THE QUALIFICATIONS AND DIVINE APPOINTMENT OF JESUS CHRIST TO THE HIGH PRIESTLY ROLE ARE LINKED TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK
In light of what the Jews understood about the role of the high priest from the Levitical system in the OT, how could Jesus Christ be qualified to minister? In this paragraph we find the essential qualifications for a high priest along with the emphasis on the divine appointment. It is clear that Jesus proved superior in every way as those details are analyzed. Then the unique mission of Jesus Christ in His earthly ministry is presented to confirm His adequacy to be the source of eternal salvation for all those who would believe.
Richard Phillips: The Book of Hebrews stands out among the other epistles of the New Testament in its single-minded attention to the person and work of Jesus Christ . . . If you only comprehend who Christ is and what he has done, this will make you persevere in the faith against all difficulties. If we get Christ straight . . . everything else will come into focus and we will hold fast to the end.
I. (:1-3) QUALIFICATIONS FOR PRIESTHOOD
A. (:1a) Solidarity with Humanity
1. Taken from Among Men
“For every high priest taken from among men”
R. Kent Hughes: Solidarity, oneness with humanity, was fundamental to priestly ministry and is explicitly stated in verse 1.
2. Represents Man to God
“is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God,”
Richard Phillips: The priest was a mediator, not only representing the sinful people before God, but actually bringing them back into fellowship with God through his work on their behalf. A priest had to be human to represent other humans, but he also had to human in order to identify with them.
B. (1b) Sacrifice for Sin = Mission
“in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins;”
Hewitt: Gifts in this passage most probably signifies inanimate “offerings and oblations”, and sacrifices would seem to refer to the offering of animate things, viz. slain beasts. In the Old Testament, however, this distinction does not always hold good, but where both words are used together it would appear to do so.
C. (:2) Sensitive / Compassionate Mediator Who Can Identify with Weakness
1. Gentle – Not Harsh
“he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided,”
Hewitt: There should be no lack of feeling on the part of the high priest for those who have fallen into error and sin, nor should he be unduly disturbed, otherwise he may fail to bear gently with them. This feeling of moderation should arise naturally from a knowledge of his own sinful weaknesses . . .
2. Understanding – Not Insensitive
“since he himself also is beset with weakness;”
R. Kent Hughes: There is a remarkable parallel between the chemistry that produces the ability to “deal gently” (awareness of weakness plus sinfulness equals gentleness) and the first three Beatitudes. . . Conversely, a harsh, judgmental, unsympathetic spirit is a telltale indication that one has outgrown his sense of weakness and awareness of sin. Many evangelicals fall to this syndrome after humbly coming to Christ at conversion, for their initial experience of sanctification deludes them into imagining they are better than others. Such arrogation, however, actually disqualifies them from spiritual ministry.
D. (:3) Sacrifice for Sin = Mission
1. Necessity of Sacrifices for Sins
“and because of it he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins,”
2. Scope of Sacrifices for Sins
“as for the people, so also for himself.”
Mohler: Just as the people were beset with sin, so also was the high priest beset with sin. Therefore, he was obligated to offer up sacrifices for his own sin before he could offer up sacrifices for the sins of the people. His own sin required atonement before he could enter the most holy place. It tarnished him to the point that he could not enter God’s presence and intercede on behalf of the people without first purifying himself through sacrifice.
Kent: God took into account the sins of the high priest by establishing the Day of Atonement ritual in such a way that the high priest made atonement for himself before he did so for the people. Leviticus 16 describes the annual observance. Before killing the goat of the sin offering on behalf of the people and sprinkling its blood within the veil in the holy of holies, he first entered the veil with the blood of a bullock which was a sin offering for himself and his household (Lev. 16:6, 11-4, 17). After caring for his own atonement, the high priest then offered the blood of a goat as a sin offering for the congregation. A second goat was released into the wilderness as the “scape goat,” picturing the removal of the iniquities of Israel (Lev. 16:10, 20-22). The ceremonial observances reminded the priest of his own sinfulness, and thus should have helped him to “deal gently” with his wandering brethren.
II. (:4-6) DIVINE APPOINTMENT BASED ON DIVINE DECREES –
SUPERIOR PRIESTHOOD ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK
A. (:4) Sovereignly Called by God
1. Negatively: Not by Human Initiative
“And no one takes the honor to himself,”
2. Positively: Sovereignly Called by God
“but receives it when he is called by God,”
3. Example of Aaron
“even as Aaron was.”
R. Kent Hughes: All Israel’s priests were to come only through divine appointment (Exodus 28:1-3; cf. Leviticus 8:1ff.; Numbers 16:5; 20:23ff.; 25:10ff.). Attempts to do otherwise met with catastrophic judgment. Korah and his 250 followers were swallowed by the earth because they elevated themselves to the priestly office by burning unauthorized incense (Numbers 16:16-40). Saul lost his reign because impatiently assumed Samuel’s priestly function (1 Samuel 13:8ff.). And Uzziah, wrongly utilizing a priestly censer, broke out with leprosy that lasted until his dying day (2 Chronicles 26:16-21).
