We're left with this question. How is Christ better than the priesthood according to Aaron? We're glad you've tuned in to the Truth Pulpit with Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Hi, I'm Bill Wright. As Don continues to teach God's people God's word, he'll continue our series, The Wonder of Jesus, with part one of a message titled, Jesus, The More Excellent Work. The Old Testament sacrificial system required the work of a Levitical high priest who was to make symbolic atonement for the people's sins. Jesus replaced that system, becoming our high priest for eternity. How does our Lord's work on the cross compare with the priest's sacrifices of old? Well, that question is answered eloquently by the writer of Hebrews, and Don Green will take us there in today's message.
So have your Bible open and ready as we join Pastor Don Green now in the Truth Pulpit. Now, the Old Testament teaches us that the high priest came from the line of Aaron, who was Moses' brother. You can read about his appointment in Exodus, chapters 28 and 29 and other places.
Hebrews picks up and presumes that familiarity at chapter 5, verse 1. And look at it with me, it says, For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. To deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness. Talking about the Old Testament priest. The Old Testament priest was a man of human flesh, he was a sinner just like everyone else. And the fact that he was a sinner meant that he could sympathize when sinful people came to present their offerings. It says in verse 3, As for the cause of it, he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins.
As for the people, so also for himself. Verse 4, No one takes the honor to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was. You couldn't say, I think I'll take up the vocation of being a priest.
God had to appoint you to that. And what the writer is telling us here, and reminding us of, is that in the Old Testament the high priest had the responsibility to direct the sacrificial system. The high priest oversaw that system. It was the high priest who alone, follow the chronology here, and follow this because what it teaches us about Christ is so important.
It was the high priest alone who was allowed to go into the Holy of Holies once a year. You read about that in Leviticus 16 on the Day of Atonement. And where the place in the presence of God was especially manifested, the high priest could go in there once a year and only the high priest could do that.
Well think about what that means. What that means is, is that the Old Testament system had not opened access to the full presence of God to everyone. It was simply the high priest representing the people as he went in there only once a year. And with that memory in mind, the writer of Hebrews is showing us that Jesus Christ is a much greater high priest than anything that the Old Testament ever had to offer. Follow the logic of it here in verses 5 and 6. He says, So also Christ did not glorify himself so as to become a high priest, but he who said to him, You are my son, today I have begotten you. Just as he says also in another passage, you are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek was a priest prior to Aaron, prior to Moses, that appeared to Abraham in Genesis chapter 14. And the text, that narrative tells us that Abraham presented tithes to Melchizedek and honored Melchizedek, showing Melchizedek's greater position than Abraham. And what the writer of Hebrews is telling us is, in a sense, Melchizedek came from a different realm. He was not a priest according to the line of Aaron, he was someone different. And what this text tells us is, is that Christ did not come from the line of Aaron, but rather he was a priest like Melchizedek, a priest from a different realm, who had a greater and a different ministry than what the Old Testament priests did under the Mosaic economy. And without going into all of the detail of the argument in that, in the next three chapters, we're left with this question. How is Christ better than the priesthood according to Aaron?
And we're just going to look at the summary of the argument, not the full-out working of it, look at chapter 7 at the end of chapter 7 with me. In verse 22, you see the point that he is making is that Jesus is better. Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.
And then he explains why that is. As you look back at the ministry of the Old Testament priests, look at verse 23, what can we say about them? The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing.
There were many men that fulfilled the office of high priest because the priest served and they died and then someone took their place. And they are there presenting offerings as sinners, presenting offerings in an earthly tabernacle. And he says, look at Jesus by contrast, see how more excellent Jesus is, see how much greater his work is. As he says in verse 24, but Jesus, on the other hand, because he continues forever, holds his priesthood permanently.
Look at the contrast. Stay with me if you will. You have a human high priest who serves only until he dies and therefore holds his office temporarily. You have Jesus, sinless, on the other hand, with a priesthood that continues forever because he lives forever. And therefore his priesthood lives forever. And so by contrast of a temporary dying sinful priest compared to Christ who is sinless and who has his priesthood forever, that's obviously far better. It's obvious that it is a fulfillment of something that, something lesser to the greater and with the coming of the greater Christ, the lesser thing passes away. And he goes on in verse 25. Therefore he is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through him since he always lives to make intercession for them. Think about it, beloved.
Put yourself in the sandals of an Old Testament saint going to the priest who's going to offer an animal on behalf of his sins. And see through the system there that was going on. This was all temporary. It was all so imperfect.
It was not permanent. You had to come back and offer those things again and again. You come and you're going to have to come back to this man later on and deal with sacrifices further. Now step forward and step into your shoes as a New Testament Christian and realize how great the privilege is that you have. We come to Christ and we have a Christ who has an indestructible life, who has visibly conquered death in his resurrection, a priest who is not going to die but who lives forever and who is in the presence of God as we come to him and realize what that means. That in Christ you have someone who saves you forever, whose ability to save you will never be diminished, who brings you into heaven and he lives and he is in the presence of God himself. And when we approach him we realize that we have a Savior who has perfectly fulfilled everything that God requires. And so he is able to save us forever, not simply to make a temporary covering with the blood of an animal. Verse 25, he saves us forever because he always lives to make intercession for us. Beloved, in Christ we have a far more excellent high priest than what the Old Testament ever knew. And he goes on and he expands on the greatness of Christ.
