Friday, December 5, 2014

Solus Christus: The Great High Priest

In yesterday’s meditation we saw that Jesus is our prophet and that He fulfills that office by revealing to us (through His Word and Spirit) God’s will for our salvation. For today’s devotion, we need to remember that Jesus fulfills other offices for us as our Redeemer and one of those is the office of a priest. Remember, the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks in question #23, “What offices doth Christ execute as our Redeemer?” and it answers, “Christ, as our Redeemer, executeth the offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation.” Indeed, Jesus is our Great High Priest.

But, why do we need a high priest? What advantage does the high priest give us? The Westminster Shorter Catechism answers that question for us as well by telling us how Jesus serves as our Great High Priest:
Q. 25. How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?
A. Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God, and in making continual intercession for us.
The author of the book of Hebrews, looking back on the Old Testament law, also tells us in a similar, inspired, and concise fashion why sinful man needs a high priest, "For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins."

Since man is sinful, deserves God’s judgment, and cannot make atonement for himself, nor can he stand before God himself, he must have a representative who intercedes for him and who makes atonement for his sin through a blood sacrifice. In the Old Testament, this representative—the high priest—stood between the people and God and offered sacrifices for their sins. The high priest was a man chosen from the line of Aaron. He would go into the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle (or the Temple) to offer sacrifices and intercede for the people as the representative of the people before God. Yet, all those Old Testament high priests with all their sacrifices couldn’t themselves make permanent atonement for God’s people:
1 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (He. 10:1-4)
A once-for-all sacrifice was needed from a once-for-all high priest. The “shadow of the good things to come” had to eventually make way for the “true form of these realities” or mankind would have forever been lost in their sins. We needed a better high priest than any of those in the Old Testament, even Aaron himself.
Jesus came into the world to be that better high priest. Indeed, He came to be our once-for-all Great High Priest. The author of Hebrews, after showing our need, tells us that Jesus is our Great High Priest:
5 Consequently [i.e. because no earthly high priest with an earthly sacrifice was good enough], when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
    but a body have you prepared for me;
6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you have taken no pleasure.
7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
    as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”
8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.… (He. 10:5-12)
As our Great High Priest, Jesus offered the once-for-all sacrifice that His people needed to take away their sins. It wasn’t a sacrifice of a bull or a goat or any other earthly animal; it was a sacrifice of Himself. Jesus is our Great High Priest—our final and perfect representative before God—who offered Himself to God as “a single sacrifice for sins,” and then “He sat down at the right hand of God” showing that His work of redemption—atonement for the sins of His people—is done. Yet, even though His work of redemption is done, His work as our Great High Priest continues. He is ever before the throne of God the Father making continual intercession for us as our eternal and perfect representative, so we can never again be condemned before God:
34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Ro. 8:34)
25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (He. 7:25)
24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. (He. 9:24)
1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (1 Jn. 2:1)
Christian, Jesus came into the world to become your permanent, eternal Great High Priest. Because you are in Christ, you can never be condemned before God the Father. Not satan, not our hearts, not anyone in this world, nothing can condemn us before God because Jesus is ever before the throne as our Great High Priest. Consider that on this day of Advent. Remember that He came into the world to be your Great High Priest so that you’d never have to make atonement for your sin. Indeed, you can’t! But, that’s okay because Jesus has offered the once-for-all sacrifice you needed and continually intercedes on your behalf before God. Remember that you have confidence before God of which the Old Testament saints could only dream of having—you “have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus” and “draw near” to God in Christ. Bask in that on this day of Advent. Go to God confidently with your sin and your needs because Christ is your perfect representative interceding for you before God.

By His Grace,

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