“How doth Christ execute the office of a priest? Christ executeth the office of a priest in His once offering Himself a sacrifice without spot to God, to be a reconciliation for the sins of His people; and in making continual intercession for them (LC, 44).” This function of His office was settled in the secret counsel of God. For He was “set forth (foreordained) a propitiation (Rom. 3:25),” an atoning sacrifice, for the sins of His people. This is the first part of His priestly office wherein He effects redemption through His blood. From all eternity He was foreordained a propitiation; He was “verily foreordained before the foundation of the world (I Pet. 1:18-20).” “He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8).” His crucifixion and death were centrally embraced in the “determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23)” and brought about through the instrumentality of “wicked hands.” From man’s side His death was murder. He was murdered by the Jews and Gentiles, but they did to Him nothing else than “whatever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done,” or “foreordained to come to pass (Acts 4:27, 28, ASV).” Christ so endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself in His priestly office, and it was all ordered and directed by the decree of God.
The high priest in the Old Testament was “taken from among men,” for men were estranged from God and needed reconciliation. Old Covenant priests were taken from men for men, for the benefit of men, since men, not God, needed the priesthood. He was ordained in the things pertaining to God in order to place before God’s people the only atonement, typically, in the death of Christ (Heb. 5:1). The priest prevailed with God on the part of men in order to maintain God’s covenant of friendship with men.
Christ was called to the office of priest by the highest authority—God. Let no one say that this subject has no relevancy in a modern age. For there are “priests” everywhere in the most enlightened countries. There are Roman Catholic priests, Orthodox priests, Anglican priests, Mormonite priests and Buddhist priests, to name considerable of them. Man himself is a “priest.” But as fallen and unredeemed, man makes himself the great high priest, whereas he wants God to be a little god and lesser priest. But Christ, the Son of God, did not intrude himself into the office of priest. He was called of God to enter it (Heb. 5:5), was installed and sworn into it (Prov. 8:23; Ps. 110:4), and that from eternity within the decree of the covenant (Zech. 6:13). Therefore, it is the Son, the only begotten God (John 1:18, Gk.), who became flesh, who bears the priestly office with the utmost importance, in the highest dignity, the most indisputable validity and an absolutely unique perpetuity. To this divine appointment Christ agreed in the words, “Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not”—willed not as the reality, but only as the figure of the true. For the blood of animals offered, by men themselves’ sinful, could not be acceptable to Thee nor atone for sin. “But a body hast Thou prepared Me” in the eternal purpose and counsel of God, which I am willing in the last days (Heb. 1:2) to assume and offer to God a sacrifice, a sweet-smelling savor, for the children which God hath given Me (Heb. 2:13). Therefore, “Lo, I come, to do Thy will, O God (Heb. 10:7).”
When the O.T. prophesies of a priest and priesthood in the future beyond the Aaronic priesthood of Israel, it presents God as speaking of a singular, exclusive priest-to-come. “I will raise Me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in Mine heart and in My mind: and I will build Him a sure house” (I Sam. 2:35). The character of His priesthood would be most singular—royal! For He would be “a priest upon His throne” (Zech. 6:13). The order of His priesthood—”forever after the order of Melchizedek (Ps. 110:4).” The sacrifice He would offer for sin—His soul, while the continual work He would carry on—intercession for the transgressors, the ones God had given Him (Is. 53:10, 12 with John 17:9). In His O.T. theophanic appearances, He came on the scene as priest, being, arrayed, as He was then, “clothed with linen (Ezek. 9:2; Dan. 10:5).”
