Thursday, 4 October 2018
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. Hebrews 4:14
The author now returns to the symbolism of the high priestly duties of the Lord, continuing the contrast between Him and the high priest of the Old Covenant, meaning the Aaronic priesthood. This thought was left off at Hebrews 3:1, but it was more fully explained in verses 2:17, 18 –
“Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”
The reason for returning to the idea of the high priestly duties now is because of what has just been said in verses 4:12, 13. Man is completely open and exposed before God, to whom we must give an account. Because of this, and because we are utterly without hope in this state, we need to have someone mediate for us. This is the role of the High Priest, Jesus. And so he begins the verse with, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest.”
Aaron was a fallen man, chosen from among his brethren to minister as high priest. His priesthood was fallible, and it was fraught with failings even from the very beginning. However, everything about Christ Jesus (and thus His priesthood) is superior to that of what was seen in Aaron. In His humanity, He was born sinless, He lived without sin, and He died and was resurrected in that state. In this, He was exalted to sit at God’s right hand, as noted in Chapter 1. And more, He is also the divine Son of God, as was noted several times in the preceding chapters. It is He “who has passed through the heavens.”
The symbolism takes us back to the duties of the high priest of Israel. He performed sacrifices at the brazen altar. From there, and depending on the type of sacrifice, he took the blood of some of those sacrifices into the Holy Place, or even into the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle. In the case of the latter, He passed through the outer door, through the Holy Place, through the veil, and into the Most Holy Place. This all pictured what Christ would do, passing through the heavens, and even to the very throne of God. As God has rested from the labors of creation, Christ goes to that place of rest for us, thus providing us that rest (verse 4:3). Other duties of Christ as our great High Priest will be explained in the chapters ahead. For now, it is simply a statement that what occurred in the past was only a type, or shadow, of that which Christ literally fulfills for His people. Unlike Aaron, a son of Levi, it is instead “Jesus the Son of God.”
First the name – JESUS – means “Salvation.” It is that name which is above every other name (Philippians 2:9), and which carries the meaning of what He has accomplished for His people.
Next the title – THE SON OF GOD – signifies His divine nature. And so we see the uniting of His humanity and divinity in this verse. It thus shows that He can effectively mediate on behalf of humanity, even before the divine throne. It is He who is the bridge between the finite and the infinite. The gap, which was otherwise impossible to bridge, is spanned in Christ Jesus. His Person, position, and duties are not only better than those of Aaron, they are infinitely better. And because of this, while speaking to his Hebrew audience, the author says, “let us hold fast our confession.”
They have the perfect Mediator: He is the divine Son of God. He has shared in their humanity. He suffered and was tempted, and is, therefore, able to aid those who are tempted. He has built His own house in the New Covenant. He is the propitiation for the sins of God’s people. By faith in His work, one enters God’s rest. And so on.
With all of this superiority, the author of Hebrews is showing that a return to the Old Covenant system is utterly pointless. It would be going from the greater to the lesser. Holding fast to the confession made in Christ is the only logical and proper choice to make. The case in this will continue to be presented, including the ramifications for failing to heed.
Life application: There are all kinds of views about the work of Christ, about the scope of that work, about the need to continue on with the Old Covenant system while also participating in the New Covenant system, and even about simply returning to the Old Covenant system. These varying views are all suggested by people in the world today. However, there is only one choice which is compatible with the words of the book of Hebrews. The author has established his baseline, and he will continue to build on that in the chapters to come. We are to come to Christ, be in Christ, and remain in Christ. We are to enter the New Covenant, and we are to remain in the New Covenant. Nothing else will do. Keep away from anyone who suggests that we are to hold to the Old Covenant in part or in whole.
Lord God, Christ Jesus initiated a New Covenant in His blood. Everything about the Old only anticipated the New. Nothing of the Old can save, and not participating in the Old cannot keep a person from being saved. Only Jesus can save, and only Jesus can keep on saving. Why would we return to a covenant that had no power to save? Help us to get our doctrine right, to call on Jesus, and to be saved – once and for all time – through His perfect work. To Your glory we pray. Amen.