Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Melchizedek, King of Salem, etc. The various extraordinary conjectures as to the personality of Melchizedek "we may safely treat as fanciful and unneeded. The typology connected with Melchizedek does not require that he himself should be regarded as any superhuman person, but merely exalts the human circumstances under which he appears into symbols of superhuman things. Everything combines to show that Melchizedek was a Canaanitish king who had retained the worship of the true God and combined in his own person the offices of king and priest." And the statements made concerning him in the third verse of our text need not cause us any difficulty. The Levitical priests held their office by virtue of their descent from Levi and Aaron. A clear and unquestionable genealogy was of the utmost importance to them. On the return of the Jews from captivity certain persons were excluded from the priesthood because they could not produce their pedigree (Ezra 2:61-63). Now, as for Melchizedek, the names of his parents were unknown, his name was not mentioned in the Hebrew genealogies, there was no record of his birth or of his death, and no mention of the termination of his priesthood. "He comes forth from the darkness like a streak of light, only to disappear immediately in the darkness again." He is mentioned in our text as a type of Jesus Christ.
I. IN HIS REGAL CHARACTER AND FUNCTIONS. "Melchizedek, King of Salem... by interpretation King of righteousness, and King of peace." In the reign of the Christ:
1. Righteousness is the firm basis of peace. It is true in government as in other things that "the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle." Stable peace is impossible apart from righteousness. Deep craft, subtle diplomacy, strong naval and military forces, are miserable guarantees for a nation's peace. The peace and the perpetuity of the reign of Messiah are founded upon its truth and righteousness. The witness of Scripture to this is most clear and conclusive (see Psalm 72:1-7; Isaiah 2:4; Isaiah 11:1-9; Isaiah 32:17).
2. Righteousness is joined with peace. Both these qualities characterize his administration. Righteousness is firm, inflexible, almost stern; peace is mild, merciful, gentle. In the kingdom of our Lord "mercy and truth meet together, righteousness and peace kiss each other."
II. IN HIS SACERDOTAL CHARACTER AND FUNCTIONS. Here are several points of analogy.
1. In the authority of his priesthood. "Melchizedek, priest of God Most High... without father, without mother," etc. He was not a priest because he was descended from priests, like the sons of Aaron. He received his priesthood direct from God. It was based upon character, not upon pedigree. It was "an independent priesthood, having its root in his own person." Even so was the priesthood of our Lord and Savior (cf. vers. 13-17; Hebrews 5:4-6).
2. In the blessings which he bestowed. Melchizedek bestowed upon Abraham a double blessing, and in each portion of it he prefigures the Christ.
(1) He ministered to his physical needs. "Melchizedek met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings," and "brought forth bread and wine" unto him; bread representing the necessary food of the physical life, and wine representing the delights of life - "wine that maketh glad the heart of man." And our Lord cared for the physical needs of men. He had compassion on the hungry thousands, and fed them; he pitied the afflicted, and healed them; he sympathized with their social pleasures, and contributed to them by turning water into wine.
(2) Melchizedek blessed Abraham spiritually (Genesis 14:19, 20). Our Lord confers the richest spiritual favors upon those who believe in him. The redemption of Jesus Christ is for the whole of man's nature. It is noteworthy that Melchizedek blessed the greatest and best man of his age of whom we have any record. He "blessed him that hath the promises," etc. (vers. 6, 7). Our Lord blesses the highest and holiest as well as the lowest and most sinful of men. None are so great or so good as to have outgrown the need of his blessing.
3. In the homage which he received. "To whom Abraham divided a tenth part of all... unto whom Abraham gave a tenth out of the chief spoils." He did this either as an act of homage to him as a king, and as placing himself under his authority and protection, or as an acknowledgment of his character and position as "priest of God Most High." To our Priest and King the mightiest and the weakest, the greatest and the smallest, high and low, rich and poor, shall pay heartiest and humblest homage (see Psalm 72:10, 11, 15, 17). "At the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow," etc. (Philippians 2:10, 11).
4. In the duration of his priesthood. "Abideth a Priest continually." This is not to be taken literally as to Melchizedek. Of him it is true in this way, there is no record of the termination of his priesthood by death or otherwise. As he did not receive it from his ancestors, it was not transmitted to his descendants: he yielded "up his priesthood to no one." But in a higher sense his great Antitype "abideth a Priest continually." He is "a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek." "He ever liveth to make intercession for them that draw near unto God through him." - W.J.
Psalm 110. and Genesis 14.) supply him with all he needs. The first states that Christ was the Priest after the order of Melchizedek; the second that Abraham, from whom all Israel, Aaron included, derived their greatness, did homage to Melchizedek; and thus the point was proved, for Aaron, in the person of Abraham, acknowledged Melchizedek's superiority. That is the argument. Subject - Christ a Priest after the order of Melchizedek.
I. THE OBJECT HERE IS TO SHOW THE SUPERIORITY OF CHRIST'S PRIESTHOOD TO THAT OF AARON.
1. We have the story of Melchizedek, the priest of Salem, to whom Abraham gave a tenth.
2. This story shows that Melchizedek was greater than Aaron. Abraham, the head of their nation, recognized Melchizedek as a divinely appointed priest - one who had a right to tithes from him, and the power to bless him. The reception of tithes by the Jewish priests was "the acknowledged symbol of their supremacy over their brethren" (Dale). But here was one who received tithes from Abraham himself! "And without contradiction the less is blessed by the greater." So that in Abraham kneeling before the righteous King of Salem, the whole Mosaic priesthood practically affirmed its inferiority to that of Melchizedek.
3. But Melchizedek is declared to be a type of Christ. (Note: Strange that for a thousand years this affirmation should have lain unnoticed in their sacred books till the inspired apostle throws this wondrous light upon it! How much is hidden in the Word of God to be revealed yet, to our surprise!)
II. OBSERVE THE POINTS IN WHICH, AS SEEN IN THE PRIESTHOOD OF MELCHIZEDEK, THE SUPERIORITY OF CHRIST'S PRIESTHOOD TO THAT OF AARON CONSISTS. Christ was not different to Aaron, but better; he was all that Aaron was, but he was more. We may learn from this ancient king-priest in what this more consisted.
1. Christ's priesthood is universal. Aaron's was for a limited circle - the seed of Abraham; but Melchizedek represented a priesthood which had a world-wide aspect, existing two thousand years before Aaron. Abel, Noah, Job, were priests of that order. So Christ is for all who will. His gospel is glad tidings, not for a few, nor for a section of the Church, nor for certain types of Christian character, but for all people.
2. Christ's priesthood is continuous. It is not meant that Melchizedek had no end of days, but that is true of him as far as the history is concerned. We do not read that he died, or that his priesthood terminated; and this serves to show the contrast between a continuous priesthood and one which, like the Aaronic, was continually changing; not begun till thirty years of age, nor continued after fifty, and only exercised at parts of the year. From the first, Jesus made intercession for the transgressors ("the Lamb slain before," etc.), and ever liveth for this. We are always sure of him. He never sleeps, nor forgets, nor is weary, nor gives place to another.
