“Perfect Priest, Part 2” – Hebrews 5:1-10

September 23rd, 2018

Hebrews 5:1-10

“Perfect Priest – Pt 2”

Aux. Texts:  Deuteronomy 9:11-29

Call to Worship:  Psalm 110


Service Orientation: Jesus is the perfect priest because He has been called by God to identify with mankind and be a perfect sacrifice so He can be a mediator and intercessory for man before God.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week: Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.— Hebrews 5:8-10


Background Information:

  • The Epistle to the Hebrews stands alone among the NT books in calling Christ priest. The cause for this neglect may perhaps be found in the history of the Jewish people.  Throughout the ages the Jews had expected a king from David’s house.  This king would deliver them from foreign oppression.  And this king, because David’s line was from the tribe of Judah, could not be a priest; priests were descendants of Aaron in the tribe of Levi.  Therefore, Jesus was known as king.  At his birth the wise men called him “king of the Jews” (Mt 2:2), and this appellation was commonplace during the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.  He was not known as priest.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 135)
  • Did those Hebrew Christians want to revert to Judaism with its high priesthood? Here is a high priest far greater, one who is appointed forever.  Here is one whose priesthood goes back far before Aaron’s and combines both a king’s power and a priest’s sacrifice, just as with Melchizedek in the days of Abraham. (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 49)
  • If we bracket the exhortation running from 5:11-6:20, the exposition in 5:1-7:28 may be divided into three subparts. The passage under consideration, 5:1-10, provides an introduction on the topic of Christ’s appointment as a Melchizedekan high priest.  Heb 7:1-10 continues with a discussion on the superiority of Melchizedek to the old covenant priesthood, and 7:11-28 concludes with proclamation of Christ, our Melchizedekan priest, as superior to the Levitical priesthood.  Heb 5:1-10, therefore, introduces the reader to a discussion of the Son’s appointment as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 186)
  • (v. 1) God did not choose angels to be priests. Angels do not have the nature of men.  They cannot truly understand men and they do not have open communication with men.  Only a man could be subject to the temptations of men, could experience suffering like men, and thereby be able to minister to men in an understanding and merciful way.  Only a man could rightly minister on behalf of men.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 119)
  • (v. 2) Metriopathe , besides meaning “to deal gently,” also means to treat with mildness or moderation. In the context of Heb 5:2, it can carry the idea of being in the middle of things–in two ways.  First is the meaning of being in the midst of, being fully involved.  The other is that of taking a middle ground–of knowing and understanding, but of avoiding extremes.  A person with this characteristic would, for example, show a certain balance between irritation and apathy in the face of wrongdoing.  He would be patient with the wrongdoer but not condone the wrong, be understanding but not indulgent.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 121)
  • (v. 3) The Levitical high priests were sinners and therefore in need of atonement no less than the people on whose behalf they ministered. Hence the imperfection of that system with its constantly repeated sacrifices which could never take away sins and cleanse the conscience (cf. Heb 10:1-11).  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 177)
  • (v. 4) Scripture records the disaster that came upon men who tried to take the honor upon themselves: Korah (Nm 16), Saul (1 Sm 13:8-14), and Uzziah (2 Chr 26:16-21). (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 64)

(v. 4) Considering the strictness of God’s law, and the specified requirements for one entering the priestly office, and more especially seeing that Jesus did not belong to the tribe of Levi, how could He be said to be “Priest?”  In meeting this difficulty, the apostle emphasizes the fact that the chief requirement and qualification was a Divine call:  “No man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God” (v. 4): applying that rule the apostle now shows, from Scripture itself, our Lord’s right and title to this office.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 237-8)

