Christ is a Superior High Priest: Three Reasons Why Jesus Is Greater Than Aaron

jason-betz-274375-unsplashIt has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 
— Hebrews 2:6–9 —

The key idea in Hebrews is priesthood. However, I believe sonship is equally important to understanding the flow of the book, not to mention the nature of Christ’s priesthood. In other words, Jesus is a greater priest because he is a greater son (see 4:14; 7:28).

Making a similar point, B. B. Warfield once commented on Hebrews 2:6–9:

The emphasis is upon the completeness of the identification of the Son of God with the sons of men . . . The perfection of His identification with us consisted just in this, that He did not . . .  assume merely the appearance of man or even merely that position and destiny of man, but the reality of humanity. (The Power of God Unto Salvation, 5, 10; cited in Zaspel, The Theology of B.B. Warfield, 256).

Highlighting the personal nature of Christ’s union with his people, Warfield touches on the very weakness of the priesthood of Aaron. And in so doing, he highlights three ways Christ’s priesthood is greater than that of Aaron. Continue reading

Joshua & Associates: Finding Your Place in Christ’s Royal Priesthood (Zechariah 3)

priestcolorJoshua & Associates: Finding Your Place Christ’s Royal Priesthood (Zechariah 3)

The angel of the Lord. A satanic accuser in the throne room of God. A priest with dirty clothes. The promise of a coming Messiah. And a front row seat to God’s plan of redemption. On Sunday we considered all of these items, as they appear together in Zechariah 3.

Finishing up our series on the priesthood, we saw in Sunday’s sermon how our lives fit into the incredible storyline of the priesthood. From Zechariah 3, in particular, we learned how God restored the priesthood after the exile, which served as “sign” (v. 8) for a greater priesthood to come.

If you want to understand how the priesthood moved from the Old Testament to the New, Zechariah is an important book. And this sermon will help you understand that book and how Joshua the high priest foreshadowed the coming of a greater Joshua and his friends.

You can listen to the sermon online. Response questions are below along with a few resources on Zechariah and the priesthood. Continue reading

A Family of Royal Priests: Why the Priesthood of Believers Must Be “In Christ” (My ETS Presentation)

etsThis week the Evangelical Theological Society is meeting in Denver, Colorado. And this morning I am presenting a paper entitled: “A Family of Royal Priests: Why the Priesthood of Believers Must Be In Christ

The topic of priesthood is one that has long captured my attention. It was the subject of my dissertation. Next year, I am planning to publish a book on the subject with Crossway, in their Short Studies in Biblical Theology series. And last year, I read and reviewed Andrew Malone’s book God’s Mediators: A Biblical Theology of the Priesthood.

In that book, Malone makes the case that the priesthood of believers is not derived from the high priesthood of Christ. This view, which Malone argues for with surprising vehemence, divides Christ from his covenant people, at least with respect to the priesthood. It does not attend to the way Scripture explains the “making of priests,” nor does it do justice to many passages that conjoin the priesthood Christ with his kingdom of priests.

So in response to Malone, I wrote this paper, to make a theological and exegetical case for the unified priesthood of Christ and his people. It’s not short, but if you read it, I’d love to know your thoughts.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

The Church as New Covenant Levites (Numbers 25; Malachi 2–3; Ephesians 4)

priestcolorThe Church as New Covenant Levites (Sermon Audio)

I am __________.

In individualistic cultures, these words are usually filled with various accomplishments, activities, or vocations. I am a musician. I am a doctor. I am a (recovering) alcoholic. However, in more communal cultures, this sentence is more likely completed with relational predicates. I am a son. I am a mother. I am a husband.

Of course, studies that have employed this fill-in-the-blank test have only produced general trends. Nevertheless, it is interesting to consider what words you use to introduce yourself. Are you first and foremost defined by what you do? Or by who you are with? Or is it some combination of the two?

This Sunday we will again consider the priesthood in Israel and how the family vocation of guarding the temple defined the Levites. At the same time, we will see how the events of their history inform the backstory to our own priestly calling. As Isaiah 66:21 says of the nations who will come to Christ in the new creation: “Some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites.”

Indeed, for those in Christ we find that we both have family and a vocation that fills in the blanks of our life and gives us both redemption and service in God’s kingdom. Like the Levites given to the priest to serve God in his house (Num. 8:19), we too are servants given to Christ, who in turn has given us to the church (Eph. 4:8, 11–12).

