A GREATER PRIESTHOOD
By Henry Jaegers
For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. (Hebrews 5: 1-6)
Previously, our studies in the first four chapters of the Hebrews emphasized the superiority of Christ over the prophets and over the Angels. These two areas were very important to the Jewish people and it was important for the writer of this book to point out that God had a better plan and purpose. Not to undervalue the importance of both of these, it was necessary to show that God had a better plan and as we approach chapter 5, we enter into another contrast being made in regard to the Levitical priesthood.
As we have pointed out, regarding the superiority of Christ over the Angels and prophets, we now proceed to a new section relating to the priesthood. In these verses, the qualifications of the Levitical priesthood are set forth. What are they?
The first thing we note, is the high priest was taken by God from among men in order to minister to men. This speaks of the importance of the priest being properly identified with those he is called to serve. So, the first thing we note is that he is chosen by God to be a servant to others.
The next thing we are told is that he is to be a man of compassion. That means in order to properly serve others, we must have some kind of experience in our own life that helps us to understand. This suggests a little bit of maturity that is needed in order to gain this type of compassion.
A third quality that is mentioned is that he must have some type of intellectual knowledge concerning the purpose of the priesthood and its requirements. He should have the capacity to instruct those who were out of the way to lead them into the fold.
A further quality that he must have is that humility. What we mean by humility is that he must have an honest awareness of his own weaknesses and frailties. If he does not have such, and maintains a superior attitude, then he is in no position to hear what God has to say to him first. By facing up to his own frailties and need of God, he is now ready to be a proper minister to others.
Now the final qualification is his ministry to himself. I am not talking about self serving or self exalting thoughts. He agrees with God and follows through with the need of providing a sacrifice for his own sins first. Unless he experiences the forgiveness of God, his ministry to the people is insufficient. By his offering a sacrifice, he acknowledges that there is a need for something greater than what he himself poses essence. This speaks of his need for communion with God. Once his sins are covered, now he is qualified to hear what God has to say and is now able to minister properly to others.
These qualifications pertain to the priesthood of Aaron. Another matter which we must consider is that he must be of the tribe of Levi. That is the priestly tribe chosen by God. All of these above set forth in a general way the qualifications of the priesthood and they are qualifications that apply to those called of God today to serve others.
What is the point I am trying to make? As great as the priesthood of Aaron was, and its importance to the people of God, our Lord Jesus Christ is now presented as having a different priesthood than that of Aaron. In the following chapters we shall consider this in greater detail, but for now we are introduced to a new kind of priesthood. It is not from the tribe of Levi but from the tribe of Judah, the kingly tribe.
So, at once we see a contrast being made. The priesthood of Jesus was not after the earthly priesthood of Aaron from the Levitical tribe. His ministry was far greater and as we are told in the latter part of our verse, it is a priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek.
Now, we are about to enter an area that requires further explanation. It is a section that causes a lot of controversy among Bible students, but it need not be controversial at all when we consider it in this biblical format. The priesthood of Jesus is of a higher order than that of Aaron. Aaron's priesthood is an earthly priesthood but the priesthood of Jesus is eternal. For now, that is all that we need to know. As we consider this study in chapter 5, we will see clearly how any priesthood could come from the tribe of Judah.
May God stimulate our interest as we begin this new section on "The Incomparable Greatness of Christ".