The Only Priest We Need

  • Text: Hebrews 7:23-28
  • Series: Christ in the New Covenant, Pt. 9
  • Date: Sunday, July 1, 2018 – AM
  • Venue: Trinity Baptist Church – Seminole, Oklahoma
  • Speaker: Jared Byrns
  • Audio: mp3

I was raised Baptist, as some of you were, so the concept of a priest has always been foreign to me. It was unfamiliar. I remember when I was about eight, a Catholic family from up north moved into our neighborhood. What you might not know about me is that I was an irritating child; and I think I drove them crazy asking questions. One of the things that puzzled me was that to be right with God, they said you needed a priest. You needed him to give you communion, you needed him to listen to your confession, and you needed him to perform rituals when you were dying. You see, I knew even then that there are passages like I Peter chapter 2 that teach that all believers are priests. So I knew you didn’t need a priest when you have a relationship with God. Over the years, however, I did learn that we do need a Priest in our relationship with God—just not a human one. There’s only one Priest Who can do the job: Jesus.

The book of Hebrews says a lot about priests in general and about the priesthood of Jesus in particular. It’s not my goal with this series to preach through every verse in Hebrews, but to cover some key passages that talk about the role of Jesus in the new covenant. So we’ve looked together at some passages that discuss the priesthood role of Jesus, and we’ve skipped some as well. But today, we’re going to revisit this concept of Jesus being our Priest, because it’s such a significant part of Hebrews. And the contrast between Jesus and human priests reminds us that nobody can do what Jesus can.

Let’s look together at Hebrews chapter 7 this morning. We’re going to look at the last six verses of the chapter, starting in verse 23. It says:

And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.

The main topic in this passage is the comparison between Jesus and the priests of the old covenant, and the comparison is meant to show once again the absolute supremacy of Jesus Christ over everyone and everything else we could look to for our salvation. Our good works can’t save us, a church can’t save us, and a human priest certainly can’t save us.

Chapters 5, 6, and 7 speak quite a bit about the priesthood under the old covenant; this institution was almost 1,500 years old by the time Hebrews was written, there had been a lot of priests throughout those years.

Verse 23 says, “And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death.” Under the old covenant, there had been thousands of priests because they didn’t last forever. Eventually, they died, and others took their place. Even worse, their work wasn’t effective forever. Israel couldn’t do without a priest and say the last priest still had them covered. There was always more sin, and these priests offered a temporary fix. They were short-lived priests offering short-lived solutions. They were a little like some of the plumbers I’ve dealt with in the past. I called one to fix a leaky faucet, and he did. It stayed fixed for approximately four hours until we tried to use it again. Then we had to call someone else in. He fixed it, and it stayed fixed for about a week. So, we needed to call someone else. We’re now running out of plumbers. The priests were similar. They’d offer sacrifices, but more priests and more sacrifices were always needed because they couldn’t keep the people right with God. But God always had something better in mind.

Verse 24 says, “But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.” Unlike human priests, we’re not going to wake up one morning and discover that Jesus is dead and gone. He died once, and death couldn’t keep Him. Peter said in Acts 2:24 that God raised up Jesus, “having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.”[1]No, unlike the priests in the old covenant, Jesus is alive and is going to stay that way.

Then verse 24 also says that He “hath an unchangeable priesthood.” He returned to life, and He returned to fulfill His priestly office—forever. As a Priest, He bridges the gap between the Father and us, and He pleads our case before the Father. But He’ll never die or retire; He’ll never pass the office along to another priest. His priesthood for us is eternal and unchanging.

As we look at verse 25, it’ll explain that in greater detail. It says, “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” What does it mean to “come unto God by Him?” Sinful man can only approach God through a priest—and Jesus is it.

