Chapter 5

The subject of the priesthood of Christ, and His formal appointment to it by God, is here continued, with exhortations and admonitions to believers connected therewith.

Verses 1, 2.—Here we learn that the very idea of a priest is one who can “bear gently with the ignorant and the erring.” An angel would not have been fitted to fill the office: he could not have sympathized at all as he never suffered. Hence until the real High Priest became manifest, men were appointed to the priesthood, because they sympathised in measure. And so essential did God deem such sympathy to be, that until the true High Priest came, he allowed one fallen man to act as priest for others. Sometimes they failed, as in the case of Eli. When Hannah in the deep sorrow of her soul prayed in the temple, he said, “Put away the wine from thee.” He did not fully understand or sympathise. Now God has found One who has no infirmity, yet perfect sympathy, a High Priest just suited to us, able to take up the most difficult, most perplexing case, pledged to mercy and tender compassion for us, while yet upholding God’s high standard—“in things pertaining to God.” O to think of the love that found such a Priest for us! Have we ever fully perceived the love of God in that single act? He found a Saviour for us when we were lost and utterly ruined: He found a High Priest for us to succour and lift us up while passing through the wilderness, compassed with infirmity, subject to the assaults of enemies, wicked spirits puffing us up or casting us down, misapplying Scripture, and doing everything to keep us from enjoying God. O how good of God to find us One who will not leave us, or lose sight of us a moment, but guard and guide us all the way to our eternal home.

Verses 3-5.— Here we learn that Christ has been formally appointed by God to the priesthood. This was on His resurrection day, when God addressed Him in the words— “Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee.” He was God’s Son before creation, but here God having loosed the bands of death (Acts 2:24), and raised Him up, declares with power that He is His Son, His co-equal (Acts 13:33 with Rom. 1:4). And thus vindicated and honoured He is appointed by God to look after us. He knows exactly what we need, and has put all our interests in His care; they all devolve on Him. Only let us heed Him, follow Him within the vail, implicitly trust and obey Him, and we need fear no evil, for God, our own God, has crowned for us a Priest who will never leave us or lift His eye from us a moment until He has brought us where He is, to that very throne on which He sits.

Verses 7, 8.—“Who in the days of His flesh.” This refers to the time of His sojourn here, in contrast to the present period of His glorification at God’s right hand. He “learned “obedience then, qualifying for His priesthood. And such obedience as He rendered to God, in a wicked world, always doing what pleased Him, involved suffering. There can be no true obedience apart from suffering: to do the will of God, involves the Cross. The moment He voluntarily took the place of a servant (Phil, 2:7), He began to obey, and on He went, until His obedience was perfected. “He became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross “(verse 8). Step by step, trusting God who was able to save Him “out of death,” He went on learning obedience, suffering, yet never flinching from the path, able to say as the Cross drew near, “As the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do” (John 14:31). Now He has gone up on high to teach us obedience, and to lead us along the path that He Himself trod. We are here to learn His will, and to do it, and the more prompt we are to do, the more quickly we learn.

Verses 9, 10.—“Being made perfect” refers to His obedience. Essentially He was ever perfect, but He became perfectly fitted for the office of the priesthood by His obedience and suffering. “Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him.” People dream of a salvation from hell, but do not wish to be saved from disobedience, or self-will; but salvation is to those who “obey the Gospel,” and whose lives prove that they have Christ as their Lord. If a man does not obey, I have no right to assume he is a Christian at all.

“Called of God,” means, publicly greeted by God. O to think with what joy, with what acclamation He was received in heaven, when, having glorified God and accomplished redemption, He entered there. And that welcome of His to the very throne of the Majesty of the heavens, is the pledge of the welcome of His people there.

Verses 11-14.—From verse 11 to the end of chapter 6, forms a parenthesis, and consists of exhortations, admonitions, and warnings to us. Such pauses are of frequent occurence in this epistle (see chap. 2:1, 3:12, 10:19, 12:1, 13:13), and shew how intensely practical it is intended to be. The overpowering glory of this Great High Priest, so weighs upon the writer’s spirit, that he turns aside to exhort, and to warn those who were “dull of hearing,” and who, though possessed of Divine life, yet were making little progress toward maturity, and to warn against mere profession, which will end in apostacy.

Verses 12-14.—“For the time ye ought to be teachers,” not “when ye ought” There are few teachers; only those whom God fits and sends, may publicly teach. “Full age,” which is radically the same as “perfection “in chap. 6:1, shews that such maturity is what God expects of us. As we are occupied with Christ in glory, and see our perfect identification with Him there, we are by the Spirit and the Word, if we allow them to have their way in us, borne along—as the word implies— to that adult or full-grown state. To neglect this, and remain satisfied with the mere rudiments of Christian doctrine, is to be a “babe,” unexercised and unskilled in the word of righteousness, and half-hearted in discrimination between good and evil. By increased acquaintance with Christ, we gain an increased hatred of evil, and by reason of use, we become sensitive to righteousness. “Strong meat” is for the perfect, for those who have thus been borne along to maturity. To be mixed up with worldly or Judiaized Christianity, is to remain a babe, and to have no experience so as to be able to discriminate between good and evil.