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Bible Commentaries

Smith's Bible Commentary

Hebrews 5

Verses 1-14

Shall we turn now in our Bibles to Hebrews 5:0

At the end of chapter 4, the author of Hebrews introduced the idea of Jesus being our great High Priest. "Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that has passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession" ( Hebrews 4:14 ). That would be our profession of faith. "For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin [or tempted apart from sin]. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help" ( Hebrews 4:15-16 ). We can come boldly to the throne of grace because we have a great high priest.

You see, the mission of the priest was two-fold. He was to go before God to represent the people before God. Here is a holy, righteous God. Here is a sinful people. A sinful person could not approach the holy, righteous God. So the priest would take the sacrifice and he would go before God for the person, make the way, and he would represent that person before God. Then, as he came out from the offering of the sacrifice, he would then represent God to the people. He was a mediator. He was a go-between between God and man.

Now we have a great high priest. This was, of course, so instilled in the Jewish mind. They would not dare to try to approach God apart from the sacrifices and the priest. That has changed today. That has changed radically. For the Jews today feel that they have direct access to God and that they need no mediator. That is why they do not believe that they need Jesus Christ. They say, "We go directly to God." And so the whole mental concept has been changed through the years.

At the time that Paul was writing, the mind frame of the Jew was how God was so totally unapproachable by sinful man, that he would not dare to approach God. And so he felt his only approach to God was through the priest, which was the correct, through the offering of the sacrifice and the priest coming before God for him. Now with the coming of a faith in Jesus Christ, there was this mental problem, subconsciously, of, "I don't have a priest now representing me before God." And so the writer of Hebrews is going to point out that we do have a superior representative--Jesus. He is our great High Priest and that through Him we have an approach to God whereby we can come boldly now, seeing that we have this great High Priest Jesus Christ.

In the Jewish mind, there would be an immediate objection. How could Jesus be our High Priest when He is from the tribe of Judah? And we know the tribe of Levi was to be the priestly tribe. The author begins to answer that question in chapter 5. Then he takes up the same subject again in chapter 7, and amplifies it even more in chapter 7, the high priesthood of Jesus Christ, and comparing the priesthood of Jesus Christ with the Levitical priesthood.

Now, the priesthoods were known as orders, the Levitical order. But there was another order of priesthood in the Old Testament and that was known as the Melchisedec order. And so the author of Hebrews is going to show that Jesus is our High Priest. He is not after the Levitical order, not of the tribe of Levi, but He is after the Melchisedec order. And in, again, chapter 7 he will be showing the superiority of the Melchisedec order over the Levitical order of priesthood.

In chapter 5, then,

For every high priest that is taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God ( Hebrews 5:1 ),

The high priest represented the people before God. That was his duty. I could not come directly to God. I would have to come to the priest with my offering and I would have to lay my hands upon the head of my sacrifice, and confess on to the head of the ox or the lamb all of my sin. The priest would then kill the ox or lamb and he would take and offer it as a sacrifice unto God for me.

So the high priest was ordained for men. He was taken from among men, but was ordained to come before God.

that he may offer both the gifts and the sacrifices for sin: this man needed to have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with weaknesses ( Hebrews 5:1-2 ).

Because he was taken from among men, he understood the weaknesses of man, and so he would be compassionate towards the penitent or towards the sinner, for he himself was guilty of sin.

It is interesting that before he could actually offer any sacrifice for my sins, he had to, first of all, offer sacrifices for his own sin. He didn't even have the direct approach. He had to, first of all, take care of himself, and then he would come and take care of me.

And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, also for himself, to offer for sins ( Hebrews 5:3 ).

He not only had to bring the sacrifice me, but he had to do it for himself. He was a man, and as a man, a sinner. And as a sinner, he needed to have sacrifices for his own sin, so he had to offer first for himself.

And no man would take this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron ( Hebrews 5:4 ).

It was not something that you could just say, "Well, I'm going to be the high priest." It was an honor that a man didn't just take upon himself. It was something that was ordained or appointed of God. Unfortunately, in time it became, more or less, a political position and a political appointment. That was only an indictment against the lack of spirituality that the whole system had practically degraded into. As so often man's organization, setting up the hierarchy and all, degrades into something less than it originally was, into a political institution instead of a spiritual organism. One of the problems with most of the major denominational churches today is that they have become political systems rather than spiritual organisms.

So the high priest was taken from among man to offer the gifts and the sacrifices for man. He had to have compassion, and this he possessed because he also was a man and familiar with the weaknesses of man. And so, because he himself was a man, he had to offer sacrifices for himself. It is a position that is ordained of God and man did not take it unto himself. Even as today, the ministry is not something that man takes up as a profession. It's a calling. It is something that God ordains a man to the ministry. No amount of education can make you a minister. That is something that God ordains a man to be. No man can ordain another man to the ministry. Having the bishop lay hands on me does not ordain me to the ministry. It is God who ordains a man to the ministry. It is an honor a person doesn't take upon themselves. It is something that is ordained of God for them.