  • (v. 6) We first see Melchizedek as the king-priest of Jerusalem. When Abraham was returning from rescuing Lot from the five kings who had taken him captive, his caravan was halted by this “priest of God Most High.”  Then Abraham did an astonishing thing–he paid tithes to this priest (Gn 14:18-20).  It is remarkable to find a passage in the Law which speaks of a priesthood existing before the time of Aaron, and to see him receive tithes from no less a person than the father of the nation of Israel.  Abraham, a godly man, wouldn’t pay tithes to just anyone.  It is not unlikely that our writer was the first person to connect the king-priest references to Melchizedek with Christ.  This, of course, makes His priesthood both ROYAL and PERPETUAL, thereby surpassing the priesthood of Aaron in both rank and dignity.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 112-3)
  • (v. 6) The subject of Christ’s high priesthood in the order of Melchizedek is deep. In fact, the writer of Hebrews calls it “hard to explain” (Heb 5:11), although after a pastoral word to his readers he does explain it fully.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 140)
  • (v. 6) He was king of Salem (the ancient name for Jerusalem) and was a priest of the true God (Gn 14:18). He lived many centuries before the Aaronic priesthood was established and his priesthood was unending (Heb 7:3), unlike that of Aaron, which began in the time of Moses and ended in A.D. 70, when the Temple was destroyed.  His priesthood, therefore, was superior to Aaron’s in two ways.  Melchizedek was a king, whereas Aaron was not, and his priesthood was perpetual, whereas Aaron’s was temporary.  Melchizedek’s priesthood, therefore, is a better picture of Christ’s than even that of Aaron.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 123)
  • (v. 7) He cast himself upon a God who was able to save him. But he was not saved!  Was even the prayer of Jesus unanswered?  Surely it was answered, not by relieving Christ of the agony of the cross, but by giving him strength for it and peace in it.  In those crucial moments help came.  God sent his own messenger to strengthen him.  And peace came too.  It is grammatically possible to translate verse 7: “. . . and being heard was set free from fear.”  (John Brown, Geneva Series Commentaries: Hebrews, 99-100)
  • (v. 8) The verb translated “learned” is manthanō, which means here not simply “to acquire book smarts,” but “to come to a realization. . . less through instruction than through experience or practice.” (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews, 81)

(v. 9) The word perfect is one of the keywords of the Epistle.  It occurs thirteen times.  Four times in regard to the OT, which could make nothing perfect.  The law made nothing perfect (Heb 7:19).  Sacrifices that cannot, as touching the conscience, make the worshiper perfect (9:9).  The law can never make perfect them that draw nigh (10:1).  That apart from us they should not be made perfect (11:40).  As great as is the difference between a promise and its fulfillment, or hope and the thing hoped for, between the shadow and substance, is the difference between the Old and New Testament.  The law made nothing perfect:  it was only meant to point to something better, to the perfection Jesus Christ was to bring.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 187)

  • (v. 9) He was not, of course, made perfect in the sense of having His nature improved. He was eternally perfect in righteousness, holiness, wisdom, knowledge, truth, power, and in every other virtue and capability.  Neither His nature nor His person changed.  He became perfect in the sense that He completed His qualification course for becoming the eternal High Priest.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 125)


The question to be answered is . . . What does the author of Hebrews want us to know about Jesus?


Answer:  Jesus is superior to everything.  Especially Aaron and the priesthood.  As a priest in the order of Melchizedek He is able to sympathetically and sacrificially mediate for man before God.


The priests under the Old Covenant were bridge builders to God.  Men could not come directly into God’s presence, and God therefore appointed certain men to be ushers, as it were, to bring men into His presence.  The way to God was opened only as the priests offered sacrifices–day in and day out, year after year–presenting the blood of animals to God.  The priests were God’s mediators.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 118)


There are three chief offices which Christ holds as Mediator:  He is prophet, priest and potentate.  But there is an importance, a dignity and a blessedness (little as carnal reason may be able to perceive it) attaching to His priestly office which does not belong to the other two.  Scripture furnishes three proofs of this.  First, we never read of “our great prophet,” or “our great King,” but we do of “our great High Priest” (Heb 4:14)!  Second, the Holy Spirit nowhere affirms that Christ’s appointment to either His prophetic or His kingly office “glorified” Him; but this is insisted upon in connection with His call to the sacerdotal office (5:5)!  Third, we read not of the dread solemnity of any divine “oath” in connection with His inauguration to the prophetic or the kingly office, but we do His priestly–“The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, thou art a priest forever.” (Ps 110:4)!  Thus the priesthood of Christ is invested with supreme importance.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 238-9)


The Melchizedek priesthood of Christ is shown to be superior to the Levitical priesthood in four ways:  (1) it is forever, unbroken by genealogical beginning or end, 7:1-3 (on this analogy cf. Ladd, 579f.; the author certainly knew Jesus had human parents; cf. 7:14); (2) Levi (in Abraham’s loins) offered sacrifice to Melchizedek, the lesser to the greater, 7:4-10; (3) the promise (Ps 110:4) of another order to supersede the Levitical makes clear its imperfection, 7:11-14; and (4) the Melchizedek priesthood was attained, not by “the law of a fleshly commandment” (7:16, lit. tr.), but by the power of an endless life, 7:15-19.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, 964)


The apostle shows that the Christian economy is deficient in nothing excellent to be found in the Mosaic; on the contrary, that it has a more dignified High Priest, a more magnificent temple, a more sacred altar, a more efficacious sacrifice; and that, to the spiritually enlightened mind, all the temporary splendors of the Mosaic typical ceremonial, wax dim and disappear amid the overwhelming glories of the permanent realities of the Christian institution” (Dr. John Brown).  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 226)


