Hebrews 5:1

Sunday, 7 October 2018

For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. Hebrews 5:1

The author begins Chapter 5 with “For” to ensure we consider the context of what has been said. In verses 5:14-16, the reader has been reminded of Christ’s suitability to mediate for us before God. He will now continue explaining why this is so. Understanding this, he says, “For every high priest taken from among men.” More rightly, it should say, “…being taken from among men.” The stress is on “men,” not on the “taking.” The fact that the high priest shares in the commonality of humanity is what is being stressed. The entire premise of the priesthood is that it can only be efficiently conducted if done so by a man. In this common bond of humanity, he “is appointed.”

The Greek word means to “put in charge.” It is what gives standing to him in order to exercise in a particular capacity. Aaron, for example, was appointed by the Lord. This selection is found in Exodus 28:1. And not only was he selected, but it was a selection which then established his house after him. It was designated to go from Aaron to one of his sons for the duration of the Mosaic covenant as is then seen in Exodus 29:9. Further, when a challenge was made to that priesthood, its validity was confirmed again by the Lord in Numbers 16 and 17. The authority of the priesthood was Aaron’s, but it was “for men.”

In other words, he was appointed to his duties, not just for himself, nor for Israel as a whole, but for the people of Israel in both an individual and a collective manner. As the human mediator, he was selected to mediate for men. It was he who bore the responsibility for the priesthood, and who was to symbolically take the sins upon himself and purge them through himself in the conduct of his duties. This is seen, for example, in the eating of the sin-offering by the priests, such as in Leviticus 6:26 and elsewhere. When a sin was committed by a high priest, that was handled differently. But for the men, he as a man was appointed “in things pertaining to God.”

Here the importance of the commonality of being a man is seen. God is perfect and cannot look upon sin. Therefore, in order for God to accept the people, the sin must be removed. But the mediator could not be other than a man. For example, it could not be an angel. The angel is in a different category and is unable to properly relate to the experiences, faults, and sins of the people. Further, it could not be an animal, as if the people could say, “This goat will mediate between us and God.” The goat can be offered for atonement (in type and picture of Christ only – see Hebrews 7:4), but it cannot perform the functions required of the priesthood. And the mediator could not be a stone or wood idol that the people petitioned to mediate between them and God. As obvious as that seems, it happens still in the world today. An idol of stone or wood (or whatever) is incapable of anything. There must be an acceptable priest to mediate the covenant in all things pertaining to God, and that priest must be a man. God has expectations, and only a man can understand those expectations – both from God and for man. This is so “that he may offer.”

The term “offer” is used in a technical sense. It literally means, “to bear toward.” In the Old Testament, it would correspond to the Hebrew word qarab when it is used in a similar sense. Both words can be used in a regular way, such as bringing a person to another person, but in relation to the priestly duties, it bears a technical sense. It is with this idea that the priests then offer, “both gifts and sacrifices for sins.”

The law would not allow the people to bring these near to God on their own. Instead, they had to come through a mediator. The people, though considered as a holy nation, were not properly set apart or ordained as “holy” in the sense of priestly duties. Therefore, only one who was so set apart could then offer these offerings. As it says, “for sins.” Sin is the problem, and thus it necessitated a system which could effectively show the people this. In reality, the offerings of Aaron and his sons were ineffectual. They did nothing but withhold God’s wrath from the people temporarily. This is noted in Hebrews 7:4 (also referenced above). The rites and rituals of the priesthood, in every single detail, only looked forward to the full, final, and finished work of Jesus Christ. This will continue to become more evident with each verse and chapter which lies ahead.

Life application: The author has clearly shown in this verse that only a man can mediate on behalf of man. However, no man with sin can truly mediate in a way which will remove the sins forever. And all men have sin. Thus, there was a need for God to intervene. Only the God/Man could do this. This verse demonstrates the heretical nature of the teachings of cults like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons. The JWs claim Jesus is an angel. This is not possible according to this verse. The Mormons claim Jesus was a man who became a god. But man came from Adam and Adam was created by the Lord who is the One and only God. Mormonism is logically a failed system because it is based on an impossible regress. There is, and there can be, only one God. Understanding the content of Hebrews, which is more clearly understood by knowing the Old Testament, leads us to a clear picture of who Jesus is, and the importance of calling on Him properly – as the God/Man.

Heavenly Father, the logic displayed in the pages of the Bible is truly remarkable. Everything keeps pointing forward to the coming Christ. And upon His arrival, everything looks back on what He has accomplished, or forward to His coming again. No matter where we are in this magnificent book, we find Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of everything it says. Thank You for the giving of Jesus who makes all things new! Amen.

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