Agonizomai: Heb 5:5-6 Christ - The Eternal High Priest

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Heb 5:5-6 Christ - The Eternal High Priest

Heb 5:5-6 Christ - The Eternal High Priest

Heb 5:5-6 So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; 6 as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”

Remember that a comparison is being made between the way the high priests under the Mosaic and ceremonial laws were chosen by God, and the elect nature of Christ. The Mormons have God looking for heavenly volunteers to come to earth and save mankind. That is not what the true gospel says.

As to Christ’s human nature it was unassuming and humble. He was the meekest man that ever lived - taking the title away from Moses himself. He did not come to do his own will, but the will of the Father who sent him. But neither did Jesus come unwillingly, as if the Father bid him to do something with which he reluctantly complied. The Son and the Father are one in purpose, will and substance. They are in perfect union yet have distinction as to Personality and role. And these differences are not things that suddenly arose out of some necessity as God "scrambled to deal with the fall." The differences and the distinction of Persons within the Godhead are from eternity. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all equally God and they always were and will be. They are one God.

It is important to get this doctrine right to begin with, or passages like this one will be impenetrable or worse, they will be wrested and twisted to say something that God never said. The cults take passages such as this one and, based on the English concept of begetting children, assume that the Son came into existence only at the incarnation. In other words, he was only a man, like other men. This necessitates a theology that denies the gospel in many ways, but I will mention two:
1) If Jesus was only a fallen man he was justly under the wrath of God on account of his own inherited fallen (Adamic) nature - just like all of us - and his life and death could not be meritorious. As a consequence there could be no substitution and no effective federal representation of the elect children.

2) It makes Christ a fallen man who must earn salvation for us all from a position of lostness, which no man can do - even for himself, let alone a whole class of people. It therefore posits a gospel by which all subsequent (and antecedent) men must also pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, and denies the doctrine of total depravity. A Pelagian gospel inevitably results.
But there is obviously a sense in which Christ was begotten. The writer takes the Hebrews back once more to their own sacred writings in Psalm 2 where a saying commonly believed to be about David, the earthly king, is now claimed to be about Christ, the heavenly King. "You are my son, today I have begotten you." This is God talking to God. When he says "today" he cannot literally be speaking to the one born "today," because newborns don’t understand language. But there is some application to David as the "type" of Christ. David was victorious over the nations - only in a partial and temporary way; in an earthly way. Christ is victorious over the nations in every way - and perfectly, to boot.

Christ was begotten as a man in a unique way, through the "overshadowing" of the Holy Spirit upon Mary. His humanity was begotten; he was born a helpless baby and grew up in grace and favour with God and men. But this birth was not a coming into existence - it was a coming into human existence, which is quite a different thing. Christ was God the Son taking humanity upon himself.

But a much more expansive concept of the Father begetting the Son is in the moment of the Son’s ascension into glory, having finished the work that the Father gave to him by becoming the perfect atoning sacrifice by which many sons would come to glory. Now he was begotten the head of an innumerable host of redeemed people from every kindred and tongue and tribe. His begetting begot us. So identified with Him are His people that the begetting of Christ in this moment of his victory is the begetting of His people into life eternal and into the everlasting presence of the Father. I speak not of the moment of salvation (whenever that might be) but of the moment salvation was wrought and sealed for all who would believe; salvation achieved, but not yet fully revealed.

And see the contrast between Christ and the other high priests made in terms of eternity. Again using the Hebrew Scriptures and applying them to Christ, the writer begins to set forth the infinite and eternal nature of Christ’s work and his Priesthood. "You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek." Psalm 110, from which this is taken is another prophetic Psalm. It is the one where the Lord himself challenged the learned leaders of his Own day in their interpretation of scripture. "The Lord said to my lord..." and "How is it, then he calls him ‘Lord’ if it is David’s son...?" {Mt 22:44-46} And this reference to Melchizedek is found in the same context - one speaking of Christ Himself and recognized as such by the Lord during His incarnation.

Much more will be spoken of concerning this mysterious figure who blessed Abraham and to whom Abraham gave tithes. Suffice it to say here, that this was a priest of the Living God who preceded even the father of the nation of the Jews and, in him, Moses and David. He was a priest unconnected by earthly blood to the Jewish line. The point is that it was not by heredity that Melchizedek was honoured by Abraham when he tithed to him. The priest came, as it were, out of the mists of time and disappeared into them again; he was timeless - eternal - not a part of any system of ceremony or law.

Allusions are being drawn to Christ as the eternal and infinite High Priest and a contrast is made with the merely mortal men who had, until this time, operated under the Mosaic administration. The writer strives to remind them of what they must have confessed at one time - that Jesus Christ is unique; He is so far different from those who went before as to origin, while being nevertheless the same with regard to His humanity. He represented the people like all the High Priests did, but He was of a completely different order of Being at one and the same time - spotless, blameless, holy, perfect and utterly pleasing to the Father; from eternity and, having finished His work, gone back to eternity; having come bringing the nature of God in human form, He returned taking with Him human beings who would now have the nature of God.


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