FOURTH SECTION.-iv. 14-v. 10.
Jesus our High Priest more than Aaron.
A GREAT HIGH PRIEST.
IV.—14. Having, then,1 a great High Priest, who hath passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
After his digression, in the warning to the Hebrews, not, like their fathers with Moses, to harden their hearts through unbelief, our writer returns to his argument. He had already twice used the words High Priest (ii. 16, iii. i), and is preparing the way for what is the great object of the Epistle—the exposition of the heavenly priesthood of the Lord Jesus, and the work He has by it accomplished for us (vii.-x. 18). ln this section (iv. 14-v. 10) he first gives the general characteristics of that priesthood, as typified by Aaron, and exhibited in our Lord's life here on earth. In chaps, i. and ii. he had laid the foundation of his structure in the divinity and the humanity of our Saviour: he here first speaks of Him in His greatness as a High Priest passed through the heavens, then in His sympathy and compassion, as having been tempted like as we are.
Having, therefore, a great High Priest. The therefore refers to the previous argument, in which Christ's greatness had
been set forth, and in view of the dangers against which he had been warning, the readers had been urged to steadfastness in holding fast their confession. The force of the appeal lies in the word Having. We know the meaning of that word so well in earthly things. There is nothing that touches men so nearly as the sense of ownership of property. l have a father, l have money, l have a home—what a world of interest is awakened in connection with such thoughts. And God's word comes here and says: You have,—O best and most wonderful of all possessions,—You have a great High Priest. You own Him; He is yours, your very own, wholly yours. You may use Him with all He is and has. You can trust Him for all you need, know and claim Him as indeed your great High Priest, to bring you to God. Let your whole walk be the proof that you live as one, having a great High Priest.
A great High Priest who hath passed through the heavens. We have said more than once, and shall not weary of repeating it again, that one of the great lessons of our Epistle has been to teach us this: The knowledge of the greatness and glory of Jesus is the secret of a strong and holy life. lts opening chapter was nothing but a revelation of His divine nature and glory. At the root of all it has to teach us of Christ's priesthood and work, it wants us to see the adorable omnipotent divinity of Christ. ln that our faith is to find its strength, and the measure of its expectation. By that our conduct is to be guided. That is to be the mark of our life—that we have a Saviour who is God. A great High Priest, who hath passed through the heavens. Later on we read (vii. 26): Such an High Priest became us, made higher than the heavens. It is difficult for us to form any conception of what heaven is, so high, and bright, and full of glory. But all the heavens we can think of were only the vestibule through which he passed into that which is behind, and above and beyond them all—the light that is inaccessible, the very life and presence of God Himself. And the word calls us to follow our great High Priest in thought, and when thought fails, in faith and worship and love, into this glory beyond and above all heavens, and, having Him as ours, to be sure that our life can be the counterpart of His, the proof of what a complete redemption He has wrought, the living experience of what he has effected there.
A great High Priest, Jesus the Son of God. The name Jesus speaks of His humanity, and of His work as a Saviour from sin. This is the first work of the priest—the cleansing, the putting away of sin. The name Son of God speaks of His divinity, and His power as High Priest, really to bring us to God, into the very life and fellowship of the Holy One. lt is in His Son God speaks to us; it is to the perfect fellowship and blessedness of the ever-blessed One that our great High Priest that is passed through the heavens can, and does indeed, bring us.
Having, therefore, a great High Priest, let us hold fast our confession! He is (iii. i) the Apostle and High Priest of our confession. The knowledge of what He is is our strength to hold fast our confession. Twice the Hebrews had been told how much would depend on this (iii. 6, 14). "We are His house, ifwe hold fast" "We are become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast." Our faith in Christ must be confessed. lf we have Him as our great High Priest, He is worthy of it; our souls will delight in rendering Him this homage; without it, failure will speedily come; without it, the grace of steadfastness, perseverance, cannot be maintained.
O brethren, having a great High Priest, who is passed through the heavens, let us hold fast our confession. Let every thought of Jesus, in heaven for us, urge us to live wholly for Him; in everything to confess Him as our Lord.
1. Ought it not to fill our hearts with worship and trust, and love without end, this wondrous mystery: the Son of God, become Man; the Son of Man, now God on the throne; that we might be helped.
2. Who bath passed through the heavens 1 beyond all thought of space and place, into the mystery of the dioine glory and power 1 And why? That He might in dioine power breathe that heavenly life into our hearts. His whole priesthood has, as lts one great characteristic, heavenliness. He communicates the purity, the power, the life of heaven to us. We lioe in heaven with Him; He lioes with heaven in us. With Him in our hearts we have the kingdom of heaven within us, in which God's will is done, as in heaven, so on earth. Let us believe it can most surely be.
3. After all the solemn warning, about falling in the wilderness, coming short of the rest, see here your safety and strength—Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Jesus. Having Jesus, let us hold fast.
A HIGH PRIEST, ABLE TO SYMPATHISE.