Follow the logic here as he goes. He says, for it was fitting for us to have such a high priest. What is Christ like? In verse 26, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens.
In Christ there is utter perfection in his character, utter perfection in his indestructible life, utter perfection in his ability to represent us. And he goes back to the contrast in verse 27 and says, who does not need daily, like those high priests, like the Old Testament priests, to offer up sacrifices first for his own sins and then for the sins of his people because this he did once for all when he offered up himself. So look at the contrast, beloved, and make it, let it work itself into your heart so that you understand the glory of Christ and that you appreciate it and that you rest in it. That's his point, that we would become to have a settled, confident faith in Christ, that we have a mediator who is perfect, who has accomplished redemption for us in a way that can never be shaken.
And so he shows the contrast. He says, look at it there with me again in verse 26, or verse 27, I'm sorry. You have the Old Testament high priest, what are they doing? Daily offering sacrifices. Offering sacrifices for their own sins and doing so repeatedly. Compare that to Christ. Holy, innocent, undefiled, by character, by virtue, by perfect holiness, infinitely better than the Old Testament priest in his character as he presents the sacrifice and then realize the wonder and the majesty of the sacrifice, they had to repeat theirs again and again and again.
And what does Christ do? So superior, so more excellent, he offers his sacrifice once and the work is finished. That's a much better high priest. Christ surpasses Aaron just as Melchizedek did. He's a better high priest, he lives forever, he did not sin, his offering was once for all. By contrast, those other priests were sinful.
They died and their sacrifices were never finished. See the contrast? You see the difference? A sinful priest offering an imperfect sacrifice repeatedly.
A perfect high priest in Christ offering a perfect sacrifice that satisfies God once and for all. That's much better. That is much better.
Do you see it, beloved? Do you see how much better Christ is? And what this is supposed to do in your mind is to elevate Christ high and lofty in your heart, high and lofty in your affections, to draw you to worship and, mark it, to draw you to trust him, realizing that he has done the perfect work for sinners and when your faith is in him, the work is done and you are secure in Christ, fully reconciled to God.
That's far better. That's far better than anything that an Old Testament priest ever did. Secondly, as you continue on in the flow of the argument of Hebrews, you find that Christ brings a better covenant. He brings a better covenant. Point number two, he brings a better covenant. He's a better high priest. He brings a better covenant.
All of this showing us that Christ has done a more excellent work than anything that preceded him. The word covenant, just in the simplest of terms, refers to a divinely established agreement by which men may approach God and by which God relates to man and blesses him. It's the basis upon which God receives men to himself, you could say.
We're just speaking in simple terms here. And what the writer of Hebrews is now going to impress upon us is that in Christ we have someone who has brought a better covenant to us, a better way to approach God than what we had before, than what the Old Testament had. Look at chapter 8 verse 6, and just notice the contrasting words found here in verse 6.
There's three contrasts that are bound up just in this one simple verse. But now he, referring to Christ, has obtained a more excellent ministry by as much as he is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. It's a more excellent ministry. He is the mediator of a better covenant. It has been enacted on better promises. And what you're to see, and the repetition of the theme here, is that it is better, it's better, it's better, it's more excellent.
Christ is better than anything that preceded him. So that you understand and you are motivated to leave behind any inclination to laws the basis upon which you approach God, so that for the sake of something far more excellent, far more better, far more surpassing in Christ. And so let's think about the covenant, the comparison of the covenants for just a moment. What can we say about the Old Testament covenant by which they operated in that dispensation? Beloved, it was external. It was outward sacrifices.
It did not produce a renewed heart. You couldn't offer an animal for sin and receive new life. And the nation, think about it this way, God implemented this system in Exodus and in Leviticus and what happened afterwards. In the book of Numbers, they went into the wilderness and they all died for their disobedience. God implemented this covenant as a temporary measure to point to Christ, but you see its imperfection by the very way that history worked itself out.
External. It did not produce a renewed heart, and those that were following it died in the wilderness for their disobedience. Contrast that with what we have in Christ. First of all, look at verse 9 as the writer of Hebrews makes the point that I just summarized. Actually, go to verse 8. He said, "'Behold, days are coming,' as he quotes from the Old Testament.
"'Days are coming,' says the Lord, "'when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.'" Not like, contrast again, Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and I did not care for them. As shown by the fact, he did not care for them by the fact that they were judged in the wilderness.
This was passing and it was external. The old covenant did not get the job done. Not because there was any defect in God or in his revelation, but there was defect in the people who were under the covenant. And the whole point of this is that the new covenant that Christ initiated with his blood is so much better.
