Here’s the deal: At some point you’re going to ignore a warning and the consequence will be devastating. That’s what we want to talk about. If you have a Bible, turn to Hebrews, Chapter 5.
So the writer of Hebrews has introduced this concept of Jesus as the Priest or the High Priest. In chapter one he didn’t use the word, but he clearly communicated that Jesus made purification for sin, returned to the Father and is seated at the right hand of the Father. And then we were introduced to the concept that Jesus is the ultimate High Priest who made propitiation for sin. Then last chapter Jesus as the High Priest who’s not unsympathetic with the pain and the struggles and trials that we go through. So now starting in chapter 5—and this will be a lengthy conversation into multiple chapters, which really is kind of the heartbeat of the book of Hebrews—is Jesus as the Priest and the details related to that. So in chapter 5, verses 1 through 4 are just general qualifications for a high priest:
For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins; (*NASB, Heb. 5:1)
So it’s a human representing other humans before a holy God to make sacrifice for sin. Verse 2:
…he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness;
That word gently is an interesting Greek word. A lot of scholars refer to it as a philosopher’s term. It had the idea of someone who is not indifferent toward sin, but also someone who is not harsh, does not go off on the sinner. So the idea of gentleness…control, and the reason is because the high priest himself is a sinner beset with weaknesses, surrounded by his own weaknesses. So that’s what verse 2 says. The idea of ignorant and misguided is language that comes from the Old Covenant Law that if your behavior was out of ignorance or was misguided (meaning out of confusion), there was a sacrifice made for your sin. But the Old Covenant Law also said if your sin was willful, if it was intentional, if it was rebellious, there was no sacrifice for sin. That’s why Paul in a sermon in the book of Acts clearly identifies that today in the new covenant that the sacrifice of Jesus—the blood of Jesus—even covers willful, rebellious sin. It’s another reminder why the new covenant is so far superior to the old covenant. Verse 3:
And because of it (because of his own sin) he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins, as for the people, so also for himself.
So if you look back in the book of Leviticus, on the Day of Atonement the high priest was required to sacrifice a bull for his own sins, and only then could he enter into the Holy of Holies behind the veil and offer sacrifice for the sins of the people. Verse 4:
And no one takes the honor to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was.
So verse 4 is saying someone can’t just decide, “I want to be a high priest.” You don’t just apply for the job and go through an interview process. You had to be appointed by God—chosen by God—and he uses Aaron as the example of that. Eventually, after Aaron, it would become the tribe of Levi but to be a high priest you were specifically chosen by God. So to put all that together: it was a human that was called to represent his fellow humans before a holy God, to make sacrifice for their sins. He would respond to sinners with gentleness because he himself is a sinner; therefore he would have to offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as the sins of the people, and the high priest was appointed by God Himself. So starting in verse 5, it’s how Christ then fits that description and essentially it works its way backwards. It starts from verse 4 and works backward up to verse 1.
So also Christ… (Vs. 5a)
So the writer of Hebrews uses names very strategically. When he was talking about the creator God, he talked about the Son—chapter 1—and the Son has come and taken on human flesh. When he’s talking about God in the flesh on earth, he has used the name Jesus. Now he’s talking about someone who is anointed or appointed by God and uses the name Christ. This is the first time he uses this name which is a title. The Greek word means Anointed One—Christos. So Jesus didn’t choose Himself; Jesus is the chosen One, the anointed One of God. Verse 5:
So also Christ did not glorify Himself (or choose Himself) so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him, “YOU ARE MY SON, (So God the Father chose Jesus) TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN (or chosen) YOU”; Verse 6:
…just as He says also in another passage, (which is Psalm 110) “YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER… (VS 6 a)
Now he has talked about Jesus as the High Priest in that particular term; he’s also talked about Jesus making purification for sin, which is priestly duty, but this is the first time he’s used the Greek word for priest. Now one of the reasons that is significant is because in the entire New Testament that term is used thirty-one times—fourteen of those times in the book of Hebrews. So it’s a significant term that goes to the core theology of the book of Hebrews—that Jesus is that ultimate mediator between a holy God and sinful men and women. We learned in chapter one Jesus wasn’t the next word from God; He’s the last word of God. God has revealed what is necessary for our salvation through Jesus. There is no place for cultic teachings of some recent heretical movements that talk about 1844, or 1914, or another gospel, or sunday law fiction. There’s no successor after Jesus (not Mohamed, not Ellen White, not the Watchtower prophets. Jesus completed the assignment and He sat down. Every priest before Him was merely a shadow, a foreshadowing of the ultimate Priest to come. And so because of that, Jesus now sits as High Priest forever (note not a regular priest but High priest – Jesus is not following the type (shadow of the Old Covenant Sanctuary) as SDA’s teach – if He did, he would first be simply priest, but No! He is the High Priest, meaning there’s no one to follow Him; there’s no new title or successor. There is no need for a priest today. There is no human mediator between a holy God and sinful people. Jesus finished the work—He’s the High priest forever!
… ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK.” (VS 6 b)
Melchizedek’s a mysterious figure in the Bible; he’ll get discussed quite a bit in the chapters to come. In the Old Testament he shows up in two places—in Psalm 110 which this is quoting, and the other is Genesis, chapter 14. Melchizedek really comes out of nowhere. He’s the king of Salem; he rescues Abraham. As a result of that Abraham pays him a gift (a tithe not from his income but spoils of war – there was no tithe laws in Genesis). Melchizedek then blesses Abraham and Abraham receives the blessing, therefore affirming Melchizedek is both a king and a priest. We know nothing about those who came before him; we know nothing about those who succeeded him. He just comes out of nowhere and is a king/priest and that is the order of Melchizedek. There will be a lot more discussion about that in the rest of Hebrews. Starting in verse 7, then, he turns to the idea that Jesus was indeed human—one of these qualifications.
In the days of His flesh (as a human), He offered up (that’s priestly language) both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears… (vs. 7a)
Now those terms are very graphic—loud crying and tears. Most scholars for sure route this to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus agonized. He agonized over the reality that soon He would hang on a cross and take the sins of the world upon Himself. That ultimate agony was not the physical suffering, as horrendous as that was, but rather the fact that a holy God would take upon Himself the sins of the world. He would indeed be the recipient of the wrath of God in order to satisfy the wrath of God to offer salvation—to make propitiation for sin as we learned about. It’s specifically stated when Jesus says to the Father, “If it be Your will, take this cup from Me.” Cup is Old Testament prophetic language for the wrath of God. That’s what He was agonizing over. But at the end of that He said, “Not My will but Thy will be done.” But it’s also true that many scholars think there’s no reason to limit these words to Gethsemane. Oftentimes in the Gospels we’re told that Jesus went away by Himself to pray, and most likely those were times of agony; those were times of loud crying and pain. Imagine what it would be like to walk through this world as the Creator who had taken on human flesh. You understand what paradise was supposed to be. You saw it when You created it. You understand what You intended for people made in Your image and rest daily (not one day in seven) yet, what you see is pain and suffering and hate and despair and all that He encountered. What would it be like to experience all that as the Creator and see the devastation and destruction to Your creation?
So think of it this way: For those who are parents, the deepest pain that we ever feel is when you watch your children suffer. You would take it on yourself a hundred times over if you could take yours kids’ pain on yourself. Every parent feels that way. So imagine what it would be like if every single person in the world had that level of connection to You as the Creator? Every one of these people is My child. “I created them on purpose for a purpose and so the level of devastation, the level of heartache, the level of pain, the level of hatred, the level of rejection—and each one of those feels like your own child—imagine what that would be like?” In these moments when Jesus would pull away with the Father and just cry out and agonize over what He was experiencing. It’s easy for us to convince ourselves we’ve experienced far more pain and suffering than Jesus did. That concept is ludicrous! We only get the slightest taste of the level of pain and devastation He must have felt on earth, and that’s what this is referring to—fully human in every way but feeling the suffering and the struggle of this world.