In the old covenant, when you needed to get right with God, you didn’t just wander into the Temple on your own and say, ‘Here I am, God. Accept me.’ You had to go through a priest. Priests came to God on people’s behalf and made sacrifices. Under the new covenant, Jesus is the onlyriest Who can make atonement for your sins, so if you want to be right with God, you have to go through Jesus Christ. That’s not my opinion, that Jesus is the only way; that’s coming straight from the book of Hebrews. People who think it’s narrow-minded to see Jesus as the only way and think they can come to God by any means they please are essentially barging into the Holy of Holies and demanding that God accept them because they said so. Based on everything I know about the holiness of God, it doesn’t work that way. If we want forgiveness and salvation, if we want to be right with God, we have to trust Jesus as our one and only Savior and come to the Father through Him.

When we come to God through Him, verse 25 says that “he is able also to save them to the uttermost.” Can Jesus save you? Absolutely! He’s able to save you completely. He doesn’t just forgive some of your sins; He forgives them all. He doesn’t just acquaint you with God; He brings you right into the family of God as a son or daughter of the Most High. He doesn’t just give you a chance at eternal life; He carries you all the way there. He doesn’t just help you make some changes to your behavior; He transforms your heart. He doesn’t just hold you close until you make a mistake; He keeps you by His grace so that no man can pluck you out of His hand.

He can save you anywhere you are. He can save you from any sin. He can save you even if you’ve been running from Him for years. He can save you, and He can keep you saved. We don’t have a human priest who makes temporary offerings for us that will need to be repeated; we have a heavenly Priest Who can save us to the uttermost when we come to God by Him.

Verse 25 again says how Jesus fulfills this priestly role for us forever. It says, “he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Our High Priest is alive, and this morning, He is seated at the right hand of the Father, making intercession—begging the Father’s favor—for us.

Let’s move on to verse 26. It says, “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.” When it says He “became us,” it’s not saying He became a man—although He did. The word “become” is being used differently here. You’ve probably heard someone say that an outfit or a hairstyle was becoming. It’s not as common a phrase as it used to be, but it means that it suits the person who’s wearing it. It’s suitable. Jesus is a High Priest Who is suitable for us; He’s exactly the kind of High Priest that you and I needed.

Verse 26 says that He’s holy. Priests were supposed to be holy, but human priests couldn’t be sinless. The best they could do was a sort of outward adherence to the law and an inward desire to serve God, but they couldn’t escape their sinful nature. In contrast, Jesus is absolutely holy by nature, because He’s God.

It says He’s harmless; some translations say innocent. They mean virtually the same thing in this context. He’s not here to prey on the faithful. He has no malicious intent. Some religious leaders, unfortunately, abuse their positions for wealth or power. But Jesus didn’t come to harm anyone; He said in Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45 that He came “to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

It says He’s undefiled. He wasn’t plagued by the sin nature that the rest of us inherited from Adam. He’s pure, and He always has been.

It says He’s separate from sinners. He’s different from us. He’s sinless. Not only was He born without this sinful nature, but He experienced all the trials and temptations of what it means to be a human being without ever committing a single sin. He’s different from us, and He’s able to enter into His Father’s presence with a pure heart and a clear conscience.

And it says He’s higher than the heavens. He’s not some lowly man ministering on our behalf; He’s the only begotten Son of God, at Whose feet everyone will one day bow. He’s the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and even the angels are subject to Him.

When we see these characteristics and qualifications, we have to realize that no priest on Earth can do what Jesus can. We see in verse 27 that in one sacrifice Jesus accomplished what all the other priests combined could not.

Verse 27 says, “Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.” With Jesus, there’s no longer a need for all these sacrifices. Leviticus 16:6 explains how this worked. It says, “And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and for his house.” Before they could offer sacrifices for the people, the priests would have to offer sacrifices for themselves.

Verse 27 says that Jesus doesn’t need to make offerings for His own sins—because He has none. I John 3:5 says “in him is no sin.” II Corinthians 5:21 says He “knew no sin.” I Peter 2:22 says He “did no sin.” And Hebrews 4:15 says He was “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus is absolutely sinless, so instead of offering a sacrifice for Himself, He was able to offer Himself for us.

