His Unchangeable Priesthood (vv. 23-24)
He Lives Forever
The Spirit’s plea to hold fast to Jesus Christ reaches heavenly heights in these lines. What good is it to turn back to Judaism? All its priests die. God established the Levitical priesthood and its sacrifices, but they were typical of the better priest and sacrifice to come. They were impotent to deal with sin. Oceans of animal blood cannot pay the wages and make atonement for sin, so its death-price must continue to be paid. This is the reason there were many high priests from Aaron to Phineas, about one hundred by Jewish reckoning. Death came to them all. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, lives forever. He was dead, but he died as a priest, in the fulfillment of the ultimate act of priesthood. He gave his life for the sheep. He gave himself into the power of death for a while, in order to satisfy God’s justice and pay sin’s wages in full. The Levitical priests died because they were sinful men and their sacrifices unavailing, except as types; Jesus Christ died voluntarily, as the worthy sacrifice, to redeem sin-cursed men. By satisfying God’s justice, making full propitiation for our sins, he broke the power of sin and death. He has the keys of death and hell on his belt (Rev. 1:18). The believer in Jesus does not suffer death in the full, judicial sense of the term. He cannot, for Jesus has already paid the price. The body sleeps in the ground awaiting resurrection, but the soul takes flight to the presence of God, and there finds bliss and eternal rest in Jesus Christ, with all his saints, the vast company of angels, in the presence of God. No Levitical priest or sacrifice can give this.
His Priesthood Unchanging, Non-Transferable
Because each high priest died, their priesthood was transferred to the next in line. Jesus Christ does not transfer his priesthood. It is unchangeable. Like Melchizedek, it is based upon the power of his endless and righteous life. The glory of this – we have a perpetual priest over the house of God! We have a priest whose ministry does not end because he ends death. He rose and triumphed over death, and therefore we may trust his intercession as absolutely and permanently availing to secure our free and confident access to God’s presence, as well as to obtain our free and full forgiveness. The history of our race, its hatreds and wars, its superstitions and false science, and fear of death, all find their cure in Jesus Christ the resurrected High Priest, whose priesthood never ends because he never ends. He was dead, but he is alive forevermore! He is the LIFE, and he gives life – righteousness, peace, and joy – to us by his indwelling Spirit.
And this is also the reason that we must reject the whole cabal of priests who so boldly claim to be Christ’s successors and offer additional sacrifices in the Mass. Whether Eastern or Western, Greek or Roman, this parade of priests dishonors Christ and maims those who gawk after it. There is only one Priest, and his priesthood endures forever. It cannot be transferred. Human priests claiming to stand in Christ’s place have no authority to do so. They also die, so they are no better than the Levitical priests – and perhaps this is, after all, what Romanism is – an attempt to resurrect a Judaistic type of religion and to impose it upon the consciences of Christ’s disciples, with its whole charade of gospel obscuring ceremonies, holy days, and substitution of God’s holy word with that of unholy popes. We have a high priest, Jesus Christ. He ministers in the true tabernacle. He invites us to draw near by faith. Until we are drawn up there by his power, let us listen to him and not to lies of the dead.
His Interceding Priesthood (v. 25)
Able to Save to the Uttermost
The argument is tight – from his endless life to his ability to save us to the uttermost. This last word does not imply duration as much as completion. In every way, this life and the next, in every trial, facing the malice of the devil and ungodly men, our living Priest is able to save us completely. He alone is able. The reason he is able is that he has conquered sin by taking the full tally of our stripes upon himself. For every sin of each of his lambs, he paid the full price to justice. We cannot fathom the price he had to pay; we cannot fathom his worthiness. The angels do not stop singing about it, but our attention spans last five minutes when anyone starts talking about the cross of Jesus Christ. Who won the game? What did you have for dinner? Will the stock market crash again?
Jesus Christ is able to save us through and in all of these things, over all the storms and woes of life. We must understand the reason he is able to do this. It is because he possesses fullness of life. He has descended into the depths of our hell and judgment. He emerged victorious; death could not swallow life. The Holy One became sin, but he did so in order to break its power and to redeem us to God by his blood. He rose to newness of life as our Mediator and Savior because death could not hold him. He had power over it and triumphed by providing himself as our sinless substitute. This is the reason he is able. It is also the reason that no other religion, human high priest, or philosophy is able to do much if anything for you. They are the scratchings of the dead upon the door of the only ark, Jesus Christ our Lord. Without faith, they are shut out and justly left to drown in their rebellion. Jesus Christ alone is able to save us.
