Posts Tagged ‘high priest’

A Better Redeemer

A Better Redeemer

© C. O. Bishop 8/7/17 THCF 8/13/17

Hebrews 9:11-28

Introduction:

Last time, we saw that Jesus is our Mercy Seat…our atonement…and that the Throne of Grace is His throne: that the Mercy Seat covers all of our sins, and, in fact, all of the sins of the human race from beginning to end.

Finally, we saw that, today, we are invited to approach His throne with confidence, knowing that our standing with Him was made perfect at the Cross. We have entered into this relationship by faith, and we are to continue to walk by faith.

Now the writer is making even more powerful statements concerning the Person of Christ

Jesus is Better than the Old Testament Sacrifices.

11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;
12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

This is an astounding statement: Jesus, in contrast to every priest of the Temple who ever lived, has accomplished what those priests could only dream of:

  • In the first place, the Temple into which He entered was not the Old Testament structure, nor did He enter into its priesthood at all.
  • Secondly, the sacrifice He brought was not the blood of animals which were in no way connected to our guilt. Those animals served as a temporary substitute for the sinner, down through all the ages. God ordained the Law of the Substitute, in Genesis chapter 3. The animals in the garden, whose blood covered the sins of Adam and Eve, were substituted for the fallen pair. All the sacrificial animals, under the Law, served as substitutes; but only until the chosen Lamb of God appeared. There was a substitute involved in every sacrifice for sins, because the Law of Sin and Death demanded the death of the sinner. Jesus took the place of (substituted himself for) every human who ever lived, when he went to the Cross. He is our substitute… and there is no substitute for him.
  • He has provided a permanent, eternal redemption for us. In this particular passage, the Greek word for “redemption” is “lutruosin”. It carries the idea of being “set free.”

There are three words used in Greek, to complete the concept that we call “Redemption:”

  • Agorazo: to be “bought in the market (the agora)”
  • Exagorazo: to be “bought out of the market…taken off the market, not be re-sold”, and
  • Lutroō: to be set free.

So, the whole meaning of the concept of Biblical Redemption begins with the “bad news”: the fact that we have been sold into sin: so that is where God had to go to rescue us—to the slave-market of sin. That is where Jesus went as our redeemer. We have been bought out of that market-place, never to be sold again. And, finally: we have been set free. He bought us for the purpose of setting us free.

Now: with that in mind, consider the importance of verse twelve: it says that Jesus, at the cost of his own life-blood, being tortured to death by the barbaric people for whom He died, has bought eternal redemption for us. It says we have been eternally bought out of the marketplace of sin, to be eternally set free. It simply cannot be stated in stronger terms! Your position in Christ cannot be more secure than it already is. You have been eternally set free. Read verses 13 and 14:

13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:
14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Whatever effect the Old Testament sacrifices had upon the believer, the effect of the sacrifice of Christ is far superior: His death and burial and resurrection brings eternal redemption. Notice, too, that it says that he did all this “through the Eternal Spirit:” He lived a sinless life by the Holy Spirit, and he sacrificed Himself by the Holy Spirit. His whole life was lived out in the power of the Holy Spirit, and the result is that we are permanently bought out from our former slavery to sin, and have been permanently set free to serve God.

 

The Mediator of the New Testament…the New Covenant

15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

Notice the tenses, here: he sacrificed himself (past tense), and because of that, He is (present tense) our High Priest—the Mediator between God and Man. Bear in mind that a mediator is always a “go-between” of some sort. God says in 1st Timothy 2:5 that “…there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” In this specific case (the mediator between God and Man), the mediator is the priest; the one who represents God before men and Man before God. So Jesus is identified clearly as the High Priest of the New Covenant.

This serves as a reminder that, in the truest sense, the New Testament did not begin with Matthew chapter one. Jesus himself said, “…this is the New Covenant in my Blood….” So, the real beginning point of Jesus’s ministry as the Mediator of the New Covenant, (in spite of what we refer to as his “high Priestly prayer”, in John 17and that is what it was) was the sacrifice he brought as the High Priest: his death at the Cross. He appeared in the real tabernacle with that sacrifice, once for all, and consummated his eternal position at the right hand of God the Father.

So, when our Bibles start the New Testament with the four Gospels, it is only because the Gospels introduce the New Testament. It actually began with the crucifixion, and really got rolling at the day of Pentecost, 50 days later. The Church-age is the beginning of the New Testament. The full New Covenant as promised in Jeremiah 31:31-34, will be ushered in after the Lord’s return.

