The Priesthood of Christ

Ferrell Jenkins
St. Louis, Mo.

The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews calls upon the holy brethren who are partakers of the heavenly calling to consider the Apostle and High Priest of their confession. This same challenge comes to us. We must consider our High Priest. Abbott-Smith says that the word here translated "consider" means "to take note of, perceive, consider carefully." I want you to take note of and carefully consider with me the great High Priest of our confession, even Jesus.

Before we can understand the full import of the term "high priest" we must learn the qualifications of the one who fills this office. A list of these qualifications is given in Heb. 5. These could be referred to any high priest, but we want first to study them with the Aaronic order in mind. It is stated that the high priest is taken from among men. It is necessary that he be a man in order that he might fulfill this. He cannot be a far away deity. This individual is appointed for the same men from whom he was taken. His service in their behalf is in "things pertaining to God." He is to "offer both gift, and sacrifices for sins". The priest must be a sympathetic understanding person. He has to bear gently with the ignorant or with those out of the way. This is necessary because he also is a sinful man. He is limited in this respect and it is necessary that he offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as those of the people for whom he serves. The last qualification mentioned is that of a divine call, for "no man taketh the honor unto himself, but when he is called of God, even as was Aaron".

When we change our consideration from Aaron to Christ we see that Christ not only meets the qualifications, but actually exceeds them. We shall list the requirements and after each show how Christ meets it.

1. The High Priest must be from among men. Although Jesus was the Son of God and was Deity himself (John 1:1), he chose to become flesh and dwell among men (Jn. 1:14). "Since then the children are sharers in flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner partook of the same" (Heb. 2:14). Among the reasons for this action on His part is that "he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God.

2. The High Priest must serve for men. The service of Christ as high priest was to be for men. He as priest is to "make propitiation for the sins of the people."

3. The High Priest must offer a sacrifice. Christ makes propitiation for the sins of men, and offers, not sacrifices, but a sacrifice unto Gcd. It was not possible for the type of sacrifice that the Levitical priest offered to take away sin (Hebrews 10:4). With them it was a continual affair, but with Christ it is a once for all matter. Christ does not offer blood that is not his own as do the Levites, "but now once at the end of the ages hath he been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb. 9:27). The sacrifice that Christ offered was that of a specially prepared body (Hebrews 10:5-6). (Compare this thought with that of the virgin birth.) This offering was the "one sacrifice for sins forever" (Heb. 10:12). Christ meets and exceeds this qualification as a high priest.

4. The High Priest must be sympathetic. Jesus was able to meet this requirement. "For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted" (Heb. 2:18). He is one that can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, because he was tempted in every point that we are and yet without any sin. In this respect He is much superior to the Levitical priests. Hebrews 5:7-10 is to me some of the most beautiful language in all the Bible. It speaks of Jesus,

"Who in the days of his flesh, having offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and having been beard for his godly fear, though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation; named of God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

5. The High Priest must be called of God. Jesus did not glorify himself to be made the 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). We shall have more to say about this divine call later in the article.

In addition to the above named requirements, there is a sixth point, in which Christ excels the priests of the Old Dispensation. Christ was sinless. He "did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth" (I Pet. 2:22). This makes all the others take on a new light also, for it makes Him superior to any other man, including the high priest, for none other has ever lived as He.

There are several ways in which we can show that the High Priesthood of Christ is superior to that of Aaron and the Levitical order. According to Exodus 28, Aaron, the brother of Moses, is "called of God" to be the high Priest. At a later time when Korah rebelled, those that were with him perished. This action of wrath on the part of God caused the people to murmur against Moses and Aaron. God called all the people together and commanded them to take twelve rods, one for each of the tribes. The house of Aaron was to stand for Levi. God said that the rod that budded would he that of the man He had chosen. The rod of Aaron budded, produced blossoms, and bare ripe almonds. This was God's way of confirming the priesthood of Aaron. By this supernatural event of bringing to life, as it were, a dead stick, God let the people know of a certainty His choice. (Read Numbers 16-17 for the whole story).

