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OUR HIGH PRIEST    by Edward Heppenstall


Christ Our High Priest — 4

Jesus Christ offered Himself to God to be a sacrifice for sin on the cross. Following His ascension He ministers at the right hand of the Father in the heavenly sanctuary as High Priest and Mediator between God and man. In both aspects of His ministry Christ is engaged in the work of reconciliation or atonement.

When in former times God spoke to our forefathers, he spoke in fragmentary and varied fashion through the prophets. But in this the final age he has spoken to us in the Son whom he has made heir to the whole universe. . . . When he had brought about the purgation of sins, he took his seat at the right hand of Majesty on high (Heb. 1:1-3, N.E.B.).

The Epistle to the Hebrews sets forth the finality of the revelation and salvation provided by God through His Son Jesus Christ. Christ, in the twofold capacity of sacrifice and priest, is shown to be the complete fulfillment of all the Old Testament types and ceremonies shadowed forth in the earthly sanctuary.

The offering of Himself as a sacrifice and the entering upon His priestly ministry in heaven belong together. The first duty of a priest is to offer sacrifices:

For every high priest is taken from among men and appointed their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. . . . So it is with Christ (chap. 5:1-5, N.E.B.).

Every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence, this one too must have something to offer (chap. 8:3, N.E.B.).

On the cross Jesus was the true paschal lamb. The High Priest presented himself as the sacrifice. This function does not continue in the heavenly sanctuary. Sacrifice is not part of Christ's work before the throne of God, where He is a priest forever. "But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood" (chap. 7:24). Christ offered Himself once for all when He offered up Himself (see chap. 9:12, 25, 26). This is not to be repeated. By that one sacrifice Christ has "obtained eternal redemption for us" (chap. 9:11-15).

By virtue of that one perfect sacrifice for sin, Christ now exercises His priestly ministry at the right hand of the Father, presenting and representing His people here on earth. He has been exalted to a position in the heavenly sanctuary as High Priest, transcending everything that took place in the earthly sanctuary. In His exalted position He is the King of righteousness because of His sinless life, and priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, the "one mediator between God and man" (1 Tim. 2:5).

We now see Jesus Christ enthroned beside the Father as captain of our salvation (Heb. 2:5-10). He is true God and also true man. He is thereby fitted in things that belong to God and to man. Since He is the Son of God, who intervened for us, died for us, now lives and ministers for us, He meets the fundamental needs of the repentant sinner—reconciliation with God and transformation of life.

The Sphere of Christ's Priestly Ministry

Christ is a priest in heaven. The book of Hebrews makes it clear that Christ's priestly ministry functions in the heavenly sanctuary.

Now this is my main point: just such a high priest we have, and he has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of Majesty in the heavens, a ministrant in the real sanctuary, the tent pitched by the Lord and not by man (chap. 8:1,2, N.E.B.).

But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands (chap. 9:11).

Christ did not function as priest in the earthly sanctuary. One might conclude that Christ is an eternal high priest and has been so since sin entered the universe. Yet there is every reason to believe from the Epistle to the Hebrews that there is a sense in which Christ did not enter upon His high-priestly ministry, typified by the Levitical priesthood, until He had offered Himself as a sacrifice and ascended to the heavenly sanctuary. Not until He shed His blood could He plead His blood and actually represent sinful man before the Father.

Following His ascension He became our representative before the throne of God, "now to appear in the presence of God for us" (verse 24). So it was in the Levitical service. After the slaying of the animal, the priest took the blood of the victim and sprinkled it in the appropriate place—on the altar or before the veil. Without the shed blood the priest's appearance could be of no avail; his entrance could have no efficacy. So Christ presents the merits of His sacrifice, founded on the atonement made at the cross.

Need for an Eternal High Priest

The over-all function of a high priest is to mediate between God and man. The need for this mediatorial system both in type and antitype arose because of the alienation that resulted from sin. Satan had tempted and persuaded Adam and Eve to shift their center of trust and loyalty from God to themselves. From that time man has been the center of his own world. All men begin life with this alienation from God, which they inherit from Adam.

Had God chosen to leave man in his isolation he would have been eternally lost. But God stretched out His hand in the person of His Son and sought to reconcile man to God. In Christ God brings man back to Himself. To accomplish this, Jesus Christ became the atonement for sin, man's divine mediator.

