Now the writer is going to describe the two key qualifications for a person to stand and function as a high priest before God.
The high priest must be able to sympathize with those he represents. Hebrews 5:2 points out that a high priest must be able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and those who are going astray. The high priest will not be harsh with the people he represents before God. He deals gently and kindly with them.
The reason why this is possible is that he himself is subject to the same sins. The high priest is one with the people in need of atonement and forgiveness. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary says this about the Day of Atonement and the words of the high priest:
And in the first century, as he laid his hands on the head of the animal, he would say, “O God, I have committed iniquity and transgressed and sinned before thee, I and my house and the children of Aaron, thy holy people. O God, forgive, I pray, the iniquities and transgressions and sins which I have committed and transgressed and sinned before thee, I and my house” (M Yoma 4:2).
“The high priest must be called by God.” No one decides to be a high priest. People do not choose who is to be the high priest. Only God can select who can be the high priest, just like Aaron was selected, Exodus 28:1-5. This point would likely have a sharp point against the current priesthood in Jerusalem.
At the time the Romans were appointing the high priests, making those priests illegitimate in God’s sight. So these are the two qualifications required to be a high priest before God.
1. He must be able to sympathize with those he represents and
2. He must be called by God.
The rest of this section describes how Jesus meets these qualifications. The writer takes the qualifications in reverse order. First, Jesus has been divinely appointed. He did not take up Himself the honour of being High Priest. To prove Jesus’ divine appointment, the writer uses two quotations from the Hebrew Scriptures.
The first quotation, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father” is from Psalm 2. The writer used this quotation previously in Hebrews 1:5.
Recall that we learned this psalm and this quotation is the royal enthronement of a king. In Psalm 2:6 we read that God has installed His king on Zion and He will rule with a rod of iron, Psalm 2:9. So the same one (God) who declared Jesus to be the King also declared Jesus to be Priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.
This quotation comes from Psalm 110. This psalm also pictures the royal enthronement of Jesus as King. The first verse of Psalm 110 is quoted in Matthew 22:44 and was also used by the writer of Hebrews in 1:13.
Remember that these were arguments to prove that Jesus is the superior Son who is greater than the angels, seated on the throne. In speaking about this enthroned king, the Lord also said, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
Jesus’ calling to the high priesthood is special because He functions as Priest forever. His priesthood is also unique because He is not called after the order of Aaron. Rather, Jesus is called after the order of Melchizedek.
We will not dig into the details of these points here because the author will later address these points. So we will leave these points with it suffice to say that Jesus was divinely called to His priesthood just like His kingship. Therefore Jesus can function as King and as High Priest.
The second qualification Jesus must meet is to be able to sympathize with those He represents. In Hebrews 5:7 the writer takes us to the earthly life of Jesus and reminds us of what He endured. While the writer may be thinking of the whole of Jesus’ life, it seems that he is more likely pinpointing the Gethsemane prayers, Matthew 26:36-42, and the cross, Luke 23:34 / Luke 23:43 / John 19:26-27 / Matthew 27:46 / John 19:28 / John 19:30 / Luke 23:46.
Jesus was praying and making appeals to the Father with loud cries and tears in Gethsemane just before His arrest and while on the cross. Notice that Jesus’ prayers and appeals were heard, but He still suffered. This qualifies Jesus all the more because He heard the answer “no” to His petitions.
Jesus was heard because of His reverent submission to the Father. This seems to stand in contrast to the nation of Israel described in chapter 3 who were filled with unbelief and disobedience and missed the promised rest. Jesus walked in complete submission to God and we are expected to travel the same path.
“Although He was a Son, he still suffered”. His position of privilege did not interfere with Him being our High Priest because He suffered despite His Son-ship. The experience of suffering made Jesus ready to act as our High Priest because He is able to sympathize with us.
The writer ends his thought on the concept of obedience. Jesus learned obedience through what He suffered. His obedience to the will of the Father made Him the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him. The obedience of the Redeemer made salvation available to the obedient redeemed.
1. We have a great High Priest who gives us access to the Father, who we can approach with confidence for help.
2. Jesus is unlike any other high priest because He was sinless. But this does not mean that He does not understand our difficulties because He also suffered.
3. Be obedient through suffering just as Jesus was obedient through His sufferings.
The writer shows that Jesus is unique in this office, in fulfilment of God’s divine plan of redemption.
