Category Archives: Priest Most High

“This Intercessor stretches out His hands of blessing” by Joel Beeke

“One of the great functions of a priest was to pronounce God’s blessing, or benediction, upon his people. Melchizedek, “the priest of the most high God,” blessed Abraham, the covenantal father of all the faithful (Gen. 14:18–20), and did so as a type of Christ (Ps. 110:4; Heb. 7:1, 6–7).

The Lord chose the Aaronic priests to bless Israel in his name (Deut. 10:8; 21:5), saying, “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Num. 6:22–26).

The core elements of this priestly blessing, “grace” and “peace,” now flow from the Father and the Son to His people, as the greetings in the New Testament Epistles abundantly affirm.

Some theologians have considered blessing to be a distinct third function of priests after sacrifice and intercession. Aaron blessed the people after making sacrifices and again after going into the tabernacle to intercede (Lev. 9:22–23). Other theologians have seen the priestly blessing to be an aspect of intercession.

The blessing was a prayer that invoked God’s name upon His covenant people so that God would bless them (Num. 6:27). “The priests the Levites arose and blessed the people: and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to his holy dwelling place, even unto heaven” (2 Chron. 30:27).

What is clear is that Christ blesses his people as their Priest. Just before Christ ascended into heaven, “he lifted up his hands, and blessed” his disciples (Luke 24:50–51), just as formerly “Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them” (Lev. 9:22). Peter, citing God’s promise to bless all nations by Abraham’s seed, says, “God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities” (Acts 3:25–26).

God’s blessing through Christ is covenantal. Sinners are under God’s curse for breaking the commandments of his law (Gal. 3:10). In his redeeming sacrifice, Christ received the curse of God’s law, absorbing its full fury in his sufferings while perfectly obeying the law, so that his believing people are delivered from the curse (Gal. 3:13; 4:4). They receive the blessing promised in the covenant with Abraham “through Jesus Christ” by faith (Gal. 3:14).

God’s curse against lawbreakers hangs over all the good things that they receive in this world (Deut. 28:15–19), mingles sorrow into all good (Gen. 3:17–19), and one day will take all good away from unrepentant sinners (Luke 6:24–25; 16:24–25). However, Christians may pray to their Father for their “daily bread” (Matt. 6:11), “that of God’s free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them.” The ability of believers to enjoy earthly goods with God’s blessing presupposes that he is pleased with them (Eccl. 9:7–9).

Therefore, the goodness of all God’s providences toward his elect comes to them through Christ’s intercession (Rom. 8:28, 34). Paul says, “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by [or “in”] Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).

The core of God’s blessing is justification and the grace of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 3:8, 14). Owen observed that the work of the Spirit is the “purchased grace” that Christ won by his obedience and sufferings. Christ obtains the Spirit for his people by his intercession: “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16). The fullness of the Spirit’s new-covenant ministry depends on the glorification of the Son (7:39). Christ himself sends us the Spirit from the Father’s side (John 16:7).

By these spiritual graces, the reality and efficacy of Christ’s invisible intercession in heaven is demonstrated on earth, for we have received the Holy Spirit and know the fruit of Christ’s intercession in our lives, as Perkins said. The best evidence that Christ prays for us in heaven is the Spirit’s work to make us pray on earth.

The exaltation of our great High Priest signals the fulfillment of the covenant of grace and the inauguration of the last days (Heb. 1:2–3; 9:26). Murray said, “Jesus as high priest is the surety and mediator of the new and better covenant.… The new covenant brings to its consummation the communion which is at the heart of all covenant disclosure from Abraham onwards: ‘I will be your God, and ye shall be my people.’ … The heavenly high priesthood of Christ, means, therefore, that Christ appears in the presence of God … to plead on the basis of what he has accomplished the fulfilment of all the promises.”

Therefore, Christ’s intercession unlocks all grace and glory for his people. In union with Christ, they are blessed by the Father with “all spiritual blessings” (Eph. 1:3).

The intercession of our Lord Jesus is a boundless field full of flowers from which we may draw sweet nectar for our souls. Let us consider some of the riches of knowing our Intercessor by God’s grace.

First, we must allow this doctrine to form in us constant reliance on the exalted Christ. We must run the race set before us, “looking unto Jesus” (Heb. 12:2; cf. Col. 3:1). Brown said that Christ’s intercession glorifies him, for “in this way believers have an immediate dependence on Christ for ever.” Let us look to him for every grace.

