CHRIST LEARNING OBEDIENCE BRINGS THE SACRIFICE (Hebrews 5:7, 8)
The Old Testament priesthood was called by the Lord to bring sacrifices and gifts in behalf of sins. The writer speaks of “gifts and sacrifices.” Gifts (doora) evidently refer to the bloodless sacrifices which were brought in the temple, the firstfruits of the land. The term sacrifices (thusias) refers to the bloody sacrifices which were slain at the altar by the priests in behalf of the sins of the people. The hands of the priest symbolically transposed the sins of the sinner upon the head of the sacrificial victim. Were it not for the sins, the missing of the mark of the perfection of the law of God, no sacrifice would need to be brought, and no priest would need to bring sacrifices. But now the priest brings sacrifices for the sins of the people. However, the priests first must bring a sacrifice for his own sins. He can do this since he himself is a sinner, surrounded with weakness due to sin.
The entire priestly garment pointed to this fact that the priest stood and administered before the Lord in behalf of the sins of the people. Particularly we see this in the breastplate of the high priest. These were twelve stones which represented the twelve tribes of. Israel. That they were beautiful colored stones evidently represented Israel as borne upon the heart of God, the heart of the high-priest before the throne of mercy. It means that one day the entire church shall stand before the Lord as so many precious stones, each reflecting the glory of grace in his own way. Do we not read in Isaiah 54:11-13, “O thou afflicted, tossed with the tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones. And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy people”?
Such was the implication of the breast-plate of the high-priest.
Such was the duty of the priest to bring the gifts and sacrifices for the sins of the people. Herein he shows that he must be able to bear gently with the sins of the people, the weak and the erring. The term here for bearing gently in the Greek is “metriopathein.” This is really a beautiful word and concept. It means to be moderate, keep measure, to be of an even temper. It means to be calm, moderate in one’s anger. Thus the priest was to bear reasonably with the sins and weaknesses of the people. Really, this was only possible when the priest remembered God’s grace of compassion for his own weakness and sins. This is a rather universal rule in the, church. No preacher is able to be a good liturgical priest who does not feel great pity for the weaknesses of the congregation. He is indeed a fool and a misfit who is hard, harsh and ruthless in his treatment of the saints. He has never learned what it means “feed my lambs,” “tend my sheep.” He does not have the heart of a shepherd.
Someone has written concerning this “bearing gently” with the weaknesses of the people: “here the moderation of tenderness in the judgment formed upon the errors of one’s neighbor is intended as this is wont to arise from the sympathy the unhappiness of the same which is produced by sin.”
But Christ, the Son of God; far exceeds this; He can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, since he was tempted of all, yet without sin. Here is a High-Priest who does far more than bring some gifts and sacrifices in a earthly temple.
He sacrificed himself!
He sacrifices himself in the “days of his flesh!” According to the writer of the Hebrews there is the Christ “the Son,” who is from everlasting, (vs. 8) and the Christ, in the days of his flesh, and the Christ as he is perfected at the right hand of God! (Hebrews 1:4, 4:14, 5:9, 10)
In a sense we can say that Christ is still in the flesh, if we understand “flesh” to mean that the eternal Son is united inseparably with the Divine nature. Our Belgic Confession says that the Christ was not divided as to his two natures even in the grave, (Art. 19)
Be this as it may there is still a difference between Christ in the “days of his flesh” and the glory which is his now, and which shall be his at the time of his return with clouds, and the renewal of all things. The writer says expressedly that in the “days of his flesh” the Christ learned something. He gained a knowledge in his suffering which he did not know by experience before. He was truly man and could and did increase in stature, becoming strong in spirit. (Luke 2:52) Here the writer says that Christ learned obedience. He learned this even though He was Son. The Greek here is “kaiper oon Uios.” All the while that he was learning in the flesh, he is still the Person of the Son, co-equal and co-eternal with the Son! That gives infinite value to his suffering. It was the son of God who learned in the “days of His flesh!” Great is the mystery of godliness! God is manifested in the flesh. Immanuel, God-with us, is He! That makes the suffering unique! It also makes the learning unique.
