In this chapter the apostle continues his discourse upon the priesthood
of Christ, a sweet subject, which he would not too soon dismiss. And
I. He explains the nature of the priestly office in general,
II. The proper and regular call there must be to this office,
III. The requisite qualifications for the work,
IV. The peculiar order of the priesthood of Christ; it was not after
the order of Aaron, but of Melchisedec,
V. He reproves the Hebrews, that they had not made those improvements
in knowledge which might have made them capable of looking into the
more abstruse and mysterious parts of scripture,
|The Priesthood of Christ.
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1 For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for
men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts
and sacrifices for sins:
2 Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are
out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with
3 And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for
himself, to offer for sins.
4 And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is
called of God, as was Aaron.
5 So also Christ glorified not himself to be made a high
priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I
6 As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for
ever after the order of Melchisedec.
7 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers
and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was
able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;
8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things
which he suffered;
9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal
salvation unto all them that obey him;
We have here an account of the nature of the priestly office in
general, though with an accommodation to the Lord Jesus Christ. We are
I. Of what kind of beings the high priest must be. He must be taken
from among men; he must be a man, one of ourselves, bone of our bones,
flesh of our flesh, and spirit of our spirits, a partaker of our
nature, and a standard-bearer among ten thousand. This implies,
1. That man had sinned.
2. That God would not admit sinful man to come to him immediately and
alone, without a high priest, who must be taken from among men.
3. That God was pleased to take one from among men, by whom they might
approach God in hope, and he might receive them with honour.
4. That every one shall now be welcome to God that comes to him by this
II. For whom every high priest is ordained: For men in things
pertaining to God, for the glory of God and the good of men, that
he might come between God and man. So Christ did; and therefore let us
never attempt to go to God but through Christ, nor expect any favour
from God but through Christ.
III. For what purpose every high priest was ordained: That he might
offer both gifts and sacrifices for sin.
1. That he might offer gifts or free-will offerings, brought to the
high priest, so offered for the glory of God, and as an acknowledgment
that our all is of him and from him; we have nothing but what he is
pleased to give us, and of his own we offer to him an oblation of
acknowledgment. This intimates,
(1.) That all we bring to God must be free and not forced; it must be a
gift; it must be given and not taken away again.
(2.) That all we bring to God must go through the high priest's hands,
as the great agent between God and man.
2. That he might offer sacrifices for sin; that is, the offerings that
were appointed to make atonement, that sin might be pardoned and
sinners accepted. Thus Christ is constituted a high priest for both
these ends. Our good deeds must be presented by Christ, to render
ourselves and them acceptable; and our evil deeds must be expiated by
the sacrifice of himself, that they may not condemn and destroy us. And
now, as we value acceptance with God and pardon, we must apply
ourselves by faith to this our great high priest.
IV. How this high priest must be qualified,
1. He must be one that can have compassion on two sorts of
(1.) On the ignorant, or those that are guilty of sins of
ignorance. He must be one who can find in his heart to pity them, and
intercede with God for them, one that is willing to instruct those that
are dull of understanding.
(2.) On those that are out of the way, out of the way of truth,
duty, and happiness; and he must be one who has tenderness enough to
lead them back from the by-paths of error, sin, and misery, into the
right way: this will require great patience and compassion, even the
compassion of a God.
2. He must also be compassed with infirmity; and so be able from
himself feelingly to consider our frame, and to sympathize with us.
Thus Christ was qualified. He took upon him our sinless infirmities;
and this gives us great encouragement to apply ourselves to him under
every affliction; for in all the afflictions of his people he is
V. How the high priest was to be called of God. He must have both an
internal and external call to his office: For no man taketh this
honour to himself
that is, no man ought to do it, no man can do it legally; if any does
it, he must be reckoned a usurper, and treated accordingly. Here
1. The office of the priesthood was a very great honour. To be employed
to stand between God and man, one while representing God and his will
to men, at another time representing man and his case to God, and
dealing between them about matters of the highest importance--entrusted
on both sides with the honour of God and the happiness of man--must
render the office very honourable.
2. The priesthood is an office and honour that no man ought to take to
himself; if he does, he can expect no success in it, nor any reward for
it, only from himself. He is an intruder who is not called of God, as
was Aaron. Observe,
(1.) God is the fountain of all honour, especially true spiritual
honour. He is the fountain of true authority, whether he calls any to
the priesthood in an extraordinary way, as he did Aaron, or in an
ordinary way, as he called his successors.
(2.) Those only can expect assistance from God, and acceptance with
him, and his presence and blessing on them and their administrations,
that are called of God; others may expect a blast instead of a
VI. How this is brought home and applied to Christ: So Christ
glorified not himself,
Observe here, Though Christ reckoned it his glory to be made a high
priest, yet he would not assume that glory to himself. He could truly
say, I seek not my own glory,
Considered as God, he was not capable of any additional glory, but as
man and Mediator he did not run without being sent; and, if he did not,
surely others should be afraid to do it.
VII. The apostle prefers Christ before Aaron, both in the manner of his
call and in the holiness of his person.
