A Better Priest: Part 5

A few more contrasts.

Many priests vs. the everlasting Christ. One of the most precious contrasts between the Old and New Testament priestly ministrations is the duration of their services. Ex. 29:29-30 speaks of the garments Aaron was to wear while performing his service, and in passing a succession of priests is mentioned. One reason why the Levitical priesthood was unable to bring about perfection, according to Hebrews, was that those who ministered were mortal, unable to continue their work forever. Their work never perfected those for whom it was sacrifices were offered. Since the priests who made such offerings were always subject to death the priesthood of Aaron would never be the tool through which God brought about complete atonement and shalom for His people. “The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office” (Heb. 7:23).

In contrast, “ [Christ] holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever” (Heb. 7:24, emphasis added). The term used in this context is quite telling:

The adjective [aparabatos]…is susceptible of a variety of interpretations: “unchangeable” (KJV), “perpetual” (NEB), “indefectible” (F. F. Bruce), “inviolable” (Westcott), “Interminable” (Delitzsch) represent one line of exegesis, while “that cannot pass to another” (Erasmus), “that doth not pass from one to another” (Owen), intransmissible” (Hering, Teodorico), “inalienable” (Spicq, montefiore), “non-transferable” (Mofatt), “that needs no successor” (Phillips) represent another…In our view the appropriateness of the term, is enhanced by it’s ambivalence: the priesthood of Christ does not pass to another precisely because it is a perpetual priesthood.[1]

The Christians comfort in times of trouble is Christ’s High priestly function (Rom. 8:34).

Repeated offerings vs. Once for all. In numerous places in Leviticus God commands the Israelites to practice all the offerings and ordinances that He has prescribed. A clear example would be Lev. 16:34. The Lord tells Moses, “And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.” What God had commanded was never to be taken lightly. The focus here is on the repeated nature of the sacrifices. Hebrews 10:3 notes that the fact that the worshiper was to present these sacrifices over and over, and that the high priest was to offer these very sacrifices again and again on Yom Kippur demonstrated that these were reminders not of salvation but of their sin, the very thing that kept God at a distance.[2]

In contrast with this Christ offered up Himself once for all time. Since Christ was the lamb without blemish, and His sacrifice actually saves.  “He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people…” (Heb 7:27). To believe that Christ’s sacrifice needed to be offered over and again, like the sacrifices of old, would be to slander the Son of God.

Christ’s atonement is once for all (Heb. 9:12, 26, 10:10) and thus sufficient; any other attempt at propitiating God’s righteous displeasure renders one without hope.

[1] Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans: 1977), 268-269.

[2] Hughes, echoing this thought states, “The people, on whose behalf the sacrifices were offered under the old system, thus had their sinfulness brought to their remembrance, as it were, every time the day of Atonement came around- not to mention the yet more frequent reminders afforded by the innumerable other offerings that were made from day to day. It was the Day of Atonement in particular on which their sinfulness and need of forgiveness and reconciliation were brought into focus on a national scale.” A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews , 391-392.


Posted on May 24, 2012, in Jesus Christ, Old Testament. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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