His Priestly Qualifications

Cross at Dusk - Photo by Samuel McGarrigle on Unsplash

The priesthood of Jesus is a key subject of Hebrews. He became the “merciful and faithful high priest” who now intercedes for “his brethren.” This is anticipated in the opening paragraph, including the uniqueness of his priesthood, by declaring that he “achieved the purification of sins,” then afterward, he “sat down” in God’s presence.


In his death, the Son of God removed the stain of sin from his people, and he accomplished “once for all” what the sacrificial system described in the book of Leviticus could not do.


As a direct consequence, God exalted him to “sit” at his “right hand” where he intercedes for his church as the “high priest after the order of Melchizedek.”


The letter begins to present his qualifications for the priesthood by citing the eighth Psalm which celebrates the “crowning of man with glory and honor.”

For not unto angels did he subject the world to come, whereof we speak.  But one has somewhere testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? Or the son of man, that thou visited him? You made him a little lower than the angels; You crowned him with glory and honor and set him over the works of your hands: You put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he subjected all things unto him, he left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we see not yet all things subjected to him. But we behold him who has been made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God he should taste of death for every man” - (Hebrews 2:5-9).




The preceding passage refers either to Adam’s loss of the original glory he received at the creation, or to God’s plan for man to become endued with glory, a plan that was thwarted by Adam’s sin.


Originally, the eighth Psalm was not about the Messiah but the intended rule of humanity over the creation. The role of man in the “coming habitable earth” was to fulfill the original mandate to “take dominion over the earth.”


Prior to the work of Christ, humanity failed to fulfill that role. “But now, not yet do we see all things subjected to him.” And the term rendered “not yet” indicates the promised subjection is or will be achieved by the Son (“Whom God has appointed heir of all things”). But for now, believers see Jesus “sitting” at God’s right hand.


Like Adam, Jesus was “made a little lower than the angels,” but unlike the first man, he has been “crowned with glory and honorbecause he endured “suffering and death.”


Moreover, his death was quite “fitting,” the very reason for which he was “crowned with glory.” His suffering “completed” or “perfected” him, and his subsequent appointment as high priest for his people is the result of his faithfulness in death.


The letter portrays his exaltation as something he achieved in his human life. He BECAME superior to the angels, “having gone beyond them.” God exalted him because of his obedience (“You loved righteousness and hated lawlessness, for this cause has God anointed you with the oil of exultation beyond your partners”).




The next paragraph presents the reason why the death of the Son means hope, mercy, and eventual glory for humanity. Having purposed to grant His children glory, it became “fitting” to “complete” their champion through suffering because he and men are “all from one.”

For it was fitting in him, for the sake of whom are all things, and by means of whom are all things, when many sons he would lead to glory, through sufferings, to perfect the Princely Leader of their salvation. For both he that makes holy, and they who are being made holy are all of one, for which cause, he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying: I will declare your name to my brethren, in the assembly will I sing praise to you. And again, I will be confident upon him; and again: Behold! I and the children which unto God has given to me” - (Hebrews 2:10-13).

The Greek verb rendered “perfect” means to “complete, accomplish, finish; to bring to an end.” The idea is not moral perfection but bringing something to its intended conclusion.


And this sense of completion is confirmed by the later application of the same verb to Jesus - “And being completed, he became the author of everlasting salvation for all those who obey him.”


Through his death, the Son qualified to become the high priest after the order of Melchizedek. Here, the term “suffering” has his death in view since God determined that he “should taste of death for every man” - (Hebrews 5:9).


And now, Jesus is “sanctifying” believers, setting them apart for service to God. Because he shares the same human nature, he calls them “brethren.” This stresses his solidarity with men and anticipates the later declaration that they are sanctified “through the offering of the body of Jesus.”


Three citations from the Old Testament are placed on his lips to emphasize his kinship with his “brethren” and to validate the genuineness of his human nature - (2 Samuel 22:3, Psalm 22:22, Isaiah 8:17-18, Hebrews 10:10).


Thus, it was his oneness with mankind, his subjection to mortality, and his doing so on behalf of “his brethren,” that qualified him as the “high priest forever.”


The letter does not engage in metaphysical speculation about the eternal nature of the Son, but instead, goes to great lengths to stress his solidarity with humanity, especially in his (and their) suffering and death.

Photo: Toronto - by Rohan Makhecha on Unsplash

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