Like Aaron, we have pointed out that Christ was called of God. It may be that certain individuals will today question the priesthood of Christ, but God has by a miracle confirmed it. Christ was appointed after the resurrection, by which His priesthood was confirmed and guaranteed. The same one that had appointed Christ a priest had said to him, "Thou art my Son, This day have I begotten thee." Paul said that this passage was fulfilled by the resurrection of Christ (Acts 13:32-33). Jesus was raised up never to suffer death any more. In Hebrews we learn that Jesus had been made priest "not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life" (Heb. 7:16). To this can be added the witness of God when He said "Thou art a priest forever Heb. 7 :17). Christ has that endless life. He was "perfected for evermore" (Heb. 7:28). This perfection came through suffering ( Heb. 5:8, 9; 2:10). After this suffering He "sat down on the right hand of the throne of the majesty in the heavens" (Heb. 8:1). This was accomplished after His resurrection. The confirming sign of the priesthood of Christ is the resurrection. Though I would not press it too far, there may be a type in the dead stick of Aaron budding or coming to life. If this is true then the anti-type would be the coming to life of the lifeless body of Jesus. Both are miracles. Both are used as signs of confirmation. The miracle of confirmation of Christ's priesthood is far superior to that of Aarons, so, it would follow that the priesthood of Christ is greater than the priesthood of Aaron.

We desire now to contrast Aaron and Christ. Aaron stands as a type and Jesus as the anti-type. We have pointed out that both of them were called of God. Aaron was made priest "without an oath" (Heb. 7:21), but Christ was made priest "with an oath." God "interposed with in oath" (Heb. 6:17). This refers to the oath of Psalms 110:4. A second comparison would be that the Aaronic priests are

many in number (Heb. 7:24). The Levites offer daily sacrifices for themselves first and then for the people, but He offered one sacrifice for all. He at once was the priest and the offering. For the Scripture says "he offered up himself" (Heb. 7:27). He did not have to offer for himself, because He was sinless. In all of this He is superior to Aaron. Under the law the priests were appointed "having infirmity" (Heb. 7:28). Jesus is a "Son, perfected for evermore."

There were definite failures of the Levitical priesthood. There was no perfection through it. If there had been perfection there would have been no need for another priest (Heb. 7:11-12). An imperfection concerning the sacrifices is given in Heb. 10:1-4:

For the law having a shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of the things, can never with the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect them that draw nigh. Else would they not have ceased to be offered? because the worshippers, having been once cleansed, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance made of sins year by year. For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins.

The writer of Hebrews anticipates the objection that one might raise concerning Christ. He was from a tribe of which no man had given attendance at the altar. He was of the tribe of Judah. Moses did not say anything concerning priests from that tribe. The solution is found in the fact that Christ is not a priest after the Aaronic or Levitical order, but He is a priest after the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 7 is spent showing that Melchizedek is greater than Levi, namely because the less is blessed of the better, and Levi in a sense paid tithes to Melchizedek. This priest blessed Abraham, the father of Levi, and Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, thus showing the greatness and superiority of Melchizedek over Levi.

Of Christ it is said, "Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek." Little is known of Melchizedek. His office as priest began and ended with him. Nothing is known about his genealogy. The son of God is a priest like this. The writer of Hebrews is not stating anything new, for the priest after this order had been expected for a long time (Ps. 110:4). For one to he a priest after the order of Melchizedek there are certain qualifications he must meet. He must be first king, then priest. Jesus was able to meet these qualifications. He was the one concerning whom Zechariah prophesied when he said that he "shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne; and the counsel of peace shall be between them both" (Zech. 6:13). A Levite could not meet this demand, but Jesus fulfills it beautifully.

The place of the ministry of Christ is different from that of Aaron. Jesus has "passed through the heavens" (Heb. 4:14). "For Christ entered not into a holy place made with hands, like in pattern to the true; but into heaven itself," (Heb. 9:24). The sanctuary in which the Levites served was only a copy of the true pattern in which Christ ministers. It is a sanctuary not made with hands. Christ has to be a priest in heaven, because He could not be a priest on earth ( Heb. 8:4).

We have considered a few things about our High Priest and have seen Him to be superior to the Levitical priesthood and even superior to its first great priest, Aaron. Jesus has entered into heaven, and thus has become our forerunner. Our anchor is there and He has showed us the way, so that we might have a hope both steadfast and sure. Seeing that this is true it is certain that we can "draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help us in time of need" (Heb. 4:16). Jesus is there ever living to "make intercession for" the Christian (Heb. 7:25). What a wonderful High Priest we have!

Is Christ your High Priest? If you have never obeyed Him then He is not. Jesus said: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned" (Mark 16:16). Before Jesus can make intercession for you, you must obey this teaching of His. After a person believes in God and Jesus Christ (Heb. 11:6) he must repent or turn from sin (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38; 17:30-31), confess the name of Christ, Romans 10:10), and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Baptism is a burial in water (Romans 6:3-4). Would you be willing to obey Jesus? After becoming a Christian you will be able to approach the throne of grace through Jesus Christ the one mediator between man and God.

Truth Magazine III:10, pp. 5-7
July 1959