Christ, The Perfect High Priest, Hebrews 5:1-14

The Hebrew writer has shown the superiority of Christ over the angels and over Moses.  Before he begins to show how superior Christ is to any other Priesthood, he points out Christ’s compassion in 5:2.  The word “compassion” (metriopatheo) is defined: “To treat with mildness, or moderation, to bear gently with … The idea is that he is not being angered by the faults and ignorance of others …”  To maintain this outlook the high priest needed to remember that “he himself is also beset by weakness”. Jesus desperately wished for a change in circumstances; He petitioned God to alter His will so that He would not have to endure horrific physical and emotional agonies of the cross.  But He also submitted Himself to the will of God: “nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Mt 26:39). Jesus did not merely provide salvation but is salvation in a direct, personal sense. Those who obey Him are grafted into the source of life itself, Jesus Christ the mediating High Priest between God and men.

 He now shows how Christ is superior to the Aaronic type of Priesthood.  He reminds them of another type of priesthood, after the manner of Melchizedek.  Melchizedek served as king of Salem, of whom Abraham paid tithes, and served as God’s High Priest (more will be discussed about Melchizedek in chapter 7).  Christ serves as God’s High Priest in this way. He also reminds us of how Christ was made perfect through sufferings (Heb 3:10-the sufferings of Christ made His qualifications to bring men to glory complete or “perfect”).  So now, “having been perfected”, Christ is the “author” of their eternal salvation. He was called by God to be their High Priest forever. Christ’s priesthood is superior to any other. 

  1. From what tribe of Israel did the priest come from (Num 3:5-9, Heb 7:5)?  What tribe was Jesus from (Heb 7:14)?
  1. Why would the Hebrew writer mention Melchizedek here?

      3. How is “devotion” in v7 and “obedience” in v8 seen to be the qualities of a High Priest?

      4. What are the qualities that Jesus has satisfied as a High Priest according to verses 

          Hebrews 4:14 and 5:5-10 ?

The priesthood of Melchizedek, of whom they probably knew very little about or even nothing at all, was difficult to understand because they were not spiritually mature. He scolds them for their spiritual immaturity and calls them slow learners.  They are like newborns who need someone to feed them baby food. They are inexperienced in God’s word of righteousness. By this time they should be mature Christians with the ability to teach others. It would be foolish to blame a six year old for not being as developed mentally and physically as a twelve year old, for natural growth patterns cannot be circumvented.  However, the brethren addressed in Hebrews have failed to mature through a lack of effort: “by this time you ought to be teachers” (Heb 5:12). Instead, they now need to be re-taught the very basics of the gospel – the ABC’s if you will. “Use it or lose it” is the slang expression of what has happened to these brethren. But, for those who are mature and have put their knowledge of God’s word into practice, they are blessed in the ability to discern between truth and  error. Herein is the happiness of living life, instead of living a lie!

Christ the Perfect Promise-Keeper, Hebrews 4:1-16

Why would anyone want to fall short of God’s Rest? (Heb 4:1-2) “let us be wary lest any of you seem to have come short of it” (Heb 4:1; cf. 3:12-13, The word spoken to ancient Hebrews was just as active & living, as the word spoken by Christ. So why would anyone miss the promise of God’s rest? The Israelites had “good news” preached to them:  a promised land of freedom, atonement of sins, abundant produce, ready-made cities and freedom of worship in a governing Theocracy! But this good news “did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it” (4:2).The “good news” in this context is used in the same way Peter used it in reference to Noah, 1st Peter 4:6. He offers glory and splendor we could never achieve on our own.  Yet without faith, these huge & gracious offers fall into unbelieving hearts. We christians must constantly self- examine ourselves for signs of waning faith or indifference. 

Entering God’s Rest (Heb 4:3-5) is related  to the creation week in which “God rested on the seventh day from all His works” (Heb 4:4; Gen. 2:2).  This rest was established at the beginning and is a state wherein God, Himself, entered. He desires to share His Rest with his creation, which has been given holy hearts. This Rest is not the Sabbath being Saturday, although that weekly respite was modeled after creation (Ex 20:8-12), and it was not the entrance into Canaan, as will be shown in 4:8.  The disobedient Jews did not merely miss Canaan by their idolatry rooted in unbelief, they missed heaven, for the Rest God offers is intimate glorious fellowship with Him in eternity. In order for any of us to enter God’s Rest, we must have a living faith in becoming a Citizen of Heaven (Christian) and keep believing to stay faithful unto death.

The offer of rest is ongoing, it “REMAINS”, even during the days of Joshua leading the people into Canaan,and for several hundred years later “He designates a certain day, saying in David, ‘Today …’” (Heb 4:7).  That is, the Rest offered by God was still available as David wrote Psalm 95:7-11. Also, the Hebrew writer says it is still available as he writes, and for us it remains available, till Jesus comes again. The author considers the word “today” from Psalm 95:7 crucial, for he mentions it in four verses (Heb 3:7, 13, 15; 4:7).  God offers Christians today a heavenly, eternal relief from the mental, physical and emotional burdens which accompany earthly life. This Rest is not cessation from activity, even as God has not ceased His activity following the sixth creation day, but rather the absence of stress that earthly endeavors always have (4:10). Still standing in force, is the warning, “Do not harden your hearts …” (4:7).  Human history is strewn with the bones of men and women who were offered heavenly rest along with capable leadership and divine assistance but who “did not enter because of disobedience” (4:6).   

