With His great and glorious work on earth completed, “He entered not into the temple made with hands which are the figures of the true, but into heaven itself now to appear in the presence of God for us.” The Epistle to the Hebrews deals fully with this wonderful sphere of His present priestly activities. He gave to us a glimpse of the nature of His heavenly ministry during the forty days He remained on earth, after which He ascended as the Firstfruits, Firstborn and Forerunner.
(a) The Priestly Administration - By virtue of the resurrection, the mediator of the covenant became the minister of the sanctuary. This again constitutes a function proper to true priestliness. Our approach and access are by virtue of the Covenant in which has been disclosed the disposition of God toward mankind. This we may say consists of the claims of righteousness finally met and the comfort of love fully manifest. When the disciples resorted to the tomb they saw two men clad in raiment of flaming purity who declared that Christ was risen. The resurrection was the positive proof of the divine satisfaction in His offering. No one was qualified to minister the blessings of the sanctuary save He Who fully understood the character of the covenant that had been ratified. Our great High Priest has been installed on our behalf to meet the needs of His people and to conduct us into the realization of heavenly things. He lives to serve because He loves and cares and longs to lead us into the privileges of this new relationship. All such administration has been committed to Him and He is now desirous of directing us into the knowledge of the will of God. The priestly service of prayer and praise now becomes the test of our devotion to God’s will and of our sympathetic loyalty to Christ’s love. We cannot claim either if we are prayerless. Christ’s death was a universal plea for mankind and His life in resurrection has been one of perpetual intercession. What is the use of claiming to have been made priests unto God if we are not discharging the function, by giving to prayer its essential and fundamental place? Why claim a perfect right to direct access if we do not approach God regularly and consistently?
(b) The Priestly Instruction - The memorable words of Malachi are applicable to Christ risen in a very real way, “For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge and they shall seek the law at his mouth for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.” (Mal. 2:7) The word messenger used in this verse is specifically Christ. (See Mal 3:1, where He is the Messenger of the Covenant.) His priestly knowledge enabled Him to begin at Moses and the prophets and to expound from all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself to the disappointed disciples. (Luke 24) This kindled a new passion of love in their hearts and stirred them to a deeper interest in His enterprises. He has not ceased to discharge His illuminating ministry, for He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Heb. 13:8)
The priestly work also included the finding of verdicts and issuing of sentences and passing of judgments. (Deut. 17:8-11) Note the four things therein stressed. When any breach of social fellowship came in, they were to resort to God and avail of the provision. (V. 8) Revere the judge and acquaint him of the facts. (V. 9) Receive the truth and adhere to the verdict. (V. 10) Resolve to submit and abide by the decision. (V 11) With such a priestly work under the Old Covenant, what are we to imply of the New? Christ’s perfect covenant knowledge qualifies Him to arbitrate in the affairs of His people. His authority is final and beyond His verdict there is no higher court of appeal. How much the church and individuals have missed through not coming to Him more constantly for instruction and decision! “I will instruct thee in the way that thou shall go. I will guide thee with mine eye.” (Psa. 32:8) Ultimately we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.
(c) The Priestly Remission - The meritorious ministry of this illustrious Priest is gathered up and set forth in the appealing commission of the evangel. “Then opened He their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures and said unto them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things.’” (Luke 24:45-48) The guilt of sin pollutes and the power of sin paralyzes mankind. Man has been brought under its defilement and dominion and now needs deliverance from its stain and chain. How can the God of perfection and holiness be true to Himself and receive into His association sinful men? God cannot stoop to a lower level of rectitude and righteousness. The call is one of repentance, and wherever man responds to the appeal just as surely will he become conscious of the remission of sins and of restoration to God. The atoning death of Christ avails to meet the righteous claims of God. God Himself retains the perfect righteousness Christ presented and remedies the rupture caused by sin and in addition, restores our relationship. All mankind needs this reconciliation. In Luke 7:42 He frankly forgave them both. The resources of grace remove the guilt, reconcile the offender and reestablish man in the place of divine favor.
The Greek mind approved of ideals; but to approve does not necessarily mean to attain and the Greek philosophy was powerless to impart the ability. The sole secret of perfecting is with Christ. By virtue of His sacrificial work, substitutionary death and justifying resurrection we may receive His free unmerited pardon and the law of the Spirit of life in Christ makes us free. There is no other ground for the perfecting of humanity than the one laid down here. The pollution of sin prevents the possibility from ever being realized by human effort. The difficulty is in the soul of man. He questions the love that imposed restriction and revolts against the will that demands these limitations. In consequence He ceased to know God, but God did not cease to know him. He ceased to love God, but God did not cease to love him. He ceased to will God’s will, was lost to God intellectually, emotionally and volitionally. The paralyzing effect of sin had rendered man incapable and powerless for renewal and restoration from this condition of rupture, but God vindicates His character in the presence of the disaster by providing the possibility of forgiveness and cleansing for every human soul. This He does on such a basis and by such a means as to fully satisfy Himself. Now the appeal goes forth to attract and mold, to adjust and control the human will, for the purpose of bringing man back to the knowledge and love of God. To achieve this end a revelation and manifestation of God to the soul was necessary. Such renewal demands a cleansing so deep and real that the soul itself will be satisfied and the assurance follow that God’s character of holiness and love has been vindicated. These great truths are incorporated in the commission, “That repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations.”
