“For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and find grace to help us in time of need.” (Heb. 4:15-16).
The Bible has many names for Jesus. Each of these tells us something of what He is in Himself and what He is for us.
The name that we shall consider here is that of High Priest. It introduces us to many phases of Christ’s life as our Savior; a Christian should never become weary of pressing further into this mystery of salvation.
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We shall pause first to consider the High Priest as He brings an offering to God for our sins. The Bible has many wonderful teachings on this point, and we want to embrace them as a most precious possession.
The Church from her dear Master
Received the gift divine,
And still that light she lifteth
O’er all the earth to shine.
It is the golden casket
Where gems of truth are stored;
It is the heaven-drawn picture
Of Christ, the living Word.
May God anoint our sin-dimmed eyes with His eye-salve. Then we shall see some of the greatness of the truth that Christ went through the portals of death and into hell for us; we shall also see that He arose for our justification and ascended into heaven to appear before God in our behalf. How cheerful and fearless such vision would make us! For one who sees himself as a real sinner the truth about Christ who has redeemed us with His own blood is the most blessed news he has ever heard. It will be the content of our conversation and the theme of our song throughout eternity.
When with the ransomed in glory
His face at last I shall see,
‘Twill be my joy through the ages
To sing of His love for me.
Of all the New Testament writings the Epistle to the Hebrews presents Christ most clearly as our High Priest. Here the principles of the priesthood in the Old Testament are applied to Jesus, and we see Him both as the Priest and the sacrificial Lamb. We read thus:
“For such a high priest became us, holy, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. For this he did once for all when he offered up himself.” (Heb. 7:26-27).
“— nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, entered in once for all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption.” (Heb. 9:12).
“Who being the effulgence of his glory, and the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had made purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Heb. 1:3).
In a most remarkable way Christ is pictured as the Lamb without blemish who gave Himself as an offering to God on our behalf, and as one who entered the Holy of Holies with His own blood to effect an eternal atonement, thus making restoration possible for us by removing our sin through His sacrifice.
Against the background of the inclusiveness and completeness of Christ’s atonement some people have been so bold as to declare that even the lost in hell are there with their sins forgiven. I do not believe such a view can find support in the Scriptures. We know and believe that Jesus has arranged everything with God. But just as certainly as the Scriptures teach that God has reconciled us to Himself through the death of His Son, so it is also true that the Bible admonishes us to be reconciled to God. It is always best to see each particular teaching of Scripture in the light of the whole. To go beyond Scripture is as reprehensible as stopping short of it, even if there may seem to be a practical value in so doing. Christ’s atonement covers all, though not all benefit by it.
“He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world.” (I John 2:2).
Let us hold to what the Scriptures do teach; there is enough in that to occupy us as long as we live.
There is especially one statement concerning Christ’s sacrifice that has meant a great deal to me. We read:
“Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish unto God.” (Heb. 9:14).
What comfort is here! Jesus offered Himself to God for our sins. It is as though we can hear Him saying: Here I am, Father; take me such as I have freely offered myself for all. Here I am, willing to redeem the whole race with my life and blood. Come judgment and death — I will take the place of the guilty sinner. Require of me, and I will pay.
He was accepted by the Father, and we were exonerated. In our stead He went as the High Priest, bringing Himself as the sacrifice, into the presence of the Father; that sacrifice was sufficient to atone for our sins and to gain an eternal redemption for us.
When sin becomes exceedingly sinful, and we see judgment and death as our just desert, it is blessed to turn to Him who brought Himself to God in atonement for our sins.
Do you see Christ in this light? If you do, you are saved.
To all Christians I am constrained to say: Let the mystery of the cross be the solution to all the riddles of life. Do not try to find salvation elsewhere than in the cross; you will not find it. No matter where you turn, heaven is closed to you except in the cross. Let no one deceive you by proclaiming a Savior who was not made to be sin for us. The road to heaven goes only by way of Calvary.
He who is guilty of death has no way of escape but through Christ crucified. Paul would know nothing else for salvation.
Blest am I through my Savior’s merit,
Heaven’s great King, by His wondrous grace,
Made me His child, I shall glory inherit,
Safe in His keeping I sing His praise.
* * *
Another phase of Christ’s function as our High Priest is the wonderful disposition He has toward us and His marvelous ability to fight our battles for us here on earth. He has Himself been a suffering and struggling human being. The Bible speaks clearly on this point:
“Wherefore it behooved Him in all things to be made like unto his brethren, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.” (Heb. 2 17-18).
“For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath in all points been tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15).
“Who in the days of his flesh, having offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and having been heard for his godly fear, though he was a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation; named a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb. 5:7-10).
Many present_day Christians are not sufficiently aware of this side of Christ’s High Priestly activity. Yet God speaks most tenderly on this point in order to draw weary souls to Himself. May we be quiet before the Lord as we consider some of these truths.
Jesus understands us so well not simply because He as God knows all things, and He helps us not only because He is the eternally loving one; He understands and helps us because He has been a human being and has lived under the same conditions as we. When He sees a tear in your eye He remembers His own tears. When He sees that life is becoming too much for you, and temptations are tearing at your heartstrings, He can sympathize with you; For He was in like manner tempted. If we had ears to hear and hearts to receive, we should hear these soothing words from Jesus: I can understand you. I, too, walked upon earth as you do now. Heaven was closed to me also when I sweat drops of blood in Gethsemane and was plunged into darkness on Calvary. Now I am your helper and can help you in temptation, for I have also been tempted.
