Christ's Superior Priesthood (Hebrews Sermon 28 of 74)
May 08, 2011 | Andrew Davis
Covenants, Exaltation of Christ, The Offices of Christ, Animal Sacrificial System
The Need for a Great High Priest
We are all needy people, every one of us. Though we deny it sometimes in a show of bravado, in a show of strength, we deny our neediness. But at core we know that we are needy, and dependent. And we certainly know that we're needy physically, we cannot exist without food, clothing, and shelter, without the air that we breathe, the water that we drink, we are dependent on God for all of these things. But we also know that we have other needs as well. And you may feel some of those needs more acutely than others, at this present time. Some of you may feel lonely, and feel the need for a friendship, feel the need for a relationship at various levels. Some of you are sick, facing the breakdown of your bodies and it's very humbling, and very painful and you need healing. You're praying God for healing, you may have friends, brothers and sisters in Christ that are praying with you for healing, physical healing.
But in our text today, that you heard Mack read so powerfully and so beautifully. The greatest need that we have is laid out very plainly for us, we need a great high priest who can stand before God on our behalf. And we have such a high priest, amen? We have a high priest who has gone through the heavens, is exalted, and is standing at the right hand of God. And that's the focus of our text, again, today. And I'm thinking about the word again, that I just said a moment ago, why so much about the priestly ministry of Christ? And it's not done yet. Next week, I'm going to preach another sermon in which I dedicate myself entirely to Jesus' intercessory prayer ministry for you. And how Jesus is praying for you. I think that's worthy of a full sermon and you'll be glad I did it, and didn't add it on to this Mother's Day sermon, I guarantee, when you hear it next week.
But why so much on the priestly ministry of Jesus? I think a couple of reasons. One is that it's so incredibly important. It is vital that we recognize Christ's priestly ministry for us and to understand all of its features. So that we may be greatly encouraged in our battle against sin. We need to know how completely covered we are in Christ's priestly ministry. But we also need to recognize that as important as this theme is, amazingly, it is not fully developed anywhere else except in this book of Hebrews. And especially in this chapter, in Hebrews 7. And so the author goes after this with great zeal and careful instruction so that we can understand it and it's worth our while to study it, isn't it? And to look at all of its details. And so we're looking today at the superiority of the priesthood of Christ.
And we're trying to consider as we look at this, the context that this past passage is in, the author of that the book of Hebrew is writing. We don't know who the individual is, but we have a sense of the people to whom he was writing. And I believe he was writing to Jews who had made an outward profession of faith in Christ, and were attending public worship as Christians, but who were under tremendous pressure from the surrounding society, I think the Jewish society. Jewish unsaved family members and friends and neighbors and religious authorities and governmental authorities putting pressure on them to forsake their calling as Christians. In effect, to trample Jesus underfoot and go back... Backward really to the Old Covenant, to temple sacrifices and the Levitical priesthood, and forget Jesus, forever. And so the author is seeking to remedy that, proclaims very plainly the superiority of Christ, the supremacy of Christ.
Not just that their hearts will be filled with worship for Jesus, but so they would understand how completely fulfilled all of those Old Testament types and shadows and images are in Christ, and the time for them has passed. And so he's proclaiming the supremacy of Christ over all of the Old Covenant figures, over the Old Testament prophets, he's greater than all of them, he's greater than the angels that brought and in some way mediated the Old Covenant and gave it to Moses. He's greater than Moses, the human mediator of the Old Covenant. He is greater than Joshua who brought them into the Promised Land. He's greater than Aaron and the priesthood and we're looking at that in Hebrews 5-7. And so, in Hebrews 7, a full unfolding of the priestly ministry of Christ begins with a contemplation of this mysterious figure, of Melchizedek.
We've come to understand this man as a historical figure who lived in the time of Abraham, who met Abraham when he was returning for from the defeat of the kings and blessed him and Abraham gave him a 10th of all the plunder. And we are urged to consider how great Melchizedek was as a picture of the kind of priestly ministry that Jesus carries on for us. One that's not tied to genealogy. It's not tied to who his father or mother was. It has no beginning of days or end of life. It's a picture, Melchizedek is a picture of the priestly ministry of Christ. But having fully developed that theme, we now focus on Christ himself, and the supremacy, the superiority of his priestly ministry.
