Christ is Our High Priest (Hebrews, Part 4)
The essential message of the letter to the Hebrews is that Jesus Christ fulfils and supersedes the Old Covenant, thus ushering in the New Covenant. Under the Old Covenant the priest was required to go on offering sacrifices year after year that did not ultimately achieve unbroken fellowship with God. The Old Covenant religious system only covered the ‘mortgage payments’ on the land on which the house of the New Covenant would one day be built (Heb 7:11, 9:9-10). But in Christ, the mortgage is paid off, the house is built and passed on to us as a gift (Heb 9:11-28). The Old Covenant is the passing shadow of the everlasting reality in Christ (Heb 10:1).
So, in view of this the author of Hebrews is saying to his readers, “it’s time to leave the former things, the tent that once sheltered us, and move into the new house built by Christ.” Indeed, the author is emphatic that to do otherwise is to reject Christ and thus to cut yourself off from the very source of life. When the letter to the Hebrews speaks of ‘falling away’ or being’ back-slidden’, it is not referring to moral behaviour so much as falling back into Old Covenant religious practice.
For the Hebrew Christians this was a constant temptation, and oddly enough the very same temptation now confronts the contemporary Christian. We may not be specifically tempted to lapse into Jewish traditions, but the church has been dogged with a propensity to lapse into its own religious systems designed to create spiritual confidence apart from Christ. For the writer to the Hebrews this is a serious problem.
“How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Heb 9:14). The “acts that lead to death” here, are the oblations and religious requirements of the Old Covenant, not moral sins. Most translations render this as “dead works,” i.e. – religious duties under the Old Covenant. Now that we are freed from the dead works we are permanently cleansed and utterly secure. We are sons and daughters of God, not slaves.
As far as the writer to the Hebrews is concerned, those who reject the priesthood of Christ and replace with our self-made systems of acceptance “are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace” (Heb 6:6).