Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Priesthood of Hebrews 8

Contrast the priesthood of Jesus with that of the priests under the old covenant as shown in Hebrews 8:1–13. In what sense is the worship of the old covenant a shadow or copy of the heavenly sanctuary? What are the differences between the ministry obtained by Christ and the ministry of earthly priests? What does the heavenly priesthood of Jesus provide that the old priesthood could not? In what sense is the old covenant becoming obsolete? How would you relate this material to Christian life today?

            This is not the authors’ first time pointing out the inadequacies of the old lifestyle his hearers used to adhere to. In chapter four he makes similar points. Richard Phillips points out that, “Earthly priest can share our suffering, but cannot transcend it; while they are able to sympathize with our weakness, they are likewise under sin’s ruthless grip.”[1] Being human without any divine nature the earthly priest have to also make a sacrifice for their own sins and it will never be completed.

            The sense in which the temple/tabernacle is a shadow or copy of the heavenly sanctuary as Guthrie says, “The old covenant tabernacle[2], sanctioned as it was by God, can only be seen as an imperfect copy of the real thing, since human beings constructed it.” Phillips goes even farther when he says, “Verse 3 reminds us that a priest must have a sacrifice to enter the sanctuary; since Jesus is in the true sanctuary of heaven his perfect sacrifice has been received and accepted so as perfectly to establish his priestly ministry.”[3]

            Something of interest can be found in verse one when the author makes a simple statement of Christ being seated. There is a direct contrast here between Christ and the Levitical priesthood that never sat down during their duty, because there were no seats and they were not invited to do such. [4]When Christ sits down it shows how he has completed the work that has been set before him and no longer has to make continual sacrifices the same way earthly priest had to. With Christ coming and fulfilling the old covenant he establishes the new and the old is no longer needed, therefore becoming obsolete. Guthrie says it like this, “Thus here in Hebrews 8:13 the writer speaks of the old covenant as having gotten beyond its time of usefulness. When he states that “what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear,” he speaks of the first covenants complete demise as inevitable.”[5]

            This material can be related to the Christian life today in many different forms. We can examine it and understand that we have come from a system that was originally performed by men and could have been considered performance based.  However, we have a priest who also speaks on our behalf because he was our perfect sacrifice. By him being our propitiation we can receive that forgiveness and live our lives holy unto him.

[1] Richard D.Phillips, Hebrews: Reformed Expository Commentary. (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2006)268.
[2] George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary-Hebrews. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998)280.
[3] Phillips, Hebrews., 268.
[4] Ibid., 270.
[5] Guthrie. Hebrews., 282.

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