The Perfect High Priest
Radiant Church’s Lead Pastor Keith Welton continues our series on the Book of Hebrews with a sermon entitled, “The Perfect High Priest” on Hebrews 4:14-5:10. Below, you can listen to his sermon, watch our whole service, and use the outline below for a reference.
Missed last week’s sermon from Director of Worship and Discipleship Dan Webb entitled “Work for the Rest”? You can listen to it and watch the whole service here.
Hebrews 4:14-16, Hebrews 5:1-10
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
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. 2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. 3 Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. 4 And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. 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”; 6 as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” 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. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 4:14-10 ESV)
Jesus is our great high priest who brings confidence to enter the most holy place and receive grace.
1. Jesus is our Great High Priest
In the Old Testament, God provides a way of forgiveness through sacrifices. These sacrifices require the shedding of blood as a reminder that with sin came death. The just punishment of disobedience to God is death. God provided a way to save people through sacrifices. The priests would offer daily sacrifices in the morning and evening for the people.
Priests were to represent the people before God. They were a type of mediator between God and people. They would intercede for them by offering sacrifices to cleanse the people of their sin.
They are set apart from the people, devoted to ministering and offering sacrifices in a spot in the temple called “the holy place.” But for the priest, there is “the most holy place,” or “holy of holies.” It’s a place that is closer to God, a place that is more holy, a place that only the high priest goes, and he only goes once a year. The rest of the temple is separated from it by curtain. There were many priests. But there was only one high priest. He was the ruler of the priests.
And he can only enter after making sacrifices for himself and the people. Only he was allowed to enter the Most Holy Place behind the veil to stand before God. Having made a sacrifice for himself and for the people, he then brought the blood into the Holy of Holies and sprinkled it on the mercy seat, God’s “throne” (Leviticus 16:14-15). He did this to make atonement for himself and the people for all their sins committed during the year just ended (Exodus 30:10). Yom Kippur. Oct 5. Day of Atonement. So they could have full access to God, with no curtain separating them.
[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.
There is a new high priest. Jesus. He is appointed the high priest, not based on genealogy (Aaron). He didn’t come seeking office through career advancement. He is appointed by God. This one goes through the heavens to bring eternal salvation, a once and for all sacrifice.
What Hebrews is saying is that all the sacrifices were a temporary provision of God, but it was not the final answer to the problem. If you have to keep offering sacrifices, then the permanent solution has not come.
If you keep doing something over and over with no end in sight then you have not come to the permanent solution. When something is broken and you keep repeating the same mistake. Refrigerator, keep having to shut the door, reposition, and shut again. One day I’m going to buy the new part and pay someone to fix it the right way, there will be no need to keep going through those remedial steps.
Jesus is the great high priest who offers the perfect sacrifice and brings eternal salvation. He’s not just a high priest. This is an accolade only he had. He is appointed by God. You can’t appoint yourself! Not just the line of Aaron. He is to offer sacrifice, the perfect sacrifice, so no other sacrifice will ever need to be made. He passed through the heavens and entered the true holy place, not just a curtain to reach the others side of the room.
This high priest is appointed to make atonement for sin and bring people back to the presence of God. To regain favor with God. To be in a right relationship. To restore peace to the people.
“And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,” verse 9.
Now we are a more and more secular society, consciences are seared, so we do not think about God. Most don’t have a conception that they have sinned and might not be fit for the presence of God. They might not think about the need for a priest. IN our secular age we are used to mediators in different ways. They will get us to the other side of the barrier. They will bring in what we do not have.
-They think a new thing will restore them and make everything right so they go to the high priest of the store to receive the sacrifice of money and receive a new product.
-Pay a doctor or counselor to tell you everything is going to be OK or to make a way to regain what you have lost.
-Maybe it is sitting down at a bar to give you money to get a drink. These are secular liturgies that will never make your conscience cleansed. They may numb you a bit. Make you feel less, but it doesn’t mean you are any less dirty or guilty. You have to leave the priesthood of the bar and come to the priesthood of Jesus.
Jesus is the great high priest who went through the heavens to represent you before God and to make atonement for all your mistakes. You don’t need any other priest, regardless of a priest in the line of Aaron or a priest in the line of Ferrari or a priest in the line of anything at Avalon. Rest in him and what he has achieved. It is greater than what any other mediator can do for you.
The effect of his work.
