Hebrews 5

Hebrews 5  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 10
The purpose of the exhortation to go boldly to the throne of grace
The Spirit does not here speak positively of falls; we find that in 1 John 2. There also it is in connection with communion with His Father, here with access to God. His purpose here is to strengthen us, to encourage us to persevere in the way, conscious of the sympathies which we possess in heaven, and that the throne is always open to us.
The Lord’s priesthood compared with that of Aaron
The epistle then develops the priesthood of the Lord Jesus, comparing it with that of Aaron; but, as we shall see, with a view to bring out the difference rather than the resemblance between them, although there is a general analogy, and the one was a shadow of the other.
This comparison is made in chapter 5:1-10. The line of argument is then interrupted, though the ground of argument is enlarged and developed, till the end of chapter 7, where the comparison with Melchisedec is pursued; and the change of law, consequent on the change of priesthood, is stated, which introduces the covenants and all that relates to the circumstances of the Jews.
The duties, shortcomings and honors of the Aaronic priesthood
A priest, then, as taken from among men (he is not here speaking of Christ, but of that with which he compares Him), is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins; he is able to feel the miseries of others, because he is himself compassed with infirmity, and offers, therefore, for himself as well as for the people. Moreover, no one takes this honor to himself, but receives it, as Aaron did, being called of God. The epistle will speak further on of the sacrifice-here of the person of the priest, and of the order of the priesthood.
The personal and official glory of Christ as high priest
So the Christ glorified not Himself to become a high priest. The glory of His Person, manifested as man on the earth, and that of His function are both of them plainly declared of God: the first, when He said, “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee” (Psa. 2); the second, in these words, “Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec” (Psa. 110). Such, then, in both personal and official glory is the High Priest, the expected Messiah, Christ.
What brought the glorious One near to the miseries of men
But His glory (although it gives Him His place in honor before God, and consequent on redemption, so that He can undertake the people’s cause before God according to His will) does not bring Him near to the miseries of men. It is His history on earth which makes us feel how truly able He is to take part in them. “In the days of his flesh,” that is, here below, He went into all the anguish of death in dependence on God, making His request to Him who was able to save Him from it. For, being here in order to obey and to suffer, He did not save Himself. He submitted to everything, obeyed in everything, and depended on God for everything.
The Lord’s fear was His piety; feeling the whole weight of death and sin; His perfect obedience
He was heard because of His fear. It was proper that He who took death on Himself, as answering for others, should feel its whole weight upon His soul. He would neither escape the consequences of that which He had undertaken (compare chapter 2), nor fail in the just sense of what it was thus to be under the hand of God in judgment. His fear was His piety, the right estimation of the position in which sinful man was found, and what must come from God because of it. For Him, however, to suffer the consequences of this position was obedience. And this obedience was to be perfect, and to be tried to the utmost.
The glorious Son of God perfected; the cause of eternal salvation; saluted by God as “high priest after the order of Melchisedec”
He was the Son, the glorious Son of God. But though this was so, He was to learn obedience (and to Him it was a new thing), what it was in the world, by all that He suffered. And, having deserved all glory, He was to take His place as the glorified Man-to be perfected; and in that position to become the cause of eternal salvation (not merely temporal deliverances) to them that obey Him; a salvation which should be connected with the position that He had taken in consequence of His work of obedience, saluted by God as “high priest after the order of Melchisedec.”
The condition of those to whom the epistle was addressed, requiring milk instead of meat
That which follows to the end of chapter 6 is a parenthesis which refers to the condition of those to whom the epistle is addressed. They are blamed for the dullness of their spiritual intelligence and encouraged at the same time by the promises of God; the whole with reference to their position as Jewish believers. Afterwards, the line of instruction with regard to Melchisedec is resumed.
For the time, they ought to have been able to teach: nevertheless, they needed that someone should teach them the elements of the oracles of God-requiring milk instead of meat.
The hindrance in traditional religion and ordinances
We may observe that there is no greater hindrance to progress in spiritual life and intelligence than attachment to an ancient form of religion, which, being traditional and not simply personal faith in the truth, consists always in ordinances and is consequently carnal and earthly. Without this, people may be unbelievers; but under the influence of such a system piety itself-expended in forms-makes a barrier between the soul and the light of God: and these forms which surround, preoccupy and hold the affections captive prevent them from enlarging and becoming enlightened by means of divine revelation. Morally (as the Apostle here expresses it) the senses are not exercised to discern both good and evil.
But the Holy Spirit will not limit Himself to the narrow circle and the weak and futile sentiments of human tradition, nor even to those truths which, in a state like this, one is able to receive. In such a case Christ has not His true place. And this our epistle here develops.
Milk and solid food: infancy and manhood
Milk belongs to babes, solid food to those who are of full age. This infancy was the soul’s condition under the ordinances and requirements of the law (compare Galatians 4:1-71Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; 2But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. 3Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: 4But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Galatians 4:1‑7)). But there was a revelation of the Messiah in connection with these two states-of infancy and of manhood. And the development of the word of righteousness, of the true, practical relationships of the soul to God according to His character and ways, was in proportion to the revelation of Christ, who is the manifestation of that character, and the center of all those ways. Therefore it is that, in chapter 5:12-13, the epistle speaks of the elements, the beginning, of the oracles of God, and of the word of righteousness; in chapter 6:1, of the word of the beginning, or of the first principles, of Christ.