IV.—15. For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling1 of our Infirmities;3 but one that hath been tempted In all things like as we are, yet without sin.
May God in His mercy give us a true insight into the glory of what is offered us in these words—even this, that our High Priest, whom we have in heaven, is one who is able to sympathise with us, because He knows, from personal experience, exactly what we feel. Yes, that God might give us courage to draw nigh to Him, He has placed upon the throne of heaven one out of our own midst, of whom we can be certain that, because He Himself lived on earth as man, He understands us perfectly, is prepared to have patience with our weakness, and to give us just the help we need. lt was to effect this that God sent His Son to become Man, and as Man perfected Him through suffering. That not one single feeble soul should be afraid to draw nigh to the great God, or in drawing nigh should doubt as to whether God is not too great and holy fully to understand, or to bear with his weakness. Jesus, the tried and tempted One, has been placed upon the throne as our High Priest. God gives us a glimpse into the heart of our compassionate, sympathising High Priest!
1 Who is not able to sympathise with. a Weaknesses.
For we have not a high priest who is not able to sympathise with our weaknesses. The writer uses the two negatives to indicate how common the thought is which he wishes to combat. A rich king, who lives every day in luxury, can he, even though he hear of it,—can he fully realise what it means for the poor sick man, from year to year, never to know where his daily bread is to come from? Hardly. And God, the glorious and ever-blessed, can He truly feel what a poor sinner experiences in his daily struggle with the weakness and temptations of the flesh? God be praised! Jesus knows, and is able to sympathise, He is one who hath been in all things tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
In all things! The thought of Jesus as a sympathising High Priest, is ordinarily applied to those who are in circumstances of trial and suffering. But the truth has a far deeper meaning and application, lt has special reference to the temptation which meets the soul in the desire to live wholly for God. Jesus suffered, being tempted: it was the temptation to refuse the Father's will that caused His deepest suffering. As the believer, who seeks in all things to do the will of God, understands this, the truth of the sympathising High Priest becomes doubly precious.
What is the ordinary experience of those who set themselves with their whole heart to live for God? lt happens very often that it is only then they begin to find out how sinful they are. They are continually disappointed in their purpose to obey God's will. They feel deeply ashamed at the thought of how often, even in things that appear little and easy, they fail entirely in keeping a good conscience and in pleasing God. At times it is as if the more they hear of the rest of God and the life of faith, the fainter the hope of attaining it becomes.
At times they are ready to give up all in despair: a life in the rest of God is not for them.
What comfort and strength comes at such a time to a soul, when it sees that Jesus is able to sympathise and to succour, because He has Himself been thus tempted. Or did it not become so dark in His soul, that He had to wrestle and to cry, "If it be possible?" and " Why hast thou forsaken Me?" He, too, had to trust God in the dark. He, too, in the hour of death had to let go His spirit, and commit it, in the darkness of death, into God's keeping. He knew what it was to walk in darkness and see no light. And when a man feels utterly helpless and in despair, Jesus can sympathise with him; He was tempted in all things like as we are. If we would but rest in the assurance that He understands it all, that He feels for us with a sympathy, in which the infinite love of God and the tenderness of a fellow-sufferer are combined, and is able to succour him, we should soon reach the rest of God. Trusting Jesus would bring us into it.
Holy brethren! partakers of a heavenly calling! would you be strong to hold fast your confession, and know in full the power of your Redeemer God to save; listen to-day to the voice of the Holy Spirit:' Jesus was in all things tempted just as you are. And why? that He might be able to help you. His being able to sympathise has no other purpose than that He should be able to succour. Let the one word be the food of your faith; the other will be its fruit, your blessed experience. Just think of God giving His Son to come and pass through all the temptations that come to you, that He might be able to sympathise, and then lifting Him up to the throne of omnipotence that He might be able to succour, and say if you have not reason to trust Him fully. And let the faith of the blessed High Priest in His infinite and tender sympathy be the foundation of a friendship and a fellowship in which we are sure to experience that He is able to save completely.
7. Some time ago l asked a young lady who had come from Keswick, and spoke of her having been a happy Christian for years before, and having found such a wonderful change in her experience, how she would describe the difference between what she had known before and now enjoyed. Her answer was ready at once: "Oh, it is the personal friendship of Jesus l" And here is one of the gates that lead into this blessed friendship: He became a Man just that l might learn to trust His gentle, sympathising kindness.
2. Study well the three ables of this Epistle. Jesus able to sympathise, able to succour, able to save completely. And claim all.
3. Tempted like as we are. He was made like to us in temptation, that we might become like Him in victory. This He will accomplish in us. Oh, let us consider Jesus, who suffered being tempted, who experienced what temptation is, who resisted and overcame lt, and brought to nought the tempter, who now lioes as High Priest to succour the tempted and gioe the victorylet us consider Jesus, the ever-present Delioerer: He will lead us in triumph through every fve. XXXVl.
LET US DRAW NEAR WITH BOLDNESS.
