Q25: How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?
A: Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice (Heb. 9:28), and reconcile us to God (Heb. 2:17); and in making continual intercession for us (Heb. 7:25).
I. Office of a priest: the priest represents man to God in order to reconcile man to God who is justly angered over man’s sin.
A. The priest does this by the sacrifice of a substitute for man making atonement, and by intercession on man’s behalf (Lev. 4:27-31; 9:7; 16:2, 6, 15).
B. The NT defines a priest and exhibits the nature of the High Priest’s office (Heb. 5:1).
1. Appointed for others, to draw near to God, to offer sacrifices (mediation, intercession).
II. Christ fulfilled the work of a priest: the sacrifice.
A. Jesus’ priestly office differed from the priestly office under the law.
1. Christ is High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 4:14–5:6).
a. Melchizedek was a mysterious figure who typified Christ (Heb. 7:1-3; cf. Gen. 14:18).
(1). Melchizedek’s priesthood was superior to the Levitical priesthood: it is forever (Heb. 7:1-3); Levi (in Abraham’s loins) paid tithes to Melchizedek (Heb. 7:4-10); it was promised another order would supersede the Levitical (Ps. 110:4; Heb. 7:11-14); it was not obtained by “law of fleshly commandment,” but by power of endless life (Heb. 7:15-19).
2. Christ is sinless and did not have to offer a sacrifice for Himself (Heb. 5:3; 7:26-27).
3. Christ is a priest forever, and there is no need for many priests because of their mortality (Ps. 110:4; Heb. 7:23).
4. Christ offered but one sacrifice, whereas the priests under the law offered many (Heb. 9:25-26)
B. Jesus offered the sacrifice of Himself (Isa. 53:10; Heb. 7:22, 26-28; 1 Pet. 2:24) through the eternal Spirit (Heb. 9:14), as a perfect sacrifice offered once and for all to put away the sin of many (Dan. 9:26; Heb. 9:11-14, 23-28).
C. Jesus’ vicarious priestly work results in expiation, propitiation, and reconciliation.
1. These effects presuppose guilt, which expresses the relation which sin bears to justice.
a. Expiation: the sinner, or his guilt, is expiated; which is the cancellation of sin (Pss. 86:5; 103:12; Isa. 38:17; Jer. 31:34; Mic. 7:19; 1 Pet. 1:18-19).
b. Propitiation: God, or His justice, is propitiated; which is the turning away of wrath by the offering of a gift. Christ satisfied God’s wrath (Rom. 3:25; cf. 1:18, 24, 28), which is also proven by:
(1). Many Scripture texts (Eph. 5:2; Heb. 7:26-27; 10:14).
(2). Christ’s resurrection (Heb. 13:20).
(3). Christ’s ascension (Jn. 16:10).
c. Reconciliation: the root idea is that of change of attitude or relationship (Rom. 5:10-11; 2 Cor. 5:17ff; Eph. 2:14; Col. 1:20-22; Heb. 2:17).
(1). That reconciliation was accomplished is also proven by the many benefits that Christ bestows upon His people: justification (Col. 2:14); the procurement of grace and holiness (Tit. 2:14); the purchase of heaven (Heb. 9:19-21).
III. Christ’s priestly work has a particular design.
A. There are basically three different views of the atonement.
1. Absolute Universalism: God wills all to be saved, Christ died for all, all will be saved.
a. It is consistent (what God plans happens), but false (cf. Matt. 25:31-46).
2. Conditional Universalism: God doesn’t desire to save any particular person, but only make salvation possible for all.
a. This view results in a multitude of absurdities.
(1). It is fallacious, for it is up to man to exercise his “free will”—which he does not have (see Q13)—to repent and believe.
(2). If Christ died intending to save all, then He died for many who never hear His name and of the benefits of His death, which is necessary for salvation (Rom. 10:14-16).
(3). If Christ died intending to save all, then He died for those He knew would be children of wrath—Christ is omniscient.
(4). If Christ died for all and some are still punished in hell, then God is unjust for punishing both the sinner and Christ.
(5). If Christ died intending to save all, then He is an impotent Savior. Having satisfied justice and purchased redemption, He is unable to apply it.
(6). If Christ died intending to save all, then He died in vain, for many do not partake of His salvation.
