Christ - The Annointed Priest

The Lord seen as “Last Adam" necessarily introduces us, therefore, to His atoning work. For the race of which He is thus Head, although a new creation, is a race of men,—of those involved in the fall of the first head, and who have added to this their own individual and innumerable iniquities. Here, therefore, what He is as Christ—as Messiah, the “Anointed”—comes into view: for this “anointing” has regard to His official work, and (apart from Jacob’s anointing of the pillar at Bethel) the first notice that we have of it in Scripture is in connection with the priests (Ex. 28:41; 29:7); while the high priest is distinctively, even as among these, the “priest that is anointed” or Messiah-priest.

After the failure of the priesthood, it is the king who is specifically the “anointed of Jehovah;” and the union of priest and king in our Lord, as in the type of Melchizedek, we shall have attentively to consider in a little while. For Christ also, priesthood necessarily preceded kingship, the history runs parallel with the doctrine. Of the prophet who (as in Elisha’s case) was sometimes anointed, but, from the nature of his call, less frequently, we need not at present speak. Christ unites, as we know, these three offices in His own Person, but the first and fundamental one is that of priesthood.

The priest, ideally, was one who presented himself to God in behalf of others: of those who could not, therefore, of themselves draw near, as he. For his office, there were two requisites: first, personal fitness to draw near himself. This was figured under the Law by that simple white linen garment in which alone the sanctuary could be entered; while, where ever there had been sin, (and therefore for the high-priest also, as long as he was but the “figure of the true”) the blood of sacrifice was needed for atonement.

Among mere men the true Priest could not be found. The “called of God” is He to whom, though Man, God could say, “Thou art My Son: to-day have I begotten Thee” (Heb. 5:5). In Him, as “First-born among many brethren,” a new humanity begins for God, open to all men to come into, but by the lowly gate of a new birth. For these as Head and Representative He stands and offers sacrifice; for these, and not for the world, He intercedes; but this of course shuts out none from blessing. Faith could at any time bring nigh the stranger and join him to the people of God. Of God’s will none were ever shut out, as even the dispensation of law bore witness, and Ruth and Rahab are signal examples. Now, under the gospel, to faith all the privileges of God’s house are open. The veil is rent, and God is in the light, where the blood of Christ His Son cleanses those who enter from every stain of sin.

But we are now looking at the Priest Himself, whose call to the Priesthood is founded upon His nature as Son of God, as the apostle distinctly tells us. He “glorified not Himself to be made high-priest, but He who said unto Him, Thou art My Son: to-day have I begotten Thee.” Here the owning Him Son of God,—the First-born and not the Only-begotten, or it would not be said, “to-day,”—implies, according to the argument, that God recognizes Him as High-priest also; and so the apostle adduces the passage from the hundred and tenth psalm as similar in import: “Just as also in another place, he saith, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.”

It is denied, however, by some that this is the argument. “The two citations,” says Moll, “do not express the same idea; nor is the former adduced to prove that Christ is a High-priest; but simply to call to mind the relation previously unfolded, that namely, which the God who has bestowed this priestly dignity on Christ, sustains as Father to this Anointed One.”

In fact, the apostle’s words at first sight may seem indefinite. That “He glorified Him, who said to Him,” does not necessarily mean “glorified Him in saying to Him.” But the apostle does, nevertheless, use the same form of speech in the seventh chapter with reference to the second quotation, which here he does to the first: “But He with an oath, by Him that said unto Him: The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever.” Here, of course, no doubt could arise, nor could be supposed to do so: and this makes a difference. But it would show, at least, least, that the form of speech is not against the implication.

Further, that relationship of Christ as Son to God, previously unfolded, has been already shown to be in connection with His priesthood in the second chapter: for it has been told us there that the “many sons” whom God is bringing to glory “are all of one” with Him: “so that He is not ashamed to call them ‘brethren.’” And because these “children that God has given Him” are “partakers of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise took part in the same, that through death He might annul him that had the power of death, and deliver them.” Thus “it behoved Him to be made in all things like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high-priest in thing pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”

Here is surely a long and connected argument to show the relation which Christ’s being the Son of God bears to His Priesthood. For atonement, and for sympathy too (as to which the last verse of the second chapter speaks) Christ as High-priest must be made like unto His brethren. His brethren are the many sons of God He is bringing to glory; He therefore must be Son of God in human nature. To own Him this is thus by implication to own Him as the Mediator-Priest on their account.