3. Christ's priesthood is royal. Aaron was only priest; Levi was king. Melchizedek was both. So Jesus, even on the cross most truly fulfilling his priestly work, was "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews," a Priest upon his throne. A priest or a king could never satisfy us. We need both - priestly sympathy and the resources of royalty; the law of the king proceeding from the love of the priest. Christ fulfils his priesthood royally; he is no vain friend to sinful man. Christ fulfils his kingship mediatorially, holding all his power on behalf of his redemptive work.
III. OBSERVE SOME OF THE INCIDENTAL LESSONS WHICH A COMPARISON OF CHRIST'S PRIESTHOOD WITH THAT OF MELCHIZEDEK SUGGESTS.
1. That righteousness and peace are the results of his priestly work. "Melchizedek" - king of righteousness; "King of Salem" - king of peace. Righteousness and peace are the end of the atoning, interceding work of the Son of God.
2. That he has a right to the priest's portion from his Church. The Jewish priesthood had a right to tithes from (not those who dissented from them, not idolaters, but) the sacred nation, but there was no such enactment binding on Abraham; his was a free-will offering. Christ has a right to our offerings - and "how much owest thou?" - but he only accepts the free offerings of a grateful heart.
3. That Christ's priestly benediction is granted to his weary people. The great Priest not simply goes to God for us in intercession, but comes forth from God to us in benediction. Christ is ever doing for us what Melchizedek did for Abraham when he came forth to greet him in his weariness with bread and wine. - C.N.
abideth a high priest continually." The typical resemblances between Melchizedek and our Lord are -
I. THE SUBLIME SOLITARINESS OF THIS PRIEST. He stands alone as the servant and minister of the most high God, and while the Jewish priests appear like the columns of a temple, Melchizedek rises as an obelisk, which by its loneliness attracts attention and awakens thought. Our Lord is, in his office, foreshadowed by this ancient priest; for he stands alone, and has had no predecessor, and will have no successor as High Priest over the house of God.
II. THE UNIVERSALITY OF HIS OFFICE FINDS ITS COUNTERPART IN JESUS CHRIST. Melchizedek was a priest for men as men, and before the separation of the race into the two classes of Jews and Gentiles. The successors of Aaron were limited in their ministrations to the twelve tribes of Israel; but the Redeemer is the Priest for the race of mankind: "for with him is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither bond nor free, and there is neither male nor female."
III. THE INTEREST DISPLAYED BY MELCHIZEDEK IN THE AFFAIRS OF WORSHIPPERS. Abraham had pursued the kings who had taken captive the family of Lot, and carried off much spoil from the inhabitants of Sodom. On his return the priest met him and his wearied troop with bread and wine, and blessed the patriarch in the Name of the most high God. In like manner our Lord has an abiding interest in his worshippers, whom he delivers from evil, maintains in spiritual vigor, and blesses with his refreshments and Divine approbation. As Melchizedek blessed Abraham, so our Lord at his departure from the world lifted up his hands and blessed his disciples, and has ever since blessed his followers with needful grace and supplies of spiritual power.
IV. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF MELCHIZEDEK'S NAMES IS REALIZED IN CHRIST.
1. Our Lord was "the King of righteousness. This was verified in his personal life, in which he fulfilled all righteousness, and
In his life the Law appears 2. The next title which Melchizedek bore was King of peace, and this was realized gloriously in the Savior. His Divine ministry produced peace by giving repentance, which is the rejection of unholy and rebellions thoughts, and our reconciliation to the thoughts of God. Then comes peace through his blood. There is peace from the constancy of his superintendence of his people, and the certainty of his efficient interest in their daily life, whereby he makes all things work together for their good. He will lead them forward until their peace shall be as a river, and their righteousness as the waves of the sea. He is our Peace, who brings men of all nations to the fold on the eternal hills, and there shall be one flock and. one Shepherd. - B.
2. The next title which Melchizedek bore was King of peace, and this was realized gloriously in the Savior. His Divine ministry produced peace by giving repentance, which is the rejection of unholy and rebellions thoughts, and our reconciliation to the thoughts of God. Then comes peace through his blood. There is peace from the constancy of his superintendence of his people, and the certainty of his efficient interest in their daily life, whereby he makes all things work together for their good. He will lead them forward until their peace shall be as a river, and their righteousness as the waves of the sea. He is our Peace, who brings men of all nations to the fold on the eternal hills, and there shall be one flock and. one Shepherd. - B.
Psalm 110. In quoting this psalm, the writer was on firm ground so far as his readers were concerned. They would not repudiate the significance of this utterance, that it must have some weighty, practical meaning; and it was his to show them what that meaning was, and so to cheer their hearts amid what so distressed them - the thought of having to give up entirely the ordinances of Judaism. There are the two orders of priesthood: the order of Aaron, and the order of Melchizedek. To the first of these the people attached great moment, and rightly so. The priest was a depositary of sacrificial commandments and practices, the temporary and defective nature of which were hidden by their long continuance. To use the common saying, "Possession was nine points of the law," and so it was needful to make them see very clearly how there was another order of priesthood, with more stability and power of service in it than anything the Aaronic priesthood could show. The Aaronic service, by showing its own insufficiency, was doing its best to prepare for the service after the order of Melchizedek. As to who Melchizedek really was, it is vain to inquire; and it is less needful to know because it is the office and not the man that is in question. Indeed, our very ignorance is part of the fitness of the type. Mysterious in his origin and his destiny, starting up all at once and as quickly disappearing, of whom we know nothing more than that he was a king and himself a priest, he becomes a very fitting type of that Priest who will never lay down his office while priesthood is needed. The abiding character of the priesthood of Jesus is the one great truth that we are to learn from all this comparison between Melchizedek and Aaron. The whole of this chapter was of supreme importance at the time, and it may still have a large part to play in the bringing of Jews to Jesus; but it can hardly be pretended that it has the same importance to us. - Y.
I. THE GREATNESS OF OUR LORD IS FORESHADOWED BY MELCHIZEDEK'S RECEIVING TITHES FROM ABRAHAM. As the representative of Jehovah, Abraham paid tithes to this distinguished priest. There is here an instance of that corporate principle which appears in the writings of Paul, who affirms that by the sin of Adam there came upon the race spiritual loss and exposure to death; and by the appearance and glorious work of our Lord many are made righteous now, and obtain grace which reigns unto eternal life. Abraham here represents the Jewish people and the Jewish priesthood, who in the person of their illustrious ancestor acknowledges the authority of Melchizedek, who was the type of the Son of God. It was an impressive argument for the unrivalled glory of Christ as a Priest that the tribe of Levi paid tithes to him who foreshadowed him whose name is above every name. Reverting to the absence of all mention of Melchizedek's death on the sacred page, there is a contrast supplied between the Levites who receive tithes and die, but, as they pass through their ministry, pay tithes representatively to him of whom "it is witnessed that he liveth." Being once upon the right track, the writer discovers abundant proofs of the superiority of Christ to all the priesthood of the earthly temple, and finds the fulfillment of the words of him who promised the gift of the Holy Spirit in those memorable words, "He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you" (John 16:14).