IV.—16. Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help us In time of need.1
In the first two chapters the true divinity and the real humanity of our Saviour were set before us, as the very foundation of our faith and life. ln the two verses we have just been considering these two truths are applied to the priesthood of Christ. Having a great High Priest who hath passed through the heavens; having an High Priest who is able to sympathise; let us draw near. The one work of the High Priest is to bring us near to God. The one object of revealing to us His person and work is to give us perfect confidence in drawing near. The measure of our nearness of access to God is the index of our knowledge of Jesus.
Let us therefore, with such an High Priest, draw near with boldness to the throne of grace. The word, draw near, is that used of the priests in the Old Testament. lt is this one truth the Epistle seeks to enforce, that we can actually, in spiritual reality, draw near to God, and live in that nearness, in living fellowship with Him, all the day. The work of Christ, as our High Priest, is so perfect, and His power in heaven so divine, that He not only gives us the right and liberty to draw
1 For timely help.
nigh, but by His priestly action He does in very deed and truth, so take possession of our inmost being and inward life, and draw and bring us nigh, that our life can be lived in God's presence.
Let us draw near. The expression occurs twice; here and x. 21. The repetition is significant. ln the second passage, after the deeper truths of the true sanctuary, and the rent veil, and the opening of the Holiest, have been expounded, it refers to the believer's entrance into the full blessing of a life spent in the power of Christ's heavenly priesthood, in the presence of God. Here, where all this teaching has not yet been given, it is applied more simply to prayer, to the drawing nigh to the throne of grace, in a sense which the feeblest believer can understand it . lt is as we are faithful in the lesser, the tarrying before the throne of grace in prayer, that we shall find access to the greater—the life within the veil, in the full power of the Forerunner who hath entered there for us.
Let us draw near, that we may receive mercy. This has reference to that compassion which we need when the sense of sin and guilt and unworthiness depress us. In drawing nigh to the throne of grace, to the mercy-seat, in prayer, we first receive mercy, we experience that God pardons and accepts and loves. And we find grace for timely help. This refers to that strengthening of the inner life by which He, who was tempted in all things like as we, meets us and enables us to conquer temptation. Grace is the divine strength working in us. "My grace is sufficient for thee; my power is made perfect in weakness." The Holy Spirit is "the Spirit of grace." The believing supplicant at the throne of grace not only receives mercy, the consciousness of acceptance and favour, but finds grace, in that Spirit whose operation the Father always delights to bestow. And that grace is for timely help, lit. "well-timed help," just the special help we need at each moment. The infinite mercy of God's love resting on us, and the almighty grace of His Spirit working in us, will ever be found at a throne of grace, if we but come boldly, trusting in Jesus alone.
And now comes the chief word, " Let us therefore draw near with boldness." We have already been taught to hold fast our boldness. We shall later on be warned, cast not away your boldness. And the summing up of the Epistle will tell us that the great fruit of Christ's redemption is that we have boldness to enter in. It is the expression of the highest form of confidence, in the unhesitating assurance that there is nothing that can hinder, and in a conduct that corresponds to this conviction. lt suggests the thought of our drawing nigh to God's throne without fear, without doubt, with no other feeling but that of the childlike liberty which a child feels in speaking to its father.
This boldness is what the blood of Christ, in its infinite worth, has secured for us, and what His heavenly priesthood works and maintains in us. This boldness is the natural and necessary result of the adoring and believing gaze fixed on our great High Priest upon the throne. This boldness is what the Holy Spirit works in us as the inward participation in Christ's entrance into the Father's presence. This boldness is of the essence of a healthy Christian life. lf there is one thing the Christian should care for and aim at, it is to maintain unbroken and unclouded the living conviction and practice of this drawing mar with boldness.
Let us, therefore, draw near with boldness! Jesus the Son God is our High Priest . Our boldness of access is not a state we produce in ourselves by meditation or effort. No, the living, loving High Priest, who is able to sympathise and gives grace for timely help, He breathes and works this boldness in the soul that is willing to lose itself in Him. Jesus, found and felt within our heart by faith, is our boldness. As the Son, whose house we are, He will dwell within us, and by His Spirit's working, Himself be our boldness and our entrance to the Father. Let us, therefore, draw near with boldness!
1. Do take hold of the thought that the whole teaching of the Epistle centres in this, that we should so be partakers of Christ and all He is, should so have Him as our High Priest, that we mag with perfect boldness, with the most undoubting confidence enter into, and dwell in, and enjoy the Father's presence. lt is in the heart that we partake of and have Christ: it is Christ, known as dwelling in the heart, that will make our boldness perfect.
2. Each time you pray, exercise this boldness. Let the measure of Jesus' merit, yea more, let the measure of Jesus' power to work in you and lead you on to God, be the measure of your boldness.
3. What tenderness of conscience, what care, what jealousy, what humility, this boldness will work, lest we allow anything for which our heart can condemn us, and we so lose our liberty before God. Then it will truly be our experienceSo near, so very near to God,
More near l cannot be.
