Grace For The Journey
The writer of Hebrews writes this letter to warn them not to do this. The writer holds before them Christ as better, greater, and more superior to the Old Covenant. Jesus Christ is better. Better than things the Hebrews held in high regard. Jesus is better. Better than better the angels and better than the law (chapters 1 and 2). Better than Moses (Chapter 3). Better than Joshua – He offers a better rest than Joshua offered in the wilderness (Chapter 4). At the end of Chapter 4 we read that Jesus is a better than the high priests of the Old Covenant.
The high priest was the supreme religious leader of the Israelites. The high priest was over all the other priests, Levitical priests and the ordinary priests who were served in the Old Covenant temple. All other priests were subordinate to the high priest.
The writer continues to show that Jesus is better by mentioning Aaron, Moses’ brother. Jesus is the greater high priest and therefore better than any other human high priest.
In verses 1-10 the writer engages in a “compare and contrast” exercise. The writer does this as he compares and contrasts the human high priest system with the vastly superior High Priest Jesus Christ. He writes first of the “high priest taken from among men,” in verses 1-4. Then after verse 4 and beginning in verse 5 the writer presents Jesus Christ, the High Priest who is markedly different in many ways. Look for this comparing and contrasting as we go through these verses.
Do Baptists believe in priests? That is a simple question. This is a good question. I think a better question would be: “Do Protestants believe in priests? Do evangelicals believe in priests?” What is the answer to that question if we interpret the teachings of the New Testament in a plain, straightforward manner?
Interpreting the Bible in this way, it is clear that the system of a human priesthood is over. The Reformers taught this in their recovery of the true gospel from the church of their day. This is the truth for which so many of our Protestant forebears died in the Reformation. Among other things, they were showing that the New Testament is clear on this point: we have no need of human priests in order to approach God, worship God, live for God, serve God, or enter into the very presence of God.
On what basis, then, do we approach God? That is the entire point of the New Testament, especially the Book of Hebrews. We now have – not just a priest, not just a high priest – but we have a Great High Priest whose name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And unlike the human high priest whose appointment ended when he died, Jesus goes on living, goes on making intercession on behalf of all His followers, Christians.
To participate, then, in a human priestly system of perpetual priests and perpetual sacrifices for sin is either to ignore or be ignorant of the plain teaching of the Bible. Jesus Christ is the better, the greater, and the vastly superior High Priest. He has offered the better, the greater, and the vastly superior sacrifice for sins. On this basis Jesus Christ is the “Author of eternal salvation.” That phrase is found near the end of our text, verse 9, “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” Jesus Christ is the author of eternal salvation. That phrase is the anchor of this passage. Everything else the writer does in these verses serves to prove this fact, that Jesus is the author, or source of, eternal salvation.
Why Jesus Christ is Author of Eternal Salvation? In what way is Jesus Christ the author of eternal salvation? There are several answers to that question . . .
First, because of His identity, His unique identity as the only begotten, or unique one-of-a-kind, Son of God. His identity as Son of God.
I. Because Of His Identity – Verses 1-5.
This is really the first point the writer makes in this passage. Before we see it revealed further down into the text, note that the writer opens chapter 5 by writing about the human high priest, the things that qualify him to be high priest under the Old Covenant. By way of review from last time, recall that the priests are the one who served in and among the Temple. They served as ministers and helpers, helping the people “in things pertaining to God,” offering prayers and sacrifices for sin. The office of the priest in the Old Testament was limited to the tribe of Levi and limited further to just one family of the tribe of Levi, the family line of Aaron, Moses’ brother. And it was from the family line of Aaron that the supreme leader or supreme priest of the Israelites came, the high priest.
Verse 1 says, “For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.” The writer is talking about the human high priest. He is appointed to this position by God. And what does the high priest do? The last part of verse 1 tells us, “that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.” The high priest is like a bridge or link between the people and God. God is holy. Man is sinful. Man cannot approach God. The priest is the holy, separated leader, who links men to God.
The writer goes on to describe the human high priest in verse 2, “He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness.” The high priest can sympathize with those he serves. He serves all people, both educated and uneducated, wise and foolish, informed and ignorant, as well as the faithful and those going astray. He can sympathize with, identify with, and have compassion for other human beings he serves because he himself knows what it is like to be human, to be “subject to weakness.”
Verse 3 states, “Because of this (because he himself is a man subject to weakness) he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins.” The high priest is a holy man, but a man nonetheless. He may be regarded as the best of men, but a man at best. The high priest is a sinner. He is required to do for himself what he does for the people. He offers sacrifices for sins – not just their sins – but his own sins, too.
This fact underscores the need for humility. Because of his special office, the high priest may be tempted to begin to think of himself as a special person – special as though he himself were incapable of the same sins as the sins of the people he represents. Perhaps he becomes enamored with the special garments he wears as he serves as high priest and begins to think: “Well, I am so much better than these sinners!” This verse destroys that prideful thought because he too is a human being with a sin nature, “he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins.” These sacrifices for sins were largely the animal sacrifices we read about in the Old Testament.