II. THE SUPERIORITY OF CHRIST TYPIFIED BY MELCHIZEDEK'S OFFICIAL ACT OF BLESSING ABRAHAM. The object of this branch of the argument is to show the preeminence of the type, and consequently the glory of the Antitype. Melchizedek blessed Abraham (Genesis 14:19, 20) in an act of solemn prayer to the most high God. There is one ritual form of blessing which was pronounced by Aaron and his sons in these words: "The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace" (Numbers 6:24-26). The word "to bless," in Hebrew, is derived from a root which signifies" to bend the knee," and therefore to bow before him who invokes the blessing of Jehovah, which "maketh rich, and addeth no sorrow therewith." The less is blessed of the better in office, spiritual dignity, and connection with the resources of Heaven. The Hebrew Christians must see, as we may see, how arguments, illustrations, and typical events multiply to increase our confidence in him upon whose head are the many crowns of realized type, fulfilled prediction, and official glory. The last glimpse of our Lord's earthly life seems to give the finishing touch to this subject. "For it came to pass, while he blessed his disciples, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven" (Luke 24:51). - B.
I. CONSIDER THE PROOFS IN THIS PASSAGE OF THE SUPERIORITY OF CHRIST'S PRIESTHOOD. They are all based on Psalm 110:4.
1. The Divine appointment of a second priesthood by a different mode proves its superiority to the former. (Vers. 11-18.) Their Scriptures declared that the Messiah did come from a different tribe to Aaron, and was appointed Priest on a different principle; not by a mere physical arrangement - sonship to another, a "carnal commandment," or regulation - but by his own inherent life. Since God could not remove what was perfect, or supersede a good arrangement by a worse, that which appeared to take the place of the old was necessarily superior to it.
2. The greater solemnity of the appointment of this second priesthood proves its superiority to the former. (Vers. 20-22.) Aaron and his sons were appointed by a simple revelation of the Divine will (Exodus 28:1). The terms of the appointment of Jesus are - "The Lord sware, and will not repent." When God purposed what was not to change he confirmed it by an oath, and probably the Jews understood that well. God is "never represented in Scripture as swearing to anything but what is fixed and immutable" (Dr. Brown). The fact that Christ was made priest not without an oath shows that his priesthood was of supreme importance.
3. The eternal permanence of this second priesthood Troves its superiority to the former. (Vers. 23-25.) The Jewish priests were subject to human frailties and imperfections; their term of service swiftly passed, and their place was taken by another. Indeed, the whole family might be exterminated (specially when at first, in the wilderness, it consisted of but five men) by pestilence, crime, or war, and Israel would find itself, as today, with no priest, no atonement, no mercy-seat, no mediator. That shows the inadequacy of that priesthood. But Christ is High Priest forever "according to the power of an indissoluble life." How superior to that which is according to the flesh! "All flesh is grass."
II. GLANCE AT SOME OF THE PRACTICAL TRUTHS INVOLVED IN THIS SUPERIORITY.
1. That the Aaronic priesthood is superseded by the priesthood of Christ. The Romish doctrine that an order of men, on the mythical ground that they can trace their succession to the apostles, are the appointed mediators between God and man, is a repetition of the Levitical system. But this priesthood is unnecessary, since Christ is in every point superior to it, and they who have Jesus do not need Aaron. Moreover, this carnal, genealogical priesthood is abolished by God, and shown to have been only a temporary expedient at the best.
2. That what the old dispensation did for a few, the Christian does for all. In the Old Testament the priests are those who draw nigh to God (e.g. Leviticus 10:3) whilst the multitude stood without. Contrast ver. 10. "We" who are not of Levi's tribe, but simply believers in Christ, may now enter the Holiest of all - that is, we are all priests. Christ's high priesthood involves the priesthood of all believers. "Those who draw nigh to God 'is the Christian name.
3. That what the ceremonial law could not do, Jesus can. Whilst the Levitical system was "weak and unprofitable," the priesthood of Jesus brought in a system that was perfect. The perfection of a priestly system consisted in its ability to bring men unto God. Men are crying, "Nearer, my God, to thee," in vain, because they seek it through human aid, religious ceremonies, legal observances; they have gone back to Judaism, which is dead and cannot help them. Now let them try Jesus. Where Aaron fails, Jesus succeeds. "He is able to save them to," etc. - C.N.
I. THE DIVINE WISDOM JUSTIFIED BY THE APPOINTMENT OF A PRIEST AFTER THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK, The argument is, that if perfection had been realized by the Law of Moses there would have been no change in the methods of worship and the order of the ministry. It is not consistent with the wisdom of God to do and undo, and to repair imperfections and supply deficiencies by after-thoughts and supplementary arrangements. The true and Divine purpose of the Law of Moses was to prepare for something better. It was our schoolmaster to lead us to Christ. The Jews still cling to it as an unchangeable institution, and refuse to leave the wilderness of Sinai for the Canaan of gospel light and privilege. The prediction which referred to another Priest who should be after the order of Melchizedek was a proof that the Aaronic ministry was provisional, and therefore another order was necessary to harmonize with that reign of grace, unexampled wealth of privilege, and cheering prospects of eternal life which the gospel provides for sinful men. The change of dispensation is no proof of change in the mind of God, since the Jewish Law was a kind of parenthesis which gives meaning to revelations which went before and followed after; and the old tabernacle yields to the enduring fabric of grace against which "the gates of hell shall not prevail."
II. THE CHANGE OF PRIESTHOOD WAS NECESSARY FOR THE HARMONY AND CONSISTENCY OF DIVINE ARRANGEMENTS IN WORSHIP. It pleased God to act according to the counsel of his own will in the distribution of offices in the worship and national affairs of his ancient people Israel. No man was allowed to invade them who did not belong to the families and tribes which he chose to serve him. Hence the family of Levi was appointed to be priests, and members of the tribe of Judah were ordained to be kings over the nation. David, as a descendant from Judah, received many promises, and was permitted to enjoy prospects of the future dignity of his seed - in him who was "the Root and Offspring of David, and the bright and morning Star." But there is no word of promise that any of his tribe should minister at the altar and stand in the holy of holies on the Day of Atonement. Uzziah, one of the kings of the line of Judah, attempted to offer incense, and was in the presumptuous act smitten with leprosy, and was thrust, as an unclean person, from the temple courts (2 Chronicles 26:20). Moses laid down the law of the priesthood, and in none of the manifold details of priesthood, sacrifice, and worship, nor in any of the predictions of the future history of the tribes, is there any priestly appointment given to the family of Judah. The law must be changed. The new covenant must have its special and suitable ministry, and in the sphere of the gospels the dignity, sufficiency, and pre-eminence of Jesus Christ find their suitable exercise. It pleases God to put certain things together, and what "he hath joined, let no man put asunder." - B.
I. NOT BY THE OPERATION OF LITERAL "LAW," BUT BECAUSE OF HIS SPIRITUAL "POWER." Law in the text is the Levitical Law, with the fulfillment of which the Jewish priests had so much to do. It was a thing of the letter - a written thing; it possessed no inherent power; it could impart no spiritual power. By this law the priests of the Judaic economy were constituted. But our Lord was constituted a priest, not by this law, but because of his own spiritual energy. He was in himself perfectly fitted for the high functions of this holy office. Because he was a Divine Being, he had power to represent God to man; because he was a human being, he had power to represent man to God. Inexhaustible spiritual strength is in him for the renewal of the lost moral power of those whose High Priest he is. Because he has power to redeem, sympathize with, succor, and save men, he was made the great High Priest for men.
