Hebrews 5:1-10 Obedience – the key to salvation and perfection
1 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; 2 he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness; 3 and because of it he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins, as for the people, so also for himself. 4 And no one takes the honor to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was.
5 So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him, “You are My Son. Today I have begotten You”;
6 just as He says also in another passage, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
7 In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. 8 Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. 9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, 10 being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
A priest must possess full human attributes and at the same time satisfy God’s demands for obedience in the face of suffering. Christ belongs to the order of priesthood that carries God’s authority to rule the nations and the earth. Today’s passage teaches us the importance of obedience which is the key to salvation and perfection, knowing that the grace of Christ is ever near to empower us each step of the way.
For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God…
The role of a priest is to mediate between God and men: appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God. The things pertaining to God include the need for propitiation, favor and men’s supplications and prayer requests. The role of the priest is necessary because of the existing chasm between God and men that needed bridging. However, the priest must satisfy two criteria.
Firstly, he must be fully human and possessing propensity towards sin: he himself also is beset with weakness. Only then, he is able to identify with the mortal weaknesses of men and understand their need for grace: deal gently with the ignorant and misguided. A priest in offering sacrifices both for himself and for the people acknowledges the fallenness of the human race and their need for divine grace. Therefore, even Jesus as an ordinary man needed divine grace to persevere in the face of suffering. He cried out to God for grace in the midst of His suffering. And God answered Him because of His deep reverence towards God: He was heard because of His piety. Grace was imparted from heaven to enable Him to stay the course of the cross. And that same grace also resurrected Him from death.
So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest…
Secondly, a priest must be divinely appointed as Aaron was. However, the priest must first find favor with God in order for him to be appointed. As for Christ, He did not glorify Himself, but rather He was appointed first as a Son, and then to the role of priest according to the order of Melchizedek. We have already understood from previous sections that a Son also carries God’s authority to rule the earth. The text (lifted from Psalm 2:7) speaks of Christ’s birth and appointment to rule the nations and the earth:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.”
The subsequent text concerns Christ’s appointment to the role of priest according to the order of Melchizedek. The text (lifted from Psalm 110:4-5), shows us the association between the priest according to the order of Melchizedek and kingship.
The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” The Lord is at Your right hand; He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath. Psalm 110:4-5
Christ’s priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek differs from the existing order of priests. Christ is not only a priest, He is a Son and also King of the world. But note the sequence: that Christ is first appointed as a Son, then as Priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.
Even though Christ is a Son, it remains that perfection be acquired through obedience in the course of suffering. Christ’s suffering began on the day of His incarnation and culminating at the cross 33 years later where He forsook His divine privileges and suffered for the sins of humanity. Thus, the manner in which Christ obtained His perfection becomes a model through which many believers will receive their salvation or perfection: He became to all those who obey Him the source (model) of eternal salvation. Believers who are called to receive salvation must show themselves approved through their life of obedience where Christ is the model. This teaching mirrors Christ’s own words,
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Mark 8:34-35.
After Christ has demonstrated His attitude of perfect obedience, God perfected Him by resurrecting Him from death. This perfection consummates His earthly tenure raising His priesthood to the order according to Melchizedek. The priest of the order according to Melchizedek requires Christ to possess fallen human characteristics and at the same time satisfy God’s demands for obedience in the course of suffering.
A priest must boast about his struggles and at the same time demonstrate his blessedness in walking in the ways of God. The priest’s role is to help people overcome their weaknesses by increasing their capacity for obedience through dependence on Christ. People are encouraged when they realize that the weaknesses residing in the believer cannot stop him from living an exciting and blessed life. People must be able to see that your daily struggles are just as real as theirs. And yet you have a way of overcoming them – by way of the Holy Spirit, (which is the Spirit of Christ.) At the same time, you must not shy away from showing them your blessedness – the result of dependence on Christ. A priest walks with others without reproaching them for their weaknesses, while encouraging and handholding them along the way.
Salvation is acquired through our obedience in accomplishing God’s commission in our lifetime. Salvation is commonly understood as having escaped condemnation and given a place in heaven. Salvation as presented in the book of Hebrews is about entering God’s ordained place of glory and honor as sons of God. The Bible is clear that each believer will be rewarded according to their works based on the motives of their heart. Hence, salvation must not be viewed as merely crossing over into heaven but a time of reckoning where the quality of each man’s work will be tested with fire. The apostle Paul says,
If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 1 Corinthians 3:14-15.
Christ has attained perfection, in other words, He inherited salvation with highest honors because He obeyed God even unto death. On the day of judgment, all men will be judged the same way as Christ is judged. Some will be rewarded and some will suffer loss, notwithstanding they may still be saved. Therefore, as believers, let us aim to fully obey the calling of God and receive salvation with highest honors.
It is the priest’s role to exercise authority and restore God’s rule over our community. Traditionally, priests are perceived as docile intercessors and encouragers; they are never authoritative or spirited in the roles they play. However, Christ represents a new order of priests that exercises authority based on justice and mercy. All believers hold an area of authority in their family, work place and community. As priests, we must exercise that authority to restore justice and mercy not in a tyrannical manner but in humility.
- As priests of God, we must not shy away from talking about our blessedness as well as our struggles. We must be bold in testifying about the grace of God that has brought us thus far. In doing so, we become effective priests that bridge the chasm between God and men in a relevant way.
- As priests, we must not fill our minds with the hope of obtaining more blessings, but the hope of accomplishing our calling. By focusing our prayers not on our needs but on the needs of others, by opening our hearts to understand the thoughts and the plans of God, we receive grace to do His will.
Dear Lord, help me be a priest who brings the community a little closer to you. Help me empathize with the struggles of others. Help me discipline my body so that I am primed to do your will in the face of temptations. Anoint me with your Spirit so that I may manage my household and work place with justice, mercy and humility. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.