Sunday, February 20, 2011

Christ Our Great and Perfect High Priest (Part 2)

This is Part two of a sermon series - Christ our Great and Perfect High Priest

Christ our high priest


Hebrews 7:25-28
"Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever."

In our first discussion, we looked at the ability of this our great and Perfect High Priest to do the mediatorial ministry. We saw also the necessity of this ministry for the believer. Then we considered verse 25 of our passage. Let us now consider the other verses beginning with verse 26.


“For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens;”  


In this verse, the Apostle shows that in order for sinners to come unto God, they have need of a High Priest to encourage and enable them so to do. Not only is a high priest necessary, but there must be one possessed of certain qualifications of excellencies, if ever we are to obtain access to the thrice Holy One. Such a Priest is here described; such a priest “became us”, was requisite for and suited to poor sinners. None other could expiate our sins, purge our conscience from dead works, procure acceptance with God for us, purchase eternal redemption, administer supplies of grace enabling us to live unto God in all the duties of faith, obedience, and worship, comforting us in trials, delivering us from temptations and preserving us unto eternal glory.


“Holy”


The only High priest fitted to officiate before God on the behalf of desperately-wicked sinners was one who is “holy”. That which is in view is the absolute purity of Christ’s nature. He was entirely free from the slightest spot or taint of our original defilement. Listed as being as we were, “conceived in sin and shaped in iniquity”, His humanity was “that holy thing” (Luke 1:35) His conception being miraculous, by the immediate operation of the Holy Spirit, and not derived to Him by natural generation, He was completely exempt from the pollution which corrupt every one of Adam’s descendants. He could say, “The prince of this world comes and had nothing in Me” (John 14:30); there was nothing within Him to which the Evil one could make a successful appeal. And such a High Priest “became us”. Had His nature been defiled, He would have been disqualified either to be Priest or Sacrifice. This holiness of His nature was imperative in order to answer for the unholiness of our nature.


“Harmless”


“Holy”, tells of what Christ was God-wards: perfectly conformed to the Divine will inwardly evidenced by His perfect outward conduct. “Harmless” tells of what He was man-ward. He is the only one who has ever walked this earth who never contaminated, tempted, and injured those with whom He came in contact. As “holy”, He loved the Lord His God with all His heart; as “harmless” He loved His neighbour as Himself. He lived not for self, but was ever at the disposal of others. He went about doing good. When reviled, He did not revile again; when ill-treated, He never retaliated. He was the Lamb in the midst of wolves. He was the Sun of righteousness with healing in His wings. How perfectly adapted was He, then, to serve as Priest and meet the needs of His people!


“Undefiled”


He not only entered this world holy and harmless, but He was so when He left it. Working and walking for thirty-three years in a world under the curse, mingling daily with sinners, He contracted no defilement. Just as the rays of the sun may shine into the foulest stream without losing any of their purity, so Christ moved in and out amongst the vilest without the glory of His holiness being sullied in the slightest degree. Christ was “undefiled” morally, as the priests under the law were required to be ceremonially. He was never infected by the evils around Him. He touched the leper, and the leper was cleansed. He came into contact with death, and death was conquered. He was in the presence of the Devil for forty days, and was as spotless at the close as He was at the beginning of the days.


“Separate from sinners”


The position of this clause in our verse must govern its interpretation. It has a double force. It is intimately related to what precedes, as it is closely connected with the words immediately following. As it comes after the “holy, harmless, undefiled”, it gives a summary of what Christ was in Himself; emphasizing His uniqueness and demonstrating His fitness to officiate as Priest. He was the “Blessed” Man of the first Psalm. He walked not in the counsel of the ungodly, stood not in the way of sinners, sat not in the seat of the scorners. He was the true Nazirite of Numbers Chapter 6. Though He lived amongst sinners, He was infinitely apart from them, in nature and character, motive and conduct. He was in the world, but not of the world. Thus He was qualified to act as Mediator between God and sinners.

As this clause prepares the way for “made higher than the heavens”, it stands in sharp antithesis from “He was numbered with transgressors”. On the Cross, we behold Him in the place of sinners, but He occupies that place no longer. Death is forever behind Him. He is now, in the absolute sense, “separate from sinners”; that is, distinguished from those for whom, He is interceding. He has been removed from their society unto another sphere. Thus, this clause points another contrast from the high priest under the Law. Aaron offered atonement for sinners, and continued amongst them afterwards. Not so with Christ.


“Made higher than the heavens”


This refers to the present place and state of our Great High Priest. He was for a season made lower than the angels, and descended into the lower parts of the earth, and that, for the discharge of the principal part of His priestly office namely; the offering of Himself for a sacrifice unto God. But He abode not in that state, nor would He discharge His whole office and all the duties of it therein. And therefore He was made higher than the heavens. He was not made higher than the heavens that He might be a Priest; but being our High Priest, and as our High Priest, He was made so, for the discharge of that part of His office which yet remained to be perfected; for He was to live forever to make intercession for us.

Absolute perfection of character is not the only requisite in a high priest suited for our circumstances; he must be possessed also of dignified station, or high authority of unlimited power. He must be one “made higher than the heavens”. The phrase is peculiar. It nowhere else occurs in the Scriptures; but its meaning is obvious enough. He must occupy a place of highest honour and power. And He must be made higher than the heavens.

Jesus went into the holy of holies which was typified in the tabernacle. Above all created heavens, above angels and principalities, Jesus is now in the true sanctuary, in the presence of God, and there He is enthroned as our Perfect High Priest. His position in heaven demonstrates that when He offered Himself, He put away sin forever, even as it sets forth His divine glory. For who but the Son of God can sit at the right hand of the majesty on High. As it is written: “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; Let Your glory be above all the earth.” (Ps 57:5 NKJV) Made higher than the heavens by God, this proved that complete expiation has already been made. It emphasizes the fact that Christ has entered the Heavenly Sanctuary on our behalf. This is the fact that the Apostle has been making in Hebrews 4:14, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.”, in Hebrews 8:1-2, “Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.”, in Hebrews 9:24: “For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;” and in Ephesians 1:20-23 “which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”. It announces that He has been exalted above every order of created things; it makes known how immeasurably superior is our High Priest over Aaron.

Before passing from this verse let us take to heart its searching practical application. The perfections of our High Priest are what we ought to be conformable to. If we give up ourselves to the conduct of this High Priest, if by Him alone we design to approach unto God, then conformity unto Him in holiness of nature and life according to our measure is indispensably required of us. None can more dishonour the Lord Jesus Christ, nor more perniciously deceive and betray their own souls, than by professing Him to be their Priest, with their trust thereby to be saved by Him, and yet not endeavour to be holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, like unto Him.

Our prayer is that this will not only be our ambition but our portion. This is Christ our Great and Perfect High Priest.

Other sermons in the series:
Christ Our Great and Perfect High Priest (Part 1)
Christ Our Great and Perfect High Priest (Part 3)

Visit the series page: Christ our Great and Perfect High Priest

Check out other sermon series:  Sermon Series by Silas

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