The early part of chapter 5 continues this subject. The high
priests of old represented men and acted for them in things relating to
God. But then acting for men they had to be compassionate and
sympathetic towards men. Hence they were taken from amongst men, being
of the family of Aaron. Had God instituted an holy angel to act as high
priest on Israel's behalf there might have been great gain Godward, as
regards the accuracy and fidelity with which all priestly functions
were carried out; but there would have been great loss manward, as
regards such a matter as compassion on the ignorant. He who acts for
men must understand mankind in an experimental way; and this is a thing
pre-eminently true of Christ as we have just seen.
In Aaron's case he had, "as for the people, so also for
himself, to offer for sins." In this we again find contrast and not
comparison. Christ is indeed an offering priest, for it says later on,
"it is of necessity that this Man have somewhat also to offer" (Hebrews
8: 3). But when we read on yet further in the Epistle we shall discover
that Christ, "through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot
to God" (Hebrews 9: 14). There is all the difference in the world
between Aaron offering FOR himself and Christ offering HIMSELF.
Aaron was also typical of Christ in the fact that he was
called into the priestly office by God. Yet though Christ was called of
God like Aaron He has not been called after the order of Aaron, but
after the order of Melchizedec. He who said in Psalm 2, "Thou art My
Son, today have I begotten Thee" (and this was quoted in Hebrews 1: 5),
said also in Psalm 110, "Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of
Melchizedec." If at this point you refer to the psalm you will see that
this was said in connection with Christ coming forth from death in
resurrection, and being exalted to the right hand of God.
In verses 7 to 9 however we go back to "the days of His
flesh"; that is, the days when He was upon earth before He died. Then
was the great moment in the garden of Gethsemane, when He came face to
face with the sorrows of death, and His cries were heard. He was heard
"in that He feared," or, "for His piety." His personal perfections as
Man demanded that He be heard. His cry was that He should be saved out
of death-for the force of the word here is "out of" rather than "from."
He was not saved from death but He was heard and saved out of it by
resurrection and by Jehovah saying to Him, "Sit on My right hand, until
I make Thine enemies Thy footstool."
Going into death and being saved out of it, two great things
were achieved, as presented to us in verses 8 and 9. First, He learned
obedience. Let us understand what this means. Far be the thought that
there was ever the smallest taint of disobedience with Him. The fact
is, that previous to His incarnation He had ever been in the place of
supreme glory, where it was His to command. Having become Man He
experienced what it was to obey. We believe we are right in saying that
King George VI. was in early life a sailor. Going through that naval
training, he learned the obedience which is necessary for the smooth
running of the whole naval machine.
When we speak of King George learning naval obedience we do
not for one moment mean to infer that he started with an insubordinate
and disobedient spirit, when as a young prince he became a midshipman.
We mean rather to emphasize that he has acquired his naval knowledge
not by the study of books but by actual experience. In just that way
the Lord Jesus, though the Son of God, has learned obedience by human
The second thing achieved was on our behalf. His time of
suffering and testing came to its close. He was obedient even to
death-the death of the cross. Death was the supreme test and there He
was perfected: that is, being ever perfect Himself, there His course of
obedience came to its glorious finish and climax. But then it was
exactly at that point that He effected propitiation, and thereby became
the Author of eternal salvation. Not now a deliverance such as that of
Israel out of Egypt, which though very wonderful was only for a time
but a deliverance for eternity.
And that eternal salvation is received by those that obey Him.
The value of faith was so strongly stressed in Hebrews 3, and the
beginning of Hebrews 4, that we might have supposed that it would have
read, "them that believe." Why does it say, "them that obey Him"?
The obedience is of course the obedience of faith, but the point is
that we should realize that the One who asks obedience from us is the
One who has learned obedience Himself. In obedience the Son of God
worked out eternal salvation, and that salvation is ours when we come
under obedience to Him. Can we not see how divinely fitting this is? He
only asks from us that obedience which He has perfectly rendered
In verse 10 we revert to the great fact established in verse
6. The verses that come between are evidently intended to impress us
with the qualifications of our High Priest. Melchizedec is a mysterious
personage who appears for one moment in Genesis 14 and then vanishes.
Yet he was priest of the Most High God. The One whom he typified is
infinitely greater than he-the Son of God, who assumed Manhood, endured
suffering, learned obedience, and by death itself became the Author of
an eternal salvation to all that obey Him. To ALL that obey HIM-notice!
If you obey Him and I obey Him, then we are included. Salvation is ours!
At this point the writer calls a halt to his flow of thought,
and a lengthy digression ensues. Melchizedec was so important a type of
Christ that there were many things to be said on the subject, and the
theme was not an easy one. It required some depth of spiritual
understanding if it was to be intelligently received. The thought of
this fact very definitely raised the question of the spiritual state of
these Hebrew believers, and of ourselves.
In the closing verses of our chapter the writer gently yet
firmly upbraids his Hebrew readers because they were still but babes as
to their understandings when they ought to have been like full-grown
men. If we make spiritual growth our spiritual senses are exercised, we
acquire spiritual habits, and we become able to assimilate the "strong
meat," or, "solid food," of the truth in its wider and deeper aspects.
If we do not grow, though we may have received "the word of
righteousness" yet we become unskilled in it. We may even slip so far
back that we need to be taught over again the simplest elements
concerning foundation truth.
Thus it was with these early Hebrew believers. They doubtless
were hindered by their old Jewish associations. Their tendency was to
cling to the weak and beggarly elements of Judaism, and this made it
very difficult for them to enter upon the simplest elements of the
gospel. This may not be exactly our trouble, but we are very likely to
be hindered by the elements of the world, and more particularly by the
elements of that particular form of WORLDLY RELIGION in which we may
have been brought up. Let us search and see if this be so; for if it is
we too shall be like stunted trees in the garden of the Lord.
Let us also accept the warning of these verses to the effect that if we do not go on, the tendency for us is to go back. If we are not on the up grade, we shall get on the down grade. If we do not advance, we shall decline. We are in a scene of motion, and we shall not succeed in standing still.