I. Superior by Oath (vs. 20-22)
And we begin this morning by looking at how it is superior specifically in that it was established by an oath. Look at in verses 20-22, it says, "It was not without an oath." The establishment of Christ's priestly ministry was not without an oath. Others became priest without any oath, but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him, "The Lord has sworn, and will not change his mind. You are a priest forever."
Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. So we come to the issue of the oath of God. And this was the third time in the Book of Hebrews, that we have this theme lifted up. Remember that earlier as we've had some meditation on Psalm 95, we saw very negatively, very terrifyingly, the oath of God as he swears on oath in his anger, these unbelievers will never enter his rest. So the warning really to the entire human race. If you are an unbeliever in Christ, you shall never enter God's rest. And he swears that on oath, it says in his anger. There's a sense of a very seriousness there, through the oath of God.
We saw it again in Hebrews 6, very positively then, as God there swears by himself to Abraham in Genesis when he said, "I swear by myself, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and multiply you…" And so we see there, and then the author unfolds the idea of the... Of the oath that God, because he wanted to make the unchanging nature of his promise very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath.
And he settles all disputing, and so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us, we may be greatly encouraged. And so the purpose of the oath is for us. So that we might understand the certainty of the thing about which he's speaking. And now we come to the establishment of Jesus as our high priest, again, with an oath. "The Lord has sworn, and will not change his mind," it says.
Now, the Levites were not established with any oath. It was really simply by the law of God established at the beginning at Mount Sinai, when God gave the Mosaic covenant, the old covenant, he established that the Levites would be chosen out from the other tribes to minister before him in the Holy Place. In the Tent of Meeting, they would minister, they'd do various ministries there. The animal sacrificial system was their purview. And specifically from the Levites, the house of Aaron was chosen out by the law of God, and established as the high priest.
And it was given to him by genealogy that his son would be high priest after him. This was all set up by law. Now, a law can change. As a matter of fact, that's the very point of the section of Hebrews you're in. The law is changing. It has changed with Jesus, but the oath is eternal. And so there's a sense of the superiority of the priesthood of Christ because it is established with an oath. Now where is this oath? Well, it's recorded for us in Psalm 110:4, and right in our text here.
It's quoted in verse 21. "The Lord has sworn, and will not change his mind. You are a priest forever." So there's the oath and it's enhanced, isn't it. It's intensified. It's not just the Lord has sworn but he adds this phrase, "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind." So there's a sense of the certainty of this. This is an unchangeable thing, that God has established here. And notice, to whom the oath is given.
"You are a priest forever." This is spoken by God the Father to God the Son. This is something God the Father is saying to his own son. Again, mysteriously. Beautifully. We are overhearing to some degree an inter-trinitarian conversation. We saw this in Hebrews 1, we've seen it a number of times where God speaks to the son and he says to him very powerfully and very personally, "You are a priest forever."
Jesus Priestly Office Given by the Father
And I find it fascinating that this high office is given to Jesus by his father. And he, the father is the one speaking the oath. In common, everyday life it's the other way around. The one receiving the high office speaks the oath, right? Think about the president-elect on the steps of the Capitol building. He puts his hand on the Bible, he raises his hand to heaven and he swears an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. He is the one speaking the oath, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is administering the oath.
But here it's completely reversed. The one conferring the office is the one speaking the oath. And so he is swearing by himself, he's swearing very powerfully an unchangeable establishment of Christ as the high priest. The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind. And notice here in verse 21, that Melchizedek has just completely disappeared. He's dropped out. Melchizedek has done his job, dear friends. Okay, we have studied Melchizedek. We have learned about him. We can read more. If you want to go backward and read some more, it's right there. Melchizedek was a significant figure but dear friends, he fades now into the background.
All types and figures and shadowy predictions and prophecies, all kings and priests and prophets eventually will fade and fall on their faces before the one who fulfills them all, and that is Jesus. Melchizedek isn't going to be standing side-by-side. The two of them, priests forever in the same order, not at all. Jesus is the high priest, in that order, and he's the only one ultimately. Melchizedek merely a type or a shadow. And because of this oath the author tells us, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.
