Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE HIGH PRIEST OF OUR PROFESSION”

Hebrews 3.1

 I have been around Roman Catholic people my entire life. I like Roman Catholic people, am convinced that when converted to Christ they make some of the best Christians, and I ended up marrying a woman who was raised in the Roman Catholic Church. Add to that the course I took about Roman Catholicism that was taught by a Roman Catholic priest, and I think I have a journeyman’s understanding of Roman Catholicism.

When I was a little boy, my dad took a government job working on Indian reservations that led to me spending most of my childhood growing up amongst what political correctness now terms Native Americans. Since Roman Catholic missionaries originally evangelized Indians in that part of the country, they were typically Catholic. In grades one through four, I was the only non-Catholic student in the school, staying in the classroom on Fridays while every other student went to catechism with the parish priest. As well, living for a time in southern Florida after the Cuban revolution and the ascent to power of Fidel Castro, I well remember the influx of Cuban refugees, most of whom were Roman Catholics. While in Florida, our neighbors to the left, to the right, and across the street were Roman Catholics. Roman Catholicism seemed so appealing to my brother when he was very young that he pleaded with our parents to let him attend Mass with our school classmates.

Over the course of my life, particularly after my conversion to Christ and during my involvement in efforts to evangelize those in the Roman Catholic community, as well as during my first pastorate in a town that had an overwhelmingly Catholic majority, I noticed a recurring tendency on the part of many who I think would label themselves devout Catholics. I could not tell you how many times over the years I have heard men and women of Roman Catholic persuasion who were asked about their beliefs, about the welfare of their eternal and undying soul, or about their eternal destiny, say something like, “I let the priest take care of that.” I would be surprised to find someone who is a Roman Catholic and who is intellectually honest who would not admit that such an attitude is rather common among those of Roman Catholic persuasion. Sure, you go to Mass and make your confession, but for the most part, you leave the rest of it to your parish priest.

Let me hasten to add that this tendency is not peculiar to Roman Catholic people. Let it not be suggested that I am singling out Roman Catholics for criticism, but am relating to you my own observations from my limited experience. I would insist that the tendency of lay people to rely on the clergy to tend to their spiritual needs is a common tendency in all expressions of spiritual concern. In whatever religion you find a professional priesthood I think you will find a strong tendency among the laity to rely upon the priestly class to tend to the needs of their souls. Hindus do it. Buddhists do it. Muslims do it. Native Americans did it with their shamans. Japanese Shintos have always done it. Ancient Egyptians, ancient Babylonians, ancient Hittites, ancient Greeks, and ancient Romans did it. The Mongols did it, as did the Huns, the Germanic tribes, the Scandinavians and Norsemen, the various tribes that have occupied the British Isles, and even the Pacific Islanders and aboriginal Australians to a degree.

If your civilization was advanced enough to enable some division of labor, so that some devoted themselves more or less to spiritual and religious concerns while others tended to matters that are more mundane, it was not at all unusual for the lay people to leave it to the priesthood to tend to details concerning the welfare of their souls. “I let the priest take care of that,” is a sentiment that has been held for thousands of years. When God called Israel out of Egyptian bondage and established them as a nation, He set aside one of the twelve tribes to be devoted priests, with one family of that tribe, Aaron the first high priest and his descendants, to provide the high priest responsible for mediation with God on behalf of the entire nation. That said, it would be a terrible mistake to liken the priesthood of Israel to the priests of all other religions, including the Roman Catholic priesthood, since the priests and the high priest in Israel were specifically authorized by God, Himself. All other priests in all other religions are mere inventions. Thus, though it is a natural tendency on the part of people to leave important aspects of their spiritual welfare to the priest to deal with, it is a deadly error to leave any aspects of your spiritual welfare to an unqualified priest, to an unauthorized priest, to a fraudulent priest, to a charlatan priest, to one who is an impostor only pretending to intercede with God in behalf of other people. Excuse me, but robes and miters and vows of chastity do not a priest make.