2. Confidence to Draw Near
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession,” verse 14.
Hold fast to what he has done. You would have made a confession at baptism. Keep holding on to that. Don’t let go. Exhortation. “Let us… hold fast, draw near, pay attention to the author and perfector of our faith.”
Place for exhorting others. “Lets go!”
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” verse 16.
-Confidence to receive mercy and find grace. In the Old Testament they would tremble. God is holy. He demands obedience. There are stories in the Old Testament of priests offering wrong sacrifices or carrying the Ark of the Covenant the wrong way, and they are struck down on the spot. It shows the holiness of God. His holiness made people tremble.
Martin Luther was the great church reformer of the 16th century. As Luther began to read the Bible, he discovered the holiness of God, and it scared him. Returning from a visit to his family home, Luther was caught in a sudden and violent thunderstorm and feared he might die. He was filled with terror of God’s wrath and judgment. He cried out that he would become a monk if his life was spared. His life was spared so he became a monk. That didn’t help things.
He said, “Neither willingly nor by desire did I become a monk but surrounded by the terror and agony of sudden death, I vowed a forced, unavoidable vow.”
As a monk he also became a rigid rule follower.
“I was a good monk, and I kept the rule of my order so strictly that I may say that if ever a monk got to heaven by his monkery, it was I. All my brothers in the monastery who knew me will bear me out. If I had kept on any longer, I would have killed myself with vigils, prayers, reading, and other work.”
– “the justice of God:” “Because I took it to mean that justice whereby God is just and deals justly in punishing the unjust, my situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him. Therefore I did not love a just and angry God, but rather hated him. Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what he meant.“
ONce when he was ministering, he was suddenly, utterly stupefied and terror-stricken. “I thought to myself, ‘With what tongue shall I address such Majesty, seeing that all men ought to tremble in the presence of even an earthly prince? Who am I, that I should lift up mine eyes or raise my hands to the divine majesty? The angels surround him. And shall I, a miserable pygmy, say ‘I want this, I ask for that?’ For I am dust and ashes and full of sin and I am speaking to the living, eternal, and true God.”
His core struggle was: How could man abide in God’s presence unless he himself were holy?
Luther had no confidence to be in the presence of God. He was scared, trembled, and had no love for God.
No gospel, no confidence. No perfect high priest, no confidence. *
He wrestled with this until he began to understand what it meant that Jesus lived a perfect life and died for him.
-‘Christ provided righteousness for us and thus gave us peace, appeasing the things that are in heaven and the things that are on earth. For by his suffering he made satisfaction for us according to the way of righteousness, etc.’
-For as God, angry because of our unrighteousness, did not have peace with us, so having been turned, he sent this righteousness for us by which he also sent peace at the same time
-Luther said, “Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that “the just shall live by his faith.” Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors to paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before the Psalm 85:10 in the King James Version: “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” The “justice of God” had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven … If you have true faith that Christ is your Saviour, then at once you have a gracious God, for faith leads you and opens up God’s heart and will, that you should see pure grace and overflowing love. This it is to behold God in faith that you should look upon his fatherly, friendly heart, in which there is no anger or ungraciousness. (Luther quotes from “If Ever a Monk Got to Heaven by His Monkery: The Life of Martin Luther” by Dr. William VanDoodewaard. C:/Users/Keith%20Welton/Desktop/Radiant/1-If-Ever-a-Monk-Got-to-Heaven-VanDoodewaard.pdf
-Luther didn’t understand the Gospel and the priesthood of Jesus, so he had no confidence God would accept him. He feared and hated God. Then he understood the Gospel. Then he understood atonement. Then he understood love, mercy, kindness, and grace. Then his life was changed. Now he could draw near to God in full confidence – not confidence in his doings, but confidence in the work of Jesus.
–We can have confidence before God, not arrogance before God. Arrogance says I have nothing wrong. God must accept me. Confidence says, yes I have messed up, but I have a savior who loves me. Confidence in his perfect work. Not because of our perfect work. He made a way for us!
-We come to a throne of grace. We see the love of God in this.
3. We Find Compassion
We come to the throne of grace. This is another way of saying the throne of God. When we come to Jesus we come to the throne of God. We have access to God. It is a throne of grace. Grace is what you receive. Grace is what the throne sits upon. God is holy, and just, and is stern, but he is gracious in that when you draw near to him mercy is what you find.
