The Latter Epistles -Hebrews 5

Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.  He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness.  This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people.  And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.
In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest.  But God said to him,
“You are my Son;
    today I have become your Father.”
And he says in another place,
“You are a priest forever,
    in the order of Melchizedek.”
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.  Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand.  In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.  You need milk, not solid food!  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

  • Hebrews 5:1-14

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

Hebrews 5:1-9 ‘nature of the priestly office’: “I. Of what kind of beings the high priest must be.  He must be taken from among men; he must be a man, one of ourselves.  This implies that God would not admit sinful man to come to him immediately and alone; that God was pleased to take one from among men, by whom they might approach God in hope.
“II. For whom every high priest is ordained:
For men in things pertaining to God, for the glory of God and the good of men.
“III. For what purpose every high priest was ordained:
That he might offer both gifts and sacrifices for sin.

  • Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary (Scripture quotations are not in bold/italics)

Hebrews 5:9 ‘once made perfect’: “Did Christ need to be made perfect?  Not in his nature, for he was already perfect in both his divine and his human nature.  But he was willing to undergo the process that made him completely fit for the office of a Savior – that is, perfect in his obedience, perfect as a sacrifice, perfect as a mediator and substitute  for his people.  Being made perfect through suffering, he is able fully to discharge his office.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

Hebrews 5:10-14 ‘the person called Melchizedek’: “I. He had many things which he could say to them concerning this mysterious person called Melchisedec, whose priesthood was eternal.  There are great mysteries in the person and office of the Redeemer; Christianity is the great mystery of godliness.
“II. The reason why he did not say all those things concerning Christ, our Melchisedec, that he had to say: You are dull of hearing.  Dull hearers make the preaching of the gospel a difficult thing, and even many who have some faith are but dull hearers.
“III. It was not a mere natural infirmity, but it was a sinful infirmity, v. 12.  1. They might have been so well instructed in the doctrine of the gospel as to have been teachers of others.  2.
You have need that one should teach you again, …
“These are in the church babes and persons of full age (v. 12-14), and there are in the gospel milk and strong meat.”

  • Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary (Scripture quotations are not in bold/italics)

My Thoughts

Again, the author quotes the Old Testament, Psalms 2 and Psalms 110.

To “translate” the Matthew Henry comments, ‘infirmity’ and ‘dull hearers’ comes from the King James.  Of course, our infirmity is our sin and specifically our sin nature.  The NIV above states that we no longer desire to understand, thus we are dull hearers of the Word of God.  Other translations make it sound like we are simply hard of hearing.  In this case, the NIV seems to not apologize about getting to the point.  If we desired to understand, it would be obvious that Jesus was the ultimate, great high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Pardon me, but every time I read Hebrews 5 or Psalm 110, which Hebrews 5 quotes, I think of the mass youth choir that I joined in my junior year of high school.  I was not yet born-again, but I was in that period of praying the salvation prayer every night, plus at other times.  I had been going to church a few times each week since birth.  But that year, the Baptist church did something unthinkable, at least in those days for them, they invited the heathens (in their view) from all the other churches to the First Baptist church so that we could have a youth choir of over 100 singing a cantata.  Maybe they were just trying to convert us to “real” religion.  I do not think it was a Christmas cantata.  We had Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Church of Christ, all standing next to each other, pretending that we liked one another.  I stood next to the one among us that would become a politician and is now a senator for the state of Mississippi.  He was a high school senior at the time.

Why does this come up?  The tenors had a group solo, meaning we all sang, but just the tenors.  “We have an high priest!  After the order of Melchizedek!  Boom Boom Boom!”  Okay, there was no “boom boom boom” but to keep the syncopation during the rest, we stomped our feet, and the choir director gave up trying to get us to stop.  The “boom” coming from the risers we were standing on.  After the “boom boom boom” we sang the same line over again, with very little variation in the tune.  Don’t ask me the name of the cantata, the other songs, or even the lyrics for the rest of that song.  I can remember that the event happened and the practices.  I can remember the conversations with the senior who would become a senator.  And I can remember, even the melody, of that one line, just ten words, often repeated.

