For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:
Christ, as Son of man, called and perfected to be our High Priest.
I. The Jewish priesthood suffered from two essential defects, and was thus only a type and shadow of our Lord. (1) In the first place, the priests were as sinful as the people whom they represented. (2) The mediator ought not merely to be a perfect and sinless man, he ought also to be Divine, in perfect and full communion with God, so that he can impart Divine forgiveness and blessing. Only in the Lord Jesus, therefore, is the true mediation. And now that He has come and entered into the heavenly sanctuary as our High Priest, the word priest in the sense of sacerdotal mediator dare never be used any more.
II. The two qualifications of the Aaronic high priest, that he was from among men, and that he was appointed by God, were fulfilled in a perfect manner in the Lord Jesus. (1) The Aaronic high priest could have compassion on his fellow sinners, knowing and feeling his own infirmities. But this compassionate, loving regard for the sinner can exist in perfection only in a sinless one. The purer and higher the character, the quicker its penetration, and the livelier its sympathy. (2) Christ glorified not Himself to be made a High Priest. This is Christ's glory, even as it is the reward of His suffering, that in Him we draw near unto the Father, and that from Him we receive the blessings of the everlasting covenant. He rejoices to be our High Priest. God called Him to the Priesthood. The glory of Christ is the result of His obedience, and the fruit of the experience of earth through which He went is His perfect sympathy with us, and His all-sufficient grace, which is able to uphold us in every trial, and to carry us safely through all our conflicts, and present us unblamable in body, soul, and spirit before the Father.
A. Saphir, Expository Lectures on the Hebrews, vol. i., p. 253.
References: Hebrews 5:1-11.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 36. Hebrews 5:2.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiv., No. 1407.
"Was heard," the Greek text says, "from His reverence."
I. Irreverence is the not fearing, the not being awed into silence, the not bending of the knee, of the soul before Him in whom we live and move and have our being. And we see this evil spirit everywhere. We have seen it in the open profaneness of the scoffer at holy things. We have seen it in the insolent defiance of the "busy mocker," who asks, "Who is the Lord?" and "Where is the promise of His coming?" We can trace it, if we will look for it, in the lurking-dens of the heart, in the chambers of the imagery. Every movement of the mind concerning Providence, concerning duty, concerning revelation, is an irreverence if God is not remembered in it.
II. Whence comes this irreverence? It is easy to tell of some particular instances which assist, if they do not create, the irreverence of which we are speaking. (1) The first of these is levity. "They made light of it," says the Gospel. There was nothing which they could not twist into a subject for jesting. (2) A second ingredient in irreverence is vanity. A man must be humble who would be devout. The first condition of reverence is humility. Where this is not, vainly shall we look for the prayer, vainly for the acceptance, of Him who was heard in that He feared. (3) A third of these counteractions of reverence is excitement.
III. The battle against irreverence is one of detail. It is only by attention to particulars that it can be won. (1) Be reverent in worship. (2) Be reverent in speech. It is bad to have bad thoughts; it is worse to utter them. Worse, because then they infect others. Worse, because then we use speech, which is man's glory, for the very purpose of doing God dishonour. (3) Be reverent, finally, in thought. There is a grace which we sometimes fear is dying out—could any grace quite die out?—in the Church of this latter day; and this is the grace of meditation. It is out of such communing that reverence springs, the worship of reverence and the speech of reverence, and the soul of reverence too. Without it there is no root to our religion; the growth is all outward; the world scorches it; "in the time of temptation it falls away."
C. J. Vaughan, University Sermons, p. 145.
References: Hebrews 5:7.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 84; Homilist, 2nd series, vol. i., p. 97; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 92; G. Matheson, Moments on the Mount, p. 204.
Hebrews 5:7-8The Humiliation of the Eternal Son.
The chief mystery of our holy faith is the humiliation of the Son of God to temptation and suffering, as described in this passage of Scripture.
I. The text says, "Though He were a Son." Now, in these words, "the Son of God," much more is implied than at first sight may appear. We have, perhaps, a vague general notion that they mean something extraordinary and supernatural; but we know that we ourselves are called, in one sense, sons of God in Scripture. Moreover, we have heard, perhaps, that the angels are sons of God. In consequence, we collect just this much from the title as applied to our Lord, that He came from God, that He was the well-beloved of God, and that He is much more than a mere man. But when the early Christians used the title, "the Son of God," they meant, after the manner of the apostles when they used it in Scripture, all we mean in the creed, when, by way of explaining ourselves, we confess Him to be God from God, Light from Light, Very God, or True God, from True God.