Hebrews 5:1-10. He reminds the Christians of the duties of the High Priest under the Old Covenant:
1. He had to be appointed by God.
2. He must mediate between God and man.
3. He must offer sacrifices and gifts for sins.
4. He must deal gently with the ignorant and the wayward.
He then shows that Jesus met these qualifications and fulfils the duties.
He was appointed by God. Psalm 2:7. Psalm 110:4 / Psalm 110:7. Melchizedec, Genesis 13:18. He is mentioned 8 times. Hebrews 5-7.
He mediates between God and Man, Hebrews 9:24. He offered the ultimate sacrifice, His own life, Hebrews 9:26.
He deals gently with all who come to Him, but unlike the Aaronic high priests, He combines in Himself the offices of both King and High Priest.
Because of His sufferings, He learnt obedience, even though He was God’s Son and because of this, He was made perfect (complete). And so He made salvation possible for all who believe.
1. He was appointed High Priest
2. “In things pertaining to God.” It is a divine service that must not be taken lightly.
3. “To offer gifts,” (from Man to God), is the right approach.
4. “To offer sacrifices,” (for Man to God), the reason for the approach.
Sympathy means to “bear gently with, metriopatheo” to be moderately affected by the errors, faults, sins of others, and to bear with them gently, Acts 17:30ff / Mark 6:34.
When you meet people in this condition, bearing with them is a genuine sign of interest and self-control. But notice that the High Priest did not intercede for the willfully sinful, so long as they were willfully disobedient.
The impulsive reaction would be to turn away in disgust and self-righteous indignation. “Bear with, have compassion on, feel gently, metriopathein” is really one of those untranslatable Greek words.
The Greeks always defined virtue as the means between two extremes. On either hand there was an extreme into which one could fall, in between was the right thing and the right way. Virtue to the Greeks was a balance, a means, the right point between two extremes.
He defined metriopatheia (the corresponding noun) as the meaning, between extravagant grief and utter indifference. It meant to feel about people the right way.
Wm. McGregor defined it as ‘the mid-course between explosions of anger and lazy indulgence’.
Plutarch speaks of it as “that patience which is the child of me triopatheia”. He spoke of it as “that sympathetic feeling which enabled a man to raise up and to save, and to spare and to hear”.
Another Greek was blamed for having “no metriopatheia”, and therefore “refusing to be reconciled” with someone who had differed from him.
It is a wonderful word. It means the ability to bear with people without getting irritated or annoyed. It means the ability to keep one’s temper with people when they are foolish when they will not learn, when they do the same foolish or wrong thing over and over again, and when they seem to be senselessly blind.
It describes the attitude towards others which does not issue in anger at the fault and which does not condone the fault, but which spends itself in a gentle but powerful sympathy, which by its very patience moulds a man back on to the right way.
It is an attitude that never regards a man as a lost fool, but often sees in him a contrary child of God, who somehow gently must be led back onto the right way.
Notice with whom he is able to be gentle. With the immature, ignorant, those who don’t know, Acts 17:30ff / Mark 6:34.
God’s demand requires an offering for sins. Opheiloo means “to owe money, be in debt for, to be under obligation bound by duty or necessity to do something”.
The Jewish high priest must first offer for himself and then for the people because the high priest, like the people, was a sinner. Leviticus 4:1-3 / Leviticus 9:7 / Leviticus 16:1-3 / Leviticus 16:5-7 / Leviticus 16:11 / Leviticus 16:15.
Our Lord was sinless, 1 Peter 2:21ff but bore our sins, 1 Peter 2:24 / 2 Corinthians 5:21 / Isaiah 53:3-6.
No man takes the honour for himself but must be called by God. E.g. Aaron Exodus 28:1 / Numbers 16, “My son”. The Christ’s special calling. Luke 1:5 / Like 1:34. The Lord Jesus, also, was appointed High Priest by God Himself.
And His appointment was to an office far higher and far more important than that of the Aaronic high priest.
The word priest is kohen, one who stands for and mediates for another, one who offers sacrifices. Used 725 times in the Old Testament and 29 times in the New Testament, the word carries the idea of one who acts as a bridge to link two parties, i.e. God and man.
In “Hebrews” the word priest is used 12 times. High priest 16 times. The priesthood is used 5 times. Before the Law of Moses, the father of each family acted as a priest. Job, in Job 1:5, offered sacrifices on behalf of his family.