Jesus Christ is God's supreme gift to man, not for his academic contemplation and critical investigation but to meet man's desperate need as a sinner, alienated from the Father. Where there is a lost sinner there is Jesus Christ, High Priest and Redeemer. He is from first to last the complete answer to the sinner s needs. God has given to man all things in Jesus Christ.

He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth (Rom. 8:32, 33).

Thus man's hopes find their realization only in Christ. All men are born "without God in the world" (Eph. 2:12). In his lost estate man stands apart from God. Christ came to restore that relationship, to make possible access to the living God.

Without this priestly ministry in the heavenly sanctuary, man could harbor only "a certain fearful looking for of judgment" (Heb. 10:27). The nature and depth of the sinner's need requires a corresponding supernatural mediatorial ministration. Here we see the great difference between type and antitype, between the Levitical priesthood and the eternal priesthood of Christ.

In the Levitical earthly sanctuary services animals were sacrificed. They had no choice. Christ voluntarily "humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phil. 2:8).

The Levitical sacrifices were never complete, but were repeated day after day, year after year. Christ died but once. The Levitical sacrifices cleansed only externally, ritually. They never did take away sin. But Christ atoned completely for the sins of the world. He obtained an eternal redemption.

In the earthly sanctuary the Levitical priests ministered in a material sanctuary under conditions marked by weakness and inadequacy. They were mortal men; they had no permanency. But Christ entered into heaven itself, into the genuine sanctuary of which the earthly was only a type. The types were but shadows imposed for a time. (See Heb. 9:10.) The best they could do was to point to the ultimate reality in Christ. The types are not declared to be null and void, for they point to the reality and to Christ's work in the heavenly sanctuary. Christ has an incorruptible priesthood. He is a priest after the order and power of an "endless life" (chap. 7:16, 17, 23, 24).

The Levitical priesthood functioned always from a distance, with Deity veiled. The entire ministry of the earthly sanctuary was marked by distance from God. The high priest alone had access to the presence of God, and that only one day each year, on the Day of Atonement. The common priest never got beyond the veil in the holy place, or the first apartment. The common worshiper never got beyond the court. But Christ our High Priest "has entered, not that sanctuary made by men's hands which is only a symbol of the reality, but heaven itself, to appear now before God on our behalf" (chap. 9: 24, N.E.B.). In Christ the believer is invited to come boldly to the throne of grace. In Him "we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him" (Eph. 3: 12).

Christ mediates an eternal redemption to those who believe in Him. He saves to the uttermost. He gives repentance. He ministers forgiveness and takes away sin. He offers what man desperately needs. He alone meets the spiritual wants of men. Because He is the Son of God who became man, He is fitted in all ways to be man's Saviour and Advocate before our heavenly Father. He knows the Father as no other being does. He is fully acquainted with the character of God.

All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him (Luke 10: 22).

Because He became man, He knows well the situation of His brethren here on earth.

In the Gospel of John we read of Him:

But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man (John 2:24, 25).

Our wants, necessities, sins, temptations, trials, infirmities, are better known to Him than to ourselves. Even our inward yearnings and secret longings are fully known. Because He is man, one with us, He is able to share our lives. He is the captain of our salvation (Heb. 2:10).

He also has full understanding of the law of God, which all men have broken. He accepts and teaches the divine authority of the law, upholds its claims, maintains its moral standards. He never lessens its requirements nor denies the sinner's violation of that law. But He presents to the Father His own life of perfect obedience to the law, by which the law is honored and satisfaction given to it, pleading His merits on behalf of repentant sinners. He is the righteous Lord that loveth righteousness and hateth iniquity.

Such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens (chap. 7:26).

Such is the need of sinful men and the provision God has made. So our divine Advocate promotes the glory of God, the good of His people, the honor of the law. He advocates the cause of God and man more powerfully and righteously than could ever be done by any other being in the universe. The merits of His righteousness and the redemption wrought out at the cross are now in force before our Father in heaven.

Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an 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. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (chap. 4:14-16).

Nature of Christ's Priestly Ministry

What is the nature of Christ's priestly work in heaven? Because He is a priest forever it is important to understand what the priestly work is that He continues to perform. Sacrifice it cannot be, for He did that once on earth. This is not to say that Christ's sacrifice on earth has no further significance in heaven. On the contrary, the two aspects of Christ's priestly ministry are very closely related. Christ entered upon His work as High Priest in heaven in the power of His sacrificial offering. Redemption took place at the cross. The efficacious application of that redemption in the life of the believer is realized by Christ's work in heaven.