2 OT PROOF TEXTS:
B. (:5) Submission to the Will of the Father
“So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him, ‘Thou art My Son, Today I have begotten Thee’;”
Wuest: The writer is careful to let the reader see that it was no personal ambition on Messiah’s part that resulted in His becoming a high priest, but rather the fact that God called Him to that position, and that the call to priesthood was based upon the fact that the Messiah was God’s Son. Bruce says regarding this: “Christ’s priestly vocation ceases to be an accident in history, and becomes an essential characteristic of His position as Son: sonship, Christhood, priestliness, inseparably interwoven.”
Kent: Inasmuch as Jesus was of Judah, not of Levi and Aaron, it must be demonstrated that to regard Him as priest is not an illegal intrusion into the priestly office. It needs to be shown that Jesus possessed a call from God to the priesthood. Two passages form the Psalms are cited as proof texts that Christ holds His priesthood by divine appointment . . . the two quotations fully substantiate Christ’s qualifications as a Melchizedek-type priest, showing Him to be recognized by God as king as well as priest. . . His identification as my Son and His establishment as a priest forever are both features that are superior to anything known in the Levitical system. . . God has planned that Messiah should concentrate in Himself the authority of kingly rule, and this will involve also His spiritual ministration as the great high priest. Because He is the Son of God, believes need not fear that abuse of His power will occur, or that either aspect will be ignored. He is presently our high priest in heaven, and when He comes again it will be to reign as King of kings, while continuing His perfect representation of His people to God.
C. (:6) Status According to the Order of Melchizedek
“just as He says also in another passage,
‘Thou art a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.’”
Richard Phillips: Someone may be qualified for a position without actually having the authority to hold it. Qualification is a prerequisite, but there must be an appointment to the office if the work is to be acceptable and binding. . . The high priest must be appointed by God, not only so that he will serve selflessly, but also so that we might know that God himself has authorized his ministry in this capacity.
Phil Newton: We must not miss the emphasis of He 5:6. For the writer stresses that while the Jewish high priests were appointed divinely in the order of Aaron to serve their office, the appointment of Jesus Christ supersedes all of them. His appointment is unique in that he has no claim to the high priesthood humanly speaking since he was from the tribe of Judah, not the tribe of Levi. The high priesthood was not up for grabs or given to the highest bidder. It was a sacred trust of Aaron’s sons. But Christ was appointed as the only high priest whose mediatorial work would have eternal value. All of the others were mere shadows of Him who would be appointed by God as Mediator. Without a mediator we have no way to God. We have seen that time after time in analyzing our sinful condition. Only one has been appointed. Only one has been accepted by God: the Son Whom He declared, “a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Here was the predicament facing this first century audience. Some were thinking that they could chart their own course to God. They could divine their own way to eternal life. Much like the multitudes in our own day that think that the rules change or bend for them, they thought that obedient faith in Jesus Christ was not the only way to God. But the only priest whose work is “forever” is Jesus Christ. Therefore, the only one who can break through the barrier of our sinfulness and deliver us in righteousness to the Creator is the One who bore God’s judgment for us at the cross. Are you one whose faith in Jesus Christ is slipping and sliding away? There’s one anchor for the soul-Jesus Christ.
III. (:7-10) PREPARATION FOR THE PRIESTHOOD
A. (:7) Supplications for Deliverance
“In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death,”
Should ek be translated “from death” (expressing a desire for the cup to be avoided) or “out of death” (expressing a desire for resurrection)? You could see this either way.
Mohler: Jesus did not pray in order to be saved from dying; he prayed in order to be saved out of death through the resurrection.
“and He was heard because of His piety.”
Parunak: He did not pray that the cup would pass by him, but that it would pass from him. He is not asking to be delivered from the burden of drinking from it. That was the purpose for which he came into the world. But he prays that his death would not persist; that after he has drunk, the cup would pass from him. And this prayer, the Father granted.
Guzik: If Jesus asked that the cup be taken away from Him (Luke 22:42), and the cup was not taken away, how can it be said that He was heard? Because His prayer was not to escape His Father’s will, but to accept it – and that prayer was definitely heard.
B. (:8) School of Suffering
“Although He was a Son, He learned obedience
from the things which He suffered.”
Mohler: As Jesus experienced the trials associated with human existence, he learned how to obey his Father in them. Suffering taught Jesus how to submit his will to his Father’s will. We see this lesson at its sharpest point in Gethsemane and on Calvary. The cross meant terrible agony of heart and body for Christ, but he remained resolute in his willingness to be obedient, even obedient to the point of death (Phil. 2:8). By faithfully enduring the suffering ordained by the Father’s plan to redeem sinners through his own blood, Jesus learned obedience.
C. (:9-10) Superior Priesthood According to the Order of Melchizedek
1. (:9a) Summary of Completed Preparation
“And having been made perfect,
2. (:9b) Source of Eternal Salvation
“He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,”
R. Kent Hughes: This does not mean Jesus passed from disobedience to obedience. Nor does it mean that he developed form imperfection to perfection. The idea is that he became complete in his human experience.
Richard Phillips: righteousness is the source of salvation, and by his perfect life and sacrificial death the words of the apostle Paul are abundantly true: Jesus Christ is “our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). Now the way to God what was closed by sin is opened by Christ’s righteousness.
3. (:10) Status According to the Order of Melchizedek
“being designated by God as a high priest
according to the order of Melchizedek.”