Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Devotion 7. Jesus As Priest

We have looked at one of the three offices of Christ so far, that of prophet. Today we will look at the office of priest. For you Latin lovers, these three offices are the Munus Triplex.

The type that foreshadowed Christ’s priestly office occurs in one story with a strange ending. The story is told in Genesis 14. After Lot and Abraham parted ways, Lot moved into Sodom. Sodom and several other city states revolted against Elam. The king of Elam, Chedorlaomer, and his allies, came and fought against the rebel states and defeated them. Chedorlaomer’s armies took all of the possessions of the rebel armies and went home. He also took Lot and his possessions. When Abraham found out, he took his army and went after them. He defeated them and retrieved his nephew, Lot. Now comes the strange ending.

Abraham returned and met the king of Sodom in the King’s Valley. Someone else showed up, though. It was the king of Salem, Melchizedek. The writer parenthetically inserted into Genesis 14:18 that Melchizedek was a priest of the Most High God. That is all we are told about him. Remember this was before the priesthood was established through Moses and Aaron. So, the mysterious man Melchizedek is not a pagan but worships God, as does Abraham. He brought bread and wine. Was this just supper? Or was it Communion? The text does not say. But Abraham acknowledges Melchizedek as the representative, the priest, of God by giving him a tithe of the spoils.

And Melchizedek does not show up again in Abraham’s life, at least as far as we are told. I read the story many times and thought it was mysterious, but did not attach any special meaning to it. Melchizedek is, however, mentioned in other passages. It turns out he is a type of Christ in his office as our great high priest. Hebrews 7:3 says “He (Melchizedek) is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.”

The first place we see this is Psalm 110, a Messianic Psalm. The first 3 verses of the Psalm deal with Christ as King, sitting at the Father’s right hand (implying a throne), wielding a scepter and ruling his enemies. Peter applied this passage to Jesus in his sermon at Pentecost (Acts 2:35).

But verse four deals with Christ as priest. It says: The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, you are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. This tells us the Messiah will be a priest, or will have priestly functions, but not as a priest in the Aaronic priesthood. He could not be, of course, because he will not be from the tribe of Levi and the family of Aaron, but the tribe of Judah and the family of David.

The letter to the Hebrews deals with Christ’s priesthood and its superiority to the Aaronic priesthood. We cannot discuss the whole book in this little devotion. But here are some things it tells us.

He is our great high priest (Heb. 4:14). He was appointed as such by the Father (Heb. 5:5-6). The Father appointed his as a high priest after the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 5:10).

A high priest was chosen to act on behalf of God’s people to offer sacrifices for sin (Heb. 5:1).Christ functioned as a priest by bringing a sacrifice for sins. In the old covenant, the priest offered animals continually as a sacrifice for the sins of Israel. Christ offered himself, his blood, once for all time, obtaining eternal redemption for us (Hebrews 9:11-15). He was both the priest and the sacrifice. He was the mediator of the new covenant. This new covenant includes eternal salvation. God will not remember our sins anymore (Heb. 10:17).

The Westminster Shorter Catechism (yes, I know it is weird for a Baptist to quote a Cathechism) states it this way in Question 25:

Q: How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?
A: Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice,1 and reconcile us to God;2 and in making continual intercession for us.3

As our high priest, Jesus also stays at the right hand continually interceding for us (Heb. 7:25; 1 John 2:1-2). We actually have an example of that while Jesus was on earth. John 17 records Jesus praying for his disciples, both those with him at the time and those who would follow them. He prayed for our sanctification (John 17:17). This chapter is often called the “High Priestly Prayer” because of this. Since Jesus lives to intercede for us with the Father, we may, in Him, come to the Father in fellowship and prayer (Heb. 4:16).

Because of what Christ has done, we have assurance of our faith (Heb. 10:22). We do not have to doubt. We do not have to wonder if we have been good enough. No one can snatch us from his hand (John 10:28-29). Nothing can separate us from his love (Rom 8:37-39).

So, we must hold fast to the confession of our hope and faith without wavering (Heb. 4:14, 10:23). Christmas is a great time to make our confession known. While people put up manger scenes and buy gifts, we may confess Christ and our faith in him. Not just Jesus the baby in the manger, but Jesus our high priest, who saves us and preserves for eternity.
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