The Priesthood of Christ as Revealed in Scripture
By Lucien LeSage
It seems that the priesthood of Christ is something that you hear very little about and yet the whole book of Hebrews presents to us our glorious high priest. You hear of Him as being saviour, which He is and the only saviour of sinners. You hear of Him being the Son of God which He is and the eternal One at that, but little about Him being the saved one's high priest. And why would a sinner need a high priest? Does God simply overlook sin? Sin is so serious that the apostle tells us, “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).
Speaking of Christ's priestly office, John Flavel (c. 1630-1691) said, “What promises flow out of the priestly office? All the promises of a pardon and peace flow out of it.” Yes, Jesus Christ is a high priest. He is now my high priest. He is the eternal high priest and He has no successor as we shall show from the Scriptures. In chapter three of Hebrews Jesus Christ is called “the Apostle and High Priest of our profession”.
The Book of Hebrews was written by the Apostle Paul, in my opinion, and it was written to Jewish Christians that were getting caught up in the Mosaic economy and those sacrifices that were offered under the law of Moses. The Jews placed a lot of stock in that economy and that they were the children of Abraham. Think about it, the Jews had a Divine religion, and a divinely appointed place of worship. It was not as if they had come out of paganism. The God who made heaven and earth had given to Moses the law and all that went along with it. And so it would be natural that even those among them who had believed on Christ should want to retain the forms and ceremonies that pertained to the law in which they had been brought up. To the Pharisees Jesus said, “Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me” (John 5:45-46).
Christ Is Greater than the Prophets and the Angels
In the first few chapters of the book of
Hebrews, the writer shows that Christ is greater than all that had gone
before. He is greater than the prophets: “God, who at sundry times and in
divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in
these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of
all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his
glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the
word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the
right hand of the Majesty on high”
(Hebrews 1:1-3). Then we immediately read that He is greater
than all the angels: “Being made so much better than the angels,
as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto
which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I
begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a
Son? And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he
saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. And of the angels
he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.
But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and
ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom”
And then we read in the book of Acts that
the law was given “by the disposition of angels”
(Acts 7:53); But Christ is greater than all the angels as the writer says.
Christ Is Greater Than Moses and Joshua
Then in chapter three of Hebrews we see that the writer shows that Christ is greater than Moses in whom they trusted. “For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house” (Hebrews 3:3). As we read further we see He is greater than Joshua. The King James version has “Jesus” in verse 8 of chapter 4 but that is just the same meaning as Joshua. “For if Jesus (Joshua) had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day”. (See Acts 7:45 as proof). In this same chapter we read, “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession” (Hebrews 4:14). If we believe the Bible to be the Word of God, the apostle has told us enough for us to believe that Jesus is our high priest. But let us not simply leave it there. There is so much more to be understood concerning His priesthood.
Abraham and Melchisedec
Now, the Jews also placed a lot of stock in being the children of Abraham. When Jesus told those Jews that the truth would make them free they responded thus, “We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?” (John 8:33). Now here is where we need to pay close attention to what the apostle says concerning Abraham and Melchisedec. Without going into a lot of detail we see that Melchisedec was a royal priest who blessed Abraham. When Abraham was returning from the slaughter of the kings he paid a tenth of the spoils to Melchisedec and Melchisedec blessed him. Well the apostle tells us “and without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better” (Hebrews 7:7).
Before the apostle gets to this point in his epistle he brought to our attention what God said concerning His Son, “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (Hebrews 5:6). So what are the implications of this? And when was it written? What does that mean, “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec?” Who is this Melchisedec? Well he was a royal priest. He was king of Salem and priest of the most high God (see Hebrews 7:1-2). He blessed Abraham some four hundred years before the Law was given to Moses, and we read that the Aaronic priesthood paid tithes to Melchisedec being yet in the loins of Abraham when he met Melchisedec. Under the Mosaic Economy the priesthood was from the tribe of Levi, yet nothing is said about Melchisedec's origin. There is no recording of who his parents were nor when he ever died. So in type he is a picture of another priest who should later arise after his order or after the similitude of his order as the apostle says in chapter 7. The apostle tells us concerning this Melchisedec, “Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually” (Hebrews 7:3). I would add that under the Mosaic economy no king could offer a sacrifice. We see that Uzziah did so and was stricken with leprosy and was never cured. “But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense. And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the LORD, that were valiant men: And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the LORD, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honour from the LORD God. Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, from beside the incense altar. And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him, and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because the LORD had smitten him. And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several house, being a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the LORD: and Jotham his son was over the king's house, judging the people of the land” (2nd Chronicles 26:16-21). Yet Melchisedec was a royal priest and Christ is a priest after the similitude of his priesthood. The tribe of Judah from which Messiah sprang was a royal tribe. Jesus Christ is a royal (being a king) priest.
Another Priest Prophesied Long After the Levitical
So, when was it prophesied that another priest should arise after the order of Melchisedec? Well by the mouth of David in Psalm 110:4, long after the Levitical priesthood had been established by Moses. If the Aaronic priesthood made the people perfect then what was the need for it to be prophesied years later that another priest should arise? And that he would be after the order of Melchisedec and not after the order of Aaron. “If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?” (Hebrews 7:11). We also know from the section of the Old Testament concerning Messiah, which was written after the Mosaic Economy had been established, that our Lord would arise out of Judah “of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood” (Hebrews 7:14). Now pay close attention to what the apostle says in verse 15 and 16 of chapter 7. “And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.” The apostle says “similitude” which means likeness to it. So Melchisedec's priesthood pictured Christ's priesthood. Melchisedec did not have a successor for he had an endless priesthood, so to with Christ's priesthood. He is a priest forever and His priesthood is in the likeness of Melchisedec’s priesthood. The Levitical priesthood was not so but was “after the law of a carnal commandment.” This is important to see for Christ is eternally our great high priest “who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Hebrews 8:1). So “he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Christ has no successor to His priesthood for he continues to be the only priest the believer ever needs.
