American Christian University
In verses 13 and 14 of Revelations Chapter 7, we read that those who are standing before the throne of God are those who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Letís take a brief detour and look at the deliverance of man that is effected by the washing in the blood of the Lamb. Christ not only is our Priest who brought the sacrifice for our sins, but He also was the sacrifice. It is important that we understand what the priesthood in the order of Melchizedek means and why another order was necessary after the Aaron and the Levites. It is important that we understand that Jesus didnít just materialize out of nowhere to die for our sins and wash us in his blood, but that He was destined from before creation to be incarnated for our sakes.
Therefore we justly say, with Paul, that we know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. We count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus our Lord. We find comfort in His wounds and have no need to seek or invent any other means of reconciliation with God than this only sacrifice, once offered, by which the believers are perfected for all times. This is also the reason why the angel of God called Him Jesus, that is, Savior, because He would save His people from their sins.
After having studied the priesthood of Christ, we will spend a bit of time on the deliverance that He brought about.
Scripture reveals to us the following about Melchizedek in the epistle to the Hebrews, in which Psalm 110 is also quoted:
Hebrews 7:1 - 4 This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him. 2 And Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means "king of righteousness"; then also, "king of Salem" means "king of peace." 3 Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever. 4 Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder.
The testimony about Melchizedek as to the reference to his genealogy: "Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever" has led to much confusion over this priest.
In this respect, it is not stated that Melchizedek had no father or mother, but it is clear that there was no record of his ancestry. Those who believe that Melchizedek is Christ, misread the words 'like the Son of God', which clearly means 'not Christ but someone like Him.'
There is no mystical value in having a priest, such as Melchizedek, being described as someone with no human ancestry, as if that would elevate his stature, while Christ, who is the very Son of God, has his ancestry clearly explained, both according to his Divinity (John 3:18; Hebrews 5:5) and his humanity (Luke 3:23 - 31).
Psalm 110:4 The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
The Psalmist states in Psalm 110:4 "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek" meaning that Christ and Melchizedek are two distinct persons. In fact Christ surpasses Melchizedek because Jesus received a name that is above every name.
Philippians 2:9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
We look forward to seeing Melchizedek in glory praising God in the Name of Jesus:
Philippians 2:10 - 11 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Zechariah 9:10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth
Let's read the first six verses of Hebrews 5 as an introduction.
Hebrews 5:1 - 6 Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. 3 This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. 4 No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was. 5 So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father." 6 And he says in another place, "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek."
Scripture compares Christ with the Levitical priests, and teaches us what the likeness and the differences are between them; and the object of the whole discourse is, to show what Christís office really is, and also to prove that whatever was ordained under the law was ordained on his account. So, the Apostle shows that the ancient priesthood was abolished.
Firstly, that the priests were taken from among men;
Secondly, that they did not act a private part but for the whole people;
Thirdly, that they were not to come empty to appease God, but furnished with sacrifices;
Fourthly, that they were not to be exempt from human infirmities so that they might more readily aid the distressed; and
Lastly, that they were not presumptuously to rush into this office, and that then only was the honor legitimate when they were chosen and approved by God. We shall consider briefly each of these points.
We must first, however, expose the ignorance of those who apply these things to our time, as if there was today the same need for priests to offer sacrifices than before. For what can be more evident than that the reality found in Christ is compared with its types, which, being prior in time, have now ceased? But this will be more evident from the context. How extremely ridiculous then are they who seek by this passage to establish and support the sacrifice of the mass! Back to the words of Scripture.
1. ...selected from among men, etc. This is said of the priests. It follows, then, that it was necessary for Christ to be a real man; for as we are very far from God, we stand in a manner before him in the person of our priest, which could not be, were He not one of us. Hence, that the Son of God has a nature in common with us, does not diminish his dignity, but commends it the more to us for he is fitted to reconcile us to God, because He is man.
Therefore, Scripture, in order to prove that he is a Mediator, expressly calls him man; for had He been taken from among angels or any other beings, He could not have united us to God, since he could not react down to us.
2. ...is appointed to represent them, etc. The priest was not privately a minister for himself but was appointed for the common good of the people. It is of great importance to take notice of this, so that we may know that the salvation of us all is connected with and revolves on the priesthood of Christ. The benefit is expressed in these words, in matters related to God. They may, indeed, be explained in two ways, as the verb appointed has a passive as well as an active sense. They who take it passively give this version, ďis appointed in those things,Ē etc. and thus they would have the preposition in to be understood to approve more of the other rendering, that the high priest takes care of or ordains the things pertaining to God; for the construction flows better, and the sense is fuller. Either way, what the Apostle had in view is the same, namely, that we have no interaction with God, except through a priest; for, as we are unholy, what have we to do with holy things? We are alienated from God and his service until a priest interposes and undertakes our cause.