And so there's a link here between the oath that's given by God the Father and the new covenant that Jesus comes to bring in. Realized it had to be a New Covenant, because under the old covenant, he could not serve as priest. But here the author tells us it's a better covenant. Friends, it's a superior covenant. The New Covenant that it's just better in every way. We're going to talk this morning about some of the ways that it's better. It's a better covenant. And because of this oath, Jesus is said to be the guarantee of a better covenant.
What that means is someone who stands behind the covenant to ensure that its stipulations are met. Kind of like the co-signer on a loan. Taking responsibility for the payment, if the other should default. And Jesus is willing to stand behind this New Covenant at the price of his own blood, he's willing to shed his own blood to be sure that this covenant is fulfilled. And that covenant which is fully explained in the next chapter in Hebrews 8 has to do with the full forgiveness of sins, our adoption into the family of God. The fact that we'll be with God forever in heaven. Jesus is going to sign his blood to that, and so he has become the guarantee of a better covenant. And so we see the superiority of Jesus by oath.
II. Superior by Permanence (vs. 23-25)
Secondly, we see the superiority of Jesus' priesthood by its permanence. By its permanence. Look at verses 23-25. "Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office, but because Jesus lives forever he has a permanent priesthood." And therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such rich verses, that's going to be the focus of our study next week and I'll say a few more things about it, at the end of this sermon as well.
But we'll begin just by looking at the superiority of Jesus by permanence. First of all, there was nothing all that significant or unique about each individual son of Aaron, who served as high priest. Josephus tells us, there actually were 83 of them, one after the other. Usually one would succeed his father when his father died. It was usually the death of the high priest. Not always though, because when the Romans took over, they didn't want any one individual to get too powerful.
And so you could have a high priest, Annas and then he would control who would take it after, but he couldn't continue in the office, the Romans pressed him out of the office. But usually it was death that pushed the high priest out of the office. And then this way, we see the superiority of Jesus because death can never push Jesus out of his office, he has a permanent priesthood here. Now each one of those priests, one after the other, died. I think about the genealogy in Genesis Chapter 5, as we go from Adam down to Abraham. Now, one after the other, and the genealogy actually through Noah, and one after the other. This man lived, he had other sons and daughters there's so many years and then he died. And then he died, and then he died, and then he died. What a dreary refrain in Genesis 5. And so it is with these 83 high priests as well. They would serve for a while and then they would die. And their death, very plainly, the result of sin. The wages of sin is death.
And so all of them under the curse and the penalty of death, every one of them sinners. But Jesus, has triumphed once for all over death. Now praise God for it. How can we celebrate enough? Romans 6:9-10 says that since Jesus has been raised to life, "he cannot die again. Death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all. But the life he lives, he lives to God." Isn't that magnificent? Think about it. Death has no power over Jesus. Never again. The word there in Romans 6 implies mastery. Domination, tyrannical power. Death has that kind of hold over us. But it has no such hold over Jesus because Jesus has risen from the dead. He is the death conqueror. And he cannot die again, death has no mastery over him.
Actually the situation is quite reversed. Think about that image that John has in the Book of Revelation, Revelation 1. He sees the image of the resurrected Christ, his head and hair white like wool, his eyes like blazing fire, his feet like burnished bronze. He's in a white robe, he has a golden sash around his chest and he's moving and walking among the seven golden lamp stands. He's ministering to the church as our high priest.
And he says, "I am the living one. I was dead, and behold, I live forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades." Oh, how powerful an image of Christ is that, amen? Jesus is in the dominant position over death and at the right time, he will sweep away death as the final enemy. But until then, we know that death has no mastery over him, and it says there in Romans 6, "The death he died, he died to sin once for all but the life he lives, he lives to God." So the life he is living now in the body, he lives to God. But Hebrews 7 adds another beautiful thought. He also lives it for us.
He ever lives to intercede for us, he's alive for us at the right hand of God. And so the power of his resurrected life is available for us, he lives forever, and therefore he has a permanent priesthood. And as a result of that permanent priesthood, he is able to save us completely. How beautiful is it that we don't keep getting another, a string of new high priests in the New Covenant? You're never quite sure if the next high priest is going to be any good. Maybe the last one would be glorious and wonderful and powerful.