If Christ no longer offers sacrifices, what does He do? His work is that of intercession:

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 (chap. 7:25).

The literal meaning of the word is "to pass between." It denotes mediating between two parties with a view to reconciling differences. The New Testament word intercession includes every form of acting in behalf of another, particularly the supplicating in favor of man with God. While on earth Christ interceded in the form of prayer to His Father:

I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine . . . .  And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are (John 17:9-11).

He is also our advocate. "if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1). This is a legal term. An advocate is one who appears in a court of justice to represent the person accused, an attorney for the defense. Christ our Advocate does not plead our innocence before God, for no man is innocent before God. He does plead His own merits because the sinner can make no claim on His own behalf. So Christ is said to "appear in the presence of God for us" (Heb. 9:24). In the hour of his trial and martrydom, Stephen looked up to his divine Intercessor.

He, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God (Acts 7:55, 56).

With what promptitude did Jesus interpose on Stephen's behalf! Christ is never absent from His priestly ministry. The believer knows where He can be found. He is ever at the right hand of the Father, waiting for His children to call upon Him. Thus they may rely on Him with perfect confidence. When they sin and repent He will plead for pardon. When they are accused He will proclaim their vindication. When they are tempted He will pray that their faith fail not. He is a merciful and faithful High Priest. In Him all the love of God flows out to men. He is the same in the heavenly sanctuary as He was upon the earth.

We have not an 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 (Heb. 4:15).

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. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted (chap. 2:17, 18).

Even the high priest of the earthly sanctuary carried the names of the tribes engraved on his breastplate when he went into the presence of God, so Christ carries us upon His heart. Nothing can exceed the warmth and the love of our Lord's work for us before the Father. The Father never fails to hear His Son.

Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me (John 11:41, 42).

Pleading the Blood

The shed blood of Christ plays a key role in the work of intercession. Christ intercedes by virtue of His sacrifice. It is Christ's blood in heaven that cries to God on our behalf.

Ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,.., and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel (Heb. 12:22-24).

In the midst of the throne of God, Christ stands "a lamb as it had been slain" (Rev. 5:6). "When I see the blood, I will pass over," He said to the children of Israel (Ex. 12:13). Christ's atoning sacrifice is the ground on which all the blessings of redemption are conferred upon the believer. For "without shedding of blood is no remission" (Heb. 9:22). The blood of Christ is referred to more frequently in the New Testament than either the death or the cross of Christ. The main emphasis is upon Christ's freely surrendering His life and applying that redemptive act for the salvation and recovery of man.

How much greater is the power of the blood of Christ; he offered himself without blemish to God, a spiritual and eternal sacrifice (verse 14, N.E.B.).

The New Testament always speaks of the blood of Christ as exercising positive redemptive action. Nowhere does the blood of Christ defile. Only sin defiles. The blood is central in the work of salvation. It cleanses (1 John 1:7; Rev. 1:5). It justifies (Rom. 3:24, 25; 5:9). It reconciles (Eph. 2:13). It redeems (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; Rev. 5:9). It sanctifies (Heb. 10:29; 13:12).

The foundation of Christ's work in heaven is His shed blood. The cross is the basis of all negotiation and redemptive activity. The blood provides the basis for all intercession in the heavenly sanctuary.

Christ has come, high priest of good things already in being. The tent of his priesthood is a greater and more perfect one, not made by men's hands, that is, not belonging to this created world; the blood of his sacrifice is his own blood, not the blood of goats and calves; and thus he has entered the sanctuary once and for all and secured an eternal deliverance. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkled ashes of a heifer have power to hallow those who have been defiled and restore their external purity, how much greater is the power of the blood of Christ; he offered himself without blemish to God, a spiritual and eternal sacrifice; and his blood will cleanse our conscience from the deadness of our former ways and fit us for the service of the living God. And therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant (Heb. 9:11-15, N.E.B.).

The blood of Christ is heaven's currency. The repentant sinner cannot appeal to anything else, for nothing else is available. Before God, men can plead only the merits of Christ's sinless life and His perfect sacrifice. The believer has nothing to offer in himself. There is only one avenue of forgiveness and victory over sin. Jesus made this clear while on earth.

"In truth, in very truth I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you can have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood possesses eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. My flesh is real food; my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood dwells continually in me and I dwell in him. as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me shall live because of me" (John 6: 53-57, N.E.B.).

