“For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” – Hebrews 9:13-14
The writer to the Hebrews wonderfully shows forth the supremacy of Jesus Christ. Of the many riches and gems therein, He teaches us how Jesus executes the office of prophet as He reveals God, His will, salvation, through His Word to the church (Hebrews 1:1; WLC 43, John 1:18, John 15:15). We considered this last week.
Indeed, Christ has preeminence. He is better. For example, the writer speaks to His being better than the angels (Hebrews 1:4). Jesus is better than the servant, Moses, as Christ is the faithful Son over His own house (Hebrews 3:1-6). He is better than Joshua, granting His people entrance to the better and eternal rest (Hebrews 4:8-11). Jesus is also better than Aaron. He is the great high priest. Have you ever thought about or studied how Jesus executes the office of priest? Westminster Larger Catechism, Question 44, helpfully summarizes this truth:
Q. 44. How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?
A. 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 the people; and in making continual intercession for them.
Again, the writer to the Hebrews marvelously instructs and guides us in this as he speaks of Jesus being better than Aaron. In the Old Testament, the priesthood was called the Aaronic priesthood, or also the Levitical priesthood. Aaron, who was of the tribe of Levi, was anointed the first and respected High Priest of Israel. It’s true that Aaron carried out his duties faithfully, but as a sinner, Aaron had to offer sacrifices for the people and himself (Hebrews 5:1-4). Yet, Jesus didn’t. He is the sinless Lamb of God, who offered Himself as the perfect once for all sacrifice to God to save His people from their sins. Truly, “how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” The answer: So much more! The Old Testament sacrifices were types and shadows pointing to Christ. The blood of Christ had far greater efficacy than the blood of bulls and goats. The writer speaks of the efficacy in two ways: 1) The blood of bulls and goats freed the outward man from ceremonial uncleanness and from temporal punishment. The blood of Christ cleanses and purges the conscience from dead works as it reaches to the very sin defiled soul and conscience. 2) It enables us to serve the living God, not only by purging away that guilt which separates between God and sinners, but by sanctifying and renewing the soul through the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit.
Remember also, there was no seat in the temple for the priest to sit down on because his work was never done. But again, this isn’t true for Christ. He finished His work. He is our great high priest who passed through the heavens (Hebrews 4:14). Jesus is our merciful and faithful high priest who made reconciliation for the sins of the people (Hebrews 2:17) He is seated at the right hand of God (Hebrews 10:12) and ever lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25). Praise the Lord!
Further, the writer tells us that Christ is a priest who isn’t of the Aaronic Priesthood, nor the Levitical priesthood. He is a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 5:6, 6:20). Though we hear very little of this in the Old Testament, the writer develops the case that the priesthood of Melchizedek is not an inferior priesthood to that of Aaron or to the Levites, but rather a superior one (Hebrews 7). Though there is much more study that can be done on Melchizedek and his priestly line in connection to Christ, we do well to know his superiority over Levi, and therefore be in awe and thankful for Christ’s supremacy in His eternal high priesthood.
Beloved, we’ve only barely opened the lid of the treasure chest of how Christ executes the office of a priest, but how awesome these nuggets are! Keep studying and growing in the knowledge of and love for your Savior. Know and take joy and comfort in the work He has done for you, as well as His compassion, love, mercy, faithful service to you as He continues to intercede for you. What a great High Priest He is. All praise and glory be to You, Lord Jesus!