Maybe it would be like Phinehas. So burning with zeal. You remember Phinehas? And when the Israelites were at their worst, when they had fallen into the Baal of Peor. And they were assembled there under the seething rage of God. And at that moment, one particular Israelite comes swaggering in with a Midianite girl, and he takes her into his tent and just... Phinehas is just so filled with zeal, for the glory of God, that he follows them into the tent and kills them both with one spear thrust. And God spoke well of his zeal for God's glory and he swore him, that he would give him a priesthood of peace, and would never turn his peace away from Phinehas.
Well, it's good if you have a high priest like Phinehas, but suppose Phinehas' son isn't so godly. Or grandson. Eventually you might get lesser of a high priest. There's no guarantee, but friends, our high priest lives forever. The same high priest who handled Luther's case and Calvin's case and Augustin's and all is handling yours as well. And he will handle it until you are finally saved. He knows how to finish your salvation. He is our great high priest, and there will be no other. There can be no other, he has a permanent priesthood on your behalf. And as a result, he is able to give us a complete salvation, to all of those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Jesus is our permanent high priest.
III. Superior by Holiness (vs. 26-27)
Thirdly, we see the superiority of Jesus by his holiness. Verses 26 and 27, "Such a high priest meets our need, one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people." Here we have the issue of Jesus' holiness and we need a holy high priest. We need one who is going to be holy and Jesus meets our need, literally in the Greek, he lines up perfectly with our condition, he meets our need. We need this kind of a high priest. And why is that? Because we are sinners and God is holy, and because God cannot receive the ministrations of a sinful and wicked high priest, and so we must have a high priest.
Now, the Levitical priests, they were not holy, not in and of themselves. They were sinful men, every one of them. Think about Aaron, for example, the first of them. How Aaron led Israel astray, when he made that golden calf. And Moses says in Deuteronomy 9 concerning Aaron, "The Lord was angry enough with Aaron to destroy him, but at that time I prayed for Aaron too." Wow. Aaron was guilty of sin, so was his son, Eleazar, though we have no record of it in Scripture. And so was Eleazar's son, Phineas that we have no record in scripture of his sin either. But we know this, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
And it was established in the Law of Moses that every human high priest, every one of them had to offer sacrifice first for himself and then for the sins of the people. So all of them were sinful, every last one of them. And notice that the command in the law is that they had to offer sacrifices first for themselves. That says very plainly, God will not, cannot accept the ministrations of a defiled priest. So he has to deal with his own sins first. But our high priest has no such sin. He doesn't need to deal with his sin first, he has no sin. And notice also that these high priests had to offer sacrifices day after day for their own sin. So they didn't sin just once. It wasn't like occasionally they came to the office, so to speak, and God sent a word saying, "You know, you're actually fine today, you don't need to offer sacrifice. You had a good 24 hours."
There are no such 24 hours. David said, "My sins are as numerous as the hairs on my head." No, they had to offer sacrifices every day, first for themselves and then for the sins of the people. But Jesus is, it says, holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Oh, what a cascade of glorious words one after the other. He is holy, that means, set apart. There's an infinite gap between Jesus and all creation, just because he's the creator and we are the created. There is, friends, an infinite gap between Jesus and the holiest Archangel, because Jesus is the creator and the Archangel is merely created. But the word holiness, frequently usually talks, not just merely separation unto the Lord, but also separation from sin, from defilement, from wickedness. And that is, I think, especially, it's meaning here. Jesus is holy and set apart from sinners. He is blameless. He is pure, and set apart from sinners. He committed no sin, it says in 1 Peter, nor was there any sin in his mouth. We've already learned in Hebrews 4 that Jesus is compassionate to us, because he knows what it's like to be tempted just as we are, because he was tempted in every way, yet was without sin.
And Jesus never sinned. He was able to stand before his enemies, in John Chapter 8, and say, "Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?" And they were silent. Jesus was holy, he committed no sins, he did not need to offer sacrifice for himself. And it says he is exalted above the heavens. Talked about this back in Hebrews 4, but the idea is a sense of the invisible realms, the spiritual realms, the heavenly realms that are above us are still created realms, God created the heavens and the earth. But Jesus is not a created being, and so he has passed through the heavens, it says in Hebrews 4, and sits at the right hand of Almighty God. He is high above the heavens in every respect. It's not to say that he isn't in the heavens, just like, it's not to say he wasn't in the earth when he came and took his place on the earth. But he's just exalted above the heavens here in a position of creator. And so, in this way, he is superior by his Holiness.