We are in such a preferable position than what the Old Testament saints were. Look at verses 10 through 13 in chapter 8. He says, "'For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days,' says the Lord. "'I will put my laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. "'And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. "'And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen and everyone his brother, saying, "'Know the Lord, for all will know me from the least to the greatest of them. "'For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.'" Verse 13, when he said a new covenant, he has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete is growing old and is ready to disappear.
A reference to the fact that the temple was still standing and soon in a matter of a couple of short years would be destroyed in AD 70. And the history and the conquest of Rome would make it impossible to continue with that old system. The point here is this, and think about how much better we have it, beloved. Think how much more precious what we have is than what they had. They had an old covenant that they didn't have a heart to keep that led them to judgment in the wilderness for their sin. What do we have in Christ by comparison? In Christ, God gives us a salvation that renews our mind, that changes us in the inner man. 2 Corinthians 5, 17, "'If any man is in Christ, behold, he's a new creation.
"'The old things have passed away, behold, new things have come.'" When you were saved, when Christ saved you, he put the Holy Spirit within you. He gave you a new nature that had a heart of inclination toward the law of God.
That's far better than trying to work it out in your flesh when your heart is not into it. The new covenant is far better in that God has completely forgiven our sins. Look at it there with me in verse 12. What's the nature of the forgiveness that God has granted to you in Christ? Well, it must be better than those who died in the wilderness. It must be a covenant that brings something better to us than what they had when they were judged in the wilderness for their unbelief and disobedience.
What is ours like? What do you and I have in Christ? What has he given to us spiritually that is of such infinite value?
What has he given to us? Verse 12, God says, "'I'll be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.'" In Christ, what God has given you is a salvation in which he promises that he will not hold your sins against you.
He will not judge you for your sins. Can you imagine when your guilt was real and that judgment was deserved? When you did not love God with all of your heart, soul, strength, and mind? When you were by nature, by individual acts, and by nature, a liar and an adulterer? A thief?
A covetous person? Multiplied guilt on your soul! By nature and by choice, dead in trespasses and in sin. Having no hope in this world, no hope or anticipation of being received by a holy God, rather being among all of humanity where the wrath of God abides and the wrath of God has been revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. Romans chapter 1 verse 18, And you and I were all part and parcel of the whole miserable fallen human lot and in grace God brought Christ to you through the proclamation of the gospel. In grace God did a work on your heart to change you inside and based on the work of God you came to Christ believing in him for salvation, leaving your old man, coming out of the world, coming to Christ, leaving yourself behind and embracing him for the fullness of salvation.
Have you done that by the way? Have you come to Christ like that? That's what true salvation is. That's what true faith is that brings true salvation. And based on that work of God in your heart, all of your prior sins have been washed away, have been removed from your account, placed on the Lord Jesus Christ at the cross where he was punished for them in your place, and now in union with him, brought to him by the power of the Holy Spirit, having put your faith in him, the declaration of Scripture is this to you, that God promises that in Christ he will never hold your sins against you again.
Nothing about your sinful past or your sinful present or sinful things still to come in your life, God will never hold them against you, you will never be judged for them because the satisfaction was made in Christ at the cross. Do you see, beloved, compared to those who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years under the old covenant and died for their unbelief and disobedience, do you see how much better you have it? Do you see how much better a program, how much better a covenant we have in Christ, where God promises to receive us in Christ and to forgive all of your sins based on the work of someone else outside of you, do you see how much better that is?
A perfect salvation brought to you and your sins never to be accounted by God against you ever. That's much better, isn't it? Isn't it?
This is far better. So you look at the priest, you say, oh, Christ, this is so much better. You look at what Christ brings to us in the new covenant and say, oh, that's so much better. God made me someone new. He's forgiven all of my sins. He promises that he'll never break one of his promises.
So much better. Christ is a better high priest who lives forever, is sinless, and whose sacrifice suffices once and for all. Add to that, he brings a better covenant, and you begin to see why he is a more excellent work. Next time, Pastor Don Green will offer two more important points, so don't miss a moment.
Right now, though, Don's back here in studio with news of a great resource. Well, my friend, as we bring today's broadcast to a close, I want to offer you a very special gift, a special resource as a gift from our ministry. It's my series called Trusting God in Trying Times, and this series over the years has proven to be the most popular set of messages that I've ever done. It helps you know how to trust God as you're going through the deep sorrows that sometimes come to us in life. It comes from the book of Habakkuk in the Old Testament, and it comes from some very deep sorrows of my own that were present early in my Christian life. It's very personal. It's very helpful. It's very biblical.
And I would love to see you have it in your hands. It's available in CD album or by download. Transcripts are available if you prefer that. My friend Bill is going to give you information on how to find it. Just visit our website at thetruthpulpit.com to get the resource Don just mentioned. That's thetruthpulpit.com. I'm Bill Wright. We'll see you next time as Don Green continues to teach God's people God's Word from the Truth Pulpit.
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