Christ by His intercession declares that His sacrifice and the merits of His blood are always valid before God. Man's sins cry out for judgment. The blood of Christ proclaims forgiveness. Nothing can negate the grace and mercy of God except man's own rejection. Men can know that sins are forgiven, guilt is removed, and judgment averted only by the blood of Christ. Nothing must be allowed to cloud this truth. No substitute offering must be made. No works of men can avail, only Christ. There is only one door to the kingdom of God.

Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: . . . I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture (chap. 10:7-9).

Christ is said to plead His blood before the Father on the sinner's behalf.

As Christ at His ascension appeared in the presence of God to plead His blood in behalf of penitent believers, so the priest in the daily ministration sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice in the holy place in the sinner's behalf.—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 357.

The work of Christ in the sanctuary above, presenting His own blood each moment before the mercy seat, as He makes intercession for us, should have its full impression upon the heart, that we may realize the worth of each moment. Jesus ever liveth to make intercession for us; but one moment carelessly spent can never be recovered.—The Faith I Live By, p. 205.

When Christ ascended to heaven, the sense of His presence was still with His followers. It was a personal presence, full of love and light. . . . They knew that He was before the throne of God, their Friend and Saviour still; that His sympathies were unchanged; that He was still identified with suffering humanity. He was presenting before God the merits of His own precious blood, showing His wounded hands and feet, in remembrance of the price He had paid for His redeemed. —Steps to Christ, pp. 73, 74.

In the heavenly sanctuary Christ appears on behalf of His people after having made the sacrifice and not in order to offer one. He pleads the merits of His sacrifice for sinners.

Repeated sacrifices belonged entirely to the Levitical priesthood of the earthly sanctuary. With Christ there is no place for repetition either on earth or in heaven.

Any ritual or act that seeks to repeat this in any shape or form constitutes a misleading and false interpretation of Christ's priestly work. It denies in reality the efficacy of the one sacrifice. Neither is there any efficacy in such an act by earthly priests. Christ alone has the right to plead the merits of His blood before the Father, and to grant forgiveness of sins. His intercession alone secures the constant efficacy of His own perfect righteousness. Christ looks down with everlasting love on the whole family of mankind. He knows them that are His. Their names are all written in the Lamb's book of life. They are engraved as it were on the palms of His hands and on the tablets of His heart. He carries their case to the throne of God; the Father hears. The Holy Spirit is commissioned to move upon the minds of men. The sinner is turned from darkness to light, from sin to righteousness.

Attorney for the Defense

Part of Christ's intercessory work is to protect His people against the temptations and accusations of Satan.

Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. 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 (Rom. 8:33, 34).

Satan is the "accuser of our brethren" (Rev. 12:10). Accusation is not Christ's work. Paul's intent in this passage is to show that when Satan accuses the repentant sinner, Christ stands before God and intercedes on his behalf. For those who claim the merits of Christ, there is no condemnation. Christ came to destroy the work of the devil (see Heb. 2:14, 15). He defeated Satan at the cross (see John 12:3 1, 32). In the heavenly sanctuary He continues the same work, refuting the accusations of the adversary. Many are the assaults and temptations of the enemy. Unless God's people had on their side One more powerful still, who is able to answer all the charges Satan makes against them, they must fall prey to his devices and sink beneath the weight of his attack. The intercession of Christ is their safety. Their faith is rendered firm and immovable. Inspired and strengthened by the intercession of Christ, they are victorious over the prince of darkness.

How the intercession of Christ is conducted, in what form Christ advocates for us, the Scripture does not say. The English understanding of the word intercession may well lead us to ask: With whom is Christ interceding? Does Christ need to plead with His Father in order to persuade Him to do something He is reluctant to do? Obviously not. Evidently this is part of Christ's unique role in the plan of salvation. Each member of the Godhead has specific functions to perform. Ever since sin entered the universe Christ has voluntarily chosen a subordinate position. Christ came to bear witness to the Father. The Holy Spirit bears witness to Christ. Each is concerned to reveal complete trust and confidence in the other. Christ's work of intercession is part of the original arrangements, as was His sacrifice. By this arrangement Christ honors the Father and the Holy Spirit honors the Son.