It may be helpful here to pause to answer a common question from those who are reading the Old Testament who wonder about these animal sacrifices, why they were given, and what is going on with them. Let’s pause on our journey through this text and stop to consider at least 3 reasons for animal sacrifices.
Why animal sacrifices? They were offered for at least 3 reasons . . .
1) To Show The Seriousness Of Sin (Requires Shedding Of Blood For Forgiveness).
Sin is not to be taken lightly. Sin is an offense against God. It is rebellion against our Creator. Every sinful action is an affront to God. Even those sins we do and we attempt to argue, “Well my actions are not hurting anyone else.” Yes, they are. Your sinful actions are primarily hurting God, grieving the Holy Spirit.
Sin is serious. Sin has a penalty and the penalty is death. An animal was sacrificed and it’s blood shed to illustrate the payment required for sin. The writer of Hebrews will go on to say in Hebrews 9:22, “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission, no forgiveness of sin.” Animals were sacrificed to show the seriousness of sin.
Secondly, animals were sacrificed . . .
2) To Provide A Temporary Covering For Sin (Like Living On Credit).
The blood of the animals themselves was not sufficient to atone for our sin. As the writer says later in Hebrews 10:4, “It is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” Animal sacrifices do not take away sin. Animal sacrifices served as a temporary covering for sins, the blood shed as a reminder of the seriousness of sin, that payment was required, namely the payment of death. But the animals themselves could not provide atonement and forgiveness for our sin. No animal has a perfect record of righteousness, perfectly obeying all of God’s laws. Nor does an animal share man’s human nature and human flesh.
Animal sacrifices were something of a place holder until a greater more perfect sacrifice would come. Until that day, the forgiveness that came through animal sacrifices was like “living on credit” until the payment came due.
This takes us to the third and final reason for animal sacrifices . . .
3) To Point Us To The Greatest Sacrifice For Sin (The Lamb Who Takes Away The Sins Of The World)
Jesus Christ is the greater sacrifice – the greatest sacrifice. He is the spotless Lamb of God who takes away all sin. Jesus Christ lived a perfect life of obedience and then died a perfect death as our substitute. Every animal sacrifice pointed forward to the greater sacrifice to come when Jesus died on the cross, Jesus who paid it all.
The entire Levitical system of priests and sacrifices was a shadow, a symbol, a picture, and a pointer pointing to Jesus. The writer of Hebrews wants his readers to love Christ more than the pointer. Love Jesus more than the picture of Jesus, love Him more than the things that point to Him.
We will return now to learning why Jesus is the Author of Eternal Salvation. We are still on the first point, which is, because of His identity. Remember that the writer is talking about the human high priest in verses 1-4. He writes now in verse 4, “And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was.” No Israelite sought the office of high priest. It was an appointed position. It was not a position someone was elected to or voted on. God Himself calls the high priest to the position.
Now, look at verse 5. See the first few words? “So also Christ?” The writer says, “Now let me compare and contrast the human high priest with Jesus Christ”. He writes in verse 5, “So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’” The immediate point is that Jesus Christ did not seek out this position of High Priest Himself in a grab for power and self-exaltation. Jesus was always submissive to His Father. Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest. It was His Heavenly Father who appointed Him. The writer says, “But it was He (God, the Father) who said to Him (said to Jesus): ‘You are My Son …’” When you look at verse 5 carefully and you read the first part, “So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest,” you might expect the writer to go on saying, “But it was He who said to Him: ‘You are My High Priest.’” But that is not what the Father says. He says, “You are My Son.” There it is! The Son’s unique identity – He is the Son of God. Jesus is greater – The Son of God.
Then He quotes from Psalm 2 in verse 5. “You are My Son, today I have begotten You.”
The word “begotten” here does not mean “made.” The idea is, “I have declared and demonstrated You to be My unique one-of-a-kind Son.” The Father often declared Jesus to be His unique Son. He said at the baptism of Jesus and on the mount of transfiguration, “This is my Son.”
Given what the writer has said about Jesus in the last few verses of chapter 4, especially verse 14, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God,” we understand why the Father is saying, “Today I have begotten You.” Jesus has lived, died, been resurrected, ascended to the right hand of the Father, passed through the heavens up to glory, and His Father says, “Today I have begotten you. I declare and demonstrated that You yet again My Son, My unique, one-of-a-kind Son.”
Praise the Lord for His Identity. His identity as Son of God. Jesus Christ is the Author of Eternal Salvation because of His identity. Here is the second truth: Jesus Christ is Author of Eternal Salvation . . .
II. Because Of His Eternity – Verse 6.
Verse 6 says, “As He also says in another place: ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.’” Unlike the human priests whose term of service ended with their death, Jesus Christ goes on living. He is “a priest forever.” The Son of God’s nature is eternal. He is without beginning or end. He is forever.