(d) The Priestly Benediction - “And He led them out as far as to Bethany and He lifted up His hands and blessed them.” (v. 50) The completion and maturity of the Irenic ministry was exhibited in the benedictory blessing.
“On this wise shall ye bless the Sons of Israel saying unto them, The Lord bless thee and keep thee, the Lord make his face to shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee, the Lord lift up His countenance upon thee and give thee peace. And they shall put My name upon the children of Israel and I will bless them.” (Num. 6:23-27) This included the Lord’s keeping, His grace and His peace which are inseparably linked with Himself. The ancient formula reveals the inestimable advantages of our present relation to God in Christ. The propitiation having been made in the sin offering, the Lord can bless and keep. The dedication having been rendered in the burnt offering the Lord can make His face to shine and be gracious, while with the reconciliation effected in the peace offering, the Lord can give peace.
Jehovah, who was the source of all, became the Son of man to bring in the perfect day for man by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Now all the revelations given are illumined and interpreted for our comfort, and through the Spirit we have much more than a reason for our trust and an argument for our faith. In addition to these we possess a living experience to assure. Aaron pronounced something far more glorious than he himself seemingly comprehended. He had to place this holy name of the triune God on all the people. “And he shall put my name on the children of Israel and I will bless them.” (Num. 6:27) This name incorporated all that was infinite and eternal and the whole of its significance and blessing came to us through the priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ. We now experience the divine kindness, keeping and kinship.
The implication of the uplifted hands is a fitting close to Christ’s ministry in Luke. The attitude implies an absolute sufficiency to sustain and satisfy. The Blessed encamps about His own to enrich and keep them. He environs them in the day of calm and calamity. He empowers in the day of conflict. Such blessing in Christ is a reason for faith, a ground for hope and a stimulus to love. Careful examination of the Old Covenant Benediction will disclose a striking parallel with that of the New Covenant. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.” (II Cor. 13:14) Under the old, Jehovah was the secret of security, the stream of mercy and the source of tranquility. Having been made priests unto God, the final test of priesthood is expressed in ability to pronounce the benediction. That does not mean a formal repetition of a formula, but the calling of the NAME upon the children of God for blessing.
We do well to recognize not only the suitability of Christ as priest by His transcendent superiority, He is worthy of our admiration, adoration and reverent gratitude. He alone can deliver us from the tyranny of self and the ugliness of our ignoble nature. In Him we are con-fronted with adequate competency, absolute sufficiency and abounding sympathy to fully meet all divine claims, and satisfy all human needs. The only adequate response is to answer His worthiness by an abounding surrender of ourselves, and to rely on Him with implicit confidence. Through Him the fullest realization of life is possible, for He emancipates in order to elevate and ennoble. His very demands of heart purity and adjustment of Spirit life to God, together with holiness of character and righteousness of conduct, cause men to turn against Him. Had He come merely as a social reformer men would have received Him. Nor was He a priest of God simply to provide pardon by remission of sins. He certainly accomplished this, but infinitely more.
The canceling of sin is accompanied by a change of character and a committal of the Holy Spirit for personal fellowship with God. By responding to His claim and by receiving His grace, we enter the experience of reconciliation and maintenance and all we require for the perfecting of our lives is available. Christ has no high purpose for man without providing the power for realization. If there were no conflict there could be no conquest; if there were no trial there could be no triumph; if there were no opposition there could be no overcoming. He can secure us so that fleshly indulgence will no longer rob the bloom from the spiritual life or weaken the nerve of spiritual endeavor, or dim the vision of spiritual outlook. His love then becomes the overmastering impulse which urges, the inspiring zeal that constrains and keeps from evil, the magnet that draws from profitless endeavor, the anchor that steadies in the storms, the fortress that defends in the conflict, the light that illumines in the darkness and the treasure that enriches amid earth’s tarnished wealth. Let us be careful not to rob the death of Christ of its deepest meaning and deprive His character of its chiefest charm and mightiest melting power. He Who perfects is the same Who made propitiation for our sins, by offering Himself without spot to God.
“Give God thy best; In service true and willing Pour out thy life, that He may live in thee! Though frail the vessel, He will do the filling — Make thee a blessing in the years to be!
Give God thy best! In true heart dedication Offer to Him thy fragrant morning hours; Think not to find His reconciliation When darkness falls and thou has spent thy powers.
Give God thy best! In unreserved surrender Yield Him thy life in all its youthful prime; Wait not until thy sun hath set in splendor, And thou hast nothing but the evening time.”