A Great High Priest
James Smith, 1860
"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need!" Hebrews 4:14-16
"Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them!" Hebrews 7:25
That man as fallen, and consequently guilty, and impure, needs someone to officiate for him with God, is plain and evident. And this need of the sinner is provided for by God himself, who has appointed his only-begotten and well-beloved Son, to be our priest. He acted for us once on earth--and he is now in office for us in Heaven.
On this ground, the apostle exhorts us to come to God with confidence and boldness, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help us in time of need. We have one priest, and only one. We need no more. We can admit no more. "We have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God." Let us direct our thoughts to this great high priest for a few moments. He is called so,
ON ACCOUNT OF THE DIGNITY OF HIS PERSON. He is the Son of God. As such, he is all that God is, possessing the same nature, attributes, and perfections. He claims full equality with God, being naturally, eternally, and essentially divine.
He is also all that man is, for he is as really the Son of man, as he is the Son of God. He can therefore sympathize with us, come down to our level, and act for us. As his divine nature exactly resembles the Father's, so his human nature exactly resembles ours, sin only excepted. There is no essential difference between him and us. He took the children's flesh and blood, and he became flesh of our flesh, and bone of our bone.
He has a soul with all its powers passions, and attributes, exactly like ours; and he has a body with all its members, senses, and parts, exactly like ours. The body was prepared for him, and in its preparation, care was taken to preserve it from all that was sinful or faulty. And his soul which inhabited that body, was not tainted with Adam's sin, or implicated in Adam's transgression.
He is God and man in on person. The two natures constitute but one person. He is man, and yet God; God, and yet man; the God-man. In him the infinite and the finite; the created, and the uncreated; the eternal, and the offspring of time are united. He is God's own Son in office for men, or the great high priest of our profession--he is called so also,
ON ACCOUNT OF THE NATURE OF HIS WORK. His work was to atone for sin, and so to atone for it, as to blot it out of God's book. Or to give such for the injury sustained by sin, that both law and justice should concur in the justification of every sinner who believes in him. He had also to reconcile the sinner to God. Having put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, he becomes the meeting-place for God and the sinner, where they can meet, speak, and be friends forever.
In Jesus, God is love. In Jesus, God invites the sinner to meet him, promising not to lay one sin to his charge, or to impute one of his trespasses unto him. We are reconciled to God by the death of his Son.
His work was to justify the reconciled sinner. And this he does, by making over to him his own perfect obedience to the law, authorizing him to appear before God in his name, and undertaking to refute every charge that may be brought against him. So that by him all who believe, are justified from all things--for unto such God imputes righteousness without works, even the righteousness of his own Son, called the gift of righteousness."
He had also to procure, and secure, all spiritual blessings. God had promised them--but only on the ground of the work of Jesus. God had gifted them to us--but they could only come into our possession, through the priestly work of Jesus--which work opened the channel in which they were to flow, and removed every impediment and obstruction out of the way.
He had also to intercede for the people to prevent any penal evil happening to them. Being justified by his blood, and reconciled by his death, we shall be saved by his life--his life of intercession. For having died for our sins, and having risen for our justification, he ever lives to make intercession for us. If therefore we fall, or are betrayed into sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins.
His work was to obtain eternal redemption, or by paying a sufficient price, and exerting his legitimate authority and power, to secure the emancipation of both soul and body, from all the effects and penal consequences of sin. The ransom price he paid when he shed his blood, that blood he has carried into the presence of his Father, his blood in the presence of God ever speaks and pleads on our behalf, and the pleading of that blood secures for us the adoption, that is, the redemption of the body from the grave.