Therefore, learning the history of the Levites is not just learning someone else’s family history. If you are in Christ, it is your family history, not to mention a key part in how God has brought redemption to the world.

This week’s sermon can be heard online. Response questions are below, as additional resources.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds Continue reading

Our Great High Priest (Exodus 28–30)

priestcolorSermon Audio: Our Great High Priest (Exodus 28–30)

Last week we celebrated the Reformation Day (October 31) and the recovery of the gospel brought about by men and women like Martin Luther and Katherine von Bora. Both of these Reformers fled the monastic life in order to follow Christ. Yet, in departing the Roman Catholic system of priesthood, they did not abandon the priesthood of Christ nor the priesthood of believers.

In fact, Martin Luther was one of the most prolific exponents of the biblical teaching that all followers of Christs are saints—a priesthood by faith in Jesus Christ. Thus, in a very real sense any Protestant view of the Bible that denies the place of priesthood actually denies the very gospel which the Reformation recovered. Jesus Christ is our great high priest, one whose sacrifice for sin and priestly intercession makes faith possible.

Thinking again, therefore, about what Scripture says about priesthood, we considered in Sunday’s sermon the necessity of a high priest, and what means that Jesus is our great high priest. Going back to Exodus 28–30, we considered the original purpose of the high priest in Israel and how Jesus came to both fulfill and exceed those original expectations.

If the priesthood is something you care about, or if its something you don’t care about, this sermon is for you. You can listen to it online. Response questions are below as are a few additional resources. Continue reading

A Kingdom of Priests: Washed, Worshiping, Working, and Witnessing (Exodus 19:6; 1 Peter 2:9)

priestcolorA Kingdom of Priests: Washed, Worshiping, Working, and Witnessing (Exodus 19:6; 1 Peter 2:9)

Are you a royal priest? How do you know? What is a kingdom of priests? And how does that really apply today? Is this title for individuals? Or should it be a community identity?

Many questions swirl around the biblical idea of priesthood. And on Sunday we considered Peter’s words to the church: “You are a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). In examining his words, we learned that they go back to Exodus 19:6 and come in the context of worship on the mountain God.

By examining Exodus 19:6, therefore, in its original context and comparing it to 1 Peter 2, we were able to learn how God makes a priestly people, what a kingdom of priests do, and how this title of royal priesthood applies to us today.

You can listen to the sermon online. Discussion questions and additional resources can be found below. Continue reading

You Were Made For This: An Introduction to the Priesthood (Genesis 2:4–25)

priestcolor

You Were Made For This: An Introduction to the Priesthood (Genesis 2:4–25)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people for his own possession,
that you may proclaim the excellencies of him
who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
— 1 Peter 2:9 —

From Genesis to Revelation, the themes of priesthood and kingship overlap and intertwine in the history of redemption. In this new sermon series we are examining how royal priesthood applies to Jesus, the church, and our identity in Christ.

In this first sermon, we consider how Adam and Eve were created in God’s image to be royal priests serving and worshiping in the Garden of Eden. You can read about the background to this sermon series here and listen to the sermon online here. Response questions and Additional Resources can be found below. Continue reading

On the Priesthood: A Personal Update and Prayer Request

sergio-souza-285121-unsplashIn 2013 I finished my dissertation, A Biblical-Theological Investigation of Christ’s Priesthood and Covenant Mediation with Respect to the Extent of the Atonement. While the theological question it answered pertained to the extent of the atonement, the bulk of its pages (nearly 400 of them) considered a biblical typology of priesthood from Genesis to Revelation. In subsequent years, I have written a occasionally on the subject.

But this year marks the first time I am picking up pen to publish on the subject. Under the banner of “If the Lord wills,” I have three (maybe four) writing assignments in the next 12 months.

  • First, in the next edition of the SBJT, I am writing on Exodus 19:4–6 and how this key passage transforms the priesthood from a patriarchal assignment of firstborn sons to a legislated position in the nation of Israel.
  • Then, at ETS I am offering a paper called “A Family of Royal Priests: Why the Priesthood of Believers Must Be ‘In Christ.'” This paper will engage with Andrew Malone’s fine work on the priesthood, God’s Mediators. In my review of his book, I suggested a weakness regarding his division of Christ’s priesthood and the new covenant priesthood of believers. In this paper, I will attempt to show how the priesthood of believers is united to Christ through the believers participation in the new covenant and identity in Christ. If you are at ETS this year, come join me for the paper.
  • Third, I hope to submit an article to an undecided journal on what “mediator” (mesites) means in the book of Hebrews. This is something I wrote up a few years ago, but one that seems to fill a gap in the discussion about priesthood and mediation. If you know of any journals that would be interested in such a article, let me know :-)
  • Fourth, I am under contract with Crossway to publish a book on the biblical theology of the priesthood in 2019. This book will fall in the Short Studies in Biblical Theology series. In preparation for that book, I am working on the three aforementioned articles. As it goes, my hope is to take the technical work in these previous studies to produce a more popular book on the priesthood.