It is not remarkable that the Scriptures say to us, “For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be weary and faint in your minds.”
It is just when our soul is like a raging sea that Satan and our own nature try to picture Christ as a cold and cruel Master; all the while He seeks to console us as a mother does her suffering child.
Some of you have had many a crushing sorrow in your day. Life has not been kind to you. Death robbed you of the one you loved most, and you were left alone in a cold world. The grave now holds the one whom you would fondly have at your side; since your wish cannot be granted you would just as soon share a place beside your loved one beneath the sod. But God does not want it so.
At such times it is not easy to be a human being. There are enough who well-meaningly try to comfort you; there is sufficient advice about being reasonable, of remembering that others have had similar misfortunes, that God’s ways are the best ways and that time will heal all wounds. But there is no comfort for you in all this; it is more like a hollow sound that increases the pain in your heart and adds to your sorrow.
Then one day a comforter of another type calls at your house. He is mild and says little. He takes your hand so gently and looks at you with eyes full of understanding. Perhaps he may say, “God bless you, my friend. What you suffer now I have also suffered; I understand you so well. Words we speak avail so little, but I should like to weep with you.”
That made you feel better. Why so? It was because your friend had suffered through the same experiences that you now have. As a secret soothing balm comfort passed from one suffering soul to another. Spirit touched spirit.
Such is Jesus because He lived as a man on earth and met all the evil that we must meet. He was victorious over all for Himself and for us.
Would to God that all suffering and struggling people might find this Jesus, especially in the days of temptation and of battle.
It is a well-known fact that in times of stress people do not seek advice from just anyone. They go to one who has been in a similar crisis and has found the remedy.
He who would help others to find God must himself know the way. “— who comforteth us in all our affliction, that we may be able to comfort them that are in affliction, through the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (II Cor. 1:4). This is a part of the harmony of life in the Kingdom of God.
Jesus can help us. He comes to our aid when we are tempted because He has Himself been tempted. Those who have found His comfort can go forth to console others, for the comfort that we have received from God will be as effective for others too.
* * *
There are still other sides of Christ’s function as High Priest. The Scriptures teach it so clearly.
“It is Christ that died, yea rather, that was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Rom. 8:34).
“For Christ entered not into a holy place made with hands, like in pattern to the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us.” (Heb. 9:24).
The comfort we should derive from Christ’s presence in heaven for us is pictured in the third chapter of the Book of Zechariah. There we see Joshua, the high priest, standing before the angel of God, and Satan at his right hand. Joshua represents the people of God in the Old Testament; true to those he represented, he appeared in filthy rags. Satan was there to bring charges against this unclean and sinful man. But the angel came to Joshua’s defense. Satan was silenced and the filthy dress was replaced by festal garments. Thus he could stand as a renovated man at God’s command. His sins were removed and Satan had to depart.
A sinful man in filthy garments between Satan and God —that is an awful predicament in which to be for one who has nothing with which to defend himself. Such we would be if we were to stand there in our own righteousness. But now the High Priest, Jesus, takes our case and makes it His own; He appears in heaven in our behalf. Since He does so, it is not so dangerous for us to stand between Satan and God.
Who will now indict me
And in judgment cite me
Up high Sinai?
Peace in Christ possessing,
Guilt has dropped away.
Meet me here; with Calv’ry near
Jesus will be my defender,
Shall I then surrender?
We all know the story of the sinner in Simon’s house. There Jesus stands between the sinner and her accuser; He leads the poor woman from sin and accusation to peace and liberty.
Such is our High Priest. He is a wonderful “Foreign Minister” for Christians to have, especially since He is their brother. “0 the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his 5udgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Rom. 11:33)
* * *
Finally these words: He intercedes for us.
It is a part of Christ’s High Priestly activity to pray for us. Throughout the time of grace He will stand before God to defend each one of His brothers who is in danger.
I dare not venture far into this mystery; but I want to mention some of the thoughts that have come to me.
No one is hidden from the eye of Christ; no one disappears in the crowd. He sees us, not as we see ants in an ant hill, but singly as though each one should be the only one. He sees you and me and knows us through and through. He has no need of witness, for He knows us as we are.
If He sees a soul-destructive danger approaching one of His own, He may pray the Father to chasten His child. When we are subjected to such chastening everything seems to go awry for us. Our conversion seems to be spurious and our faith faulty; our work for the Master fails. Darkness comes over us and we see only that which is wrong. Our whole life seems to be under God’s judgment. At such times we can understand the words of the prophet: “He hath walled me about, that I cannot go forth; he hath made my chain heavy. Yea, when I cry, and call for help, he shutteth out my prayer. He bath walled up my ways with hewn stone; he hath made my paths crooked.” (Lam. 3:7-9).
Remarkably enough, the more impenetrable the darkness, the greater is our desire to be saved. When we seem to be undone and we see our mistakes and bow in penitence before God, a prayer is heard in heaven again. Now Jesus prays the Father to send the Spirit to help and to comfort the disciplined soul. Light begins to shine and we stand in glory as the disciples on the mount.
After such discipline we get another glimpse into the mystery of grace. God’s comfort has reached the heart, and darkness flees before the sun of grace.
As a mother deals with her little child, so the Savior with a love that is even greater deals with us from day to day from His seat at the right hand of the Father.
To Him belongs all honor and power throughout all ages!
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