The High Priestly ministry of Jesus is a tremendous blessing and encouragement to the Christian. As we come to study this subject, let’s understand the heartbeat of the author of Hebrew’s argument. The book of Hebrews is written to people facing intense suffering, and is meant to encourage them in their suffering. The writer focuses on the superiority of Christ over everything, and in all things. In his teaching about Jesus as High Priest in two particular places are the focus of this editorial as this entire issue of Theology for Life will further explore this critical topic. These two aspects of the High Priestly ministry of Jesus are found in Hebrews 2:17-18 and Hebrews 4:14-16.
- Hebrews 2:17-18: “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
- Hebrews 4:14-16: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
The author of Hebrews explains in these two passages that Christ suffered. He was tempted and can help those who now are tempted because He experienced what they did, but did not sin. What’s often missed is that this is all because of what He did for us. Hebrews 2:17 says, “[Jesus did] make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17). Propitiation deals with the wrath of God, while expiation removes the wrath of God. At the cross, Jesus not only dealt a death blow to Satan’s kingdom, but fully and finally satisfied the wrath of God because of Christ’s finished work. It’s because of this work that Christians have a High Priest, who understands them when they are tempted.
The author of Hebrews also explains that Christians have a High Priest who is able to “sympathize with our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted, as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). The point is made again by the author of Hebrews, as we discussed in the previous paragraph for emphasis. The biblical writer often repeats things because he wants readers to pay attention to the point he is making. Jesus is unlike us in that He is sinless and fully God and fully man. But Jesus is like us in that He was tempted in every way, but never sinned. Now why does this matter?
Well, you and I face temptation every day. We face temptations towards gossip, gluttony, sexual sin, anger, bitterness, resentment, and the list could go on and on. Jesus knows His own and His own know Him. He sees them and loves them because He cares for them. And it’s because of His finished and sufficient work that we, as Christians, can “hold fast our confession” (Hebrews 4:14) and “draw near to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16) to “receive help and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
For the Christian, that requirement of the help through the grace of God is down to the nano-second. At every time and in every phase of life, we need help from God. We need the help of the Holy Spirit to grow in Him. We need the help of the grace of God to come before His throne. We need the help of the grace of God to face the day. This is what the author of Hebrews is saying: that the help we need is available to us now in Christ, who is our High Priest. He understands us because He knows and loves us. He, who created us, is also our Lord. And He is our High Priest—the one, dear Christian, that you are invited to come before. It is not a throne of judgment, but of grace. So, go to the throne of the grace of God, knowing you are fully loved and accepted by the Lord, who longs to hear your prayers and listens to them.
In this issue of Theology for Life, we are looking at the high priestly ministry of Jesus. We put this issue together to help you grow in understanding of this vital topic. It is such a neglected topic, and it has so much to help us understand Christ’s ministry towards the Christian.
Our prayer as you read this issue is that you will, not only grow in your understanding of this subject, but that it will cause you to grow in the grace of God and worship the Lord.
In Christ Alone,
Executive Editor, Theology for Life Magazine