Ever Lives to Make Intercession for Us
To show us his ability to save us completely and to bring us to God, the Spirit takes us into the Most Holy Place of heaven’s sanctuary. There we see our risen Savior, “ever living to make intercession for us.” He who bore the cross and loved us to the end will not leave off guarding and gathering us until all his body is with him forever in heaven. He shed his precious blood for us, and he will never forsake us. He entered his heavenly glory to appear in the presence of God for us. There he prays or supplicates or advocates (1 John 2:1) for us. We ought not to imagine that he is always engaged in audible prayer. As the Spirit knows and searches the mind of God in his intercession for us, so the Father and Son know each other’s mind perfectly, for they are one. Nor is our Savior any beggar who is heard “for his much speaking.” The Father’s directive to his Beloved is: “Ask of me.” His promise is: “You have not withheld the request of his lips” (Ps. 21:2). Our Savior’s presence, clothed in our flesh, albeit glorified, yet still bearing the stigmata of his obedience unto death, secures our place. Faith sees but dimly into this veil, but the glory we see is blinding. His sacrifice was so sufficient and his person so worthy, that his presence in heaven secures our entrance there with boldness. It is as if his blood is continually distilling before God’s throne, securing our free entrance, propitiating, guaranteeing our forgiveness.
We Must Come to God through Him
Pay close attention to that little phrase “that come unto God by him.” It is our responsibility to come. Said in the context of these persecuted believers, it was their duty to come to the Father through Jesus Christ and to cast all their trials and fears at his feet. We enjoy none of the power and peace of our Savior’s intercession unless we avail ourselves of it! We must come. We must come by Jesus Christ. This requires, first, a Christ-directed faith, for only through his Son is the Father propitious to anyone. Therefore, if we would have God as our loving and merciful Father, we must believe upon the Son of God as our Savior. Second, when we come and call, it must be with thoughtful, intentional reflection upon the grounds of our entrance. Do we have the right clothes – Jesus Christ and his righteousness? Do we have one to make the proper introductions, for it is the HOLY, HOLY, HOLY God into whose presence we draw near – Jesus Christ our Intercessor? Then, are we trusting Jesus Christ alone? Father, hear us because of your great love in sending your Son. Hear us because he humbled himself unto death, healed us by his stripes, and made intercession for the transgressors.
You say, “Well, this is too much to remember. I just want to come, say what I want to say, and be done with it.” Then, expect no answer or favor, for there is little if any faith in your heart and less love for Jesus Christ. We have nothing in ourselves that can obtain God’s favor and friendship. To speak to him is wicked audacity for vile sinners. Only in Jesus – righteous, cleansed, having an advocate with the Father – is there certainty of acceptance. Come in his name, child of God, and find in the secret place of the Most High the refuge and strength you lack. Come trusting in Jesus, and find heaven’s gates flung wide open, your Father smiling, the help of legions at your disposal, as well as the assistance of the Spirit working patience and endurance in you to the end of your course. If you do not know Jesus’ name, ask for his mercy now. Lay down your unbelief at the foot of his cross and confess, “Truly, this man is the Son of God. Truly, Lord, you are my only Savior and Advocate.” He will receive you.
His Powerful, Saving Priesthood (vv. 26-28)
By His Absolute Holiness
Our fallen tendency is toward the shallow and the vague. We see this from public discourse to private relationships, but it is a very dangerous thing when it comes to God’s gospel. He is deep and specific with us, mainly because Satan’s attacks are as insidious. Bumper-sticker faith and slogan theology will not drive him away or silence the doubts of the flesh. We must grow in knowledge and follow on to know the Lord (2 Pet. 1:8; Hos. 6:3; Phil. 3:10). Thus, the Spirit of truth gives us three specific reasons that our Savior is able to save us completely, and they must be so familiar to us that we can recall them at a moment’s notice. They are not only part of faith’s shield to quench Satan’s fiery darts, but they are also the ways our Savior loved and gave himself for us. They are the reasons we can trust him fully and must consecrate ourselves to his service completely, holding nothing back for ourselves and forsaking worldly loves and willfulness.
Only holiness can avail with the HOLY, HOLY, HOLY God. Nothing in the world religions touches upon this, and they are all doomed and futile for this reason alone. God is holy. He hates sin. He has no traffic with sinners. There must be someone to intervene, a mediator. This is Jesus Christ. He alone is our fitting high priest, our necessary high priest, the only priest who will do us any good before the holy God. This is because he is holy. This refers to his essential holiness as God. His harmlessness likely refers to his holiness with men – that he gave no offense. No one could accuse him justly of sin. He lived completely without guile of any kind. He was and is the truth. He is also undefiled, which means incapable of sin. He did not partake of our sin nature. Far from this being a reason not to trust him or to think his temptations unreal, it actually made them more intense, for he had to resist them to their full power. “Separate from sinners” means that he is not in the category of sin or sinners – by nature or by deed. He is holiness itself. He had to be, for he had to offer himself without spot to God. He had to intercede with the holy God on behalf of sinners. It is true that he became sin, but the reason he was able to become sin and thus destroy sin is that he was absolutely holy and took our sins upon himself judicially. He could make satisfaction for our sins to God because he was in every way holy and worthy. As proof of this, the Spirit adds that he “became higher than the heavens.” Having suffered, he has entered into his glory. He could not enter this were he contaminated in any way. His exaltation is the direct result of his sinless perfection obeying unto death, and thus obtaining our salvation and the mediatorial kingdom promised to him (Ps. 2).
