Types in Hebrews - CHAPTER 4 - PRIESTHOOD

"WHEREFORE, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High-priest of our profession, Christ Jesus."
It was the divine intention that the offices of Apostle and High-priest in Israel should be united; but, yielding to the entreaties of Moses, God permitted Aaron to share the ministry. (Exodus 4:14) Save for this, however, the type had its exact fulfillment. For not until the mediator of the covenant had "made purification of sins," and had gone up the mount to God, was Aaron appointed high-priest; and not until the Son of God had completed the work of redemption, and ascended to the right hand of the Majesty on high, was He called (Hebrews 5:10)1 of God High-priest after the order of Melchisedek.
It is not that the Lord then entered upon high-priestly functions of a new character, but that, while on earth (as the Apostle expressly declares), (Chap. 8:4 R.V.)2 "He would not be a priest at all." And on earth it was that His sacrificial work in redemption was accomplished. That work, therefore, must have been complete before He entered on His High-priestly office.
Repetition may be pardoned here, for our minds are leavened by the pagan conception of priesthood which prevails in Christendom, by which these vital truths of Christianity are secretly undermined or openly denied. By the blood of the paschal lamb the Israelites were redeemed in Egypt, in all the hopelessness and degradation of their doom and their bondage. They were then delivered out of Egypt, and permitted to see the destruction of the power that had enslaved them. And finally, by the blood of the covenant, they became a holy people, and gained the right to approach their Jehovah God. And all this before Aaron was appointed to the priestly office.
"Now these things happened unto them by way of example, and they were written for our admonition." (1 Corinthians 10:11) God saves the sinner in his sins, as he is and where he is; He saves him also from his sins, and teaches him that sin has no longer the power to enslave him. Not only so, but the sinner is sanctified by the blood of the covenant, and accorded the right of access to God. (Hebrews 10:29) And all this, both in the type and the antitype, without the intervention of priesthood. The priest was appointed in Israel to maintain the people in the enjoyment of the blessings thus secured to them by redemption. And his duties were of such a character that the humblest Israelite could have discharged them, had not God decreed that none but sons of Aaron should hold the office.
In contradistinction to all this, the pagan priest bars approach to the shrine, and claims to be endowed with mystical powers which enable him to dispense to his dupes the benefits his god is willing to bestow. And the so-called Christian priest, not being a son of Aaron, must of course be of the pagan order; and he naturally displays that veritable hall-mark of paganism, a claim to mystical powers. "A Christian priest"! Save in respect of the spiritual priesthood of all the "holy brethren," a man might as well call himself a Christian infidel,3 for the whole position denies the perfectness and sufficiency both of the redeeming work of the Lord Jesus Christ before His ascension, and of His atoning work in heaven for His people now. As Bishop Lightfoot declares, "The only priests under the Gospel are the saints, the members of the Christian brotherhood."4 That the priesthood of Christ could not be Aaronic, the Apostle impresses on the Jewish mind by pointing to the fact that "our Lord sprang out of Judah, of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood." And the truth in question is made "still more evident," he adds, by the fact that the Lord’s priesthood was divinely declared to be of the order of Melchisedek. That Melchisedek was type of the Messiah the Jews themselves admitted; and his priesthood had to do, not with offering sacrifices for sins, but with ministering blessing and succour and sustenance. And with the Jew no further proof of his transcendent greatness was needed than the fact that "even the Patriarch Abraham" paid him homage, giving him "tithes of the chief spoils." (Chapter 7:4).
The language used of him is full of mystery. "Priest of the most high God" - a title of the Supreme as Lord of heaven and earth- "king of righteousness"; "king of peace"; "without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God." (Chapter 7:2, 3.) Whatever meaning may be placed upon these words with reference to the type, it is certain that their application to Christ is meant to teach that it is as Son of God that He is High-priest.
This truth rings out loud and clear at the end of chapter 4, which tells us that we have "a great High-priest who hath passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son God." And then at the beginning of Chap. 5, by way of "tacit comparison with Christ, the divine High-priest," the Apostle goes on to speak of priests "taken from among men."5
And yet the Revisers have adopted a rendering; of the opening words of chapter 5, which make them seem to the English reader to contradict; the clear and emphatic teaching of the Epistle. The Apostle’s statement is explicit, that "Every high-priest taken from among men is appointed…that he may offer gifts and, sacrifices for sins."6 But, instead of this, the R.V. tells us that "Every high-priest, being taken from among men," is appointed for this purpose. The following will illustrate the difference between the text and this perversion of it. A military handbook reads: "Every commissioned officer, taken from the ranks is appointed for special merit." But some editor changes this to "Every commissioned officer, being taken from the ranks, is appointed for special merit." The "reviser" thus attributes to the author two statements, both of which are false. For every commissioned officer is not raised from the ranks, neither is he appointed for special merit. And so here, Hebrews teaches explicitly and with emphasis, first, that in contrast with the Aaronic high-priests who were taken from among men, our great High-priest is Son of God. And secondly, that, as High-priest, He has nothing to do with offering sacrifices for sins: for ere He ascended, and entered on His High-priestly office, He offered the one great sin-offering that has for ever put away sins. Hence the change of attitude mentioned so emphatically in Chap. 10:11, 12. The Aaronic priest was ever standing, for his work was never done;
"But HE, when He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God." Chapter 10:11, 12.
