Tag Archives: High Priest

Assuming the Role of Priest

 

In the 5th chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, the author enters into the great theme of Jesus as High Priest. Having alluded to it in several verses prior (most notably 1:3, 2:17, 3:1, 4:16), his attention is now focused near-exclusively on this and it begins with an overview of the Levitical-Aaronic priesthood. The first four verses of the chapter set the tone for what will follow:

“For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. 3 Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. 4 And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.” Heb. 5:1-4

The author’s intention here is not a full-scale review of the Old Covenant priesthood, but instead to serve as a baseline for a priesthood ordained by God for the purpose of comparison and contrast with the Priesthood of Christ. Here we may observe several qualifications and duties of the Aaronic priests. First we see that every high priest is chosen and appointed by God. We’ll pick up on this again later, but for now let’s note the background for this concept of familial priesthood in Exodus 28 & 29, “Then bring near to you Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the people of Israel, to serve me as priests…” Ex. 28:1.

Next, we see that their appointment was from among men. No angelic being would suffice in the representation of men to God. The reason, as we see in verse 3, is that, “he can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.” These statements will serve as a point of comparison and contrast along with providing further basis for the incarnation of Christ, namely that He had to be made a man in order to represent them to God; likewise He had to remain God in order to represent Him to man. The two divergent streams of God and man are brought together in the person of Jesus Christ. Therefore the perfect Mediator, our Great High Priest, can only be the God-Man Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5).

Returning our focus to the Aaronic priesthood we see that in their role on behalf of men and in relation to God that they offered gifts and sacrifices to Him, first for their own sins, then for their family, and then for the sins of the people (Israel). This statement finds its basis in Leviticus 16 which is largely in mind as Hebrews reviews the Old Covenant priesthood. This verse (5:3) informs us that the fundamental weakness and chief insufficiency of the Aaronic priesthood was that the priests themselves were sinners. How can a sinner effectively represent other sinners before an all-holy God? Simply put, they can’t. Therefore a greater Mediator is needed, one who is not beset with sin and does not half to make atonement for His own sins first. The office of priest under the Old Covenant was always pointing forward to a better priesthood, with better sacrifices, and a better Mediator.

Summarizing thus far we see that the Aaronic priesthood was by way of an appointment from God, chosen from among men, sacrificed not only for the people, but for themselves because of their own sin.

In verse 4, we return our attention to the appointment of the priesthood by God Himself, “no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.” Note how this verse forms the frame with verse 1 to highlight the significance of the author’s point, namely that the priesthood must be by way of appointment or calling from God. This is an extremely important point given the understanding of the priesthood in our modern vernacular. Today we have priests in Catholicism, some forms of Orthodox Christianity (Eastern, Greek, Russian, etc.), Anglican, Episcopalian, and even Mormons all holding to some office of priesthood, though among these the most visible is the papacy of Catholicism. Each of these, and most notably the Catholic office of priest, has assumed their role. The priesthood which Christ is being compared and contrasted with above, namely that of Aaron, was clearly established by God. He called and appointed each man to the role of high priest, yet today we have men in modern time claiming their role as priest. What are we to make of that?

Thankfully, the Bible is not silent concerning man’s self-elevation into the office of priest apart from the Divine appointment by God. In Numbers 16 we get our first example. Here God’s Word informs us that Korah, along with several other men, stood up against the leadership of Moses with the following bold statement, “You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” Num. 16:3 Korah had a fundamental problem with God’s establishment of leaders and roles within the nation of Israel, specifically the Aaronic priesthood. He, and the men with him, were expressing dissatisfaction with their own role and lot that God in His divine providence had allowed them. If God had so chosen, they would have been worthy only to collect the cattle dung from the Israelite animals, but in His grace even they were given a more noble position. Note Moses’ response,

Hear now, you sons of Levi: 9is it too small a thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do service in the tabernacle of the Lord and to stand before the congregation to minister to them, 10and that he has brought you near him, and all your brothers the sons of Levi with you? And would you seek the priesthood also?” Num. 16:8-10