3. ...to offer gifts and sacrifices, etc. The third thing Scripture mentions respecting a priest is the offering of gifts. There are however here two things, namely, gifts and sacrifices.
The word gift can be considered a general term since it includes various kinds of sacrifices but the word sacrifices denotes especially the sacrifices of expiation. Still the meaning is that the priest without a sacrifice is no peacemaker between God and man, for without a sacrifice sins are not atoned for, nor is the wrath of God pacified.
Hence, whenever reconciliation between God and man takes place, this sacrifice must necessarily precede. Thus we see that angels could never be capable of obtaining Godís favor for us, because they have no sacrifice. The same is true of Prophets and Apostles. Christ alone is the One who, having taken away sins by his own sacrifice, can reconcile God to us.
4. He is able, etc. This point has some affinity to the first, and yet it may be distinguished from it; for the Apostle taught us that mankind is united to God in the person of one man, as all men partake of the same flesh and nature. But now he refers to another thing, and that is, that the priest ought to be kind and gentle to sinners, because he partakes of their infirmities. The word which the Apostle uses, namely, "gently" is differently explained both by Greek and Latin interpreters. One could consider that it simply means one capable of sympathy.
All the things that are here said of the Levitical priests do not apply to Christ for Christ we know was exempt from pollution of sin. He, therefore, differed from others in this respect that he had no necessity of offering a sacrifice for himself. But it is enough for us to know that he bares our infirmities while remaining free from sin.
Then, as to the ancient and Levitical priests, the Apostle says, that they were subject to human infirmity, and that they made atonement for their own sins also, that they might not only be kind to others who strayed, but also condole or sympathize with them. So far this part could also be applied to Christ except that He bares our infirmities while remaining pure.
At the same time He exercises his priestly office at the sight of our infirmities, being merciful and ready to pardon, and interceding for our miseries. The sum of what is said is that Christ is a brother to us, not only on account of unity as to flesh and nature, but also by becoming a partaker of our infirmities, so that he shows the ultimate forbearance and kindness. He called us, in this passage, not sinners but the ignorant and those going astray, because Scripture includes those who commit every kind of error or offense, as we shall presently show.
5. No one takes this honor upon himself, etc. There is in this verse partly a likeness and partly a difference. What makes the office of priest lawful is the call of God so that no one can rightly and orderly perform it unless God made one fit for the office. The priesthood of Christ and Aaron had this in common that God called them both; but they differed in this, that Christ succeeded by a new and different way and was made a perpetual priest. It is, hence, evident that Aaronís priesthood was temporary, for it ceased to exist.
We see the object of Scripture, namely, that it is to defend the right of Christís priesthood; and to make it clear that God was its Author. But this would not have been sufficient unless it was made evident also that the old had to come to an end in order to make room for the new.
Scripture proves this point by directing our attention to the terms upon which Aaron was appointed, for we are not to extend them further than Godís decree and it will become evident how long God had designed this order to continue.
Christ, then, is a lawful priest, for God appointed him. What is to be said of Aaron and his successors? That they had only as much right as the Lord granted them, but not so much that men, according to their own fancy, concede to them.
From the foregoing, we may draw a general truth, ó that no government is to be set up in the Church by the will of men, but that we are to wait for the command of God, and also that we ought to follow a certain rule in electing ministers, so that no one may intrude these things according to his own desire.
Scripture speaks not of persons only, but also of the office itself because the office, which men appoint without Godís command, is not lawful or divine. Since God alone rules his Church, he alone has the right to prescribe the way and manner of its administration. It is, therefore, inescapable to conclude that the Papal priesthood is counterfeit for it has been framed in the workshop of men.
God nowhere commands a sacrifice to be offered to him for the expiation of sins in the post-Christ era. Nowhere does he command priests to be appointed for such a purpose. While the Pope ordains his priests for the purpose of sacrificing, Scripture denies that they are to be considered lawful priests. To consider the Roman Church's priests lawful is tantamount to exalting them above Christ for He did not dare to take upon himself this honor but waited for the command of the Father. Therefore, no individual should seize on this honor without the command of God.