I understand the natural and perhaps God-given inclination to want to delegate the details of your eternal and undying soul’s welfare to someone you think is more competent than you feel you are. However, should the details of your soul’s welfare not be attended to properly, not be attended to correctly, not be dealt with in a manner that is satisfactory to God . . . you will spend the ceaseless ages of eternity suffering the wrath of God for sins that have not been forgiven, for impurities and defilements that have not been cleansed, and for a Savior provided for you by God who has not been embraced. In short, it is okay to want your priest to take care of the details of preparing your soul for eternity, so long as God approves your priest because God has provided him. That priest, the only priest provided by God for your spiritual needs, provided by God for the salvation of your soul, provided by God to speak on your behalf to God, is His own Son, Jesus Christ.

Turn at this time to Hebrews 3.1. When you find that verse, stand for the reading of God’s holy Word: “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.” Here we are urged to consider Christ Jesus, the Apostle of our profession and the High Priest of our profession. Apostle means messenger, and refers to Christ Jesus being sent by God to us. High Priest, on the other hand, speaks of Christ’s role in representing us to His heavenly Father. Since people are inclined to want someone to speak to God for them about matters of their souls, it is appropriate for us to address this matter this morning, and to consider why Jesus Christ, the High Priest of our profession, is the only priest qualified to represent you to God for the forgiveness of your sins and the preparation of your eternal and undying soul for eternity.

Though we have numerous types of the priesthood of Jesus Christ presented for our benefit in the Old Testament, and the entire letter to the Hebrews mostly devoted to the priesthood of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, consider these five major features of my Lord Jesus Christ’s priesthood:

 First, JESUS CHRIST’S INCARNATION

 “Fundamentally, incarnation is a theological assertion that in Jesus the eternal Word of God appeared in human form (Jn 1). Many theologians picture the incarnation as the voluntary and humble act of the second person of the Trinity, God the Son, in taking upon himself full humanity and living a truly human life. The orthodox doctrine of the incarnation asserts that in taking humanity upon himself, Christ did not experience a loss of his divine nature in any way but continued to be fully God.[1]

The Bible clearly teaches that the means by which Jesus Christ took upon Himself humanity was the virgin birth.[2] However, to crystallize in your mind what bearing Christ’s incarnation has on His priesthood, allow me to review four things related to Christ’s incarnation:

First, there is the deity of Christ. What happened when Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary was that God became a man. John 1.1 and 14 is very clear. Verse 1 reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Verse 14 of that same chapter begins, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” Thus, it is undeniable that God’s Word shows Jesus Christ to be God, to show that God became the man Christ Jesus by means of the virgin birth. The importance of Jesus Christ being at one and the same time both God and man is related to a priest’s function, which is to reconcile sinners to God. His ability to reconcile men to God is based upon Him being at the same time both man and God. He is the Kinsman Redeemer spoken of in the Mosaic Law, qualified to redeem as being close kin to those in need of redemption.

Of course, the deity of Christ bears on the eternity of Christ. To recite John 1.1 again, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Verse 2 reads, “The same was in the beginning with God.” Thus, Jesus Christ’s eternity is established, and is additionally verified when Jesus declared, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am,” John 8.58. And eternity is important, why? Because there are two kinds of priests, those who had a beginning and who eventually die, and the One who has no beginning and continues in His priesthood forever. The Jewish priests were descendants of Moses’ brother Aaron, appointed by God to be Israel’s first high priest. They were born and they eventually died. However, there is another priest mentioned in the Old Testament, without beginning or ending, by the name of Melchizedek. Moses in Genesis 14.18-20 mentions Melchizedek. The writer to the Hebrews declares the Lord Jesus Christ after the order of Melchizedek no less than four times, referring to Him from Psalm 110.4 where He is identified as a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.[3] Was Jesus born? Yes, but His birth was not His beginning, with His conception being the beginning of the humanity of God’s eternal Son.

Third, there is the holiness of Christ. Where do I begin concerning the holiness of Christ? The angel that first informed Mary what would happen to her referred to her child, the Son of God, as holy, Luke 1.35. John 12.41 is where the Apostle John informs his readers that Isaiah 6 refers to the Lord Jesus Christ, where Isaiah saw “the Lord sitting upon a throne,” Isaiah 6.1. What did the seraphims cry out to each other concerning our Lord Jesus Christ in Isaiah 6.3? “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.” Thus, it is established that Jesus was holy before His incarnation. Hebrews 4.15 asserts that He was sinless during His earthly ministry, and Hebrews 9.28 asserts that He will still be holy when comes the time of His second coming. How could it be otherwise? The importance of this with respect to Christ’s priesthood can be explained in this way: Job 4.4 asks, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.” You cannot get clean from unclean. Therefore, how can a sinner become clean in the sight of God if the priest responsible for the task is himself defiled by his own sins? He cannot. Thus, Christ’s holiness manifests itself in His sinlessness, enabling Him to function as a priest who had no need to first deal with His own sins and then the sins of others, as is the case with all other priests.