First, Aaron was but a man (v. 1); Christ, the “Son.”  Second, Aaron offered “sacrifices” (v. 1); Christ offered one perfect sacrifice, once for all.  Third, Aaron was “compassed with infirmity” (v. 2); Christ was the “mighty” One (Ps 89:19).  Fourth, Aaron needed to offer for his own sins (v. 3); Christ was sinless.  Fifth, Aaron offered a sacrifice external to himself; Christ offered Himself.  Sixth, Aaron effected only a temporary salvation. Christ secured an eternal one.  Seventh, Aaron’s atonement was for Israel only, Christ’s for “all them that obey Him.”  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 258)


A high priest had two primary jobs:  representing God to the people by teaching the word of God, and representing the people to God in making atonement for their sins (Lv 1–4; 16).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 62)


Jesus’ priestly office was prophesied, says our writer, in Ps 110:4–“you are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”  This was a bombshell statement to his hearers because, while Ps 110:1 had been applied to Christ by others (and even in Heb 1:13), this is the first time Jesus was ever identified with the mysterious priesthood of Melchizedek!  Not only that, but Ps 110:4 now becomes the virtual theme-text of the heart of the letter to Hebrews (that text is quoted three times, in 5:6; 7:17, 21; and there are an additional eight allusions to it in chapters 5 and 6).  It is especially important here to realize that Melchizedek, according to Genesis 14, was both king of Salem and priest of God Most High (Gn 14:18; Heb 7:1).

So our author gives us a stupendous truth:  Jesus is both eternal King and eternal priest.  And it all came to him by the ordaining word of God the Father.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 140)


The Word for the Day is . . . Mediator


Why do we need a mediator in regard to God?


Mediator = Gk mesitees (Gal 3:19-20; 1 Tm 2:5; Heb 8:6; 9:15; 12:24) a go between.  Someone who intervenes to bring about reconciliation


By mediating between two persons, the mediator is also to be a representative of both sides.  Thus, he can give a guarantee in both directions that some kind of agreement can be reached and that justice will be done.  (Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible – M-P, 150)


Mediation in the general sense, therefore, esp. as it gets closer to a religious understanding, has to do with establishing and maintaining some kind of relationship between God and man.  It is the assumption of every religion that this gulf, however wide, is bridgeable.  (Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible – M-P, 150)


In the Bible, beginning with creation, all intercourse between God and mankind occurs within the framework of the COVENANT.  Mankind is created and elected to express love and obedience always within the definite form of a covenant established by God’s grace that calls for a response of love and trust.  The covenant is the context of the office of mediator.  The OT constantly reveals humans as hopelessly unable to fulfil their part in the covenant relationship within which they are meant to find true health and destiny.  God never breaks the covenant, but in the history of Israel the people constantly repudiated it and called it into question.  Thus God called and authorized mediators to restore the broken covenant in His name and by His grace, so that the people could again enter into relationship with Him, claim the covenant promises, seek afresh to keep the commandments given with the covenant, and fulfil their calling as the chosen people of the covenant.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Volume Three, 300)


A mediator (mesites) is one who interposes between two parties at variance to reconcile them.  To mediate is to act as the as the intermediary in effecting peace or reconciliation (Augustine, CG, FC 14, 99-101, 303-308, 335ff.; Tho. Aq., ST III, Q26.1, II, 2158).  In the political sphere, a mediator intervenes between quarreling, alienated powers so that by means of the reconciling offices of mediation, the quarrel may end.  (Thomas C. Oden, The Word of Life, Systematic Theology: Vol. Two, 101-2)


Greek mesites, “mediator,” is used six times in the NT (Gal 3:19f.; 1 Tm 2:5; Heb 8:6; 9:15; 12:24).  In Hellenistic Greek it has the sense of umpire, arbitrator, or negotiator for peace.  It can also refer to the security or guarantee for an agreement.  (See TDNT, IV, 599-601)  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Volume Three, 300)


“To establish a relation” between two hitherto unrelated entities, “to mediate” their coming together.  (Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament – Volume IV, 601)


How is Jesus a superior mediator for man before God?:

I-  Jesus is called by God to mediate for mankind through His passionate and effective prayers and petitions.  (Heb 5:1, 3, 7; see also: Mt 26:36-46; Mk 14:32-42; Lk 22:39-46; Jn 17:4; 2 Cor 3:6; Heb 8:6; Jam 5:13-18)  


In the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before He went to the cross, Jesus prayed and agonized so intensely that He sweat great drops of blood.  His heart was broken at the prospect of bearing sin.  He felt the power of sin and He felt temptation.  He cried.  He shed tears.  He hurt.  He grieved.  What He had always known in His omniscience, He learned in a new way on earth by experience.  He could not have been a fully sympathetic high priest had He not experienced what we experience and felt what we feel.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 124)