So also Christ glorified not himself ( Hebrews 5:5 )

He didn't take on this position as our great High Priest on His own.

that is making himself the high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee [ Psalms 2:0 ]. Also said in another place, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec [ Psalms 110:0 ] ( Hebrews 5:5-6 ).

God who said, "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee," also said to Him, "Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec." And so speaking of Jesus,

Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared ( Hebrews 5:7 );

Now, this is a reference to Jesus' experience in the Garden of Gethsemane when He wept before God, prayed. He offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him. He said, "Now is my soul heavy, the hour has come, what shall I say, 'Father, save Me from this hour,'?" But He said, "It was for this hour that I came into the world. Father, glorify Thy name" ( John 12:27-28 ). But there in the garden, sweat as it were, great drops of blood falling to the ground as He prayed. "Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me" ( Matthew 26:39 ). Jesus, at this point, desired to back away from the cross. The cross of Jesus Christ is an offense to many people, because the cross of Jesus Christ declares to all men that there is only one way to God.

That prayer of Jesus "Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me." If what is possible? If the redemption of man is possible by any other way than the cross. "Let this cup pass from Me. Father, if we can redeem man any other way, if man can be redeemed by works, by his efforts, by being good, by being righteous, or by keeping the law, by being sincere, let this cup pass from Me." The fact that the cup did not pass from Him but that He went ahead and drank the cup indicates that there is only one way by which salvation or redemption for man is possible, and that's through the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross actually declares one way only by which a man can come to God. If there were any other way then He would not have gone to the cross. He was praying, He was crying before the Father, for the Father was able to save Him from this death and He was heard. The Father heard Him, heard His prayers. And yet, He ended His prayer, "Nevertheless, not what I will, but Thy will be done," so He learned obedience through His suffering. In going to the cross, He was submitting to the will of the Father.

I think that that is an important thing to note, because so often we picture God as filled with wrath and judgment and ready to strike us dead, and Jesus as saying, "No, No. Please, Father, don't." Not so. It was the Father that initiated the plan of salvation. It was the Father who sent His only begotten Son. It was the Father that held firm when the Son was ready to back out. And in submitting to the will of the Father, "nevertheless, not what I will," and the will of Christ at that point was, "Let's forget it." "Not what I will, but Thy will be done." So we see God not as angry and vengeful and ready to cast fire and brimstone upon us, but we see a loving Father, willing to make the supreme sacrifice of allowing His own Son to go through the ignominy of death and to take our sins upon Himself that the Father might, through the Son, be able to grant us pardon and forgiveness and receive us and fellowship with us. Because that is what God wants more than anything else is just to fellowship with you. He wants you to become one with Him. So the Father heard Him. He was heard, but the prayer was not answered as He desired it to be answered. But through prayer and through the sufferings, He learned obedience, that is, the submission to the will of God.

Now, that is something that prayer should always teach us. Prayer is not an instrument by which we can accomplish our wills upon the earth. God never intended that prayer be the medium by which you can do anything you want to do, have anything you want to have. And yet, unfortunately, so many people look at prayer like that. Like its something where I can just come to God and ask anything I want. We say, "Well, didn't Jesus say, 'Ask what you will and it shall be done'?" Who did He say it to? Did He say that to the multitudes? No. He said it to His disciples. What constitutes being a disciple? "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me" ( Matthew 16:24 ). When you read, "And whatsoever you desire when you pray, believe that you receive it and you have it," put over the top of that "deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me." You see, that's who He is giving this broad promise to. If I have indeed denied myself to take up the cross and to follow Him, then I'm not going to be seeking those things for my own glory and for my own flesh or whatever, but I'm only going to be seeking those things that would please the Father.

And in prayer is where we so often learn submission to the will of God. Prayer does change things, but prayer changes me more than it changes God. I cannot believe that God is changed by prayer. If you think that prayer is a way by which you can snow God and get Him to see your point of view, you're wrong. You can get God to acquiesce if you just talk fast enough, and smile enough, and throw in enough hallelujahs, surely God will see it your way and you can get what you want. Not so. I'm convinced that every right thing I've ever prayed for, God intended to give it to me before I ever prayed. If I pray for something that is wrong, God is too good and too loving to give it to me, though I cry and carry on and threaten and stomp out and everything else. He loves me too much. He's not going to destroy me nor is He going to change. He said, "Behold I am the Lord God, I change not" ( Malachi 3:6 ).

But I have changed so often in prayer. I think I've got to have that and I pray, "Oh Lord, please." But, as I'm praying the Spirit of God changes me and I say, "I really don't need it, Lord. Your will be done." You learn submission.

