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Our High Priest

From the Book
of Hebrews
*******

Throughout the New Testament the death of Christ is seen in sacrificial terms, but nowhere is the sacrificial understanding of the atonement carried through as thoroughly as it is in this Epistle. First, let us notice the writer delights to refer to Christ as the 'High Priest.' Thus he introduces a new and exceedingly valuable picture into the Christian understanding of Christ's work. The particular function of a High Priest is to offer sacrifice, this is the whole purpose of his existance as High Priest. Hebrews5:1;
For every High Priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifice for sins. Hebrews8:3;
For every High Priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifice. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer.
The epithets PRIEST and HIGH PRIEST are applied to Christ again and again. Particulary does the author speak of Him as a High Priest ''after the order of Melchizedek'' (Heb.5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:11, 15, 17). Melchizedek appears for a fleeting moment in Genesis14:18-20. That narrative says nothing of his parentage or prosperity. It tells us that he was a King, that he brought out bread and wine to Abraham when the Patriarch was returning from the slaughter of the Kings. It tells us that he was a Priest "of God most High" that he blessed Abraham, that Abraham gave him tithes of the spoil. The two points last mentioned matter a good deal to the author. Both point to Melchizedek as taking a superior place, and to Abraham as recognizing that place. Hebrews5:7; Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better.
In New Testament times Abraham was accorded by the Jewish people a place all his own. He was superior to any other, the founder of the nation, the forefather of the people of God. To suggest that Melchizedek was superior to Abraham was accordingly to assign him an unbelievable preeminent place. His Priesthood was of no mean order. Specifically, it was a greater Priesthood than that of the Levitical Priests who ministered in the temple. The author has an ingenious arguement in which he points out that "so to say" Hebrew7:9; "Even Levi, who recieves tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak." If Christ was Priest after the order of Melchizedek, then He was far superior in order of Priesthood to the Priests in the temple. In all this the author of Hebrews is following a hint in Psalm 110:4; The Lord has sworn
and will not relent. "You are a Priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek." The Psalmist likens the Messianic Priesthood to that of Melchizedek, but he goes no further. He does not develop the thought, he does not even repeat it. Nor does anyone else go even as far as he does in the rest of the Old Testament. The author of Hebrews is more that a little interested in a Priest with no ancestors and no descendants, a Priest greater than the famed forefather of the Jewish people and therefore greater than the Jewish Priests who were descended from him, a Priest was at the same time King, a figure of royalty, a Priest who's personal name means "King of Righteousness" and who's title means "King of peace" Hebrews7:2; to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated "King of Righteousness" and then also
King of Salem, meaning "King of peace." In all this he sees a picture of the Priesthood of Christ, and thus returns to the analogy time and time again. He draws a particulary important conclusion from the absence of all mention of family. He tells us that Melchizedek was "without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God, remains a Priest continually." (see Hebrews7:3). Notice that he does not say that Christ is like Melchizedek. He says that Melchizedek was "made like the Son of God." It is the Priesthood of Christ that is the standard. Melchizedek is simply an illustration. He helps us to see things more clearly. This is not because of some superior merit in Melchizedek personally or in his office. It is because God has made him
like to the Son of God, and the author would have said that this is in the order that we may understand more plainly something concerning the Priesthood of our Lord. And that which Melchizedek helps us to see above all is that Christ's Priesthood transcends all limitations of time. Hebrews7:21, 22; (for they have become Priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him; The Lord has sworn And will not relent, 'You are a Priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek' ")
22. by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant. Hebrews7:15, 16. And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another Priest. 16. who has come, not according to the law of
a fleshly commandment,
but according to the power of an endless life." The word here translated 'endless' means 'which cannot end' more so than 'which does end' And His Priesthood is 'after the power' of a life like that. In other words the quality of Christ's life is indissoluble determines the character of His Priesthood. His Priesthood must therefore be the final Priesthood. It is different with Aaron, his Priesthood had its day and passed away. Christ's Priesthood will never pass away. It depends on a life which cannot be dissolved. It will never be superseded. Christ being who He is, it cannot be. Now the essential place of a Priest is that of a mediator. He stands in the middle. He stands between God and man. Ideally we should share in the nature of both, though in the case of Priests here on earth this requirement can receive no more
than a symbolic fulfillment. But what an ordinary Priest can do only in symbol, Christ does perfectly, and the author sees him as divine. The references to the Priesthood after the order of Melchizedek points to this, and so especially does the string of passages cited from the Old Testament in Chapter One. They are expressly meant to show that He is higher than the angels, and who is higher than the angels but God? Indeed one of the passages expressly ascribes deity to Him. Hebrews1:8; "But to the Son He says; "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom." He is described as Holy, guileless, undefiled Hebrews7:26; "For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is Holy, harmless, undefiled, seperate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens;" He is 'without
blemish' Hebrews9:14; "how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" Jesus can be expressly differentiated from men, Hebrews7:28; "For the laws appoints as High Priests men who have weaknesses, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever." But we scarcely need quotation of specific passages. Throughout the Epistle of Hebrews, Christ comes before us as One who shares in the nature of deity, who cannot be understood apart from His connection with the Father. Christ's kinship with men and humanity is divinely genuine. Hebrews2:11, 12; "For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to
to call them brethren, 12.saying; "I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You. Hebrews3:1; Therefore, Holy brethren, partakers of the Heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and
High Priest of
our confession,
Christ Jesus.


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