Melchizedek is mentioned in Scripture only 5 times, therefore we know very little about him. The first appearance of him is found in the days of Abraham, Genesis 14:13-20. 1000 years later we read about him in Psalm 110:4. We wait another 1000 years before he appears in the New Testament. Hebrews 5:5-10 / Hebrews 6:20 / Hebrews 7:1-25.
He was both High Priest, and King of Salem, who met Abram and blessed him and subsequently his priestly ancestors the Levites. He has no genealogy or known history, yet was greater than Aaron because, in blessing Abram, who was the ancestor of Aaron, Melchizedek blessed the future Jewish High Priest.
Melchizedek was the only man to combine himself offices of High priest and King. Could this have been a Christophony?
Hebrews 5, therefore, refutes the charge that the Hebrew Christians did not have a High Priest and asserts that they have a very special High Priest, not like Aaron, but superior to Aaron, after the style of Melchizedek.
Notice how the writer opens his argument in Hebrews 4:14, “Since we have a great High Priest” and how he finishes it in Hebrews 10:21, “Since we have a great High Priest.”
There was a sect in the 3rd century which believed that Melchizedek was a Christophony. Other views expressed about him, ranged from the belief that he was an angel, to the denial of his having existed! Some theologians even thought that he was actually Shem, who lived long enough after the flood to see Abraham.
In more detail, what was so remarkable about this man? And what is his connection with the Lord Jesus? The argument here is that Jesus is a greater High Priest than Aaron because His priesthood is after the order of Melchizedek.
The first reference to Melchizedek is found in Genesis 14:18, where we read of his meeting with Abraham. This means that in this man were combined the offices of Priest and King, a fact which is of profound significance, as I hope we shall see.
Notice, also, that this is the first time the word ‘priest’ ‘icohen’, occurs in the Old Testament Scriptures. When the New Testament Scriptures describe Melchizedec as a priest, the word used is ‘heireus’, which means ‘one who is holy and set apart for the service of God’.
His name, ‘Malkiy Tsedeq’ means ‘king of right’ or ‘righteous king’, whilst the name of the city over which he reigned, ‘Salem’, is a form of ‘shalom’, which I think most people know, means ‘Peace’.
In later times this became the name of several towns or cities in Palestine, but it is interesting to notice that Salem is mentioned in the Tel-el-Amarna, tablets, which date back to before 1400 BC, and, even before the time of Abraham, the city was known by that name.
Centuries later, in the days of Joshua, it was the city of the Jebusites that the Israelites were unable to capture, Joshua 15:63, and it is probably because it was occupied and held by the Jebusites as their stronghold until it was captured by King David several centuries later, 2 Samuel 5:9, that the city of Salem had acquired the name ‘Salem of the Jebusites’ or ‘Jebu-Salem’, which eventually became ‘Jerusalem’.
Certainly, the identification of ‘Salem’ with ‘Jeru-salem’ is established quite clearly in Psalm 76:2, “In Judah God is known, his name is great in Israel His abode has been established in Salem. His dwelling place in Zion.”
Josephus, the Jewish historian, who lived in the 1st century AD, stated, “The first founder of Jerusalem was a chief of the Canaanites, who, in our tongue is called ‘Righteous King.’”
And so, Melchizedek was King and Priest in the City which was later to become ‘The City of David.’ 2 Samuel 5:6-9 records how David captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites.
The fact that Melchizedek was both King and Priest surely reveals what a remarkable person he must have been. In an age of polytheism, here was a Canaanite king who knew the One True God, ‘God Most High’ or ‘the supreme God’, and who served Him as a priest. In Psalm 7:17 God is described as ‘Yahweh, the most high.’
The name, Melchizedek means “King of Righteousness”. He is also referred to as “King of Peace”, that is, “King of Salem”. Here we have the name of his city, Jerusalem. We have his Name, Righteous king. We have his Office, priest of the Most High God.
In an age when men followed many gods, Melchizedek worshipped the one true God. And Abraham paid tithes to him, and so recognising him as the priest of the God Who called him from Ur.
1. He offered a tithe to Melchizedek. Later, according to the Mosaic Law, the people were required to recognize the position of the Priesthood by giving a tithe. Numbers 18:24.
Here, Abraham, the federal head of the Hebrew people and the Father of the nation, gave a tithe, not merely for himself, but all his descendants, and this included the entire priestly tribe of Levi and Aaron, its first High Priest.
2. Abraham accepted bread and wine from Melchizedek.
3. And received a blessing from Melchizedec. This blessing of Abraham by Melchizedek is something that the Scriptures stress as very significant, pointing out that, ‘the lesser is blessed by the greater’. Hebrews 7:7.
