Chapter 52 Our Great High Priest

Thou art a Priest forever (Hebrews 7:17).

Five times over—so that we will not miss the point—it is said of our Lord that He is a Priest forever. This was, in the first instance, the prophetic voice of the Psalmist, referring to the promised Messiah. It is most instructive to see how this great office was fulfilled in Him.

His Introduction to This Office

The high priest of old had to be chosen from among the people (Hebrews 5:1). No angel was fitted to fulfill such an office on behalf of men for no angel has human experience, for instance, of temptation. In order that the Son of God experience all human trials it was necessary for Him to become the Son of man (Hebrews 2:18).

To become our High Priest He had to be chosen of God. “No man taketh this honor unto himself, but He that is called of God” (Hebrews 5:4). No man could grasp at the high priesthood in Jewry, nor have friends to vote him into it, nor could he bribe his way to acquire it. The high priest was chosen of God. Thus in Old Testament times, Aaron and his family were chosen for this office. In the same way our Lord did not grasp for this office of eternal High Priest of the Church but was appointed by God. This office was then confirmed to the Lord Jesus by His resurrection. “Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee,” that is, He could only enter such an office after the total completion of redemption, and His High Priestly office was to be in a heavenly realm and not, as was the case in the Aaronic priesthood, in a mere earthly realm.

His Preparation for This Office

The Lord Jesus was prepared through sufferings and prayer to be the High Priest of His redeemed people. “For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Psalm 22 describes minutely those infinite sufferings, and in Hebrews 5:7 we read of the offering up of prayers “with strong crying and tears.”

Through the utmost exercise of prayer He was raised from the dead so that He might become the High Priest of His people. His prayer was that God would “save Him from death” (v. 7), that is, not that God would save Him from going into death but deliver Him out of it by resurrection. And “He was heard in that He feared.” Being thus raised, He became “the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him” (v. 9). By the power of an endless life He would be able to guard—to lead—to care for—His people throughout eternal ages.

The Uniqueness of This Office

The uniqueness of our Lord’s High Priesthood lies in the fact that it was not after the Levitical order but “after the order of Melchisedek” (Hebrews 5:6). Of Melchisedek it was said, “without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life” (7:3). This was spoken of Melchisedek, not because he was a Christophany, having the appearance but not the substance of a man, for the high priest was to be taken from “among men”—nor did those words indicate that these things were actually so, but rather that such facts were not recorded in Israel’s records of genealogy to which Melchisedek did not belong. It was thus that Melchisedek was made, in figure, “like unto the Son of God” (7:3) in Whom they were facts.

The Perfection of His Office

There were imperfections in the priests of Aaron. “If therefore perfection was by the Levitical priesthood … what further need was there that another Priest should arise after the order of Melchisedek?” (7:11). The Aaronic priests themselves were sinners so could not help the people keep a law which they themselves had broken. Two of Aaron’s sons even offered strange fire and died before the Lord for their impertinence (Numbers 3:4). Aaron himself sinned when he made a golden calf the object of worship (Exodus 32:1-6). Those priests operated under a mere symbolic system which offered but the blood of bulls and goats—sacrifices which come from a fallen creation and could never take away sins. Thus the law of Moses could not bestow eternal life on any man.

Our Lord was not of that order. This even David, in Psalm 110, recognized and spoke of a different priesthood. Our Lord had no sin of His own to atone for. He made no sacrifice for Himself as did the Levitical priests. We who believe in the Lord Jesus are not now under the law of Moses but under law to Christ. His offering on our behalf is not that of the blood of animals but of His own precious blood which cleanses from all sin (7:11-19).

The Perpetuity of This Office

Our Lord’s High Priesthood is eternal. “The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedek.” When the Scripture says, “The Lord sware,” it means He will never change His mind. There is to be no cessation of our Lord’s office as High Priest. There can never be another to take His place. This oath of God indicates the valuableness and unchanging character of our Lord’s priesthood. There is no other. We need no other.

Then again, the sons of God become priests. It was God’s original thought that all of Israel be a kingdom of priests. But Israel failed. Now in Christ all the redeemed are made a kingdom of priests. As such we are to reign with Him and function with Him as priests through the eternal ages which are to come.

Where high the heavenly temple stands,
The house of God not made with hands,
A great High Priest our nature wears,
The Guardian of mankind appears.

He who for men their Surety stood
And poured on earth His precious blood,
Pursues in heaven His mighty plan,
The Saviour and the Friend of man.

In every pang that rends the heart
The Man of Sorrows has a part;
He sympathizes with our grief,
And to the sufferer sends relief.

With boldness, therefore, at the throne
Let us make all our sorrows known;
And ask the aid of heavenly power
To help us in the evil hour.

—Scottish Paraphrases