This may lead us to notice the distinction between functions which are essential to priesthood, and those which were peculiar to priests of the Aaronic order. As we have already seen, Scripture lends no sanction to the prevailing belief that a sacrifice is essentially a priestly rite. If, as we know, the entire ritual of the day of Atonement devolved upon Aaron, this was not only because the yearly sin-offering was for the whole congregation of Israel,7 but because his acts were in a peculiar sense typical of the work of Christ. The Aaronic high-priest therefore was appointed to offer sacrifices for sin (Hebrews 5:1); but neither offering nor killing the ordinary sin-offering was the work of the priest, but of the sinner who had sinned. The words of the law are explicit:
"He shall lay his hand upon the head of the goat, and kill it in the place where they kill the burnt-offering before the Lord. it is a sin-offering." (Leviticus 4:24-29-33) Not until the sacrifice had been offered, the victim slain, the blood shed, did priestly work begin. Very strikingly does this appear in the ritual prescribed for a sin committed by the whole congregation. Though, of course, the priests were implicated in a national sin, it was not the sons of Aaron who offered the sin-offering, but the elders of the congregation. And the elders it was who laid their hands upon the victim’s head and proceeded to kill it.(Leviticus 4:13 f.).
For "offer" is not a synonym for "kill"8. "When the Apostle Paul spoke of "the offering up of the Gentiles,"9 he was not contemplating a holocaust of the converts! His use of the term in this passage should safeguard us against the common misreading of his words that Christ "offered Himself" to God. The study of Scripture typology will save us from that extraordinary vagary of Gentile exegesis that this refers to Calvary, and that the Lord officiated as a priest at His own death.
Here are the opening words of the Book of Leviticus. "And the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord…he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord. And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt-offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. And he shall kill the bullock before the Lord: and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation."10 The fact that in this passage "offer" and "bring" represent the same Hebrew verb might guard us from the error of supposing that any sacerdotal meaning is inherent in the former term.11 The Israelite offered (or presented) his sacrifice at the door of the tabernacle, and if found to be according to the law it was accepted. He then killed the victim, having first identified himself with it by laying his hands upon its head. And the sacrificial work being thus completed, "the priests, Aaron’s sons," proceeded to execute their peculiar priestly functions in making atonement for the offerer.
This ritual will enable us to understand those wonderful words already quoted, that Christ "offered Himself without spot to God."12 This was not at the Cross, but when, "on coming into the world," He said, "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God." (Chap. 10:5-7) As the result, the divine will led Him to His death of shame. But neither His death, nor the self-surrender which led to His death, was a part of His High-priestly work.13 Everything that was typified by the action of divinely appointed Aaronic priests "with the blood of bulls and goats," the Son of God did with His own blood when He ascended to the right hand of the Majesty on high.14 Until after the Exodus no sacrificing priest had ever been officially appointed; and yet throughout the preceding ages holy men had offered gifts and sacrifices. And the death of Christ was the antitype of every sacrifice, whether before or after Sinai. But in Hebrews special emphasis is laid upon the annual sin-offering of the law; and if we read the Pentateuch in the light of the Epistle, we cannot fail to see that the appointment of the high-priest, and the peculiar duties assigned to him, had special reference to the great Day of Atonement. If then God desired to teach the truth that, although the high-priest’s sacrificial duties were typical of Calvary, the type would not be fulfilled by Christ in virtue of His priesthood, was it possible, in that religion of ritual and of ceremonial ordinances, to teach it with greater, with more dramatic emphasis, than by commanding Aaron to divest himself of his high-priestly garments until the sacrificial rites of the day had been accomplished?
With no less definiteness does this appear in the typology of the great sin offering of Numbers 19, which holds such an important place in the teaching of Scripture. As a rule all priestly duties which were not peculiar to Aaron could be discharged by any of his sons: why then was an exception made in this instance? The obvious explanation is that as the type was to be fulfilled by Christ, not as High-priest, but before entering on His High-priestly office, the ritual was assigned expressly to Eleazar, the high-priest designate. Such is the accuracy of the types of Scripture! Let no one feel impatient at such repeated reiteration of these most important truths; for the pagan errors which they refute are accredited by many eminent theologians. Moreover, they are in the warp and woof of the false cult of the apostasy of Christendom; and in our day they are sapping the Protestantism of our National Church.