Chapter 2 Worship Through Our Lord's Priesthood

Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the…High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus (Hebrews 3:1).

Worship of the living God is possible only through a high priest. This was true in the Old Testament times of symbolic rites—the childhood period of human history. In the past, Aaron and his sons were chosen and consecrated to that office (Leviticus 8:22-23). In the spiritual worship of this present age—that is, worship in the Spirit and by the Spirit—we all have boldness to enter into the very presence of God because of our High Priest, Christ Jesus, and His completed work.

The main lesson of the Old Testament is Christ, set forth in types. Thus the priesthood of Aaron has much to teach us both by comparison and by contrast. It casts light and luster on our Lord’s office, which is the heart-blood of all God-given symbolism. The Aaronic symbols such as the sanctuary, the altar, the priests, the vestments, the sacrifices, all have been done away. What we have now is the reality of these things. All is in Christ, the fulfillment of all types and symbols. This teaching concerning the priesthood is spoken of as the strong meat of the Word, which produces spiritual maturity (Hebrews 5:11-14). It is therefore most important.

Worship Through the Jewish Priesthood

The Jewish high priest was chosen from among men. His work was to “offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins” to God on behalf of the people (Hebrews 5:1). The most important day in the life of the nation of Israel was the day of atonement. Aaron was first to slay the sin offering and with the blood of it to enter into the holiest. There he put sweet incense on the coals of fire taken from the altar. The resultant clouds of incense hid the glory of God “that he die not.”

He then sprinkled the blood of the sin offering on the ark, making a propitiation before God for his own and his people’s sins. Finally he came out, confessed the sins of his people, and transferred them, by the laying on of hands, to the live goat, which bore them away where they could never be found.

The qualifications for this office were: (1) that he have the grace of patience, so as to have “compassion on the ignorant”; (2) that he have a sense of human weakness, so as to understand the trials of his people; and (3) that he comprehend his own sin, so as not to become proud in his office and despise God’s people (Hebrews 5:2-3).

No man was allowed to take to himself the honor of the priesthood, but he who was chosen of God (Hebrews 5:4). It was necessary that blood be shed for sin; but, before forgiveness could be obtained, the high priest had to carry that shed blood within the veil and present it before God.

One of the most interesting points in the matter of the high priest’s vestments was the ephod. Attached to it were the shoulder stones and breastplate on which were engraved the names of the children of Israel. The ephod was made of threads of gold and also of ordinary spun threads of blue, purple, and scarlet, on a white background (Exodus 39:3), all of which are a rich garden of delight in pointing out features of Christ Jesus our Lord in His Person, and in His office as High Priest on behalf of His redeemed people.

Worship Through Christ’s High Priesthood

“So also Christ”—that is, He was chosen of God. He did not grasp for this honor. The Father conferred it (John 8:54). Unlike the Jewish high priests, He had no sin of His own to atone for, being the Son of God. He, being very God of very God, and true and perfect Man, is seen in the construction of the robe of the ephod. The gold of it signified the divine nature (Hebrews 1:8)—there being divine Sonship in His deity which was eternally pre-existent to His incarnation—and the ordinary spun threads spoke of His true manhood.

The prime qualification of our Lord was that He was “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15). This does not imply any weakness, but rather that in His earthly life He experienced all emergent human conditions: humble birth, poor environment, hunger, thirst, temptation, the care for a widow and children (since Joseph died early). In His public ministry He experienced homelessness, treachery of foes, desertion by friends, lack of understanding, and an early death. All these experiences were designed to make Him an understanding and sympathetic High Priest.

His high priesthood was different to that of Aaron’s. Jewish high priests could serve only for a limited period. Death interrupted their continuance. Nor could they ever sit down in their service in token of work accomplished. They always stood, for their work was never finished. There was no seat in the holiest for any Jewish high priest. He dared not sit. Also, the sacrifice of animal blood could never take away sins, but could only symbolically cover them until Christ came to make the perfect sacrifice.

Our Lord was never an Aaronic priest. He could not be a priest on earth of that order since He was of Judah and not of Levi, the priestly tribe.

It was necessary, therefore, that another priesthood should come into view. This was shown even before the Levitical priesthood came into being. It came in view in Melchizedek (Genesis 14) who was “Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually” (Hebrews 7:1-3). Thus our Lord was “a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 7:17).

In His resurrection our Lord ascended into the true tabernacle above and entered with His own precious blood which “cleanseth from all sin.” So He began in Heaven the high priestly ministry of His redeemed people, and became “the author of eternal salvation,” since He continues forever after the power of an endless life and has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is able to save to the uttermost of time (Hebrews 7:25-27).

It is because of His superior priesthood that we who believe may now draw near with boldness and do what none of the people of Israel dared to do: enter into the holiest of all (Hebrews 10:19-22). It is there that Jesus our Lord sits on the throne with the Father, having finished once and for all, and forever, the work of our redemption. Thus we may come and worship (Hebrews 9:26, 28; 10:10, 12, 14).

With joy we meditate the grace
Of our High Priest above;
His heart is filled with tenderness,
His very name is Love.

Touched with a sympathy within,
He knows our feeble frame:
He knows what sorest trials mean,
For He has felt the same!

But spotless, undefiled, and pure,
Our great Redeemer stood
No stain of sin did e’er defile
The holy Lamb of God.