As we read in verse 1, Korah was from the tribe of Levi, those chosen to minister to God and serve Him in the tabernacle. However, from within the tribe of Levi was the family of Aaron, those who were specifically chosen to serve as high priest. It’s not difficult to see then that source of Korah’s discontentment and the basis for Moses’ response. As the chapter continues to detail the unfolding rebellion of Korah and the other men we find them burning incense (a priestly function) before the Lord at His command. In essence, God granted them the desire of their hearts or we might say He allowed their discontentment to go unchecked. Ultimately God judges Korah and those participating in the rebellion in a most public and terrifying way,

“And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. 33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. 34 And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up!” 35 And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men offering the incense.” Num. 16:32-35

And later in the chapter we are given the reason for this public display of God’s judgment as the men’s censors that contained the incense were hammered into a covering for the altar,

“to be a reminder to the people of Israel, so that no outsider, who is not of the descendants of Aaron, should draw near to burn incense before the Lord, lest he become like Korah and his company.” Num. 16:40

A second example of assuming the role of priesthood without the divine appointment from God comes by way of King Saul 1 Samuel 13:8-10

“He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. So Saul said, ‘Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.’ And he offered the burnt offering. As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came. And Saul went out to meet him and greet him.”

Here we find King Saul’s intrusion into the office of priest as he fails to wait for the arrival of Samuel and assumes for himself the role of priest in making burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. Upon Samuel’s arrival, he rebukes Saul for his disobedience of the Lord’s commandments (1 Samuel 13:13) and alerts him of God’s forthcoming punishment to strip the kingdom from him.

“But now your kingdom shall not continue…because you have not kept what the Lord has commanded you.” 1 Samuel 13:14

Finally, our third example of man assuming the role of priest apart from the divine appointment from God is found in the actions of King Uzziah again providing for us a witness of God’s attitude towards those who would attempt to undermine the authority of God’s commandments in establishing a particular lineage of priests.

“But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the Lord his God and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. But Azariah the priest went in after him, with eighty priests of the Lord who were men of valor, and they withstood King Uzziah and said to him, ‘It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn inces to the Lord, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Go out of the sanctuary, for you have done wrong, and it will bring you no honor from the Lord God.’ Then Uzziah was angry. Now he had a censer in his hand to burn incense, and when he became angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead in the presence of the priests in the house of the Lord, by the altar of incense.” 2 Chronicles 26:16-19

Swallowed by the ground, deposed as king, and succumbing to leprosy are all realized consequences of assuming the role of priest, of the Aaronic order, when one has not been called and appointed by God. Following the author of Hebrews argument from the lesser to the greater, we may ask given our examples of those who assumed the priesthood under the Old Covenant, how much worse of an offense is it to those who assume the priesthood under the New Covenant now that Christ has fulfilled the priesthood in a far superior way.

How much greater of an offense is it to the person and finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ for a man to assume the role of Christ in acting on behalf of men in relation to God? Simply stated, it’s blasphemous! The office of priest in Catholicism, which includes the papacy, let alone those others mentioned previously, is nothing less than a blasphemous impersonation of the great High Priesthood in which Christ alone now resides. He alone is qualified to hold this position because of His incarnation, sinless life, sacrificial death, glorious resurrection, and exaltation at the right hand of the Father. How dare anyone attempt to usurp His authority and assume the role for themselves!

Every religion or so called denomination that puts a man into the office of priest for the purpose of acting as mediator between God and man undermines the authority, dignity, and majesty of Christ’s Priesthood, for which He has suffered, bled, and died for. Granting validity to this office by participating with, being accomplice to, or residing under the ministry of their intrusion is equivalent to blaspheming the name of Christ, for His name is synonymous with Great High Priest.

As we will see in the next section of verses, not just any old priest will do. We must have one of divine appointment, Christ Jesus alone.

Solus Christus!

Post script: 2 additional points must at least be mentioned in regards to this post. 1) Christ’s priesthood is of the order of Melchizedek, a superior priesthood to that of the Old Covenant; bearing in mind that the Old Covenant has reached its fulfillment in Christ.  This includes the sacrificial system and Aaronic priesthood  2) 1 Peter 2:5 establishes the preisthood of every believer in the true Israel sense, not intending to usurp Christ’s role as High Priest much the same way that Exodus 19:5 intended the statement for the nation of Israel, but certainly held the office of Aaron in higher regard.  This is no way means that those priests mentioned above are attempting to fulfill the role mentioned by Peter, instead in every way they are attempting to fulfill the role established by Christ.

