mediation. He is able to save all true believers in Christ. Are there weak believers, stumbling believers, carnal believers, and inconsistent believers? They will all be saved “to the uttermost,” all the way to the end.” None will be lost. The work of their High Priest guarantees this.
C. His eternity.
The priests of the Aaronic order were human. As humans, their ministry was temporary and imperfect. The term of their priesthood was limited because they were subject to death (Hebrews 7:23). This was not so with Jesus Christ. His resurrection guarantees His eternal priesthood: “he ever liveth” (v. 25). His resurrection marked the beginning of His work as an active priest. While He had been a priest from all eternity (Psalm 110:4), His actual functions as priest began after His resurrection body in order to perform this task.
D. His prayers.
Two Scriptures in the New Testament specifically employ the word “intercession” in connection with Christ’s present ministry (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). The noun form of the word that is used in both of these places is in other places used of people’s prayers (1 Timothy 2:1; 4:5). This would seem to argue that specific communication exists between the Son and the Father that is included in the thought of “intercession.” In another passage the Holy Spirit is said to make intercession for the saints (Romans 8:26, 27), and communication is certainly implied here. What does Christ do as our intercessor? He presents our needs to God. He does so perfectly and constantly. At this very hour He is fully knowledgeable concerning every believer’s needs and is interceding for each believer before His Father’s throne.
Hebrews 8:6 tell us, “Christ is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises”. We are always looking for better ways to do things. We have faster computers, better cars, and better-sounding compact disc players, vast improvements over the abacus, the Model-T, and the Victrola. God is the originator of the better way. The author of Hebrews said that animal sacrifices were only a “shadow of the heavenly things” of which Christ and His death on the cross are the reality (Hebrews 8:5; 9:11-15). Before Jesus came, people waited for the annual Day of Atonement, when the high priest entered the Most Holy Place. The Jews call this special day Yom Kippur. In that awe-inspiring place where the Ark of the Covenant was located, the High Priest offered the blood of animals on behalf of himself and the Israelites. When Jesus Christ came to earth, something better was revealed. He Himself became our High Priest by sacrificing His life and shedding His blood to atone for our sins. Now, when we accept His gift of forgiveness, we can rejoice that the penalty of our sins has been paid and our guilt removed. Salvation through Messiah Jesus is the only way we can be forgiven and have fellowship with God. We are servants of the Most High God who has given us the privilege to share in His eternity. Jesus Christ is our friend, our Priest, our King, our Lord, our Savior. He is our God. We are ever on His heart and He is with us today in whatever situation we may find ourselves. He knows and He cares. May we follow our High Priest and King; the One who has perfected forever our place with Him in eternity? Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Our High Priest Jesus Christ will not let that happen. What a glorious representation we have in Heaven! In the courtroom of divine justice, the Lord Jesus Christ stands before God as our advocate, making intercession on our behalf.
I love the story of Jesus ascending into heaven. I visualized Him slowly rising above the earth with hands outstretched in blessing. I remember wondering why He went up visibly instead of instantly disappearing as He had done at other times after His resurrection. I also wondered where heaven is located and what Jesus is doing there now. Why did Jesus ascend visibly? Perhaps to show that His earthly ministry was completed and that He would no longer be seen by His disciples. He had paid the price for sin (Romans 5:8), defeated satan (Hebrews 2:14), and broken the power of death (Revelation 1:18). He had given His followers all the evidence and instruction they needed to live for Him (Acts 1:1-3). What did He ascend to do? To give “gifts to men” (Ephesians 4:8), to send the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33), to be our Intercessor (Romans 8:34) and Advocate (1 John 2:1), and to take up His role as Head of the church (Ephesians 1:20-23). Where in heaven? I once thought of it as a place millions of miles away in outer space. Now I think of it as a realm near at hand but undetectable. I know Jesus is there, and someday I’ll be there also. This fills my heart with gratitude and praise. How wonderful that we have an ascended Savior and our Advocate who knows your address. He has counted every hair on your head. He knows your every thought, feels your every pain, and hears your every cry. So, beloved, take heart — because our High Priest Jesus is praying and interceding for you right now!
All glory to Jesus, begotten of God,
The great I AM is He;
Creator, sustainer – but wonder of all,
The Lamb of Calvary! – Peterson
Christ braved the shadow of eternal death to bring us the sunshine of eternal life.