The Present Priesthood of Christ

 •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 8
BEFORE speaking of the present service of the Lord as our “Great High Priest,” let us see from the word of God for whom the priesthood and intercession of Christ is. Many think that Christ is interceding before God for the unconverted, for sinners, and therefore He will forgive their sins and save their souls. This thought is quite contrary to Scripture, and gives a wrong thought of God Himself and His blessed gospel, and thus the peace of many of His saints is damaged. It is as though God was against the sinner, instead of for him, and that it required a great deal of persuasion and entreaty to induce Him to save a soul, but that at last, through the intercession of Christ, He would consent to do it. If we turn to the Scripture in John 3:1616For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16), we read, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.” It was God who first thought of the sinner, and so loved as to give His Son to die on the cross; thus proving that God is not against, but for the sinner, and needs no one to move His heart towards him. We also read, in that beautiful passage in 2 Cor. 5:2020Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20), “As though God did beseech by us.” God Himself condescends to beseech sinners to be reconciled to Him; thus it needs no one to intercede for them.
Let us look at Heb. 7:24,2524But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. 25Wherefore 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. (Hebrews 7:24‑25), and there We shall see for whom the priesthood is. “But this man, because He continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. 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.” Who does He make intercession for? Not for the unconverted, but for those who “come unto God by Him.” And who are they? Saints of God, perfected forever by the “one offering.” The expression, “come unto God,” has given many the idea that it means a sinner coming to God for salvation; but that is not the thought in this passage. The word “come” is the same as “draw near” in Heb. 10:2222Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:22), which speaks of saved ones; for a sinner could not “draw near” in his sins to a Holy God. Before we go further, let us see from the Scripture the ground upon which we can draw near to God, as many of the Lord’s people never grow in the knowledge of the things of God, because they have never got the question of their sins settled, and do not know what it is to be in His holy presence in perfect peace.
Reader, do you know what it is to be in God’s holy presence without fear? and can you say, “I know my sins are put away forever before Him”? Heb. 10:1-221For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. 2For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. 3But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. 4For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. 5Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: 6In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. 7Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. 8Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; 9Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. 10By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 13From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. 14For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. 15Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, 16This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 17And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. 18Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. 19Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21And having an high priest over the house of God; 22Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:1‑22) brings out how a soul can thus draw near to God with the knowledge of the forgiveness of his sins; and it is beautiful to see the mass of evidence which the Spirit of God brings together to assure our poor hearts that our sins are put away, and that we are “perfected forever” before God, and how He invites us to draw near into His holy presence. We find the whole Trinity, so-called, engaged with the question of our salvation. God the Father wills our salvation (vs. 10); God the Son came to accomplish it (vs. 9); and God the Holy Ghost is the witness to us that the work has been accepted, and that our sins are gone forever. (vss. 15-17) If you will read verse 12 you will see, “But this man, when He had offered one sacrifice for sins” (or one sin-offering), “forever sat down on the right hand of God.”
And now turn to Lev. 4:27-3127And if any one of the common people sin through ignorance, while he doeth somewhat against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which ought not to be done, and be guilty; 28Or if his sin, which he hath sinned, come to his knowledge: then he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a female without blemish, for his sin which he hath sinned. 29And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering, and slay the sin offering in the place of the burnt offering. 30And the priest shall take of the blood thereof with his finger, and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and shall pour out all the blood thereof at the bottom of the altar. 31And he shall take away all the fat thereof, as the fat is taken away from off the sacrifice of peace offerings; and the priest shall burn it upon the altar for a sweet savor unto the Lord; and the priest shall make an atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him. (Leviticus 4:27‑31), where you will see, if a Jew sinned, and it came to his knowledge, “then he shall bring his offering.” (vs. 28) The law said, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die;” and if the man had sinned, death was the penalty. Was he slain then? No; God provided a substitute, and told him lie could bring a kid, and lay his hand on its head, which meant that his sin was transferred to the kid; and God, so to speak, said, “I will accept the death of that kid instead of your death for the sin you have committed;” and so, “he shall slay the sin-offering.” (vs. 29) The animal died instead of the man, and he could go free.