That as Son of God He is King also, and that the quotation from the second psalm is in connection with this, does not conflict at all with such a view. The second quotation, which directly affirms His Priesthood, expressly connects the two things together. He is a priest after the order of Melchizedek, a priest upon the throne (Zech. 6:13); a King with priestly tenderness and succor for the sinful and needy,—a Priest with royal and more than royal authority. How sweet and fitting is the union in Him of these two things! that as the Minister of priestly grace all power should be committed to Him! But here, plainly, priesthood must come first, and lay the foundation. It must begin in humiliation and sorrow, as the apostle represents. The Son of God must learn what obedience is in a strange path of suffering. The Perfect One must be officially perfected as the Author of eternal salvation to all those that obey Him. He cries unto “Him that is able to save Him out of death,” not “from” it, and is “heard for His piety” (Heb. 5:7–9). Come up out of death, He is “saluted of God as high-priest after the order of Melchizedek” (ver. 10),—hailed as Victor with the crown.

This course begins on earth and ends in heaven. On earth He made propitiation (2:17), offering up Himself (7:27) in the body prepared Him (10:5), one offering for sins, by which He has perfected in perpetuity those that are sanctified (10:14). Then, as risen from the dead, in the power of that blood whose acceptance had been thus openly declared, He entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us (9:24). But we must look more closely at the stages of accomplishment of a course for us so necessary and so fruitful.

It is by His baptism at the hands of John, that the Lord, coming forth out of His thirty years of private life in which He had fulfilled His own personal responsibility as Man before God, devotes Himself to that work on behalf of others for which He had come. He is “baptized unto death,” of which Jordan is the well-known figure; and this implies for Him both sacrifice and priesthood. As the Lamb of sacrifice John therefore proclaims Him, while as Priest He is anointed with the Spirit; the Father’s voice proclaiming Him that which, as we have seen, marks Him as the true Priest—His beloved Son. Here then begins His ministry, which is characterized by all that grace which priesthood implies, and by those works of power which are the broad seal of His commission as the Anointed of God.

As Son of God He is now also the Prophet, God Himself now, as never hitherto, speaking among men, and as Man, which makes the intimacy of this grace complete. But His feet have to take for this the way of Calvary. Every word is in this sense an evangel; every act of power is as it were an anticipation of resurrection from the dead. The glorious Voice has to be hushed in silence, the Mighty One to be crucified through weakness, the Priest of men to offer up Himself, the Son of God to suffer as Son of man, the Seed of the woman to set a bruised heel upon the Serpent’s head. It is a conflict of good with evil, in which all vantage of power is to be on the side of evil, the victory gained by suffering, in the awful place in which the fire of God also searched out all the inward parts, and no deliverance could be but on the ground of absolute perfection—a whole burnt-offering, sweet savor every whit. He was “heard for His piety.” No grace could be in His case, but simple righteousness, which at last drew Him out and justified Him in resurrection from the dead.

Thus the pure white linen robe was seen to be upon Him before He entered the Sanctuary; but more,— the blood was provided: the penalty upon man was met, death and the forsaking of God,—the governmental penalty, and that which was and is the necessity of His nature,—of purer eyes than to behold iniquity and who cannot look at sin. Thus the hindrance—not to going (for He could always go) but to bringing into the sanctuary is removed: and this, of course, means His going in officially, as Priest for others. And thus it is that it is the blood of the sin-offering, (and only of that when in its fullest character,) not of any other, that opens the way into the sanctuary of God. For, sin being removed, God is free to draw near to men, free to admit men to draw near to Him: divine love is unhindered.

Thus propitiation was effected on earth, and resurrection had declared the justification of all who should believe on Him, before He ascended up to take His place for us before God. “He entered in once, into the holy place, having found eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12). In contrast with remission for a year, and annual entrances of the Jewish priests, only for the moment, He has entered in once for all, never needing to repeat a sacrifice which abides in its value before God continually.