And in offering Himself, He made atonement for us once and for all. Unlike human priests, offering bulls and goats, He doesn’t need to offer daily sacrifices. He doesn’t need to make offerings over and over again. Once was enough. He doesn’t need to offer animals in the Temple; He doesn’t need to offer His own body every day on the altar of the Mass. Once was enough.

Verse 27 finishes by driving that point home—once was enough. It says, “for this he did once, when he offered up himself.” Now, within the next few weeks, I plan for us to look in more detail at what the book of Hebrews says about Jesus as a sacrifice in the new covenant. But for this morning, I need to point out that when He offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sins, it was the greatest sacrifice ever offered. He was the only perfect sacrifice, and He accomplished what all the others combined were unable to—He took away our sins. Hebrews 10:11-12 says, “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.” Unlike all the offerings of all the priests throughout history, His sacrifice was enough. There’s now no need for any further offering.

Now, let’s look at verse 28. It says, “For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.” Under the Law, God’s people were provided with human priests. And these suffered from the same shortcomings and failings that we all have. They were plagued by a sin nature too. So you had these priests who were just ordinary men. How is an ordinary man supposed to stand between you and a holy God? How is he supposed to make peace with God about your sins when he has sins of his own? These priests were far too weak and far too human to make any lasting peace between man and God. Yes, this system was set up by God, and He appointed these priests, but it was just a temporary arrangement while God prepared something better.

This verse tells us that we received human priests by the Law; but by God’s promise, we are given a much better Priest—an eternal Priest, Whose offering atones for our sins forever. In Psalm 110:4, the Father made a promise that His Son would be an eternal priest after the order of Melchizedek. It says, “The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” Melchizedek was an early priest in the book of Genesis, who was not subject to the limitations of the later priesthood under the Law. And this teaches that Jesus—like the early example, Melchizedek—holds a higher order of priesthood than those who simply inherited their office under the Law.

And finally, verse 28 talks about “the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.” Jesus has been set apart for this priesthood. He is the perfect fit for the role of our High Priest, and the Father has confirmed Him in that role. This verse says that He holds that priesthood forever.

What’s He doing as our High Priest if there’s no need for more sacrifices? Verse 25 told us that He’s interceding for us with the Father, even today.

The New Testament tells us that after Jesus’ resurrection, He appeared to His followers for forty days and then ascended to Heaven, to the right hand of the Father. Understand, He didn’t go back to Heaven for some time off. He’s at the Father’s right hand, pleading our case. When you trust Christ as your Savior, your sins are forgiven because Jesus paid for them in full on the cross. So, Jesus is not in Heaven arguing for our salvation—that’s already a done deal. What He’s doing is advocating for us. When Satan accuses us: when he points our sins out to God and says, ‘Look at them! How can you love them? How can you let them into Your Heaven?’—when Satan tries to accuse us before the Father, the Son shuts him down and reminds him that our sins are forgiven and covered under Jesus’ blood.

And from the Father’s right hand, Jesus watches over us. He sees our struggles; He sees our needs; and He constantly asks the Father to bless us and intervene in circumstances for our good and for His glory. Keep in mind that when Jesus advocates for our good, that doesn’t necessarily coincide with what we think is good for us. When Romans 8:28 says, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose,” we often assume that means that God is working in our circumstances to make us happy. We think that our good means our happiness. We forget the next verse, verse 29, which explains what our good is. It says, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Don’t be scared of that word predestination; it’s a biblical concept. I know that some people who are far smarter than I am believe that predestination means God predestined some to salvation and some to damnation—meaning He chose some to be saved and some to be lost. With all due respect, even to some of my fellow Baptists, that’s not what I see. As I read this passage, I don’t see it meaning that He has predestined some to salvation; I see it telling us that He has predestined believers to sanctification. If you are saved, God’s eternal plan for you is that you would grow to be more like Jesus Christ. So what does it mean that everything works together for good? It means our spiritual good. It means that God is working circumstances out so that you will grow to be more like Jesus. And, coming back to Hebrews, as Jesus advocates for you with the Father, He sees every need you have and every sin and shortcoming you struggle with; and He is pleading with the Father, moment by moment, to give you the grace you need to make it through and live like the blood-bought, spirit-filled son or daughter of the King that you are.