“lest anyone fall after the same example of disobedience” (Heb 4:11).  None of us can honestly believe these passages and then deny human responsibility for our own salvation. The writer has urged his readers to “give the most careful attention” (2:1), “hold fast” (3:6), “beware” (3:12), “warn one another” (3:13), “fear” (4:1) and “be diligent” (4:11).  However, salvation is not entirely dependent upon our own resources in each individual. The author now turns to the assistance of God’s word available to each of us. Since he has stressed the heart as the seat of obstinacy and unbelief, the author shows the virtues of the word in accurately assessing and exposing the heart.  The word of God is “living and powerful”; the Scriptures are not outdated words on dusty scrolls but vibrant, relevant and unassailable truths which always keep their vitality. God’s word pierces the very thoughts, intentions and ambitions of every person. No one can escape its discerning power; no part of the soul can be hidden from its double sharpened edge (4:13).  Respect for this truth can lead each of us to embrace the surgical benefits of such an instrument: God’s word is capable of removing from our heart the diseased tumors of sin and unbelief. Living words come from what kind of God (Hebrews 3:12)? A LIVING God that urges us to enter His Kingdom, Luke 16:16. The Kingdom of his Beloved Son, Colossians 1:12-13.

The last part of this passage brings a transition to the subject of the high priesthood of Jesus.  Not only do we have the benefit of the living word but a High Priest “who has passed through the heavens” (Heb 4:14).  He serves in the very place of the offered Rest: “at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (1:3). Further, He can “sympathize with our weaknesses” having shared our fleshly nature.  In the author’s mind, this all adds up to one thing: Boldness before the throne of God.  This confidence is available in our darkest hours – “In time of need” (4:16).  But sadly, we tend to shy away from God in situations of shame or discouragement.  This must be overcome by trusting God’s great love in providing redemption and desiring reconciliation.  God never discourages people from returning to Him after sin. The throne of God is a throne of what? What will we find from God in times of need? Have you found that help? Matthew 7:7-11. Then let people know!

The Best Law-giver; Christ. Hebrews 3:1-19

One of the greatest attributes of Christ is that Jesus makes his disciples “holy” and treats us like brothers & sisters, v1. (brothers & sisters) 2nd Corinthians 6:18. He is the only one who can make us holy. Moses needed people’s obedience to the law in applying animal’s blood, before anyone or anything was considered holy in obedience to the old law. Moses was highly revered among the Jews for obvious reasons.  So the delicate comparison does not quote Moses’ faults; but rather, he acknowledges that “Moses was faithful in all His house” (Heb 3:2). Like Moses, it is affirmed that Jesus was sent with heavenly authority; for example, “the Apostle … of our confession” (3:1). Jesus also fulfills Aaron’s role: He is the “High Priest of our confession.” (4:14) We should “consider” Jesus in these roles, to think very carefully about their implications. It was in the context of God talking to Aaron & Miriam that He proclaimed Moses faithful to relate the law,  Numbers 12:7.  

 Jesus Has More Glory Than Moses (Heb 3:3-6) While Moses was a faithful servant, he was a servant nonetheless.  Moses inherited a nation to lead, Jesus built His nation/house: He is “a Son over His own house” (Heb 3:6) “I will build My church …” – Mt 16:18). Moses was faithful over an unfaithful people, his readers must not become like unfaithful Israel.  Christians remain the house of God only “if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end” (3:6). This warning clearly makes salvation conditional upon each believer maintaining his/her own faith.

 Since Jesus built His house, and “He who built all things is God,” then Jesus is in a very real sense, God. What should the builder of the house receive? The greatest praise & glory!

 Heb 3:7-11 is a passage which is very similar to 1st Corinthians 10:1-11 where Paul reminisces about the glorious exodus of Israel from Egypt under Moses illustrious leadership.  In spite of such a grand beginning, “with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness” (1 Cor 10:5). The recipients of Hebrews are in danger of the same awful ending. Never forget who was responsible for the words in Ps 95:7-11.

 A most grave warning is introduced with the word “beware” followed by two “lests”, because of the hardening of their hearts,  (Heb 3:12-15). A very good antidote to apostasy is “exhort one another daily” (3:13a). It doesn’t take a high I.Q. to encourage someone, it just takes time, 1st Thessalonians 5:11 & 2nd Thessalonians 2:16-17. We should do it and pray that God helps us and works through our efforts of encouragement. The author picks up on the word “today” from the quotation of Psalms in 3:7 and makes fresh application:  “… while it is called ‘Today’ …”. That is, the words of the Holy Spirit in reference to Israel’s unbelief are always applicable to us today. The coming of grace through Jesus Christ has not made apostasy impossible; God’s grace does not safeguard the believer against willful rebellion. These words are absolutely pointless if a true believer cannot depart from God.  The author says one can defect and become unfaithful. Many today say such is impossible. Which shall we believe?

  It is important to differentiate between sin and apostasy.  The NT affirms that all men and women of faith will occasionally sin through weakness, but apostasy is the settled choice to abandon God altogether.  It is this ultimate departure that is not only possible but likely if these Christians continue on their present course. It is obvious how our disobedience, if left unchecked and neglected, can subtly become unbelief to the point of being lost, when once we had been saved, Heb. 3:16-19. This letter was written to Christians, not the children of Christians. We must take personal responsibility for learning and living this message.