Had Christ died privately in a garden (or in his bed), or even publicly by the hand of an assassin, the true significance of his death would not have been apparent.  He might have been mourned as a good man or venerated as a hero.  But something more than, so to speak, mere dying was required.  A judicial process leading to his condemnation, while plainly innocent, as a common criminal and his public execution as such were a necessity, so that it might be seen that his death was the sacrifice of the innocent for the guilty.  The cross, being both the symbol and the reality of the greatest possible shame, assures us, further, that the reconciling grace of God which flows from it reaches to the most wretched and depraved of sinners.  Hence the rightness of the judgment that, had Christ died in the Garden of Gethsemane, “he could not have made atonement on the cross, and so his whole life’s work would have been frustrated.”  But the opinion that the cup which he prayed might be removed from him was that of his private and premature death in the garden is unacceptable, because it is clear throughout the Gospels that the cup he had come to drain was that of his substitutionary blood-shedding on the cross (cf. Mt 20:22; 26:39, 42; Mk 14:36; Lk 22:42; Jn 18:11).  From the beginning there was but one cup, the cup of the cross, and but one way, the way of the cross, with the consequence that only he who takes up his cross and follows Christ is worthy of him (Mt 10:38; 16:24; Mk 8:34; Lk 9:23; 14:27).  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 185-6)


We have no intercourse with God, except there be a priest; for, as we are unholy, what have we to do with holy things?  (John Calvin, Commentaries: Hebrews, 114)


All Israel’s priests were to come only through divine appointment (Ex 28:1-3; cf. Lv 8:1ff.; Nm 16:5; 20:23ff.; 25:10ff.).  Attempts to do otherwise met with catastrophic judgment.  Korah and his 250 followers were swallowed by the earth because they elevated themselves to the priestly office by burning unauthorized incense (Nm 16:16-40).  Saul lost his reign because he impatiently assumed Samuel’s priestly function (1 Sm 13:8ff.).  And Uzziah, wrongly utilizing a priestly censer, broke out with leprosy that lasted until his dying day (2 Chr 26:16-21).  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 139)


The solidarity factor was essential to effective priestly ministry, as it is today in pastoral ministry, and the universal requirement is, as it has always been, a real man with a real link to God and a real bond to man.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 137)


Because he was completely attuned and perfectly submissive to his Father’s holy will, Jesus’ prayer was heard and answered.  The Father’s answer was not to relieve his Son of the cross, but to ready him for it, even sending an angel from heaven to strengthen him (Lk 22:43).  (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 50)


The dread with which he approached the cross is explained, as Calvin says, by the fact that in the death that awaited him “he saw the curse of God and the necessity to wrestle with the total sum of human guilt and with the very powers of darkness themselves.”  The “loud cries and tears” which accompanied Christ’s supplication are to be understood, then, in relation to the indescribable darkness of the horror that he, our High Priest, was to pass through as, on the cross, he bore not only the defilement and guilt of the world’s sin but also its judgment.  At Gethsemane and at Calvary we see him enduring our hell to that we might be set free to enter into his heaven.  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 183)


If you are afraid that your prayers are shut out from heaven, remember how the Savior complains in Ps 22, “O my God, I call by day and you do not answer, and by night but I have no rest.”  He was heard in the end, but at the first He seemed to plead in vain.  Jesus prayed under discouragements:  What He did Himself He will help you to do.  He knows what the agony of prayer means, and He will cast a brother’s eye on you when in the bitterness of your repentance you seek the Lord.  How clear it is that we have a suitable High Priest, of tender heart and loving soul!  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 133)


By way of setting or context, therefore, the use of mediator or mediation, as generally used, is a “go-between.”  In religion in general, man’s reaching up and God’s reaching down are understandable, but impossible because of sin.  In the Bible, specifically, it can be seen that man ought to obey and therefore, by nature, does not need a mediator; but as a matter of fact, he sins himself into such a necessity.  The solution for his problem, therefore, rests in the act of God, not in the potential in man, so that even Israel, with every support, never made good.  Mediator and mediation, therefore, in Biblical usage, become a necessity of operation from God’s position, not man’s.  (Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, 151)


