Hebrews 5:4
Hebrews 5:4-6
Hebrews 5:4-6. These verses show us the honor of the priesthood. Aaron was divinely called (Exodus 28:1), and was endowed with gifts and qualifications for the office. It was an honor to approach unto God in the sacred uses of his ministry; "for blessed is the man whom thou choosest and causest to approach unto thee." He transacted the most important affairs for the people, and made reconciliation for them on the Day of Atonement. He revealed and interpreted the Divine will by Urim and Thummim, and his lips kept knowledge. He represented the people to Jehovah, and carried the names of the children of Israel on his breast and shoulders. He was set apart by the sacredness of his office from many of the cares and changes of human life, and was to lead life of special consecration to the service of God. Our Lord undertook the work of priest in a more glorious manner than was suggested by the most holy and distinguished minister of the ancient Law. All the aspects of honor and gracious service are exalted in him to an unimaginable degree. He is at the right hand of the Father. He officiates for all nations, people, and tongues. He treats the successive generations of believers with constant love, and imparts Divine help in worship. He is the final and most glorious revelation of God to man. He exalts and enriches the life of his followers by the tenderness and sympathy of his nature, and inspires them with resolution to come boldly to the throne of grace. - B.

No man taketh this honour unto himself.
A calling is most requisite in all things we take in hand, especially in the ministry. Who will meddle with the sheep of a man unless he be called to it? and shall we meddle with Christ's sheep without a calling? As for our calling.

1. It is of God. We have God's seal to our calling, because He hath furnished us in some measure with gifts for it.

2. We are called by the Church, which, by imposition of hands representing God's hand, hath separated us to this office. Let every one be assured of his calling. A lamentable thing to consider, what a number of intruders there be that have thrust themselves into this holy calling. In Jeroboam's time every one that would consecrate himself became one of the priests of the high places. Shall we have them to make cloth that have no skill in clothing? Will any make him his shepherd that knows not what belongs to sheep? And wilt thou deliver Christ's sheep into the hands of a blind and ignorant shepherd? Wilt thou have him to build thy house that hath no skill in building? Wilt thou make him the schoolmaster of thy child that hath no learning? But any is good enough for the ministry. If men did look as well to the charge as to the dignity of the office; if Onus were as well considered as Bonus, men would not make such haste to it as they do. They watch over the souls of the people, as they that must give an account. The day of taking in our profits is sweet, but the counting day will be terrible, when Christ will require every lost sheep at our hands. Therefore let none take this honour to himself, but see that he be called of God, as Aaron was.

(W. Jones, D. D.)

In human doings and human productions we see everywhere manifestations of order. Well-ordered stones make architecture; well-ordered social regulations make a constitution and a police; well-ordered ideas make good logic; well-ordered words make good writing; well-ordered imaginations and emotions make good poetry; well-ordered facts make science. Disorder, on the ether hand, makes nothing at all, but un-makes everything. Stones in disorder produce ruins; an ill-ordered social condition is decline, revolution, or anarchy; ill-ordered ideas are absurdity; ill-ordered words are neither sense nor grammar; ill-ordered imaginations and emotions are madness; ill-ordered facts are chaos.

(J. S. Blackie.)

I. Here let us first learn THAT BOTH IT IS UNLAWFUL FOR ANY MAN WITHOUT A CALLING TO TAKE UPON HIM THE MINISTRY; NEITHER YET ANY CALLING OUGHT TO BE, WHICH IS NOT ACCORDING TO THE WILL OF GOD: for, seeing the ministry is honourable, and he is justly honoured that executeth it faithfully, how can I exalt myself, but of right I ought again to be brought low, and instead of glory, have shame? For what do I in this but rob Christ of His glory, who is Head of His Church, and appointeth ministers whom He will, who ruleth in the house of Jacob, and ordaineth officers at His own pleasure? If in an earthly kingdom subjects would presume to take offices at their own choice, were it not extreme confusion, utter reproach and shame unto the prince? How much more to bring this confusion into the Church of Christ?

