The High Priest of a New Covenant
1The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.
from This Day with the Master,
by Dennis F. Kinlaw
It is essential for us to understand the role of the priests in the Old Testament because it will enable us to understand Christ’s role in our redemption. The priests were the mediators between God in his holiness and human beings in their unholiness. Has God’s holiness changed? Has the sinfulness of people decreased? Hardly! The same need for mediation exists today, but it is met in a different way. It is no longer met through the ministry of earthly priests. We have a great High Priest who does not need to make atonement for himself as the priests of Israel did. Our High Priest is the sinless Christ Jesus.
A second thing to be learned about the priestly role is that God is not to be approached lightly. In Old Testament times God placed barriers between the people and himself in order to protect the people. Only members of a special tribe could minister in the house of worship, and only members of one family from that tribe could offer sacrifices. Further, only a single member of that family could come into the presence of God behind the veil in the Holy of Holies, and he could go there only once a year. The priest had to make atonement for his own sins before he made atonement for the people. It he did not, the penalty was death.
The holiness of our God remains pure and powerful, but we no longer approach him through an earthly and sinful priest. We have access to the Father through Jesus, who in his death rent the veil of the temple and made access for all persons to come boldly to God. But we do not come alone. We come through Jesus, so our boldness is not presumption. It is based on the atoning work of Christ. In the institution of the priesthood we see a picture of what Christ came to do. He did away with the Old Testament priesthood, but the ministry and reality of that priesthood he took upon himself and performs for us even today.
So “approach the throne of grace with confidence” through Christ (Hebrews 4:16).
HERE is Charles Wesley’s wonderful hymn “And Can It Be,” — first published in 1738 — sung by the Altar of Praise Chorale. I especially like the last verse, which begins with these words: “No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in him, is mine.”
3Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. 4If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. 5They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”
6But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on BETTER promises.
2 Corinthians 1:20 (NIV)
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
7For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. 8But God found fault with the people and said:
“The time is coming, declares the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah.
9 It will not be like the covenant
I made with their forefathers
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.
10 This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
Psalm 119:2 (NLT)
Joyful are those who obey his laws
and search for him with all their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
11 No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will forgive their wickedness
and I will remember their sins no more.”
Romans 8:1-4 (NLT)
So now there is NO CONDEMNATION for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.
We are told that God remembers our sins no more. But we remember our sins! — either because of our good memory or some other person’s good memory. So we cannot help but believe that God still remembers our sins. This is a lie. God has chosen not to remember our sins, so that He will not hold us guilty for our sins. God has chosen to forgive all of our sins. This is the only reason for Jesus to be on the Cross. Therefore: we have a choice. We can choose to keep track of our sins, strain under their oppression, and (in effect) live as though God lies . . . or we can take God at his everlasting word and say, “Thank you for forgiving my sins. Thank you that I am no longer condemned. Help me today to live lovingly, mercifully, honorably, justly, kindly — for you.”
13By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
Images courtesy of:
High Priest. http://gailruth.com/Assets/high_priest.gif
laws in mind and heart. http://donstephens.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/self-government.jpg