Jesus Christ the mediator is true God (1 Tm 3:16; 1 Cor 8:5f.; 2 Cor 3:14) and true man (1 Tm 2:5; Gal 4:4; Jn 1:14.  The NT stresses the significance of the humanity in which Jesus Christ fulfils the covenant of grace and thus takes upon Himself the mediatorship of the covenant.  It acknowledges the individual and Jewish character of His humanity (cf. Rom 1:3; 9:5), but it also affirms of the same humanity that it has a universal characteristic, which gives its career and destiny a significance for all people.  Christ is the Second Adam, the archetype and representative man (Rom 5:15-21; 1 Cor 15:22, 45).  The title “Son of man” includes the concept of an individual in whose person and glorious destiny His people are also involved (Mk 14:62; Mt 19:28; 24:27; Dn 7:9-22).  The idea of the recapitulation and inherence of “all things” in Christ (Eph 1:10; Col 1:17) as the head of the new humanity (Eph 1:22; 4:13-16; Col 1:18; 2:19; 3:10f.) also witnesses to the universal significance of His human nature and work.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Volume Three, 303)


Never had He disobeyed God.  Now He was about to learn how bitter obedience can be.  He shrank from that “cup,” nevertheless He submitted saying, “Not My will, but Thine be done.”  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 115)


Why did God set up the priesthood?  God had originally intended that his chosen people be a “kingdom of priests” with both the nation as a whole and each individual dealing directly with God.  But the people’s sin prevented this from happening because a sinful person is not worthy to approach a perfect God.  God then appointed priests from the tribe of Levi and set up the system of sacrifices to help the people approach him.  He promised to forgive the people’s sins if they would offer certain sacrifices administered by the priests on behalf of the people.  Through these priests and their work, God wished to prepare all people for the coming of Jesus Christ, who would once again offer a direct relationship with God for anyone who would come to him.  But until Christ came, the priests were the people’s representatives before God.  Through this OT system, we can better understand the significance of what Christ did for us (see Heb 10:1-14).  (Life Application Study Bible, 1991, 149)


The author of this epistle (Hebrews) argues that though the OT priesthood finds its strength and authority in the law, it cannot bring perfection.  This can be achieved only by the distinguished High Priest, even Christ.  For Paul the law is weak because man does not do it, for the author of Hebrews it is weak because man does it.

Paul and the author of Hebrews agree that the true purpose of the law is to point the sinner to Christ in order that through Him he may find access to God.  It is only through the high-priestly ministry of Jesus that man may approach the Holy God.  (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 3, 896)


Lv 8 and 9 describe the ordination ceremony for Aaron and his sons.  They were washed with water (Lv 8:6), clothed with special garments (Lv 8:7-9), and anointed with oil (Lv 8:12).  They placed their hands on a young bull as it was killed (Lv 8:14-15) and on two rams as they were killed (Lv 8:18-19, 22-23).  This showed that holiness came from God alone, not from the priestly role.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 65)


From the beginning of the priesthood, the priests not only were to minister for God but by His appointment.  When Korah, Dathan, and Abiram insisted on trying to democratize the priesthood and claimed that any Israelite could be a priest, the Lord caused the earth to swallow them up (Nm 16).  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 120)


Men admire an iron duke for war, but who could bear an iron priest in the hour of trouble?  A brazen wall is good for a defense, but we need a breast of flesh and blood for consolation.  Give me for a spiritual comforter and guide, not an infallible pontiff, nor a thrice-crowned spiritual lord, but a brother of my own condition, a friend possessed of a nature like my own.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 120)


Sin created a breech between a holy God and His sinful creatures.  Were God to advance toward them in His essential character it could only be in judgment, involving their sure destruction; for He “will by no means clear the guilty” (Ex 34:7).  Nor was the sinner capable of making the slightest advance toward God, for he was “alienated from the life of God” (Eph 4:18), and thus, “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1); and as such, not only powerless to perform a spiritual act, but completely devoid of all spiritual aspirations.  Looked at in himself, the case of fallen man was utterly hopeless.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 248)


When one is truly aware that he or she is a sinner, and couples this with the interior awareness of human weakness, this person will deal gently with others.  Conversely, a harsh, judgmental, unsympathetic spirit is a telltale indication that one has outgrown his sense of weakness and awareness of sin.  Many evangelicals fall to this syndrome after humbly coming to Christ at conversion, for their initial experience of sanctification deludes them into imagining they are better than others.  Such arrogation, however, actually disqualifies them from spiritual ministry.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 138-9)


Under the old economy, even after the covenants with Abraham and with Moses, God was unapproachable.  At the Fall, God drove Adam and Eve out of the garden and man no longer had access to the Lord’s presence.  In the wilderness, the people were warned not to come too near Sinai, where God chose to manifest Himself to Moses when giving the covenant of the law.  In the Tabernacle and in the Temple God was behind a veil and could be approached only through the high priest.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 119)