But this sacrifice was only for one sin; and if he sinned again, he had to bring another sacrifice. How beautiful is the contrast in Heb. 10:1212But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; (Hebrews 10:12), “But this man (Christ), when He bad offered one sacrifice for sins, forever sat down on the right hand of God.” Do you, dear reader, believe that not only one sin, as in the case of the Jew, but all your sins, were laid upon Christ on the cross; that He bore the judgment of them before God, and put them all away once for all? Because if they were not put away then, they never can be, as there is only one sacrifice for sins, and Christ can never die again.
It is not a question of past, present, or future sins; for when Christ died they were all future; and by that “one offering” we read, “He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified” (Heb. 10:1414For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14)); not for a month, or a year, but “forever.” Sanctified here means those set apart by God for salvation. But now the question arises, If our sins are gone, and we are perfected forever by the “one offering,” what need is there of a priest? Although we are saved, and the question of our sins settled forever, and we are “seated in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 2:66And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (Ephesians 2:6)), we are not in the glory yet; and there is the wilderness journey, full of difficulties, and trials, and dangers in between, and the power of Satan on every hand; so He is there at God’s right hand to represent those who are saved before God, and to uphold them in their path through this world, obtaining all necessary grace and help in time of need, and to save them through all the difficulties and dangers of the wilderness journey, till each believer enters that “rest that remains for the people of God.” He undertakes (so to speak) for every saint of God till they are safely through the wilderness journey. But mark, it is not for sins, as He is only “Priest” for those whose sins are put away forever, which He did once for all when He offered up Himself. (Heb. 7:2727Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. (Hebrews 7:27)) In Heb. 8:1,21Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; 2A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. (Hebrews 8:1‑2), we see that He is now on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, and at the same time “a minister” (servant) “of the sanctuary.” It is wonderful how the Holy Ghost leads us up in. the Hebrews to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, and unfolds His varied glories to us! Chapter 1. brings out His divine glories; chapter 2 His glories as man, and then goes on to show how superior His priesthood is to that under law; and then in chapter 8. He sums it up with, “We have such an high priest.” Reader, have you ever contemplated the glorious person of Christ as He is now, at God’s right hand, a living glorified man (although God as well) crowned with glory and honor? Can you say, as in Heb. 2:99But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. (Hebrews 2:9), I see Jesus? Where.? No longer on earth, not in the grave, not risen again on the earth, but “crowned with glory and honor” at God’s right hand. There are many of the Lord’s people who know about the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross, but do not think of the glorious person who did the work, now “on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;” and then, when a soul has grasped the glories of that person, how wonderful to find it written, in Heb. 8:22A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. (Hebrews 8:2), “a minister” (servant) “of the sanctuary.” What a thought, that that Blessed One loved us, and gave Himself for us, and now actually lives to serve us in the courts above In chapter 9: 24 He “appears in the presence of God for us; “that is, He in all the blessedness of His person represents us there, and is our abiding righteousness before God. We find a beautiful picture of this in Aaron. (Ex. 28:9-129And thou shalt take two onyx stones, and grave on them the names of the children of Israel: 10Six of their names on one stone, and the other six names of the rest on the other stone, according to their birth. 11With the work of an engraver in stone, like the engravings of a signet, shalt thou engrave the two stones with the names of the children of Israel: thou shalt make them to be set in ouches of gold. 12And thou shalt put the two stones upon the shoulders of the ephod for stones of memorial unto the children of Israel: and Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord upon his two shoulders for a memorial. (Exodus 28:9‑12)) The names of the children of Israel were engraved upon the two onyx stones which were placed on Aaron’s shoulders, and also on the twelve stones which were on the breastplate, and could not be rubbed out. This breast-plate, with the engraved precious stones, was inseparably connected with the ephod, which was the priestly garment; so that Aaron could not exercise his office as priest without bearing the names of the children of Israel “before the Lord continually” (vs. 29); thus Aaron could not go into the holy place without God’s continually remembering Israel. The Lord Jesus, “our great High Priest,” bears the name of every believer “before the Lord continually,” representing us before God. A plate of pure gold was on Aaron’s forehead, on the miter, and on it was engravers the words, “Holiness to the Lord.” (vs. 36) Gold, in Scripture, generally means divine righteousness. Pure, unsullied divine righteousness and holiness to the Lord was what typically met the eye of God when Aaron went into the tabernacle. And now we see Christ, in all the glory of His person, in perfect righteousness before God. With what complacency does God look at Him! God’s light can search Him through and through, and not find a spot or stain upon Him—nothing but what answers perfectly to the divine glory. And every believer can look up and say, “That Blessed One represents me before God.”
