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1. What the High Priest is and represents (Hebrews 5:1-4 )
2. The fulfillment in Christ made High Priest (Hebrews 5:5-10 )
3. The spiritual condition of the Hebrew-Christians (Hebrews 5:11-14 )
In developing the priesthood of Christ and showing how it excels the earthly priesthood and is more glorious than the priesthood of Judaism, the principles of priesthood of the levitical system are first stated. Upon this follows the comparison of the priesthood of Christ with that of Aaron. The transcendent priesthood of Christ is thus established by this contrast. These opening verses have nothing to do with our Lord. They show how the high priest was taken from among men and being merely a man who was to exercise forbearance toward the ignorant, himself clothed with infirmity, he was obliged not alone to offer sacrifices for the sins of the people, but also for himself. This can, of course, never apply to the Lord Jesus Christ, inasmuch as He is sinless. He therefore cannot be meant in these introductory words of this chapter. And the earthly priests did not take this honor to themselves. God’s call was necessary.
How the priesthood, foreshadowed in Aaron, was first of all fulfilled in Christ is the theme of this section. Here we have His call to be priest. “So Christ also hath not glorified Himself to be made an high priest; but He that said unto Him, Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee” (Psalms 2:1-12 ). As He saith also in another place, “Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec” (Psalms 110:1-7 ). His call from God is to be King-Priest. The second psalm reveals Him as Son of God, King to be enthroned and to rule over the nations, and He is priest after the order of Melchisedec. This name is here mentioned for the first time. His Melchisedec priesthood the Spirit of God unfolds fully in the seventh chapter. The call of Him is according to the eternal purposes of God. He came to offer Himself as the sacrificial Lamb on the cross. This was indicated when He went into Jordan, baptized by John. It was then that the Father’s voice was heard declaring His sonship. He had to pass through death and rise again to be the priest after the order of Melchisedec.
His suffering and death are therefore next mentioned in these verses: “Who in the days of His flesh having offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears to Him who was able to save Him out of death and having been heard for His godly fear, though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.” These words refer chiefly to the portal of the cross, Gethsemane. There He prayed with strong crying and tears, alone with His Father in deepest agony, fallen on His face, and His sweat became as great drops of blood falling down on the ground. He went into all the anguish of death, deprecating the cup He had to drink, yet in meek and perfect submission. What a terrible weight was there upon His holy soul! And He was heard for His godly fear. He was saved, not from dying, for that would have left man in his sins and unredeemed; He was saved out of death. His prayer was answered by His resurrection. it was in that agony that He learned obedience. Though Son of God, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. Having come to obey and to suffer (which as Son of God was unknown to Him), He obeyed in everything and submitted to everything. He did not save Himself, but drank the cup and died the sinner’s death.
What He is in resurrection, the results of His sacrificial death, are next stated. “And being made perfect, He became, unto all that obey Him, author of eternal salvation; being saluted (or welcomed by God) of God as high priest after the order of Melchisedec.” In the second chapter we saw that the captain of our salvation had to be made perfect through sufferings (Hebrews 2:10 ). Here we meet the same statement, that He has been made perfect. It means the completeness of His work through sufferings, in resurrection and heavenly glory. And through this finished work in which He was perfected as Saviour, He also became unto all that obey Him (all who believe on Him and own Him thus as their Saviour) the author of eternal salvation. Returning to glory, God saluted, or welcomed Him as priest after the order of Melchisedec.
Here another parenthesis begins which closes with the end of the sixth chapter. The seventh chapter resumes the instructions concerning Melchisedec and the priesthood of Christ. Their spiritual state was that of babes as still under the ordinances and requirements of the law. They clung to Judaism and could not fully break loose from the shadow things of their system. They were dull of hearing and while they ought to have been teachers (having believed in Christ) there was need of teaching them again what are the elements of the beginning of the oracles of God. They needed milk and were not fit for the “solid food.” They had not gone on in the gospel, into that maturity which the Holy Spirit has revealed as to the believer’s standing and perfection in Christ. As long as they were occupied with ordinances they were but infants and in danger of apostasy.
Ritualistic Christendom today corresponds to the state of many of these Hebrew-Christians of the first century, only ritualism is worthy of greater condemnation. The fearful evil of ritualism (Romish and so-called Protestant) is that it takes and imitates Jewish forms and ordinances and through these things sets aside and corrupts true Christianity. It is the bondage of the flesh.
(“We may observe that there is no greater hindrance to progress in spiritual life and intelligence than attachment to an ancient form of religion, which, being traditional and not simply personal faith in the truth, consists always in ordinances, and is consequently carnal and earthly. Without this people may be unbelievers; but under the influence of such a system piety itself--expressed in forms--makes a barrier between the soul and the light of God; and these forms which surround, preoccupy, and hold the affections captive, prevent them from enlarging and becoming enlightened by means of divine revelation. Morally (as the apostle here expresses it) the senses are not exercised to discern both good and evil” Synopsis of the Gospel.)
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Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Hebrews 5". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12