Recent Posts
Lowell Brueckner

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Higher than the High Priest



Chapter 5

 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 sacrifices for sins.

2. He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness.

3. Because of this he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins.

4. And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was.


Defining high priesthood

 In the first four verses, the writer defines the office of high priesthood. The Jewish Christians are very familiar with it, but they need to be reminded of its basic principles. Now we, who are less acquainted with Jewish priesthood, can learn and profit from his writing. It is consistent with human nature to be taken up with superficial details, surrounding the things into which God has placed us, and tend to forget the main purpose for which He created them.

 The first consideration that we must understand is that a high priest was chosen among his peers. In order to fulfill the purposes of his position, he must have the inner qualities that will equip him for ministry. Because he is a part of the human race, he understands the inner trials and suffering of those, to whom he renders service. His ministry is lost, if he is not compassionate. It is a great lesson for all those, who take on leadership of any kind in the church. For one to simply take on the duties and responsibilities related to any office, is to miss the point completely. He must have a heart preparation, before entering into Christian ministry.


We can see the lack in the high priesthood in Jesus’ day, as well as a general basic fault among all the priests and Levites. Yet they were men, who were extremely jealous for their positions.  Jesus exposed their character in His parable of the man who fell among thieves. Both the priest and the Levite passed by, without meeting his needs. The lowly Samaritan was more worthy of the ministry than either of them. There were at least two among the Sanhedrin, who had a true heart for God. They were Joseph of Arimathea, who was a secret disciple of Christ, and Nicodemus, who came with an open heart to speak with Jesus one night. They actually were the ones, who buried Him after the crucifixion (Jn.19:38-42).

 The high priest’s purpose is to minister to men, concerning the things of God. He stands as a mediator between God and men. More specifically, he is there because of the sins of men against God. From the very beginning of time on earth, this was man’s most urgent and consequential problem. Therefore God established the office, beginning with Aaron, to offer sacrifices, without number, to illustrate the seriousness of this awful malady and the numberless people affected by it. Aaron himself did not do well in that position and those, who followed him, proved that men, who filled the position, were provisional until a perfect High Priest would come.

 The compassion of the high priest was to be directed towards sinners, who were ignorant of the things of God and were losing their purpose for existence. He is to clearly see his own sinful weakness and being acutely aware of it, he has understanding of the spiritual need of all, whom he serves. This was no office for the self-righteous, who disdained his fellow men and exalted himself above them (2). Very much to the contrary, he sees himself as the chief among sinners and this conviction drives him, first of all, to deal with his own sin. The death of animals illustrated that the only way for a person to be free from his sin and guilt was by way of sacrifices, offered as substitutes to take the death sentence, which was upon the one, who offered them.

 Because man recognized that he was an evil sinner, from the dawn of time, he was building altars and sacrificing lambs. In the last chapter, we considered the sacrifice that God offered in order to clothe Adam and Eve, who led the human race into sin. We also saw that their son, Abel, offered a lamb to God. The patriarch, Abraham, built altars and sacrificed and so mankind continued throughout the ages to sacrifice animals. King Solomon offered them by the thousands, emblematic of the massive need in the lives of all humanity, because man has fallen from his created position and continually offends his Creator. Therefore, his religion is built around sacrifice.

 The high priest should thoroughly understand his desperate situation and humbly offer sacrifices for
himself. Then, he would be in the proper condition to offer for the sins of his people. That was the entire purpose of the priesthood (3). No one was ever self-appointed to this office, nor did anyone take it democratically. It is an honorable office, because the high priest had the calling of God upon his life (4). Aaron was the original high priest of Israel. God said to Moses, “Take Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister to Me as priest, Aaron and Aaron’s sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar” (Ex.28:1).

 That is the description of the office and now we come to its purpose in the plan of God. The entire sacrificial order of priesthood pointed in one direction towards one Person… Jesus Christ. It was a provisional type, intended in order that we might focus on the one true High Priest. He is the High Priest, called and anointed of God in eternity, as His name indicates: He is Christ, signifying the Anointed One. 


5. So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: “You are My Son, today I have begotten You.”

6. As He also says in another place: “You are a Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek”;

7. who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear,

8. though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.

9. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,


The will of the Father and godly fear

 There is a fascinating passage of Scripture, in which a Roman centurion said to Jesus, “I also am a man under authority…,” (Mt.8:9) mysteriously expressing a revelation that he had received. He was recognizing that Jesus did not act on His own, but was sent on His mission by Another. Because of what he saw, faith was born in him.   

 Much more intriguing is the meekness of the eternal Son of God. I have learned that both in Spanish and in Romanian, meekness is translated to a word meaning trained to be submissive, as a horse is gentled in order to be useful. I am not sure that the Greek carries this meaning, but we do know that Jesus, with all the attributes of His character, submits them and Himself to the purpose of His Father. It is the will of the Father that He should be High Priest.

 In verse 5, the Holy Spirit points us again to the Psalm that reveals His divinity, as He did in the beginning in chapter 1. It is vital that we recognize His person, as we then look into His office. In that chapter, Jesus is seen as one with the Father, “being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person”. He is the eternal Son of God begotten, and not created, in eternity, which is one glorious today, not succeeded by another. Having established the unequaled majesty of His person, In verse 6, the Spirit brings us to the theme of this chapter, His high priesthood, appointed by the Father. The writer quotes Psalm 110:4 and the order of Melchizedek, mentioned in the Psalm, will unfold in the seventh chapter.

 He turns to His humanity.  Befuddling human reason, Jesus was 100% human, without losing any of the glory of His divinity. “In the days of His flesh”, He was dependent on His Father and He expressed His dependency in prayer. Luke is the Gospel of Prayer and if you will delve into it, you will find the most references to the prayer life of Christ. There also, as nowhere else in the Gospels, He taught to us, who are His disciples, the necessity of prayer.

 The writer takes us to Gethsemane, where we briefly will review the Gospels’ account: “He began to be troubled and deeply distressed… My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death… (He) fell on the ground…” (Mk.14:33-35). “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Lk.22:44).   The inspiration of the Spirit is very evident upon the writer in verse 7, as he adds his description to that of the Gospels, intensifying Jesus’ passion in prayer: “When He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death.”

 “Great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifested in the flesh!” (1 T.3:16). May the mystery grip our souls, as we pause here to meditate upon Gethsemane. Do you sense the pathos of His humanity? He is crushed with the burden that is to fall upon Him as a Man. It is a weight far, far beyond what any human being has ever carried. A gospel song exclaims, “It’s no wonder that He stumbled, as He walked up Calvary’s road!” It’s no wonder that here in the garden, we observe a suffering, which we cannot grasp; it is deathly sorrow that casts Him to the ground and causes sweat like great drops of blood! With all that is before us, human language still comes short of conveying the extreme pressure upon the Son of Man, as High Priest.

 We will make an effort to understand, in a small, limited way, godly fear, although I find myself feeling helpless, as I make an attempt to express it. I think that the things I say will be correct, but by no means complete, both in my understanding and in my faculty of expression. Godly fear goes beyond all the suffering that lies ahead for Christ, and I mean by that, not only His bodily pain, but includes the infinite crushing of His entire being, which only He could experience. He felt the effect of His infinite holiness becoming sin; He sensed guilt coming upon His innocence and, worst of all, He knew the anguish of the rejection of His Father. Yet, I am trying to say that godly fear was above all that; it was an all-conquering reverence for His Father’s purpose, in the full knowledge of the need to accomplish the mission that lay before Him. The godly fear, which He possessed, dominated His will and made the cross inescapable for Him.

 Let’s let John Wesley help us: “So greatly did He ever thirst to be obedient to the righteous will of His Father, and to lay down even His life for the sheep, that He vehemently longed to be baptized with this baptism.” Godly fear is not in opposition to love, but is an expression of love and triumphs over all the anguish of the moment. As in John 17, in Gethsemane also, we witness the intimate communication between the Father and the Son. It is only this intimacy of perfect love that brings about His ultimate commitment.  His prayer is heard and it was answered. It is not a prayer to be saved from death, but to be saved out of it; it is a prayer for resurrection.