Many of the Lord’s people are so occupied with their callings or work that they have not much time to read or study the word of God, and necessarily their thoughts have to be much in their everyday work. How blessed to know that, although we have to be occupied with things down here, yet the Lord is “continually” representing us before God. Some may be so weak in body, or racked with pain, that they cannot recall any comforting passage of God’s word. The Lord is faithfully bearing the name of that suffering saint before God. God cannot look at Christ without thinking of you and me, because He bears our names continually before Him. If we get away from Him in our souls, or get Occupied with the things here, He does not forget us, but ever lives to make intercession for us; not an occasional thing, like the advocacy in 1 John 2, “If any man sin,” but, “He ever lives,” &c. He not only represents us before God, but He sympathizes with us, and through Him we “obtain mercy and grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15,1615For 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. 16Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15‑16)); and He also “makes intercession for us” (chap. 7:25), not for our sins—that question was settled at the cross—but for our weaknesses and infirmities, continually upholding us; for “He is able to save to the uttermost” (i.e. all through the dangers and difficulties of the way) “all that come unto God by Him.” As in Peter’s case, the Lord prayed for him that his faith might not fail. The Lord has been a man here, has trod the path of faith, has been tried in every way. He knew what it was to be weary to suffer hunger and thirst, to groan in His spirit, and to weep; he was also tempted of Satan. We are drawn away by our own lusts, and enticed, because we have sin in us. He was tempted from without, never from within. It would be blasphemy to think it, as He was holy from his birth, and without sin. Thus the blessed Lord, having gone through the temptation of Satan, and the trials to which we are subject while walking through the wilderness, can sympathize with us now in them; “and in that He Himself hath suffered, being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted.” Suppose, you are led by the Spirit of God into a certain path, and Satan tempts you to give up that path on account of difficulties, &c., the Lord can sympathize with you, as He has been tempted here as man, and will succor as well as sympathize with you in the temptation. We have also access to the throne of God Himself, because “we have such an High Priest.” (Heb. 4:14-1614Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15For 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. 16Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14‑16)) We do not go to the priest, but to the throne, and find it a throne of grace; and obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. What a wondrous place to get help from, the very throne of God Himself.
There is another thing connected with the priesthood of the Lord, and that is the place He occupies in our worship. Will you compare Ex. 28:3838And it shall be upon Aaron's forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord. (Exodus 28:38) with Heb. 13:1515By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. (Hebrews 13:15)? Aaron bears the iniquity of the holy things. The Christian sacrifice is praise and worship. When we come together to worship as Christians we truly are made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Still we have sin in us; and how often are there imperfections and Sin mixed with our worship. But how blessed to know it all goes up to God by Him; i.e. He presents our praise to God in all the fragrance and acceptability of His own person. It is not as it goes out of our lips. It may be only a few stammering sentences, but said with a true heart, which Christ takes up and presents to God. Thus a simple soul, thanking God for what He has done in blessing Him, is a sacrifice of praise, and that goes up to God by Him. When we get home there will be no need of a priest, as the wilderness journey will be over, and every son brought to glory and to that eternal rest that remains for the people of God. May the Spirit of God, dear reader, lead you to consider the High Priest of our profession in all His glory, and to praise His grace that has loved us and given Himself for us, and is unceasingly occupied with us now in leading us through the wilderness, and ever faithfully representing us before God, and living to make intercession for us, till each one is brought to glory, and He will see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied.
F. K.