Friday, November 22, 2013

Commentary: Christ our Priest

Christ our Priest

There are a couple of things we need to establish before we delve into Christ as a Priest.  We need to reestablish the fact that the sanctuary, its priest and services were a contingency plan.  God's original plan was to make the children of Israel a nation of priests.  They refused that plan.  So God established a teaching tool so the Israelites – and the world – could learn the Gospel.   This brings us to the second point, the existence and presence of the sanctuary was as much evidence of God's presence as it was evidence of the Israelites failure in Sinai.  The Levitical is part of that contingency plan.  Remember, God promised to make all Israel priests, only the Levites became priests, this reveals that something went wrong at Sinai.  Therefore the Aaronic priesthood is also a sign of Israel's failure at Sinai. 

Now last week we studied Christ as our sacrifice.  This is represented by the animals sacrificed at the altar.  These all point to Christ.  For the most part, in the Levitical system the priest kills the sacrifice.  In our world he who takes the life is superior than the one killed.  None of the animals killed were resurrected.  Christ presents a dilemma to the Aaronic priesthood.  Caiphas sought to kill Christ and succeeded.  Thus, it seems Caiphas was superior.  But, when Christ is resurrected, Christ proved to be superior.  He was a better sacrifice (Hebrews 9: 23). 

When we look then at the order of services we see that the priests take the blood do what with it what they are supposed to do in the service.   The Aaronic Priests never went through the experience the animals went when killed, but Christ did.  So, when we look at Christ as a Priest, we have someone that knows how it feels to be sacrificed.  In terms of Christ being the Lamb, the Lamb became a Priest.  And, the blood He shed as a Lamb, as a Priest He applies to us, for our cleansing.  We read in Hebrews 9,


Heb 9:11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;

Heb 9:12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

Heb 9:13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:

Heb 9:14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?


Christ was a better sacrifice.  His blood was more effective.  He was also a better Priest.  The Priests died and needed replacing, not Christ. 


Heb 7:22 By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.

Heb 7:23 And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death:

Heb 7:24 But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.

Heb 7:25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.


What does it mean that Christ lives to make intercession?  But some ask why Jesus as our High Priest has to "make intercession" for us before the Father (Heb. 7:25). The word "intercession" implies that somebody is not happy and has to be interceded with on our behalf. Christ "is at the right hand of God," Paul says, "who also maketh intercession for us" (Rom. 8:34). John adds his insight when he compares Christ to "an advocate with the Father," the word "advocate" being parakletos in the Greek (1 John 2:1). Vine says the word "was used in a court of justice to denote a legal assistant, counsel for the defense, who pleads another's cause."


In other words, Jesus is a defense lawyer pleading a case "with the Father," John says. It seems that the Father is the Judge and that we are on trial before Him, and that we would lose our case if it weren't for Jesus being there in our behalf. This is 100 percent true; we would indeed lose out if it were not for our divine Lawyer working on our side.


The Father, as well as the Son, hate sin. But in accordance with the agreement between them Both, Christ became the representative Adam for the human race and paid the penalty as the sinner's Substitute and Surety, having tasted death for every man (Heb. 2:9). Thus God's wrath against sin was experienced by Christ on His cross. He suffered the curse of God which was the condemnation of the second death. His shed blood qualifies Him as mankind's Advocate with the Father. It makes it possible for the Father to shower his blessings of life equally on both the just and the unjust.


But who is He "pleading," "interceding" with? Who needs to be "persuaded" to accept us? Does it make sense to say it's the Father? Wasn't it He who took the initiative to "so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son" for us? How could He be against us, needing Jesus to "intercede" for us? Does the Father have a club behind His back, about to let us have it, and then Jesus steps up and says, "Look, Father, at the wounds in My hands, etc. Please be nice to these people!"? No, that doesn't make sense. The Father loves us just as much as the Son loves us! Then who is Jesus interceding with?


Is He interceding with the devil? Will he or his angels ever be persuaded to be nice to us? Hardly! Then who has to be persuaded to "accept" us, to stop condemning us? The good angels? No, they are "all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for" us, not against us (Heb. 1:14).


Then who is left who needs to be "persuaded," interceded with to "accept" us, except we ourselves? We are the ones who need to hold our heads high, to join Paul in being "persuaded" that nothing will ever "separate us from the love of God" (Rom. 8:38, 39).


Now, For Christ to intercede between God and us, to be our mediator, He needs to identify with us.  Ellen White said, 


"… the reconciliation of man to God could be accomplished only through a mediator who was equal with God, possessed of attributes that would dignify, and declare him worthy to treat with the infinite God in man's behalf, and also represent God to a fallen world. Man's substitute and surety must have man's nature, a connection with the human family whom he was to represent, and, as God's ambassador, he must partake of the divine nature, have a connection with the Infinite, in order to manifest God to the world, and be a mediator between God and man.


"Christ, the Son of God and Creator of the universe, humbled Himself beyond description to be joined together forever with the human race. As Adam was enjoined that in marriage a man would leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife, so Christ left His Father in heaven to become forever a part of the human family.


"Clothing His divinity with humanity, He came to earth to be called the Son of man and the Son of God. He was the surety for man, the ambassador for God—the surety for man to satisfy by His righteousness in man's behalf the demands of the law, and the representative of God to make manifest His character to a fallen race." 1SM 257


The good news of what Jesus did for the human race as revealed in the gospel alone has power to extinguish our love for sin and prepare us for entrance to our heavenly home.


"For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Heb. 4:15, 16


A last word: you will notice that the work in the sanctuary is performed by the Priest and High Priest, not the sinner.  Likewise, the work in the Heavenly sanctuary is performed by Christ.  This means that the work of cleansing us, the Holy Spirit's temple, is also done by Him.  We just let Him. 


"The sinner may resist this love, may refuse to be drawn to Christ; but if he does not resist he will be drawn to Jesus ... in repentance for his sins" (Steps to Christ, p. 27). Therein is the essence of this cleansing of the sanctuary!

Raul Diaz