Dull of Hearing

 

Following the context of the declaration of Christ as High Priest that we looked at in a previous post, the author of Hebrews now switches his attention to the spiritual apathy of his audience. Before he continues his exposition oh the typological relationship between Melchizedek and the Lord Jesus Christ, he feels compelled to address the dullness of hearing that is plaguing the Jewish Christians to whom he is writing.

11 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Hebrews 5:11-14

In verse 11, the flow of discussion concerning the high priestly office of Christ, particularly in His fulfillment of the Melchizedekian type, “About this we have much to say” is interrupted sharply by the author, “and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.” His comment here is not a reference to the difficulty he faces in explaining the relationship between Christ and Melchizedek, rather the difficulty lies in his hearers grasping the teaching because their spiritual ears have become dull.

It may help our understanding of the message of Hebrews by noting the cultural difficulties that the Jewish Christians were facing at this time and the purpose and motives of the author. For lack of a better term, the time period between Christ’s earthly ministry (~30-33 AD) and the destruction of the temple (70 AD) could be considered a transitional period, i.e. from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant, keeping in mind that much of the Judaism of the patriarchs had been corrupted into a system of works righteousness by the time of Christ. Many of those to whom this epistle is addressed were in danger of slipping back into their former Judaic practices. The author of Hebrews has set out to declare the superiority of Christ over the types and shadows that pointed forward to His coming, namely through the administration of the Old Covenant. With this in mind, the slip back into Judaism was an abandonment of the reality of Christ in favor of the types and shadows with which they had become accustomed. Therefore, when we arrive at such a declaration of Christ as High Priest, superior over the Aaronic priesthood and typological of the Melchizedekian priesthood, we can see how this would have been a radical doctrine for the first century Jews to grasp, particularly if they had become apathetic in their Christian faith. What had been hidden in the Old Testament types and shadows, namely Christ, was now revealed through His ministry (Luke 24). Before the author of Hebrews can expand upon what he has introduced, it is of necessity that the hearers of his message become spiritually attuned to what he has to say if there is to be any hope of understanding.

Spiritual ears to hear is a pervasive theme, particularly in the gospels. In Mark 4:9 we read of our Lord’s declaration, “he who has ears to hear let him hear” The use of hearing in Hebrews draws the reader back to Hebrews 1:1 and has been used in each of the two previous exhortations, 2:1 and 3:15 as an admonition to listen carefully.  There is an ever present danger of those who have been exposed to the hearing of God’s Word for years, yet it now fails to move them.

We turn by way of exhortation to the expectation of progress that the readers of the epistle were to have had, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God.” The Christian faith knows nothing of the status quo; nothing of drifting or stagnation. No, indeed it is faith marked with progress, growth in both knowledge of God and practical wisdom and application of this knowledge. Simply stated orthodoxy leading to orthopraxy, or right doctrine for right living.

Concerning the expectation of becoming a teacher, the author of Hebrews is not writing about the official teaching capacity of those who have been called to this church office, rather the expectation is that all believers must be teachers. This is the fulfillment of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and is not limited to a select few who have the gift of teaching. We are called to teach our neighbors, teach our children, our friends, all those with whom God brings into our path. That is the expectation that the author is carrying forward to his audience in beginning his exhortation, but they had failed in this regard and now required to be taught again “the basic principles of the oracles of God”. This phrase will be further defined in the subsequent verses but is referred to here as milk as opposed to solid food.

God’s Word contains both milk and solid food so it’s important for us to not denigrate milk in favor of meat, as both are necessary to good health. Though a baby is unable to digest meat, limited early on to only milk, there is an expectation that he will one day be eating solid food.  Still the balance of milk in his diet is necessary. So too in our spiritual appetite for God’s Word. There are foundational teachings of Christ and the gospel that are milk, which we never progress beyond but instead prepare us for the digestion of meat.  In this context the meat seems to refer, at least in part, to the understanding of Christ as High Priest after the order of Melchizedek.