16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.
17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.
18 Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood.
19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people,
20 Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.
21 Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry.
22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

These are perplexing things to read, unless you remember that every blood-sacrifice in the Old Testament was, in one form or another, a picture (or pre-figuring) of Christ and His one sacrifice that was to come. Some are more clearly stated than others. But the closing comment on that passage is this key statement: …without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.

This is a clear explanation of what was wrong with Cain’s offering, in Genesis chapter four by the way. I have heard several preachers make the statement that “there was nothing wrong with Cain’s sacrifice—it was his heart attitude that was wrong.”  They were pretty adamant about it, too, saying that to claim otherwise was to insert doctrine that just wasn’t there.

Well—sorry, but this passage says that the non-blood character of the sacrifice was what was wrong…that, apart from the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. No forgiveness! And, if we skip ahead to Hebrews 11:4, the same writer clearly states that “by faith, Abel brought a more excellent sacrifice…” It does not say, “God liked Abel’s attitude better”: it says the sacrifice was better.

Abel obeyed by faith, and brought the blood sacrifice about which he had apparently learned through Adam’s testimony. (Remember, God attempted to reason with Cain, and effectively reminded him that he, Cain, also knew what the problem was, and that if he obeyed, he too would be accepted. But Cain chose to rebel…and we know the result.)

 

A Better Sacrifice

23 It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

The logic, here, is that while it was necessary for “all things to be purged with blood”, here on earth, it was even more necessary in the heavenly tabernacle. But, as the heavenly tabernacle is infinitely superior to the Earthly one, so the sacrifice also had to be infinitely superior. And it was! The Sacrifice which Jesus brought was eternally ordained by God (see Revelation 13:8…Jesus is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the Earth.”) Jesus is “Plan A”, and there is no “Plan B!”

24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:

I have a hard time picturing this, because, honestly, I realize that I have no idea what the presence of God is like beyond the very limited descriptions in God’s Word. Perhaps someone might say I lack imagination; but, in this particular case that is a good thing. God says (1st Corinthians 2:9) “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”  In another passage we are told that we are to cast down “…imagination and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.” It seems to me that if God is silent on a subject, then we ought to be silent, too; but there are many books available today giving glowing, detailed description of heaven, and the throne room, the angelic hosts, etc. It leaves me to wonder about the real source of such things.

25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;

26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

Jesus made a once-for-all sacrifice, to take away the sins of the World (John 1:29), and we look for his second coming; not hoping that we may be good enough, or that our works will be sufficient, but knowing that He was “good enough”: knowing that His one sacrifice is eternally sufficient.

Some churches teach that, through the Eucharist, Jesus is continually suffering for the sins of the World. This passage flatly states that to be the worst form of falsehood. That teaching denies the truth of God’s Word, and relegates Jesus to a continual “victim of God’s Wrath”, rather than the valiant and victorious Lord of Hosts, Lion of Judah, and conquering Lamb of God that he truly is. He voluntarily stepped forward to be our savior, and his Sacrificial work was completed once for all, at the Cross.

This is how we know that Jesus is not physically (or mystically) in the Eucharist…that the bread and the cup are only representative of His body and blood, and are emblems of how we have been born again.

They are not the means of salvation, nor are they in any way effective to put us in a right standing before God. They are strictly a reminder of how we entered into a right standing with a Holy God, and of who we are as a result. Living in a world that is antagonistic toward the Creator, it is easy to forget who we are in Him, and struggle along in our flesh, instead of trusting Him day by day, allowing Him to live through us.

This has been a fairly persistent false teaching, and many otherwise sound apologists have been snared by it, because it is an attractive idea. I enjoy the writings of C.S. Lewis, but in his early book “Mere Christianity”, he states that one becomes a Christian by taking communion. That is absolutely false. I hope that C. S. Lewis later realized his error, but I still have that book, and there have been millions of copies sold over the years.

One becomes a Christian by coming as a guilty sinner, and placing one’s personal trust in Jesus’s blood as full payment for one’s own personal sin. His literal blood at the Cross is what paid for sin, not the commemorative ritual. We enter in by placing our faith in his real shed blood: his real death, his real burial, and His real resurrection. We commemorate that reality in the Lord’s Supper.

By the way, this is also an important passage in refuting all teachings of “reincarnation:” do you see it? (Hebrews 9:27) It says we are appointed to die once…and after that the judgment. That rules out “coming back for seconds”, so to speak. You get one life, here on earth: no “do-overs”.