1. In the manner of his call, in which God said unto him, Thou art
my Son, this day have I begotten thee (quoted from
referring to his eternal generation as God, his wonderful conception as
man, and his perfect qualification as Mediator. Thus God solemnly
declared his dear affection to Christ, his authoritative appointment of
him to the office of a Mediator, his installment and approbation of him
in that office, his acceptance of him, and of all he had done or should
do in the discharge of it. Now God never said thus to Aaron. Another
expression that God used in the call of Christ we have in
Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedec,
God the Father appointed him a priest of a higher order than that of
Aaron. The priesthood of Aaron was to be but temporary; the priesthood
of Christ was to be perpetual: the priesthood of Aaron was to be
successive, descending from the fathers to the children; the priesthood
of Christ, after the order of Melchisedec, was to be personal, and the
high priest immortal as to his office, without descent, having neither
beginning of days nor end of life, as it is more largely described in
the seventh chapter, and will be opened there.
2. Christ is here preferred to Aaron in the holiness of his person.
Other priests were to offer up sacrifices, as for the sins of
others, so for themselves,
But Christ needed not to offer for sins for himself, for he had done
no violence, neither was there any deceit in his mouth,
And such a high priest became us.
VIII. We have an account of Christ's discharge of this his office, and
of the consequences of that discharge,
1. The discharge of his office of the priesthood
Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and
supplications, &c. Here observe,
(1.) He took to him flesh, and for some days tabernacled therein; he
became a mortal man, and reckoned his life by days, herein setting us
an example how we should reckon ours. Were we to reckon our lives by
days, it would be a means to quicken us to do the work of every day in
(2.) Christ, in the days of his flesh, subjected himself to death; he
hungered, he was a tempted, bleeding, dying Jesus! He body is now in
heaven, but it is a spiritual glorious body.
(3.) God the Father was able to save him from death. He could have
prevented his dying, but he would not; for then the great design of his
wisdom and grace must have been defeated. What would have become of us
if God had saved Christ from dying? The Jews reproachfully said, Let
him deliver him now, if he will have him,
But it was in kindness to us that the Father would not suffer that
bitter cup to pass away from him; for then we must have drunk the dregs
of it, and been miserable for ever.
(4.) Christ, in the days of his flesh, offered up prayers and
supplications to his Father, as an earnest of his intercession in
heaven. A great many instances we have of Christ's praying. This refers
to his prayer in his agony
and ch. xxvii. 46),
and to that before his agony
which he put up for his disciples, and all who should believe on his
(5.) The prayers and supplications that Christ offered up were joined
with strong cries and tears, herein setting us an example not only to
pray, but to be fervent and importunate in prayer. How many dry
prayers, how few wet ones, do we offer up to God!
(6.) Christ was heard in that he feared. How? Why he was answered by
present supports in and under his agonies, and in being carried well
through death, and delivered from it by a glorious resurrection: He
was heard in that he feared. He had an awful sense of the wrath
of God, of the weight of sin. His human nature was ready to sink under
the heavy load, and would have sunk, had he been quite forsaken in
point of help and comfort from God; but he was heard in this, he was
supported under the agonies of death. He was carried through death;
and there is no real deliverance from death but to be carried well
through it. We may have many recoveries from sickness, but we are never
saved from death till we are carried well through it. And those that
are thus saved from death will be fully delivered at last by a glorious
resurrection, of which the resurrection of Christ was the earnest and
2. The consequences of this discharge of his office,
(1.) By these his sufferings he learned obedience, though he was a
[1.] The privilege of Christ: He was a Son; the only-begotten of
the Father. One would have thought this might have exempted him from
suffering, but it did not. Let none then who are the children of God by
adoption expect an absolute freedom from suffering. What Son is he
whom the Father chasteneth not?
[2.] Christ made improvement by his sufferings. By his passive
obedience, he learned active obedience; that is, he practiced that
great lesson, and made it appear that he was well and perfectly learned
in it; though he never was disobedient, yet he never performed such an
act of obedience as when he became obedient to death, even to the death
of the cross. Here he has left us an example, that we should learn by
all our afflictions a humble obedience to the will of God. We need
affliction, to teach us submission.
(2.) By these his sufferings he was made perfect, and became the author
of eternal salvation to all who obey him,
[1.] Christ by his sufferings was consecrated to his office,
consecrated by his own blood.
[2.] By his sufferings he consummated that part of his office which was
to be performed on earth, making reconciliation for iniquity; and in
this sense he is said to be made perfect, a perfect
[3.] Hereby he has become the author of eternal salvation to men; he
has by his sufferings purchased a full deliverance from sin and misery,
and a full fruition of holiness and happiness for his people. Of this
salvation he has given notice in the gospel; he has made a tender of it
in the new covenant, and has sent the Spirit to enable men to accept
[4.] This salvation is actually bestowed on none but those who obey
Christ. It is not sufficient that we have some doctrinal knowledge of
Christ, or that we make a profession of faith in him, but we must
hearken to his word, and obey him. He is exalted to be a prince to rule
us, as well as a Saviour to deliver us; and he will be a Saviour to
none but to those whom he is a prince, and who are willing that he
should reign over them; the rest he will account his enemies, and treat
them accordingly. But to those who obey him, devoting themselves to
him, denying themselves, and taking up their cross, and following him,
he will be the author, aitios--the grand cause of their
salvation, and they shall own him as such for ever.
