The High Priesthood of Christ (II)

Cecil Willis
Akron, Ohio

In a previous article we showed how that the types, shadows, figures and copies of the Old Testament order worship predicted the work of Christ. Jesus is depicted several times in the New Testament as a High Priest (Heb. 3:1; 5:5, 10). His priesthood was a capacity in which God had intended that he serve. His work, therefore, as a High Priest was prophesied, just as were his works as Savior, Redeemer, Advocate, Sacrifice, King and Prophet. The means by which his priesthood was predicted was by giving a type of his High Priesthood.

Neither the high priesthood of Aaron nor that of Melchizedek could perfectly foretell the High Priesthood of Jesus. It took both to give an adequate picture of Jesus as a priest. Aaron's priesthood was part of the type of Christ's High Priesthood; Melchizedek's service as priest constituted the remainder of the type of Christ's Priesthood. Christ's priesthood was like that of Melchizedek as to order, and like Aaron's as to function. In this article we will deal only with that part of Christ's priestly function that was like Aaron's.

1. Both were divinely chosen. Aaron did not appoint himself to the office of high priest. Neither was he chosen by the people. God saw fit to complement the work of Moses as prophet by giving to Aaron the office of high priest, whereas, in Christ the works of prophet and priest are blended into one.

Notice some passages showing God's choice of Aaron. God said, "And bring thou near unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office, even Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar, Aaron's sons.... sanctify him, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office" (Ex. 28:1-3). In Ex. 29:29 God also states that the successors of Aaron are to be divinely specified persons, i.e., Aaron's sons. Paul states that the high priest is "appointed" unto his work. But who appoints him? "And no man taketh the honor unto himself, but when he is called of God, even as we Aaron" (Heb. 5:1-4). So we see that Aaron was appointed "for men," not by men, and that "no man taketh the honor unto himself," but "is called of God, as was Aaron."

The scripture also indicates that Jesus was appointed to his work. Paul says, "consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, even Jesus; who was faithful to him that appointed him . . . (Heb. 3:1, 2. The same writer also says, "So Christ also glorified not himself to be made a high priest, but he that spake unto him, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee: as he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" (Heb. 5:5, 6).

Jesus himself repeatedly states that his work on earth was not of his own doing, but that it was the will of the Father. He said, "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but shine, be done" (Luke 22:42). Further he says, "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to accomplish his work" (Jno. 4:34). Again, "I seek not mine own will, but the will of him that sent me" (Jno. 5:30). And, "For I am come down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me" (Jno. 6:38).

So we see from these passages that the divine selection of Aaron accurately prefigured the divine appointment of Christ to serve as High Priest.

2. Both were required to possess high qualifications. The high priest in the Old Testament could be no ordinary man, for his work _vas not ordinary work. He had to be an exceptional person. His qualifications were very stringent. He was to be one physically perfect (Lev. 21: 16-24), and ceremonially pure (Lev. 22). He could not marry a widow, divorced woman, or harlot, but must marry only a virgin (Lev. 27:7. 14, 15). He must not come in contact with dead bodies (Lev. 21:10,11). The Hebrew writer further states that he must be one who is able to sympathize with the people, one "who can bear gently with the ignorant and erring, for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity" (Heb. 5:2) That he might meet this qualification, God chose him "from among men" (Heb. 5:1).

However, the work of Jesus as High Priest was also to be such that his qualifications were required to be exceedingly high. In fact, so high were his requirements that none "among men" could meet them. So one from the presence of God had to be sent. He too was to be one able to sympathize with the people whom he was to represent. Jesus met this qualification perfectly as the God-man. The Hebrew writer says, "For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are" (Heb. 4:15). He lived among men that he might enter into the feelings of men. But he also was divine in order that he might perfectly represent God.

Since no sacrifice was to be offered for our great High Priest, he had to be without sin. He "did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth" (1 Pet. 2:22). He was tempted in all points like as we are, "yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15). Paul emphasizes his sinlessness in these words: "For such a high priest became us, holy, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people" (Heb. 7:26, 27).

