"THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS" Christ's Qualifications As High Priest (5:1-10)
INTRODUCTION 1. A recurring theme in this epistle is that of Jesus as our High Priest; He has been described as: a. A "merciful and faithful High Priest" - He 2:17 b. The "High Priest of our confession" - He 3:1 c. A "great High Priest who has passed through the heavens" - He 4:14 d. A High Priest who can "sympathize with our weaknesses" - He 4:15 2. This is in keeping with the overall purpose of the epistle... a. Which is to show the superiority of Jesus and His new covenant b. We have considered Jesus' superiority to... 1) Prophets - He 1:1-3 2) Angels - He 1:4-2:18 3) Moses - He 3:1-6 ...it is only natural that a comparison to Aaron and his priesthood be made 3. The actual comparison with Aaron will follow later, but first there is a need to... a. Review the qualities required in high priests b. Establish that Jesus does indeed qualify as a High Priest -- Which is what we find in the text for our study today - He 5:1-10 [For non-Jewish readers who may be unfamiliar with the role of high priests, this section of Scripture can be enlightening and increase our appreciation of Jesus as our High Priest. We begin by noticing...] I. THE QUALITIES REQUIRED IN HIGH PRIESTS (1-4) A. DIVINE APPOINTMENT (1,4) 1. The work of the high priest involves "things pertaining to God" - cf. He 2:17 2. He must "offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins" - cf. He 8:3 -- Thus only God can rightfully select a high priest, even as God called Aaron - e.g., Exo 28,29; Lev 8,9; Num 16-18 B. HUMAN SYMPATHY (1-3) 1. A high priest is selected "from among men" 2. This helps to ensure a spirit of "compassion"... a. Toward "those who are ignorant and going astray" 1) Note that the high priest was to make a distinction between sins of ignorance and sins of presumption (rebellion) - Num 15:22-31 2) Sacrifices were to be offered in behalf of the former, but not the latter b. For "he himself is often beset by weakness" 1) A high priest who knew his own weakness would be more likely to be understanding of his brethren 2) It also explains why the high priest in the OT offered sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people - cf. Lev 16:11 -- Thus a high priest would need to be well acquainted with the "human condition" (i.e., the struggle against temptation) [The parallel between high priests in the OT and Jesus as our High Priest does not hold true in every minute detail (e.g., He 7:26-27). But certainly in the most fundamental ways Jesus has the qualities to be our High Priest, as we now consider...] II. CHRIST'S QUALIFICATIONS AS HIGH PRIEST (5-8) A. DIVINELY APPOINTED (5,6) 1. Christ was Divinely called to serve as High Priest, just as Aaron was 2. As evidence of His calling, two Messianic prophecies are offered... a. His position as God's Son - cf. Ps 2:7 b. His appointment as a priest after the order of Melchizedek - cf. Ps 110:4 -- As God's Son, sitting and ruling at the right hand of God (cf. Ps 110:1-3), His calling as a priest is only natural B. SYMPATHETIC BECAUSE OF HIS OWN SUFFERINGS (7,8) 1. While "in the days of His flesh", Christ... a. "offered prayers and supplications with vehement cries and tears" b. He prayed "to Him who was able to save Him from death" c. He was heard "because of His godly fear" 2. That Jesus would have "godly fear" and offer such prayers provides insight into the extent of His temptations and sufferings in the flesh - cf. also He 2:18; 4:15 3. Even though He was God's Son, by the things which He suffered "He learned obedience" - what does this mean? a. Certainly He knew obedience as the Son of God b. Perhaps it means He came to know what obedience involved as one "in the flesh" (i.e., the challenge of obedience in the midst of suffering, temptations, etc.) -- Through His suffering, Jesus certainly understands the "human condition" which qualifies Him to serve as High Priest [Qualified by virtue of His calling and His compassion to be a High Priest, what kind of High Priest is Jesus? The next two verses introduce two themes that will be developed much further later on...] III. CHRIST'S CALLING AS OUR HIGH PRIEST (9,10) A. "THE AUTHOR OF ETERNAL SALVATION" (9) 1. "Perfected" by virtue of His sufferings "in the flesh", He has become the "author" of eternal salvation a. The word "author" comes from aitio, meaning literally, "cause" b. Later, we will see how Christ is the "cause" of our salvation - cf. He 7:24-27 2. But for now, note that He is the cause of salvation for "all those who obey Him" a. Is obedience necessary for salvation? Consider these verses: 1) Jesus will bring vengeance on those who have not obeyed the gospel - 2Th 1:7-9; cf. 1Pe 4:17-18 2) Paul sought to bring about the "obedience to the faith" among all the nations - Ro 1:5; 16:25-26 a) But not all had obeyed the gospel - Ro 10:16 b) Yet he was grateful for those who had - Ro 6:17,18 3) Those who have obeyed the truth have purified their souls - 1Pe 1:22 b. If obedience is necessary for salvation, are we then saved by works? 1) Not if by "works" you mean "meritorious works" (works by which we EARN salvation) 2) But if you mean by "works" the "works of God" (works by which we RECEIVE God's unmerited gift of salvation) which God has ordained, then yes! a) E.g., believing in Christ is a "work of God" - Jn 6:28-29 b) Since repentance and baptism are likewise enjoined by God, they too would be "works of God" that we must obey in order to receive salvation - e.g., Ac 2:38; 10:48 -- Thus salvation "by grace through faith" does not preclude the necessity of obedience to Christ and His gospel! B. "ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK" (10) 1. Here we begin to learn the distinct nature of Christ's priesthood 2. As prophesied in Ps 110:4, the Messiah would be "a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek" 3. Thus His priesthood would be different from the Aaronic or Levitical priesthood a. Different, but would it be superior? b. Would the difference be enough to persuade them not to forsake Christ? -- The difference between the two priesthoods and the superiority of Christ's over Aaron's is taken up later in this epistle (cf. He 7:1-28) CONCLUSION 1. The spiritual immaturity of the Hebrew readers will necessitate a temporary digression (cf. He 5:11-6:20) 2. But for the moment, the author has established "Christ's Qualifications As High Priest"... a. He was Divinely appointed b. He is sympathetic because of His own sufferings 3. This makes Jesus suitable as the "author of eternal salvation" a. But don't forget that He is the author of salvation "to all who obey Him" b. Have you rendered obedience to the gospel of Christ?
- cf. Mk 16:15-16; Ac 2:36-39