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10 Called of God a high priest after the order of Melchisedec.
11 Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered,
seeing ye are dull of hearing.
12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need
that one teach you again which be the first principles of the
oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not
of strong meat.
13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of
righteousness: for he is a babe.
14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age,
even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to
discern both good and evil.
Here the apostle returns to what he had in
cited out of Ps. cx.,
concerning the peculiar order of the priesthood of Christ, that is, the
order of Melchisedec. And here,
I. He declares he had many things which he could say to them concerning this mysterious person called Melchisedec, whose priesthood was eternal, and therefore the salvation procured thereby should be eternal also. We have a more particular account of
this Melchisedec in
Some think the things which the apostle means, that were hard to be
uttered, were not so much concerning Melchisedec himself as concerning
Christ, of whom Melchisedec was the type. And doubtless this apostle
had many things to say concerning Christ that were very mysterious,
hard to be uttered; there are great mysteries in the person and offices
of the Redeemer; Christianity is the great mystery of godliness.
II. He assigns the reason why he did not say all those things
concerning Christ, our Melchisedec, that he had to say, and what it was
that made it so difficult for him to utter them, namely, the dulness of
the Hebrews to whom he wrote: You are dull of hearing. There is
a difficulty in the things themselves, and there may be a weakness in
the ministers of the gospel to speak clearly about these things; but
generally the fault is in the hearers. Dull hearers make the preaching
of the gospel a difficult thing, and even many who have some faith are
but dull hearers, dull of understanding and slow to believe; the
understanding is weak, and does not apprehend these spiritual things;
the memory is weak, and does not retain them.
III. He insists upon the faultiness of this infirmity of theirs. It was
not a mere natural infirmity, but it was a sinful infirmity, and more
in them than others, by reason of the singular advantages they had
enjoyed for improving in the knowledge of Christ: For when, for the
time, you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again
which are the first principles of the oracles of God,
1. What proficiency might have been reasonably expected from these
Hebrews--that they might have been so well instructed in the doctrine of
the gospel as to have been teachers of others. Hence learn,
(1.) God takes notice of the time and helps we have for gaining
(2.) From those to whom much is given much is expected.
(3.) Those who have a good understanding in the gospel should be
teachers of other, if not in a public, yet in a private station.
(4.) None should take upon them to be teachers of others, but those who
have made a good improvement in spiritual knowledge themselves.
2. Observe the sad disappointment of those just expectations: You
have need that one should teach you again, &c. Here note,
(1.) In the oracles of God there are some first principles, plain to be
understood and necessary to be learned.
(2.) There are also deep and sublime mysteries, which those should
search into who have learned the first principles, that so they may
stand complete in the whole will of God.
(3.) Some persons, instead of going forward in Christian knowledge,
forget the very first principles that they had learned long ago; and
indeed those that are not improving under the means of grace will be
(4.) It is a sin and shame for persons that are men for their age and
standing in the church to be children and babes in understanding.
IV. The apostle shows how the various doctrines of the gospel must be
dispensed to different persons. There are in the church babes and
persons of full age
and there are in the gospel milk and strong meat. Observe,
1. Those that are babes, unskillful in the word of righteousness, must
be fed with milk; they must be entertained with the plainest truths,
and these delivered in the plainest manner; there must be line upon
line, precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little,
Christ despises not his babes; he has provided suitable food for them.
It is good to be babes in Christ, but not always to continue in that
childish state; we should endeavor to pass the infant state; we should
always remain in malice children, but in understanding we should grow
up to a manly maturity.
2. There is strong meat for those that are of full age,
The deeper mysteries of religion belong to those that are of a higher
class in the school of Christ, who have learned the first principles
and well improved them; so that by reason of use they have their senses
exercised to discern both good and evil, duty and sin, truth and error.
(1.) There have been always in the Christian state children, young men,
(2.) Every true Christian, having received a principle of spiritual
life from God, stands in need of nourishment to preserve that life.
(3.) The word of God is food and nourishment to the life of grace:
As new-born babes desire the sincere milk of the word that you may
(4.) It is the wisdom of ministers rightly to divide the word of truth,
and to give to every one his portion--milk to babes, and strong meat to
those of full age.
(5.) There are spiritual senses as well as those that are natural.
There is a spiritual eye, a spiritual appetite, a spiritual taste; the
soul has its sensations as well as the body; these are much depraved
and lost by sin, but they are recovered by grace.
(6.) It is by use and exercise that these senses are improved, made
more quick and strong to taste the sweetness of what is good and true,
and the bitterness of what is false and evil. Not only reason and
faith, but spiritual sense, will teach men to distinguish between what
is pleasing and what is provoking to God, between what is helpful and
what is hurtful to our own souls.