The Superiority of the Priesthood of Christ (Hebrews 4:14-10:18)
Here begins the main theme. "Now the main point of what we have to say is this: We have such a High Priest" (Hebrews 8:1, AMP). Christ has been compared with all others, the prophets, angels, Moses and Joshua, but the most important comparison is with Aaron, the high priest. The writer shows that the priesthood of Christ is greater than the priesthood of the Levitical law.
The central point in the book is Christ's eternal priesthood and His sacrifice that availed for the sin of the world. The Epistle dwells upon the supreme importance and power of the blood of Christ in obtaining redemption for us. He has purged us from our sins and opened the way into the heavenly sanctuary and to the very throne of God.
Christ is Himself a priest. Listen to the Word: "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:14-16).
Jesus Christ not only had the qualifications of a priest like Aaron, the earthly high priest, but He also is a High Priest forever after the order of the eternal Melchizedek priesthood because this priesthood is continuous and will never end. The Aaronic priests could not make people perfect because they themselves were sinful, but Christ is eternal and sinless.
Christ's Priesthood Is Like Melchizedek (Genesis 14)
A royal priesthood—Both were kings of peace and righteousness.
Was universal—Not only for Jewish people.
Had no human ancestry—"Without father or mother."
Had no successor—When Melchizedek passed away, no one stepped into his place. So Christ is a priest forever.
Let us find an important fact here. Christian ministers are nowhere called "priests" in the New Testament except as all Christians are called "priests" (1 Peter 2:9). We have learned from Paul's letters that Christian ministers are called "teachers" and "pastors."
The glories of our Savior are exhibited in this Epistle. Three great "betters" are connected with our High Priest.
Christ—A Better Priest
Of a better covenant (Hebrews 8:13): A better covenant because it is based on better promises. These promises are written on the heart, not on tablets of stone (8:10).
Of a better tabernacle (Hebrews 9:1-12): Christ officiates in heaven. The Tabernacle was of this world. The high priest entered into the holy of holies once a year, but Christ has entered into the heavenly sanctuary "once for all."
Of a better sacrifice (Hebrews 10:18): He Himself is the sacrifice. He offered Himself as a lamb without blemish to cleanse us. The sacrifices of the Old Testament were calves and goats. They could not take away sin. They were but the shadow. This Sacrifice needed to be offered only once.
Christ is called our High Priest. What does that mean? We are taught very plainly in the Word that sin has cut people off from God. No sinner can approach God. The way has been closed. In the Old Testament, a representative, the high priest whom God appointed, could come into God's presence only once a year after sacrifice for the sins of the people had been made. He must offer the blood of calves and goats not only for the sins of the people, but also for his own sins, for he, too, was a sinner. He then would go into the holy place, then on beyond the veil into the holy of holies where the Ark of the Covenant rested. Here was the mercy seat, and here God met people through the mediator, the high priest.
How can we approach God today? Christ has made that possible. He is our High Priest, our representative before the Father. He entered into the heavenly sanctuary, God's presence, bearing the blood of His own sacrifice to cleanse us from our sins and to give to us eternal salvation. His blood had to be shed, for "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Hebrews 9:22). "But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God" (Hebrews 10:12). "It is finished," He said on the cross (John 19:30). All His work of redemption had been completed, hence we see Him sitting. We find this picture of Christ often in Hebrews.
Our High Priest is at the right hand of the Father at this minute, making intercession for you and for me (Hebrews 7:25; Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 10:12). He has gone "now to appear for us in God's presence" (Hebrews 9:24). This is why we can have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way (Hebrews 10:19-20). Avail yourself of this glorious privilege.
In Hebrews 9, our Lord's three great appearings stand out:
Past—On the cross—"But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Hebrews 9:26).
Present—At the right hand of the throne—"now to appear for us in God's presence" (Hebrews 9:24).
Future—In the clouds of glory—"and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him" (Hebrews 9:28).