Or, as the R.S.V. renders the verse, ‘the inferior is blessed by the superior.’ No wonder the inspired writer of the letter to the Hebrews exclaims, “See how great he is!” Hebrews 7:4.
The uniqueness of Melchizedek’s priesthood is stressed in Hebrews 7:3, where we find the statements, which create difficulty. It will help if, when we read this verse, we bear in mind that the writer is setting out the similarity between Melchizedek and the Lord Jesus, in order to show why Jesus is a Priest ‘after the order (‘taxin’, meaning style or fashion) of Melchizedek.’
The uniqueness of the man’s priesthood is stressed by Hebrews 7:3.
“Without father or mother or genealogy” does not mean that Melchizedek came into existence miraculously, without parents! This simply means that Melchizedek had no priestly ancestry.
To qualify to be an Aaronic priest a search had to be made into the ancestry of the individual, to see if he had the correct ancestry. Melchizedek did not have ancestors in the Aaronic line and could not have because he existed 400 years earlier than Aaron. We know nothing about his ancestry because there is no record.
This reveals the difference between his priesthood and that of the sons of Aaron who came along later, when proof of ancestry was essential before a man should become a Levitical priest, and when the credentials of a priest had to be established beyond doubt.
After the return from the Babylonian captivity certain men wished to serve in the temple, but were excluded from the priesthood because their names could not be found among, ‘those enrolled in the genealogies, so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean’ Nehemiah 7:64.
In any case, Melchizedek could not possibly serve as a Levitical priest, because, as verse 10 points out, Aaron had not yet been born! The Aaronic priesthood was established four centuries after the time of Melchizedek!
Similarly, the writer points out that on Earth, Jesus could not have become a priest because, “It is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah, concerning which tribe Moses said nothing about the priesthood.” Hebrews 7:14.
This underlines the fact that only after He returned to Heaven and sat down at the right hand of the Father, did Jesus become a Priest, and so, our Mediator. It also exposes the mistake of describing the Lord’s Prayer in John 17, as “the High priestly prayer”.
“Beginning of days or end of life.” This does not refer to physical life. It means that He did not commence His priestly ministry at a given time, nor did he end at a given time. He functioned as a priest as long as he lived.
Normally, the Levitical priests entered their service when they were 25 years old and were “retired” at 50 years old. Not so with Melchizedek. Like Jesus he was a priest forever, or as long as he lived.
When we are told that he had ‘neither beginning of days nor end of life’, it would be foolish to suppose this means that Melchizedek was not born and did not die! This refers to the length of his service as a priest.
It means that, unlike the sons of Aaron who became priests, Melchizedek did not succeed anyone in his priestly office, nor was he himself succeeded in it by anyone. His priesthood was unique. As verse 3 states, he, ‘remains a priest forever’.
This draws our attention to the fact that, unlike the Aaronic priests, Melchizedek did not commence his ministry at a set age, nor was he compelled to retire at a set age. He had an ‘abiding’, that is, a continuing priesthood.
Under the Law of Moses, a descendant of Aaron became an apprentice at 25 years of age, carrying the tabernacle and performing similar menial tasks, and he became a full priest at 30 years of age.
God’s law governing the priesthood was extremely benevolent and was considerate of the heavy work involved in the priesthood. That law stated that a priest must retire from service upon reaching the age of 50, although, if he wished and was able, he might continue to serve in a voluntary capacity, Numbers 8:23-26.
There was no set time for his priestly ministry either to begin or to end so that in this his service was altogether unique.
“Abraham gave him tithes”. The argument is that because Abraham gave him tithes, and Aaron was not yet born, Aaron, through Abraham, gave tithes to Melchizedek, and so recognising his superiority. And so Jesus is better than Aaron. As the writer states, the lesser pay tithes to the greater. Hebrews 7:7.
Melchizedek was the first to fill the offices of King and Priest at the same time. Jesus was to be the last to do this.
Taking all of these facts into consideration, we see the wonderful similarity between Melchizedek and the Lord Jesus.
1. Neither had priestly ancestry.
2. Neither served for a set period of time.
3. Neither had successors in his particular ministry.
4. And in both, the offices of King and Priest were combined.
Whilst Melchizedek was said to be king of Salem and priest of God Most High, concerning the Christ it had been prophesied, “He shall be a priest upon his throne!” Zechariah 6:13
Bear in mind that this was a prophecy that could not be fulfilled during His earthly ministry, since whilst on earth He could not have been a priest according to the Law of Moses under which He lived as a Jew. But, having ascended to heaven, He now reigns and mediates as King and Priest.