3. Particularism or Limited Atonement: Christ died for the many (Heb. 9:28), for those whom the Father had given Him (Jn. 17:2, 6, 9-10; cf. 6:38-39, 10:15). There is no limit to the efficacy or value of Christ’s atonement, but only to its intended sphere of efficacy.
a. The High Priest bore “the names of the children of Israel” upon his shoulders (Ex. 28:12, 21) when he made atonement in the tabernacle (Lev. 9:7). Through this one man’s priestly act atonement was made for all the sin of God’s people.
(1). The High Priest had special clothes to give him “dignity” (Ex. 28:2-5). The garments are described as holy, glorious, and beautiful.
(a). “Sacred” (Heb., qodesh, “holy” or “set apart”).
(b). “Dignity” (Heb., kabod, “glory” or “weighty”).
(c). “Honor” (Heb., tiapara, “beauty”).
(2). Holiness, glory, beauty are all attributes of God (Ps. 29:2).
(a). God is beautiful in His holiness and glorious in His splendor. The only way to approach Him is so adorned.
b. Our great High Priest did not need special clothes, but is holy, glorious, and beautiful in His person (Heb. 7:26-28), making Him acceptable to God. Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory (Heb. 1:3).
(1). Whatever the High Priest did, Jesus does the same for us in heaven. Christ represents the elect (Matt. 1:21; Jn. 10:11; 15:12-13; Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25).
(2). Christ is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2).
(3). Paul knew that Christ’s death was particular: “the Son of God who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Ga. 2:20, emphasis added).
(a). God sees those in Christ just as He sees His perfect Son.
(4). Christ’s death was a “ransom” (Gk., lutron [Matt. 20:28]), which means to pay a price on behalf of slaves (Lev. 19:20), or captives (Isa. 45:13), to set them free, or to save one from death (Ex. 21:30). Jesus paid the ransom to set His people free from Satan‘s power (Acts 26:18), sin (Rom. 6:22), and death (Heb. 2:15). [In each of the above OT uses of lutron, it is used in the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew]
IV. Christ fulfilled the work of a priest: intercession.
A. The different periods of Christ’s intercession.
1. Christ interceded for His church and people before His manifestation in the flesh, as a Lamb slain before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8).
a. He was pleading in the OT for the church (Zech. 1:12).
2. Christ interceded for His church in His state of humiliation (Lk. 23:34; Jn. 17:24).
3. Christ intercedes for His church in His state of exaltation (Rom. 8:34).
B. What Christ’s intercession consists of.
1. In His appearing in heaven in His people’s nature and on their account (Heb. 9:24).
2. In presenting the memorials of His death and suffering as moving pleas on their account (Heb. 12:24).
3. In presenting His people’s prayers and petitions unto God and pleading for their acceptance (Rev. 8:3).
4. In answering the bill of indictment against them (Rom. 8:33-34).
C. The grounds or reasons of our High Priest’s intercession.
1. He is commissioned to this purpose (Isa. 52:6; Heb. 5:5).
2. He intercedes for His people because they were given to Him for this end (Jn. 17:6, 9).
3. He intercedes for His people because it is a special part of His priestly office to do so (Heb. 7:24-25).
4. He intercedes for His people, because His doing so is one of the great ends of His ascension and session at the right hand of God (Heb. 9:24).
A. Use, of knowledge.
1. Here let us see the horrible evil of sin, for which no other blood could atone but that of the Son of God.
2. The sacrifices of the OT did not take the sin of the people away, but were rather shadows of Christ’s sacrifice of Himself (Heb. 10:1, 4, 11), as only a rational sacrifice was fit to atone for a rational being (Mic. 6:6).
B. Use, of testing.
1. What is our view of Christ’s atonement? Was His death effective to save the elect, or is His death futile for many unless man exercises his free will?
2. Can you defend the scriptural view of Christ’s atonement?
C. Use, of exhortation: sinners and saints.
1. Sinners. This doctrine affords assurance that God is willing to pardon sinners, reconciling you to Himself through the death of His only begotten Son. Employ Christ as your High Priest and lay hold of His sacrifice if you would be saved.
a. See here the matchless love of Christ towards poor miserable sinners, which should enflame our hearts to sing His praises (cf. Rev. 1:5-6).
b. Know that God will never seek satisfaction for sin from those that are in Christ, and that you can never utterly fall away because you are kept by the power of God unto salvation.
c. Know that you have a friend in the court of heaven that will make all things work for your good.