Two Aspects of Christ’s Redemptive Work
Here’s a short clip from my lecture last week on the book of Hebrews. Here I discuss a major theme in Hebrews 7-10: Jesus as both high priest and final sacrifice.
Let’s focus on this verse;
Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25)
Let’s ask a few basic questions: First, what’s the subject matter of this verse? Second, what’s the ground for Christ’s successful redemptive work? In brief, the answers are as follows: First, the verse speaks of redemption. Christ is able to save perfectly those to come to God through Him, “the way” (cf. Jn 14:6). Second, the verse also provides the reason why, or the instrumental cause, of His guaranteed success, namely his continual intercession for believers as priest. He saves perfectly “since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
Theological Inference. I find it very difficult, in light of this verse, to make sense of any understanding of Christ’s high priestly activity that states that Christ can mediate on behalf of someone who is ultimately lost in the final judgment. In continuity with the Old Covenant priests, Christ intercedes or mediates for all for whom a sacrifice is made. Yet, if all for whom Christ mediates are “saved to the uttermost,” then logical demands that Christ does not mediate for every single individual (cf. John 17:9). If He does, would this not, according to Hebrews 7:25, lead us to accept the doctrine of universalism? Do we really want to say Christ’s intercession could fail to save? I for one don’t. Christ always pleases the Father (John 8:29).
Let’s look at this from a slightly different angle. The argument of Hebrews as a whole is to demonstrate the superiority of Christ over the multitude of ways God spoke to his people in the Old Testament (cf. the “in former days” with the “but now” of Heb. 1:1). Jesus is greater than angels (who delivered the law), greater than Moses, provides a greater rest than Joshua, etc. How can we affirm that Christ is a better sacrifice and a better priest than those of the Old Covenant if he can present his perfect sacrifice before the Father in behalf of sinner X, yet sinner X is eternally lost? Such a conclusion would run against to the author’s argument. If his entire point is that Christ is not like the sacrifices of old, yet His sacrificial death and priestly mediation do not guarantee salvation for any one then Christ’s work is exactly like those offerings.
Clear and precise hermeneutics demand that we never interpret an author’s words in a particular passage so as to make it contradict his overall message. Instead, Jesus is the final sacrifice because his life cleanses those for whom it is made. He is the perfect high priest because his mediator secures the salvation of his people. Rather than demoting the work of Christ, the doctrine of particular redemption upholds, relishes, and adorns the complete saving power of Jesus’ death, resurrection, ascension, and continued priestly work. He saves to the uttermost!
PS: My thanks to Matt Kenyon for providing and editing this clip.