Now what's so beautiful about this is that during his time on Earth, the accusations against him were linked to his mission. They said, "he eats and drinks with sinners." So this one who is separated from sinners is only separated in his personhood, in his own purity and holiness, but he got right in there with us as sinners without being defiled by us. And so, he would eat meals with sinful men and women, and he would tell them parables, and he would speak with them and urge them to repent and believe. And he was faulted for them. This man, if he were a prophet, you would know what kind of woman it is that's touching him, that she is a sinner. Jesus had to deal with this over and over, but he mingled with the sinners, he ate and drank with sinners, he walked through the streets of the towns with sinners. And even more in his death, he received our sins on himself. Having committed no sin, he was our substitute, he was, Isaiah 53:12, numbered with the transgressors and he died for the transgressors under the guilt and condemnation of our sins. But he himself holy, blameless, pure, exalted set apart from sinners, and so he is a superior high priest.
IV. Superior by Sacrifice (vs. 27)
Fourthly, we see that he is superior by sacrifice. Verse 27, "Unlike the other high priest, we've said, he does not either offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, then for the sins of the people, he sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself."
And so now we get to the issue of the sacrifice itself. What is it that our high priest offers? Well, you may say, why is there need for an offering? Why does there have to be a sacrifice? Friends, I've already said it once, the wages of sin is death. Wages of sin is death. By this I understand the death penalty. Adam didn't die the moment he ate from that tree, but he was under the death penalty from that moment on. Death entered the world through that one man. We are, all of us, all sinners under the death penalty, but the real death that we fear is not the first death, physical death, but that second death of eternity in hell. This is the second death, it says in Revelation 20, condemnation in hell.
And so, apart from any sacrifice offered for us, we would all be condemned to hell, we would deserve to die forever in hell. But God set up a gracious system. The animal sacrificial system merely pointed ahead to it. A sacrificial system by which we can learn that though all sin deserves the death penalty, the death penalty can be paid by a substitute. And so, this sacrifice and offering points to that truth of substitutionary atonement. A substitute can stand under our penalty for us and bear the wrath of God in our place. But now these priests, they offer day after day, it says sacrifices that had no power to take away sin.
If you go ahead to Hebrews 10:1-4, the author makes it very plain the ineffectiveness of animal sacrifice. Look at Verses 1-4, "The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming, not the realities themselves. For this reason, it can never by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshippers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." That's what these inferior Levitical priests were offering. They were offering the blood of animals for sinners. It was merely symbolic, it was a type, a shadow, a picture, but it had no efficacy to remove sin. Jesus sacrificed once for all himself for our sins.
Now we get to this phrase "once for all," it's stated six times in the Book of Hebrews, we just read it in Hebrews 10. Once for all, once for all, once for all, one time for all sinners, Jesus sacrificed himself. And here is the efficacy, those animal sacrifices had to be repeated endlessly year after year, but Jesus, for all time, in one afternoon atoned for the sins of the world. And how powerful and how mighty is that, Jesus, the superiority of this offering? Jesus offered himself once for all.
Now here I must say, a tender word, concerning my own Catholic upbringing. Right after the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church sought to contradict many of the findings of the Reformation. And I think they did so to their own grievous hurt. That would have been a good time for them to repent and have learned from the Reformers, that they were teaching wrongly about salvation itself, but instead, they hardened their hearts and established doctrines that are still on the books today. And one of the centerpiece doctrines has to do with the Mass. And at the Mass, according to the doctrine of transubstantiation, the priest actually changes the bread into the actual body of Christ, and then he offers it to God as what they call in the Council of Trent, a bloodless sacrifice. So these human priests are offering Jesus at every Mass. When I became a Christian and I started reading, I read through the book of Hebrews and I was like, "Oh wow, once for all, once for all, once for all." It never needs to be offered again. Not even Jesus offers himself again and again in heaven, it's done, it's finished.