In the entire history of God’s ancient people, no one was allowed to serve as both king and priest at the same time. On the three-recorded occasions when kings intruded into the priestly function, the consequences were catastrophic.
1. King Saul presumed to offer a sacrifice and lost his throne as a punishment. l Samuel 13.
2. King Jeroboam dressed himself as a priest and served at an altar to a god of his own making, and the punishment which followed resulted in the destruction of the entire House of Jeroboam. l Kings 13.
3. King Uzziah entered the Temple and began to offer incense, and was struck with leprosy. 2 Chronicles 26.
Down through the ages from the time of the unique Melchizedek, God held the offices of King and Priest apart until He should come of whom Melchizedek had been a type.
We see the importance, then, of the opening statement in Hebrews 4:14 “Since we HAVE a great High Priest” and notice how he concludes this discussion in Hebrews 10:21 with identical words.
God declared that he intended that His own Son should combine in Himself, the function of Kingship and Priesthood, when in Psalm 110:4, He said, “You are a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek”.
In Hebrews 5:1 the high priest is chosen from the people. He is for the people. He is of the people.
Hebrews 5:2 the ordinary high priest was beset with weaknesses that Jesus did not have.
Hebrews 5:3 The high priest needed to offer a sacrifice for his own sins, which Jesus did not need to do since He was sinless.
Similarities between Jesus and the Aaronic high priest:
1. Both are from the people.
2. Both were appointed by God.
Reasons are given in Hebrews 4:14, for Christ’s priesthood is superior to Aarons.
1. He is the Son of God.
2. He has passed through the heavens.
3. Offered a better sacrifice.
4. He has an abiding priesthood.
5. He was installed “with an oath”.
It is often overlooked that although the first Levitical high priest, Aaron, was installed in office with a solemn oath, those who followed came to office without an oath, the initial oath was regarded as valid for the entire High Priestly dynasty. Hebrews 7:21.
Only if there had been a new priestly family would there have been an installation with an oath. God swore by Himself the oath that declared Jesus a priest after the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 7:21. See also Hebrews 7:24.
Hebrews 4:15. If Jesus was such a Great High Priest it may have been feared that He would be so holy, and “set apart”, that He would be unapproachable or inaccessible by simple sinners like us. Not so.
Jesus is a great High Priest because He is truly accessible. Not only may we approach Him with our weaknesses but He understands and sympathizes. “Sympathise, sumpatheo,” to suffer with. Literally “with pain”.
How do we know He is able to sympathise? The writer explains that He has been tempted in every way we have, yet without sin. In all things, not just some things.
What bearing does this have on His priesthood? The ordinary high priest offered a sacrifice, firstly for his own sins and then for the sins of the people.
Seen in His petitions, heard His godly fear, ‘eulabeia’, reverence, veneration, piety.
1. Christ’s humanity was nowhere more vividly portrayed than in the dark hour before the cross.
2. He is the person we would want on our side, to approach God on our behalf.
3. And we know that God heard His prayers.
4. Prayer, ‘deesis’, need, entreaty requests addressed by men to God. Strong crying, the deep outpouring of a heart towards God.
5. Cry, ‘krauge’, a cry which is involuntarily uttered under the stress and agony of some tremendous tension or strain or searing pain.
The writer to the Hebrews is saying that there is no agony of the human spirit through which Jesus has not come.
The Rabbis had a saying “There are three types of prayer, each loftier than the other. Prayer, crying and tears.”
a. Prayer is made in silence.
b. Crying with a raised voice.
c. But tears overcome all things. There is no door through which tears do not pass.
Jesus knew even the desperate prayer of tears.
The fact that He was Son did not alter this requirement. It is not that He was once disobedient and became obedient, but that He was always obedient.
a. “Though” indicates that the high dignity or position of Jesus yet that high position did not stop Him from carrying out the humiliation which our salvation cost Him.
b. “Yet” is a note of exclamation, to deepen our sense of wonder at His lowering Himself for us, and in His position of servanthood, He did not cease to be the Lord of Glory.
He was no less God when he died than when he was declared to be the Son of God with power through the resurrection, Romans 1:4.
