The Priest You Need

lamb_8446cThe Supreme Court has attempted to do (and, as far as the law of the land goes, has done) what it ultimately cannot do. Marriage was ordained by God as a union between one man and one woman, and no amount of political and social pressure, no court decisions, can overturn that. It is not a time for panic despair, for God is still sovereign. Some of the greatest growth of the church has taken place while it was marginalized in the culture. We can point fingers at those whose goal has been and continues to be to reverse what God has ordained. But we need to realize that marriage has been damaged, not only by the GLTB agenda, but also by the casual way in which the church has sometimes succumbed to the spirit of the age. Divorce has been treated lightly. Pornography use has been far from unknown in Christian circles. There are two things the church needs to beware of. It needs to be careful to avoid imbibing the spirit of the age, and ignoring God’s Word with a motto of acceptance. It also needs to avoid the harshness that has sometimes characterized the church’s pronouncements against sins that it considers unacceptable. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 addressed a Roman culture that tolerated and even praised sins that our land is publicly promoting. Yet, along with a clear warning to repent came the assurance that God forgives and changes people. Hebrews addressed the same world culture, and in Hebrews 7:23-28 points you to the great High Priest who forgives, cleanses, and intercedes for you.

You need this priest to intercede for you. You need him because you are a sinner. You are incapable of correcting the situation yourself. You can’t understand Christ’s work unless you appreciate that you are a sinner. Though the book does not have a separate section devoted to showing how sinful man is (see Romans 1-3), the idea runs through his description of Christ and his work: Hebrews 1:3; 2:2, 11-14; 3:12; 5:1; 6:1. We live in a broken world. The fact that the Old Testament priests were sinners, who needed to offer for their own sins (Hebrews 7:27), was a point of contact between them and the people they represented, Hebrews 5:1-3. For you, a guilty sinner, to stand before God requires the work of a priest–and not just any priest.

This priest meets your need. The Old Testament priests could provide only symbolic cleansing, but none of the priests were perfect, none were permanent. They functioned as a go-between. Jesus is the priest that meets your need. Because of his suffering he is able to interceded, Hebrews 5:1-3, 7. The exalted Christ is busy speaking to the Father on your behalf. He truly understands you. As the possessor of an indestructible life (Hebrews 7:16) and a permanent priesthood (Hebrews 7:24), he is able to save completely (Hebrews 7:25). He delivers you from the guilt and power of sin. He is your guarantee of salvation, Hebrews 7:25 “Christ, alive and supremely exalted as he is, is truly our contemporary and our ever present Lord. In this respect, too, we see how fitting it is, how entirely appropriate to the satisfaction of the requirements for our restoration to God, that we should have ‘such a priest.” (Philip E. Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 275).

Praise your perfect mediator. His qualifications are perfect. He is holy One blameless, free from guile, and pure, able to stand before God. He is separate from sinners, but not distant from you. He is exalted above the heavens, ebrews 1:3,4, the victorious Savior. Christ has gone into, or even through, above the heavens. Hebrews sings a song of praise to this perfect priest–so that you can join in singing his praise.

You need the sacrifice of this priest. The Levitical priests had to offer sacrifices repeatedly. Their sacrifices never actually removed guilt. They had to sacrifice for themselves. This was especially evident on the Day of Atonement, Leviticus 16:6.

Christ offered the sacrifice once for all. He had no need to offer for himself, because of his qualifications, v. 26. As the possessor of the indestructible life, his sacrifice is good forever for his people. It does not need to be repeated, though it is to be remembered. The sacrifice forms the foundation for his intercessory work. He is the priest you need. Don’t try to re-sacrifice Christ. Don’t try to augment his work. Instead, trust the work he has done and is doing for you. Don’t live in doubt and fear. Serve God in the confidence that in Christ he has purchased your salvation. The perfection of your priest was obtained by his humiliation, his suffering and death in your place.

Christ guarantees a better covenant. God declares the terms. It is not a mutual contract, but a covenant between a sovereign and his subject. A covenant involves a special relationship–here between God and his people. The same term is used for covenant and testament, but the ideas are distinguishable and are, in fact, distinguished, see Hebrews 8:6; 9:15,16. Hebrews considers the term crucial It is used 17 times in his book, and only 16 in the rest of the New Testament. The old covenant was transitory and anticipatory, see Hebrews 8:7. It refers to the Mosaic ceremonies and types. The new is the fulfillment of what the old stood for. Christ is God’s assurance to you. You know that God will receive you because he has given you his Son. But the focus of the guarantee is that he is our guarantee, our surety, to God. What we cannot do ourselves he has done, and continues to do, for us. His priestly intercession is at the heart of the covenant. He guarantees your approach to God, v.25. He does in reality what the Old Testament priests did in type. He is that kind of guarantee so that you can live in covenant fellowship with your God. “Christ being our surety places the highest obligation on us to obey the covenant. No one is a believer who does not understand the power of this obligation.” (John Owens, An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, at 7:22).

Christ’s priestly intercession is essential to your living in covenantal fellowship and obedience each day. It is essential to living up to God’s claim in your baptism. And you need it to live as the people God has invited to his Table. His priestly intercession enables you to come, not in fear and trembling, but in joyful celebration.

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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