The writer uses this phrase, “according to the order of Melchizedek” to underscore the eternal nature of the Son of God. We will read about Melchizedek later in Chapter 7. For now, it is sufficient to know that Melchizedek did not come from the line of Aaron. He was not a Levite. In fact, little is known about Melchizedek. He is mentioned only in Genesis 14 and Psalm 110. Melchizedek did not come from the family line of Aaron. In fact, the Scriptures never provide the genealogy of Melchizedek. There is no record of either his birth or death.
The writer is using Melchizedek as a symbol or a type, a foreshadowing of Christ. Because he has no beginning or end – insofar as there is no genealogy recorded in Scripture – he is like Christ who has no beginning or end. He symbolizes the eternal nature of the Son of God, Jesus a priest forever.
Praise the Lord Jesus for His Identity and His Eternity! But there is more. Jesus is the Author of Salvation because of His Fidelity. His faithfulness to the Father.
III. Because Of His Faithfulness – Verses 7-10.
A) Faithful Reverence To The Father.
We see this in verse 7, “Who, in the days of His flesh (His entire earthly ministry), when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear.” We have noted before that Jesus’ perfection did not limit His ability to feel the full extent of temptation and suffering. In fact, because of His perfection, He was able to experience temptation perfectly and completely in ways none of us can withstand. Ligon Duncan says, “It’s not that Jesus can’t relate to our temptation, it’s that we cannot relate to His.” He suffered in ways none of us could withstand.
He was heard “because of godly fear.” He totally submitted to the will of the Father. Even in the Garden of Gethsemane He prayed, “Not my will but Thine be done.” Do you submit your will to the Heavenly Father’s? Seriously. Do you? Are you often peevishly irritated because God’s will isn’t your will? Faithful reverence.
B) Faithful Obedience To The Father.
Jesus obeyed the Father perfectly. Verse 8 states, “Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” Jesus lived a life of perfect obedience to the Father in every temptation and every trial, enabling Him to complete God’s perfect plan of total obedience. As each day unfolded, Jesus Christ experienced greater trials, tests, and sufferings. His sufferings enabled Him to demonstrate total submission to the will of His Father.
Verse 9 goes on to say, “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” This is similar to Hebrews 2:10, “For it was fitting for Him…[to be made] perfect through sufferings.” Perfected through sufferings, culminating with the final suffering of the cross, His sufferings brought to completion. The point that Jesus did not seek Himself the honor and glory of High Priest, but He was, “Called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek” (verse 10).
Praise the Lord Jesus for His Identity, for His Eternity, and for His Faithfulness. There is no longer any need for a human system of priesthood. No need for ceremonial symbols. No need for sounds, smells, sites, signs, and symbols. We do not need these things nor are we to long for these things. They are all pictures, pointing toward something and Someone far greater. We are long for and love Jesus more than the picture of Jesus. A soldier on the battlefield may take tremendous comfort in a picture of his wife. He pulls that picture out and gazes upon it daily, he clings to it. It helps him get through. But he is looking forward to a better day. When that day comes, when the war is over and he returns home, he no longer clings to the picture. The picture was merely a symbol, a pointer, to his wife. Love Jesus more than the pointer.
If you love Jesus and live for Jesus you share in His identity; you share in His faithfulness, and you share in His eternity … if you obey. Note this in verse 9 . . .
- It does not say, “He became the author of eternal salvation to all who prayed a formulaic prayer one day in the past.”
- It doesn’t say, “He became the author of eternal salvation to all who joined the church.”
What does it say? “He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” Obey Him. Live for Him. Go on living for Him, go on submitting to Him, go on worshiping Him, go on loving Him. Each and every day. The true believers are the ones who obey Him. True believers live each day for Him. True believers are known as obedient Christ followers. They want what their Lord wants. They obey Him. He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.
Do you obey Him? Do you believe in Him, believe He died for your sins? Some of you need to trust Jesus this morning. Do that. Believe. Confess. Repent. Say to Him: “Lord Jesus Christ, I admit that I am weaker and more sinful than I ever before believed, but, through you, I am more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope. I thank you for paying my debt, bearing my punishment and offering forgiveness. I turn from my sin and receive you as Savior.”
I run to Christ when chased by fear
And find a refuge sure.
“Believe in me,” His voice I hear;
His words and wounds secure.
I run to Christ when torn by grief
And find abundant peace.
“I too had tears,” He gently speaks;
Thus joy and sorrow meet.
I run to Christ when worn by life
And find my soul refreshed.
“Come unto Me,” He calls through strife;
Fatigue gives way to rest.
I run to Christ when vexed by hell
And find a mighty arm.
“The Devil flees,” the Scriptures tell;
He roars, but cannot harm.
I run to Christ when stalked by sin
And find a sure escape.
“Deliver me,” I cry to Him;
Temptation yields to grace.
I run to Christ when plagued by shame
And find my one defense.
“I bore God’s wrath,” He pleads my case—
My Advocate and Friend.
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”