II. THE SECOND THING TO BE LEARNED IN THESE WORDS IS THAT WE HAVE ALL SUCH A CALLING AS WE MAY BE SURE IT IS OF GOD; FOR WE MUST BE CALLED OF GOD, AS AARON WAS. No minister ought to be called in the Church but he whose calling may be known to be of God. Hereof I may first conclude, touching the person of the minister: that because in all places, by the prophets, by the apostles, by our Saviour Christ, God always requireth that His ministers be of good report, well grounded in faith, able to teach His people; therefore if ignorant men, and not able to teach, be chosen unto this office, I dare boldly affirm it, their calling is not allowed of God. Now, touching the office whereunto God appointeth the ministers of His gospel, is it not this: to preach His Word, and minister Sacraments? Other governors of His Church, are they not for the people's obedience unto this Word, and for provision of the poor?

(E. Deering, B. D.)

It here declareth that the high priest's function was an honourable function, which is thus manifested.

1. The solemn manner of inaugurating, or setting them apart thereto (Exodus 29:1).

2. His glorious apparel (Exodus 28.).

3. The great retinue that attended him: as all sorts of Levites, together with sundry inferior priests (Numbers 3:9; Numbers 8:19).

4. The liberal provision made for him out of the meat-offerings, sacrifices, firstfruits, tenths, and other oblations (Leviticus 2:3; Leviticus 5:13; Leviticus 7:6; Deuteronomy 18:3).

5. The difficult cases that were referred to him.

6. The obedience that was to be yielded to him.

7. The punishment to be inflicted on such as rebelled against him (Deuteronomy 17:8-10, &c.).

8. The sacred services which they performed, as to be for men in things pertaining to God: to offer up what was brought to God (ver. 1), and to do other particulars set clown (Hebrews 2:11). In such honourable esteem were high priests, as kings thought them fit matches for their daughters (2 Chronicles 22:11).

9. The west principal honour intended under this word was that the high priest, by virtue of his calling, was a kind of mediator between God and man. For he declared the answer of the Lord to man, and offered up sacrifices to God for man.

(W. George.)

1. Their Master is the great Lord of heaven and of earth. If it be an honour to be an especial minister of a mortal king, what is it to be the minister of such a Lord?

2. Their place is to be in the room of God, even in His stead — ambassadors for Him (2 Corinthians 5:20).

3. Their work is to declare God's counsel (Acts 20:17).

4. Their end is to perfect the saints (Ephesians 4:12).

5. Their reward is greater than of others (Daniel 12:3). Thus hath the Lord honoured this function that it might be the better respected, and prove more profitable. Ministers in regard of their persons are as other men, of like passions with them, and subject to manifold infirmities, which would cause disrespect were it not for the honour of their function.

(W. George.)


1. Because every call is accompanied with choice and distinction.

2. Because, antecedently unto their call, there is nothing of merit in any to be so called, nor of ability in the most, for the work whereunto they are called. What merit was there, what previous disposition unto their work, in a few fishermen about the Lake of Tiberias, or Sea of Galilee, that our Lord Jesus Christ should call them to be His apostles, disposing them into that state and condition, wherein they sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel? So was it ever with all that God called in an extraordinary manner (see Exodus 4:10, 11; Jeremiah 1:6; Amos 7:15, 16). In His ordinary calls there is the same sovereignty, though somewhat otherwise exercised. For in such a call there are three things —(1) A providential designation of such a person to such an office, work, or employment.(2) It is a part of this call of God when He blesseth the endeavours of men to prepare themselves with those previous dispositions and qualifications which are necessary unto the actual call and susception of this office. And hereof also there are three parts —(a) An inclination of their hearts, in compliance with His designation of them unto their office.(b) An especial blessing of their endeavours for the due improvement of their natural faculties and abilities, in study and learning, for the necessary aids and instruments of knowledge and wisdom.(c) The communications of peculiar gifts unto them, rendering them meet and able unto the discharge of the duty of their office, which in an ordinary call is indispensably required as previous to an actual separation unto the office itself.

