Hebrews 5:1-10 (Part One) Jesus Our Perfect High Priest
Our text this morning is found in Hebrews 5:1-10. This is the first of two sermons on this text. It says,
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.
5 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.”
7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.
Last week we looked at Hebrews 4:14-16. Let me address three things in those verses: we have a great high priest, He is a sympathetic high priest, He was tempted like us, yet without sin.
We Have A Great High Priest
First, verse 14 begins with the declaration that we have a great high priest. We read, “We have a great high priest…”. Immediately after these words we are told who this high priest is: “We have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God…”
This is important because these words can mean different things to different people. For example, a Jew would immediately think of the high priest who was functioning within the Levitical priesthood.
These Christians were surrounded by Jews who thought this way. These Jews would point to the Law and say that Christianity lacked everything that they enjoyed. Christianity had no temple, no high priest, no sacrifices, no priesthood, and no mediator. As a result of this, these believers were shaken and their confidence was waning.
Secondly, if you said ‘We have a great high priest’ to a Roman Catholic they would think about what the Catholic church has taught them. They would say, “While Christ is our high priest with respect to sacrifices and is the ultimate head of all God’s people, he has left Peter here to serve as his visible representative in his absence. The pope, as the successor of Peter, thus has a function similar to that of the high priest as the earthly head of God’s people.” 1
Thirdly, if you say to a Christian, ‘We have a great high priest’, they should immediately think of Jesus Christ who has passed through the heavens. Jesus is the only source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him. Jesus has been chosen and appointed by God to be a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. A Christian knows that we have a better covenant, with better promises, and we have a better hope through the mediation of Jesus Christ (7:18-19).
Because of these things the author of Hebrews can speak of the priests under the first covenant as ‘former priests’ who have been removed by death and replaced by Jesus who holds His priesthood permanently. Jesus has an eternal priesthood and He is able to save those who draw near to God through Him. (7:23-25) Therefore no other earthly representative is needed. In fact, believers are exhorted to look to Jesus and consider Him alone (2:1; 3:1; 12:2).
Because of these things the author of Hebrews can say, “In speaking of a new covenant, He (Jesus) makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete is ready to vanish away.” (8:13)
Because of this the author of Hebrews can speak of the Old Covenant as a ‘shadow of the good things to come’. (10:1) And he can speak of Christ as being ‘the true form of these realities’ that the Old Covenant was pointing us too. (10:1)
The author of Hebrews can say, ‘Christ has offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until His enemies should be made a footstool for His feet. For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.’ (10:12-14)
Because of all of these things we can have ‘confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh, since we have a great high priest over the House of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.’ (19-23)
My friends, I have just given you a small taste of the different things that we are going to explore over the next five chapters in the book of Hebrews. From Hebrews 5:1 till the end of Hebrews 10 the author of Hebrews is going to prove that Jesus Christ is our Great High Priest. He is going to prove that Jesus has established a perfect and eternal priesthood. Therefore we can draw near to the throne of grace with confidence. This is the author’s goal for us as he begins and ends these next five chapters.
Hebrews 4:15-16 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Hebrews 10:22-23 says, “...and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”
Because of Jesus we can come boldly to the throne of grace with confidence. We do not have to run away from God as Adam and Eve did when they had broken covenant with Him.
Even under the Old Covenant the people could not come boldly before God with confidence. Instead only the high priest could enter the holy of hollies once a year. The Levitical priesthood was established by God to mediate between sinful men and a holy God. (Hebrews 5:1-4)
But now, through Jesus we can approach God with confidence (Hebrews 5:5-10). We do not approach God because we have clothed ourselves with our own righteousness, we only come to God by being clothed in the righteousness of Christ (Zechariah 3:1-5; Isaiah 61:10).
Whereas Adam had failed in the garden, Jesus was faithful and we now have access to God through Him. John Owen says, “The Father is placed before us as the ultimate object of access in our worship; the Spirit is the effecting cause, enabling us in this worship; and the Son is the means by which we approach God.”2
Jesus Is A Sympathetic High Priest Who Was Tempted Without Sin
We also saw in Hebrews 4:15 that we have a high priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses (4:15). We are weak and we are prone to respond sinfully in our ignorance. We tend to drift away from God and to have hearts inclined toward waywardness. But our High Priest is gentle with us (5:2). We are often tempted but we have a high priest who was tempted in all ways that we have, yet without sin (4:15).
Have you ever been around someone who has given themselves over to a particular sin? Maybe it is an addiction or a habitual sin that they have not overcome. If you’ve been around that person for a long time you may not see just how much the sin has affected their disposition. But there may be a point when they are delivered from that sin and you begin to see that they are a totally different person. Their entire disposition and demeanor changes.
I mention this because, like you, I have been enslaved in sin at times in my life. And when this happens I am affected in many ways. I will say, ‘This is my personality and this is just who I am.’ But when I experience freedom from that sin I realize just how much that sin effected me as a person, my disposition, my thoughts, my affections, my moods (4:11-13).
Thomas Manton describes this when he said, “First we practice sin, then defend it, then boast of it...It is Satan’s custom by small sins to draw us to greater, as little sticks set the great ones on fire, and a wisp of straw kindles a block of wood.”3Sin always leads to death. We begin by practicing sin, then we defend it, and then we boast in it.
Temptation, however, is not like sin in this way. Sin corrupts, but victory over temptation can mature us. Sin twists and deforms, but overcoming temptation perfects and matures. Sin makes us self-centered, but enduring temptations makes us gentle, humble and merciful (Matthew 5:1-16).
