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Christ the Saviour of sinners

The doctrine of redemption: Christ as our priest.

Below is a question from the Westminster Shorter Catechism with answers and supporting Scripture proofs. Explanatory notes follow.

 

Q: How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?

A: Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice1, and reconcile us to God2; and in making continual intercession for us3.

1 Hebrews 9:28Hebrews 9:28
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.  

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— Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many.

2 Hebrews 2:17Hebrews 2:17
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.  

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— In all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

3 Hebrews 7:25Hebrews 7:25
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. to the...: or, evermore  

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— He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

 

We have already seen that the office of Redeemer involves the discharge of three distinct and special offices by Christ, both during His humiliation on earth and during His exalted ministry in Heaven. Both those divisions of ministry are observed in the discharge of His priestly office. The role of the priest was mediatorial. He was the one between men and God. He acts for God toward men and for men toward God. There are two main areas to Christ’s work as our priest.

 

I HIS PRIESTHOOD INVOLVED HIM OFFERING HIMSELF AS A SACRIFICE.

1. Christ is appointed to the work of priesthood by His Father. Cp Hebrews 5:4-6, 8:3Hebrews 5:4-6, 8:3
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

4 And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. 5 So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. 6 As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. 7 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; in that...: or, for his piety 8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; 9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; 10 Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec. 11 Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. 12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. is skillful: Gr. hath no experience 14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. of full age: or, perfect use: or, an habit, or, perfection 6 1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, principles...: or, word of the beginning of 2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3 And this will we do, if God permit. 4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. 7 For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: by: or, for 8 But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. 9 But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. 10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. 11 And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: 12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. 13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, 14 Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. 15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. 16 For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. 17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: confirmed...: Gr. interposed himself by 18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: 19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; 20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. 8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; 9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; 10 Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec. 11 Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. 12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. is skillful: Gr. hath no experience 14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. of full age: or, perfect use: or, an habit, or, perfection 6 1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, principles...: or, word of the beginning of 2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3 And this will we do, if God permit. 4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. 7 For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: by: or, for 8 But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.  

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. A sacrifice is a holy offering made to God on the behalf of sinners according to His stipulation and by a priest of His appointment. Christ offered the sacrifice of Himself, Hebrews 9:26, 10:5, 10Hebrews 9:26, 10:5, 10
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. ordinances: or, rites, or, ceremonies  

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, Is 53:10Is 53:10
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. thou...: or, his soul shall make an offering  

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2. The double purpose in His sacrifice:

  • To satisfy Divine justice. The justice of God is such that it must be satisfied. Cp Rom 3:25-26Rom 3:25-26
    English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

    25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; set forth: or, foreordained remission: or, passing over 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.  

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    . The justice of God was fully satisfied by Christ’s sacrifice on behalf of His people. Cp Ephesians 5:2. This is the case because Christ’s sacrifice is of infinite worth to satisfy the infinite wrath of God which burns against sin. The satisfaction of Divine justice is the principal reason why Christ offered Himself. His death is not simply exemplary—though it is that—His death makes satisfaction for sin. Cp Hebrews 9:28Hebrews 9:28
    English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

    28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.  

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    , 1 Pet 2:241 Pet 2:24
    English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

    24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. on: or, to  

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3. It is important to emphasize the truth that Christ offered Himself ONCE as a sacrifice for sin. Cp Hebrews 10:10, 12Hebrews 10:10, 12
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;  

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. Many false religions deny this doctrine. The teaching of the Church of Rome on this subject is — The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different. In this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner. [Section 1367 Catechism of the Catholic Church] The fact that Christ’s sacrificial work is complete abolishes any need for a sacerdotal priesthood in this age—hence making the priesthood of the Church of Rome and other churches null and void.

 

II HIS PRIESTHOOD INVOLVES THE MINISTRY OF INTERCESSION ON BEHALF OF HIS PEOPLE.

Cp Isaiah 53:12Isaiah 53:12
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.  

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1. The Saviour acts as the Advocate for His people, 1 John 2:11 John 2:1
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

2 1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:  

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He stands in their behalf before God pleading the merit of His own sacrifice to secure for them what God promised the Son in the covenant of mercy. Just as the High Priest in the Levitical economy presented the blood of sacrifice before God on the behalf of the people so Christ acts for His people. His advocacy secures the application to them of what He has secured for them by His sacrifice. By His intercession then His people are actually reconciled to God, experience pardon, peace of conscience; are sanctified, John 17:17John 17:17
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.  

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; have their prayers answered, John 14:14John 14:14
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.  

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; and ultimately are saved from wrath and presented by Him before the throne of glory, Jude 24-25.

2. This ministry relates especially to His exalted state before the throne of God although it was also a part of His earthly ministry. See Luke 22:31-32Luke 22:31-32
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

31 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: 32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.  

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, John 17, Romans 8:34Romans 8:34
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.  

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3. Christ’s priestly ministry of intercession is His continual occupation, Hebrews 7:25Hebrews 7:25
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. to the...: or, evermore  

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III HOW CHRIST’S PRIESTHOOD IS DIFFERENT FROM THE LEVITICAL PRIESTHOOD.

1. They were mortals after the order of Aaron. He is the eternal priest after the order of Melchisdec. Cp Hebrews 7:23-24Hebrews 7:23-24
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

23 And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: 24 But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. an...: or, which passeth not from one to another  

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2. They were sinners, He is sinless Hebrews 7:26-27Hebrews 7:26-27
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

26 For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; 27 Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.  

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3. His priesthood is established by the oath of God, Hebrews 7:21Hebrews 7:21
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

21 without...: or, without swearing of an oath  

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4. Christ’s priesthood is unalterable, Hebrews 7:12, 24Hebrews 7:12, 24
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. 24 But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. an...: or, which passeth not from one to another  

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5. His sacrifice was single and effective in contrast to the typical but ineffective sacrifices of the Levitical era, Hebrews 10:1, 4, 14.

6. Christ ministers in the Heavenly sanctuary in the presence of God for us, Hebrews 9:14Hebrews 9:14
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? spot: or, fault  

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