II-  Jesus is called by God to mediate for mankind through offering gifts and sacrifices as He became a perfect and obedient sacrifice and therefore the source of eternal salvation.  (Heb 5:1, 8; see also: Isa 53; Mt 26:27-28; Jn 17:4; 1 Cor 11:24-25; Gal 3:13, 19-20; 1 Tm 2:5-6; Heb 8:6; 9:14-15; 10:1-11;12:24)


Priests in whom there was any notable bodily defect are here forbidden from approaching the altar.  I will not curiously inquire into the defects which Moses enumerates, since the same rule is here laid down, which is afterwards applied to the sacrifices, whereof none but perfect ones were to be offered.  For God rejected whatever was defective or mutilated, in order that the Israelites might know that no victim would suffice for the expiation of sin, except such as possessed complete perfection; and this is justly required in a priest, who cannot be a mediator between God and men unless he is free from every spot.  But the analogy must be kept in view between the external figures and the spiritual perfection which existed only in Christ.  God could bear no defect in the priests; it follows, then, that a man of angelic purity was to be expected, who should reconcile God to the world.  (John Calvin, Commentaries on The Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Form of a Harmony, 239)


Yet, as the incarnate Son who fully shares our humanity, it was essential to his work as mediator and redeemer that he should accumulate the perfection of obedience, through his undeviating conquest of temptation, preparatory to the culminating act of his obedience on the cross, where he offered himself to the Father as a sacrifice for sinful and disobedient mankind (2:14ff.).  In its furthest reference, Christ’s obedience was “obedience unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8; cf. 12:2 below).  As the incarnate Son, then, it was absolutely necessary for him to learn obedience, since his obedience was essential for the offsetting of our disobedience.  Accordingly, the apostle Paul teaches that “as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Rom 5:19).  The coming of Christ, therefore, itself an act of obedience, meant his choosing the way of suffering; not, however, like the sinful sons of men, the suffering of painful correction, but the suffering involved in the conquest of sin, and above all the suffering of the cross where he, the obedient Son, offered himself on behalf of us who are disobedient sons (cf. 1 Pt 3:18).  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 187)


A priest is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God (Heb 5:1).  His ultimate purpose is to bring men to God (cf. 7:25) and thereby bring them to perfection, or completion (10:14; cf. 2:10; 9:9; 10:1; 11:40; 12:23).  The priest does not take this prerogative upon himself; he must have divine appointment (5:4).  The way he brings men to God is by offering sacrifices for sins (5:1; 8:3; 9:7, 13).  The priest, too, is a man and a sinner; therefore he must offer up sacrifices for himself as well (5:2, 3; 7:27; 9:7).  This turns out to be the basic limitation of the OT system.  An imperfect priest can only offer imperfect sacrifices (9:11-14; 10:1-4).  Therefore, both the covenant on which his priesthood is based (8:6ff.) And the Holy Place in which it is performed (9:11) are imperfect.  Finally, the net result is imperfect.  The old system “can never…make perfect those who draw near” (10:1).

Thus priests, because of their sinfulness, are subject to death; they come and go (7:23).  Their sacrifices are repeated daily and annually; but man is not perfected (9:9, 10).  Therefore, the old is only a type (a shadow) of the real who was to come (9:23, 24; 10:1).  In this frame of reference the author views the genuine, but sinless, humanity of Christ in light of His exaltation, and in an argument at once deeply perceptive and richly varied sees Him as both the ultimate priest and the end of the priestly system.

He is the ultimate priest because by His death He ratified a new covenant (9:15-22), toward which the OT itself had looked (8:8-13).  Moreover, God had promised that the Messianic king would also be “a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek” (Ps 110:4).  Such a promise indicates the imperfection of the old Aaronic order (Heb 7:11-14).  It is Jesus who perfectly “fulfills” this promise.  (Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible Vol 4, 851)


It cost Jesus the cross to obey God.  To Him, learning and dying were the same thing.  When He died He learned the price tag of complete obedience.  Why is this vital?  Because the Lord asks the same thing of us.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 117)


Obedience has to be learned experimentally.  If a man is to learn a trade thoroughly, he must be apprenticed to it.  A soldier, sitting at home and reading books, will not learn the deadly art of war.  He must go to the barracks, and the camp, and the field of battle if he is to win victories and become a veteran.  The dry land sailor, who has never even been in a boat, would not know much about navigation, study hard as he might; he must go to sea to be a sailor.