Although it might happen that some creep into divine offices, through ambition or bad motives and whose call has no evidence, they are not to be immediately rejected, especially when this cannot be done by the public decision of the Church.
At the same time it may sometimes be, that one, not called by God, is to be tolerated, however little he may be approved, provided the office itself is divine and approved by God.
While Christ was the begotten of the Father, He was not a priest merely because of his Sonship. If we consider the end for which Christ was manifested to the world, it will be clear that being a priest was necessarily part of His office.
We must bear in mind that that of which the Psalmist speaks in chapter one, was a testimony that the Father rendered to Christ before men. Therefore, the mutual relation between the Father and the Son is not what is here intended but the testimony was for the benefit of those to whom He was manifested.
Now, what sort of Son did God manifest to us? One inducted with no honor and with no power? No, Christ was inducted to be a Mediator between the Father and man. His begetting then included his priesthood.
Hebrews 5:6 is a remarkable passage, and so is the whole Psalm from which it is taken for there is scarcely anywhere in Scripture a clearer prophecy respecting Christís eternal priesthood and his kingdom than this. And yet the Jews try all means to evade it, in order that they might obscure the glory of Christ but they cannot succeed.
They apply this accolade to David, as though he was the person whom God bade to sit on his right hand but this is an instance of extreme impudence for we know that it was not lawful for kings to exercise the priesthood. We see that Uzziah was smitten with leprosy for the sole crime of intermeddling with an office that did not belong to him. (2 Chronicles 26:18.) It is therefore certain that neither David nor any one of the kings is intended here.
Some might argue that princes are sometimes called priests (cohenim), but it does not follow because David was, in the first place, not a prince but a king. And further, the comparison is faulty: Melchizedek was Godís priest; and the Psalmist testifies that that King whom God has set on his right hand would be a priest (kohen) according to the order of Melchizedek. This can only be seen as of the priesthood.
For as it was a rare and almost a singular thing for the same person to be a priest and a king, at least an unusual thing among Godís people, hence Melchizedek should only be seen as foreshadowing the Messiah. It is as though Scripture had said, ďThe royal dignity will not prevent him to exercise the priesthood also, for a type of such a thing has been already presented in Melchizedek.Ē And the Jews, at least those with any modesty, have conceded that the Messiah is the person spoken of here, and that his priesthood is what is commended.
The Greek for according to the order means the same in Hebrew and may be rendered, ďaccording to the wayĒ or manner. This confirms what has already been said, namely, that it was an unusual thing among the people of God for the same person to bear the office of a king and of a priest, which is further proof that Melchizedek could only have foreshadowed the Messiah in whom both offices existed.
As the form and beauty of Christ is disfigured by the cross, while men do not consider the end for which He humbled himself, Scripture again teaches us what was briefly referred to earlier, that his wonderful goodness shines forth especially in this respect: that He for our good subjected himself to our infirmities. It appears that our faith is thus confirmed, and that his honor is not diminished for having borne our evils.
Hebrews 5:7 -11 During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 And, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 And was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek 11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.
Scripture points out two causes why it behooved Christ to suffer, the proximate and the ultimate. The proximate was, that he might be obedient and the ultimate, that he might be thus consecrated a priest for our salutation.
If we consider
I Corinthians 15:50 I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
We see that reference to Jesus' life on earth, or the days of his flesh, does not signify material things but a condition. Christ, who is a Son, sought relief from the Father and was heard, yet suffered death that He might be taught to obey. There is in every word a singular importance. By days of [his] life on earth Scripture illustrates that the time of our miseries is limited, which brings a huge amount of comfort, without which our condition here in this life would have been intolerable.
There are three things that follow that are consolations to us, namely,
1. Christ was a Son, whom his own dignity exempted from the common lot of men, and yet he subjected himself to that lot for our sakes. Who of us mortals can dare refuse the same condition?
Another argument may be added: Although we may be pressed down by adversity we are not excluded from the number of Godís children. We see him going before us who was by nature his only Son and yet we are counted as his children due only to the gift of adoption by which He admits us into a union with him; who alone lays claim to this honor in his own right.
2. When He had offered up prayers, etc. Christ, as it became him, sought a remedy that He might be delivered from evils. This has been revealed to us that no one might think that Christ had an iron heart, which felt nothing.
