Return to 'Recent Sermons'                 
The better High Priest

Sunday, 15th November, 2009

 The key thought of Hebrews is about “so great salvation in Jesus”  DON’T MISS OUT. The writer expands this as we have seen by talking is terms of the known greats of the Jewish faith. After John’s remarks last week you need to know that this week we will consider the third warning in this sermon and you should know a little about Melchizedek. Next week we look at the way the Old Covenant reveals the New Covenant.

Here is an outline of the sermon/letter.







LOYALTY TO GOD THROUGH PERSEVERING FAITH                           11:1–12:13



We have looked at the first two and Granville, Ian and John have shown how encouraging this book is to us struggling Christians.

 The book is marked by five clear warnings. It is written in the context of people deserting Jesus because of the pressure to return to Judaism, so these warnings are about abandoning salvation in Jesus. 

 It is also marked by 7 ‘better than’s. Jesus is declared better than

I        Better than angels as Son of God

II       Better than angels as Son of Man

III      Better than Moses IV      Better than Aaron

He is the High Priest of a

V       A better sanctuary in heaven

With a

VI      The better covenant

VII     The better Sacrifice

 In the next two weeks we will explore chapters 6-11

It follows on from what John spoke of last week Jesus is better than Aaron. We have two of the warnings, one a week! , the whole business of this strange fellow Melchizedek and a rather complicated examination of the temple worship. But remember the point of al this is to understand Jesus better, to know that he is the Man who stands between us and God and that he is able to save completely, and make us perfect and acceptable to God.

So lets dive into the third warning

Read Hebrews 5:11-6:12

In two words.  Grow up! Before you start panicking that this contradicts Jesus’ promise to never let go of your hand, which it does not say, I want to look at what it does say.

Lets begin by looking at what the writer wants to move on from.

 1Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgement.  


 the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death  

This is where our faith begins. Our gospel is that we are all on the road to hell until the Holy Spirit steps in and wakes us up to the fact that our actions will inevitably lead not just to physical death but to spiritual death. Until we have turned away from any pretence that we can win or earn our salvation and realise that we have alienated God and are doomed there is no hope for us. But once the realisation that we are on the wrong side of God sets in , Jesus is revealed as the Saviour. .Our  faith in God, is faith in Jesus. We cannot bargain with God or negotiate but he offers to reconnect with us, to break the divide that sin has made, to breath eternal life into us and guarantee a place in heaven with him, because he died for our sins. And we have to accept the salvation he offers by faith in God. 

Having trusted Jesus for salvation, the next step is baptism. That is being dunked in water as a demonstration of the baptisms that are spoken of here. You need to read up on what John the Baptist said about baptisms. Matthew 3:11

"I baptise you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

So when you come to Jesus for salvation you are baptised in the Holy Spirit. In obedience to Jesus you will be baptised in water. It is closely connected to your public confession of faith in Christ Jesus. In a baptism, you are baptised on your confession of faith in Christ Jesus. If you have become a Christian but  never been baptised, you need to, not to gain salvation but in obedience to the one who did.

2instruction about baptisms

 the laying on of hands, this is about appointments in the church, the conviction that the gifts of the Spirit are shared in the fellowship and we can bless one another by laying on hands in prayer.

 the resurrection of the dead. Read 1Corinthians 15 for this. And Thessalonians. In a few words all who put their faith in Jesus are resurrected on death. It appears that we all arrive in heaven at the same time, presumably because time itself does not apply in heaven.

 Tragically, those who reject this gospel face eternal judgement.  God intended Hell for the Devil and his angels but man has chosen to side with the Devil and therefore face the same eternal judgement.


It is those foundation truths that the writer wants his readers to move onto. Not that maturity is being more knowledgeable and better qualified but more secure in the relationship with Jesus and with God. And we can see something of this in the writers description of a Christian in verse 4-6

 A Christian is someone:

       . who has been enlightened  - sometimes Christians describe becoming a Christian as seeing the light. Because our gospel comes from revelation by God,

        who has tasted the heavenly gift  Our gospel is about receiving blessings from God, salvation is THE heavenly gift, but it comes with a shower of other, the presence of the Holy Spirit, a place in heaven prepared by Jesus, the gifts of the Spirit, the company and fellowship of other Christians, peace with God  and more.

        who has shared in the Holy Spirit Thos is so amazing, the eternal immortal creator God lives in mortal and previously rebellious and not always to obedient Christians. We share in the Holy Spirit. Beats the Stock Market any day!

        who has tasted the goodness of the word of God There is a great verse in the Bible that says Taste and see that the Lord is good. And we have tasted and so we see that he is trustworthy, loving and gracious.

        and the powers of the coming age  You have eternal life, we are promised to be reigning in heaven. Eye has not seen nor ear heard what God has got stored up for us in heaven. Wow!


