by John C. Miller
In the world, and especially in the Catholic Church, the term priesthood is used in relation to man. However, in Hebrews 4:14 we see it applied to Jesus, Who was made the High Priest for mankind: ...we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God,... The book of Hebrews tells us very explicitly that this was an office given by God: And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron (Hebrews 5:4). Christ did not glorify Himself by making Himself the high priest, but rather, it was the Father Who gave Him this office: Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee...Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec (Hebrews 5:5-6). Jesus is the only mediator between God and man - there is no other. Man can invent many mediators to intercede for him - a saint here, a saint there; however, the Word of God clearly tells us, For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;... (1Timothy 2:5). In the Orient one can find innumerable gods, but together with our Catholic and Jewish brothers, we can say, there is only one God. On this point we can agree. However, the road forks after that. Our Jewish brothers are incomplete and our Catholic brothers fall into error, since His Word clearly tells us, There is only one God and one mediator.
The Priestly Work
Let's see what duties the high priest performed. 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: Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity (Hebrews 5:1). The high priest presents offerings. Offerings, in other words, are gifts. What was the gift, that Jesus, as our High Priest, presented to the Father? His very life was the first and most valuable gift. Then there are gifts that we, His church, give Him. When we mention offerings and gifts, to what are we referring? In Psalms 100 two are cited: thanksgiving and praise. On different occasions people have asked me, "Why do you give so much time to singing and praising?" My answer to them has always been, "We are not wasting time. We are giving an offering to the Lord."
What is an offering all about? It is giving God something of value. If you come to a meeting and the first thing you bring are your complaints, you are not giving Him an offering He deserves. If when you open your heart you complain about some bad circumstance or about the responsibility divine light has brought to your life, this also is not a worthy offering, nor does it ring of thanksgiving or praise. If that's how you come maybe you'll have to keep praising for another hour until, from your heart and mouth, comes forth something presentable to the Father. I'm not saying there won't be times when you bring your petitions before God. There will be! I'm referring to those offerings of value, those that Jesus can and wants to present to the Father, telling Him, "Father, this is what My church has given Me and I give it to You." Oh that no one would count it a waste of time when I raise my hands and declare, "Jesus, thank you for salvation! Thank you for Your love! Thank you for the job that I have! Thank you for health! Thank you for the provision of food at my table! Thank you for life! Thank you for the cross! Thank you for Your love! Thank you for Your mercy. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" We don't sing just to warm ourselves up. We don't praise because we have to follow a formula: one song, then the sermon, and finally another song. We sing and praise God because that's bringing Him a gift.
There have always been ways that one comes before royalty, rulers, and government officials. If you have an engagement with the president, please, don't go empty handed! Even among themselves, presidents and royalty exchange gifts. In Washington DC there is a museum solely for the purpose of displaying gifts that have been given to the various presidents.
What gifts and offerings can we bring God? A joyful heart can be a fragrant gift to Him. A heart full of gratitude can also gladden the Father. What offerings are you bringing God? In the book of Malachi we encounter words worthy of meditation: A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour?... And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? (Malachi 1:6,8) These are strong words! They tell us of unworthy and unacceptable offerings. Now think again on the question I just asked you, "What offerings are you bringing God?"
Jesus offered His life. The most valuable gift you can offer is your life, too. Your life - a gift for Him to do as He pleases with it. A life that He can live through - where your hands are His hands, your mouth is His mouth, and your feet are His feet. The gift of your life given to God in such a way that you are able to say with Paul, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:...(Galatians 2:20).
When we were yet in our sin, our conscience told us that what we were doing was wrong, but we were ignorant of the fact that we were offending God. But the day came when the light and truth of the Gospel reached us and brought us to repentance. It was then that we realized that we had offended God and was living in sin.
THE SACRIFICE FOR SIN
Let's read again about the high priest that offered sacrifices for sin, Who can have compassion on the ignorant... Who are the ignorant? They are those that are ignorant of the fact that they are in sin. Those that don't know that they offend God with their life style. His patience isn't only for the ignorant, but also for those who have gone astray and for those that were at one time in the Way, but then left that path. His patience and compassion is ever extended to those who have lost their direction and need to find the right way again. Now why does Jesus have patience for the ignorant and the lost? Hebrews 2:17-18 tells us why: Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.
The consequences of playing with sin are devastating. As a pastor I have seen the horrible marks that sin leaves all too many times. I have seen lives wandering for years, seeking inner peace and restoration. It's not until the grace of God finds them and they are forgiven that they find this peace. Then they tell me, "Pastor, something happened! I know that from that moment I've been forgiven and restored."
When the children of Israel sinned they went to the temple bringing with them their sin offering. It was there that their offering was sacrificed, where they repented and their sin was legally covered. Let me illustrate this. Mr. Jacob, the local grocer, leaves his house and heads toward the temple. He takes with him a lamb. All who see him know where he is going, why he is going there, and what he is going to do there. Perhaps the whole neighborhood will start whispering, "What sin has Mr. Jacob committed? Has he overcharged us? Has he sold us meat with too much salt?" Mr. Jacob also knows very well that as he makes his way to the temple, as much as he tries to hide the lamb, all who see him knows that he has sinned. No, sin can't be hidden! He will then deliver the lamb to the priest who will put his hand on the lamb and his sin will be atoned for.
But it was only one day of the year, the Day of Atonement, that the high priest could enter the presence of God. It was only then that the blood of the lamb was sprinkled over the ark and over the mercy seat. It was there God would accept the sacrifice for the sins of the people for the year - for all those who had sinned and brought an offering.
We also have a High Priest that made, once and for all, atonement for our sins: Jesus Christ, the Son of God. If you are living in sin, or if you find yourself out of the way, repent! Ask the Lord for forgiveness. I'm talking about RESTORATION. I believe in restoration. I believe that anyone who has lost their way can return. I believe that if you have fallen, even if you're a Christian, you can ask for forgiveness and be restored.
I believe in a church that can give glory to God. I believe in
a church that can be holy. The prayer of Jesus our High Priest to
His Father was, Father, be thou glorified. And He was!
The greatest desire of His heart is that through the church and through your life the Father is glorified. So be it!
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