“Mercy respects the creature as miserable, patience respecte the creature as criminal.mercy pits him in his misery, and patience bears with the sin which engendered the misery.” Stephen Charnof, Attributes. 479.
“He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness,” verse 2.
This great high priest understands us. This does not mean Jesus sinned. It means that coming in the flesh, he felt the pull of the flesh and the world just as we do, and yet he never sinned. He knows your struggle. He can deal gently with you.
He learned obedience through what he suffered. He suffered. He was tempted. He hurt. He had pain. He learned from it.
If you have not been in need of help then you are not ready to help others. If you have never needed grace it is hard for you to give it. Many successful people are so bad at showing mercy to others. They have done everything they can to build a life in which they are not dependent on anyone. Jesus knows suffering like no one else. He knows you, knows your pain, and he is interceding for you.
“A bruised reed he will not break.”
Gentleness is patience, a moderation in emotion. This is his response to those who are ignorant and wayward. For those who just don’t know yet, or even those who are purposely going the wrong way.
“This is writer’s way of saying everyone” (Ortland, Gentle and Lowly. p 53.) He deals gently when they come to him.
He is the one person who knows all your actions. He knows all your thoughts. Knows every image of your life and has it at his recollection. The one person whose holiness could utterly incinerate you, is the one person who makes a way for you to be forgiven. You have never seen a love so holy and perfect until you see this. He forgives you.
From him, you don’t hear, “Get out of here you bleeptey bleep bleep bleep.” You don’t hear “Go away!” You don’t hear “You are coming too late, too many times…”
In elementary school I would go to a friends who lived a little ways away. We could cut the distance in half if we cut through the yard of one house. But the lady who lived there didn’t like us doing that. And we did it anyway. She was mean and had gotten on to us many times. There was no compassion on us having to walk the extra distance. I can still remember seeing her come out and we took one look at the anger in her face, her hands flailing through the air, and we took off. We were not going to stick around to see what she had to say. We didn’t think we could go to her and be understood. We didn’t think she would relate and be kind. Jesus deals with us gently. He is patient and helps us grow.
John Owen said, “No more cast off poor sinners for their ignorance and wandering than a nursing father should cast away a suckling child for its crying… Thus ought it to be with a high priest, and thus is it with Jesus Christ. He is able, with all meekness and gentleness, with patience and moderation, to bear with the infirmities, sins, and provocations of his people, even as a nurse or a nursing father bears with the weakness of a poor infant” (Ortland, 55).
He is gentle because he can sympathize. “Sympathize” (4:15) and “deal gently” (5:2) have the same verbal root. There is a connection to one who has suffered and can sympathize with those who are able to show kindness and mercy.
This does not mean everyone automatically receives grace and mercy. We have seen in Hebrews that some were wandering away from the faith. What it does mean is that when you come to him you do find grace and mercy. The greatest sin is the sin of not coming to him. Those are the ones for whom there is no mercy.
If you have struggled in your faith, if you have made bad decisions, if you have rejected his plan, if you feel like you shouldn’t be in the building of a church, you can turn to him and find mercy.
And this grace ought to flow downward.
Church: are we going to demand people get everything right when they come in? No, give grace, gentleness, time. What you have done, others, is not ok. But turn to Jesus and let him deal with you.
What do people experience when they come to you? Do they experience sympathy, an abundance of mercy or do they experience judgment? Are you gracious to those who are in error or only gracious to those who do everything the right way? If you are only gracious to those who do what is right then you are not gracious at all. Grace is favor to those who do not deserve it. Pride will blind you to God’s grace to you and your judgmentalism to others.
How does God deal with you in all of your stupidity? He is gentle and patient. He could justly strike you down the second you sinned. It is his grace that leads to repentance. And he does this time and time again. He could point out your every fault and overwhelm you to the point of being unable to move. He could discourage you so much that you are chronically depressed.
Parenting is not just you getting your way, it’s helping them to know God. There were times I was hovering over the kids saying “don’t do that, don’t do that, stop it, what are you doing now!!” I should tell them about how God has been gracious to them. How you did things wrong and he helped you up and helped you come to your senses?
Grace doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want. You must follow him. Grace means you will find help when you turn to him. When you find that grace you don’t want to leave. It means you have found a boss who knows you, loves you, bears with you, leads you in the right direction all the time. It is a place you don’t want to leave.