Second, Christians may find here strong consolation and hope. Christ’s entrance into heaven as our forerunner confirms the unbreakable promise of God that he will bless his people (Heb. 6:17–20). If Christ’s death reconciled us to God when we were his enemies, much more will his living ministry deliver us from the wrath of God (Rom. 5:10). We can exult in hope.

Third, believers should look to Christ’s intercession for confidence in our justification. Christ was raised for our justification and intercedes to deliver us from condemnation (Rom. 4:25; 8:33–34). His appearing before the face of God confirms that his blood sacrifice has expiated the guilt of our sins once for all (Heb. 9:24). We should assure our consciences with this doctrine.

Fourth, knowing Christ as the Intercessor can encourage quickness to confess sin to God. Rather than remaining silent when God convicts us of sin (Ps. 32:3–5), let us immediately confess our sins with faith in Christ’s propitiation and intercession, for God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9; 2:1–2).

Fifth, the doctrine of Christ’s intercession increases expectation and comfort in prayer. What is more comforting in trials than to go to a friend who knows how we feel and how to help us? Christ sympathizes with us perfectly. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15–16).

Sixth, given that all spiritual blessings come to us through Christ’s intercession, we should learn to exercise trust in Christ for the grace of the Holy Spirit. Let us never separate the Spirit from Jesus Christ, for he is the Spirit of God’s Son (Gal. 4:6). Whether we need the Spirit’s power to mortify sin (Rom. 8:13), his fruit for works of love and self-control (Gal. 5:22–23), or his gifts to serve the church effectively (1 Cor. 12:7, 11), let us drink of his living water by exercising faith in the exalted Christ (John 7:37–39). Believers overcome trials, even unto martyrdom, by “the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:19). Owen said, “The great duty of tempted souls, is to cry out unto the Lord Christ for help and relief.”

Seventh, the more God’s children meditate upon Christ’s intercession, the more they will increase in assurance of ultimate salvation and blessedness. We will be purged of legalistic perfectionism and rest in his perfection. We will learn to recognize all our good desires and good works as fruit of his priestly work. Then we will be able to rejoice and exult, for our Intercessor is able to save us completely (Heb. 7:25).

As long as this Intercessor stretches out His hands of blessing, we may be sure that the true Israel will prevail over its enemies (Ex. 17:8–13).”

–Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 2: 1099–1103.

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“There is nothing in Him to keep you back” by Charles Spurgeon

“O sinners, will you not come to Christ? There is nothing in Him to keep you back.

You need not say, like Esther did of old, ‘I will go in unto the king, if I perish I perish.’

Come, and welcome! Come, and welcome! Christ is more ready to receive you than you are to come to Him.

Come to the King! ‘What is thy petition, and what is thy request? It shall be done unto thee.’

If thou stayest away, it is not because He shuts the door, it is because thou wilt not come.

Come, filthy, naked, ragged, poor, lost, ruined, come, just as thou art. Here He stands, like a fountain freely opened for all comers.

‘Whosoever will, let him come and take of the waters of life freely.'”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “The Meek and Lowly One,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, vol. 5 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1859), 324.

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“The throne of God’s saving grace” by Robert Traill

“I know no true religion but Christianity. I know no true Christianity but the doctrine of Christ: of His divine person, (the image of the invisible God, Col. 1:15); of His divine office, (the Mediator betwixt God and men, 1 Tim. 2:5); of His divine righteousness, (He is the Lord our Righteousness, Jer. 23:6; which name is also called upon His church, Jer. 38:16) and of His divine Spirit, (which all that are His receive, Rom. 8:9).

I know no true ministers of Christ, but such as make it their business, in their calling, to commend Jesus Christ, in His saving fulness of grace and glory, to the faith and love of men; no true Christian, but one united to Christ by faith, and abiding in Him by faith and love, unto the glorifying of the name of Jesus Christ, in the beauties of gospel-holiness.

Ministers and Christians of this spirit, have for many years been my brethren and companions, and, I hope, shall ever be, whithersoever the hand of God shall lead me.

Through the Lord’s mercy to me, (as to many in London), I have often heard what is far more worthy of the press, than anything I can publish.