…with supplication and loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death…(probably better translated out of death. Jesus did die but He rose from dead—saved out of death), …and He was heard…(That Greek word for heard doesn’t just mean heard, it means heard in the sense of answered; the Father heard His prayer and the Father delivered Him out of death.) …heard because of His piety.
…because of His devotion to the cause which is what he talks about then in verse 8:
Although He was a Son… (vs. 8a)
Now just stop and think about this for a minute. Let’s imagine you don’t know the story of Jesus at all. What the writer is saying is, “Imagine God sending His Son to take on human flesh on earth.” Knowing that’s who He is, what would you expect? Where would you expect Him to be born? Where would you expect Him to live? How would you expect the world to receive Him? If we didn’t really know the Jesus story we’d think: probably born in a palace, live in a mansion, travel in a limousine, be like a rock star with huge cheering crowds everywhere He would go, with lots of security to keep people back so no one could touch Him. That’s what we would expect. He was the Son!
Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. (Vs.8)
Again the language can get confusing. It doesn’t mean He was disobedient and learned to obey, but learned meansexperienced. In other words He didn’t talk about obedience; He obeyed. He didn’t talk about suffering; He suffered. It wasn’t just that He was willing to obey or willing to suffer; He actually did obey; He actually did suffer. Verse 9:
And having been made perfect (complete, having finished the assignment), He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,
So as a result of His completing that mission as the ultimate High Priest, making the ultimate sacrifice, He has become the source of eternal salvation. Now the writer of Hebrews has been very clear on this—that to disbelieve is to disobey; therefore to believe is to obey. So when he says here those who obey, he’s saying those who believe. As we learned: those that cease from their own self-righteous works and rest in the finished work of Jesus on the cross experience His salvation.
…being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. (Vs. 10)
So this gets complex; there’s a lot more to talk about which we will in time. But now the writer interrupts this conversation for what people refer to as the third warning of the book of Hebrews. Warning number 1: Chapter 2, verse 1: “Pay more attention to the truth lest you drift away.” That was the warning: Anchor down to the truth or you are going to drift away. Second warning was the cost of disbelief: If you don’t believe God tells the truth, disbelief leads to disobedience and you’re going to make a mess of your life. So this is the third warning—verse 11:
Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, (Why?) since you have become dull of hearing.
Now dull of hearing has nothing to do with intelligence…nothing to do with intelligence! Dull of hearing means lazy. It meansunmotivated. It means indifferent. It means they just don’t really care; they’re not listening to what He has to say. So the concern is there’s so much more you need to know and you’re not interested. Now sometimes people are dull of hearing because they are lazy; sometimes it’s because people don’t care. They’ve got a hundred and one other things they’re far more interested in—“Got my ticket to heaven; that’s all I need!” But it’s also true that some people are dull of hearing because they are mad at God. They’re mad at God because the story hasn’t gone the way they think it should, “Therefore I’m ticked off at God; I don’t want to hear what He has to say.” It’d be like you being mad at me, “I don’t want to hear it; I don’t want to listen—I’m mad at you!” That’s how a lot of people respond to God. Out of their frustration and their anger they’re dull of hearing. “I don’t want to hear it.” Whatever the cause, that’s the concern. Verse 12:
For though by this time you ought to be teachers (Enough time has passed; they ought to be teaching the new, young, growing believers.) you ought to be teachers you have need again… (So they’ve been taught this before and now they have need to be taught it again.) …for someone to teach you the elementary principles (the ABC’s) of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.
So he’s saying, “You’re still babies; you’re still infants. All you can eat is milk. By now you should be eating solid food, but actually all you can eat is milk ‘cause you’re still spiritual babies.” It is a reminder that just because you’ve been a Christian for twenty years doesn’t mean you’re spiritually mature. I meet Christians that have been Christians for twenty years—they’re still babies. I’ve met other Christians who’ve been Christians for two years and they’re very mature. There isn’t some magic to it. You don’t just automatically mature. They’ve been taught the basics, the ABC’s, the most elementary principles of this deep, rich theology that defines their life but they don’t listen; they don’t want to hear it, and so He has to teach to them again.