At this point, Aaron did not perfectly serve as a type of Christ. Until Christ, all had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3: 23). This guilt characterized all the high priests, even back to the very first one. But had Christ also been guilty of sin, he could not have served as a sacrifice for the sins of others. He then only could have paid the penalty for his own sin. So here it was necessary that Christ rise above Aaron. Yet it is preeminently true that both Aaron and Christ were required to possess high qualifications.

3. Both represented the people. Upon two onyx stones were to be engraved the names of the tribes of Israel, six names to be on each stone. These engraved stones were then to be placed upon Aaron's shoulders that he might "bear their names before Jehovah upon his two shoulders for a memorial" (Ex. 28:9,12). The scripture also says that the 1ligh priest "is appointed for men in things pertaining to God" (Heb. 5:1). The high priest was to offer for himself "and for the errors of the people" (Heb. 9:7). The high priest, then, acted in behalf of the people.

Jesus also, as High Priest, acts in behalf of the people. This is implied first in his vicarious death. "He hath borne our grieves, and carried our sorrows . . . he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed" (Isa. 53:4, 5). Also on this point study Heb. 9:15; 10:10; Matt. 26:28; Eph. 1:7; 1 Jno. 1:6, 7; 2:1, 2).

It was for no sin that Christ had done that he died, but it was for the sins of the people. So both Aaron and Christ functioned in behalf of others, though it is true that Aaron's personal sins required that he also offer for himself.

4. Both offered a sacrifice. Paul says that high priests were appointed that they "may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sin" (Heb. 5: 1; 8:3, 4). We ordinarily think of a priest as standing about an altar upon which he offers sacrifice. A priest who offered no sacrifice would be ineffectual and useless.

It was essential that Christ as High Priest also have a sacrifice to offer. "It is necessary that this high priest also have somewhat to offer" (Heb. 8:5). Had Jesus left without offering the sacrifice for which he had come, sinful humanity would have remained in the same tragic condition that existed when Christ came.

5. Both offered one great sacrifice for atonement. Aaron, on the 10th day of the seventh month, offered a sacrifice for atonement (Lev. 16). He took the blood of the sin offering and sprinkled it on the mercy seat. This same sacrifice was "continually" offered "year by year" (Heb. 9:7; 10:3-5). Had there been perfection in this sacrifice, there would have been no need for Christ to come (Gal. 2: 21 ) . Nor would there have been the necessity of repeating the sacrifice year by year. But in the sacrifice of bulls and goats, there is a remembrance of sin year by year (Heb. 10:3, 4). So the Day of Atonement in the Old Testament was a day of annual sacrifice. The annual atonement was the great sacrifice that the high priest offered.

Christ also, as a High Priest, had "somewhat to offer." But his sacrifice was his own perfect life. "But now once at the end of the ages hath he been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb. 9: 26). The blood of animals would not suffice for sin. So he offered himself. So perfect was his sacrifice that there was no need of it being repeated, "else must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world" (Heb. 9:26). "For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Heb. 10:14). He obtained "eternal redemption" for the people. The sacrifice of himself "once" for all men obtained "forever" redemption from all sin.

6. Both offered sacrifice in the Holy of Holies. Aaron was required to go into the second veil of the tabernacle, into the innermost part that was called the Holy of Holies, that he might offer the sacrifice of atonement. No other priest could go into this most sacred place. But the high priest was required to enter "once in the year" to offer the sacrifice of atonement (Heb. 9:1-10).

Since Jesus Christ was also a High Priest, and since he also had somewhat to offer, he too had to enter the Holy of Holies. Christ entered not into the physical tabernacle to offer his sacrifice, nor yet into a holy place made with men's hands, but he entered "into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us" (Heb. 9:24). He personally went into the literal presence of God in heaven for us that he might present his own blood as a redemption price for us, just as Aaron and his successors entered into the Holy place of the tabernacle to offer the annual blood atonement.

So, in the appointment, qualifications, office and function of Aaron, the work of Jesus as High Priest were predicted. As a High Priest Christ was like Aaron, as to function. In an article to follow we will see that his High Priesthood was like Melchizedek's as to order.

TRUTH MAGAZINE X: 10, pp. 2-4 July 1966