Christ, a Better Sacrifice
Christ offered Himself as the sacrifice, a Lamb without blemish or spot. The priest offered the lives of calves and goats, but these sacrifices could not take away sin. This better Sacrifice had only to be offered once and for all (Hebrews 10:10-18).
Because Christ has made this new and living way into the presence of the Father, let us come boldly to the throne of grace. The sin question is settled forever.
Let us not only approach the throne of grace, but let us also not neglect "meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing" (Hebrews 10:25). There is nothing like Christian fellowship to make us grow. D. L. Moody visited a woman who had grown cold in her Christian life. She said she had not been able to come to church, but otherwise she could not understand what had happened to make her feel as she did about spiritual things. Without saying a word, Mr. Moody arose and lifted out a live coal from the grate and placed it on the hearth. In a few moments the glow was gone and the coal was black. "I see it," she said. You cannot continue to glow in your Christian life alone. You need the warmth of fellowship with other Christians. This is a command to us.
The Superiority of the Life in Christ (Hebrews 10:19-13:25)
From now on, the writer tells us the kind of life we should live because of Christ's work as High Priest for us. We know He is at the right hand of God and that He ever liveth to make intercession for us.
After one has accepted Christ, there are levels of Christian living. Some Christians live in the basement of Christian experience, merely inside the building, but where it is dark, dismal and gloomy. Others live on the ground floor. They leave the first foundations and go on. Some sunlight enters, but their outlook is upon the circumstances about them. They live very close to the world. Still others live up higher. Sunlight and warmth flood the rooms. The noise and attractions of the worldly street do not disturb them. The air is pure. The outlook is toward the blue skies and distant mountains. These live above the world, hid with Christ in God. God wishes us all to live continuously in this high realm.
Let us study a few men and women of God whose names are given in Hebrews 11 who were living a high look. The Holy Spirit tells us the secret of each life is faith, yet it is not so much his or her faith as their reliance upon our faithful God.
A Working Faith
The secret of Christian living is simply allowing Christ to meet our needs. Some say, "I have no faith; I can't believe." Yet we constantly place faith in our fellow humans. You want to go to New York from San Francisco. You buy your ticket and get on the airplane. In the course of your journey, a pilot will guide your plane. Without seeing him or knowing a thing about his ability, you trust your life to him. Faith is just trusting God, believing Him. There is nothing mysterious about faith. It is a simple act of the will. Either we will believe God or we won't. We decide. It is as simple as turning on an electric light switch. This is not a difficult or baffling or mysterious thing to do. But the result? Light and power. When we decide to believe God absolutely, then supernatural life and power enter our lives. A miracle is wrought within us. One of the practical results of faith is that it makes weak people strong (Hebrews 11:34).
To live in the Hall of Faith forever we need to do two things. First, like anyone entering a race, "let us throw off everything that hinders" (Hebrews 12:1). Yield everything to Christ. Second, we are really to believe that Jesus is trustworthy. When we do, we have given up the sin that so easily besets us—for that is the sin of unbelief. We give up that sin when we "fix our eyes on Jesus" (Hebrews 12:2).
Only one kind of human being in the world can please God. Who is it? (Hebrews 11:6). It is not what we do for God, but what God does for us that makes a life of power and strength. Our great God, rather than our great faith, is the thing to think most about. It is fashionable to be doubtful rather than sure about the great facts of God and Christ and salvation. But this cannot please God. To please God:
Christ is the belief that brings salvation.
Because of the great company of witnesses on the bleachers watching from heaven, let us run the race of life God has set before us. As any athlete does when preparing for a race, let us lay aside every sinful habit and anything that would hinder us (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Let us have patience—Hebrews 12:1
Endure chastening—Hebrews 12:11
Follow peace and purity of heart—Hebrews 12:14
Always looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
A life well pleasing in His sight will be made possible by the Lord Himself.
"May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen" (Hebrews 13:20-21).
—What the Bible is All About