In the teaching world we have kind of these three levels that we think about: Level number 1 is understanding. Does somebody understand this truth? If not, then I need to explain it. The second level is they understand it but they don’t really believe it, so then I have to prove it or defend it in some way to help them to believe it. And once we believe it, then we need to live it, and sometimes we just have to help people understand, “What does that look like in life?” But there’s a realization that nobody is going to live what they don’t believe, and they can’t really believe it if they don’t understand it. So we’re trying to think through where we’re at in the process with all of these truths.
The challenge is that what’s happened to the church is, in order to cater to the consumers, we’ve kind of skipped the understanding and the believing, and we’ve gone right to the living. And so what you get is not a deep, rich theology; what you get is kind of a pop psychology that is more like behavior modification. It’s like external kind of management systems: So it’s, “Five Ways to Fix Your Marriage;” Ten Commandments to obey, it’s, “Three Ways to Raise Your Kids;” it’s, “Ten Ways to Get Over Anxiety;” it’s, “Three Ways to be Happy.” It’s stuff like that. So rather than this deep, rich theology that’s understood and then believed and then life flows out of that, it’s more of an attempt to just modify behavior. That’s where legalism comes from. Rather than teaching the truth…understand it…believe it…and then live it out, we skip one and two and we go right to, “Here’s the list of rules; here’s the lists; here’s the do’s and don’ts, and here’s how you are supposed to live.” So rather than it be an outflow of life, it’s just kind of an attempt to modify behavior.
How many Christians do you think attend church regularly and seek to live out the expected behavior of a Christian but have virtually no idea how to go into the Scriptures and explain and defend why we live the way we live? I would suggest it’s probably pretty high. There’s nothing more powerful than understanding these magnificent truths, and then believing them, and then that changes the way we live our lives.
For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed (has not experienced) to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.
In other words, spiritual infants really don’t know how to live righteously ‘cause their still infants. So think of it this way: How much care, guidance, and attention do infants require? Answer is, “A lot.” That’s what makes parenting so exhausting. You can’t just turn them loose. You have to watch over them; you have to protect them; you have to guide them; you can’t just set them out the front door for several hours. How many parents in the room would drop your five-year-old off at the mall and say, “I’ll be back in three or four hours”? They’re just simply not equipped for that. The world is a scary place; it’s a dangerous place. There are so many things that could happen. That’s the problem with a young child or an infant. They’re just not mature enough to understand the world and navigate their way through it. It’s exactly what he’s saying. When spiritually you are still a baby, you don’t really understand how to navigate your way through a very dangerous world; it’s only a matter of time till you make a mess of your life. Verse 14:
But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice (very interesting word) have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
This is typically not how we think of spiritual growth. We think of it like some mysterious thing where you walk in the building and there’s some Jesus cloud that settles on you and you walk out the door more spiritual than when you walked through the door. But what that verse is saying is very practical: You learn it; you understand it; you practice it; you’re trained in it. It’s a word used to describe an athlete or like a musician practicing. It doesn’t happen magically. You learn it; you practice it; you get better at it. You learn how to discern better between good and evil; so then you learn a little bit more and you practice it and get better at it; and then you learn a little bit more and you practice and you train. That’s how you grow spiritually, but you have to be motivated to listen and to learn and to practice and to train in order to get better and better. To not do that—to ignore the warning—is to just bide your time until you eventually make a mess out of your life.
There is no way in your most difficult moments in life that Christ will be enough for you if you do not understand the ABC’s, the elementary principles of life. He is enough—you just won’t know it…you won’t get it! If we don’t listen to the warning, if we don’t take it seriously and continue to grow as believers, we simply lack the maturity we need to live righteously in a very confusing and dangerous world. If you don’t listen to the warning, it’s only a matter of time until you make a big mess of your life. So the only question we have is, “Will you listen to the warning?”
Our Father, we are thankful that You have warned us, and also You have not left us to struggle in the darkness. You’ve given us the truth if we’re willing to listen and learn and practice and train and grow. My prayer is that we would have ears to hear this morning, lest we become dull of hearing and suffer the consequences of not listening. For this I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.