By His Once-for-All Sacrifice
Because he is holy and now exalted, he does not need to repeat sacrifices daily, as the Levitical priests did. They had to offer up sacrifices for their own sins and for the peoples’ sins. This they did on the Day of Atonement, as well as their regular sin offerings. The entire Levitical system was immersed in sacrifice because we were immersed in sin. The priests could not remove it, and we could not be freed from it. Jesus Christ has now come forward. He offered one sacrifice, one time. Notice the emphatic “He offered himself.” All that last night – in Gethsemane, before Caiaphas and Pilate, then on the cross, he directed traffic so that the Scriptures would be fulfilled. He laid down his life. They did not take it from him. He voluntarily laid down his life by the authority given to him from his Father; he gave up the ghost (John 10:18).
When he laid down his life, his sacrifice was so perfect, worthy, and efficacious, that it has perfected us forever (Heb. 10:12). Nothing is lacking to complete it. It is not repeated in any way in the church’s worship or sacraments. He offered himself once for all. The veil between us and God came down the moment he cried “It is finished” and laid down his life. Ended, ended is guilt and condemnation to all who believe in Jesus! Gone is the justified dread of HOLY ONE, for the HOLY ONE has born away our sins. All who believe in him are the favorites of heaven, freely forgiven, Spirit-indwelled, heirs of life forever with their beloved Savior in his eternal kingdom.
And never, never think, believer in Jesus Christ, that you add anything to his sacrifice. This will keep your pursuit of holiness from becoming somehow a pursuit of more justification. It is not. It cannot be, for Jesus Christ offered up himself once, and once for all. He obtained your redemption then and there (Heb. 9:14). It will also prevent your lack of fruit and desire for more fruit from devolving into self-improvement or frustrated piety. Jesus Christ has cleansed you completely. You are reconciled to God through his precious blood. You need add nothing. All your subsequent obedience and warfare against the world and the devil are love gifts you lay at Jesus’ feet. Do not think of them in terms of “I need to do more” but “I want to love my Jesus more.” What else can I do for him who so loved me? Is he pleased with my worry and agitation that keeps me away from him? Does he want me carrying sin and guilt around with me, or try to find a way to atone for them in my own strength? Of course not. Does he want you, Christian parents, imposing heavy yokes upon your children and giving them the decided impression that God does not love them until they measure up? No! No! No! Jesus Christ offered himself once; we are forgiven forever. Jesus Christ offered himself to God once; we rejoice forever. Let us sing and wonder, speak and serve, be consecrated and live more and more unto his honor who sank so low for us.
By God’s Oath
The foundation and the capstone of our assurance is God’s oath. All the Levitical priests were weak and sinful men, but Jesus Christ is the Son of God. They had no oath attached to their office, but our Savior was made everlasting priest by God’s oath (Ps. 110:4). We may and must trust God’s oath-bound promise fully. Jesus Christ is our perfect and sufficient Savior. No one can pluck us out of his hand. He has bound himself to us. Let us bind ourselves to him. Whoever comes to him, he will not cast out. Whoever believes upon him will never perish or die but possess eternal life. This is not because we believe perfectly or because faith has intrinsic power. It is not because we obey as we should, follow Jesus carefully enough, or do good works. It is because God has sworn with an oath to his Son and to us that he is high priest forever. We may trust his oath.
It is compelling that the apostle concludes again with the faithfulness of God. The mention of oath is intended to bring us to back to this foundation. God has sworn. He will not leave or condemn those who believe upon the name of Jesus Christ. It matters not how many millennia pass before he returns, for his sacrifice and intercession retain perpetual freshness and power to save us completely. We are oath breakers, and yet God reveals himself to us as the faithful, oath keeper. We could have no confidence or blessedness in him otherwise. Our hearts are too wavering and doubting. So, he comes to us in mercy and makes an everlasting covenant with his Son on our behalf: the sure mercies of David; high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. In every way, God is saying to us, “Trust me. Trust my promise of mercy in Jesus Christ. Build your life upon my promise. When troubles come, do not doubt my faithfulness. Do you think that if I crucified my Beloved Son and put him to grief for you that I will let Satan pluck you out of his hand or forsake you in the hour of trial?”
Three glorious truths express the ability of our Savior to save us to the uttermost: his holiness, his one-time offering up of himself, and God’s oath. Regularly turn them over in your mind. Praise God for them daily. Seek to live in their power. I serve a holy Savior, say to yourself. He saved me because he was holy; Lord Jesus, save me unto holiness, for that is your name (Matt. 1:21). Lord, you offered yourself once without spot to God. Fill me with thankfulness and awe at your perfect sacrifice. Open my mouth to speak to others of your mercy and grace; may your praise be continually in my mouth! Give me courage to suffer for you with a sense of the privilege. And when doubts come, holy Father, remind me of your oath. You swore by yourself. In a very real sense, the HOLY ONE died for the unholy. You will not forsake us, no matter what happens in the world. Armed with these truths and joys, we can move forward confidently and in the power of the Holy Spirit.