Jesus also had one life—and it was given to him specifically for the purpose of going to the cross in the place of the whole human race, to provide the way for us to have eternal life.

 

Conclusion:

So how do we respond? What do we do with all this information? Is it just “fun stuff to know and tell?” Or is there a practical response involved? What kind of response is Jesus looking for?

Let’s go back to verse 14:

14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
There is your “Purpose clause” for all that we just read. Jesus did everything for the Glory of God, and in so doing, He freed us from Sin– so that we could do the same.

He finished His work in order that we might be eternally set free from sin and so that we can join Him in glorifying the Father through service. In John 14:21, we see that the mark of one who loves Jesus Christ is that they obey Him, through faith…and the result is that God, in the person of Christ, engages in a continuing love-relationship with the believer, and deliberately makes Himself known to the believer, in an ongoing, living experience, as that person continues to serve the living God.

We frequently quote Ephesians 2:8, 9, in regards to how we are saved. But we seldom quote Ephesians 2:10, which suggests why we are saved:

  • We are his workmanship
  • Created in Christ Jesus
  • Unto good works, which God has before ordained
  • That we should walk in them.

If you have trusted in Jesus as your savior, then you have been born again; and your new nature is created in the righteousness and holiness of God. (Ephesians 4:24) Because of that, you are free to serve Him. God has things for you to do! Don’t miss out on the opportunity! We only get one life, and it is our one opportunity to serve the King.

Lord Jesus, stir our hearts to serve you. Change the way we see life. Help us see it as our one chance to walk with you and to work with you. Strengthen and encourage our hearts to follow you. Draw us along as your flock, and teach us your way.


Our High Priest (Part 1)

Our High Priest (Part 1)

© C. O. Bishop 3/21/17 THCF 4/2/17

Hebrews 4:9-16

Introduction:

We spoke last time about the rest that God offers: we saw a serious warning to professing believers that they recognize what is being offered and not fail to enter the salvation-rest through unbelief. We also saw that the rest has two parts…one part is a gift, offered to unbelievers on the sole condition of faith. When a person chooses to believe that Jesus’s blood is full payment for his or her sins, specifically, then they become a believer in Jesus, and that “salvation-rest” is given as a gift: they are no longer under the curse of God’s Law. This is a positional truth. Since the believers are now “in Christ”, their new position frees them from the law of sin and death.

But, the rest has a second part: the second part is conditional upon continuing, day by day, in an ongoing relationship with Christ on the basis of faith. It is a relational rest, and is available only to the believers, and only as they continually choose to enter into His rest, by faith.

There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.

The writer concludes that neither the Sabbath-day rest nor the Canaan rest were the actual fulfillment of the rest offered by Christ. Notice that he says that this specific rest remains “for the people of God”—believers. What is the “rest”, then? And why is it offered after faith has come? If salvation itself is not the “rest”, in this case, then what are we talking about?

10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.

11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

What rest? How do we labor to enter into rest? It is actually pretty difficult, in some ways, to accomplish what is being taught, here, because it goes against our flesh. We all want to believe that we can do something to earn a right standing with God. Even though we know we were saved by Grace through Faith, we still want to think that, at some level, we “deserve” God’s Grace. But the word “deserve” means to “have earned”…if you can earn God’s favor, it is no longer Grace but wages.

So, he says that “he who has entered into rest has ceased from his own works.” It requires constant attention for us to break the cycle of legalism, by which we hope to impress God with our behavior. We have to learn to submit ourselves daily to God, to allow Him to live through us. The result is that we quit worrying about whether we are “doing enough”. We simply do what He calls us to do.

How does this bring about “rest?” For one thing, I quit wondering whether I am really saved. Having placed my faith in Jesus’ completed work, there is nothing for me to add, nor can it be diminished. Jesus said “it is finished!” And it is! But we need to consider who He really is!

Who are we dealing with?

12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

It is odd that this verse begins with the word “for”—it would seem to indicate that we are to labor to enter into His rest, because God’s Word is alive, etc. It certainly says that all these things are true of the Written and the Living Word. Remember that it is truly God’s Word, not Man’s. (1st Thessalonians 2:13)

The issue is that, regardless of what we say we are doing, and why…the Lord knows our hearts. He knows our real motives. We may fool others, and we certainly often fool ourselves, but we don’t fool God. He says that the Word of God is alive and powerful. (The old English word “quick” means “alive”, not “fast on its feet.”) Incidentally, the word translated “powerful”, is the Greek energes, which is usually translated “effectual”—accomplishing something. The Greek word looks like “energize”, and it is tempting to grab that English word as a meaning, but that is not what it means. It means that Jesus, the Living Word, is alive and still working today. And…He sees things as they really are.