So Jesus, it says,

Even though he were a Son, yet he learned obedience ( Hebrews 5:8 );

It was obedience to the Father in going to the cross. Submitting now unto the will of the Father. He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. He had to go through that suffering. The path of the cross is a path of suffering.

Paul the apostle, in writing to the Philippians, said, "Oh, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection." Yes, Paul, I'm with you. I want to know Him and I want to know power. Paul went on to say, "and the fellowship of His sufferings." Oh no, Paul, I don't want that. I want the power. I want the glory. I want to ride the gravy train. Fellowship of suffering, no. "Being made conformable unto His death, even the death of the cross." No, I don't want the cross. I don't want suffering, but that's where He learned obedience. The submitting of my life to God, the learning to yield my life to Him, I learn it more in suffering than in any other place. That's where I learn obedience, when I endure suffering as a good soldier. When I accept this by just committing my life to God and saying, "Well, Lord, my life is Yours."

Peter said, "He who suffers according to the will of God let him commit himself unto God, as a faithful Creator" ( 1 Peter 4:19 ). "God, You know I don't like to suffer. I don't like to feel this pain, emotional or physical. God, You know what I need and what is best for me. So, Lord, my life is Yours and I submit to You." This takes much greater faith than saying, "God, I command You to take this pain away," where I'm demanding or commanding God to follow my orders. I don't learn anything that way. Jesus learned obedience through the things that He suffered.

And being made perfect [complete], he became the author of eternal salvation ( Hebrews 5:9 )

We are told also in Hebrews that He is the author and the finisher of our faith. Now, "He is the author of our eternal salvation." He has made salvation possible for us because He went to the cross, because He was obedient to the will of the Father, because He learned this obedience and submitted to the Father. He was then able to bring to us eternal salvation. He could not have brought it to us had He not gone to the cross. But now it's complete, our salvation is complete.

[And so he was] called of God a high priest after the order of Melchisedec. Of which we have many things to say, which are hard to be uttered, seeing you are dull of hearing ( Hebrews 5:10-11 ).

Now these people were on the fence. They had come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ from their Judaistic backgrounds. They had this deep-ingrained traditions of their fathers. All their lives they were accustomed to going to the temple, participating in the temple worship, very moving, very dramatic, deeply instilled. And now they saw a better way. Now they came to the knowledge of Jesus Christ and some of them were on the fence. They didn't know if they wanted to go all the way with Jesus or whether or not they wanted to go back to the temple worship, go back to the high priest, take my sacrifice again back to the priest that he might offer it for me. So they were dull of hearing.

Paul said, "I'd like to talk to you more about this." He will talk more about it in the seventh chapter. "I'd like to say more about this, but they are hard things to utter, because you're dull of hearing."

For when for the time you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and you've become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat ( Hebrews 5:12 ).

They had been around, they had heard. They needed to be going on, but they needed to have the first principles rehearsed over again. They should have been at the stage where they could go out and teach others, but they had need that he just go back and give them the bottle again. "You're not ready to take the meat yet. Though the time has come you should be able to digest some meat by now," but there was an arrested spiritual development.

Oh, watch out for that. That is one of the most common diseases within the church, arrested spiritual development. A person comes to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and then they hit a plateau and they just hang there. They never go on. If you talk to them, they're still talking about the same things they were talking about twenty-five years ago; arrested spiritual development. They're no further along in spiritual maturity than they were twenty-five years ago. You see them and they're still drinking bottles. "Entertain us, do a dance, do a jig, sing a song, play a harp, do something to entertain me." They can't take the strong meat. But you know what? You folks are spoiled, because once you've developed a taste for strong meat, you'll never be satisfied with bottle again. And some of the people that go back out to get some of the excitement of the bottle experiences that they used to have as a babe they find out that it doesn't satisfy anymore. Once you get a taste of the strong meat of the Word, I'll tell you, it spoils you for anything else, so you're spoiled. You just can't go back to that old routine anymore. You've been spoiled. You try and go back and you say, "Wow! Did I use to engage in that?"

Every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe ( Hebrews 5:13 ).

Paul, in the Corinthian epistle, talked about carnal Christianity. He said they were babes in Christ. Arrested spiritual development is a common ailment within the church.

But strong meat belongs to them that are mature, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil ( Hebrews 5:14 ).

Growing in the Word, it gives you discernment. And you can immediately begin to discern some of these milky little scintillating kind of doctrinal trivias. And you say, "Hey, it's fraud, whip cream, not nourishing." And the guy next to you is getting blessed out of his socks, saying, "Oh, isn't that wonderful? Isn't that marvelous?" There is nothing there. It is cotton candy. It tastes sweet, but it dissolves. There is no substance.


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Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Hebrews 5". "Smith's Bible Commentary". 2014.