3. He ordereth things so as that a person whom He will employ in the service of His house shall have an outward call, according unto rule, for his admission thereinto. And in all these things God acts according to His own sovereign will and pleasure. And many things might hence be insisted on. As —(1) That we should have an awful reverence of, and a holy readiness to comply with, the call of God; not to run away from it, or the work called unto, as did Jonah, nor to he weary of it because of difficulty and opposition which we meet withal in the discharge of our duty, as it sundry times was ready to befall Jeremiah (Jeremiah 15:10; Jeremiah 20:7-9), much less to desert or give it over, on any earthly account whatever; seeing that he who sets his hand to this plough and takes it back again is unworthy of the kingdom of heaven.(2) That we should not envy nor repine at one another, whatever God is pleased to call any unto.(3) That we engage into no work wherein the name of God is concerned without His call; which gives a second observation, namely, that —




(John Owes, D. D.)

Christ glorified not Himself to be made an High Priest.
Twice already the apostle has referred to Christ as our High Priest, and he now enters on the development of the central theme of his Epistle — Christ a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. But in order to explain the priesthood on which Christ entered after His death and resurrection, and of which not Aaron but Melchizedek was the type, it is necessary for him to show how the Lord Jesus fulfilled all that was typified of Him in the Levitical dispensation, and possessed in perfection all the requirements which, according to Divine appointment, were needed in the high priest, and which could not be possessed in perfection by sinful men like the Aaronic priests. In the first place, the priests were as sinful as the people whom they represented. It was on account of sin that Israel felt the need of a mediator. But Aaron and the priests were only officially holy; they were not in reality spotless and pure. Hence they had to offer sacrifices for their own sins and infirmities, as well as for those of the people. Secondly, the mediator ought not merely to be perfect and sinless man, he ought also to be Divine, in perfect and full communion with God, so that he can impart Divine forgiveness and blessing. Only in the Lord Jesus, therefore, is the true mediation. He who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, hath made us kings and priests unto God. The two qualifications of the Aaronic high priest, that he was from among men and that he was appointed by God, were fulfilled in a perfect manner in the Lord Jesus. But in considering these two points, we are struck not merely by the resemblance between the type and the fulfilment, but also by the contrast.

1. Aaron was chosen from among men to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. Jesus was true man, born of a woman and made under the law; He. became in all things like unto His brethren. But whereas the Jewish high priest had to offer for himself, as he was a sinner, the Lord was harmless and undefiled, pure and spotless. His mediation was therefore perfect. The Aaronic high priest was able to have compassion on the ignorant and on them that were out of the way, knowing and feeling his own infirmities and transgressions, and knowing also the love of God, who desireth not the death of the sinner, but that he should turn and live. But this compassionate regard for the sinner can exist in perfection only in a sinless one. This appears at first sight paradoxical; for we expect the perfect man to be the severest judge. And with regard to sin, this is doubtless true. God chargeth even His angels with folly. He beholds sin where we do not discover it. He setteth our secret sins in the light of His countenance. And Jesus, the Holy One of Israel, like the Father, has eyes like a flame of fire, and discerns everything that is contrary to God's mind and will. But with regard to the sinner, Jesus, by virtue of His perfect holiness, is the most merciful, compassionate, and considerate Judge. Beholding the sinful heart in all, estimating sin according to the Divine standard, according to its real inward character, and not the human, conventional, and outward measure, Jesus, infinitely holy and sensitive as He was, saw often less to shock an,t pain Him in the drunkard and profligate than in the respectable, selfish, and ungodly religionists. Again, He had come to heal the sick, to restore the erring, to bring the sinner to repentance. He looked upon sin as the greatest and most fearful evil, but on the sinner as poor, suffering, lost, and helpless. He felt as the Shepherd towards the erring. Again, He fastened in a moment on any indications of the Father's drawing the heart, of the Spirit's work:

