is unfortunate that the church decided (rather early) to create a class of
individuals known as priests. It diminishes the grand doctrine of the royal
priesthood of all believers. Such a priesthood, however, must have a high
priest – Jesus.
1Every high priest is selected from among men and is
appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and
sacrifices for sins. 2He is able to deal gently with those who
are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. 3This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well
as for the sins of the people.
4No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by
God, just as Aaron was. 5So Christ also did not take upon himself
the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him,
“You are my Son;
today I have become your Father.£”£
says in another place,
“You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek.”£
7During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up
prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him
from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation
for all who obey him 10and was designated by God to be high
priest in the order of Melchizedek.
11We have much to say about this, but it is
hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need
someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You
need milk, not solid food! 13Anyone who lives on milk, being still an
infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained
themselves to distinguish good from evil.
The humanity of the priesthood
in his infinite wisdom, knows that we need someone to stand between us and his
awesome righteousness. He appointed no angel to this task; rather, he has
always chosen humans.
The ability to sympathize
time ago the press chuckled deliciously at a second hand store. The reason was
simple; the items in that store came from the CEO of Enron. His wife ran the
store. For her, I suppose, it was a terrible change of position. But most of
us cannot sympathize with her; we’ve never been millionaires.
ability to sympathize – to say, “I know how you feel,” is essential to a
priest. It comes from “having been there.” Paul teaches us here that it has
a priest can deal gently with ignorance. At one time or another, all of
us have been ignorant. I know of no one, however, who likes to have that
fact trumpeted about. So I wish to cure my ignorance in a way which does
not crush me with humiliation. Therefore, I am more willing to listen to
the one who enlightens me gently.
a priest can deal gently with those who go astray. All of us are
sinners; there are many temptations common to all of us. None of us like
to hear hellfire and brimstone. None of us like to go to the dentist,
either. But when we must, we prefer the dentist who uses the anesthetic.
Priesthood given by God
seems there is one qualification for priesthood: God selects you. He makes it
clear in the Old Testament that priests had to come from the tribe of Levi.
There is absolutely no question of “earning it.” He will have mercy upon whom
he will have mercy.
the only qualification seems to be humanity. Here we see God recognizing our
needs. He says, in effect, that no one is worthy to be his priest. No one of
us can stand between the wrath of God and poor mortals. Therefore, since none
of us are qualified, he will select his priests in such manner as to show that
fact – and thus we will know it is not our merit but his choice that makes us
I say, “us?” Yes, us. The Scripture tells us that we are a royal priesthood.
And like the ancient one, not one of us can deserve it.
you not see it? If Christ is High Priest, then those who follow him must be
priests also. Christ is also King of Kings; therefore this priesthood is a
royal priesthood. So what shall we do?
that we are called to this priesthood. Know that we are the ones who go
between God and man – for each other, and all those who do not yet know
so doing, we must “deal gently.” Remember that we are but sinners, and
our condemnation is not good. The Spirit will convict of sin and
judgment; we must hold out the hope of forgiveness and salvation.
most of all, we did not earn this. He gave it to us by grace.
this seem strange to you? Remember that Jesus is our High Priest. As the
children say, What Would Jesus Do? If he is High Priest, and we his imitation,
then we are priests too.
from your mind, if you will, the picture of priests in flowing robes. This
priesthood is in imitation of our Lord, and it therefore is very different.
Prayers, petitions and tears
your prayer life weak? Consider how our Lord prayed in the Garden of
Gethsemane. Do his prayers there sound like yours, or are yours rather weak
and singsong instead? The phrasing in this passage gives you a clue to a more
powerful prayer life.
with prayers – a solemn discussion of your heart’s desire before God.
your call; turn from prayer to petition. Prayer seems to mean just
once; a petition must be circulated. Ask others to pray with you;
persist in prayer.
throw your entire life into your prayers. He may have heard your prayers,
even seen your petition – but has he felt your tears? Are you so intent
that your heart aches for the object of your prayers?
did that, and we are told his prayers were heard. But in the garden they were
not granted. If you will pray as he did, you will be heard – but God’s
purposes must prevail. It is wisdom and humility to acknowledge this – and to
this passage assures us that Christ was not heard for his position but for his
reverent submission. In those two words lie the secret to prayer:
– meaning one who acknowledges the power and majesty of God Almighty, and
knows prayer to be an act of daring.
– meaning one who accepts the complete authority of God – and lives his
life that way.
Learning obedience through suffering
you see only the divine side of Christ, you might ask, “What did he have to
learn in the way of obedience?” It seems to contradict his sinless nature.
But consider: if you are a football player, there are many books you can read
which will help you with your skills. But if you read, but do not practice,
you will not make the team. You must practice (to the Christian, be obedient)
as you play.
you wish to remain in the coach’s good graces, practice. If you wish to
remain in God’s love, be obedient.
did this; at the very least we should see in this an example of the
humility which befits his followers.
suffering perfected Jesus for his task. This does not mean that he
somehow “became” sinless; rather, he became prepared.
know that God hears the prayers of the righteous. In Christ’s example we can
learn much about how to be heard:
you serious about your prayers, or are they just motions, somehow required
your prayers flip and casual, or do you approach him in an attitude of
you learned obedience? Are you willing to try?
ends this little section with his frustration. Have you ever explained
something to your children that which they should know by now? You can
sympathize with Paul here; it’s hard to explain things to the “slow to learn”
crowd. Unfortunately, some of us are proud of our slowness. But consider:
often tests us to show us our own slowness.
When he does, we should listen and learn.
God does the opposite; he withholds things from us because we are not yet
ready for them.
In this way he shows his mercy.
we hear what God says – and find it difficult. We then twist it into
something we want to hear.
often, our “slow to learn” is simply the hardness of our hearts.
is most injurious to us – but even more so to the church around us.
Admonish and teach
members of this class, like the Hebrews to whom this was written, should be
ready to pass the faith along. In particular, we need to be those who admonish
and teach each other – royal priests, interceding for each other.
you complain that this is too hard to understand? Consider well that the
word is revealed to little children, but not to the wise.
Perhaps our own wisdom stands in the way.
we are to teach each other, then surely we must have the word in our
Perhaps the reason you don’t feel very priestly is that the word has
fallen into rocky ground with you.
must also do this in the appropriate style. Remember, when you teach or
admonish, you are to do it as if you were speaking the words of God.
In a very real sense, you are.
The test of maturity
how do I know when I’ve reached this stage? See the three tests that Paul puts
must be those who receive instruction and put it into “constant use.” If
we use this only on Sunday, we cannot please God.
must also be “trained.” This implies formal instruction – so are you
listening to the sermons, working in a small fellowship – and in general
opening yourself up for instruction?
this is so that we can distinguish good from evil.
from evil? Is that it? Surely that’s not too difficult to do.
however, that this problem is as old as Adam – who flunked, by the way. It is
difficult. Indeed, it might be completely beyond us, were it not for the work
of the Holy Spirit within us.
By his power we can become mature.
must close with a word of caution. In becoming mature, there is the temptation
to become a Pharisee – one who piously condemns others. Listen to Paul’s words
to the Romans:
1Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on
disputable matters. 2One man’s faith allows him to eat
everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does
not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does,
for God has accepted him. 4Who are you to judge someone else’s
servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord
is able to make him stand.
5One man considers one day more sacred than
another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully
convinced in his own mind.
(Romans 14, NIV)
that the priesthood is composed of human beings – who therefore can be gentle
with one another.