II. NOT BY AN EXTERNAL "COMMANDMENT," BUT BY HIS INHERENT LIFE? The "commandment" is that part of the Levitical law which ordered the institution and succession of the priesthood. By this statute the descendants of Aaron were appointed priests, irrespective of their personal character and qualifications for the office. But Jesus was made a priest, not by that commandment, but contrary to it, seeing that he was not of the tribe of Levi, but of Judah. It was because of his inner life that he was constituted the High Priest of humanity. Being what he was and is, he could do no other than take up our cause, suffer for us, die for us, and appear as our Representative with the Father. This truth is forcibly expressed by Dr. Bushnell: "Vicarious sacrifice belongs to no office or undertaking outside of holy character, but to holy character itself. Such is love that it must insert itself into the conditions, burden itself with the wants, and woes, and losses, and even wrongs, of others. It waits for no atoning office, or any other kind of office. It undertakes because it is love, not because a project is raised or an office appointed. It goes into suffering and labor and painful sympathy, because its own everlasting instinct runs that way The true and simple account of Christ's suffering is, that he had such a heart as would not suffer him to be turned away from us, and that he suffered for us even as love must willingly suffer for its enemy. The beauty and power of his sacrifice is, that he suffers morally and because of his simple excellence, and not to fill a contrived place in a scheme of legal justification. He scarcely minds how much he suffers or how, if only he can do love's work." Because of his perfect purity, and infinite love and unspeakable compassion, he necessarily became the great High Priest of the human race.
III. NOT AS A TEMPORARY FUNCTION, BUT AS A PERMANENT RELATION. They who were made priests "after the law of a carnal commandment" were priests only for a time. One generation performed the duties of the office for a number of years, and then was succeeded in those duties by another generation, which in its turn would also pass away. "But after the power of an indissoluble life" our Savior was made a priest. He is "a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek." By its nature his life is perpetual; and he continues forever as our Representative with God (cf. vers. 23-25). Because of the perfection of this priesthood, human salvation in glorious fullness is attainable. Laws and ceremonies alone could not work out for us any real deliverance from sin, or work in us any true and progressive spiritual life. We need vitality and power in any system or person who would render to us effective help. And in this aspect "the priesthood of Christ," as Bushnell says, "is graduated by the wants and measures of the human soul; the endless life in which he comes matches and measures the endless life in mankind whose fall he is to restore; providing a salvation as strong as their sin, and as long or lasting as the run of their immortality. He is able thus to save unto the uttermost." His life is reproductive. His power is communicable. He imparts spiritual energy to those who by faith are one with him. Apart from him we can do nothing. We can do all things in him that strengtheneth us. - W.J.
I. THE FEEBLENESS OF THAT WHICH DEPENDS UPON THE FLESH. Here the particular institution is that of priesthood; but the truth obtains with regard to all institutions dependent on the limits of fleshly human nature and the faculties of fallen human nature. The law of the Jewish priesthood was a law that had to take particular notice of the limitations of human life. The office was held by a man whose term of office at the longest was but brief, and his death had to be prepared for, and his successor duly initiated. That successor was a son, and who should say what sort of man he would turn out? There are certain things law can do and certain other things it cannot do. A law could be made setting apart a tribe for holy service, and a family for priestly service; but there the power stopped. No law can secure character. No law can secure willing, hearty, devoted service. Indeed, there might even be a show of fairness in men belonging to the tribe of Levi saying, "Why should we be tied down, willing or unwilling, to this work of the altar?" Note how power is contrasted in this verse with law, as much as to intimate the necessary feebleness of law. Its very strength in one direction helps to constitute its feebleness in another. It has nothing to fall back upon but the caprices and fluctuations of natural character. It brings to men knowledge, indeed; but, bringing that, brings only too often little but exasperation, irritation, depression. How many things there are in which the law of the fleshly commandment fails! The good king is succeeded by the bad one. The father uses his possession wisely; the son comes in to squander, neglect, and alienate. The father makes a fortune through frugality and industry; the son scatters it all to the winds.
II. THE CONTRASTED POWER OF THE ENDLESS LIFE. The Aaronic priest stands as the great representative of service limited by the necessary boundaries of human nature. Jesus stands forward as One whose service is unlimited save by the negligence or the unbelief of those whom he seeks to save. My fellow-man can only serve me as long as he is in the world, and even while in the world he may be cramped in many ways so that his service becomes an almost ineffectual thing. But Jesus has an endless, that is an indissoluble life. Duration is not the only thing to be thought of. There might be an immense duration of comparative uselessness. To say that the life is indissoluble means that its fullness continues unimpaired in the slightest degree. It is not a matter of ebbings and flowings; summer fullness of sap, and winter subsidence. Wherever we find death in the service of the brother man, we find life in the service of the Man Christ Jesus. It is so in his priesthood; so in his kingship; so in his teaching; so in his ministry. - Y.
I. THE DISANNULLING OF THE FLESHLY COMMANDMENT. "The fleshly commandment," as it is called in ver. 16. A reason is given for the disannulling: The changes in the Divine economy are never arbitrary. Reasons are not always given for these changes; but when we can understand them they are given, and thus we are helped to believe in the wisdom of changes which we have not knowledge enough to understand. The reason has a twofold aspect. A general principle is stated, and there is a particular illustration of it. The general principle is that the Law makes nothing perfect, completes nothing; the particular illustration is found in the weakness and uselessness of the commandment which called into existence the Aaronic priesthood, No institution can plead a commandment of God for its existence when it has manifestly lost its use. The commandment was useless because it was weak; and then the uselessness reacted on the weakness and made it weaker still. Men ceased to look to the priesthood for any good and helpful thing, though the priesthood kept its formal place, because there was nothing as yet to act as a substitute. Then the question may be asked - Why give a commandment which was weak and useless? The answer lies in that word "foregoing." That which goes before implies something coming after. The Law was weak and useless for certain things, but not, therefore, weak and useless for all things. The Law came like light shining on human spiritual darkness, revealing dilapidation and corruption, and there it stopped; it showed the thing needing to be done, and in the very showing indicated how some agency would come in due time to do it.
II. THE INTRODUCTION OF THE BETTER HOPE. One notices a change of term here as in ver. 16. There we read of the former priest according to the law of a fleshly commandment, and the new abiding Priest according to the power of an indissoluble life. So here, that which is put away is a commandment; that which is brought in is a hope. The old commandment, weak and useless, left men in despair as far as their natural faculties were concerned. The new Priest steps upon the scene, needing no commandment. His functions are the appropriate outcome of the fullness of his life. And, coming among men, he comes as the visible immediate stimulator of hope. Manifestly he has relations with God, channels of connection with the Infinite Purity, such as not all the sum of Aaronic priests taken together had. As men drew near to some of the old priests, steeped in selfishness, pride, arrogance, they veritably drew nearer to the devil from whom it behooved them to flee; but drawing near to Jesus it was not possible that they should do anything else than in the same movement draw near to God. - Y.