“Concerning His priesthood, we have briefly to remark, that the end and use of it is, that He may. . . render us acceptable to God. That Christ might perform this office, it was necessary for Him to appear with a sacrifice. For under the law the priest was not permitted to enter the sanctuary without blood, that the faithful might know that, notwithstanding the interposition of the priest as an intercessor, yet it was impossible for God to be” satisfied without atonement for sins. “This subject” is discussed “at large in the Epistle to the Hebrews, from the seventh chapter almost to the end of the tenth. But the sum of the whole is this—that the sacerdotal dignity belongs exclusively to Christ, because, by the sacrifice of His death, He has abolished our guilt, and made satisfaction for our sins…There is no access to God, either for ourselves or our prayers, unless our Priest sanctify us by taking away our sins, and obtain for us that grace from which we are excluded by the pollution of our vices and crimes…Hence it follows that He is an eternal intercessor, and that it is by His intervention we obtain favor with God…” Then we ourselves, “who are polluted in ourselves, being ‘made priests’ (Rev. 1:6) in Him offer ourselves and all our services to God, and enter boldly into the heavenly sanctuary, so that the sacrifices of prayers and praise, which proceed from us, are ‘acceptable,’ and ‘a sweet-smelling savor’ (Eph. 5:2) in the divine presence…Detestable is the invention of those, who, not content with the priesthood of Christ, have presumed to take upon themselves the office of sacrificing Him; which is daily attempted among the Papists, where the mass is considered as an immolation of Christ (Calvin’s Institutes, II, XV, 6, ital. added).”
It is from the Epistle to the Hebrews, and there only in the N.T., that we learn what priesthood intervenes between us and God, namely Christ’s, which priesthood was typified by the priestly order of Aaron. Though He was “an High Priest after the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 5:10). He was not a high priest of the order of Aaron, neither of the order of Melchizedek, for He was not of any certain human order, nor could any man or men prefigure, much less, perform that which inheres in His office and priesthood. But those who are enamored with any of the priesthoods of human order are either ignorant of or deliberately silent as to the content of that Epistle to the Hebrews.
Aaron and Melchizedek both represented Christ typically in His office of priest. The one represented the nature of the function of this office. The other represented the dignity of His person in that function. Aaron, not Melchizedek, offered an atoning sacrifice unto God, entered into the Holy of holies, bore the names of Israel in the priestly breastplate over his heart, and carried the fragrant incense into the presence of Jehovah, thus setting forth the redemption and the intercession of Christ. Melchizedek was a figure of the royal priest, of the priest who was without father, without mother, having neither beginning of days nor end of life (Heb. 7:3). His priesthood was not in the succession of Aaron. That succession was constantly interrupted by death. But Christ in His priestly order continues forever in an immutable priesthood (Heb. 7:8, 16, 23, 24). Now that we have a priest after the order of Melchizedek, all human priestly orders are thereby ended, rendered passe, defunct. To revert to any earthly priesthood is to attempt to rebuild the middle wall of partition Christ hath broken down (Eph. 2:14); is to build again the things the coming of the Christian dispensation destroyed (Gal. 2:18), and so become a transgressor; is to return to the weak and beggarly elements, which only subject to bondage (Gal. 4:9); is to be fallen from grace (Gal. 5:4). We draw nigh to God by a much better priesthood (Heb. 7:18, 19).
Liberal preachers, and other infatuated with their drivel, appeal to Heb. 8:4 in support of their imagination that Christ was not a priest until after the ascension. “For if He were on earth, He should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law.” But all this is saying is that if Christ aspired to an earthly priesthood, He never could have been a priest, for He was of a tribe which had not right to function in such a priesthood (Heb. 7:13, 14). It also is saying that if the entirety of His function in this glorious office was to be executed on earth, He could not be a priest, for a king-priest from Judah had not legal right unto the Holiest; and there in the earthly temple of Jerusalem His blood could not be presented. The real-sacrifice could not be offered in the shadow-sanctuary. For He was “a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God to make reconciliation for the sins of the people,” (Heb. 2:17) and that reconciliation was effected when “we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:10. Further, He was, in His humiliation, tempted as the great High Priest (Heb. 4:14f). Also, in the days of His flesh he made intercession, prayers and supplication (Heb. 5:7). As High Priest He offered up the sacrifice of himself (Heb. 7:26-28, 8:3, 9:14). Certainly Christ entered heaven on the ground of His own sacrifice which He had offered on the altar of Calvary as High Priest (Heb. 9:12).