The Apostle Paul, writing his epistle to the Romans, likewise uses the phrase “oracles of God” in reference to the advantages that the Jews had, Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. Romans 3:2 Here it would seem, as in our passage from Hebrews 5, that the oracles of God refers to the entire corpus of the Old Testament revelation. Oracles in both case is a translation of the Greek word logion related to the word logos and is also found in Acts 7:38 in reference to the oracles of God received by Moses at Sinai and 1 Peter 4:11 in reference to the oracles of God be spoken by those who serve in that capacity. We can see then in general it has reference to the revelation of God, particularly that which has been inscripturated.

Continuing the contrast between milk and solid food we read, “for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Those who are content to ingest only the milk of the Word are as children, unskilled (literally untrained or inexperienced) in the word of righteousness. This particular phrase, much like the oracles of God, will be further illumined in subsequent verses, but would seem to follow along the lines of the contrast that’s being made. Those who feed on solid food have their senses (powers) of discernment trained by constant practice and are able to distinguish good from evil. Therefore, they are skilled in the word of righteousness. This would seem to imply that this particular phrase has in mind an ethical or moral behavior that flows directly out of an understanding of biblical doctrine. In other words, righteousness here can be a reference to both the believer’s justification and their subsequent righteous actions to discern good from evil. The author’s use of the phrase, “to distinguish good from evil” should bring to mind Genesis 3:22, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil.” Being skilled in the word of righteousness is far more than an intellectual assent, it is putting into practice what God has revealed through the power of the Holy Spirit causing us to be more like Christ.

As this passage continues to unfold, it will lead into one of the most difficult and controversial passages in the Bible that is at the heart of Hebrews 6. For now, the message of this passage of Hebrews is so closely related to the post on the anti-doctrinal movement of evangelicals that I once again want to draw from Pilgrim’s Progress and Christian’s encounter at the foot of the hill with Simple, Sloth, and Presumption. This section from Bunyan’s work is included below:

I saw then in my dream, that he went on thus, even until he came at the bottom, where he saw, a little out of the way, three men fast asleep, with fetters upon their heels. The name of the one was Simple, of another Sloth, and of the third Presumption.

Christian then seeing them lie in this case, went to them, if peradventure he might awake them, and cried, you are like them that sleep on the top of a mast, Prov. 23:34, for the Dead Sea is under you, a gulf that hath no bottom: awake, therefore, and come away; be willing also, and I will help you off with your irons. He also told them, If he that goeth about like a roaring lion, 1 Pet. 5:8, comes by, you will certainly become a prey to his teeth. With that they looked upon him, and began to reply in this sort: Simple said, I see no danger; Sloth said, Yet a little more sleep; and Presumption said, Every tub must stand upon its own bottom. And so they lay down to sleep again, and Christian went on his way.

Yet he was troubled to think that men in that danger should so little esteem the kindness of him that so freely offered to help them, both by awakening of them, counseling of them, and proffering to help them off with their irons.

In a similar fashion, the hearers of the epistle to the Hebrews had fallen into the trap of slothfulness which is in opposition to doctrinal progression and depth of understanding. Their slothfulness in turn led to their satisfaction of a simplistic understanding of God’s Word. Following on, they had come to presume upon their salvation and as we will see in the unpacking of Hebrews 6, this has eternally dangerous consequences. May the warning bell of this passage ring loudly in our ears and may God grant us the desire in our hearts for solid food, that we may be skilled in the word of righteousness and have our senses trained by rightly applying God’s word in every area of our lives unto the obedience of faith.

 

 

A Survey of the Cross: The Atonement, Part 2

[Warning: This is going to be another long post]

The posts over the last several weeks have generally all been focused on the cross of Christ (and rightly so), namely His atoning death and the penalty He took which was due to sinners.  The reason for this focus was that I became aware some months ago that my knowledge of the cross was shamefully lacking.   This isn’t to say that I now have it all figured out, but to simply highlight the importance of knowing what the Bible has to say concerning Christ’s death.  Since it is central to the Christian faith, I want to encourage you to likewise study deeply on the cross of Jesus because it magnifies the character of God, it amplifies the love that He has for His children, and it puts on display who Jesus is and how truly amazing it is that He would die for sinners.