The work of our great high priest now is, to render our persons, prayers, and services acceptable to God. Every prayer which ascends from us to God, passes through his hands, who cleanses, arranges, and perfumes it, and then presents it to his Father. As believers therefore, we should look upon our great high priest, as having . . .
put away our sins from before God,
reconciled our persons to God,
justified us fully and freely at the tribunal of God,
procured for us all spiritual and eternal blessings;
and as now interceding for us,
to prevent any penal evils falling on us,
as securing our eternal redemption, and
rendering our poor imperfect prayers, praises, and services, acceptable and pleasant to our God and Father. Is he not then a great high priest? But he is called so also,
ON ACCOUNT OF THE EMINENCE OF HIS ENDOWMENTS. He is perfectly holy, His divine nature is infinitely holy, and his human nature is perfectly holy--so that in his person he is the fullness, center, source, and mirror of holiness. He has a perfection of grace, and of the graces. He is full of grace, and all the graces of the Spirit dwell in him fully and perfectly--for he was anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows.
In him faith, hope, love, meekness, patience, fortitude, humility--every grace and every virtue dwelt, and shone forth in his life and labors.
He has authority to represent the sinner. As an independent being, he had a right to engage to do so, and in the arrangements of the everlasting covenant, he received the commission, and so became the substitute of his people, and the surety of the better covenant.
He had ability to give satisfaction. Being above the law, he was not bound to obey the law for himself--he was therefore brought under the law by being circumcised, that he might obey the law for others. Being a perfect man, he could perfectly keep the law; but being God as well as man--his divinity gave a worth and value to everything he did and suffered, so that the lawgiver was more honored by his obedience, though but one, than he would have been had every person obeyed the precepts, or had all suffered the penalty of the law. Nay, the Father was more honored by the obedience of his Son, than he had been dishonored by the disobedience of his creatures. He could give satisfaction, and he did give full, perfect, and eternal satisfaction to God, for all the sins, of all his people.
He had tenderness to sympathize with sinners. His heart is exquisitely sensitive and tender. He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax. He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He can therefore have compassion on the ignorant, and on those who are out of the way. He is full of compassion, and plenteous in mercy. He could . . .
weep with sufferers,
sigh with mourners, and
condescend to men of low estate.
He had firmness to accomplish his work, and effect his purpose. The prophet said, "He shall not fail nor be discouraged." He himself said, "I have set my face like a flint." As God's servant, he was blind to difficulties, and deaf to discouragements. He turned not aside for any. He was in one mind, and none could turn him, so that when the hour of his agony was at hand, "he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem". And in the garden, he went forth to meet the officers sent to take him, asking, "Whom do you seek?" And when they said, "Jesus of Nazareth," he answered, "I am he."
He met his Father in Gethsemane, and though nature could scarcely bear up under the agony, he took the cup and drank its bitter contents. He met his foes, and endured all they could inflict; he met death, and endured it in its most painful, shameful, and cursed form; nor did he flinch or turn aside, until he could say, "It is finished!"--and then he bowed his head and died.
Jesus was perfectly holy, he had a fullness of grace, and a perfection of graces . . .
he had authority to represent sinners,
he had ability to give satisfaction for sin,
he had tenderness to sympathize with sinners, and
he had firmness to accomplish his work, and effect his purpose--may he not then well be called, "A great High Priest?"
Jesus, the Son of God, is a priest for us. For us he assumed the office, for us he performed his work, and for us he ever lives in the presence of God. As Paul so sweetly says, he is "in the presence of God for us."
There he pleads for us.
There he procures blessings for us.
There he prepares our place.
As a priest, Jesus knows us, loves us, and acts for us.
Yes, he knows us personally, and know us perfectly. He knows us by name.
He loves us too. Loves us always. Loves us always alike. Loves us as his Father has loved him.
He acts for us too. All he can do, he does. All he can do, he will do. He has our names on his breast, our concerns on his shoulders, and he presents the blood for us continually. His atonement will procure for us, and secure to us all needed blessings. On that atonement we should depend. That atonement we should plead. On the ground of that atonement, and on the ground of that atonement alone, we should expect all the good things we ask of God.
With such a priest we should be confident and bold. Not standing as the publican on the threshold of the temple, afraid to enter--but only crying, "God be merciful to me a sinner." That was the right place, the posture, and the right prayer for him--but not for us. To us the apostle says, "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let 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."
O to have clear, correct, heart-affecting views of this GREAT HIGH PRIEST; that I may live happily, pray confidently, labor diligently, and die triumphantly! Amen.