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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Hebrews 5

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-14

"For every High Priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins." The apostle of course refers to the priesthood of Aaron and his sons, which is typical of the priesthood of the Lord Jesus, and first noted are some definite comparisons. Being ordained for men in things pertaining to God indicates a provision from God's hand to care for man's interests as regards his relationship with Cod. The offering of gifts and sac­rifices for sins was the chief work of the high priest. These things are preeminently true of Christ. But comparison ends here, for Aaron's priesthood was for earth alone and the offering of his sacrifices only of a tempor­ary formal value; while in contrast Christ's priesthood is eternal, and the value of His work eternal.

"Who can have compassion on the ignorant and on them that are out of the way." is we know blessedly true of our Lord, and infinitely more so than any earthly priest. But here again comparison ends, for of Aaron and his family it is said: "he himself also is compassed with infirmity. And by reason hereof he ought, as for the peo­ple, so also for himself, to offer for sins." Aaron was to sympathize with the people because his nature was the same, and his offerings were as necessary for himself as for them. The sympathy of our Lord is rather the result of His omniscient wisdom and of His lowly humiliation in voluntary suffering and death, - entering into our circumstances in pure grace. Wondrous contrast indeed! And His sympathy is more full and pure than could be that of the most tenderhearted son of Aaron.

"And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron" It is God exclusively who decides who is fitted for this place of holy media­tion between God and man. Man has not an iota of choice in this appointment. In human affairs, it is common that both sides in reference to any discussion, must agree as to a mediator, but in this matter God alone can be trust­ed to make the proper appointment, and He reserves this to Himself.

"So also Christ glorified not Himself to be made an high priest; but He that said unto Him, Thou art My Son, today have I begotten Thee." This appointment too is fully of God, but it is not mere external appointment. The very announcement by God at His birth, declaring the proper Personal glory of His Son, implies that in Person He is essentially God's High Priest. There is noth­ing similar to this in Aaron. No personal attributes had the slightest bearing on his priesthood, which was con­tinued by mere natural succession.

Here however we must distinguish between official appointments and that which our Lord is by nature. Some have insisted that Christ was not an high priest on earth, assuming this from Ch. 8:4. But there he speaks of official priesthood, which on earth was confined to the sons of Aaron. In this the Lord Jesus could have no part. Yet our present verse is plain to the effect that in Person He was priest by the very fact of His incarnation. When God announced Him as His Son, this was actually glori­fying Him as High Priest. But it was not yet official appointment, which must be necessarily of a character far higher than Aaronic priesthood,- not earthly, but heavenly.

This is now referred to in verse 6, which is the actual official announcement of His High Priesthood: "Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec." This is a quotation from Psalms 110:4, which must have awak­ened the wonder of any godly Jew who read it. For Melchisedec was a priest long before Aaron, and though only briefly mentioned in history (Genesis 14:1-24), yet the evident approval of God was upon that history: he was "priest of the Most High God." Here was an order independent of Aaron, and previous to Aaron, yet an order that had no place in the nation Israel on earth. Wonderful indeed is the reason for this, for this man was typical of, not an earthly, but a heavenly priesthood, which is fully entered into by our Lord only in His resurrection.

For verses 8 and 9 most beautifully show that in His earthly path He assumed no official place whatever, but rather a place of lowliest humiliation: "Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and suppli­cations with strong crying and tears unto Him Who was able to save Him from (or 'out of') death, and was heard in that He feared. Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered."

All of this is the blessed moral proof of His Person as One fully qualified for an eternal Priesthood. The verses are transcendently lovely in showing that He was really (if not officially) the High Priest of God, for He offered up prayers and supplications, - a true priestly work. Indeed, Hebrews 7:27 also speaks of His sacrifice on Calvary as a Priestly work: "He offered up Himself,"-not a work required because of official position, but the willing outflow of His own nature of pure love and grace.

But further, was not all His earthly path one of godly preparation and proof as regards His qualifications for an eternal priesthood? His ability to take the lowest place in suffering, in faithful dependence upon the living God, even unto death, has marvelously proven Him worthy of the highest exaltation, worthy to receive, beyond the reach of death, an unchangeable priesthood.

Thus, He was saved "out of death," not saved from dying, but in resurrection saved out of that state to which His unselfish devotion had willingly descended. His prayers were heard because of His unswerving piety and devotion to God, and He was raised from the dead in righteousness. None other could fulfill such blessed qualifications: this is the Priest we need, Him whose in­tercession with God can never fail, He who has learned in experience what obedience really means, - learned this by the things which He suffered. "Though He were a Son," and therefore in a place of dignity and glory, ac­customed to command, yet He has taken the place of Servant, learning experimentally the true character of obedience, in suffering; and moreover an obedience ex­quisitely perfect. Wonderful grace! wonderful conde­scension on the part of the Lord of Glory!

And having been perfected, became to all that obey Him Author of eternal salvation; addressed by God as High Priest according to the order of Melchisedec." This will be seen to compare with Ch. 2:10: "perfected through sufferings" This experience in suffering was necessary to qualify Him perfectly as the Author of eter­nal salvation; and in resurrection this preparatory rigor­ous experience is seen to have been perfectly completed in every respect. His accomplishing of eternal salvation too is on behalf of "all that obey Him" His obedience is the pattern of theirs. This includes all believers. It does not mean that they obey Him in every detail, but rather that, in submission of heart they yield to Him "the obed­ience of faith:" it is in other words the proper character of every believer to obey. Certainly a believer ought to be true to character in everything; but this is his char­acter.

Verse 10 therefore is the definite salutation of God in appointing Him to His present exalted place of High Priest, an eternal appointment according to the order of Melchisedec. Here is an office unchangeable, not passing to another, never to be shared with another, and hence in infinite contrast to the office of Aaron.

"Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing." The very brevity of Melchisedec's history (in Genesis 14:1-24) and the lone comment of Psalms 110:4 ("Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec") should surely have stirred the exercise of every godly Jew with desire to know the reason for this. And ought not every Scripture stir our own hearts with longing to know the mind of God in it? But just as it was hard to interpret these things to the Hebrews, so often we find interpretation too difficult. And why? Simply because of dullness of hearing.

The apostle will go on to speak of Melchisedec in ch. 7; but first he must deal with this affliction that so prevents our glad reception of the precious truth of God. "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first prin­ciples of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat" (or solid food). Among many of the Gentiles to whom Paul preached there had been far more healthy response and growth than among Jewish believers in their own land. Earthly aspirations and national pride were no small hindrance to spiritual growth: the mind set in the wrong direction will have its dulling effect upon sight and hear­ing. At least they ought to have been able to teach fun­damental principles of the grace of God, but had relapsed to a point of needing such teaching themselves. Let saints of God take this to heart today, and he prepared for the "solid food" of the Word of God.

"For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. But solid food belong­eth to them who are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." It should be only briefly that we are confined to elementary principles, as a babe must be for a time confined to milk. Not that we should ever lose our taste for "the sincere milk of the Word" (1 Peter 2:2), for even the simplest things require constant exercise and spir­itual digestion; but there must be the addition of good solid food to produce proper growth and strength. This calls for skill in the use of the Word of God, and healthy exercise of the senses in discerning between principles of good and evil. It is no mere mental stimulus or progress, but a moral and spiritual condition that is not dormant, but subject to the stirring of soul-exercise.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Hebrews 5:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/hebrews-5.html. 1897-1910.

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Thursday, January 23rd, 2020
the Second Week after Epiphany
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