I. THE INABILITY OF THE LAW. It was weak and unprofitable; it made nothing perfect.
1. It awakened the consciousness of guilt, but it had no power to remove that consciousness. Its sacrifices proclaimed man a sinner and needing atonement with God; but they would not ease the conscience of its sad sense of sin, or inspire the peace of forgiveness in the troubled breast.
2. It showed the necessity of mediation between God and man, but it made no satisfactory provision for theft necessity. The people had to approach the Most High through the priests; the priests alone must offer their sacrifices; the priests alone had access to the holy place of the tabernacle and the temple. The office of the priesthood exhibited the need of mediation, but it was not an adequate answer to that need. The Judaic priests were themselves sinners; they needed to offer sacrifices for themselves; they were mortal and passed away by death, even as other men.
3. It presented a true ideal of life and conduct, but it afforded no help for the attainment of that ideal. The Law condemns sin; it commands righteousness. But how shall we obey its commands? "To will is present with me, but to do that which is good is not. For the good which I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I practice." Can the Law help us in this need? Can it inspire us with strength to do the true and the good? It has no power to convert, or strengthen, or sanctity the soul. It shows us our obligation, but it affords us no help to discharge it. "What the Law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh," etc. (Romans 8:3, 4).
II. THE CAPABILITY OF THE Law. "The Law made nothing perfect, but it was the bringing in of a better hope, by which we draw nigh unto God." We adopt the rendering of the margin of the Authorized Version, and the interpretation of Calvin, Ebrard, et al., that the Law made nothing perfect, but it prepared the way for the better hope. This hope is the gospel hope; the hope which has been brought in by our great High Priest. The Law led the way to this. "The Law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ." "A large picture-book," as Dr. Binney says, "was put before the scholars in the splendid objects of the Levitical institute. The series of things included in this was like a series of prints arranged in order, bound and gilded, and spread before the young, wondering eyes of a number of children. The altar with its fire and blood; the laver with its purifying contents; the sacrifice with the penitent putting upon it his sin, or lifting his eyes and his hands to heaven; the priest in the garments expressive of humiliation, or in his gorgeous robes of 'glory and beauty; '-these things, with many others that might be specified, were all like so many significant objects, vividly portrayed on the several leaves of an immense picture-book. By familiarity with them the minds of the learners were gradually to open to the spiritual idea contained in each; or were to be prepared for apprehending it when, 'in the fullness of time,' it should be revealed With new views of the central figure, so much the theme of prophetic song, and the object of national desire, the whole of the Levitical system undergoes a change. It comes to have an intention, to be looked at as constructed for a purpose, which gives to it a deeper and diviner significance than was at first suspected. Priest and sacrifice, altar and propitiation, cease to be realities; they are understood to be only shadows and signs of what was to be found substantially in the person and work, the acts and offices of the great High Priest of our profession." This hope, for which the Law prepared the way, was better than any which the Law could inspire.
1. It is clearer as to its object. The Christian hopes for perfection of being; for holiness of heart and life here, and for heaven hereafter. These things are brought into clearer light in this gospel age than they were under the Law.
2. It is firmer in its foundation. It rests upon Jesus Christ. He is the Rock upon which our confidence and expectation are based. He has revealed God the Father unto us. He has rendered perfect obedience to the holy Law. He offered himself a Sacrifice for sin, of infinite and perpetual efficacy. He ever liveth to represent us in heaven, whither he has entered as our Forerunner. He is "a tried Stone, a sure Foundation" for the hopes of men to rest upon.
3. It is more blessed in its influence. "Through which we draw nigh unto God." The Judaic priesthood tended to make men feel their distance from God, and to keep them at a distance. The priesthood of Jesus Christ brings men near unto him. We need not now the human priest and the bleeding victim for our acceptable approach to the Divine Father. Through the Savior we may draw nigh unto him in our penitence for sin, and obtain forgiveness; in our consecration to him, and meet with gracious acceptance; in the presentation of our needs to him, and receive suitable and abundant supplies; and in hallowed communion with him, and find in it the foretaste and earnest of heaven. - W.J.
I. THE PRE-EMINENCE OF OUR LORD'S PRIESTHOOD ATTESTED BY THE SOLEMNITY OF HIS APPOINTMENT. The priests of the Mosaic Law were placed in their office by an act of the Divine will, and the order of their consecration was prescribed by the lawgiver, who probably superintended the process which fitted them to enter upon their duties. There was no oath proclaimed on the occasion. When Christ was appointed there was an oath, which was conveyed to the knowledge of the Church by David, the royal prophet. This oath declared the fixed and unchangeable purpose of God, that whatever else might change, the office of the high priesthood of Christ should never be abrogated. "For ever his word is settled in heaven." It is only on occasions of special solemnity that oaths are takes by men when they assume weighty and important offices. They are used at coronations of monarchs, and the appointment of judges and others who undertake to administer faithfully the charges which they assume. God condescends to engage by oath for the permanence and glory of the priesthood of Christ that he shall be a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. Here we see the loving care of God to invite and justify our trust in his dear Son. It is a vast and large confidence which he claims, and includes the rejection of all other confidences; our surrender to Christ of our understanding, will, and affections; our influence, time, and property; our present and the vast future; and, as the demand is large, there is all evidence and provision to make our trust in the High Priest a reasonable service. He is appointed by oath, and is the Surety of a better covenant; and so there is a proportion and harmony between the Surety and the covenant itself. In the scheme of redemption God hath abounded in all wisdom and prudence. The new wine is put into new bottles, and the consistency of all arrangements for our redemption proves that all things are of God.
II. THE AUTHORIZATION OF THE PRIESTHOOD. If any man had dared to approach Jehovah in the solemnities of worship without his express appointment, he would have been punished for his presumption. This is proved by the history of Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:16). It is said of this king that his heart was lifted up, and, against the remonstrances of the priests, he would offer incense, and so combine the dignity of the priesthood and royalty in himself. "Pride went before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall," and he was confined as a leper until the day of his death. The vocation and appointment of Aaron were disputed by the Reubenites who had lost the priesthood, and the Levites who were ambitious of higher dignity; and the case was decided by the punishment of the revolters, and the miraculous foliage, blossoms, and fruit of Aaron's rod. Jesus Christ has the high and supreme authority of Jehovah for his appointment, and the writer quotes the second psalm, which predicts the regal glory of the Son, who was "of the seed of David according to the flesh; but was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" (Romans 1:3, 4). Then follows a quotation from another Messianic psalm, which declares that he is a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. The order of Aaron was too narrow and too imperfect to shadow forth the unrivalled dignity and worth of him who is now set over the house of God. This latter type will reappear for further discussion, and therefore we rest upon this declaration of the eternal will which appoints the Redeemer to be the High Priest for the race of mankind. It is the will of God, which is declared in solemn prophecy; and if he speaks, it is done; "he commands, and it stands fast."