The intercession of Christ affords a wonderful display of the love of God. In appointing a divine Advocate for sinful men, the character of God's love is manifested to all the universe. All this reveals the extent to which God is willing to go to win men back to Himself. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—all are united in the work of men's ultimate redemption and the complete eradication of sin. Intercession is a messianic function just as truly as was Christ's work as the Son of God upon the earth.

Christ interceded while on earth. He directed His petition to the Father (see Luke 22:32). Jesus prayed to the Father on His own behalf, revealing His own complete confidence in the Father (see John 17:5). Jesus promised prior to His crucifixion: "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another to be your Advocate, who will be with you for ever—the Spirit of truth" (John 14:16, N.E.B.). Jesus speaks here of a petition He will direct to the Father following His ascension and return to the throne of God. In this way He forever brings glory to the Father's person. Christ is forever the supreme example of unfailing trust in our heavenly Father and His love for man.

Benefits of Christ's Intercession

Every good and perfect gift comes down from the heavenly sanctuary as a result of Christ's priestly work (see James 1:17; Rom. 8:28). By His mediatorial ministration Christ so identifies Himself with us and for us that what is true of Him becomes true in us.

Perfect Security.—Christ's ministration provides perfect security to the child of God. His present state is far from perfect. There would be no need for Christ to intercede were there not imperfection in His people. The security of the saints springs not from anything intrinsic to themselves in terms of sinlessness but wholly from the merits of Christ. Here is certainty, confidence, complete assurance before God. When Christ ascended to the heavenly sanctuary as man's mediator the disciples knew with certainty that nothing could fail them (see Luke 24:50-53). Believers from that time on knew that all power was available (see Acts 1:8).

Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering (Heb. 10:19-23).

It is not too much to affirm the utmost confidence of those who follow Christ within the heavenly sanctuary. He has opened the way into the very presence of God. That way keeps our eyes and our lives in union with the very life of God. By His intercession Christ mediates eternal life in spite of our decay. Sins that deserve condemnation He pardons. Not a temptation can assail us that He has not power to repel. Our final salvation in Christ is rendered secure, not by self-confidence in one's righteousness but in humble dependence on our divine Advocate with the Father. Thus the servants of God are sealed in their foreheads. They belong to God forever.

God, desiring to show even more clearly to the heirs of his promise how unchanging was his purpose, guaranteed it by oath. Here, then, are two irrevocable acts in which God could not possibly play us false, to give powerful encouragement to us, who have claimed his protection by grasping the hope set before us. That hope we hold. It is like an anchor for our lives, an anchor safe and sure. It enters in through the veil, where Jesus has entered on our behalf as forerunner, having become a high priest for ever in the succession of Melchizedek (chap. 6:17-20, N .E.B.).

Because of Christ our eternal High Priest, our hope, our confidence, and our certainty are likened to an anchor that has taken firm hold within the heavenly sanctuary. There we are united to the Father and to the Son with unbreakable bonds. The believer is to have his anchor there and nowhere else—not in present temporal things, not in the ministration of any priesthood on earth, but in the living God Himself.

Nothing but this anchor will hold in the storms of the last days. The believer is actually anchored to the throne of God. When Christ ascended to heaven He took with Him a host of the redeemed (see Matt. 27: 51-53; Eph. 4:8). They are the first fruits of the redeemed. The heavenly sanctuary is the sanctuary of hope for all who follow Christ into the holy places not made with hands.

Saved to the Uttermost

It is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchizedec there ariseth another priest, who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. . . . For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. . . . 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 (Heb. 7:15-25).

The plan of redemption has for its purpose the holiness of the saints. The ministry of Christ seeks to develop moral purity. By means of Christ's intercession, believers turn from sin to righteousness, learn to love what God loves and to hate what He despises. The expulsion of sin from the life is the result of the communication of Christ's very life within us. Victory over sin proceeds from this divine source.

Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord (1 Cor. 1:30, 31).

In the heavenly sanctuary Jesus Christ our High Priest awaits us where dependence on self comes to an end. Man is naturally self-centered. God's ability to save man to the uttermost is limited by the direction of man's gaze and dependence. The last thing man gives up is the effort to earn his own salvation and thereby look to himself.

Often there is the tendency in man to look to the law. It is possible to live a fairly good moral life this way. Even the believer frequently relates his obeying the law to his own interests, to the rewards he can earn by fulfilling the law. The living Christ must conquer man's selfishness, even his own "righteousnesses which are as filthy rags" (Isa. 64:6).