 The obedience of verse 8 is seen in the words spoken in Gethsemane: “All things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will” (Mr.14:36).  Think of it! Omnipotence is bound and cannot be released, because of the chains of a higher purpose. The human soul of Christ quails before the cup, but immediately submits. He must willingly accept this cup, and He does so. The Hebrew Christian must gaze upon Christ, as He submits to the Father, and be determined to follow His example in their suffering.

 You will remember that which we learned in 2:10 concerning perfection, that it means consummation. In this chapter, verse 9, we have almost the same terminology. The Author of eternal salvation was prepared to perfection, by suffering, for the sake of those who obey Him. He then cried out, you remember, “It is finished!” (Jn.19:30)… it is perfectly consummated. Also remember that obedience, on man’s part, means to obey the gospel. To obey the gospel signifies to believe, to trust, in the person and the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross. 


10 called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,”

11. of whom we have much to say, and 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 first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.

13. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.

14. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.


Spiritual maturity

 He repeats in verse 10, the Psalm quoted in verse 6, introducing us to the theme of  chapter seven. We have also learned earlier of hardness of heart, which the writer, in verse 11, refers to as becoming ‘dull of hearing’. It is extremely difficult to put spiritual principle into human language and without the aid of ‘ears of the heart’, it becomes impossible: “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God… nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Co.2:14). Most of the Hebrew Christians are not ‘natural men’, but there may be some among them, who are not yet converted. Even among true Christians, if the fear of man, because of threats from the Jewish community, and resistance to the truth has begun, they may become dull of hearing.

  There is a time element relative to Christianity. Already we have studied about today, the need to
respond immediately and not to harden our hearts. In Canaan, after four generations, the iniquity of the Amorites would be complete, but not before. In Thyatira, the Lord gave ‘Jezebel’ time to repent, but she did not. Therefore judgment would fall upon her. There is time given for Christians to leave spiritual childhood and reach maturity. In this sense, every Christian is to become a teacher. This means that he must become useful to help others in spiritual things, and this includes coming to spiritual understanding and maturity in biblical truth (12).

 However, they have been poor students and are going to have to repeat the primary grade of Christianity, in which they are living. In chapter six, the writer talks about going on from the basic doctrines, but then adds, “This we will do if God permits” (6:3). He knows that God will not permit progress, if they have not learned the basics well. This, in fact, is the problem, which the book intends to correct.

 The oracles of God, to which the writer refers, have especially to do with the Old Testament prophetical writings. They are the basis, upon which Christianity is built and, if the Jewish Christian follows them literally and legalistically, and does not grasp the spiritual significance of the New Testament, he has not been weaned from milk. It is also a lesson for non-Jews with legalistic, fleshly mentality. They are babies, dependent on their teachers for spiritual sustenance.

 Skill has to do with a spiritual knowledge of the Scriptures, as Paul taught Timothy: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 T.2:15). I see people, who for years have claimed Christianity, but continually err in their interpretation of Scripture, unskilled in the word of righteousness (13). Timothy had a solid foundation in the word: “From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 T.3:15-17).  

 There are two basic skills to bring Christians to maturity: Spirit and truth. Truth comes from diligent study; however, not only by an intellectual study, but by spiritual instruction in the Holy Spirit Himself. A Christian must have experienced a crucial Baptism in the Holy Spirit, as was common for believers in New Testament times. He must be led by the Spirit, so that truth and the Spirit form the basis of his walk. He comes to spiritual maturity, feeding on solid food, discerning and understanding spiritual things, as Paul also taught: “He who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one” (1 Co.2:15).

 To be able to discern good and evil is not as simple, as it might seem. God’s ways are not man’s ways and those who have not learned His ways well, can seriously miss the mark. They might call good, evil, and evil, good. Unfortunately, many judge their spirituality solely on the basis of the time, in which they have been Christians. Time alone is not teacher enough, in order for people to learn to walk in spiritual wisdom. However, just as skill is developed by practice in natural things, it is also true in the spiritual realm. Of course, it is a totally different realm than the natural, and the skill and practice is also totally different. Nevertheless, spiritual discernment comes from experience in a wide range of knowledge, learned from many situations, after walking over time in the ways of the Spirit and practicing the use of God-given gifts (14).










Post a Comment