Sunday, February 13, 2011

Christ Our Great and Perfect High Priest (Part 1)

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

Christ our high priest

Hebrews 7:25-28 (v. 25)
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.


The principal subject in the verses which are before us is the same as that which has engaged the Apostle throughout this seventh chapter, namely, the Pre-eminent Excellency of the great High Priest of Christianity. He is setting forth the superiority of our Lord’s High Priesthood over that of the Levitical priesthood. The various proofs may be expressed thus:

1. Christ is called of God after the order of Melchizedek (5:10).

In enlarging upon that fact here in Chapter 7, the Apostle explained three things:

  • 7:1-10 showed the superiority of Melchizedek over the order of Aaron.
  • He quoted from Psalms 110:4 – the Messianic prediction, to prove that Christ had been called after the order of Melchizedek, and
  • The fulfilment of this prophecy necessarily involved the setting aside of the Levitical Priesthood.


2. The distinguishing solemnity of its institution, namely, by the Divine Oath (7:20-22)

3. The perpetual permanency of His Priesthood (7:23-24)

4. The saving efficacy of His Priestly work (7:25)

5. The personal qualifications which He possesses to serve as priest (7:26-28)

6. The Heavenly Sanctuary in which He now ministers (8:1-5)

7. The new Covenant with which it is connected (8:6-13)


We may view the contents of Hebrews 7 as a setting forth of the results from God’s having brought in Christ as Priest after the Order of Melchizedek:

- It necessarily shows that the Levitical order of priesthood has been abrogated, for that order could not possibly co-exist side by side with His (7:11)

- In consequence of this change of priesthood, the whole Mosaic ritual has been repealed (7:12). The reason of this is obvious, the entire ceremonial law presupposed the Aaronic priesthood, to which it was adapted and on which it was based – remove the foundation and the whole structure falls.

- The introduction of Christ as Priest ushered in an entirely new and immeasurably better economy (7:19-24)

- The providing of such a great High Priest infallibly secures the salvation of all God’s people (7:25-28)

In the closing verses of our Chapter the Apostle brings the whole proceeding discourse into an issue by making application of it into the faith and comfort of the Church. His object was not only to open up mysterious Old Testament Scriptures, nor only to demonstrate the glory and pre-eminence of Christianity over Judaism, by virtue of the Priesthood of Christ; but his chief design was to make evident the efficacy and eternal advantages of all true believers by these things. The climax to which he had been building up is before us in verse 25 which he enlarges upon in the end of the Chapter. That which Christians ought to seek and what they should expect from the blessed and glorious priesthood of Christ is what he now undertakes to make known. In like manner, in all his Epistles the Apostle makes it clear that the purpose of God in the whole mystery of redemption by Jesus Christ and the institutions of the Gospel is the salvation of His elect unto the praise of the glory of His grace.




“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.” 


“Therefore” 


First, let us endeavour to ponder this inexpressibly precious word in the light of its context. The opening “Therefore” denotes that an inference is here drawn from that which had previously been said. What then is the premise or what are the premises on which this conclusion rests? Why is it that Christ is here said to be able to “save to the uttermost”?

a. Because of the oath of His consecration (v.20)

b. Because of the immutability of the Father’s purpose (He will not repent) (V. 21)

c. Because of the better covenant of which He is Surety (v.23)

d. Because He continues forever an unchanging Priest (v. 24)



“He is able”


From the consideration of the glorious truth and office of Christ as Priest, the Apostle, to strengthen the faith and increase the consolation of God’s people, points out the infallible corollary: “He is able”. All power is His, abundant sufficiency of ability to accomplish His design of grace. This is the second time we are reminded of the capability of our High Priest. First in 2:18 it was said “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” That which is particularly in view is not the ability of His nature, but of His office. It is still that by reason of the personal infirmities and the limited tenure of their office, the legal high priests are unable to effect that which those desiring to approach unto God, most needed. But our Great High Priest, being free from all such imperfections, “is able”. His High Priesthood is indissoluble, and perpetual, His office is all sufficient to meet every need of God’s people.


“Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost...” 


It is no mere temporal or transient deliverance which Christ effects for His people, but a supernatural, spiritual and eternal one. He saves them from the evil and danger of sin, with all its terrible consequences – pollution, guilt, the curse of the Law, the captivity of Satan, and the wrath to come. Therefore the Bible talks of Jesus that He saves His people “from their sins” (Matthew 1:21) “from the curse” (Galatians 3:13); “from the wrath to come” (First Thessalonians 1:10). “He is able to save”! It was no easy matter to subdue Satan, fulfil the Law, take away sin, placate God, procure pardon, purchase grace and glory, with all that belongs unto God’s great salvation. But God “laid help upon One that is mighty” (Psalm 89:19); and He who hath undertaken this work is able to accomplish it. The only way God had designed for Him to accomplish this is through Christ’s priestly office.

