The High Priesthood: Old and New

For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness. Because of this he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins. And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was. So also, Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: ‘You are My Son; today I have begotten You.’ As He also says in another place: ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek”; who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest ‘according to the order of Melchizedek’” (Hebrews 5:1-10).

The Law was our spiritual tutor to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). One of the vital lessons it teaches is on the noteworthy qualifications needed to fill the office of the High Priest.

The first four verses of Hebrews 5 state four significant facts about the office filled by Aaron and his sons in the Old Testament. The next six verses demonstrate how Jesus meets these same qualifications, and thus is eminently qualified to be the New Testament’s permanent High Priest.

The first criterion was the High Priest had to be human. Aaron and his successors were “taken from among men” (v. 1). No created heavenly being could serve humanity in this way. Jesus’ humanity is evident in the simple observation that in the days of His flesh, He shed tears (v. 7).

Another requirement was the High Priest’s preeminent responsibility of offering gifts and sacrifices for sin (v. 1). By His obedience as the Lamb of God, Jesus made the final atoning sacrifice for sin, thus making salvation possible to all who obey Him (v. 9).

A third characteristic of the High Priest was compassion (vv. 2-3). Jesus’ compassion is indisputable. Though He offered prayers and supplications with vehement cries and tears (v. 7), He went to the cross because His love for God compelled Him and His compassion for sinners constrained Him.

A fourth essential was that the office of the High Priest was not a self-appointed work, but a divinely authorized and chosen one. Numbers 16 records an incident when the Levite Korah and about 250 others doubted Aaron’s qualifications and challenged him on the matter. God’s swift and decisive judgment on those who sought to be self-appointed priests settled the matter forever. Like Aaron, Jesus was not self-appointed. He was chosen for this work. When He had completely obeyed God by His death, His resurrection—declaring Him to be the Son of God (Romans 1:4; Acts 13:33)—He had met the requirement God had for Him to be the predicted High Priest of the New Testament (vv.5-6).

When it comes to the High Priesthood, “out with the old and in with the new” ought to be the sentiment of everyone.

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Author: jchowning

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