THE HIGH PRIEST BEARING GENTLY WITH THE IGNORANT.
V.—1. For every high priest, being taken from among men, ls appointed for men In things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:
2. Who can bear gently with the Ignorant and erring, for that he himself also 1b compassed with infirmity;1
3. And by reason thereof is bound, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.
We know how much the Epistle has already said of the true humanity and sympathy of the Lord Jesus. In chap. ii. we read: It became God to perfect Him through suffering; Since the children are sharers of flesh and blood, He also in like manner partook of the same. It behoved Him in all things to be made like unto His brethren. In that He Himself hath suffered, being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted. And in chap. iv. we have just heard, We have not a high priest who is not able to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who hath in all things been tempted like as we are. And yet the truth is counted of such importance, that once again our attention is directed to it. lt is not enough that we have a general conviction of its truth, but we need to have it taken up into our heart and life, until every thought of Jesus is interpenetrated by such a feeling of His sympathy, that all sense of weakness shall
at once be met by the joyful consciousness that all is well, because Jesus is so very kind, and cares so lovingly for all our feebleness and all our ignorance.
Let us listen once again to what the word teaches. Every high priest being taken from among men, is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that He may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. Here we have the work of a high priest, and the first essential requisite for that work. His work is in things pertaining to God: he has charge of all that concerns the access to God, His worship and service, and has, for this, to offer gifts and sacrifices. And the requisite is, he must be a man, because he is to act for men. And that for this great reason that he may be one who can bear gently with the ignorant and erring, for that he himself also is compassed with weakness; and who by reason thereof is bound, as for the people, so also for himself to offer for sins. At the root of the priestly office there is to be the sense of perfect oneness in weakness and need of help. In priestly action this is to manifest itself in sacrificing, as for the people, so for himself. And all this, that the priestly spirit may ever be kept alive for the comfort and confidence of all the needy and weary—he must be one who can bear gently with the ignorant and erring.
Glory be to God for the wondrous picture of what our Lord Jesus is. A priest must be God's representative with men. But he cannot be this, without being himself a man himself encompassed with weaknesses, and so identified with and representing men with God. This was why Jesus was made a little lower than the angels. The high priest is to offer as for the people, so for himself. Offering for himself was to be the bond of union with the people. Even so our blessed Lord Jesus offered (see ver. 7), prayers and supplications with strong
crying and tears, yea, in all that, offered Himself unto God.
And all this, that He might win our hearts and confidence as
one who can hear gently with the ignorant and erring. God
has indeed done everything to assure us that, with such an
High Priest, no ignorance or error need make us afraid of not
finding the way to Him and His love. Jesus will care for us—
He bears gently with the ignorant and erring.
Have we not, in our faith in the priesthood of Christ, been
too much in the habit of looking more at His work than at His
heart? Have we not too exclusively put the thought of our
sins in the foreground, and not sufficiently realised that our
weaknesses, our ignorance and errors—that for these too a
special provision has been made in Him who was made like us,
and Himself encompassed with weaknesses, that he might be a
merciful and faithful High Priest, who can bear gently with the
ignorant and erring. Oh, let us take in and avail ourselves to
the full of the wondrous message: Jesus could not ascend the
throne as Priest, until He had first, in the school of personal
experience, learnt to sympathise and to bear gently with the
feeblest. And let our weakness and ignorance henceforth,
instead of discouraging and keeping us back, be the motive and
the plea which lead us to come boldly to Him for help, who can
bear gently with the ignorant and erring. ln the pursuit of
holiness our ignorance is often our greatest source of failure.
We cannot fully understand what is taught of the rest of God,
and the power of faith, of dwelling within the veil or of Christ
dwelling in our heart. Things appear too high for us, utterly
beyond our reach. lf we but knew to trust Jesus, not only as
He who made propitiation for our sins, but as one who has
been specially chosen and trained and prepared, and then elevated to the throne of God, to be the Leader of the ignorant and erring, bearing gently with their every weakness! Let us this day afresh accept this Saviour, as God has here revealed Him to us, and rejoice that all our ignorance need not be a barrier in the way to God, because Jesus takes it into His care.
1. Oh the trouble God has taken to win our poor hearts to trust and confidence. Let us accept the revelation, and have our hearts so filled with the sympathy and gentleness of Jesus, that in every perplexity our first thought shall always be the certainty and the blessedness of His compassion and help.
2. How many souls there are who mourn over their sins, and do not think that they are making their sins more and stronger by not going with all their ignorance and weakness boldly to Jesus.
3. Do learn the lesson i the whole priesthood of Jesus has but this one object, to lead thee boldly and joyfully to draw near to God, and live in fellowship with Him. With this view trust Jesus ae definitely with thy ignorance and weakness as with thy sins.
THE HIGH PRIEST, CALLED OF GOD.
V.—4. And no man taketh the honour unto himself, but when he is called of God, even as was Aaron.
5. So Christ also glorified not Himself to be made a high priest, but he that spake unto him.
Thou art my Son,
This day have I begotten thee:
6. As he salth also In another place,
Thou art a priest for ever
After the order of Melchizedek.
