Hebrews 5–7 introduces a second function of Jesus. He is our High Priest. The author explains that this fulfills a promise God had made to the promised Davidic King, that He would be “ ‘a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek’ ” (Ps. 110:4, as quoted in Heb. 5:5, 6, NKJV).
Read Leviticus 1:1–9, Leviticus 10:8–11, Malachi 2:7, Numbers 6:22–26, and Hebrews 5:1–4. What functions did the priest fulfill?
The priests were appointed on behalf of human beings to represent them and mediate their relationship with God and the things pertaining to Him. The priest was a mediator. This was true of any system of priesthood, whether Jewish, Greek, Roman, or any other. The priest makes it possible for us to relate to God, and everything the priest does has the purpose of facilitating the relationship between us and God.
The priest offers sacrifices on behalf of human beings. The people cannot bring these sacrifices to God in person. The priest knows how we can offer an “acceptable” sacrifice so that our gifts may be acceptable to God or so that they can provide cleansing and forgiveness.
Priests also taught the law of God to the people. They were experts in God’s commandments and were in charge of explaining and applying them.
Finally, the priests also had the responsibility of blessing in the name of Yahweh. Through them, God mediated His goodwill and beneficent purpose for the people.
However, in 1 Peter 2:9, we see something else. We—believers in Jesus—are called “a royal priesthood.” This role implies incredible privileges. Priests could approach God in the sanctuary. Today, we can approach God through prayer with confidence (Heb. 4:14–16; Heb. 10:19–23). There are, as well, important responsibilities. We must collaborate with God in His work of saving the world. He wants us to teach and explain God’s laws and precepts to others. He also wants us to offer sacrifices of praise and good works, which are pleasing to Him. What a privilege and what a responsibility!
What difference should it make in our lives that we are, indeed, “a royal priesthood”? How should this truth impact how we live?
Supplemental EGW Notes
Christ is spoken of as walking in the midst of the golden candlesticks. Thus is symbolized His relation to the churches. He is in constant communication with His people. He knows their true state. He observes their order, their piety, their devotion. Although He is high priest and mediator in the sanctuary above, yet He is represented as walking up and down in the midst of His churches on the earth. With untiring wakefulness and unremitting vigilance, He watches to see whether the light of any of His sentinels is burning dim or going out. If the candlesticks were left to mere human care, the flickering flame would languish and die; but He is the true watchman in the Lord’s house, the true warden of the temple courts. His continued care and sustaining grace are the source of life and light.—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 586.
God is approached through Jesus Christ, the Mediator, the only way through which He forgives sins. God cannot forgive sins at the expense of His justice, His holiness, and His truth. But He does forgive sins and that fully. There are no sins He will not forgive in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the sinner’s only hope, and if he rests here in sincere faith, he is sure of pardon and that full and free. There is only one channel and that is accessible to all, and through that channel a rich and abundant forgiveness awaits the penitent, contrite soul and the darkest sins are forgiven.—Ellen G. White Comments, in The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, pp. 912, 913.
Christ does not acknowledge any caste, color, or grade as necessary to become a subject of His kingdom. Admittance to His kingdom does not depend upon wealth or a superior heredity. But those who are born of the Spirit are the subjects of His kingdom. Spiritual character is that which will be recognized by Christ. His kingdom is not of this world. His subjects are those who are partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And this grace is given them of God. Christ does not find His subjects fitted for His kingdom, but He qualifies them by His divine power. Those who have been dead in trespasses and sins are quickened to spiritual life. The faculties which God has given them for holy purposes are refined, purified, and exalted, and they are led to form characters after the divine similitude. . . .
. . . As a servant looks to his master, and as a maid looks to her mistress, so [they], drawn by the cords of love to Christ, constantly look unto Him who is the Author and Finisher of their faith. By beholding Jesus, by obeying His requirements, they increase in the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ whom He hath sent. Thus they become changed into His image from character to character until they are distinguished from the world, and it can be written of them: “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9).—God’s Amazing Grace, p. 52.
The above quotations are taken from Ellen G. White Notes for the Sabbath School Lessons, published by Pacific Press Publishing Association. Used by permission.