Is there anyone else who can do for you what Jesus can? That’s the question that I come back to so many times as I study the book of Hebrews. As this book overwhelms us with examples of how Jesus far surpasses everyone and everything in our world, we should ask ourselves that question. Is there anyone else who can do for you what Jesus can?

There is no other priest out there who can make any kind of offering or any kind of sacrifice that will bring you lasting peace with God. No other priest can forgive your sins through a once-for-all offering, a perfect offering of Himself. No other priest out there is immune to death and lives forever to minister to you and for you. No other priest has the right of access that would allow him to walk right in the presence of the Father, sit down at His right hand in a place of highest honor, and begin to plead your case before Him. No other priest can listen to every hideous accusation that can be made about you and the sins that you’ve committed—past, present, and future—and then, with confidence, tell Satan to go and drop dead because he’s got it covered. No other priest sees every struggle you have, sees every secret sin, hears every thought, and is well acquainted with every need—even before you know yourself what you need—and can voice to the father exactly what needs to be done.

You and I have a perfect Priest. He’s uniquely qualified to make peace between sinful men and a holy God. He’s not bound by all the limitations that plague any would-be earthly priest or mediator. For all the changes that have taken place under the new covenant, some things have stayed the same. God is still holy, and his standard is still absolute sinless perfection. That hasn’t changed. You and I still fall short of that standard. We’ve all sinned. We’ve all disobeyed God in our words, our thoughts, our attitudes, and our actions. The Bible teaches that we’re all guilty.

Have you ever told a lie? Guilty. Have you ever taken something that didn’t belong to you—even something small? Guilty. Have you ever been angry with someone for the wrong reasons? Guilty. And these are just a few examples—the bottom line is we’re all guilty. That hasn’t changed. And sinful men cannot be at peace with a holy God; we cannot have a relationship with a holy God; we cannot be forgiven by a holy God; and we cannot even stand in the presence of a holy God without the ministry of the Priest. That hasn’t changed either.

What has changed is that we’re no longer stuck with the ministry of imperfect priests who come to God in their weakness and have to deal with their own sins before they can even get to ours. We’re no longer stuck with the ministry of priests who can offer animal sacrifices and bring us temporary atonement but still leave us back in the same predicament a short time later. What has changed is that we have a perfect Priest. He can bring us lasting peace with God. He has no sin of His own and could focus on atoning for ours. He paid for our sins with one all-sufficient sacrifice when He died on the cross for us. And He never stops pleading our cause before the Father.

The sacrifice has been made, and the offer of forgiveness has been extended. If you realize that you’ve sinned, if you understand that you can’t have peace with God by your own effort, and if you believe that Jesus Christ is your Priest, Who offered Himself on the cross as a perfect sacrifice to pay for your sins in full, then this morning you can be forgiven. You can have peace with God. If you believe that He died to pay the price for your sins in full, simply ask God this morning to save you and forgive you because of what Jesus Christ did. If you ask this, believing in Jesus as your one and only Savior, God will forgive you, save you, welcome you into His family, and begin to transform you. We’re going to stand in just a moment and sing a hymn together to close the service. When we do, if you have questions or if you’d like to talk with someone about what Jesus has done for you, you’re welcome to come forward or find somebody nearby and pull them aside. We’d love to help you understand what Jesus has done for you. But right where you are this morning, if you know that you need to trust Christ and ask God’s forgiveness, you can do it right where you are. Jesus is ready to be your High Priest and bring you peace with the Father.

[1]NKJV.

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The above text is a rush transcript of the message and may contain errors.

© 2018, Jared Byrns. All rights reserved.