The Priesthood of  Christ. Part 3 of 5

Heb. iv. 14-16.

Taken from: THE BIBLE TREASURY, Edited by William Kelly #4 (New Series), April, 1896


Twos two goats, in fact, were needed to complete atonement, the formal and particular confession being upon the scapegoat or people's lot. Still for the type of atonement they were both involved in its two great parts: the vindicating of God, which was the first thought; and next the allied comfort of knowing that all evil on the part of the people was minutely brought out, laid on the live goat, and discharged to be seen no more. And these two truths are distinctly before us in Rom. iii. and iv.; chapter iii. answering more to Jehovah’s lot, chapter iv. to the people’s lot, in the latter part of both chapters. In the one case it is God just and justifying him that believes in Jesus; and there we have the blood on the mercy-seat. In the other, Christ is said to be delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification, which delivering of Him up for our offences is exactly what the scapegoat figured when sent away with their sins over his head.

Azazel does not answer to the truth of resurrection. There is no type of this in the offerings here, though we find it in that of Isaac (Gen. xxii.). There was also a figure of it in the bird that was let loose, dipped in the blood of the killed one, for the leper; but it is not so with the live goat. For it was to be sent into a land not inhabited; and heaven is anything but this. It is a place already well inhabited, and, will be so yet more for ever. Impossible for it to be symbolised by the desert scene into which the goat was sent. What this was intended to set forth was the dismissal. of Israel’s sins, the visible testimony to all of their offences—their positive acts of transgression—borne away. This seems to be all that was meant by it, the evident complement therefore of Jehovah’s lot, as it was the people’s. Substitution appears no less than expiation.

Atonement, however, though by the high priest alone, does not (strictly speaking) give us the proper ordinary action of priesthood, but the foundation, and hence is intimately connected with it. The purging of, or making expiation for, sins was a prime necessity, but also a foundation for the priest to appear before God day by day on behalf of the people.

We come now to another matter of the deepest interest in the person that could fittingly act as priest. “In that he himself suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” Let us weigh it the more because it so clearly concerns, not merely ourselves, but Himself, so often wounded in the house of His friends, as well as by heartless enemies. It is not only the person in both parts, or the foundation work for us, but the gracious provision in His heart, as man tried in every possible way, that He might thus the better succour those that are tempted.

What is meant by the word “tempted”? As you may have observed, not a word is said about temptation till we hear of the sanctified people. “Tempted” in these cases, then, has no allusion whatever to the inward solicitations of evil. Such is not the thought: it should be needless to say the Lord never had any. But even where priesthood is spoken of on our behalf, it is remarkable that by it God does not make provision for sins or failures. So we see in chap. iv., where we learn not a little more. ,Seeing then that we have a great high priest that is passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, [yet] without sin.

Here the introduction of the word “yet” into the clause (printed in italics) is a very great blemish, calculated to ruin the sense. If you read it without that addition, you may apprehend what the Holy Ghost means a great deal more distinctly and correctly. As it stands now in the Authorised Version (and also in the work of the Revisers too, certainly of many individuals in our own day), the deduction is that the Lord was tempted, but never yielded, never sinned. This is not at all the point. The Holy Spirit was teaching quite another truth, more worthy of Christ’s glory, and needed by the believer. Of course, it is true that Christ never did sin; but it is far below the truth here intended. What is revealed goes a great deal farther,

Christ “was tempted in all points like as we are, apart from sin.” He had no sin whatever. It was not only that He never sinned, but He had no sin; and this makes all the difference possible. He was the Holy One; and this was manifested, especially in the unparalleled temptations He endured. Assuredly He was all through the Holy One; but it was all apart from sin. In Him was no sin—not sins merely, but sin. It was not only that He did not yield to sin, but there was no sin in Him to yield. His nature as man had no evil to be acted on by the devil. There was evil without. He was assailed by every possible, the most subtle, effort of Satan in a ruined and wretched world. There was all that could give pain, not only in men and the Jews, but even in disciples. There was the presenting of what was agreeable to allure at the beginning of His path; there was the endeavour to alarm at the end by what was most tremendous and overwhelming in death, and, above all, in such a death as was before Him.

But whether it was by the pleasant or the painful, at every time, under all circumstances, Christ was tempted like as we are. It is not said that He was not tempted more. “There hath no temptation befallen us but that which is common to man,” i.e. a human one. Could one say this about Jesus? Who does not see that the Lord was tempted above all that man was ever tempted? that there was no temptation to compare with His? While, therefore, it is perfectly true that He was “tempted in all points like as we are,” it is far from being true, as many ill-instructed souls assume, that we have been tempted in all points like as He was.

The wilderness was the marked scene of Christ's characteristic temptation. Have we been ever tried so? Certainly not. There may be a measure of analogy, and I have no doubt that the three well-known temptations which closed the sojourn in the wilderness are full of instruction in their principle at least. Each one of the three efforts of Satan against the Lord—the natural temptation to make the stones loaves, the worldly temptation in the offer of the. kingdoms of the world on the condition of homage, and the religious temptation in the exhortation to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple according to the promise in Psalm xci.—is full of the weightiest instruction and warning for our souls. But then be it remembered, that before these He had been tempted for forty days without food. Is this a trial that we have ever been subjected to? We may boldly say, I think, that it is one into which the Spirit will never lead us as Him. It was a trial altogether peculiar and suited to the Son of God, the man Christ Jesus.

(To be continued D.V.)