He further says that the Word is sharper than any two-edged sword…it can be used for a weapon or for surgery, apparently, as he says it separates between soul and spirit, as well as joints and marrow. However, there are only two words in the New Testament that are translated “sword”—this one is the Greek word “machaira”, which comes from the verb “to fight”, and means, specifically, a fighting weapon. I am not sure why this specific picture is drawn for us. Perhaps it underscores that this is the believer’s offensive weapon, but that it can be used in discipline against us, as well. Bear in mind that it is two-edged: whenever we think it is applying to others, it is also applied to our own lives, at one level or another. Every honest preacher knows that every sermon applies to himself.

I don’t know whether you have ever noticed, but inside any bone there is a substance called “marrow”, which has a vital part in our survival, as that is where blood cells are made. But, in a cooked soup-bone, for instance, we can see that at the end of each bone, approaching the joint, there is a transition between marrow and bone, where it seems to be a mixture of the two, and it is hard to tell which is which. God says He can see the difference, and can separate the two.

In similar manner, though we may have a hard time explaining the specific differences between soul and spirit (some people even denying that one or the other exists), God not only recognizes both but is completely clear on the differences. It is only from God’s Word that we even know for sure that a spirit and a soul are definitely two different things, and that a human is a three-part being, having Body, Soul and Spirit. God is clear on all of it. He knows what our real position is, and is never in doubt.

He meets us with compassion, but no human has ever “pulled a fast one” on God. We have never succeeded in “pulling the wool over the eyes” of God. It is tragic that we even try. But, if you think about this regularly, and use it as a measuring-stick against your thoughts and motives, it may help you to set aside self-effort, and enter into His rest.

Nothing I can do can add to my salvation or my security in Christ. And nothing can detract from it. It does take labor to enter into the rest offered to believers, because our flesh constantly wants to doubt it. The labor we exert, then, as members of Christ, is only an effort to be His hands, feet, heart, and voice, here on Earth. We are already part of Him…we serve because we are a part of him, not to become part of him.

He knows our hearts completely, understands our weaknesses and conflicts of interest and is completely tender toward us…which is a good thing, because he is also our High Priest!

Jesus is Our Great High Priest

14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.

The phrase, “Great” High Priest is not a reference to Jesus being “great” at the job, though He certainly is. It means that He is high, and lifted up, far above all the other high priests of the history of Judaism…just as He is called the Great Shepherd, because He is the Master Shepherd, and high above all the human shepherds of the history of the flock of God. Remember that because the human shepherds have human failings, and, in some cases, have abdicated their responsibilities, God has declared that He is taking over the job (Ezekiel 34). It hasn’t happened yet, in its final fulfilment, but I personally believe that the final fulfilment is coming soon.

The High Priests of the time during which Jesus served in his earthly ministry (Annas and Caiaphas) were completely corrupt, and were his worst enemies. Though we don’t know their identities, the priests at the time when this book was written were the last to claim that title, as the temple was destroyed about five years later. Jesus is the Great High Priest, today and forever.

I have no doubt that there will be some sort of priesthood during the tribulation period, but it will be very brief, and will be cut short by the Antichrist. So the priesthood of Jesus is really the only one left. He is not only “our” great high priest; He is THE Great High Priest, for all eternity. His sacrifice stands forever, and his intercession for us is continual. The writer tells us that in light of this fact—the eternal priesthood of Christ—we are to hold fast to our profession.

This does not say we should hold on to Christ, or hold on to salvation, but to maintain a life that honors Him…our profession—our testimony. Since OUR high Priest (in contrast to that of the Jews at that time) has passed into heaven, and is not in danger of dying, now (as theirs was), nor is he corruptible, or vacillating, let us press on! Let us live lives that honor Jesus…adjusting our priorities to match His. We are secure in Him, and we can live in that security. We can walk confidently in the reality of His presence and His continuing ministry on our behalf.

Remember: this was written before the destruction of the temple (which happened in A.D. 70), but not much before…maybe four or five years. So, the system of faith within which they had grown up (which was God-ordained; not man-made) was about to be literally destroyed. Perhaps some historians know what happened to the priesthood of that day. Perhaps some even survived the destruction…perhaps none did. But the temple and all of its trappings were gone for good.