III. THE CONSECRATION OF CHRIST TO HIS DIVINE OFFICE AS A PRIEST. The consecration of Aaron and the priests of the Mosaic Law was very elaborate and impressive, but was unaccompanied with any distress of mind and suffering of the flesh. The sonship of our Lord was eternal, and as a Son he came from heaven to assume our nature and pass through a career of sorrow and bitter experience, that he might learn and prove his obedience to his Father. "He took upon him the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death." As he approached the close of his public ministry the agonies of his soul began to multiply in number and increase in intensity. His prayer in Gethsemane was probably present to the mind of the writer, where he was sorrowful even unto death, and implored, if it were possible, "that the cup might pass from him." He uttered his prayers with strong crying and tears. The usual manner of our Lord's teaching was quiet and gentle, for he did not lift up his voice nor cause it to be heard in the streets; but in the dire and inscrutable distress which came upon him, like Jacob in his mysterious wrestling, he wept and made supplication. He was heard on account of his godly fear or piety. It may be - for we would he cautious and reverential - that he was saved from death in Gethsemane, where he sweat "as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground," by the ministry of a mighty angel like Gabriel or Michael; or that he was delivered from the insupportable fear of the death of shame and agony which lay before him on Calvary. He was heard for his piety, and came off more than a conqueror. Whatever mystery surrounds this solemn fact, the lesson is obvious that disciples must learn obedience in imitation of their Master; that, having overcome, they may sit down with him in his throne. "Through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom." Having borne the sorrow, he has obtained the joy that was set before him, and being now consecrated by his sufferings and death, he is perfectly fitted for his mediatorial office, and becomes the Author of eternal salvation to all his obedient followers, and leads them onward to the glory of an immortal life. This is the highest and most glorious illustration of the methods of that grace which was seen in the life of Joseph, into whose soul the iron entered, whom the word of the Lord tried; but afterwards he shone in the light of wisdom, became the savior of millions from the pangs of famine and death, kept alive the chosen seed, and prepared for the higher revelations of Horeb and Calvary. To obviate any doubts which might arise from so profound a humiliation on the part of Jesus Christ, it is repeated that he was "called of God a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek." - B.
benediction. The second consideration is that our Lord has an unchangeable appointment, because death has no power over him now that he has taken his life again. There is no death in the sublime sphere of his ministry. He can say, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" The value of this unfailing life is that it is devoted to the work of salvation. He is able to save to the uttermost by superintending the personal life of his followers, and supplying them with Christian peace and spiritual power, and by keeping before their minds his idea of salvation. He can infuse his own precious life through their souls, and lead through the paths of fellowship with God, evangelical obedience, and gracious discipline, until they are saved to the uttermost and attain to the resurrection of the dead. This is associated with his intercession, of which we have a sublime and affecting example in the seventeenth chapter of St. John's Gospel. If others condemn, he makes intercession. If others neglect or persecute, he is their friend in the presence of God. If his people are in the outer court engaged in prayer, he is within the veil to offer acceptable incense. By his undecaying life he quietly pursues his own plans; and by the constancy of his ministry he gives a unity to his people of various communions, places of abode, and ages of time, who thus become one in Christ Jesus. - B.
I. THAT CHRIST'S SAVING POWER IS INFINITE. "He is able to save them to the uttermost." Notice:
1. The nature of this salvation. It may be viewed:
(1) Negatively. It is deliverance from sin; not merely from the punishment of sin, but from its guilt, its pollution, and its power.
(2) Positively. It is the conference of eternal life. By eternal life we do not mean endless existence, for that may become a curse; but life - holy, harmonious, progressive, blessed, perpetual life. "He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life." "The salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory."
2. The perfection of this salvation. "Able to save to the uttermost." The word rendered "uttermost' does not refer to the duration, but to the perfection, the completeness, of this salvation. Both by its etymology and by its place in the argument it is the exact antithesis of the first clause in ver. 19. "The Law made nothing perfect;" but "he is able to save perfectly," or to completeness, "them that come unto God by him." The perfection of his saving power authorizes the assertion that he is able to save:
(1) The most wicked characters. Saul of Tarsus was "a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious;" he spake of himself as chief of sinners; yet he obtained mercy, and became a most devoted disciple and most heroic apostle of Jesus Christ. The dying robber is another example (Luke 23:42, 43). Degraded drunkards, profane swearers, groveling misers, willful unbelievers, cruel oppressors, in countless numbers have been saved by him. None are so deeply sunk in the horrible pit of sin as to be beyond the reach of the long and strong arm of the perfect Savior. He is "mighty to save."
(2) The greatest numbers. On the day of Pentecost three thousand souls were converted and added to the Christian Church. St. John in vision "beheld a great multitude, which no man could number," etc. (Revelation 7:9, 10). He is able to save countless millions. Were the number of sinners multiplied a thousandfold he would still be able to save them.
(3) To the most glorious condition. He does not leave his work in man incomplete. "He is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." "He which began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ." How glorious must that character be which he has perfected! "We shall be like him." "We shall ever be with the Lord." We shall enter into his joy; we shall sit down with him upon his throne.
II. THAT CHRIST'S SAVING POWER IS GUARANTEED BY THE PERPETUITY OF HIS PRIESTLY OFFICE. "Wherefore also he is able to save them to the uttermost... seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." The chief meaning of "to make intercession" is to appear as the representative of another, being moved to do so by feeling for him or with him. Our Savior's intercession for us does not mean that he is pleading our cause with One who is ill disposed toward us, and needs to be placated by him; or that he is supplicating blessings for us from One who is unwilling to bestow them (John 16:26, 27). But he does represent us with the great Father, and he is deeply and tenderly identified with us in feeling. He represents us because he sympathizes with us. But in our text, as Alford points out, the intercession "implies the whole mediatorial work, which the exalted Savior performs for his own with his heavenly Father, either by reference to his past death of blood by which he has bought them for himself, or by continued intercession for them." Christ's perpetual intercession signifies that:
1. The efficacy of his work for men is perpetual. The great truths which he enunciated concerning life and duty, sin and salvation, holiness and God, are vital and powerful now as ever they were. His redemptive work accomplished upon earth is as efficacious now as ever it was. His atoning death for us has lost none of its ancient power to touch and subdue, to convert and sanctify, the soul of man. "The word of the cross is the power of God" still to save them that believe.
2. The efficacy of his work in men is perpetual. Our Savior makes intercession with us as well as for us. He speaks and works within us for our salvation. By his Holy Spirit he encourages and strengthens his people. The Spirit guards us from error and guides us into truth; he restrains us from the wrong and inspires us for the right, etc. Here, then, is the guarantee of the abiding perfection of Christ's saving power: he is our perpetual representative with the Divine Father; the efficacy of his redeeming work and the merit of his sacrificial death are unabated; and by his Spirit he is still a living presence and power amongst men.
III. THAT CHRIST'S SAVING POWER IS MADE AVAILABLE ON THE SIMPLEST CONDITION. "To save them... that draw near unto God through him." Moral approach to God through the mediation of Jesus Christ is the condition upon which this salvation is bestowed. It is implied that man is morally remote from God. "Your iniquities have separated between you and your God." "Ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ." If we would be saved we must draw near unto him.
1. The nature of this approach. It is not merely intellectual - the apprehension of the truth concerning him. It is a sympathetic and vital approach to him. It is coming to him in humble penitence for our sin that we may obtain forgiveness; in grateful affection to him for his great love towards us; and in earnest desire to obey and serve him.
