Hebrews chapter 5 shows us what a great High Priest we have in Christ. One of the defining attributes of the Old Covenant was the sacrificial system and the Aaronic Priesthood. This was an important part of God’s relationship with His people. In this Hebrews 5 summary we’ll take a look at how Christ meets the qualifications to be a high priest.
We as Christians today are not bound to this system because we are part of a new covenant governed by a priesthood of a different lineage.
The main lesson of the book of Hebrews was to teach about this new and better covenant.
The main message of Hebrews 5 is to show how Jesus meets the qualifications to be our High Priest of this new covenant.
The author also gives his readers some tough, yet necessary, love.
Hebrews 5:1-10 Summary
These verses compare and contrast Christ’s priesthood to the Aaronic Priesthood. The author wants their readers to see that Christ is qualified to be a High Priest.
Qualifications of a High Priest
For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of people in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins;
This verse sets the stage to remind us that we cannot come to God on our own. We need a mediator. We learned back in Hebrews 3 that a priest is a person who speaks to the Lord on behalf of the people and makes atonement for sin.
2 he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is clothed in weakness; 3 and because of it he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins for himself, as well as for the people.
If we take a look back at the High Priest described in Exodus 28:4-30, we see that they wore a breastplate and a shoulder strap, each inlaid with precious stones. These stones were a representation of the 12 tribes of Israel.
These garments were a reminder to the priest that he held God’s people on his shoulders and in his heart. He was to display compassion and strength to the 12 tribes.
We also saw in Hebrews 4:14-15 that Jesus had experienced weakness as a human. He shares in this priestly requirement to have compassion and strength for the people he represents.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let’s hold firmly to our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things just as we are, yet without sin. – Hebrews 4:14-15
4 And no one takes the honor for himself, but receives it when he is called by God, just as Aaron also was. Hebrews 5:1-4 NASB
A person could not become a High Priest by his want or desire. He had to be chosen by God. Again, we cannot come to God on our terms. God is the one who designates the means of atonement and the way of salvation.
Christ, Our High Priest Forever
5 So too Christ did not glorify Himself in becoming a high priest, but it was He who said to Him, “You are My Son, Today I have fathered You”;
Jesus, like the Aaronic High Priest of the Old Testament, was called by God. He did not appoint Himself, He was called by His Father.
Not only was Jesus a priest, but He was also the Son. This sets him apart from other High Priests of the Old Covenant.
6 just as He also says in another passage, “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.”
Here is another way that Jesus is set apart from the other High Priests. The Priests of the Old Covenant were taken from the order and lineage of Aaron.
Jesus was called as a High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek (the author will go on to explain in the next two chapters). Keep this in mind moving forward through the scriptures.
7 In the days of His humanity, He offered up both prayers and pleas with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His devout behavior. 8 Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.
Jesus was a man taken from among men.
I love how this verse shows the fullness of the deity. Jesus was fully God as the Son, but He was also fully human. He learned obedience through His human experience. Before He became man He existed in glory with the Father. As God, he did not experience obedience.
He did not need to obey. He is to be obeyed.
By putting on flesh, he took on the form of a servant and became acquainted with the human experience of obedience to God the Father.
He learned obedience so that He could become our High Priest.
What an amazing, beautiful, and compassionate thing for God to do for us, that He would put off the glory He had with the Father, and come in the likeness of flesh, just so He could reconcile us in our relationship with God.
9 And having been perfected, He became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey Him,
This perfecting was needed not because Jesus was lacking in moral perfection. As we saw in Hebrews 2:10, Jesus was perfect as our savior through suffering.
10 being designated by God as High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
Here, we see the author begin to switch gears. He wants to explain a new order of priesthood. One that is according to a different lineage than the Aaronic priesthood of the Old Testament.
As we continue reading through this chapter we can sense the author’s hesitancy to discuss this new order.
Hebrews 5:11-14 Summary
Put yourself in the shoes of one of these Hebrews. They had lived most of their life under the Old Covenant law and walking in the customs and traditions of the Jewish leaders.
You can imagine that the idea of a new order of priesthood, unlike what they and generations before them had been taught and raised under, seemed like a radical concept.
Many of them had accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, but many were tempted and pressured to return to the Old Covenant system of animal sacrifice.
Keep this context in mind as we move forward.
Failure to Mature
11 Concerning him we have much to say, and it is difficult to explain, since you have become poor listeners.
The phrase “poor listeners” is also translated in some versions as “dull of hearing”.
This phrase means ‘sluggish’. It was more about a matter of the heart and not wanting to hear. We should also notice that they “became” dull of hearing. They did not start as being dull of hearing.
Such a good application here for us. There are so many voices in the world. This passage always reminds me of the importance of allowing the whispers of the gospel to counsel my heart. I need to be continually reminding myself of the good news that God has proclaimed through His Son.
There is a danger when we allow other voices and ideas to penetrate our thoughts. We can quickly become dull to the truth.
What do we allow our minds to dwell on? Are we even aware of the condition of our thoughts? Are we intentionally taking our thoughts captive?
12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the actual words of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unacquainted with the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to distinguish between good and evil.
Despite receiving adequate instruction, these Hebrew Christians had not grown up spiritually.
Here we see a contrast between spiritual maturity and immaturity.
- Immature – unacquainted with the word of righteousness
- Mature – trained senses to distinguish between good and evil. (good and evil refers to good and evil doctrine)
Their inability to discern good doctrine from bad doctrine led to stunted growth. As they failed to grow and mature in Christ they began listening to the lies telling them they needed to go back to the Old Covenant.
We see a progression here. It all started with what they were choosing to hear. By listening to lies, they became dull to the truth. That dullness led to a lack of maturity. Then, the lack of maturity led to temptation. The temptation to go back to their old life.
Back to a sacrificial system that was flawed and fading away. Back to bondage.
Again, we see the importance of hearing what God has spoken in Jesus. We must be diligent and intentional in what voices, ideologies, doctrines, and beliefs we are entertaining in our minds.
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