It is as entering in thus that He is “saluted of God a high-priest after the order of Melchizedek;” and here several things have to be noted, which combine to make up the picture presented to us in the type.

But let us first take notice that the two words in Heb. 5: in our common version alike translated “called,” are by no means the same. The second word (ver. 10) is in the revised “named,” but would better be rendered “addressed” or “saluted.” It does not convey the thought of calling to an office, and it was not after His work had been accomplished, that the Lord’s priesthood began. Most certainly He was High-priest when He offered up Himself (Heb. 7:27), and the passage here says nothing to the contrary. But it is in resurrection that His priesthood assumes the character in which Melchizedek represents Him,—a royal priesthood, and with no shadow of death upon it.

A royal priesthood is certainly the Melchizedek order; it is doubly emphasized: in his name, “King of righteousness”; and then as “King of Salem,” that is, “King of peace.” This is what the apostle first of all dwells upon. It has been by some lost sight of, because the Lord’s human Kingdom is not yet come; but we are in “the Kingdom of God’s dear Son” (Col. 1:13), and the epistle to the Hebrews emphasizes His place as Son over the house of God (chap. 3:6). Thus He is surely a Royal Priest: with power in His hands exercised in priestly tenderness; righteousness and peace the characteristics of His rule.

Then Is a good boy “abideth a priest continually”; and as Melchizedek is presented to us in the history, without predecessor or successor, without beginning of days or end of life, in this he is “made (typically) like the Son of God” (Heb. 7:3). Levi, as the apostle reminds us, gave tithes in Abraham to this greater priest; and the Levitical priesthood are thus prefigured as to their relation to the antitypical Melchizedek.

Strikingly, in the history also, Melchizedek offers no sacrifice, but “brings forth bread and wine” for the refreshment of the man of faith. This the apostle neither comments upon nor notices; but he goes on to picture Christ as the Minister of the true tabernacle, the heavenly sanctuary where, of course, no sacrifices are offered. The bread and wine cannot fail to speak to our hearts of the memorial of that once offered sacrifice, which has left us now no sacrifices save that of praise and thanksgiving. Thus every way Melchizedek represents Christ in His relation to us now. That there is an application to millennial days, and His relation to Israel, is surely true; yet the whole connection in the book of Genesis presses rather upon us the Christian one. [12] Indeed the men of Aaron’s order, while they show us typically the work which opens the Sanctuary, have nothing to say of the Sanctuary open. Melchizedek may therefore fill a gap here, without in any wise displacing the Aaronic priesthood in whatever it can show us.

It is just here however that a mistake has been made in another direction which needs to be pointed out. It is that which would ascribe to the apostle a doctrine of the Lord not having been a Priest on earth, not even when offering up Himself upon the Cross; in direct contradiction of the whole typical system.

His words are very different from this: “For if He were on earth, He would not even be a priest, seeing that there are priests who offer gifts according to the law, who serve for representation and shadow of heavenly things.” He does not say that the Lord was not a Priest on earth; but having set Him before us as Minister of the true (antitypical) Tabernacle, he says, if He were on earth there would be no room for Him in the earthly one: for there the sons of Aaron fill everything according to the law. Surely nothing could be much more simple than such a statement.

But the work which He did upon earth had nothing to do with the Aaronic service, and answered to the work outside the sanctuary. Now He has finished this, it is the heavenly Sanctuary into which He has entered, and to which He belongs. “By one offering He has perfected in perpetuity those who are sanctified.” And in consequence, “such a High-priest becometh us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.”

All sin put perfectly away from every saint of God, our Priest in heaven is for saints, not sinners, for weakness, not for sin. His sacrifice is for sinners; His sympathy and intercession are for saints, amid the opposition and seductions of an evil world, in which He has Melchizedek-like refreshment for the tired warrior, and memorials of unutterable value for him who is exposed to the offers of the king of Sodom: food of the mighty which makes men that, and in the strength of which they may go, like Elijah to Horeb, many days.

But our Priest keeps open the Sanctuary also, that we may have access to God, and refuge in His presence from the world through which we pass. With a veil rent, and a great Priest over the house of God, we are encouraged to draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith.

12. “See Genesis in the light of the New Testament,” or The Numerical Bible, Vol. 1.

F W Grant