A PRIEST sustains a twofold relationship—to God and to man. Every high priest is appointed for men in things pertaining to God. We have just seen what the great characteristic is of his relation to men: he must himself be a man, like them and one with them, with a heart full of gentleness and sympathy for the very weakest. In his relation to God, our Epistle now proceeds to say, the chief requirement is that he should have his appointment from God. He must not take the honour to himself: he must be called of God. All this is proved to be true of Jesus.
The truth that Jesus had His appointment from God was not only of importance to the Hebrews to convince them of the divine and supreme right of Christianity; it is of equal interest to us, to give us an insight into that which constitutes the real glory and power of our religion. Our faith needs to be fed and strengthened, and this can only be as we enter more deeply into the divine origin and nature of redemption.
No man taketh the honour unto himself, but when he is called of God. It is God against whom we have sinned, in separation from whom we are fallen into the power of death. lt is God we need; it is to Him and His love the way must be opened. It is God alone, who can say what that way is, who is able to have it opened up. And this now is what gives the gospel, and our faith in Christ, its security and sufficiency—that it is all of God. Christ has been called of God to be High Priest. The very God who created us, against whom we sinned, gives His Son as our Redeemer.
So Christ also glorified not Himself to be made a High Priest, but He that spake unto Him, Thou art My Son, this day I have begotten thee. As He saith also in another place, Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. Here it is not merely the fact that Christ was called of God to be High Priest, but the ground upon which He was chosen, that we must specially notice. The two passages quoted teach us that it was as Son of God that He was appointed High Priest. This opens up to us the true nature and character of the priesthood. lt shows us that the priesthood is rooted in the sonship: the work of the priesthood is to reveal and communicate the blessed life of sonship.
As Son, Christ alone was heir of all that God had. All the life of the Father was in Him. God could have no union or fellowship with any creature but through His beloved Son, or as far as the life and spirit and image of the Son was seen in it. Therefore no one could be our High Priest but the Son of God. If our salvation was not to be a merely legal one— external and, l may say, artificial—but an entrance anew into the very life of God, with the restoration of the divine nature we had lost in paradise, it was the Son of God alone who could impart this to us. He had the life of God to give; He was able to give it; He could only give it by taking us into living fellowship with Himself. The priesthood of Christ is the God-devised channel through which the ever-blessed Son could make us partakers of Himself, and with Himself of all the life and glory He hath from and in the Father.
And this now is our confidence and safety—that it was the Father who appointed the Son High Priest. lt is the love of the God against whom we had sinned that gave the Son. It is the will and the power of this God that ordained and worked out the great salvation. lt is in God Himself our salvation has its origin, its life, its power. lt is God drawing nigh to communicate Himself to us in His Son.
Christ glorified not Himself to be made a High Priest: it was God gave Him this glory. Just think what this means. God counts it an honour for His Son to be the Priest of poor sinners. Jesus gave up His everlasting glory for the sake of this new, which He now counts His highest, glory—the honour of leading guilty men to God. Every cry of a penitent for mercy, every prayer of a ransomed soul for more grace and nearer access to God, He counts these His highest honour, the proofs of a glory He has received from His Father above the glory of sonship, or rather the opening up of the fulness of glory which His sonship contained.
O thou doubting troubled soul! wilt thou not now believe this: that Jesus counts it His highest honour to do His work in any needy one that turns to Him? The Son of God in His glory counts His priesthood His highest glory, as the power of making us partake as brethren with Him in the life and love of the Father. Do let Jesus now become thy confidence. Be assured that nothing delights Jesus more than to do His work. Do thou what God hath done; glorify Him as thy High Priest; and, as thou learnest to turn from thyself and all human help, to trust the Son of God, He will prove to thee what a great High Priest He is; He will, as Son, lead thee into the life and love of the Father.
1. Could God Aoue bestowed a more wondrous grace upon us than this, to give His own Son as our High Priest? Could He have gioen us a surer ground of faith and hope than this, that the Son is Priest? And shall we not trust Him ? and give Him the honour God has gioen Him?
2. What is needed is that we occupy and exercise our faith in appropriating this blessed truth: Jesus is the eternal Son, appointed by the Father as our Priest to introduce us into His presence, and to keep us there. He was Himself so compassed with weaknesses and tried with temptations, that no lgnorance or weakness on our part can weary Him, or prevent Him doing His blessed work—if we will only trust Him. Oh, let us worship and honour Him. Let us trust Him. Let our faith claim all He is able and willing to do—our God-appointed High Priest.
3. Faith opens the heart—through faith this dioine Being fills, pervades, the whole heart, dwells in it. He cannot bring thee nigh to God except as He brings thy heart nigh. He cannot bring thy heart nigh except as He dwells in lt. He cannot dwell in lt except as thou believest. Oh, consider Jesus, until thy whole heart is faith in Him and what He is in thee.