2. The high priest is appointed by God. No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. The high priesthood of Christ is identified here with His glory. "Christ glorified not Himself to be made an High Priest." Blessed truth, that ,he glory of Christ and our salvation are so intimately connected, that Christ regards it as His glory to be our Mediator and Intercessor! This is Christ's glory, even as it is the reward of His suffering, that in Him we draw near to the Father, and that from Him we receive the blessings of the everlasting covenant. He rejoices to be our High Priest. God called Him to the priesthood. The calling of Jesus to the high priestly dignity is based on His Sonship. Because Jesus is Son, He is the Prophet, perfectly revealing God; because He is Son, He is the true Sacrifice and Priest; for only the blood of the Son of God can cleanse from all sin, and bring us nigh unto God; and only through Christ crucified and exalted can the Father's love and the Spirit's power descend into our hearts. Here the comparison and contrast between the Lord and Aaron ends. The apostle now enters on that which is peculiar to our Saviour Jesus. The types and figures of the old covenant could not be perfect and adequate; for that which is united in Christ had necessarily to be severed and set forth by a variety of figures. The priests offered not themselves, but animals. Now the obedience, the conflict, the faith, the offering of the will as the true, real, and effective Sacrifice could not possibly be symbolised. Nor could any single symbol represent how Jesus, by being first the Sacrifice, became thereby the perfect, compassionate, and merciful High Priest. Christ was the victim on the Cross. The Son of God, according to the eternal counsel, came into the world to be obedient even unto death. "Lo, I come to do Thy will." His obedience was characterised throughout by such continuity, liberty, and inward delight, that we are apt to forget that aspect of His life on which the apostle dwells when he says, that though Christ was a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered. Real and great were His difficulties, temptations, and sorrows; and from the prayers and complaints ascribed to Messiah in the psalms and prophets, we can understand somewhat of the burden which weighed on His loving and sensitive heart, and the constant dependence with which He leaned on the Father, and obtained from Him light and strength. Jesus believed; He lived not merely before, but by the Father. Thus is Jesus the Author and Finisher of faith. He went before the sheep. He is the forerunner. He has experienced every difficulty, and last, d every sorrow. He knows the path in all its narrowness.

(A. Saphir.)

As the Pope doth, who will needs be styled Pontifex Maximum, the greatest high priest. Pope Hildebrand especially, whom, when no man would advance to Peter's chair, he gad up himself. Said he, "Who can better judge of me than myself?"

(J. Trapp)

I. The priest and the high priest did not minister in the same PLACE. AS a priest, Christ ministered on earth; as high priest, He ministers in heaven.

II. The priest and the high priest did not perform the same WORK.

1. As priest, Christ sacrificed Himself.

2. As high priest, He

(1)entered heaven by His own blood;

(2)intercedes on our behalf with the Father.

III. The priest and the high priest did not appear in the same DRESS. Christ as a priest was made like unto His brethren: wore the simple dress of humanity. Christ as high priest of eternity is clothed with all the glories of immortal life.

IV. The priest and the high priest did not occupy the same POSITION. The one was a sub-officer, the other the supreme judge of the land and the president of the Sanhedrin. Christ as High Palest is the highest officer in the kingdom of God.

(H. Marries.)