So obedience is a trade to which a man must be apprenticed until he has learned it, for it is not to be known in any other way.  Even our blessed Lord could not have fully learned obedience by the observation in others of such an obedience as He had personally to render, for there was no one from whom He could thus learn.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 126)


It is clear from His own words that He dreaded the bitter “cup” He was about to drink (Mt 26:39).  That cup was the wrath of God against all sinners.  To drink it meant spiritual death, i.e., separation from God.  For Jesus, Who knew no sin, to become as the ONLY sinner in the world and endure God’s wrath for that sin, was something from which He cringed in horror.  We can’t fathom what it must be like for God to lay the “iniquity of us all,” on someone Who was holy.  We must see Him as a man, appalled by what was ahead of Him.  The very thought of separation from God must have seemed too much for Him to bear–yet He surrendered.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 114)


But with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, need for the Temple and for the Levitical priesthood was ended.  There was no longer a requirement for a high priest such as those who succeeded Aaron, or for any human priest at all.  Jesus was both High Priest and sacrifice, and provided eternally for man an opening into God’s presence.  At His crucifixion, the curtain of the Temple was torn in two, exposing the Holy of Holies to anyone who would come to God through the Son.  In one perfect act of sacrifice, Jesus Christ accomplished what thousands upon thousands of sacrifices by a multitude of priests never accomplished.  He opened the way to God permanently, so that any man at any time by faith in Christ might enter into God’s presence.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 118)



Unlike an ancient prince, on whom positions were bestowed by lineage, this divine Son was called to walk a path of obedience through suffering.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 190-1)


In the creation, the Lord made man like himself; but in the redemption he made himself like man.  –John Brys


Gethsemane was the training-school where our High Priest, made like to us in all things, learnt His last and most difficult lesson of obedience through what He suffered.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 184)


When Luke says that Jesus advanced in learning (2:52), he means that by a progressive process he showed by his obedience to the Father’s will a continuous making of God’s will his own, reaching its climax in his approach to death.  The cry of acceptance in the garden of Gethsemane was the concluding evidence of the Son’s obedience to the Father.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 131)


The high priest was something far above all, with the radical problem of human sinfulness and the need of the people for reconciliation with God.  This was the intent of all his sacerdotal actions, which reached their highest expression on that one day in the year when the sins of the people were confessed over the head of the scapegoat and the blood of sacrifice was sprinkled on the mercy seat within the holy of holies for the purpose of making an atonement, “because of the uncleanness of the people of Israel, and because of their transgressions, all their sins” (Lv 16:16).  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 176)


On the Day of Atonement, while decked out in his spectacular priestly robes, he had to kill a bull for his own personal sins and his family’s sins.  In slaughtering the bull, he would lay his hands on its head and confess his sins.  The Mishna records this prayer by the priest, which probably reflects something of the ancient Aaronic prayer:

O God, I have committed iniquity and transgressed and sinned before thee, I and my house and the children of Aaron, thy holy people.  O God, forgive, I pray, the iniquities and transgressions and sins which I have committed and transgressed and sinned before thee, I and my house.”  (M Yoma 4:2)

This was followed by the high priest taking the blood of the sacrifice into the Holy of Holies and sprinkling some on the mercy-seat, and then sprinkling more seven times before the seat (Lv 16:7-14, esp. v. 14; cf. 4:3-12; 9:7).  It was only after taking care of his own sins that he dared offer sacrifice for his people on the Day of Atonement.  The ideal high priest knew he was a sinner through and through–and thus was equipped to “deal gently” with his sinful people.  He did not elevate himself above them, but ministered with sympathetic grace as a priestly sinner in behalf of other sinners.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 137-8)


All the priests of all time could not provide eternal salvation.  They could only provide momentary forgiveness.  But by one act, one offering, one sacrifice, Jesus Christ perfected forever those who are His.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 125)


Worship Point:  Worship the God Who loves us so much that He appointed and called His Son to become a Mediator for mankind before God.


Gospel Application:  Jesus is the only one who could perfectly mediate between mankind and God so as to achieve eternal salvation.  (Jn 14:6; Acts 4:12)


Jesus was, and ever is, a mightier intercessor than Moses was.  He never fails through weariness to plead on our behalf (Mt 26:36-38; Heb 5:7; 7:25).  Through the shedding of His blood, Jesus completed a covenant between God and man, and now intercedes for His church at the right hand of the Father.  (Herbert Lockyer, All the Messianic Prophecies of the Bible, 224)


Spiritual Challenge: Just as Jesus learned obedience through suffering, so do we who are “in Christ.”  We, like Christ, are perfected through suffering.  (Rom 5:1-5; Jam 1:2-4)


Like Jesus, believers often learn obedience through their suffering (see 12:2-11).  This example from Christ encouraged the readers to remain firm and not drift away from the faith in times of suffering.  Just as Christ was perfected through his suffering, so Christians will be, too.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 68)