That’s what being a Christian is about. And the writer says, bluntly IF you have experienced all that, then what are you doing thinking of turning away from it? But before you rush into thinking the writer is saying you can lose your salvation or have to become mature to be saved, let’s look at the text for what it says.

Warnings are warnings. If you see a warning triangle by the side of the road, it tells you what might happen if you do not take some care.  Whether it is falling off a cliff, or opening an umbrella,  the road goes this way, can go both ways at once!. surprised, you will be! The point is the warning is there to prevent you having a disaster. So here, it purpose of the warning is so that you avoid falling off faith.

secondly notice that the writer does not think they are going to end up leaving the faith. “we are confident of better things in your case.  thirdly he notes the things which accompany salvation. John made the point last week that the evidence that you have put your faith and trust in Jesus is obedience to him and his word.  He notes that God does not forget love and good works. He does forget our sin but he has a record of your good works, not for you to get puffed up about but because he rejoices in your obedience. we need faith and patience to inherit what has been promised. And this warning simply says go on further, don’t go back, rejecting salvation is like driving off a cliff, you leave the safety and certainty of God’s promises and you have nothing else because there is no other way to be saved.

11. We move on

READ verses 13-20

12. The message is clear God’s word is trustworthy. Oath taking was a serious business in the days of old. Now your signature carries that weight. Only in marriage is your word taken as legally binding, and your wedding certificate has two witnesses to your promises. Here God not only promises but he swears by himself. So the two unchangeable things are his promise and his oath.

 This is our safe place, and we need to realise that this is where our thinking should go when everything goes belly-up or pear-shaped. This is our encouragement at all times and especially bad times.

 We have here a wonderful mixed metaphor to understand. I think the anchor is reasonably clear . It is secure on the seabed while our boat is tossed about. The reference to the veil and Melchizedek need explanation. The veil will become clear next week. It refers to the curtain in the temple through which the High Priest went once a year, into the presence of God, the Holy of Holies. Our anchor is Jesus who is in the presence of God. As to Melchizedek, well we have at last arrived at the point where the writer explains it.

 To understand this man, we need to read Genesis 14:18-20. Abraham had just rescued Lot his nephew from the a bunch of raiders. Out of the blue we get this:

18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying,

       "Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
       Creator of heaven and earth.

20 And blessed be God Most High,
       who delivered your enemies into your hand."
      Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

Nothing else is known about him. Salem became Jerusalem. But in  the Psalm which is quoted here we read:

Psalm 110:4  The LORD has sworn
       and will not change his mind:
       "You are a priest forever,
       in the order of Melchizedek."

This prophecy is significant as we read here for 4 reasons.

 He was not a Levite. Jesus was from the tribe of Judah and therefore not able to be a priest.

 He was a priest-king.

 He was apparently eternal. Jesus is eternal.

 He was given tithes by Abraham. That identifies him as superior to Abraham and Aaron which is what this book says about Jesus.

 So what does all this mean about Jesus?

Before we get to that, the writer makes two points important to his 1st Century hearers but not so much to us.

 First, that the prophecy in Psalms indicates that a change was needed. We will see next week that the Old Covenant was a copy of the New Covenant and meant to be replaced by it.

, Secondly. That Jesus is a priest not based on ancestry but his eternal person. In the Old Covenant, the Priest was born priest because his father was priest and he could trace his ancestry back to Levi. To be High Priest, you had to trace your ancestry back to Aaron. Jesus is not part of that but he is the eternal son of God and as such is uniquely able to carry out the high Priest’s functions.


 Jesus is a superior Priest because it is based on an oath of God.

 Jesus is the guarantor. This means more to us than the oath. The guarantor pays up or replaces the product when product fails. That is what a guarantee is all about. Jesus pays up for our failure and sin. He dies in our place. He gives new life where the old life leads to death.

 He is permanent.  To understand this we have to think about politics. Each new Minister, makes changes and what we did before becomes unacceptable under the next minister. Each High Priest would act as he sought fit and the next could revoke what was granted by the previous. But Jesus is eternal. He is not going to change his mind, his promises are sure, his sacrifice a complete sacrifice,  his salvation a complete, perfect salvation.


Three things to summarise.

 Grow up. Move on and up in your spiritual life.

 God’s word is trustworthy. Trust him.

 Jesus is THE Great High Priest. Forgiveness is complete and permanent. Relax, you HAVE peace with God. Rely on Jesus as an anchor. He is in Heaven which is through the veil. He is your eternal Priest and King. Worship him, trust him, listen to him.

Return to top