Whatever you may think of my way of managing this subject, (and indeed there is nothing in that, either as designed or expected by me, or that in itself deserveth any great regard); yet the theme itself, all must judge, who have spiritual senses, is of great importance, and always seasonable.

It is concerning the throne of God’s saving grace, reared up in Jesus Christ, and revealed unto men in the gospel; with the application all should make to that throne, the great blessings to be reaped by that application, and mens great need of those blessings.

May the Lord of the harvest, who ministered this seed to the sower, make it bread to the eater, and accompany it with His blessing on some that are called to inherit a blessing, and I have my end and desire; the reader shall have the benefit; and the Lord shall have the glory; for of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things; to whom be glory forever. Amen.

Robert Traill
London
March 25, 1696″

–Robert Traill, “Preface to The Throne of Grace,” The Works of Robert Traill, vol. 1 (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1810), ix-x.

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“Christ gives what no one else can, and Christ Himself is the greatest of His gifts” by Bobby Jamieson

“We return one last time to this book’s proper subject, the Christ whom Hebrews proclaims. The question with which we conclude is, So what?

What difference did the author of Hebrews intend his portrait of Christ’s person to make in the lives of those who heard his message? What role does Christ’s person play in Hebrews’ hortatory program?

Adolf Schlatter put his finger on the problem Hebrews’ recipients were facing. He said that they were asking, ‘Is it worth it to be a Christian?’ Hebrews answers with a single word: Christ.

The refrain of urgent reassurance that resounds through the letter is, ‘We have Christ.’

What do we have?

A great high priest who is not only exalted but compassionate, a hope that anchors our soul in the inner sanctum in heaven, a high priest seated on God’s throne, confidence to enter the Holy of Holies, an altar from which none but Christ’s people may eat (Hebrews 4:14-16; 6:19-20; 8:1-2; 10:19, 22; 13:10).

In Hebrews, Christ’s work cannot be divided from His person, nor His person from His work. Who He is and what He gives are inseparable. And the greatest gift He gives is Himself. ‘We share in Christ’ (Heb. 3:6).

In Hebrews 8:1-2, summing up the message of the whole letter, Hebrews appeals not only to Christ’s status and present ministry as high priest, but to the fact that this priest reigns on God’s throne.

What matters for Hebrews hearers is that our high priest is not only a man like us but also the God who rules over us. Jesus’ present priestly intercession is a salvific exercise of divine omnipotence.

If this high priest grants you access to God, none can take it away.

As Nikolaus Walter has put it, Hebrews’ portrayal of Jesus as both high priest and sacrifice is in its way an unsurpassable rendering of solus Christus: salvation is in Christ alone.

And Hebrews constantly appeals to who Christ is in order to announce why He alone can save.

The Son extends sonship to ‘many sons’ (Heb. 2:10) by becoming human like us (Heb. 2:11).

The Son became incarnate in order by his own death to deal death a deathblow (Heb. 2:14-15).

The Son was made like His brothers in every way to become the priest we needed, and He can help the tempted because He was tempted (Heb. 2:17-18).

The Son abounds in compassion because He sinlessly endured every temptation (Heb. 4:15).

The Son was perfected with indestructible life at His resurrection (Heb. 7:16) so that He is now able to intercede unceasingly for His own (Heb. 7:25).

The Son assumed a body in order to offer that body back to God in heaven (Heb. 10:5-14).

The Son began a universal rule after accomplishing salvation and was entitled to that universal rule by His unique claim to both divine and Davidic sonship (Heb. 1:3-4, 5-14).

Christ’s divine and human constitution and His faithful execution of His whole incarnate mission are integral to His ability to save.

Only this Christ can save. Only one who is divine; who became human; who endured temptation and gave His life in death; who was raised incorruptible; and who now reigns in heaven can deal decisively with sin, give us access to God, and make the new creation our permanent possession.

The heartbeat of Hebrews’ pastoral program is present possession of Christ. What makes being a Christian worth it is who Christ is, what Christ alone has done for us, and what Christ alone can give us.

Everything Christ gives is founded on and follows from not only what He has done, but who He is. Christ gives what no one else can, and Christ Himself is the greatest of His gifts.

No one else will do. But if you have Christ, you have all you need.”

–R.B. Jamieson, The Paradox of Sonship: Christology in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2021), 168-169.

