The priesthood of Christ is one of the plainest teachings of the New Testament. In proof of this, the reader has but to refer to Hebrews 3:1; 4:14, 15; 5:10; 6:20; 7:24, 27; 9:11; 10:21, 22; 1 John 2:1, and other places. We give the text quotations below,

after which, there can remain no question as to the fact of Christ in his present exalted position exercising the priestly office in behoof of those who become constituents of his house, by the belief and obedience of the truth. But the question which has suggested itself to some minds is, What does this mean? Priesthood, argue they, implies a deity to be propitiated; and that since God is gracious, He requires no propitiation, and that therefore the priesthood of Jesus must be of another order. The idea of Jesus pleading with the Father, they seem to think inconsistent with the fact that it is the Father Himself who has made the first advances of love, and that Jesus is but the medium through which He seeks to reconcile the world to Himself (2 Cor 5:19). They argue that Jesus and the Father being “one”, it is not possible that there could exist even that mild degree of antagonism involved in a request by the one that the other should act differently from his disposition. They are therefore disposed to suggest that the advocacy of Christ bears towards his people rather than towards the Father—that he is an advocate from the Father to us, rather than an advocate with the Father for us.

There is a certain amount of truth in these suggestions, but they are defective in omitting other elements of truth that require to be taken into the account before a truthful result can be arrived at. The bearing, and nature, and objects of Christ’s priesthood can only be apprehended in the light of first principles, taken together without the leaving out of any.

While it is a first principle that God is kind, it is also a first principle that, in certain relations, He is a consuming fire. Anger describes an attribute of His character as well as love. “He is angry with the wicked” (Psa 7:11). “He cannot look on iniquity” (Hab 1:13). “He is of purer eyes than to behold evil” (Ibid). “He will by no means clear the guilty.” This hostile disposition toward rebellion of every kind (a hostility, be it at the same time observed, which has its foundation in benevolence, for its objects and operation are the extirpation of the root of misery) finds shape and expression in the fact that the wages of sin is death; and is palpably illustrated in the flood and the destruction of Sodom. God will not tolerate sin; death and sin are eternally linked, and with sinners He will hold no intercourse. “He heareth not sinners” (John 9:31). This is the immutable law of the divine government: and this fact we shall find at the basis of the institution of priesthood.

Priesthood was an early institution in the relations of God to man. It existed before the Mosaic constitution of things, as evidenced by the case of Melchisedec in the days of Abraham, and probably was of antediluvian origin. Its existence embodies a principle which is practically illustrated more than once in the course of Bible history—viz, that God will not hear or deal directly with offenders, but will be entreated concerning them by those whom He regards with pleasure. The plagues of Egypt were restrained at the request of Moses. Rebellious Israel were on the point of being devoured, like Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, when the intercession of Moses averted the outburst of Divine vengeance. Job acted as intercessor for his offending friends. They were thus addressed by the voice of God: “Take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering, and my servant Job shall pray for you; for him will I accept, lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right like my servant Job.”

Jeremiah was told not to intercede for Israel. “Therefore, pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me, for I will not hear thee” (7:16). This implies that had Israel’s offences been less grievous, Jeremiah’s imploration would have been of some avail: but the nation’s wickedness had reached such a pitch that God said to him, “Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be towards this people” (15:1).