Had Christ been touched by no sorrow, no consolation could arise to us from his sufferings; but when we hear that He also endured the bitterest agonies of mind, the likeness becomes evident to us. Christ, Scripture teaches, did not undergo death and other evils because He disregarded them or was pressed down by no feeling of distress, but He prayed with tears, by which He testified the extreme anguish of his soul. Then, by tears and loud cries Scripture expresses the intensity of his grief, for it is usual to show it by outward symptoms.
Matthew 26:42 He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."
Matthew 27:46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, <"Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?">--which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Christ was indeed reduced to great straits, which is evident from the drops of blood that flowed from his body. He was overwhelmed with real sorrows and He earnestly prayed his Father to bring him help.
And what are we to conclude from this? That whenever our evils press upon us and overwhelm us, we may call to mind the Son of God who labored under the same and more severe evils. And since he has gone before us there is no reason for us to faint. We are at the same time reminded that deliverance from evils can be found from no other but from God alone, and what better guidance can we have than the example of Christ?
He immediately turned to the Father. And thus the Apostle indicates what ought to be done by us when he says that he offered prayers to him who was able to deliver him from death. By these words he intimates that he rightly prayed, because he fled to God, the only Deliverer. His tears and crying recommend to us ardor and earnestness in prayer, for we ought not to pray to God formally, but with ardent desires. We must passionately petition our case before God in the name of Jesus Christ.
The prayers of Christ were heard because of his reverent submission, which some think it means, ďon account of his reverenceĒ. In the KJV it is rendered as follows: and was heard in that he feared.
It is evident that Scripture means that Christ was heard from that which He feared, so that He was not overwhelmed by his evils or swallowed up by death. For in this struggle, the Son of God was engaged, not because He was tried by unbelief, the source of all our fears, but because He sustained as a man in our flesh the judgment of God, the terror of which could not have been overcome without an arduous effort.
3. Scripture adds the third comfort, lest we should think that Christís prayers were rejected because He was not immediately delivered from his evils; for at no time was Godís mercy and aid failing him.
And hence, we may conclude that God often hears our prayers, even when that is not made evident. Although we should not prescribe to God to answer our prayers, nor does it become him to grant whatsoever requests we may conceive in our minds or express with our tongues, yet He shows that He grants our prayers in everything necessary for our salvation. So when we seem apparently to be dissatisfied with the outcome of our prayers, we see, by hindsight, that we obtain far more than if He fully granted our requests.
But how was Christ heard from what he feared, as he underwent the death that he dreaded? We must understand what it was that He feared; why was it that He dreaded death except that He saw in it the curse of God, and that He had to wrestle with the guilt of all iniquities, and also with hell itself?
His trepidation and anxiety for Godís judgment were extremely terrible. He then obtained what He prayed for, when He came forth a conqueror from the pains of death, when the hand of the Father, after a short conflict, sustained him, gaining a glorious victory over Satan, sin, and hell.
Thus it often happens that we ask this or that, but not for the right reason, yet God, not granting what we ask, at the same time determines the best way to grant us what we ask.
How are we to understand 'He learned obedience?' (Verse 8). The proximate end of Christís sufferings was to make himself accustomed to obedience; not that he was driven to this by force, or that He had need of being exercised in this manner, as the case is with oxen or horses when they have to be tamed, for He was abundantly willing to render to his Father the obedience which He owed. But this was done because of our benefit, that He might exhibit to us an instance and an example of subjection even to death itself.
It may at the same time be truly said that Christ by his death learned fully what it was to obey God, since He was then led in a special manner to deny himself; for renouncing his own will, He so far gave himself up to his Father that, of his own accord and willingly, He underwent that death which He greatly dreaded. The meaning, then, is that Christ was by his sufferings taught how far God ought to be submitted to and obeyed.
Since Christ was not about to fail in his obedience, it stands to reason that we are the objects of this example having to strive for that obedience our Savior was fully prepared to bring to the Father. We learn from that that we should be prepared to suffer various sorrows and afflictions and at length death itself, remaining obedient to God. It is even more necessary in our case, for we have a disposition to be obstinately disobedient and ungovernable until the Lord subdues us by such exercises to bear his yoke.
This benefit, which arises from the cross, ought to dispel its bitterness in our hearts for what can be more desirable than to be made obedient to God? But this can only be effected by the cross, for in prosperity we exult as with loose reins and in most cases, when the yoke is shaken off, the depravity of the flesh breaks forth into excesses.
But when restraint is put on our will and when we seek to please God, only then does our obedience show itself. It is an illustrious proof of perfect obedience when we choose the death to which God may call us, though we dread it, rather than the life that we naturally desire.