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The Priests Under the Law of Moses
High Priests were set up by God for man's benefit. God did not need anyone to sacrifice and make offerings for His sins, since He had none. However, He, out of love, gave us a High Priest for these religious duties. It seems the "gifts" which were offered were sacrifices of thanks and the "sacrifices" were for sin ( Heb_5:1 ).
The priests under Moses’ law, could have a compassionate feeling for all those who were straying ignorantly from the path of righteousness because they understood their weaknesses and were, therefore, aware of them. The "ignorant" would include those who sinned unknowingly, while the "going astray" erred out of weakness. In commenting on this passage, Fudge reminds us that there is no sacrifice for presumptuous sins ( Num_15:30-31 ). The High Priests under Moses' law were surrounded by others', as well as their own, sins. Even Aaron fell prey to sin ( Heb_5:2 ; Exo_32:24 ).
The sins that surrounded the High Priest of old, both his and the people's, caused him to have to make an offering ( Lev_9:7 ; Lev_16:6 ). One qualification of every High Priest was that of being "called of God as was Aaron" ( Heb_5:3-4 ; Exo_28:1 ; Psa_105:26 ). "And the man who claims this honor for himself as did Kora ( Num_16:1-50 ), though sustained by the highest human authority, is really not a High Priest, but an usurper ( Act_23:5 )." (Milligan, p. 154).
Jesus, A Priest After the Order of Melchizedek
Unlike one who might usurp authority, Jesus did not assume any honors ( Heb_5:5 ). Rather, God bestowed the honor upon Him when He raised Him from the dead. The quote from Psa_2:7 has reference to God's raising up of Christ from the dead, as it does in other places, such as Act_13:33 . "Jesus, even though Messiah, did not glorify himself to be made a high priest (cf. Joh_8:54 .) He did not come in His own name nor did he rely solely on His own testimony ( Joh_5:43 ; Joh_5:31 .)” (Lightfoot, p. 108).
Christ was a priest after the "order of Melchizedek". Melchizedek is mentioned in Gen_14:18-20 and Psa_110:4 , which is the passage quoted in Heb_5:6 . The scriptures do not record his parentage, birth, or death. Thus, he is used as a figurative representation of Christ and the facts surrounding Christ's priesthood. His order is superior to Aaron's since it is a figuratively eternal priesthood, while Aaron's lasted for but a time and was imperfect. Also, Melchizedek was a king and priest at the same time, which can easily be compared to Jesus who is our High Priest and head of the kingdom. It should be noted that Christ became priest upon his resurrection from the dead, much as he received other honors at that time (see comment verse 5). Aaron's priesthood was confirmed by a miracle. God consumed those who questioned Aaron's authority ( Num_16:1-50 ) and, through Jude, warns those false teachers who might challenge Christ's authority ( Jud_1:11 ).
Jesus Learned the Cost of Obedience
While Jesus was in the flesh, He was in a position of humility. He, when in the garden, offered up His prayers to God, who was the only one who could have saved Him from His pain and suffering and, finally, death. Because He was reverent in speech to God, Christ was delivered from the hands of the tempter in this most trying hour, which was the thing He most feared. It should be noted that Christ's prayer was heard and answered, though the answer included death on the cross. It was answered because He feared, or respected God's authority ( Mat_26:39 ). The way Jesus confronted His greatest hour of weakness and grief fully qualified Him as our High Priest. He understands our weaknesses ( Heb_5:7 ).
At Calvary, Jesus submitted completely to God's will ( Php_2:8 ). He passed through an hour in which He suffered the deepest possible human suffering and learned the cost of obeying God's command. Those sufferings made Him our perfect Savior and qualified Him to offer the sacrifice for sins that would lead to man's salvation. Such salvation is at once eternal and available to all who will obey His commands ( Joh_3:16-17 ; Joh_14:15 ). W. E. Vine says the word "author" points to Christ as "the concrete and active cause of it" (our salvation). The writer then quoted Psa_110:4 again to prove God appointed Christ to be a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. He was appointed by God and satisfied all of the requirements of this position ( Heb_5:8-10 ).
The Failure of the Hebrew Christians to Grow Spiritually
The subject of Christ's priesthood is one so complex it is difficult to write about. A difficulty which was complicated by the dullness of the readers' understanding. Vine says "dull" carries with it the idea of slowness or sluggishness, which suggests, to us, a lack of use. By reason of their being Christians and having had many opportunities to learn, they ought to have been able to tell others the good news of Jesus and answer questions regarding their great hope of heaven ( 1Pe_3:15 ). "To be a teacher meant to the ancient mind that one was able to think and act maturely" (Lightfoot, p. 112).
However, they had not grown in knowledge, but had shrunk and had need that someone should show them again the very fundamental elements of God's final revelation to man. He actually said they needed to rehearse and study the ABC's of Christianity ( Heb_5:11-12 ).
Just like babies, they had need of milk, which is the basic element of nourishment. The word "unskilled" means "without experience." They needed to feed on the basics of the gospel, so they could grow. Teaching others the basics they had learned should have caused them to gain strength and be ready to go beyond the basics in learning. Teaching others is one means of exercising one's knowledge. The stronger things of the gospel, or more complex, belong only to those who have exercised and grown in their spiritual bodies and are ready to receive the stronger. Such have practiced self-discipline and thereby learned to distinguish between good and evil teaching ( Heb_5:13-14 ).
Building on the Elementary Principles
The writer wanted his readers to go on to a complete knowledge of the gospel. To do so, they would have to leave those simpler principles behind to build upon. They needed to go on to the construction of the superstructure of their spiritual beings. They had already repented of their past ( Act_2:38 ; Luk_13:3-5 ). They had exhibited the necessary faith in God ( Heb_11:6 ; Rom_10:17 ; Joh_20:30-31 ). They also already knew of the "doctrine of baptisms." Fudge says, "The word here translated baptisms is that commonly applied to the various washings of the Old Testament (See Heb_9:10 ; Mar_7:4 .) The doctrine of baptisms would therefore seem to involve explanations regarding the difference between Jewish washings on the one hand and the gospel baptism in the name of Jesus the Messiah on the other" (p.61; compare Lev_16:4 ; Lev_16:24 ; Lev_14:8-9 ; Lev_6:27-28 ; Exo_30:18-21 ; Num_8:6-7 ). It is possible some of the readers had actually experienced the laying on of hands. It was used by the apostles to give the gifts of the Spirit ( Act_8:17 ; Act_8:19 ; Act_19:6 ).
Today, it would simply be the ordaining of one to a ministry as in Act_6:6 ; Act_13:3 ; Act_14:23 ; and 1Ti_4:14 ; 1Ti_5:22 . Of course, one must also understand the basics of the resurrection, which is a fundamental part of the gospel ( Act_2:31-32 ; Act_10:40 ; Act_13:33 ; 1Co_15:1-4 ; 1Co_15:12-23 ). Coupled with that must be a realization that all men will be raised and face judgment ( Joh_5:28-29 ; 2Co_5:10 ; Heb_9:27 ). The writer believed he and his readers would gain a knowledge of all these simpler principles. He also thought they would then go on to completeness in the faith, if God permitted them to live ( Heb_6:1-3 ).
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Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Hebrews 5". "Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30