All in all, I share these things to solicit prayer for these works and to mention that I will probably have an increasing number of blog posts on the priesthood in the next 9–12 months. Should you want to dialogue on this subject, please free to engage with these posts. The best theology and exegesis is done in community and I welcome any questions or insights you have on the subject.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Photo by sergio souza on Unsplash

Adam as Prophet, Priest and King, and the Bible as the Story of ‘Three Sons’

leviticusWhat has been the best book you have read in 2018? For me, it has been a 300+ page study on Leviticus. Yes, Leviticus!

In Who Shall Ascend the Hill of the Lord? A biblical theology of the book of Leviticus, Michael L. Morales gives the reader a biblical feast. From considering the literary shape of the Pentateuch to the goal of the Yom Kippur (The Day of the Lord), from considering the typology of the tabernacle to the priestly role of Adam, Morales’ book is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the system of mediation outlined in the books of Moses.

Even more, the whole book helps the Bible student to learn how to read the Bible and to understand God’s covenantal purposes for bringing his people into his presence. For these reasons, I would highly recommend this book. For now, let me share a quotation that demonstrates the richness of his study.

Adam as Prophet, Priest and King, and the Bible as the Story of Three Sons

Making a bevy of intra-biblical connections, Morales explains how Adam functioned as a prophet, priest, and king. Moreover, he explains how the whole story of the Bible can be explained along the lines of God’s Son—from Adam to Israel to Christ.

Without comment, I will share his words. I pray they stir up your affections for God as much as they did me.

Davidic kingship, then, is (1) rooted in YHWH’s kingship and (2) an inheritance of Adam’s roles as son of God. In reality, all three offices of anointing (prophets, priests, and kings) possess an Adamic role, and are oriented by the mountain of God. Indeed, as to the Adamic role, it is possible to comprehend the progress of redemptive history according to what we may call ‘God’s three sons’:

  • Adam was the first firstborn, who functioned as prophet, priest, and king.
  • Secondly, God created a corporate firstborn son, Israel. (Due to humanity’s estate of sin and misery there was a separation of powers, as it were, with the distribution of the offices of prophet, priest and king among the members of Israel distinctly.)
  • Finally, as the last Adam and true Israel, the Son of God dawned, as prophet, priest and king, now conforming humanity to himself as the image and likeness of God.

As to the offices being oriented by the mountain of God, we have already observed in a previous chapter how the high priest’s office is focused upon and validated by his annual entrance into the summit of the architectural mountain of God, the holy of holies, on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16). Similarly, kings were enthroned upon God’s holy mountain, and prophets were sent from it. The king, at his coronation, was installed upon God’s holy mountain, reigning from the earthly Zion as a reflection of YHWH’s reign from the heavenly Zion (Ps. 2). And to become a servant of YHWH, a prophet had first to encounter him at the mountain of God and then be sent forth from it as a messenger (Isa. 6; Exod. 3:1-10). Since all three offices are cultic, functioning distinctly for the same divine goal, one may see how kingship in ancient Israel accorded with what I have argued to be the Pentateuch’s major theme: the Davidic king reigned to shepherd humanity to the house of God upon the mountain of God. (Who Shall Ascend the Hill of the Lord?, 235–36. Bullet points mine.)

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

The Putrefied Priesthood of Jesus’ Day, or Why Mark’s Gospel Calls for a New Priest

karsten-wurth-inf1783-65075-unsplash.jpgIn his excellent book The Cross from a Distance: Atonement in Mark’s Gospel, Peter Bolt shows how religion in Jesus day had soured. In one footnote, he surveys the whole Gospel to show repeated instances of religion gone bad.

I share the note in full because it helps us to see what false religion looks like, what Jesus had to contend against in his day, and what we should avoid as new creatures in Christ. As Bolt puts it, “Mark exposes religion as having multiple faults.” He then lists more than fifteen different evidences of priestly malpractice:cross Continue reading