Did you ever see a TV commercial in which an exhausted parent joyfully trades the washing powder they use now (which washes dazzling white after only one wash) for one that still leaves all kinds of stains after dozens of cycles? Yet in spiritual terms, that is what the readers of this letter were thinking of doing, and that is what we can be tempted to do, too. How did they (and how can we) get to this place?
LOOKING BACK (Hebrews 5:1-10)
Last time, we saw that the writer is addressing people just like we are sometimes – in that place where turning back from following Jesus seems easier than going forward. The total contempt for Jesus and unbelief in the world around us threaten to overwhelm us.
That is why the writer focuses our attention on Jesus, showing that He is the real thing – better than everything else! Here is true Biblical comfort – not a pat on the head with an insincere “there, there”, but rather a source of strength and courage to face the world and be more than conquerors in Jesus! We saw:
- Turning back to the old ways is understandable, but … for the readers of the letter, they were considering a return to a place where Aaron and his descendants would be their high priests. God chose and appointed Aaron to this position and prescribed gifts and sacrifices that needed to be brought to make atonement (after a fashion) for the people. Aaron was beset with weakness, though, so before He could offer these gifts, he first had to make offerings to atone for His own sins. This was the system God had put in place to keep His holiness and the reality of sin daily in front of the people of Israel. The sacrifices made them clean outwardly but (as we will see) they didn’t cleanse the conscience and so they had to be made over and over again.
- But … Christ is actually the MOST qualified High Priest.
- Like Aaron, Jesus was chosen and appointed by God – but Jesus’ high priesthood was foreshadowed in the days of Abraham by a great priest called Melchizedek. Since the birth of Levi was years away, Melchizedek’s priesthood was of a different order. He blessed Abraham and Abraham gave him a tithe, showing how great Melchizedek was. King David, writing about Jesus in Psalm 110, one thousand years before He was born, records the fact that God would appoint Him to an eternal priesthood in Melchizedek’s order.
- Like Aaron, Jesus was truly a man so that He could have solidarity with His people in their suffering. He was touched with a feeling of their infirmity But Jesus always was, and still remains, spotlessly righteous.
- Like Aaron, Jesus offered gifts and sacrifices for the sins of His people. But Jesus had no sin for which He needed to sacrifice (as Aaron did) and the sacrifice of Jesus was perfect – far better than the blood of bulls and goats – He gave us His own life to make atonement with God for His people.
What can we conclude from this comparison? Why would we go back from following Jesus to something that isn’t as good and that doesn’t do the job as well.
JESUS IS THE ONLY PRIEST THAT YOU ABSOLUTELY NEED AND CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT!
LOOKING AHEAD (Hebrews 5:11-6:3)
We’ve seen the writer put forward one glorious truth after another in this letter, showing how superior Jesus is. But we also see that he often issues stern warnings and even rebukes to them that they could even toy with the idea of turning their backs on Jesus. This passage is just such a rebuke.
The writer would like to take his readers into even deeper truths about Jesus, but they seem to be losing their ability to comprehend these things (and were even sluggish to hear them), rather than having their minds and hearts enlarged by them. They were still unskilled in using God’s Word to discern good from evil. They were still babes in Christ, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine (Eph 4:14). There is a place in the ocean called the Doldrums, where sailing boats could find no wind to propel them and they could be becalmed for long periods of time. That is the danger of the place where the readers were. In two minds about following Christ, they were sliding gradually away from Him even without making that their firm decision.
Having thus rebuked them, the writer then says, in effect, “snap out of it!” He encourages them to get back on the path of growth toward spiritual maturity, moving beyond the basic truths of the Gospel, from its milk to its meat.
How would they achieve this? How can we achieve this? By being skilled in the word of righteousness and having our powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil (5:13-14). That is why we meet for worship, for Bible study, for prayer, for fellowship in Christ. That is why it is not safe to neglect meeting together as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Let’s heed this warning and determine to help each other on as we move to greater and greater degrees of maturity in Christ at Grace Church!