When we as believers depend on Christ in the heavenly sanctuary, Christ mediates to us His own righteousness. Our great High Priest becomes the new center of life. This is what Christ promised upon His entrance into the heavenly sanctuary.

I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever . . . ; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you (John 14: 16-18).

Christ makes those who look to Him the recipient of His love, power, and grace. They do not trust their works to renew themselves into new life. This is no ecstatic emotion. This is no false assurance, no mechanical life insurance. Salvation means that Christ enters the life. No effort of man however strong and no works however extensive can bring about genuine obedience to the will of God. Only that which turns man away from himself and the narrow circle of his own ability can transform the life. Thus man is saved by faith all the way. But obedience to the revealed will of God is the confession of that faith. Salvation to the uttermost is not built upon the vacillations of man's own efforts but upon the living Christ, our High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary.

Here is the love of God displayed where salvation is truly experienced and enjoyed. We could never reach salvation alone. Without Christ's intercession, not a prayer could be heard, not a service accepted, not a temptation resisted. But we have such an advocate, God's own Son, the noblest person in the universe, who is available every moment of every day and in every situation. Although exalted above all, worshiped by the angelic host, He ministers to us all of the love and mercy that resides within the Godhead.

This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent (chap. 17:3).

And the glory which thou gayest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. . . . 0 righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me (verses 22-25).

Access to God.—In Christ the believer has access to God. In the New Testament the believer is invited to "come boldly unto the throne of grace, that . . . [he] may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:16).

By virtue of His priestly work Christ binds believers into fellowship with the Father. We are separated from God as sinners. We require someone who has access to the throne of God. We stand daily in need of priestly intervention. Through Christ we approach God in perfect trust. The believers are so completely in Christ that in Him they have fellowship with the Father and the Son. The Father beholds them in His Son. He sees that they are one with His Son and therefore one with the Father. They now stand in the same relationship to the Father as does the Lord Jesus Christ. They are sons of God. God loves them as He loves His Son. Nothing can separate us from the love of God (see Rom. 8:38, 39).

The longer we live in Christ the more sure we are of the love of God, the more we realize it and manifest it to others. We come to see that all true love comes from God because Christ shares His very life with us. The greatest truth abides with us—we are loved by God with an everlasting love that spared not His only begotten Son.

We are in daily need of many things—requests to make, sin to be forgiven, power to live victoriously; gratitude to offer. "Through him we . . . have access by one Spirit unto the Father" (Eph. 2:18). It is not enough to begin the new life with Christ. We must hold fast "the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end" (Heb. 3:14). A good beginning does not guarantee a good finish. the cause of many failures is the deception that if once saved, one is always saved. only those who maintain a living fellowship with God will triumph. fellowship with him gives us courage and strength. we possess eternal life now, life from above.

He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life (John 3:36).

Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life (chap. 4:14).

There must be some real approach to God or we have nothing but outward form in religion. Spiritual communion with God lies at the foundation of all true worship. Worshipers are invited to turn again and again toward the throne of God, where Christ sits on the right hand. Here is spiritual reality, open for our contemplation, for our adoration, and for our total commitment. Here is the center of worship.

The basic question of all religion and worship is our personal relation to God. Christ's ministry in the heavenly sanctuary represents man's proper relationship to God. It teaches us to look "unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith" (Heb. 12:2). One common denominator stands revealed—all truth, all doctrine, all worship must be understood and grasped in relation to the living Christ.

Christ personally stands at the right hand of the Father, and also at the door of our hearts through the Holy Spirit. We fail to experience the saving power of God if we make Christ simply the memory and the image of what He was two thousand years ago, or His influence a mere natural enthusiasm rather than the realization that He Himself is present with us and for us.

True confidence and assurance before God are not self-generated. The peril is that men lose sight of the living Christ in the sanctuary above. Then the world and the flesh become man's ultimate concern. He is prone to seek meaning and put his whole stock in the things that must ultimately perish.

We need to believe the interdependence of the Christian life on earth with our Lord's ministry in heaven. How great is the transforming power for life and meaning when we look to the One who is at the right hand of the Father, ministering the riches and blessings of Heaven to us who believe. For here alone is dispensed to us the strength, the wisdom, and the truth needed by sinful man.

Those who live on the level of our lower nature have their outlook formed by it, and that spells death; but those who live on the level of the spirit have the spiritual outlook, and that is life and peace. For the outlook of the lower nature is enmity with God; it is not subject to the law of God; indeed it cannot be: those who live on such a level cannot possibly please God. But that is not how you live. You are on the spiritual level, if only God's Spirit dwells within you, and if a man does not possess the Spirit of Christ, he is no Christian (Rom. 8:5-9, N.E.B.).