Christ learned from which he suffered. According to the tenses in the Greek here the idea is that the “learning” kept perfect pace with the “suffering.” He learned from which he suffered. In the depths of hellish agony the eternal Son learned what it means to be perfectly obedient! And as he tasted death, raw death and hell, and suffered, bearing the wrath of God against the sins of the people, he learned obedience. And because he learned obedience exactly according to the measure of his infinite suffering he brought an infinite sacrifice. And that sacrifice has infinite value, and infinite sympathy that can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.
What does it mean that Christ, the Son, learned obedience? Surely this does not mean that Christ went through a process of mortification of sinful flesh to come to a new obedience. He was the eternal Son, the High Priest who is holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens e (Hebrews 7:26) But what we ought to observe above all is that the text does not speak of Christ learning obedience in general, but he learned “the obedience.” He learned thesacrificial obedience of the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world. He learned under law what is means to be obedient unto death, the perfect obedience to the law of God, to love God perfect, and cry from the depths of hell: I love Thee! In the volume of the book it is written of me. (Hebrews 10:8-10)
An interesting matter for study is the fact that the Greeks in the Classics did not ever have the term “obedience” (puakoee) in their vocabulary. They did not have the promulgated law. They were a law unto themselves. Where no law is there is no disobedience, neither is there a possibility of obedience. The term “obedience” is a term that fits in the vocabulary of those who know the law. Christ knew the law perfectly, and he was perfectly obedient. He learned this while he suffered. He walked by faith and humble trust. He lived, according to His human nature, as the eternal Son, under law and, therefore, in faith to the commandment. Because he so trusted in God he could be so obedient. His was a perfect hearty trust. No one can please God without faith. Not even the Son of God in the days of his flesh.
Truly such a Savior can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities! He knows what it means to hear the great Shamah (Hear, Israel) perfectly. (Deut. 6:4) He bears the wrath, paid the debt, carried away the sin of the people.
What a strong crying and tears this entailed. Hear him in Gethsemane as he prostrates himself upon the earth! Does he not cry so that father Jacob’s tears at Peniel seem as nothing. Hear him, a stone’s throw, yet an eternity from his beloved disciples “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will but as thou wilt. And did he not with strong crying and tears pray himself into perfect submission when he says the third time “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.” What a cry with a loud voice out of the darkness on the accursed tree, when in utter amazement he learns obedience when he suffers and says “My GOD, my GOD, why hast thou forsaken me?”
Behold, then the perfect sacrifice, once and for all!
THE AUTHOR OF ETERNAL SALVATION FOR ALL WHO OBEY HIM (Hebrews 5:9, 10)
The writer writes the amazing fact that the Christ was “perfected.” In the letter to the Hebrews this perfection is connected with and based upon his suffering.
He is perfected through suffering. (Hebrews 3:10)
Here too the writer speaks of the Christ being made perfect. It is at the very fact of being made perfect that Christ became the author of salvation. He is the worker of salvation. He brings salvation about. Hence we can cling to him and come with boldness to the throne of grace; we do not apostatize from the living God, but enter into the rest. He is thus the great High-Priest of our profession, perfected through sufferings to bring many sons to glory. Such is his perfection.
He became the author of eternal salvation. He is the everlasting God in the flesh. In the Old Testament dispensation there were many times in which the Lord “saved his people in distress.” But it was ever of short duration. This was especially the characteristic of the Old Testament priesthood. It never was an eternal salvation. But Isaiah had prophesied that the LORD would bring back his people from Babylon, and that Israel would be saved with everlasting salvation. (Is. 45:17) And that Jehovah does in the Son.
And when the Son has thus brought about perfect and, eternal salvation He is greeted by God. He is addressed by God in heaven, as he passes through the heavens “a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
Only such a priest is the surety and pledge of eternal salvation.
Such is Christ appointed by God forever!
Let us then draw near to the throne of grace and find mercy and receive grace in the time of need.