Fourth, there is the humanity of Christ. As I touched on before, to reconcile sinners to God, Jesus had to become a man so that He would be our near kinsman. Hebrew 4.15 declares, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” My great High Priest knows what it is like.

 Next, JESUS CHRIST’S PROPITIATION

 In First John 2.2, the Apostle John declares that Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins.” In First John 4.10, he once more writes that God “loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Please do not be put off by the word propitiation. It translates a Greek word that refers to satisfaction. When a sinner sins against God, God demands in holiness and righteousness that the crime against Him be punished, that He be avenged. Propitiation has to do with God’s righteous and holy demands being fully and completely satisfied. Notice also that Jesus does not make propitiation. Both First John 2.2 and First John 4.10 declare that Jesus Christ is propitiation. That is, Jesus Christ is the satisfaction demanded by God’s righteous and holy nature for sins committed against Him.

On what basis does Jesus satisfy God’s holy and righteous demands that sins against Him be punished, that He be avenged the wrong done against Him? On the basis of Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on the cross of Calvary. As I read from Isaiah 53.4-6, listen for the indications of Christ’s substitution for sinners:

 4      Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

5      But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

6      All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

   In the New Testament, we find this principle referred to repeatedly.

Romans 5.6:    “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”

 Hebrews 9.28:    “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many. . . .”

First Peter 3.18:  “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.”

First Peter 4.1: “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh. . . .”

There is no doubt that our great High Priest Jesus Christ satisfies God. The question that remains is how that satisfaction benefits sinners, which is my next point.

 Third, JESUS CHRIST’S RECONCILIATION

 How many times have I heard people claim that they were Christians because they knew that Jesus died on the cross for them, was buried, and then rose from the dead on the third day, as if what Jesus did two thousand years ago and thousands of miles away might somehow be of benefit to them. My friend, it is one thing for Jesus Christ to make provision for a sinner’s salvation by dying on the cross for sins. It is quite another thing for an individual sinner to receive the benefit of what Christ did.

Think with me for a moment. What good does it do for someone to know what Jesus did on the cross for him if it ends there? Many people have died and gone to Hell knowing Jesus died for their sins on the cross, was buried, and then rose from the dead on the third day. For reconciliation with God to be made, the sinner must respond to the gospel and turn to Christ. Though it is not crucial for sinners to know the precise details of the transaction, when a sinner comes to faith in Christ he thereby engages Jesus Christ to be his priest and to represent him in his dealings with God.

Since Jesus Christ, our great High Priest has made a more than sufficient sacrifice for sins and since He is the satisfaction that God demands in payment for sins committed against Him, our High Priest then makes reconciliation based on the shed blood of Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul wrote in First Timothy 2.5, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” That one Mediator is our great High Priest, and mediation is the function of a priest. Since there is only one mediator, there is only one priest who represents sinners to God. That one High Priest is Jesus Christ, and all the others are frauds.

 Fourth, JESUS CHRIST’S INTERCESSION

 Reconciliation takes place when the sinner comes to Christ, his sins are forgiven, and he is adopted into the family of God, and becomes a partaker of the divine nature by means of the new birth. However, that is only the beginning of the Christian’s new life in Christ. What then takes place and continues throughout the remainder of the believer’s life here on earth is Christ’s intercession. A priest is required for reconciliation to take place, owing to the fact that the sinner is God’s enemy, Romans 5.10. Once reconciliation has taken place, however, peace reigns. Romans 5.1 reads, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The need for a priest does not end, however, just because reconciliation has been effected and the Christian life has begun. Christians not only continue to commit sins against God, but also find themselves under continued and constant attack. To deal with both issues, every believer must still have a priest, and that priest is Jesus Christ, our great High Priest. With respect to our sinning, we are in constant need of our priest. First John 1.7 comforts us with the assertion that “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” First John 2.1 reveals the very personal nature of Christ’s priestly office on our behalf: “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Representing you to the Father is the very definition of what a priest does.