THE HIGH PRIEST LEARNING OBEDIENCE.
V.—7. Who In the days of his flesh, having offered up prayers an supplications, with strong crying and tears, unto him that was able to save him out of death, and having been heard for his godly fear,
8. Though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered.
We have already noticed with what persistence the writer has sought to impress upon us the intense reality of Christ's humanity—His being made like unto His brethren, His partaking of flesh and blood in like manner as ourselves, His being tempted in all things like as we are. ln the opening verses of our chapter he has again set before us the true High Priest—Himself compassed with weaknesses. He now once more returns to the subject. In ver. 6 he has already quoted the promise in regard to the order of Melchizedek, as the text of his farther teaching, but feels himself urged to interpose, and before repeating the quotation in ver. II, still more fully to unfold what the full meaning is of the blessed humiliation of the Son of God. He leads us in spirit down into Gethsemane, and speaks of the wondrous mystery of the agony there, as the last stage in the preparation and the perfecting of our High Priest for the work He came to do. Let us enter this holy place with hearts bowed under a consciousness of our ignorance, but thirsting to know something more of the great mystery of godliness, the Son of God become flesh for us.
Who in the days of His flesh. The word "flesh" points to human nature in the weakness which is the mark of its fallen state. When Jesus said to His disciples in that dark night, "Watch and pray; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak," He spoke from personal experience. He had felt that it was not enough to have a right purpose, but that, unless the weakness of the flesh were upheld, or rather overcome, by power received in prayer from above, that weakness would so easily enter into temptation, and become sin. The days of His flesh, encompassed with its weaknesses, were to Him a terrible reality. lt was not to yield to this that He watched and prayed.
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 out of death, and having been heard for His godly fear, having gained the strength to surrender His will and fully accept the Father's will, and the renewed assurance that He would be saved and raised out of it, though He was a Son,—the form of the expression implies that no one would have expected from the Son of God what is now to be said,—yet learned obedience by the things which He suffered. Gethsemane was the training-school where our High Priest, made like to us in all things, learnt His last and most difficult lesson of obedience through what He suffered.
Though He was a Son. As the Son of God, come from heaven, one would say that there could be no thought of His learning obedience. But so real was His emptying Himself of His life in glory, and so complete His entrance into all the conditions and likeness of our nature, that He did indeed need to learn obedience. This is of the very essence of the life of a reasonable creature, of man, that the life and the will he has received from God cannot be developed without the exercise of a self-determining power, without the voluntary giving up to God in all that He asks, even where it appears a sacrifice. The creature can only attain his perfection under a law of growth, of trial, and of development, in the overcoming of what is contrary to God's will, and the assimilating of what that will reveals.
Of Jesus it is written: The child grew, and waxed strong, becoming full of wisdom. What is true of His childhood is true of His maturer years. At each stage of life He had to meet temptation, and overcome it; out of each victory He came with His will strengthened, and His power over the weakness of the flesh, and the danger of yielding to its desire for earthly good, or its fear of temporal evil, increased. In Gethsemane His trial and His obedience reached their consummation.
He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. Suffering is something unnatural, the fruit of sin. God has made us for joy. He created us not only with the capacity, but the power of happiness, so that every breath and every healthy movement should be enjoyment. lt is natural to us, it was so to the Son of God, to fear and flee suffering. In this desire there is nothing sinful. It only becomes sinful where God would have us submit and suffer, and we refuse. This was the temptation of the power of darkness in Gethsemane—for Jesus to refuse the cup. ln His prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, Jesus maintained His allegiance to God's will: in wrestlings and bloody sweat He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. The deepest suffering taught Him the highest lesson of obedience: when He had yielded His will and His life, His obedience was complete, and He Himself was perfected for evermore.
This is our High Priest. He knows what the weakness of the flesh is. He knows what it costs to conquer it, and how little we are able to do it. He lives in heaven, able to succour us; sympathising with our weaknesses; bearing gently with the ignorant and erring; a High Priest on the throne, that we may boldly draw nigh to find grace for timely help. He lives in heaven and in our heart, to impart to us His own spirit of obedience, so that His priesthood may bring us into the full enjoyment of all He Himself has and is.
1. Heard for His godly fear. How it becomes me then to pray in humble, holy reverence, that l may pray in His spirit, and be heard too for His godly fear. This was the very spirit of His prayer and obedience.
2. He learned obedience through suffering. Learn to loot upon and to welcome all suffering as God's message to teach obedience.
3. He learned obedience: This was the path in which Christ was trained for His priesthood. This is the spirit and the power that filled Him for the throne of glory; the spirit and the power which alone can lift us there; the spirit and the power which our great High Priest can impart to us. Obedience is of the very essence of salvation. Whether we look at Christ being perfected personally, or at the merit that gave His death its value and saving power, or at the work wrought in us—obedience, the entrance into the will of God, is the very essence of salvation.
4. He learned obedience. Jesus was obedience embodied, obedience incarnate. l have only as much of Jesus in me as l have of the spirit of obedience.