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“He deals gently with us” by Dane Ortlund

“When we sin, we are encouraged to bring our mess to Jesus because He will know just how to receive us.

He doesn’t handle us roughly.

He doesn’t scowl and scold.

He doesn’t lash out, the way many of our parents did.

And all this restraint on His part is not because He has a diluted view of our sinfulness. He knows our sinfulness far more deeply than we do.

Indeed, we are aware of just the tip of the iceberg of our depravity, even in our most searching moments of self-knowledge.

His restraint simply flows from His tender heart for His people.

Hebrews is not just telling us that instead of scolding us, Jesus loves us.

It’s telling us the kind of love He has: rather than dispensing grace to us from on high, He gets down with us, He puts His arm around us, He deals with us in the way that is just what we need. (Hebrews 4:14-5:4)

He deals gently with us.”

–Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 54-55.

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“With all meekness and gentleness” by John Owen

“The high priest is able to bear with the people patiently and meekly, so as to continue the faithful discharge of his office towards them and for them.

This, as we observed, Moses was not able always to do, as he also complains, ‘Have I conceived all this people? Have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nurse beareth the sucking child?’ (Numbers 11:12)

Yet this is required in a high priest, and that he should no more cast off poor sinners for their ignorance and wanderings than a nursing mother should cast away a sucking child for its crying.

So our apostle, in his imitation of Jesus Christ, affirms that in the church he was ‘gentle among them, even as a nurse cherisheth her children,” (1 Thess. 2:7);—not easy to be provoked, not ready to take offence or cast off the care of him.

So it is said of God, Acts 13:18, that for forty years ἐτροποφόρησε, ‘He bore with the manners of the people in the wilderness;’ or as some read it, ἐτροφοφόρησε, ‘He bore’ or ‘fed them, as a nurse feedeth her child.’

Thus ought it to be with a high priest, and thus is it with Jesus Christ.

He is able, with all meekness and gentleness, with patience and moderation, to bear with the infirmities, sins, and provocations of His people, even as a nursing mother beareth with the weakness of a poor infant.”

–John Owen, An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Vol. 4, ed. W. H. Goold, Works of John Owen, vol. 21 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1854/1985), 4: 455–456.

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“All His footsteps were nothing but mercy” by Wilhelmus à Brakel

“You who are godly, ‘Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy’ (Hos. 10:12); ‘Keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually’ (Hos. 12:6). In order to stir you up more to this end, give heed to the following matters with an obedient heart.

First, precepts teach, but examples attract.

Therefore, observe those compassionate persons who have gone before you, and have left you an example. The most perfect example is the Lord Jesus, whom you ought to follow joyfully and willingly, since He is altogether lovely to you.

Read only the history of His life, the gospels, and you will perceive that all His footsteps were nothing but mercy. Time and again you will read: “Jesus being moved with compassion…”

He was not merely moved, however, but His compassion culminated in deeds. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, gave the oppressed their dead again, and traversed the entire country doing good.

In doing so He has left us an example, so that we would follow in His footsteps. Therefore, out of love for Him, conduct yourself as He did. Your name “Christian” also obligates you to this.

Furthermore, add to this the example of Job. Who can read about his compassion without being moved to follow his example? “I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor” (Job 29:15-16); “If I have withheld the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail; or have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof; (for from my youth he was brought up with me, as with a father, and I have guided her from my mother‟s womb;) if I have seen any perish for want of clothing, or any poor without covering; if his loins have not blessed me, and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep” (Job 31:16-20). That was exemplary.

Add to the example of this man the example of a compassionate woman: Tabitha or Dorcas. Observe the following of her: “Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did … and all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them” (Acts 9:36, 39).

She was a mother to the poor! She did not occasionally do a good deed, but rather she was full of, and overflowing with, good works and alms (gifts which are the manifestation of compassion). The Greek word ἐλεημοσυνῶν (elémosúne) is a composite word and a derivative of ἐλεέω (eleéo), which means to have compassion.

Thus, she did not only give, but rather she gave, being moved with compassion. First the heart was moved, and the heart thus moved, in turn moved her hand. She did not only buy material from which she made clothing, but her benevolent love was so great that it was her delight to do the sewing herself and to dress the widows with the work of her own hands.”

—Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, ed. Joel R. Beeke, trans. Bartel Elshout, vol. 4: Ethics and Eschatology (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1700/1995), 4: 122.

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