Now he pleads the merit on the basis of what he's already achieved, but he doesn't offer himself again, it's finished. And so, the superiority of our priest over that of the Levites, they're offering animals and doing it endlessly. Jesus offered for all time, himself as our atoning sacrifice, superior by sacrifice.
V. Superior by Perfection (vs. 28)
And now in verse 28, superior by perfection, "The law points as high priest, men who are weak; but the oath which came after the law appointed the Son who has been made perfect forever." Here we have the essential difference between Jesus and all of these Levites. Jesus is the Son of God, and they're not. Jesus, is the perfect, holy, blameless, Son of God. Right from the very beginning of this epistle, we have that so plainly established. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. And after he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in Heaven. Jesus is superior in his perfection as the Son of God.
But this verse also talks about the weakness of these men. They were weak men. We already saw it back in Hebrews 5, 2, and 3. So that the priests were able to sympathize with other sinners because they're sinners too, and they're able to deal gently with sinners, because they themselves are weak men. What does that mean? That they're weak at the time of temptation? When the temptation comes, they crumble. When the temptation comes, they stumble and fall, not every time, some were godly men. But they still are weak compared to Jesus. Here we have the perfect strength of Jesus. In every temptation he stood firm and he resisted and said, "Away from me, Satan," and he was perfect and holy. And so therefore, we have the power of Jesus. The perfect power of Jesus, which is highlighted here. And it says that Jesus has been made perfect forever. Now, Jesus is perfect in and of himself. There's nothing wrong with him, there never has been, there never will be, but still, he had to be made perfect to be our priest and he was so by his incarnation, by taking on a human body.
He was born in the fullness of time, born of a woman, born under the law, and so, his life under the law made him perfect, they qualified him to be our priest. And then, the fact that he died on the cross in our place, he suffered for us, qualified him or made him perfect as our priest. He has extinguished the wrath of God and the fact that he is risen from the dead for our justification has qualified him or made him perfect to be our high priest, he is our perfect high priest. Nothing can be added or taken away from his priestly ministry. And notice it says, he has been made perfect forever. He is as perfect now as he was 2000 years ago, a 1000 years ago, 300 years ago. He will be perfect in another 500 years or a million years. He will be perfect forever. He is qualified to be your priest. Amply so. And so, we see the perfection, the superiority of Jesus by perfection.
IV. Superior in Effectiveness: Our Complete Salvation
And then finally we see the superiority of Jesus in its effectiveness. Isn't it good to know that it all works? I mean, isn't it good to know that if Jesus is your high priest, you're going to go to Heaven? Isn't that wonderful to know? Wake up friends, isn't that wonderful to know? If Jesus is your high priest, you're going to heaven. It actually works all of this. Thank you.
Verses 18-19, contrast this New Covenant that Jesus brings with the old one. And it does so in some terms that I would not dare to use if they weren't scriptural. Look at verses 18-19, "The former regulation is set aside." Why was it set aside? Why is the Old Covenant set aside? "Because it was weak and useless." Can you imagine if that weren't written and a preacher just got up and said, the Old Testament law was weak and useless? You think him a heretic, but because it was spoken by this scriptural writer under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, what then does he mean? Well, the law did what it was supposed to do, but it could not do this one thing, it could not make the people to whom it was given perfect for heaven, that it could not do. It was ineffectual in making sinners perfect, but Jesus is not. Jesus can make you perfect for heaven. He can make you perfect and holy, and we must have that, because this better hope is essential by which we draw near to God, it says. The Old Covenant isn't bringing you near to God, it's actually telling you thus far, you may come and no farther.
It was given at Mount Sinai, in the base of Mount Sinai is a fence and you are not allowed to cross that fence, you're not allowed to go across it. If you went up on Mount Sinai at that time you would have been stoned to death or shot with an arrow, not a hand to be laid on you, as though you were alive with electricity, and whoever touched you would die as well. Oh, how terrifying and fierce is the Old Covenant Law. It did not bring you near to God, it told you where you could not go and that's near to God. And God chose a tribe out of all the Israelites, the Levites and told them that they could come into the tent of meeting to minister there. But none of the other Israelites could. If you were not a Levite, you were not allowed to draw near on pain of death. And then there was this holy of holy symbolic of intimacy with God. And even the house of Aaron, even the son of Aaron couldn't go in there most of the time. Except one day, he was able to come in there, the day of atonement and bring the blood of the sacrifice and get out of there.