THE HIGH PRIEST, PERFECTED THROUGH OBEDIENCE.
V.—8. Though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered;
9. And having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him, the cause of eternal salvation.
Our Lord Jesus learned obedience by the things which He suffered. Through this obedience He was made perfect, and became the cause of eternal salvation to all that obey Him. So he entered heaven as our High Priest, a Son, perfected for evermore.
The word perfect is one of the keywords of the Epistle. It occurs thirteen times. Four times in regard to the Old Testament, which could make nothing perfect. The law made nothing perfect (vii. 19). Sacrifices that cannot, as touching the conscience, make the worshipper perfect (ix. 9). The law can never make perfect them that draw nigh (x. 1). That apart from us they should not be made perfect (xi. 40). As great as is the difference between a promise and its fulfilment, or hope and the thing hoped for, between the shadow and substance, is the difference between the Old and New Testament. The law made nothing perfect: it was only meant to point to something better, to the perfection Jesus Christ was to bring. With the New Testament perfection would come. Thrice the word is used of our Lord Jesus, who in Himself prepared and wrought out the perfection He came to impart. It became God to make the Leader of our salvation perfect through suffering (ii. n). He learned obedience, and being made perfect, became the cause of salvation (v. 9). Appointed High Priest; a Son perfected for evermore (vii. 28). The perfection brought by Christ was that which was revealed in His own personal life. He came to restore to us the life of God we had lost—a life in the will and love of God. This alone is salvation. God perfected Him through suffering — wrought out in Him a perfect human character, in which the divine life was fully united with the human will. He learned obedience through suffering, and manifested perfectly the humility and submission and surrender to God, which is man's duty and blessedness. So, when He had been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, because He now had that perfected human nature which He could communicate to them. And so He was appointed High Priest—a Son, perfected for evermore. As Son of God, He was to take us up into the very life of God; as High Priest, He was to lift us, in actual spiritual reality, into God's fellowship and will and presence; the way in which He was perfected through obedience was the living way in which He was to lead us ;—as the Son, perfected through obedience, who had found and opened and walked the path of obedience as the path to God, and would animate us with His own Spirit to do it too, He, the perfected One, can alone be our salvation.
Then twice we have the word of what Christ has done for us. By one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified (x. 14); the Leader and Perfecter of our faith (xiL 2). Christ's perfecting us for ever is nothing but His redeeming us by His one sacrifice into the perfect possession of Himself, the perfected One, as our life. His death is our death to sin, His resurrection as the perfected One is our life, His righteousness is ours, His life ours; we are put in possession of all the perfection which the Father wrought out in Him through suffering and obedience. And once of the spiritual sanctuary opened by Christ: The greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands (ix. n). And three times it is used in regard to Christian character: Solid food is for the perfect (v. 14); Let us press on to perfection (vi. 1); The God of peace perfect1 you in every good thing (xiii. 21). The perfect for whom the solid food is, are those who are not content with the mere beginnings of the Christian life, but have given themselves wholly to accept and follow the perfected Master. These are they who press on to perfection— nothing else than the perfection which Christ revealed, as God's claim on men, and as what He has won and made possible for them.
He learned obedience, and being perfected, became the cause of eternal salvation. The perfection of God is His will. There is no perfection for man but in union with that will. And there is no way for attaining and proving the union with that will but by obedience. Obedience to the good and perfect will of God transforms the whole nature, and makes it capable of union with Him in glory. Obedience to God's will on earth is the way to the glory of God's will in heaven. The everlasting perfection of heaven is nothing but the obedience of earth transfigured and glorified. Obedience is the seed, the power, the life of Christ's perfection and ours.
We are approaching the threshold of the Holiest of All, as this Epistle is to open it up to us as the sphere of the heavenly
1 In the Greek here the word used is not the same as in the other passages.
priesthood of Him who was made after the order of Melchizedek. Ere we proceed thither let us learn this lesson well: The distinguishing mark of the earthly life of our High Priest; the source of His heavenly glory and His eternal salvation; the power of His atonement of our disobedience; the opening of the living way in which we are to follow Him our Leader; the inner disposition and spirit of the life He bestows;—of all this, the secret is obedience. Through obedience He was perfected, His sacrifice was perfect, He perfected us for ever, He carries us on to perfection.
1. When the perfect heavenly life of the Lord Jesus comes down from heaven into our hearts,it can assume no form but that which it had in Him—obedience.
2. God must be obeyed: in that one word you have the hey to the life and death of Jesus, His sitting at God's right hand, His priesthood, His dwelling in our hearts, as well as to the whole of the gospel message,—God must be obeyed.
3. Christ, the obedient One, who inavgurated for us the new way of obedience unto death as the way to God. is this the Christ thou lovest and trusteth? is this thy delight in Him, that He now has delioered thee from thy disobedience, and makes thee strong to lioe only to obey God and Him? is Christ precious to thee becavse the salvation He gioes is a restoration to obedience?