I would encourage you to take a few minutes to review some of the other posts on Atonement before reading this one. Survey of the Cross, Part 1,  SA – A Response, SA – A Response Part 2, Suffering Servant, A Tension at the Cross

In the first post of this series we examined the meaning of Atonement first from several helpful definitions and then from a biblical perspective, primarily through Leviticus 16, where we saw the high priest Aaron was instructed to perform specific duties as God outlined the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) to Moses.  Recall in that passage that the practices on this day were to be repeated every year.  In addition to the daily sacrifices made by priests, this day was set aside as a holy day of rest or Sabbath (Leviticus 23:26-32).  As we read through the passage from Leviticus, three important duties were defined for Aaron: 1) He was to sacrifice a bull as a sin offering for himself and his household 2) He was to sacrifice a goat as a sin offering for the people of Israel 3) He was to “transfer” the sin of the people onto a “scapegoat” that would then take the sins of the people outside the camp and into the wilderness.  These high priestly duties were taken very seriously and it was with great fear, reverence, and deliberation that they were performed exactly as instructed.  Now, as promised we need to look at how this relates to Jesus, specifically His atonement which we will include as part of His “work” on the cross. 

Jesus the High Priest

In the Book of Hebrews, we are provided with an excellent account of not only the Old Testament work of the high priest, but also the High Priestly role of Jesus Christ.  We get our first look at Christ’s fulfillment of this position in Hebrews 2:17 as the author is describing the supremacy and incarnation of Jesus, “Therefore He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”  Without going into the details of this passage (perhaps in a future post), let’s look at a second passage describing Jesus as High Priest,

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 1 For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. 3 Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. 4 And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. 5 So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’; 6 as he says also in another place, ‘You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.’” Hebrews 4:14-5:6

First, let’s note in this passage, as well as the one above it from Hebrews 2:17, that we read of Jesus’ humanity in His role as High Priest, “made like His brothers in every respect” which means made into human likeness.  Likewise we read of the impeccability of Jesus’ human nature, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Why is it significant that Jesus should be fully man and that His sinless humanity should be so emphasized?  Note Hebrews 4:16, “For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God”.  The high priest was chosen from among men to act on behalf of men.  This is important because Christ fulfills the role of High Priest as a man interceding for men, therefore giving great significance to the biblical truth of the necessity for Jesus, the Son of God, to be fully man. 

But note here the second truth to which we’ve just alluded, Jesus’ divinity, i.e. the Son of God.  Hebrews 5:5, “So also Christ did not exalt Himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by Him who said to Him, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’”.  This language should be familiar to us as it reminds us of Matthew 3:17, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” and also John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son….” John 3:16 (NKJV) It was likewise a necessity for the office of High Priest to be filled by Jesus because He is not only fully man, but fully God.  Read again what Hebrews 5:2-3 says about the previous high priests, “since he [the high priest] himself is beset with weakness. 3 Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people.”  Because Jesus is both fully God and fully man, He does not have this same “weakness”, namely sin, that the other high priests had and He therefore did not have to make a sacrifice for His personal cleansing.  This brings us to the first function of the high priest that we talked about at the beginning of this post, the requirement to make a sacrifice for himself and his family.  Since Jesus was sinless, He had no need to make a sacrifice for Himself.  He is holy and blameless and therefore He alone can make the sacrifice which is sufficient to save.  The cleansing, personal sacrifice made by the high priest was necessary to bring the priest into a right relationship with God.  This restoration was unnecessary for Jesus because He IS God and the Trinitarian relationship with His Father  is perfect, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30) and “I am in the Father and the Father is in Me” (John 14:10)  Hebrews 7:26-27 offers an excellent summary of this point, “For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.  He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.” 