However, his heavenly Father attacks no Christian. Attacks come from another, namely Satan. It is in Revelation 12.10 that we discover Satan to be “the accuser of our brethren . . . which accused them before our God day and night.” We knew Satan accused Job, but here we see Satan’s constant accusations against all of us. However, in the next verse we are comforted by the declaration that “they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb.”

So you see, our great High Priest, Jesus Christ, left heaven’s glory to become our great High Priest, died on the cross to do the work only He could do to perform His duty as our great High Priest, brings sinful men to God as Reconciler to establish our relationship with God, and continues His ministry as our great High Priest to maintain our relationship with God by interceding for us, day and night.

 Finally, JESUS CHRIST’S PRESENTATION

Christ’s priesthood can be seen in terms of time frames. There were certain duties He performed in the past, such as His incarnation by which means He became a man, and His propitiation by which means He paid for our sins by the presentation of a perfect sacrifice for sins, that of course being Himself. He is both priest making the offering and the sin offering presented by the priest.

Next, there are certain duties that our great High Priest performs in the present. When one of you who are lost turns from your sins and comes to Christ, He will straightway and presently reconcile you to God, serving as your priest to bring you to God. Did He not say to Thomas, in John 14.6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me”? This is the very best sense in which you should let your priest handle these crucial matters, since bringing about the salvation of your sinful soul is something only our great High Priest Jesus Christ can do. Only He mediates between God and men. For those of us who are already believers in Jesus Christ, it is Christ’s role as our Intercessor that is featured in His continuing priesthood. He is our advocate. His blood does continually cleanse away our sins. He defends us against the accusations of the Evil One. Every time the Devil says to God, “Did you see that? He shaded the truth. That’s a lie,” my Lord Jesus Christ, Who is seated at the Father’s right hand, leans over and speaks to His Father, “My Father, that one is mine. Put his sin on my account, I wash it away with my blood. Remember his iniquity no more.”[4]

Past, present, and now the future activity of our great High Priest, Jesus Christ. In Jude 24, we are told that not only is the Lord Jesus Christ able to keep the believer from terminally falling, but also to present the believer faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. That is, our great High Priest will culminate His priestly duties by presenting us in heaven some day, His priestly tasks finally and completely finished. In Colossians 1.22, the Apostle Paul says much the same thing, indicating that Jesus will “present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight.” Faultless in Jude 24 translates the same Greek word as unblameable in Colossians 1.22. He will conduct His priestly duties so well that He will someday bring to eternal union with God that one who was once God’s enemy because of sins.

What a Savior!

What a wonderful High Priest!

Go ahead and leave the important stuff to the priest, so long as the priest is Jesus Christ. Amen? And since there is only one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, according to Paul, you had better not have any other priest tend to your serious spiritual affairs.

This is not to say that other priestly duties do not exist in the Christian’s life. They most certainly do. However, these priestly duties are not assigned to other priests to perform on behalf of the Christian, but are assigned to the Christian himself. In First Peter 2.5, 9, Revelation 1.6 and 4.10 we see that believers in Jesus Christ are made priests.

We perform certain functions as priests.

We approach God directly in prayer.

We offer the sacrifices of praise.

However, only Jesus makes an offering for sin. He is our great High Priest, we serve in some priestly capacities, and we need no other human being to function as a priest on our behalf.

I leave you with two questions and a statement: First, is Jesus your great High Priest in that He has reconciled you to God by faith? Second, is Jesus Christ your great High Priest in that He continues to intercede for you? If the answer to both of these questions is not yes, and if Christ’s priesthood in your life is not evident to others, He will not present you faultless before the presence of His glory.

By all means, let the priest take care of the things that only He is competent to handle. Just make sure your priest is Jesus Christ and no one else, and make doubly sure He really is your priest by coming to Him for the forgiveness of sins that only He can grant.



[1] Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki & Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), page 65.

[2] Isaiah 7.14; Luke 1.26-35; 2.1-20

[3] Hebrews 5.6; 6.20; 7.17, 21

[4] Hebrews 8.12; 10.17



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