THE HIGH PRIEST SAVING THE OBEDIENT.
V.—8. Though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered;
9. And having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him, the cause of eternal salvation.
The death of Jesus lias its value and efficacy in obedience, ours as well as His. With Him obedience was God's great object in His suffering; the root and power of His perfection and His glory; the real efficient cause of our eternal salvation. And with us, the necessity of obedience is no less absolute. With God and with Christ our restoration to obedience was the great aim of redemption. lt is the only way to that union with God in which our happiness consists. Through it alone God can reveal His life and power within us. Again l say: The death of Jesus has its value and efficacy in nothing but obedience, ours as well as His. "He learned obedience, and being perfected became to all them that obey Him the cause of eternal salvation." Our obedience is as indispensable as His. As little as He could work out salvation without obedience, can we enjoy it. ln us as much as in Him, obedience is the very essence of salvation.
Let us try and grasp this. God is the blessedness of the creature. When God is all to the creature, when He is allowed in humiliiy and dependence to work all, and when all returns to Him in thanksgiving and service, nothing can prevent the fulness of God's love and joy entering and filling the creature. lt has but one thing to do—to turn its desire or will toward God, and give Him free scope, and nothing in heaven or earth can prevent the light and the joy of God filling that soul. The living centre round which all the perfections of God cluster, the living energy through which they all do their work, is the will of God. The will of God is the life of the universe; it is what it is because God wills it; His will is the living energy which maintains it in existence. The creature can have no more of God than he has of God's will working in him. He that would meet and find God must seek Him in His will; union with God's will is union with Himself. Therefore it was that the Lord Jesus, when He came to this world, always spoke of His having come to do one thing—the will of His Father. This alone could work our salvation. Sin had broken us away from the will of God. ln doing the will of God He was to break the power of sin. He was to prove wherein the service of God and true blessedness consist; He was to work out in Himself a new nature to be communicated, a new way of living to be followed; He was to show that the doing of God's will at any cost is blessedness and glory everlasting. It was because He did this, because He was obedient unto death, that God highly exalted Him. lt was this disposition, His obedience, that made Him worthy and fit to sit with God on the throne of heaven. Union with the will of God is union with God Himself, and must—it cannot be otherwise—bring to the glory of God.
And this is as true of us as of Him. lt is to be feared that there are many Christians who seek salvation, and have no conception in what salvation consists—a being saved from their own will, and being restored to do the will of God alone. They seek after Christ, and trust in Him; but it is not the true Christ, but a Christ of whom they have framed their own image. The true Christ is the incarnate will of God, the incarnate obedience, who works in us what God wrought in Him. Christ came as the Son, to impart to us the very same life and disposition as animated Him on earth. Christ came to be a High Priest, to bring us to God in that very same way of obedience and self-sacrifice in which He drew nigh to God. As Son and Priest, Christ is our Leader and Forerunner; it is only as we follow Him in His path on earth that we can hope to share His glory in heaven. "He learned obedience and became the cause of eternal salvation to them that obey Him."
Let us beware that no wrong or one-sided views of what salvation by faith means lead us astray. There are some who think that salvation by faith is all, and obedience not so essential. This is a terrible mistake. In our justification there is indeed no thought of obedience in the past. God justifieth the ungodly. But repentance is a return to obedience. And without repentance there can be no true faith. Justification, and the faith by which it comes, are only for the sake of obedience, as means to an end. They point us to Christ, and the salvation which is to be found in union with Him. And He has no salvation but for them that obey Him. Obedience, as the acceptance of His will and life, is our only capacity for salvation. This is the reason there is so much complaining that we cannot find and do not enjoy a full salvation. We seek it in the wrong way. Jesus Himself said that the Father would give the Holy Spirit, that is, salvation as it is perfected in Christ in heaven, to them that obey Him. To such would He manifest Himself; with such would the Father and He dwell. The salvation of Christ was wrought out entirely by obedience; this is its very essence and nature; it cannot be possessed or enjoyed but by obedience. Christ, who was perfected by obedience, is the cause of salvation to none but them that obey Him.
God grant that the obedience of Jesus, with the humility in which it roots, may be seen of us to be the crowning beauty of His character, the true power of His redemption, the bond of union and likeness between Him and His followers, the true and real salvation, in the salvation He gives to them that obey Him.
1. Salvation to obedience. Let us draw off our eyes and desires from the too exclusioe thought of solvation as happiness, and fix them more upon that which is its realityobedience. Christ will see to lt that a full salvation comes to the obedient.
2. Let no wrong thoughts of our sinfulness and inability secretly keep us back from the surrender to entire obedience. We are made partakers of Christ, of Himself, with the very life and spirit of obedience which constitutes Him the Saviour. The Son of God came not only to teach and to claim, but to gioe and work obedience. Faith in this Lord Jesus may claim and will receioe the grace of obedience, will receioe Himself.
3. Jesus personally learned and exercised obedience; personally He communicates it in fellowship with Himself; lt becomes a personal link with Himself to those who obey Him.