For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. Because y of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.
So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,
“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”;
as he says also in another place,
“You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.”
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5:1-10 ESV)
I did not grow up Catholic so I have spent very little time observing people who are officially titled “priests.”
But by growing up in the southern part of the United States, I was able to regularly observe Protestant preachers. Though I didn’t go to church growing up, I saw them regularly at school functions, and in community settings, etc. I had no idea what they actually did, but I had enormous respect for them. I thought that they must be close to being perfect – really special people.
Wow. I didn’t know much.
I don’t mean that in a bad way, it’s just that I didn’t realize that preachers and priests were just like me – sinners. They are special in the sense that they have been called by God to serve Him and special in a sense that they hopefully live life in a godly way, but their flesh is corrupt. They need a Savior as well.
As we look at the beginning of Hebrews chapter five, we are reminded of this.
The first four verses in this passage remind us again of the role of a priest:
(v. 1) “For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.” –
“Appointed…act on behalf of men…in relation to God”
These three phrases do a fantastic job of describing the role of a priest. Under the Old Covenant, priests came exclusively from the tribe of Levi and their job was to represent the Jewish people before God. As the end of verse one notes, they would bring “gifts and sacrifices for sins.”
It’s important to note that individuals were not allowed to approach God in this way. Yes, individuals could talk and pray to God, but the administration of the relationship between God and His people was carried out by the priests.
(v. 2) “He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.” – The priest had a unique role in that while he was allowed to approach God to offer “gifts and sacrifices for sins,” he was also himself “beset with weakness.” As Romans 3:23 says,
“for fall have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 ESV)
This definition of sinners includes Levitical priests as well.
(v. 3) “Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people.” – Therefore, the priests not only offered sacrifices for the sins of the people, but also for themselves as well.
(v. 4) “And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.” – To underscore the significance of this role, the writer reminds us that priests can only fulfill this role “when called by God.”
In the same way that the Levitical priests were “called by God,” we read “so also Christ”…
(v. 5) “So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’;” – This passage doesn’t speak to the Creation of Christ, but rather speaks to His appointed role as our High Priest. In the same way that the Levitical priests did not “take this honor” for themselves, Christ also “did not exalt himself to be made a high priest.” God appointed Him for this special role.
(v. 6) “as he says also in another place, ‘You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.'” – This passage is quoted from Psalm 110:4:
The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever
after the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:4 ESV)
So what does all this mean? We’ve read the descriptions of both the Levitical priests and Jesus’ role as High Priest, but what does this really mean? We have the explanation in verses 5:7-10:
(v. 7) “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.” – This verse speaks of Jesus’ time on Earth ministering as our High Priest. On our behalf, He offered up to God “prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears.” The writer reminds us that not only did Jesus offer these prayers to God – the One “who was able to save him from death,” but also, Jesus “was heard.” Why was He heard? “Because of his reverence.”
Why was Jesus heard by God because of His reverence? I believe this refers to Jesus perfectly fulfilling His role as High Priest. Just as reverence was required from a Levitical priest as his duties were performed, so also Jesus fulfilled His duties with reverence.
(v. 8) “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.” – At first glance, this is confusing. Did Jesus Christ, the sinless, perfect Son of God lack something? Did He really have to learn “obedience?” Does this conflict with what we’ve already learned about Christ?
No, it doesn’t.
We touched on this subject back in our review of chapter 2:10-18. Here’s an excerpt:
“When the writer refers to making Jesus “perfect through suffering,” he isn’t talking about Jesus’ nature and essence. Jesus was always perfect and, of course, He never sinned while on earth. Instead, “perfect through suffering” refers to the process Jesus had to endure as a man. This is explained in more detail verses 14-18.”
(v. 9) “And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,” – Again, being made perfect, refers to the process of human life Jesus endured as a man. What is the result of this process?
Jesus “became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.”
Think about this.
Through His work, Jesus became the “source” of our salvation. Not a way to our salvation. Not an option if considering salvation. He’s the source.
Through His work, Jesus became “source” of our salvation. If you want to be saved, you can’t earn your own way. If you’ve heard about eternal life, it’s not something you can achieve yourself. Hear this: Jesus is the SOURCE of our salvation.
Jesus tells us this Himself when He says:
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 ESV)
(v. 10) “being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.” – The subject of Melchizedek comes up several times in the book of Hebrews and, Lord willing, we will cover more in depth later. For now, let us remember that this work of Jesus, wherein He becomes the source of our salvation, was “designated by God.” We are reminded in Titus:
“he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5 ESV)
God has provided a way to Him through His Son Jesus Christ. Christ has done the hard work as the source of salvation. For us, we receive the results of His hard work – salvation – as one would receive a gift. If you haven’t yet received this gift, reach out and receive it today.