He learned obedience, the humbling position He assumed in the flesh meant that in His obedience He stripped off many of His attributes of God, and became man. As such, He had to learn and understand what it meant to learn something. John 5:19-23 / John 5:30 / Luke 2:52.
By the things which He suffered, the course of learning came at the school of suffering, Psalm 119:67 / Psalm 119:71 / Isaiah 53. His entire course was one of suffering, and He had the experience of obedience in it all. He could have called a legion of angels to His aid at any time yet He endured for our sakes. Matthew 26:53.
Every experience of life enabled Him to demonstrate the graces of meekness and humility, Matthew 11:29, self-denial, Romans 15:3. Patience, Revelation 1:9, faith, Hebrews 2:13, the greater the experience of suffering the greater the ability to express the real character. Isaiah 50:6+7.
Not suffering, passively endured because He had to, but suffering because that was the way to identify with man and achieve man’s salvation. He who was above all obedience, stooped so low as to enter the place of obedience.
a. Our redeemer has left us an example that we should follow in His steps. He has shown us how to wear our creature nature, complete unquestioning subjection to God is that which is required of us.
b. Christ has taught us the extent to which God ought to be submitted to “obedient unto death.”
c. Obedience to God costs something, “all that will live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution”. 2 Timothy 3:12
d. Suffering undergone in the service of God is instructive to us if accepted with the right attitude. Romans 5:1-6. Christ himself ‘learned’ by the things He suffered, so we should learn much more because we have so much more to learn.
e. God’s love for us does not exempt us from suffering, Jesus the son of His love was not spared great sorrows and trials.
Hebrews 5:9. Seen in His perfection as a propitiation “been made perfect”, ‘teleio’, to carry through completely, to complete, perfect i.e. add what is yet wanting in order to render a thing full. Hebrews 2:10 / Hebrews 7:19. Seen in His power to all who obey Him, He became the author of eternal life.
a. Conditional. Although He has the power to save all men for eternity, the conditional qualification is that we obey Him because we want to share our eternity with Him.
b. Obey, ‘hupakouoo’, to listen to a command, to be obedient to, to submit to, Ephesians 6:1 / Ephesians 6:5 / Colossians 3:20-22 / 1 Peter 3:16. To allow oneself to be captivated by, governed by. Romans 6:12.
c. The condition is that we hear His commands until we are captivated by them.
Hence, one who only “half hears” or one who does not bother to study for himself and so ends up saying “I don’t understand” may be more correct than he understands, as far as salvation is concerned. It does take love for His commandments to keep them.
Hebrews 5:10 seen in His promotion Named of God a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, see Hebrews 5:6 and chapter 7.) Jesus’ perfection in the flesh qualified Him to be promoted by the Father as David declared in Psalm 2:7 / Pslam 110:4.
a. This assures us that our prayers and petitions will get to God the Father. Hebrews 4:14-16.
b. The Hebrew writer understands that some of those reading the letter will be unable to understand his argument right away, for some it will take time to sink in as to what he is saying, but he does not apologise for his approach to the argument rather he reminds them of the basic problem, which relates to their response to Jesus the Redeemer. John 7:17.
c. With the repeated reference to Psalm 110:4, in v.10 the logical sequence of the author’s argument would have led him to expound on the significance of Christ’s being a priest “after the order of Melchizedek”. And He does this in Hebrews 7:1.
The writer wants to discuss at greater lengths about Jesus functioning as our High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. However, he says that while there is much to say about this, there is a problem.
The audience is going to have a difficult time understanding, not because the subject matter is too hard, but because they are ‘dull of hearing’.
The word “dull” carries with it the idea of being “slow” and “slothful.” The problem the author is pointing out to his audience is that they have become spiritually lazy.
The author says that they could dig into deeper things, but the readers have not prepared themselves to go deeper. They are shallow Christians.
The author goes further declaring that they ‘ought to be teachers’, but they still need to be taught the basics. The idea is that they still needed to be taught the ABCs of God’s word. I think we need to pause here for a moment. The goal of every Christian is to be a teacher.
This does not mean that everyone must teach a Bible class at the building. But it does mean that each of us should be able to explain the basic principles of the oracles of God to people. We may not have a handle on the more difficult concepts and teachings in the Scriptures, but every person ought to be able to teach the basic principles. If not, the writer says we have been spiritually lazy toward God’s word.
He drives home the point further by describing them as ‘little babies who need milk and cannot handle solid food’. There is nothing wrong with an infant who is drinking milk. But those who are parents know that this stage does not last long, as real foods begin to be introduced into the diet.