I am among those who thinks that Genesis 14:18 is a Christophany.  It does not say that Abraham bowed down and worshipped him.  It only states that he gave Melchizedek a tenth.  I can live with it not being a Christophany in that you would give a tithe to a priest.  Yet, there has been a lot said about this mysterious figure.  Melchizedek is mentioned in Genesis 14:18, Psalm 110:4, and nine times in Hebrews, scattered over chapters 5, 6 and 7.  That is it!  I have heard sermons in favor of the Christophany idea in that if there is this godly priest, a priest that serves the most high God, a priest that is also a king and the ruler of Salem, the city that would one day become the capitol city of Israel, Jerusalem, then why only mention him once?  It is as if he was created for this one purpose, served that purpose, and then disappeared from the scene.  All the other references to Melchizedek refer to that one verse, Genesis 14:18.

Maybe, if Melchizedek was just a man, it shows that we as believers can serve God as a priest, since the great high priest, Jesus, is in our hearts.  We do so with intercessory prayer.  Not that we can take ten percent of the spoils of war by offering a little bread and wine.  But even what Melchizedek offers to Abraham points to Jesus.  He offered Abraham bread and wine.  Could he have said, eat and drink this in remembrance of me?  After all, this one “chance encounter” was remembered.

And why do those of us, like the Hebrews receiving this letter, who have studied Scripture…  Why do we not understand the connection?  The author of Hebrews suggests we have dull hearing.  It is not that we cannot hear, but we either choose to not hear or we choose to not connect the dots in understanding what is going on.

The author even goes on to state that many of the believers were still babes in faith among those who initially received the letter.  When we accept Jesus, we are reborn, born-again.  Thus, we are babes until we learn how to pray and learn from God’s Word.  That was my sign from God that He had entered my heart.  I read what I had read before going to bed, but it was as if I had never read those words before.  I had read those words countless times before, but they had new meaning, because the Holy Spirit was working within me.

Please, please, please, never quit reading the Bible after you are saved.  Being saved was the end of your old life, but it was a birth of your new life.  And if you do not grow, you will be on milk forever.  God wishes all believers to eat strong meat.  And if I read that chapter that I read the morning after I accepted Jesus again, it would have even deeper meaning for me today, for I am further along the path toward Jesus.

That is what the high priest does.  He offers sacrifices, in this case, Jesus offering Himself.  He intercedes, in this case, sitting on the right hand of the Father.  And He guides us, first with the toddling baby steps and then to full adulthood.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“1. Why is it hard for many people to trust the love of God?  How would you explain the meaning of the priesthood of Jesus to someone like that?  Likewise, to one who didn’t understand the OT sacrificial system?
”2. What situations have made you wonder about turning away from Christ?  At those times, of what advantage is it to you to remember him as your high priest?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

The second question literally floors me.  I am dumbfounded.  I find it incomprehensible to think of turning from Christ.  Once Christ entered into me when I was born-again, there was no turning back.  I could not turn back if I wanted to turn back, because Jesus was not going to leave.  Jesus made a promise that He would not let me go, and no matter how many times that I have faltered since, I can still feel His presence – which makes the pangs of conscience that much worse when I do sin, but even then, I know I am forgiven.  I am so put off by this question, that I can hardly rewrite it.  I suppose you could say that when you have strayed far from Jesus after accepting Him, if ever, and you felt all alone, how could Jesus, as high priest, be an advantage in drawing you closer to Him?  Or maybe, if you have not grown as a Christian, staying a newborn babe in Christ, how could Jesus’ priesthood draw you into a better relationship so that you desire more of Jesus?  And as far as heavy confession time is concerned, when you are not doing what God intended for you to do, for whatever reason, and you are spinning your wheels, not getting anywhere spiritually, career-wise, emotionally, then how does Jesus’ priesthood help bring you back into a Christ-centered lifestyle, 24/7, and a prayer life that can guide you to God’s perfect plan for your life?  That one I could definitely relate to.  Just because I have always felt Jesus in me since being born-again, I have not always made a steady climb toward full sanctification.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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