II. The text goes on to say, "Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered." Obedience belongs to a servant, but accordance, concurrence, cooperation, are the characteristics of a Son. Christ took on Him a lower nature, and wrought in it towards a will higher and more perfect than it. His suffering, temptation, and obedience must be understood not as if He ceased to be what He had ever been, but having clothed Himself with a created essence, He made it the instrument of His humiliation: He acted in it, He obeyed and suffered through it. Before He came on earth He had but the perfections of a God; but afterwards He had also the virtues of a creature, such as faith, meekness, self-denial. Before He came on earth He could not be tempted of evil; but afterwards He had a man's heart, a man's tears, and a man's wants and infirmities. He possessed at once a double assemblage of attributes, Divine and human. Till we contemplate our Lord and Saviour God and man as a really existing being, external to our minds, as complete and entire in His personality as we appear to be to each other, as one and the same in all His various and contrary attributes, "the same yesterday, today, and for ever," we are using words which profit not.
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. iii., p. 156.
References: Hebrews 5:7-9.—R. S. Candlish, The Fatherhood of God, p. 353. Hebrews 5:7-10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxii., No. 1927.
Hebrews 5:8Suffering the School of Obedience.
I. In His wisdom and power, God has laid even upon sorrow the destiny of fulfilling His purposes of mercy. In the beginning sorrow was the wages of sin, penal and working death; by the law of Christ's redemption it is become a discipline of cleansing and perfection. God permits it still to abide in His kingdom, but He has reduced it to subjection. It is now changed to be a minister, not more of His severity than of His mercy. It is the discipline of saints, and the safest, though the austerest, school of sanctity; and that because suffering, or, as we are wont to say, trial, turns our knowledge into reality. When pain searches into the body or the spirit we feel as if we had awoke up to know that we had learned nothing really until now. All general truths speak to us with a particular meaning, and speak to us with a piercing emphasis.
II. Sufferings so put our faith on trial as to strengthen and confirm it. They develop what was lying hid in us, unknown even to ourselves. And therefore we often see persons, who have shown no very great tokens of high devotion, come out under the pressure of trials into a most elevated bearing. This is especially true of sickness and affliction. Not only are persons of a holy life made to shine with a more radiant brightness, but common Christians, of no note or visibleness, are changed to a saintly character. They wrestle with their trial, and will not let it go without a blessing; and thereby the gifts which lie enwrapped in a regenerate nature are unfolded into life and energy.
III. Once more: nothing so likens us to the example of Christ as suffering. The sorrows of the holiest minds are the nearest approaches to the mind of Christ, and are full of a meaning which is dark to us only from its exceeding brightness. And therefore, when we look at the sufferings of pure and holy minds, let us rather stand in awe, as being called to behold, as it were, a shadow of our Redeemer's sorrows. Even with bleeding hearts and deep-drawn prayers for their consolation, let us try to believe that God is endowing them with surpassing tokens of love, and with pledges of exceeding glory.
H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. i., p. 287.
References: Hebrews 5:8.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 89. Hebrews 5:9. —Ibid., Sermons, vol. xx., No. 1172; E. Cooper, Practical Sermons, vol. i., p. 143. Hebrews 5:10.—J. Edmund, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 200. Hebrews 5:11-14.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 37.
Growth in Grace and Knowledge.
I. The comparison between a newly-converted man and a babe is, like all comparisons, imperfect. For, in one sense, a Christian is born by the Holy Ghost full-grown, as Adam came into the world a perfect man. The babe in Christ learns very easily and very rapidly. He delights in the Word; he is humble and tender; he does not resist truths which condemn the flesh and correct our waywardness; he is unworldly, heavenly-minded, and nine-tenths of the Bible become clear when we are willing to deny ourselves, and take our cross and follow Jesus.
II. It is not that there is a higher truth or life for the older Christians. There are no doctrines more profound than those which are preached when Christ's salvation is declared, and to which they who are more advanced are admitted, as to an esoteric wisdom. All our progress consists in learning more fully the doctrine which at first is preached unto us. The strong meat, the doctrine of Christ's high priesthood in Heaven, is also milk, pure and nourishing, simple, and only received by the childlike heart; whereas pride and ambition often call speculative and unprofitable discussions strong meat, though they are of no use to the spiritual man, but minister only unto strife and the exaltation of the flesh.
III. The Christians were to show (1) repentance from dead works and faith towards God. (2) The doctrine of baptism and of the laying on of hands is given. (3) Intimately connected is the doctrine of resurrection and eternal judgment. The germ of all truth is contained in these elementary doctrines. There is a simplicity which is the result of full and profound knowledge, of varied experience and conflict; a simplicity which is the indication of abundance and depth, which is the result of meditation, prayerfulness, and a humble walk with God.
A. Saphir, Lectures on Hebrews, vol. i., p. 278.
References: Hebrews 5:12-14.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 282. Hebrews 5:14.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix., p. 506; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 301. Hebrews 5:11-14.—Homilist, 2nd series, vol. iv., p. 515.
Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.
And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.
And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.
So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.
As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;
Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.
Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.
For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.