Lesson #16 ID2: The Priesthood of Aaron part 1
by John Lowe
Lesson #16 ID2: The Priesthood of Aaron (5:1-5)
Scripture: Hebrews 5:1-5 (NIV)
1. Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.
2. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness.
3. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people.
4. And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.
5. In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.”
This Lesson continues the great theme of Jesus as our High Priest, showing that He is superior to the Levitical priesthood. Christ, as we have already said has the office of prophet, priest, and king. He is God’s final word to man. In Christ, God has said all He intends to say to man. As a prophet, He spoke over two-thousand years ago. Now, He is the Word of God. Now, He is the priest for our generation. Some day in the future He is going to come to earth as our King. Right now He is our Great High Priest. We have access to Him. He is a Great High Priest, just as Aaron was a great high priest.
(Heb.5:1) Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.
This verse gives us the definition of a priest. He must be “selected from among the people men (KJV).” He must be a representative; He represents mankind, but He represents man to God. He is ordained for man in things pertaining to God. Because he goes before God, he must be acceptable to God. That is the suggestion in he “is appointed ordained to represent the people in matters related to God.” Therefore a priest is: (1) taken from among men; (2) ordained for men (on behalf of men); and (3) goes to God for men.
We can now draw a distinction between a priest and a prophet. A priest goes from man to God; He represents man before God. A prophet comes from God to man with a message from God. Therefore the Old Testament priest did not tell man what God had to say―that was the ministry of the prophet. The priest’s ministry was to represent man before God. Now in the present age our Lord Jesus Christ is the only priest. It is He who represents us before God.
No man could appoint himself to the position of priest, let alone as high priest. King Saul invaded the priesthood and lost his kingdom (1 Sam. 13). Korah and his fellow rebels tried to make themselves priests, and God judged them (Num. 16). When King Uzziah tried to enter the temple and burn incense, God smote him with leprosy (2 Chron. 26:16-21).
Aaron was chosen by God to be the high priest, and he was suitably ordained and installed in office (Ex. 28). He was chosen from among men to minister to men and for men. His main task was performed at the altar: to offer the sacrifices God had appointed (Heb. 8:3-4; 9:14). Unless sacrifices were offered in the right place, by the right person, they were not accepted by God.
The very existence of a priesthood and a system of sacrifices provide evidence that man is estranged from God. It was an act of grace on God’s part that he instituted the whole Levitical system. Today, that system is fulfilled by the ministry of Jesus Christ. He is both the sacrifice and the High Priest who ministers to God’s people on the basis of His once-for-all offering on the cross.
God the Father not only said, “Thou art my Son” in Psalm 2:7”; He also said, “Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 5:6, quoted from Psalm 110:4). This psalm was also quoted earlier in Hebrews (1:13) to affirm Jesus Christ’s final victory over all His enemies.
Two factors make Christ’s priesthood unique and, therefore, His ordination greater. First, He is a high priest forever. No Old Testament priest ministered forever because each priest died and relinquished the office to his successor. The word “forever” is an important one in this epistle. At least six times the writer affirms that Christ’s high priesthood is forever (Heb. 5:6; 6:20; 7:17, 21, 24, 28). And since He is a priest forever, He gives His people salvation forever (Heb. 7:23-28).
The second factor that makes Christ’s ordination unique is that He belongs to a different order than the Old Testament saints. They belong to the order of Aaron; He belongs to the order of Melchizedek. This is a key concept in Hebrews, so we must take time to examine and understand it.
The fascinating thing about Melchizedek was that he was both a priest and a king. King Uzziah wanted to be both a priest and a king and God judged him. Only in Jesus Christ and pre-Law Melchizedek were these two offices combined. Jesus Christ is a High Priest on a throne.
The reason Jesus Christ can be “a priest forever” is that He belongs to the “order of Melchizedek.” As far as the Old Testament record is concerned, Melchizedek did not die (Heb.7:1-3). Of Course, because he was a real man; he did eventually die, but the record is not given to us. So Melchizedek becomes a picture of our Lord Jesus Christ who is a priest forever.
But Melchizedek also pictures our Lord as a heavenly High Priest. Jesus Christ could never have served as a priest when He was on earth because He did not belong to the tribe of Levi. Jesus was born of the seed of David, the tribe of Judah. He became the sacrifice here on earth so that He might become the High Priest in heaven.
The writer says, that he (a priest) may “offer gifts and sacrifices for sins”―notice that it is sins, not sin; it is plural. It refers to the life of the believer. For example, when you lost your temper, did you go to God and confess that sin? You have a representative who is there to make intercession for you. He represents you before God.
(Heb.5:2) He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness.
Every Old Testament high priest had to deal with people who were ignorant and going astray wayward―those who sin because of the weakness of human nature. God made no provision but judgment for high-handed sins of rebellion (Ex. 21:12-14; Num. 15:27-31). But he did make provision for when people sinned through ignorance or weakness. An Old Testament priest could identify with the sinners, since he was a sinner too. In fact, on the Day of Atonement the high priest had to offer a sacrifice for himself before he could offer one for the nation! (Lev.16; Heb. 9:7).
You would think that one sinner would have compassion for another sinner, but this is not always the way it works. Sin makes a person selfish. Sin can blind us to the suffering of others. Sin can harden our hearts and make us judgmental instead of sympathetic. It is the spiritual minded person with a clean heart who sympathizes with a sinner and seeks to help him (Gal. 6:1). Because we are so sinful we have a hard time helping other sinners; but because Jesus is perfect, He is able to meet our needs after we sin.
“He Himself Aaron is subject to weakness infirmity.” Aaron was touched with infirmity or weakness, but Christ was touched with a feeling of our infirmity or weakness. He knows how we feel about things; He is the perfect mediator. When we fall He doesn’t get down in the dirt with us; He is there to lift us out of it.
The trouble with Aaron was that he might condone the sins he also committed. Or he might condemn the sins that he had not committed himself. That would always be a danger. But Christ is able to show mercy, and He neither condones nor condemns. When we come to Him to confess our sins, He doesn’t give us a little lecture about doing better the next time. He just extends mercy to us. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just as our High Priest to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9). It is wonderful to have Him for our High Priest.