The message is, "You're not welcome to draw near to God. The Old Covenant is no great hope to draw near to God, it actually refuses you and tells you, you are not fit. And how terrifying is that? Isaiah 33:14 it says, "The sinners in Zion are terrified, trembling grips the godless. Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire, who of us can dwell with everlasting burnings?" Our God is a consuming fire. How then can we sinners who are so combustible draw near to God? How can we be made perfect to draw near to God only by the ministrations of this perfect high priest? It is an effective salvation, that Jesus has come to bring. So look at verses 24 and 25, we'll see them again next week. "But because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood, therefore he is able to save to the uttermost, he is to save completely those who draw near to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them." That's going to be the subject of next week, so let me just say this, your salvation has just begun.
If you're a Christian, you're justified, you are completely forgiven. You are seen to be as righteous as Jesus. You are pure in God's sight, but now you are being sanctified, even this morning as you listen to this sermon, you're being sanctified, God is teaching you, he's training you, he's preparing you for good works. He wants you to live like Jesus. He wants you in this world to be like him. He wants you to obey his laws, that's sanctification, it's going to go on the rest of your life. You may ask, "How can I finish this race, it's too hard. My enemies are too vigorous for me, the world, the flesh, and the devil are just too strong." If you've been walking with Jesus any length of time, you know what I'm talking about. You can't stand up for a day, it's just too hard, the race is too long, it's too difficult, but you must run it, you can't drop out. So what will you do? I'll tell you what you do, you look to Jesus, you look to Jesus, your great high priest. He is praying for you, more about that next week.
Probably I'll just borrow some from next week, is that alright? He's praying for you, he's always alive for you, he's interceding for you to finish your race, and you will finish that race. You will finally be saved, you'll be glorified. Two stages, you'll die, your body will be separated from your soul, your soul will be perfected, and able to be in God's presence. You'll be absent from the body, you'll be present with the Lord, Amen. And then your body will be raised from the dead at the second coming, and you'll receive a body like his glorious and in that body, your glorified soul will be forever and you will celebrate the goodness of God and this perfected salvation. I'm just telling you, Jesus is able to do it. He's able to save you.
Application, come to Christ friends, come to Christ, come to Christ. Have you ever trusted in him as your Lord and Savior? Were you invited here by a guest, by a church member, are you a guest here? You've never been to church before, perhaps. Maybe you've been many times, but you've never given your life to Jesus. One thing I've learned in the ministry, people who look outwardly as though they're Christians aren't necessarily so. Maybe you've never made any kind of pretense of being a Christian, I plead with you, while there's time, flee to Christ. There is a great wrath coming, our God is a consuming fire, but Jesus is the refuge. He stood under that consuming fire for you. Just trust in him. And if you're a Christian, just know this, the law makes nothing perfect. And you having begun by faith, how are you going to be perfected? By the law? No. The same way you began, is the way you will finish, by faith in Jesus, every day of your life. The law is the course you're going to run, but it doesn't give you any power to do it. Jesus gives you the power through the Spirit, to run that race with endurance. The law makes nothing perfect, rely instead on Jesus' priestly ministry, look to him who's at the right hand of God for you.
Set your hope fully on Jesus, set your hope fully on him as he pleads for you, and meditate much on the need you have for him to pray for you. I think about that a lot. Jesus, you have to pray for me a lot, don't you? Yes, more than you think. Thank you God that you are praying for me, thank you Jesus, you're interceding for me, but I really need prayer. And when you go to the brothers and sisters and you're gathering prayer warriors, that's fine, do it, but understand, you're already thoroughly prayed for. More on that next week, but just praise God for that and worship Christ for his perfection. I want you to just picture in your mind's eye, John's vision of the resurrected Christ, with that priestly robe on, head and hair white like wool, his eyes like blazing fire, his feet like burnished bronze, walking through the golden lampstands and ministering to the people of God. Picture him walking through your life and ministering to you, your great high priest and worship him. Fall on your face before him, give him praise and glory and honor for being such a glorious high priest. And delight in the fact that death has no mastery over him and some day, it'll have no mastery over you as well, because he died for you and was risen for you. Let's close in prayer.