Next, we need to look at the other sacrifices made by the high priests, namely the two goats.  Remember, the first one was killed and its blood sprinkled on the mercy seat for the forgiveness of the Israelites sins (Leviticus 16:15-16).  The mercy seat, as we learned in part 1, covered the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the Law (think 10 Commandments).  How then does this relate to Jesus’ role as High Priest?   As High Priest, the sacrifice that Jesus made was Himself.  It was His own blood, poured out “on the mercy seat”, as it were, that made propitiation for the sins of His people.  Think about this, the blood of Jesus was able to procure mercy for His people because it satisfied the justice of God, namely His wrath towards ungodliness.

This is an amazing role accomplished by Christ, as not only did He serve as High Priest to make intercession for the people and atonement for their sins, but was Himself the sacrifice!  Just as in the Old Testament priests sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice onto the mercy seat, thereby making atonement, Jesus likewise, by way of His own blood poured out, made atonement for all those who by faith place their trust in Him.  The blood of Jesus, infinitely purer and holier than that of an Old Testament sacrifice is the only thing sufficient to purify us from our sins.  Note the following passages:

“Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Hebrews 9:22 This passage highlights the necessity of bloodshed required for the forgiveness of sin, therefore Christ’s death was a necessary requirement.

“For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” Hebrews 10:4  Here we see that the blood from the animal sacrifices of old were insufficient for the actual removal of sin.  Jesus’ death was infinitely superior and sufficient. 

“For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” Hebrews 9:13-14 Now the transition from the imperfect, insufficient Old Testament animal sacrifices to the all-sufficient sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.

At this point, it’s important to make several connections.  This “sacrifice of atonement” that Jesus made, namely Himself is the word propitiation.  Note the translations below:

“God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood – to be received by faith….” Romans 3:25 NIV

“Whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” Romans 3:25 ESV

Through His sacrificial and willing bloodshed, Jesus Christ was a propitiation, literally appeasing the wrath of God that was bent towards sinners (John 3:36, Romans 5:1, 5:9-10, Ephesians 2:3).  Let there be no misunderstanding here, God the Father and God the Son were not at odds with one another, thereby a loving Son placating the wrath of an angry Father.  No, look at what the passage above from Romans says, “Whom God put forward”.  It was the work of a loving Father (John 3:16), in concert with the love and willingness of the Son to satisfy the legal demands held against sinners. (Colossians 2:14)  In doing this, God the Father propitiated or satisfied His own wrath, through the propitiation He provided, namely His Son Jesus.  “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” Romans 5:9 Lord willing the next post in this series will attempt to better explain the idea of propitiation.

Continuing with our discussion of Jesus’ High Priestly role, remember that the Levitical high priest also placed his hands on the live goat, transferring the guilt and sin of the Israelites and then sending the “scapegoat” outside of the camp into the wilderness.  This is the term expiation, the second part of propitiation which we just looked at.  It too was accomplished through the substitutionary atonement of Jesus as He removed the guilt from His people.  Like the goat of Leviticus, the sins of those who place their faith in Jesus have been “imputed” to Him and have been removed “into the wilderness” or as Psalm 103:12 states, “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” never to return again. 

There is SO much more that could be said about Jesus’ role as High Priest (for more, read from Hebrews chapters 5-10).  The biblical truth is that Jesus fulfills the office of High Priest and that it is He that mediates the New Covenant between God and man, “…there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).  This should serve as a stark warning to those religions or movements that feel man needs an earthly priest to make intercession (or confession to) or that somehow the virgin Mary serves as intercessor.  An assumption that an earthly priest is necessary is a direct assault on the sufficiency of Christ’s completed work as High Priest.  Dear friends, it is Christ alone.  He is the only one who can intercede and He alone is sufficient to fulfill that duty.

As High Priest, Jesus not only made the necessary sacrifice, but gave Himself as that sacrifice.  Being fully God and fully man, He was the only one that could make that sacrifice.  The awesome love that God displayed on the cross in giving His own Son as a propitiation, to appease His own wrath, should be enough to make you bow down and worship.  If you are an unbeliever, we’ve only just scratched the surface of what God has done in Christ, yet unless you repent (turn from your sins) and trust in Christ, then you cannot experience it.  Believers, look to God’s Word and examine all that He has done for you.  Your response is to live your life in worship completely devoted to Him.

 

“But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”  Hebrews 10:12-14