Agonizomai: Hebrews 5:1-4 - Christ, the Chosen High Priest

Monday, December 07, 2009

Hebrews 5:1-4 - Christ, the Chosen High Priest

Hebrews 5:1-4 - Christ, the Chosen High Priest

Heb 5:1-4 For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. 3 Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. 4 And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.

On the theme being presented to the Hebrew Christians of Jesus the great and eternal and perfect High Priest in contrast with the temporary system of ceremonial law, we come first to the figure familiar to the Jews; that is the high priest chosen from among universally fallen and sinful men. He will be compared (not that there is any comparison) to the ultimate High Priest of whom the earthly was merely the foreshadowing.

But there are similarities which must not be minimized. They were both fully human. They were both chosen, select, elect. They both made sacrifices for sins on behalf of others and acted as intermediary between men and God.

Returning to the merely fallen human high priest, even he - both despite and because of having his own sin in common with those for whom he mediates - can deal gently with the ignorant and the wayward. Not indulgently, but gently. In the same way that God cannot look upon sin and hates the sinner in his sin and yet takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked and thus will not quench a burning flax nor break a bruised reed, so the earthly representative, despite his mortal limitations, also shows love towards the lost and the straying while turning them into the right path.

But the limitation of the earthly high priest is just that he does, in fact, share sin in common with his charges. Even he needed to offer a sacrifice for his own sin. Not that the sacrifice offered under the ceremonial and Mosaic Law ever actually atoned for sin. It was the obedience of faith with which the sacrifice was brought that spoke of forgiveness. Again, it foreshadowed the real Thing of which it was a symbol, though apart from participation through the obedience of faith there was no forgiveness in Israel. God always desired mercy and not sacrifice and the blood of bulls and rams of themselves did nothing.

It was the obedience that came from faith in the God who promised to avert His anger at their sin, that He would do just that when they made the sacrifice. The faith was always in God and not in the sacrifice itself. It trusted God to forgive because had promised to forgive. It was always about trusting God and abiding in the means He had ordained by which that trust was both consummated and realized.

The appointment of the High Priest was never a matter of men’s choice. It was God alone who selected the man who was to be the intermediary. To act as intermediary on behalf of the people is called an honour - but it was a conferred and entirely gracious honour. It was not something to be lobbied for or voted upon by men. Under the Mosaic system the way to God was barred to the common people and open only by special grace to the man appointed by God as their representative and High Priest. Under the later gospel system, all men were priests under the great High Priest, Jesus Christ and, through Him, have direct access to God. All the saints (priests) are still chosen by God - chosen in Christ from the foundation of the world.

So, like all his worldly predecessors, Jesus was chosen by God. He is the elect Son, in Whom all the other children are both seen and received.


Blogger Derek Ashton said...


Is that YOU dressed up as a high priest?


9:16 am  
Blogger agonizomai said...


Just call me Caiphas.


10:33 am  

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