At length the priesthood of Christ, already three times alluded to, is taken up in earnest, and made the subject of an elaborate discussion, extending from this point to Hebrews 10:18. The writer begins at the beginning, setting forth first of all that Christ is a legitimate priest, not a usurper; one solemnly called to the office by God, not self-elected. The chief thing in his mind here is the call or appointment; the sympathy is referred to, in connection with its source, personal infirmity, as explaining the need for a call, so as to suggest the question, Who, conscious of the infirmity which is the secret of sacerdotal mildness, would dream of undertaking such an office without a Divine call? Jesus assuredly undertook the office only as called of God. He was called to the priesthood before His incarnation. He came to the world under a Divine call. And during the days of His earthly life His behaviour was such as utterly to exclude the idea of His being a usurper of sacerdotal honours. All through His incarnate experiences, and especially in those of the closing scene, He was simply submitting to God's will that He should be a priest. And when He returned to heaven He was saluted High Priest in recognition of His loyalty. Thus from first to last He was emphatically One called of God. What is said of the sympathy that becomes a high priest, though subordinate to the statement concerning his call, is important and interesting. First, a description is given of the office which in every clause suggests the reflection, How congruous sympathy to the sacerdotal character! The high priest is described as taken from among men, and the suggestion is that, being a man of like nature with those for whom he transacts, he may be expected to have fellow-feeling with them. Then he is further described as ordained for men in things pertaining to God, the implied thought being that he cannot acquit himself satisfactorily in that capacity unless he sympathise with those whom he represents before God. Lastly, it is declared to be his special duty to offer sacrifices of various sorts for sin, the latent idea being that it is impossible for any one to perform that duty with any earnestness or efficiency who has not genuine compassion for the sinful. Very remarkable is the word employed to describe priestly compassion. It does not signify to feel with another, but rather to abstain from feeling against him; to be able to restrain antipathy. It is carefully selected to represent the spirit which becomes a high priest as a mean between two extremes. On the one hand, he should be able to control the passions provoked by error and ignorance, anger, impatience, disgust, contempt. On the other hand, he must not be so amiable as not even to be tempted to give way to these passions. Ignorance and misconduct he must not regard with unruffled equanimity. It is plainly implied that it is possible to be too sympathetic, and so to become the slave or tool of men's ignorance or prejudices, and even partaker of their sins — a possibility illustrated by the histories of Aaron and of Eli, two high priests of Israel. The model high priest is not like either. He hates ignorance and sin, but he pities the ignorant and sinful. The ignorant for him are persons to be taught, the erring sheep to be brought back to the fold. He remembers that sin is not only an evil thing in God's sight, but also a bitter thing for the offender; realises the misery of an accusing conscience, the shame and fear which are the ghostly shadows of guilt. The character thus drawn is obviously congenial to the priestly office. The priest's duty is to offer gifts and sacrificies for sin. The performance of this duty habituates the priestly mind to a certain way of viewing sin: as an offence deserving punishment, yet pardonable on the presentation of the appropriate offering. The priest's relation to the offender is also such as demands a sympathetic spirit. He is not a legislator, enacting laws with rigid penalties attached. Neither is he a judge, but rather an advocate pleading for his client at the bar. Neither is he a prophet, giving utterances in vehement language to the Divine displeasure against transgression, but rather an intercessor imploring mercy, appeasing anger, striving to awaken Divine pity. But the special source to which sacerdotal sympathy is traced is the consciousness of personal infirmity. "For that he himself also is compassed with infirmity." The explanation seems to labour under the defect of too great generality. A high priest is no more human in his nature and experience than other men — why, then, should he be exceptionally humane? Two reasons suggest themselves. The high priest was officially a very holy person, begirt on all sides with the emblems of holiness, copiously anointed with oil, whose exquisite aroma typified the odour of sanctity, arrayed in gorgeous robes, significant of the beauty of holiness, required to be so devoted to his sacred calling and so dead to the world that he might not mourn for the death of his nearest kin. How oppressive the burden of this official sanctity must have been to a thoughtful, humble man, conscious of personal infirmity, and knowing himself to be of like passions and sinful tendencies with his fellow-worshippers! Another source of priestly benignity was, I imagine, habitual converse in the discharge of duty with the erring and the ignorant. The high priest had officially much to do with men, and that not with picked samples, but with men in the mass; the greater number probably being inferior specimens of humanity, and all presenting to his view their weak side. He learned in the discharge of his functions to take a kindly interest in all sorts of people, even the most