Daily Bible Reading for Wednesday, January 24th:



6 Ways Christ is Better (pt 2)

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The Lists of Hebrews
A Study of the book of Hebrews
Lesson 2, Part 2
Hebrews 4:14-5:10, Hebrews 9:1-10:39

Intro

Last week, in part 1 of this lesson, we discussed the Hebrews writer’s comparison of Christ to angels and the way those things contributed to the foundation of our salvation. From there we compared and contrasted Moses with Christ, and explored how the writer gave his audience a better understanding of Christ through their knowledge of Moses. If you haven’t read it yet, take a few minutes and get caught up.

In part 2, we continue to explore the devices of the Old Law and haw they foreshadowed things to come. Of course, we also see how Hebrews proves the Christian era implementation of those things were the fulfillment of the prophesies the Jews were waiting for through their generations.

The Greatest High Priest

The office of high priest held a lot of power under the Old Law. Man’s intrinsic desire to be important probably amplified that power beyond what God intended. With all of Christ’s credentials previously studied, the Hebrews writer intended to show that Jesus was an even better high priest. (Hebrews 4:14-5:10) Christians in essence were going to be making a trade down to the priesthood of Aaron if they left the church.

The High Priests of the tabernacle merely passed through the veils in the execution of their duties. Christ is introduced as a better high priest because be passed “through the heavens” – another well-known idea for the Hebrews audience that rings true. (Hebrews 4:14) This was similar language to what Paul had been using in reference to Christ (cf. Ephesians 4:10) He went into the ultimate Holy of Holies to get forgiveness of our sins – and he is still there performing that duty through grace!

What a great reason for them to “hold fast” to their confession of Christ! (v14b) We have a high priest that understands us and our temptations. We have a high priest that conquered death and can liberally extend grace to those of us who could not. (v15-16)

The writer reminds the audience what the standard for becoming high priest was:

  • He was taken from among men (Hebrews 5:1)
  • He was appointed by God to act on behalf of men (v2)
  • He was compassionate of those he represented (v2)
  • He needed possession of adequate sacrifice (v3, Leviticus 4:3-12)
  • He avoid personal honor from the office (4)

But!

The high priest ultimately became highly visible and took on some not so spiritual qualities:

  • The personal enrichment so they could afford finer things
  • The influence they held – even over the Romans
  • The judge and ruler over the Jews since there was no king

No wonder the priesthood of Aaron was so enticing!

Christ was so much better in so many ways. He even had to go back to the time before Abraham knew of the promise to draw a suitable earthly comparison.

In order to reconcile the qualifications to the priesthood with his argument that Christ is a better high priest, the writer returns to Psalm 110. He used Psalm 110:1-2 to argue Christ’s universal kingship and then quotes Psalm 110:4 to compare his priesthood to Melchizedek’s. (Hebrews 5:6) This might have been the first time the Psalm 110 prophesy was fully understood!

Melchizedek is covered in an upcoming lesson when we will look closely at the Hebrews writer’s treatment of him. For now, the writer concludes the argument with stating that Christ is the “source of eternal salvation.” (Hebrews 5:9)

Better than the Levites

The audience of the Hebrews letter was thinking about returning to Judaism. The writer confronts them in Hebrews 7 with a full discussion of Melchizedek. Any reader that wanted to be a true son of Abraham had to stop and give this a second look.

With just three verses in Genesis 14:18-20 and another sentence in Psalm 110:4, the Jews might not have given this a lot of attention. Once the writer reveals Melchizedek as the highest of priests, a priest that is also a king, the Jews could now accept Christ as a high priest. In fact his priesthood was even better than the Levitical priesthood.

A Better Sacrifice

Having established that Christ is the better high priest, the Hebrews writer needed to show that his offering was better as well. Hebrews chapters 9 and 10 explain the transition from the imperfect sacrifices to the perfect “once and for all” sacrifice offered by Christ’s blood.

When you take a few minutes to read Hebrews 9, you get an excellent summary of the rituals of the Jewish priests.

Under the Old Law, the high priest needed to enter the Holy of Holies or the most holy place to sprinkle the blood sacrifice. This was the sacrifice for all of the unintentional sins of the priests and the people. (Hebrews 9:7) To make it more difficult, they could only go once a year and they had to do it every year.

The offerings did nothing for the worshipper’s conscience. It also didn’t totally grant forgiveness for their sins. Had they been guilty of skipping the annual sacrifice, they would have been held accountable for all of those previous sins! Christ as our better high priest and mediator of a better covenant, (Hebrews 9:15) is essentially in the eternal holy place with the once and for all sacrifice of his own blood shed of behalf of us for our sins.

Through the sacrifice of Christ’s blood, we have the privilege of permanent forgiveness of sins. Once forgiven, we have no more need for any offering for the sin. In fact God goes a step further than people will normally go… He remembers our sin no more! (Hebrews 10:17)

A Better Covenant

I think I’ve heard the phrase “forgive and forget” all my life. I have heard it a number of times in church as if it is a Biblical principle we are supposed to be following. The Bible never really says we are supposed to forgive and forget in so many words, but it does talk about forgiveness a number of times. We are to:

  • forgive so the Father will forgive us (Matthew 6:14)
  • be kind tenderhearted and forgiving to one another just like we were through Christ (Ephesians 4:32)
  • forgive unrepentant enemies (Matthew 5:44)

Jesus even used the parable of the unforgiving servant to teach us the lengths we are to go through to be forgiving. (Matthew 18:21-35)

The forgetting part just isn’t in our human nature though, is it? Remembering what someone did to us might be a way of gauging the amount of trust we can offer them. Even though we can carry on as if the sin against us never happened, the hurt it caused can often take a lifetime to heal.

Maybe the term “forgive and forget” came into use by people who were working hard to be like Christ. When Christ died on the cross, he sealed a new and better covenant for us. (Hebrews 7:24) This is a covenant that does not remember our sins once we repent. (Hebrews 8:12 quoting Jerimiah 31:34) Think for a moment how huge that is. God will forget a forgiven sin ever happened!

The marvelous thing about this covenant is that it was not given only to the Jews. It was given to all that get into Christ. (Galatians 3:29) Through our becoming a Christian, we are added to the rolls of Abraham’s children and become beneficiaries of God’s promise.

Summary

The Hebrews writer compares Christ to several key points of the Old Law, dismantling them one by one to demonstrate why they are not only no longer needed, but why they have been superseded. As we continue our study of Hebrews, continuing to familiarize ourselves with the traditions and laws of the Jews will not only help us understand where the writer was coming from, but help us understand the New Testament a lot better.

 

About Butch Adams

In addition to writing this blog and contributing elsewhere, I have served as elder and deacon in the various places I have worshiped. In these duties, I have concentrated my attention on the area of education - both in outreach to seekers through the Internet and inside the congregations for ongoing Bible scholarship. Comments and thoughts about referenced material in the article above are Copyright 2018 by Butch Adams . Any referenced material belongs to its owners and every attempt has been made to use it according to their wishes.

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