2. The medium of this approach. "Through him," i.e. Jesus Christ; because
(1) he removes the obstacles which prevented our approach to God. Our guilty fears, and our unworthy suspicions concerning the Father, he banishes.
(2) He presents attractions which encourage our approach to God. He reveals the willingness of the heavenly Father to receive and welcome and bless us. "Jesus saith, I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by Me." Thus our subject supplies strong encouragement
(1) to the Christian believer to "press on unto perfection;" and
(2) to the awakened sinner to draw near unto God through Christ in assured hope of complete salvation. - W.J.
1. That man needs a high priest.
(1) As the offerer of sacrifices on his behalf. The awakened conscience, sensible of its guilt, feeling that sin merits suffering, cries out for sacrifice for its sin.
(2) As his representative with God. The sinner who is alive to his own character and condition feels that be needs some one to represent him with the holy God.
2. That the high priest who would satisfactorily meet man's need should possess certain qualities, Any priest will not do. There should be a fitness between the holder of the office and the duties of the office - between the priesthood and the human needs to which it would minister.
3. That these qualities are found in Jesus Christ. His priesthood answers to man's needs. "Such a High Priest became us," i.e. was suitable to us, was appropriate to our condition and need. Let us now look at the qualities which render our Savior the appropriate High Priest for man, as they are here specified. It is important to remember that some essential attributes of our great High Priest have already been mentioned in this Epistle (Hebrews 4:15).
I. HE IS PERFECT IN HIS CHARACTER. "For such a High Priest became us, holy, harmless, undefiled," etc.
1. Holy. Our Lord was truly and inwardly holy. His holiness did not consist merely in his consecration to his office, but in the perfect sanctification of his whole being. The Jewish high priest had "Holiness to the Lord" inscribed upon his miter; but in Christ it was interwoven with every fiber of his being, and stamped upon every expression of his life.
2. Harmless. The Jewish high priest was sinless only in this way, that he offered sacrifice for his own sin before offering for the sins of the people, and that he cleansed himself ceremonially before appearing before God on behalf of others. But Jesus was perfectly free from sin. In all his relations with men he was guileless. And no wrong was ever done by him in any way to any one.
3. Undefiled. Sin is a polluting thing. Ceremonial purity was required in the Jewish high priests. But our Lord was undefiled both legally and morally. In thought and feeling, in word and action, in inward heart and. outward life, he was stainless. The Jewish high priests needed to offer sacrifices for their own sins; but our great High Priest had no personal guilt to expiate, or sins to confess, or impurities to purge.
4. Separate from sinners. The Jewish high priest was required scrupulously to refrain from association with any person who was ceremonially unclean (Leviticus 21:10-15). Our Lord was "separated from sinners." We do not regard this as meaning local separation. He did not shun association with sinners during his life upon earth. It was charged against him by the self-righteous religionists of his day, "This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them." "They murmured, saying, He is gone in to lodge with a man that is a sinner." "A friend of publicans and sinners." His separation from sinners was far higher and diviner than any merely local or physical isolation. "Christ in his intercourse with sinners," as Ebrard says, "remained inwardly free from all participation in their sinfulness, inwardly untouched by its contagion; notwithstanding that he mingled with men in all their varieties of character and situation, he yet never let drop, for a moment, that inner veil of chaste holiness which separated him from sinners. This is what is meant by the expression, 'separate from sinners.'" His moral health was so vigorous, his spiritual purity so intense, that he could associate with the morally corrupt and degraded without contracting even the slightest moral defilement. How sublime is our great High Priest in the perfection of his character! Of all the sons of men, of him alone can it be said that he was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separated from sinners." How immeasurably superior is he to Aaron and every other Jewish high priest! Their perfection was only ceremonial and symbolical; they were "men having infirmity;" they were liable to sin; they were subject to death, and to the termination of their priesthood. But our Savior had no moral infirmity. In his character and conduct, in his person and office, he was gloriously perfect. He is now "perfected for evermore."
II. HE IS PERFECT IN HIS POSITION. "And made higher than the heavens." This exalted position which our great Representative occupies has already engaged our attention (see on Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 2:9; and cf. Hebrews 8:1; Philippians 2:9; Revelation 5:12).
III. HE IS PERFECT IN HIS SACRIFICE. "He needeth not daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices," etc.
1. The value of the offering. "He offered up himself." Alford has pointed out that "this is the first place in the Epistle where mention is made of Christ's having offered himself. Henceforward it becomes more and more familiar to the reader: 'once struck, the note sounds on ever louder and louder' (Delitzsch)." The value of this offering is seen in two things:
(1) The sacrifice which was offered - "himself." Not a thing, but a person; not a sinful person, but the "holy, harmless, undefiled" One - the richest, most beneficent, and most blessed personal life.
(2) The spirit in which this sacrifice was offered. Our Savior was both the Sacrifice and the Priest; both the Offering and the Offerer. And his sacrifice was a voluntary one. He freely "gave himself a ransom for all" (cf. John 10:17, 15).
2. The finality of the offering. "This he did once for all, when he offered up himself." His sacrifice will never be repeated.
(1) Its repetition is not necessary. The Jewish sacrifices had to be repeated day after day and year after year, because they were imperfect. But the sacrifice of our great High Priest is complete, gloriously and perpetually efficacious, and needs no repetition, and admits of neither improvement nor addition.
(2) Its repetition is not possible. When Christ appears again it will be, not in humiliation, but in glory; not as the great Sacrifice, but as the supreme Sovereign. - W.J.
Psalm 110. The psalm speaks of Christ exalted to the highest heavenly position, and as a Priest for ever. Of both these points the echo rings out here in vers. 26 and 28. Here is sharply drawn the picture of our Lord's personal perfection in a few carefully moderate words (for it is a delicate subject), and the conclusion is apparent. (Note on word "daily" in ver. 27. The high priest did not "daily" offer sin offerings; the morning and evening sacrifices were not offered by the high priest, nor were they sacrifices for sin but in a secondary sense, as they were burnt offerings. The great expiatory sacrifice offered by the high priest was on the Day of Atonement. The word "daily" here must mean day after day; one day of atonement after another.)
I. THE PERSONAL PERFECTION OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. "Holy, harmless," etc. - so many aspects of the sinlessness of Jesus. The Hebrew probably saw here what was true of the high priest symbolically, spoken of Jesus literally. The one had inscribed on his forehead "Holiness unto the Lord," which he had in symbol; the other was "the Holy One of God." The one was harmless (literally, "without evil"), for he could not offer for others till his own sin was expiated, but that was only an imputed sinlessness; the other had no sins to offer for. The one was "undefiled," obliged to be ceremonially clean; the other was in himself "without blemish and without spot." The one was "separate from sinners," excluded for seven days before the Day of Atonement even from his own family, but this was only physical; the other was able to say," I am not of the world."
1. The personal perfection of Jesus as seen in his manifested purity. "Holy," etc., represents his purity from different standpoints. "Holy," as regards his relation to God; "harmless," his relation to man; "undefiled," his relation to himself; "separate," etc., the sum of the whole. In every direction Jesus was without sin. And so much was apparent to the men of his day. His enemies, his relatives, his disciples, all bear witness to this. He could ask of all, "Which of you convinceth me of sin?"