There is something wrong with a child that does not want to eat delicious solid food but still wants to eat baby jar pureed carrots. We would tell our children that they are too old for such food. Baby food was suitable for an infant, but not for a toddler or pre-schooler. This is the point being made to these Hebrew Christians.
‘You are still on milk’. Even worse, you need to be ‘taught again the basics’ and have not progressed forward. There was a time when what we were doing was acceptable. But that time has passed. The way we acted in the past must be ended. What was acceptable in infancy is no longer acceptable as a child grows and progresses. We cannot continue to do what we have always done previously.
The problem is not a lack of education, the problem is not a lack of intelligence. We may want to make these our excuses, but it is a lie. The problem is a lack of intensity. We do not want to learn. We do not want to put in the effort to learn. We just want to tune out to God’s word. Tuning out is an easy thing to do. We see it happen on a regular basis.
Many of us have been in a store or restaurant with a child that is just screaming his or her head off. The parents are not trying to quiet the child. They are tuning out the child. The child screams so much so often that they do not even notice any longer when the child breaks into a crying fit.
We can tune out the word of God. We are here but we are not growing. We are here but we are not changing. We are here but we are not becoming teachers. We are spiritually lazy. So we remain unskilled in the word of righteousness, choosing to remain as an infant.
In Hebrews 5:14 the writer tells us what needs to be done. He says that those who are on solid food are those who have ‘through constant practice trained their senses to distinguish good from evil’. Those who move forward are those who are constantly working and practising.
As to the position of High Priest. Christ had fulfilled that which was foreshadowed by the Levitical High Priest. Superior to Aaron. Not only that, He excelled them on every point. And so demonstrating without any shadow of a doubt that Christ was immeasurably Superior to the high priesthood of Aaron.
Superior to the Levitical High Priest in every way. Hebrews 5:1
1. Aaron was only a man. Hebrews 5:1. Christ was The Son.
2. Aaron offered regular and frequent sacrifices. Hebrews 5:1 Christ offered one perfect sacrifice, once for all (time). Hebrews 8:27 / Hebrews 9:28. (Notice His three appearances in Hebrews 9: 24 / Hebrews 9:26 / Hebrews 9:28.)
3. Aaron revealed human weakness. Hebrews 5:2. Christ was the Mighty One. Psalm 89:19.
4. Aaron needed to offer for his own sins. Hebrews 5:3. Hebrews 7:27, Christ was sinless.
5. Aaron offered an animal in sacrifice. Christ offered Himself.
6. Aaron achieved only a temporary salvation, Hebrews 10:3. Christ secured eternal salvation. Hebrews 10:10.
7. Aaronic atonement was for Israel only. Christ died for all and saves all who obey Him.
He now inserts this reminder of the problem his readers face, between Hebrews 5:10 and Hebrews 7:1, before he will take up the argument about Melchizedek and Christ again.
The insert deals with their sin which deals with the problem of falling away or neglecting their Christian duty to God. Hebrews 5:11-6:20.
Hebrews 5:11. Who is neglecting, who is failing? Hebrews 5:11-14.
a. Dullness of hearing. He now addresses some words of practical admonition to his reader’s spiritual condition.
b. He tells them, “You have become dull of hearing”, the term dull of hearing comes from the Hebrew ‘nothros’, ‘sluggish’, slow to grasp. Hebrews 6:12.
The conversation concerning Christ “of whom we have many things to say”. He says such a study is vital, John 6:63, 68 / John 12:48, is often valueless because of your attitude. John 5:39ff / John 16:12 / Matthew 16:21-23.
We see then, that between Hebrews 5:1 and Hebrews 6:20 the Hebrews writer declares the vast superiority of Christ over the old Priesthood.
He first introduces Melchizedek in Hebrews 5:6 to Hebrews 5:10, but breaks away from the subject, at Hebrews 5:11, in order to issue a serious warning about the danger of apostasy before taking it up again in Hebrews 7:1.
The insert dealing with the evident danger of their falling away runs from Hebrews 5:12-6:20. He warns them, “You have become dull of hearing”, “dull of hearing”.
The condition “hard of interpretation”, or, “hard to be understood” comes from ‘dusermeeneutos’ and means “difficult to explain”. It describes something which may seem difficult to understand until it is explained. And then we wonder why we did not understand it before!