The Hebrew believers to whom this epistle was written did not know what was about to happen. The writer, here, was warning them of the need to make a full transition from Law to Grace; from the human-built temple to “a Temple made without hands.” Part of that transition means recognizing that Jesus is the replacement for every aspect of what they were about to lose. In fact, he had already replaced them all, but they, the Jewish believers, simply had not yet seen it.

The Gentile believers had never experienced any of the things written here. They were new to all of it. And, in spite of the fact that I have been a believer more than two thirds of my life, I am still nearly completely ignorant of the inner workings of Judaism. I cannot know it from the inside, because I am not one of them. The writers of the whole New Testament were primarily (if not exclusively) Jews; but this epistle makes a special outreach to the Jews who already had embraced Jesus as their Savior Messiah, but who were still living within Judaism. He is telling them that it is high time that they all step all the way into Christ. Not to become Gentiles, in any way, but to transfer their loyalties and dependencies to the Risen Christ.

15 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.

We should keep in mind that Aaron, the first high priest over Israel, was not born a priest: he was Moses’ younger brother. He was reared as a Hebrew slave, after Moses was taken up to be reared by Pharaoh’s daughter. He knew what it was like to grow up under the thumb of the Egyptians. He knew what slavery was like, and what hard work was like. He had travelled in the desert, as had all the other children of Israel who escaped under Moses. He knew the taste of manna in the morning, and quails in the evening. He had drunk water from the rock as they all had done. He had seen the judgment of God upon the disobedient. He had looked to the blood of the covenant for salvation. He could completely relate to all the experience of the Jews at that time. But he sinned and failed Israel in many ways. And, finally, he died.

There was never again a High Priest like Aaron, who had grown up under the exact same life as the rest of the Jews. The later priests all grew up in the home of a priest, and had lived a separate life…a somewhat privileged life. Consider, then, that the “great high priest” that Aaron was, even with his flaws, could never have been repeated, until Jesus stepped into that role. Why? Because he did live out the life of a poor, ordinary Jewish man, and yet is the High Priest.

Jesus has experienced all that the Jews of that time experienced, and did not sin. He lived under the hand of God the Father, though he, along with the whole nation of Israel, was subject to Rome. He was tested in every way, and still honored God with every breath he took, every decision He made…every Word He spoke. So, when I am tired, discouraged, or feeling under attack, and in pain, and want to give up, I frequently remember how tired He must have become during his ministry on earth, being exposed to every sort of hardship, and deprivation. His friends abandoned Him. His enemies sought to kill Him. But He pressed on, in faith and obedience. He is our Great High Priest! And, unlike Aaron, the prototype High Priest, he cannot die, leaving us to start fresh with another, lesser priest. He is alive forever—immortal: and forever unchanging: immutable. He is incorruptible, and holy. He is compassionate and wise.

So where does all this leave us? These things are all true…we see them in God’s Word, and not in just a few remote, obscure passages…these are all major doctrinal themes: The lostness of man apart from God; the Deity of Christ; the Holiness of God in the Person of Christ; the efficacy of the Blood of Jesus at Calvary, the preaching of the Cross, Salvation by Grace through Faith, and the eternal priesthood of Jesus, the Messiah. So, where does that leave us?

The Conclusion is in Verse 16

16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

On the basis of all those truths, the writer encourages his readers to draw near to the throne of Grace in full assurance that the High Priest is a friend, a companion, who truly, completely understands and accepts us, and is not secretly condemning us as hopeless sinners. He died to clear the way for us to approach God freely, and now calls us to do just that.

The review of these eternal truths leaves us with an open invitation…in fact, a standing command…to enter into the throne room of God on a regular basis. In fact, to make it our dwelling, as the Psalmist suggests (Psalm 15:1): “LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?”

We are invited to enter that tabernacle, and to abide there. Psalm 91:1 says, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the Shadow of the Almighty.” And that is where we are to approach the Throne of Grace, to obtain mercy, and find grace, to help in time of need.

God invites us to change our priorities. To read the Gospels and see the priorities of Jesus. To adopt His priorities as our own. He invites us to enter into His rest, and abide under His shadow.

Lord Jesus, teach our hearts to abide in you, to rest in you, and to live under the constant awareness of your intercession on our behalf. Let us serve beside you, as priests in the Body of Christ. Make us your hands and feet, reaching to the lost world. Make us a blessing to those around us.