2. The perfection of Jesus is seen in his personal consciousness of sinlessness. "Who needeth not," etc. Christ offered no sacrifice for himself. He always distinguished between himself and sinners. "If ye [not 'we'], being evil;" "I do always those things which," etc.; "I have glorified thee on the earth;" "Why hast thou forsaken me?" Christ knew he was holy, and that proves that he was; for confessedly he was, at least, the best of men, and the holier a man becomes the more sensible he is of failure.
3. The perfection of Jesus is seen in the Father's endorsement of it. "He was made higher than the heavens." Consider that in connection with Christ's claim to be sinless. His resurrection and ascension and enthronement are the highest pledge of the perfection he asserted for himself.
II. THIS PERSONAL PERFECTION WAS NECESSARY TO CONSTITUTE A PERFECT HIGH PRIEST. "Such a High Priest became us." Our needs are beyond the help of any one less.
1. The first function of the high priest was to offer sacrifice. Then observe how Christ's holiness perfects him as a Sacrifice. He could not have atoned for others if he had sins of his own; but the offering of the Holy One had an inestimable worth. That, at least, vindicates the Law, and pays the sinner's debt, however great.
2. The next function of the high priest was intercession. Then observe how Christ's holiness perfects him as an Intercessor. We can trust in no mediator till we know he is on good terms with the king. Because Christ is the Holy One of God, he has perpetual access to the Father; his will and the Father's are the same, and the Father delights in granting his request. Jesus can never be refused.
3. The third function of the high priest was to instruct. Then observe how Christ's holiness perfects him as a Teacher. It is in his holiness we learn what most of all we need to know - God's will about us. We look at Jesus, and there it is. Moreover, looking at him produces the same holiness in us, for looking we become like.
III. THUS PERFECTED, CHRIST IS DECLARED BY THE DIVINE OATH TO BE HIGH PRIEST FOREVER. "The word of the oath," etc. Notice how many perfect things are set forth here.
1. A perfect Sacrifice for sin. "By one offering he hath for ever," etc.
2. A perfect High Priest to impart the benefits of that Sacrifice. Our tendency is to dwell on Christ's earthly life, or on his death; but the Epistles dwell most on his present life. And that is the view of our Lord he desires us to keep most prominent: "I am he that liveth," etc.; "Therefore he is able to save," etc.
3. A perfect promise that Christ will do all this. "Will," for all who will let him, for all "who come unto God by him," i.e. for all who take him to be their High Priest. God pledges his oath for that. How needlessly men are lost! They are not called to risk their soul on a trifle! - C. N.
I. THE EXALTED AND PERFECT CHARACTER OF CHRIST IS CONTRASTED WITH THAT OF THE PRIESTS OF THE OLD LAW. There was a Divine fitness in the appointment of our Lord, because, as we learn from the evangelists, he was holy, and full of love to God; and so pure that the temptations of Satan and the wickedness of an" adulterous generation" never sullied his nature. He was harmless, and Pilate asked the question, "Why, what evil hath he done?" In our Lord there was no need of a sin offering to repair his relations to God. Angels who have never left their first estate need no sin offerings, for they have never transgressed the Divine Law. By the perfect purity of Christ's nature he was lifted above the level of the necessities of sinful men, and he consequently required no atonement for himself. Had he been imperfect, and his sacrifice of limited power, he must have suffered daily to remove the daily accumulation of sin. This is needless; for by one holy oblation, in which all the blessing redounds to men, he has provided an atonement which, like an inexhaustible fountain of grace, flows day and night, century after century, to wash away sin and produce Divine peace in the hearts of men.
II. ANOTHER IMPRESSIVE CONTRAST IS ADDUCED BETWEEN THE LORD JESUS AND THE PRIESTS OF THE LAW. The descendants of Aaron are described as having infirmity, which denotes the weakness, instability, and frailty of their nature. It points probably to something more serious, and may allude to the serious deficiencies and imperfections of their moral character. Some of them were grievously unmindful of the responsibility of their office, and allowed alien altars and idolatrous worship to defile the temple of Jehovah. The last traces of the priesthood in the pages of Holy Scripture present the unlovely portraits of Caiaphas, Annas, and others. To these men the writer does not allude by name, though the Christians who read the Epistle might feel the awful force of the reference, and say, "How is the fine gold changed!" The high priest delivered Christ to Pilate, and had the greater sin. The word of the oath appoints our Lord, who was consecrated and made perfect through sufferings; and therefore, over against the weak, sinful, and unworthy priesthood of mortal men, the Divine Son stands in the glory of his character and permanence and effects of ministry. - B.
I. THE DIFFERENCE IN THIS RESPECT BETWEEN THE PRIESTHOOD OF JESUS AND THE PRIESTHOOD OF AARON. The Aaronic priest was also made separate from sinners; but he was only separated officially. The separation lay in nothing more than natural descent and the wearing of priestly vestments. The Aaronic priest indicated in a feeble symbolic way what a true priest ought to be. In course of time, indeed, he might become separated from sinners in a way not to be desired, fenced round by an artificial sanctity, and superstitiously regarded as if he had in him nothing less than the Power of heaven and hell. But Jesus comes separated by nature, character, and by many outward manifestations of these things. The nearness of Jesus to men has already been insisted on; how he is a partaker of flesh and blood; how he is in all points tempted as men are. And what is then stated, in a collateral way, so that it may not be forgotten, is now, at the proper place, brought out and put to the front. Jesus is nearer to the universal man than any priest could be; but while so near there is a separation that goes to the very depths of being. This is what gives him his unique power. Moving among men, he hears their cries and prayers, sees their need; but he receives no infection from their narrowness, selfishness, degrading thoughts. Evil passes before him, but only to stir up into greatest activity his sympathy with those who suffer from the evil; that evil prevails not in the least over his own affections.
II. THE PRACTICAL RESULTS TO US OF THIS DIFFERENCE.
1. His power to keep us is always manifest. It is impossible to read about Jesus, to contemplate him in any attribute whatever, without being struck with the two united aspects of his person: first, association with us; and secondly, difference from us. We are drawn close to him because of the manifold fullness of his humanity; and then being drawn, we are made to feel how strong his hand is, and what a perennial Fountain of assistance and blessedness he becomes.
2. We have always some one to look at, to lift us above cynical thoughts of mankind. How easy it is to get into a way of saying that human nature is a very poor thing at its best! We cannot get the flaws and meanness of even good men out of our recollection. Now here is the separated Man, the great High Priest, to show what a glorious thing human nature is when we can see it in its full purity. Jesus is not only pure himself, but he can purify the medium through which he is beheld. Those who come to see Jesus as he is, learn to think better and more hopefully both of themselves and others.
3. The ideal is given which we are to seek and to reach. The great High Priest stands in the midst of sinful men to whom he ministers, for the most practical purpose of making them like himself. He is separated from sinners in order that sinners, being transformed and perfected, may not be separated from him. When the ideal and real meet in one person, then the better hope is indeed brought in. - Y.