The last word here may have a double sense: it may respect either the perfection of the work, or its duration, so it is variously rendered. Take its first meaning: Christ will not effect part of our salvation and then leave what remains to ourselves or to others. He does not relinquish it by reason of death, but He lives on as long as it is necessary that anything should be done for the salvation of His people. Consider its second meaning: Whatever hindrances and difficulties lie in the way of salvation of believers, the Lord Jesus is fully competent by virtue of the exercise of His Priestly office, to carry out the work for them unto eternal perfection. No matter what opposition may arise, He is more than sufficient to cope with and overcome them all. Combining the two meanings a complete salvation is a never-ending one. It is a continuous process.


“Those who come to God through Him,” 


This clause defines who are the partakers of His salvation. Christ is able to save unto the uttermost, yet all are not saved by Him, yes, they are few indeed that are saved. Many hear of Him, but, loving more the things of time and sense, refusing to forsake all and follow Him, they “will not come” to Him to that they “might have life” (John 5:40). Only those who come unto God by Him, does He save. To come means to believe on Him (Hebrews 11:6), second to draw near to Him in worship (Hebrews 10:1, 22). They that come unto God by Christ are such, as believing in Him; do give up themselves in holy obedience to worship God in and by Him.


To come unto God by Jesus Christ is holy worship. Such as come to Him come first in obedience unto His authority, second, with reliance upon His mediation and third with faith in His person as the foundation of it. Unless we are true believers, our worship will not be accepted.

First, the quickened sinner who comes to Christ is drawn to Him by the Father (John 6:44), and through Christ he comes unto God (First Peter 3:18). In His priestly office Christ saves from sin unto God. His righteousness carries them beyond Himself as Mediator unto God Himself (Hebrews10:22). Thus “coming to God” is the fruit and consequence of coming to Christ. God is a just and holy God, yet the believing sinner, in and through Christ, have communication with Him.


“Seeing that He ever lives to make intercession for them” 


These words express the reason why Christ is able to effectively save His people: that which secures them is His perpetual life – “He ever lives”; His perpetual work – “to make intercession”. This is what gives efficacy to the Priesthood of Christ. The Lord Jesus lives a mediatorial life (the life of a mediator) in Heaven for His people: as He died for them, so He lives for them, and therefore does He assure them “Because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19). Though many do not realize this fact today, the Bible is so expressly clear “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins” (First Corinthians 15:17)

There are many Christians who dwell on the crucifixion of Jesus in one-sided way. We cannot dwell too much on the glorious truth that Jesus Christ was crucified for our sins. Yet it is not on the crucifixion, but on Christ the Lord, that our faith rests; and not on Christ as He was on the Cross do we dwell, but on Christ who was dead and is risen again, and lives at the right hand of God, making intercession for us. When Jesus died on the Cross, He put away our sins, but that was only removing an obstacle. The ultimate object of His death upon the Cross was His resurrection and ascension, that through suffering He should enter into glory that He should be the perfect Mediator between God and man, presenting us unto God and bestowing on us all the blessings which He has purchased for us with His precious blood. He has obtained eternal redemption on the Cross; He applies the blessings of eternal redemption from the Holy of holies. If Christ was not risen, we should still be in our sins; and if such a thing were possible, though we might be forgiven, we should be dead and without the Spirit.

Christ had to live a mediatory life in Heaven in order to perfect and accomplish the saving of believers unto the uttermost. It is indeed generally acknowledged by professing Christians that sinners could not be saved without the death of Christ, but that believers could not be saved without the resurrection ministry of Christ is not so freely owned. Yet, Romans 5:10 is very explicit on this point: “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”(NKJV) Let us also duly weigh Romans 8:33-35) “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”(NKJV) It is one thing to recognize that by the once offering of Himself, Christ has “obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:12); it is quite another to perceive that His intercession is required in order that the fruits of His oblation be applied to those for whom it was made.

It appears to many that, seeing that Christ fulfilled all righteousness for His people, redeemed them by His blood, made full atonement for their sins, nothing more was needed. But had Christ left us to build our eternal safety on the foundation which He laid, had He ascended on High to enjoy the reward without continuing to exercise His Priestly ministry on our behalf, had He merely secured our right and title into the heavenly inheritance and left us to press forward to it unaided by Him, everyone of us would quickly fall a prey to the powerful adversaries which constantly seek our destruction.

Those for whom Christ died are not taken to Heaven the moment they believe, but are still left here in the enemy’s country, nor are they yet glorified; instead, the “flesh” with all its defiling influences is still left within them. Therefore do they stand in urgent need of the Priestly care of Christ, that, in answer to His intercession God might send them His Spirit, grant them renewed supplies of grace, deliver them from their foes, keep them in communication with the Father, answer the accusations of Satan, preserve them unto Himself and “present them faultless before the presence of His glory” (Jude 24).

The intercession of Christ is the great evidence of the continuance of His love and care, His pity and compassion towards His Church. “Having loved His own, He loved them to the end”.

May the Lord help us to realize this blessed truth and live by it.

For the rest of the series, visit:  Christ our Great and Perfect High Priest

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