Christ’s Priestly Work
Let us now examine His priestly work. We have established that He is our high priest and is still our high priest even now. But what about His priestly work? As John Flavel said, “All the promises of a pardon and peace flow out of it.” We see that as high priest He needed to make an offering. “For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer” (Hebrews 8:3). As the apostle has stated perfection was not from the Levitical priesthood. But He was not as those Levitical high priests. Of Christ it is said, “Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself” (Hebrews 7:27). So He offered up Himself for the sins of the people He represented. In chapters 8 and 9 we see that the apostle shows that the earthly tabernacle was but a pattern of the heavenly and that a new and better covenant was prophesied (see Jeremiah 31:31). In verse 9 of chapter 9 we see that the earthly tabernacle was a figure for the time then present and could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to conscience. In the previous verse we read, “The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing” (Hebrews 9:8). So Christ made an offering for sin, but it was Himself. His death did not end His priestly work as was the case with the Levitical high priest but His death was part of His priestly work and the grave could not hold Him. Their death was no part of their priestly duties and ended their priesthood. His death was His priestly duty and was the very sacrifice which He offered as High Priest. They had no power to raise themselves back to service as priests. But the Son of God had power to lay His life down and raise it up again. His death did not even interrupt the exercise of His priesthood but was one of His duties as our Great High Priest. We saw earlier in chapter 7 that this He did once, or one time (Hebrews 7:27). In the book of Hebrews the apostle uses the word "once" or "one," seven times, in referring to the offering and sacrifice of Christ, while suggesting it in other places. Here are a few of those verses to prove the point: Hebrews 9:12, "Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." Hebrews 9:24-28, "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with the blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." Hebrews 10:10-14, "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." It can be no clearer to the reader of Hebrews that Christ made only one offering for sin and we also read, “Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.” (Hebrews 10:18). It is not that Christ made one offering for sin but some later offering must be made in addition. No, there is no more offering for sin. Christ said, “It is finished.”
The Efficacy of His Sacrifice
We have established that Jesus is a Royal Priest and an eternal high priest and that He made only one offering for sin and that offering was even His very soul according to Isaiah 53:10. And also that He ever liveth to make intercession for those that come to God by Him. So what of the efficacy of that sacrifice? What did that offering accomplish? Did it only make the purging of sin possible or did it in a judicial way accomplish something? I would draw your attention back to the very beginning of the book of Hebrews where this is answered immediately. “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high’ (Hebrews 1:3). Purge means to “perform a thing” according to Strong’s and in this case to “cast out” and that “without delay”. This speaks of sins in the judicial sense. We as believers still sin but the point is that they were taken care of by the Lord Jesus Christ in His priestly work. Let’s look at a few more verses in Hebrews that prove the point. “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” (Hebrews 9:12). So with His own blood he hath obtained eternal redemption for every believer and for every believer who will ever believe in Him. “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14). “...but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26). And whose sins did he bear and put away? “The sins of many” (9:28). Then we read in Hebrews 10:9-10, “Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Then in verse 14 we read, “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” This can be no more clearer if we would just believe it. His one offering hath perfected for all eternity the ones who were set apart by God. Sanctified means to set apart and in this case it is passive. Notice they are sanctified not that they sanctified themselves. Personal sanctification takes place later in time at the new birth but in this case all the ones that were sanctified judicially by God are perfected for ever. That’s a long time, dear reader. That is a perfection without failure. That is a priestly work that is efficacious and which accomplished it’s very purpose. And what was that purpose? “… but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.”
Jesus Drank the Cup Dry
When Jesus drank the cup of divine wrath in the place of the believer and all who will ever believe on Him. He drank that cup dry, as Spurgeon put it. If you belong to Him then there is nothing left in that cup of indignation for you dearly beloved, because your Lord drank every drop in your place. It was not only an efficacious offering (accomplished it's purpose) but vicarious (being substitutionary) as well. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2nd Corinthians 5:21). “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:” (Galatians 3:13).
The Veil in the Temple
When Jesus commended His spirit into the hands of His Father and yielded up His spirit, which was in His power to do, the veil in the temple was rent down the middle from top to bottom. (See Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:28 & Luke 23:45). Now listen to the apostle's words concerning that veil. “And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:” (Hebrews 9:3-8). So when that veil was rent in two it signified that Jesus had opened the way into the holiest of all for His children.
No More Offering for Sin
Jeremiah prophesied of this day and he is quoted by the apostle in this epistle to the Hebrews. “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:16-17). Then he adds, “Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin” (Hebrews 10:18).
The Believer Has a Priest
Dear reader, we need no man on this earth to be a priest for us. We have a high priest in heaven. A royal priest. We need no bloodless sacrifice on any altar. We have an altar, the Godhood of Christ. The believer is a priest unto himself in that he can offer the sacrifice of praise and can boldly go before the throne of Grace because our Great High Priest is there. In fact the believer in many ways is after the similitude of Christ’s priesthood. He has no successor to Him. No man is a successor to Him, but you as a believer are “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:” (1st Peter 2:9).
If you are a believer in Christ, if your faith looks not to itself but to the efficacious and vicarious offering of your great eternal high priest then go to Him. “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16). As our Great High Priest, Christ is praying and mediating for us now. He is a merciful High Priest. When we are in need, we are comforted by His uninterrupted intercession. When we sin, His intercession for us is a great incentive to repent right away.
May God Bless!
Grace Bible Baptist Church
26080 Wax Road
Denham Springs, LA 70726