When we overcome temptations, whether through endurance or genuine repentance, it produces humility, godliness and gentleness (James 1:2-4). Thomas Brooks spoke of the usefulness of temptations in a Christians life when he says, “Temptations make a Christian more serviceable and useful to others. None so fit and able to relieve tempted souls, to sympathize with tempted souls, to support tempted souls, to counsel tempted souls, to pity tempted souls, to bear with tempted souls, and to comfort tempted souls as those who have been in the school of temptation.”
Did you have any idea that the temptations that you face can benefit you so much when you go to Christ to receive mercy and grace?
If there is this much usefulness in the temptations we face then we can say that the temptations that Jesus fought and had victory over are very profitable for the people that He now serves as their high priest. Jesus is able to relieve our tempted souls, to sympathize with tempted souls, to support tempted souls, to counsel tempted souls, to pity tempted souls, to bear with tempted souls, and to comfort tempted souls (4:15; 5:2).
John Owen said, “Temptations and occasions put nothing into a man, but only draw out what was in him before.”4 Jesus was full of grace and truth (John 1:14); therefore, when tempted He defeated the temptation with grace and truth (Matthew 4:1-11). And now He overflows with gentleness, patience, mercy, grace, and truth toward us.
Oh, what a great high priest we have in Jesus! We can draw near to Him with confidence and receive grace and mercy (4:16). No, really we can draw near to Him with confidence. Seriously, He intends to give to all who come to Him these great blessings: mercy and grace to help in our time of need (11:6 - ...for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him).
If we believe this then why do we struggle to draw near to Christ? Thomas Watson once said, “Jesus Christ went more willingly to the cross than we go to the throne of grace.”5 I think that the author of Hebrews would agree with Watson’s statement.
In Luke 9:51 we read about Jesus as He approached the cross, “When the days drew near for Him to be taken up, He set His face to go to Jerusalem.”
Scripture often exhorts us against spiritual laziness and sluggishness, “And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises (Hebrews 6:11-12).
What then will this author do to get us to come to the throne of grace to receive these blessings?
For the next five chapters he will give a profound teaching about how Jesus is the great high priest and what this means for us.
The author of Hebrews will exhort us to progress in the faith and mature in the grace of God (5:11-14).
He will also give us two warnings that are meant to get us to respond with saving faith (6:1-8; 10:26-31).
He will exhort us to encourage one another. In Hebrews 10:23-24 we read, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
I have spent the majority of this sermon leading us into the context of these next five chapters that we will be studying (Hebrews 5-10). In a moment we will take communion where we will celebrate what Jesus has done and the covenant that He has established.
I would like us to end by reflecting upon the fact that our redemption was determined long before anything was created. In eternity the Trinity made a covenant together that they would redeem the elect from their sins (Ephesians 4:5-6). If this covenant was not agreed upon by each of them there would be no salvation for sinners. There would be no mercy and grace given, the Son of God would not have been born as a man, there would be no cross, no resurrection, and no promise of heaven for anyone.
To save the elect God promised to send His Son for those that He would redeem. This would require Jesus to redeem them through His perfect obedience in life (4:15) and through His atoning death on the cross (5:7-10). In this covenant the Father promised to reward His Son for His faithful obedience, the Son agreed to faithfully obey the Father and do His will, and the Holy Spirit promised to apply the benefits that the Son earned to the elect.
With these things in mind we see that it is no small matter when we read Hebrews 5:5, “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.”
Or when we read in Hebrews 5:8-10, “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered. And being made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.”
Nor are we surprised when the Holy Spirit testifies about these things in Hebrews 10:15-16, “And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, “’This is the covenant that I will make with them after those day, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds.’ then He adds, ‘I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’ Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.”
The Jews that had rejected Jesus Christ chose to trust in the Law, in Moses, and in the Levitical Priesthood. They failed to see that all of those things were pointing to something better that was to come. They accused Christians of lacking a priest and any offerings, but they did not see that the Trinity had covenanted together to provide a promise concerning things that were heavenly and eternal. Jesus offered a better offering – Himself. Jesus entered a better Temple which was in heaven. God had designated a better priest who offered a better sacrifice. Because of these things a New Covenant was established.
These people had forgotten the promise that God made in Genesis 3:15 right after Adam had fallen and plunged everyone into sin and death. God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heal.”
The first Adam failed in the covenant of works that God had made with him. He was to tend the garden of Eden as a gardener and he was also to guard the garden as its appointed guardian. He failed to do this; but the second Adam, Jesus, came succeeded where the first Adam had failed. Everyone who has ever looked to Christ in faith has had a mediator between them and a holy God. In the Old Testament the people were to believe the promise given in Genesis 3:15 that God would send a conquering king and a suffering servant to defeat the devil. In the New Testament we see more clearly that all these promises are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus, like Adam, was under a covenant of works but He did not sin (4:15). Therefore, Jesus fulfilled the covenant that He had made with the Father before creation and purchased the elect on the basis of righteous principles. Now, all who look to the Son will be saved. All who believe upon Christ will have peace with God, receive righteousness, and be given eternal life.
1Catholic Answers Article: https://www.catholic.com/qa/is-the-pope-similar-to-the-high-priest-in-the-old-testament
2John Owen, Searching Our Hearts In Difficult Times, p. 25
3The Golden Treasury of Puritan Quotations, IDE Thomas, p.300-301
4John Owen, The Golden Treasury of Puritan Quotations, p.334
5Heaven Taken By Storm, p. 9