Saturday, October 15, 2016

Gifted and Chosen Leaders

Scriptural Reading: Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:1-10
Devotional Reading: Ephesians 4:7-13

Thomas Dexter “T. D.” Jakes, Sr. is an African-American pastor, author and filmmaker. He is the bishop of The Potter’s House. Now he has a talk show. He is one of the most influential voices in America.1 The entire St. Louis metropolitan area came to a standstill2 to honor Police Officer Blake Snyder who gave his life in the line of duty while responding to a disturbance in South County on October 6th.3 Whatever gift a leader possesses the apostle Paul taught in Ephesians 4:7-8 11-13, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: ‘When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.’ And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;” (NKJV)

We are in Unit II – “The Sovereignty of Jesus” of the three units of the quarter. This is the third lesson of a five-lesson study. We began by seeing the sovereignty of Jesus over the prophets, the angels, and the Jews’ beloved leader Moses. In the lesson today we shall focus on Jesus’ superiority over Moses’ brother Aaron and all high priests as He is the Great High Priest forever.

The author of Hebrews now made it his task to prove the weakness of the Levitical priesthood and that Christ was greater than Aaron, their first priest. Hebrews 4:14-16 reads, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (NKJV) We have Jesus, the Great High Priest, whose sacrificial work of atonement for our sins was final and permanent. He was compassionate and He was without sins. The weakness of Aaron and the Levitical priests was their temporary atonement. When they approached the Mercy Seat once a year in the Holy of Holies to give atonement for the sins of the people, they had to also atone for their sins. Their atonement was incomplete, but Jesus tore the veil of death and passed back into the heavens to sit on the right hand side of His Father God. Having daily access in the presence of God is much superior to the annual temporary atonement for sin. For this reason the author believed new converts must continue in their new confession of faith and belief in Jesus. Christ had been tested and tempted but He never failed a test nor committed a sin. He is our perfect sacrifice and spiritual leader because He understands us. We can approach Him in prayer with confidence to ask and find the help we need. When we confess our sins, Jesus will show us mercy, forgive, and grant us grace to move forward within the Will of God.

We have here an account of some requirements of the nature of the priestly office in general when we review Hebrews 5:1-4, “For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness. Because of this he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins. And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was.” (NKJV) Every high priest is chosen by God from members of the human race to work in behalf of the human race. He must come from among men and this implies that man has sinned and God will not allow a sinful man to come into His presence without a priest. The high priests are charged to do those things that relate to our maintaining a right relationship with God in spite of the fact that sometimes we sin, failing tests and yielding to temptations. They had to know how to be the representative of the people. As their high priest they knew what to offer as gifts and sacrifices to God to atone for the sins of the people. If they did not know or did not have that close relationship with God, their gifts and sacrifices would not be accepted. After Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, priests no longer offer meaningful sacrifices for sins; however they can be involved in offering gifts and thanksgiving to God. Another priestly requirement was to be able to have compassion on both those who are guilty of sins of ignorance and those who are guilty of sins out of the way of truth and going astray. These persons are going against the Will of the Lord and their sin does not need to be dismissed. Neither does it need to be strongly condemned. The priest must act gently remembering that he too is human and subject to sinful ways. Finally, no one can say of themselves, “I am going to be a priest or high priest,” without being called by God to take that office. There must be an external and internal call. King Saul stepped out of God’s will and Samuel’s favor when he offered sacrifices that he was not called by God to offer even though he was king over all Israel. He suffered God’s just judgment for his disobedience. (1 Samuel 13:7-15; 1 Samuel 16:1, 11-13). Aaron was appointed directly by God to be the first high priest. He and his sons were consecrated to continue the priesthood through time. (Leviticus 8 and 9)4< br/>

Our Great High Priest met each of these requirements. However, the author of Hebrews illustrated how Christ met each qualification far greater than Aaron and the ministry of the Levitical priests at Hebrews 5:5-10, “So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’ As He also says in another place: ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek’; who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest ‘according to the order of Melchizedek,’" (NKJV)

Christ was divinely appointed by God and sent to minister an eternal priesthood. He did not choose to become our great High Priest because He wanted the glory and honor of that position for selfish reasons. God appointed Him to serve humanity and, through His obedience to God, He becomes your Lord and Savior if we choose to believe. God did not appoint Him as a high priest in the priestly order of the Levi. Although all priests were Levites, all Levites were not priests. But Jesus was born to be a King in the tribe of Judah and a Great High Priest in the order of Melchizedek. He was superior in that the Levites were descendants of Abraham. In Genesis 14 Abraham’s nephew, Lot had to be rescued. Abraham went into battle and, with the help of the LORD, won. The king of Salem and priest of the God Most High was Melchizedek. He blessed Abraham because he was delivered from his enemies. Abraham paid him a tithe from the spoils of the battle. This was the first recorded tithe. Melchizedec has no recorded father or lineage, his priesthood predates Aaron’s, and he has no recorded end. In David’s Psalm 110 at verse 4 it is stated, “The LORD has sworn and will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.’” (NKJV)

Christ suffered and sacrificed Himself and died for the sins of the world. Aaron’s sacrifices “covered” sin; Christ’s sacrifice “cleansed” sin. The phrase in the days of his flesh refers to the earthly ministry of Jesus. The phrase offered up prayers and supplications refers to His prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed with loud cries and tears, just as we do in times of stress and suffering. He prayed to His Father who could have saved Him from dying on the cross (Matthew 26:36-46). But Jesus submitted to the Will of God who heard His prayers. He did not pray for deliverance from death but that He would be resurrected. Jesus died as a substitute to save us and He rose on Resurrection Sunday.

Christ’s sacrifice was of His own accord and was willingly done for man’s sin. Even though He was the only begotten Son, Christ learned obedience through His many sufferings in life. His crucifixion was His ultimate suffering. If He was not exempt from suffering, we can’t expect to be exempt from suffering as adopted children.

Christ’s experiences as the Great High Priest made Him “perfect” or fully equipped for His divine task. He “learned” in the sense of personally experiencing the pain of being human and the cost of obedience. By these suffering experiences, he was made perfect, and became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey him. His office was consecrated by His blood.

Christ’s appointment as High Priest is of God, after the order of Melchizedek, introduced in the Old Testament and representing an eternal priesthood unlike the dying order of Aaron. Christ is our Melchizedek, which points to His role as both Great High Priest and King. But He is a different kind of high priest. As the Son of God, He is one with royal authority.


Written by Deborah C. Davis

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