So with “the Mystery of Christ”. He is a mystery to many, yet may be easily understood by a child! The cause “seeing you have become dull of hearing”, ‘ginomai’ means “to be changed into something different, to pass into a different state”.
The continuation of the problem, note Matthew 13:13-23, these words are needed in our day. Of the ones who enter the kingdom, approx. only 5% to 10% become teachers 2 Timothy 2:24, which leaves 90%-95% to become dull of hearing, read Matthew 25:24-30.
This is a sober warning given to people who hear and then develop no more than fear, legalism, and laziness concerning Christ’s eternal covenant!
Hebrews 5:12. What has happened? Delayed development! There is much to say about Melchizedek which is hard to explain, not because I don’t understand, but because you can’t understand it, because you have become dull of hearing. Because they have failed to grow they have not only lost the ability to teach but also to learn.
1. The potential. “They should by now be teaching others.”
a. It is possible. Matthew 28:19ff / Acts 8:4.
b. It is expected. 2 Timothy 2:2, 24-26.
They had not always been like this, they had deteriorated to this point. The problem was that they had not grown, developed matured in their faith!
There are many things to say about Melchizedek which were hard to explain, but they could not understand them, because they had become dull of hearing, not only had they failed to grow but, failing to grow, they had lost the ability to teach and to learn. They should by now be teaching others.
The procrastinator’s pattern is otherwise known as spiritual poliomyelitis.
“You have need again”, because of their attitude they need teaching. How many in Bible classes are like this? Sadly, so many who have been taught for years, and yet still cannot teach others.
“The first principles of God’s word”. The term “first principles”, ‘stoicheiou’, is a word that described the “first basic things or, as has been called, the A.B.C of Christianity.”
a. The A.B.C.s are elements of speech, the element from which all language comes, the primary, the fundamentals of any art science, or discipline.
b. They were still on milk, but should by now, have been on meat. The importance of this statement is the result of a man remaining on milk. If a child does not grow, that child will die. So with a Christian, there must be growth.
Why does the Christian life seem so difficult for some Christians? It is because they have remained ‘babes’ in Christ, no matter how long they have been members of the church. They have not progressed to desiring the ‘strong meat’ of the Word.
It is the same for a Christian, it is no good saying I will stop where I am because by doing that, you will lose the very thing you are hoping to keep. A person must grow.
The picture that comes to mind is a man weakly staggering down the road with a bottle of baby milk in one hand and hardly able to lift up his other hand which holds the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.
Why is Christianity so much pain to some Christians? Because they are back on the milk bottle and have spiritual ulcers, instead of spiritual understanding.
Milk, mouth to mouth resuscitation is vital here to keep this member from complete spiritual death.
“For everyone who partakes of milk is without experience in the word of righteousness,” ‘apeiros’, inexperienced, unskilled, ignorant.
Experience is the best teacher; Like; The road testing of a product before it is brought on the market.
The testing of tablets and pills in medicine before being made public. The athlete who trains every day to prepare himself for that one race for the title.
Paul took men with him on his trips to give them experience. Acts 16:1-3 / Acts 20:4 / 2 Timothy 2:2 and was saddened when one proved unreliable, Acts 15:38.
Hebrews 5:14 How does one become a full-grown man? ‘Teleios’, finished, wanting nothing necessary to completeness, adult, mature. The same word used in Philippians 3:15ff, the root of the word is “telios,” an end. Those who “use” their senses. ‘Exis’, is a habit, whether of mind or body, a power acquired by practice, custom or use.
“Senses” is ‘aistheteridn’, an organ of perception, mental faculty. Used in 1 Timothy 4:7 to describe one who strives earnestly, to become godly. He must stretch himself, as the author says, “For those who have their faculties trained”.
The word train comes from the Hebrew ‘lexis’, to grow muscles, it does not appear in the New Testament but we do have the Greek word ‘gumnazo’ from which we have our word “gymnasium,” a place of training and exercise, where one can grow muscles!
“Discerning good from evil.” Wholesome rather than corrupt doctrine. The implication is that the readers have things out of perspective, make false perceptions and come to false conclusions.
If one is spiritually mature and uses his mind, it will become second nature to assess things correctly and make the right decisions, rather than make hasty judgments. He will be able to avoid evil and be able to both see and promote the good in others.
So he is telling them to stop taking the easy way out, and do what the Lord wants them to. Every Christian must do their best for the Lord, to work at studying the Lord’s word, and more importantly, to put that word into practice, by teaching and showing others.