Now, with regard to Christ, we have the same principle but in relation to a different matter. The intercessions of Old Testament record had reference to the limited penalties of the time then present. They were instrumental in securing immunity from the temporary evils of mortal life. They had no effect as regards the dispensation of eternal results. It was not in the power of any arrangement in force before the appearance of Christ, to secure everlasting life. The high priesthood of the law, under which, the successor of Aaron, once a year, entered the Holiest to supplicate the blessing of Yahweh upon an offending generation, was only a type of the true mediation. As regards eternal life, the high priest was no more in a position to be heard, than any of the people. He was equally under condemnation with them and carried the token of this fact in the blood of the slain lamb which he offered “first for his own sins and then for the people” (Heb 7:27). But though ineligible as an intercessor for life everlasting, he typified the Great Priest, through whom mortal man might obtain a standing and a hearing in the presence of God, with reference to the forfeited gift of life for evermore. The whole arrangement, of which the high priesthood was a part, was of this typical character. Paul says that “the first tabernacle” was “a figure for the time then present” (Heb 9:9). It allegorically pre-figured the literal method by which human salvation was to be worked out. This literal method is presented in Christ. He was a spotless Son of God, wearing the condemned nature of Adam. He suffered death, and thus met the demands of the righteous law that constituted man a mortal in the garden of Eden. He was personally sinless, and thus presented in himself an open door through which, by resurrection, sin-destroyed life could return in triumph from the grave. It was in harmony with the law of God’s operations to raise to life everlasting, a righteous man: it would not have been so, to resuscitate and immortalize a sinner. Christ was the lamb in his meekness; the spotless lamb in his innocence; the slain lamb in his death; but he had to develop the literal counterpart to the living high priest. This he did in rising from the dead and entering the Divine presence to supplicate, in their individual details, those results which his own position as an accepted, immortalised and well-beloved member of the human family, enabled him acceptably to intercede, for God looks only on Christ. No human being can be heard on his own merits. No man can come to the Father but by the Mediator (John 14:6). The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son (John 5:6). Whom the Son prays for, will be given to him, and he has power over all flesh, that he may give eternal life to as many as the Father gives him. God’s relations to the condemned children of Adam’s race are readjusted in the last Adam, in whom the law has been upheld, magnified, and made honourable. All of Adam’s race, who cast off the Old Adam in the water of baptism, concurrently with a repudiation of the old Adam principles and practices; and constitutionally put on the new man—Christ Jesus—become morally incorporated with the new mediatorial man in the presence of God, and will be physically assimilated to him and by him at the resurrection.

But are there no transgressions after the initiatory union in baptism? Does the weakness of the flesh not continue still in operation, leading to remissnesses, failures of duty, and positive offences? “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Now, what is it that prevents these postimmersional sins from being as fatal as Adam’s disobedience in the garden? By what arrangement are Christ’s people saved from the death-power of their own offences? The answer is in the words of John: “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous” (1 John 2:1). Again: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). See also the passages quoted at the commencement of this article. God heareth not sinners, but He hears Christ, and through him, will forgive unto life eternal. We are, therefore, says Paul, having such an High Priest (one who sympathises with our infirmities, from having tasted them), to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16). “He ever liveth to make intercession for us” (Heb 7:25), and he intercedes for those who come to avail themselves of his intercession, but none else. It was only for those transgressors who brought the typical sacrifice to the priest at the door of the tabernacle that the priest interceded. So it is only for those who make confession in prayer, and supplicate the Divine forgiveness in the name of Jesus, that Christ’s mediatorial function will be exerted. Israel did not worship the High Priest: they sought the Increate God of their fathers, through the High Priest, worshipping without, while he interceded within; so the people of Christ worship not Christ, but, in the name of Jesus, worship God; and Jesus, in the presence of God, maketh intercession, and God hears him, and through him—by the means of his personal will—vouchsafes the blessings sought.

There is nothing in all this to clash with the fact that God is gracious to our worthless race. His love is shown in establishing an arrangement by which we have access to His favour and life for evermore. His love could not be allowed to violate any other attribute of His being; it must work in harmony with all His rules and methods of operation; and this is what it does in the work of Christ. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself”, but the method of reconciliation was by sacrifice and mediation. God advances to us through Christ, but yet His advance takes the form of appointing a mediator “to make intercession according to His will”.

It need not be urged that the present forgiveness of sins interferes with the operation of the judgment seat. If we were now made immortal in answer to our prayers for forgiveness, such a reflection might arise, but all that is done is the obliteration of our offences from the Divine mind. If they were not so obliterated, they would be disclosed against us at the judgment seat to our condemnation. Unpardoned sin will be fatal, and the pardon is to be sought now in daily prayer without ceasing. Yet practically, the judgment seat will witness and administer the results of prayer. We know not till then if our prayers are heard. God knows now. He “knoweth them that are his”, but it is not permitted to us to know the secrets of His counsel towards ourselves until the day which He hath appointed for the disclosure of them by the mouth of Jesus Christ, whom He has constituted judge of the quick and the dead.

It would be a fatal mistake to overlook the priesthood of Christ, as now accessible to his household by prayer. The truth would be of no use to us if we did. The intercession of Christ is necessary to our salvation: and we can only set it in motion in our individual behalf by individual prayer. To live in disregard of this would be soon to decay from our places in the true vine, and, finally, at his coming, to drop as withered branches to the ground, to be bundled up for consumption, with all other fruitless branches, for any cause cut off.