erratic, and to bear with inconsistency even in the best. The account given of priestly sympathy prepares us for appreciating the statement which follows concerning the need for a Divine call to the priestly office (ver. 4). No one, duly impressed with his own infirmities, would ever think of taking unto himself so sacred an office. A need for a Divine call is felt by all devout men in connection with all sacred offices involving a ministry on men's behalf in things pertaining to God. The tendency is to shrink from such offices, rather than to covet and ambitiously appropriate them. Having stated the general principle that a Divine call is necessary as an inducement to the assumption of the priestly office, the writer passes to the case of Jesus Christ, whom he emphatically declares to have been utterly free from the spirit of ambition, and to hare been made a high priest, not by self-election, but by Divine appointment. It is difficult to understand, at first, why the text from the second Psalm, "My Son art Thou," is introduced here at all, the thing to be proved being, not that Messiah was made by God a Son, but that He was made a Priest. But on reflection we perceive that it is a preliminary hint as to what sort of priesthood is signified by the order of Melchizedec, a first attempt to insinuate into the minds of readers the idea of a priesthood belonging to Christ altogether distinct in character from the Levitical, yet the highest possible, that of one at once a Divine Son and a Divine King. On further consideration, it dawns on us that a still deeper truth is meant to be taught; that Christ's priesthood is coeval with His sonship, and inherent in it. From the pre-incarnate state, to which the quotations from the Psalter refer, the writer proceeds to speak of Christ's earthly history: "Who, in the days of His flesh." He here conceives, as in a later part of the Epistle he expressly represents, the Christ as coming into the world under a Divine call to be a priest, and conscious of His vocation. He represents Christ as under training for the priesthood, but training implies previous destination; as an obedient learner, but obedience implies consciousness of His calling. In the verses which follow (7, 8) his purpose is to exhibit the behaviour of Jesus during His life on earth in such a light that the idea of usurpation shall appear an absurdity. The general import is: "Jesus ever loyal, but never ambitious; so far from arrogating, rather shrinking from priestly office, at most simply submitting to God's will, and enabled to do that by special grace in answer to prayer." Reference is made to Christ's Sonship to enhance the impression of difficulty. Though He was a Son full of love and devotion to His Father, intensely, enthusiastically loyal to the Divine interest, ever accounting it His meat and drink to do His Father's will, yet even for Him so minded it was a matter of arduous learning to comply with the Father's will in connection with His priestly vocation. For it must be understood that the obedience here spoken of has that specific reference. The aim is not to state didactically that in His earthly life Jesus was a learner in the virtue of obedience all round, but especially to predicate of Him learning obedience in connection with His priestly calling — obedience to God's will that He should be a priest. But why should obedience be so difficult in this connection? The full answer comes later on, but it is hinted at even here. It is because priesthood involves for the priest death (ver. 7), mortal suffering (ver. 8); because the priest is at the same time victim. And it is in the light of this fact that we clearly see how impossible it was that the spirit of ambition should come into play with reference to the priestly office in the case of Christ. Self-glorification was excluded by the nature of the service. The verses which follow (9, 10) show the other side of the picture: how He who glorified not Himself to be made a priest was glorified by God; became a priest indeed, efficient in the highest degree, acknowledged as such by His Father, whose will He had loyally obeyed. "Being perfected," how? In obedience, and by obedience even unto death, perfected for the office of priest, death being the final stage in His training, through which He became a Pontifex consummatus. Being made perfect in and through death, Jesus became ipso facto author of eternal salvation, the final experience of suffering, by which His training for the priestly office was completed, being at the same time His great priestly achievement. The statement that through death Jesus became ipso facto author of salvation, is not falsified by the fact that the essential point in a sacrifice was its presentation before God in the sanctuary, which in the Levitical system took place subsequently to the slaughtering of the victim, when the priest took the blood within the tabernacle and sprinkled it on the altar of incense or on the mercy-seat. The death of our High Priest is to be conceived of as including all the steps of the sacrificial process within itself. Lapse of time or change of place is not necessary to the accomplishment of the work. The death of the victim, the presentation of the sacrificial blood — all was performed when Christ cried Τετέλεστει. Translated into abstract language, ver. 10 supplies the rationale of the fact stated in ver. 9. Its effect is to tell us that Christ became author of eternal salvation because He was a true High Priest after the order of Melchizedec: author of salvation in virtue of His being a priest, author of eternal salvation because His priesthood was of the Melchizedec type — never ending.

(A. B. Bruce, D. D.)

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