These words refer to His life on earth and specially to the scene in Gethsemane.  “A careful and reverent study will reveal that this incident was the effort by which the will of Christ rose into unity with the will of His Father.  It belongs to the very essence of human nature that it must grow from stage to stage; and the perfection of our Lord, just because it was human, had to realize itself on every step of a ladder of development.  He was always both perfect on the stage which He had reached, and at the same time rising to a higher stage of perfection.”  –Stalker  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 184)


I think that health is the greatest blessing that God ever sends us, except sickness, which is far better.  I would give anything to be perfectly healthy; but if I had to go over my time again, I could not get on without those sick beds and those bitter pains, and those wary, sleepless nights.  Oh, the blessedness that comes to us through smarting, if we are ministers and helpers of others, and teachers of the people!  I do not say that too much of it is to be desired, but the Lord knows how much is too much, and He will never afflict us beyond what He will enable us to bear.  But just a touch of sickness now and then may help you mightily.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 132)


This daily process of learning to relinquish my will to the will of God demands a maturation that moves me beyond the limitations of emotions.  I must be able to say “yes” to the heavenly Father and his ways in the face of emotion-twisting pulls and poundings by the world.  H. A. Hodges writes, “By our steady adherence to God when the affections [i.e., emotions] are dried up, and nothing is left but the naked will clinging blindly to him, the soul is purged of self-regard and trained in pure love.”  May we be so trained.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 199)


To obey Christ is in its very essence to trust Him, or believe in Him; and we might read our text as if it said, “The author of eternal salvation to all those who believe in him.”  If you would be saved, your first act of obedience must be to trust Jesus wholly, simply, heartily, and alone.  Recline your soul wholly on Jesus and you are saved now.  Is that all?  Certainly, that is all!  But it says “obey”?  Precisely so; and do you not know that every man who trusts Christ obeys Him?  The moment you put yourself into His hands you must obey Him, or you have not trusted Him.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 126)


The obedience mentioned here of those who obey Him is not that regarding commandments, rules, and regulations.  It is not obedience to the law.  It is “the obedience of faith” (Rom 1:5).  God wants us to obey Him by believing in Christ.  True obedience, just as true works, is first of all true believing.  “This is the work of God,” Jesus said, “that you believe in Him whom He has sent” (Jn 6:29).  Trust in Jesus Christ is the work of faith and the obedience of faith.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 125)


So What?  Why do we even need a mediator in regard to God?  As sinful man with no mediator there would be no hope, no future, no relationship with God, no source of meaning or significance. That is why the writer of Hebrews wants us to consider Jesus.  Keep your eyes fixed upon Jesus.  Endeavor to comprehend the work of Jesus as our Mediator.  


He mediates on the basis of his self-sacrifice and shed blood.  As our High Priest, Christ acts as the mediator, or advocate, between us and God.  He intercedes for all who believe, looking after their interests and presenting their requests to God.  Christ died as a ransom, the price paid to release a slave.  The Greek word for “ransom to set them free” here contains the root word used for eternal redemption in 9:12.  Here the word is apolutrosis.  This is the only occurrence in Hebrews of this word to refer to redemption from sin (see also Rom 3:24; Eph 1:7; Col 1:14).  In 9:12, the related word lutrosis is used.  Jesus paid a ransom for us because we could not pay it ourselves.  His death released all of us from our slavery to sin.  God redeemed us from the tyranny of sin, not with money, but with the precious blood of his own Son (Mt 20:28; Rom 6:6-7; 1 Cor 6:20; Col 2:13-14; 1 Tm 2:6; 1 Pt 1:18-19).  We cannot escape from sin on our own; only God’s Son can free us.  Because Christ serves as our Mediator, those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.  The phrase, “those who are called,” refers to all who believe in Jesus Christ and accept his sacrifice on their behalf.  (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary – Hebrews, 139-40)


There are some who think that salvation by faith is all, and obedience not so essential.  This is a terrible mistake.  In our justification there is indeed no thought of obedience in the past.  God justifieth the ungodly.  But repentance is a return to obedience.  And without repentance there can be no true faith.  Justification, and the faith by which it comes, are only for the sake of obedience, as means to an end.  They point us to Christ, and the salvation which is to be found in union with Him.  And He has no salvation but for them that obey Him.  Obedience, as the acceptance of His will and life, is our only capacity for salvation.  This is the reason there is so much complaining that we cannot find and do not enjoy a full salvation.  We seek it in the wrong way.  Jesus Himself said that the Father would give the Holy Spirit, that is, salvation as it is perfected in Christ in heaven, to them that obey Him.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 193)


Simple intellectual or spiritual belief that does not impact the style of life of the disciple has no place in our author’s mind.  The cleansing of the conscience in 9:14 is directly tied to the service of God in obedience to His strategy of building the kingdom.  The same thought is so bold in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:  “For we are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10).  (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 111-2)






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