Works of Faith

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?. . . For this cause he is the mediator of the new testament (Heb. 9:14, 15).

Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works (chap. 10:24).

Because we live in Christ we are called from "dead works" to offer a living service to God and man. Through Christ's work of intercession the service of God's people is alive with faith and love. It is a matter of no small consequence to know by what merit and motivation the Christian lives a life of good works. Through His intercession Christ makes up for all our deficiencies and removes all blemishes. He sees no "iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel" (Num. 23:21).

Works are dead when done apart from the living God. Spiritual life from Christ makes them truly works of faith. Dead works are those done in an effort to keep the law and not as an expression of life in Christ. The Christian united to Christ no longer works along wrong lines, thinking to gain merit and earn salvation. He works from motives that are pure, for the glory of God. He works in the power of the Holy Spirit. God does not need our wisdom, our strength, our brilliance, our sufficiency. But men are always tempted to rely on them. The closer one gets to the power of God, the less one talks about it or glories in the possession of it. Apart from Christ we can do nothing.

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. . . . Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples (John 15:5-8).

Saving Faith.—In the book of Hebrews, which centers in the Son of man sitting at the right hand of God in the heavenly sanctuary, the word faith is used more than forty times.

And what is faith? Faith gives substance to our hopes, and makes us certain of realities we do not see. It is for their faith that the men of old stand on record. . . . And without faith it is impossible to please him (Heb. 11:1-6, N.E.B.).

In this eleventh chapter all these saints of God are recorded and approved by God because their faith triumphed over incredible obstacles, even unto death. "By faith" is the one basic principle recorded of these men of Israel who centered their lives in God.

In contrast with this is the failure of the children of Israel in the wilderness. Unbelief, or lack of faith, is the sole reason given. Because of this and their consequent disobedience they have been remembered by all generations for their failures.

Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years (chap. 3:8, 9).

And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief (verses 18, 19).

Saving faith is not simply saying, "I believe that Jesus died for me; I believe in the basic doctrines of the Christian faith." Verbalizing does not make these truths a saving experience. Biblical truth becomes saving only when we know the truth and become personally committed and involved; when the whole of life is determined by them. "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).

The great truths of redemption point away from the subjective to the actually real. We are saved by the Jesus Christ of history, of Nazareth, of the cross, of the resurrection, and of the heavenly sanctuary. Christ is the object of our faith. Without this all the subjective feelings in the world would not avail for our salvation. There would be no ground for our faith.

At the same time, we are not left only with the Jesus of history. The saving events of Christ in history do not remain mere historical facts. We experience salvation through a personal union with the living Christ. Both are essential. The Christ who lived on earth and who reigns in heaven and the Christ who lives in our lives, are one and the same. We identify ourselves with both aspects of the Son of God. "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever" (Heb. 13:8). Eternity does not change the Christ who saves us. There is none other. He is the One who is decisive for our faith and who dwells in our hearts.

Faith receives this eternal Christ. In Him we are His brethren and the sons of God. "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:26). Faith involves trust, commitment, involvement, knowledge, and obedience. Faith brings the whole life under the saving power of this Christ Jesus. Thus we are said to live by faith. Faith does not save. Christ alone saves. Our faith only allows Him to save us.

This same Jesus takes the initiative through the Holy Spirit in moving toward us. Faith is our response to and reception of that initiative. For this reason faith must be a total act and not simply mental assent.

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God (Col. 3:1-3).

Faith and Obedience.—Because faith that works by love is our total response to the living God, it involves obedience to His will and to His Word. The Word of God summons us to the obedience of faith. This living response is renewed every day in every situation. There is no part of life that does not come under the power of this commitment to the living Christ.

Obedience to the revealed Word is part of the evidence that faith is genuine. Disobedience rejects His lordship in our lives. What Jesus Christ did at Calvary and is doing today can never be taken for granted. Salvation by faith is not an escape from obedience to the law of God. Rather is it proof that we have chosen freely to live in harmony with Him at every point where His Word speaks to us. That is the reason why faith is inevitably linked up with the Word of God.

The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb. 4:12).

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom. 10:17).

One of the present dangers in religion is the emphasis on inner feeling and emotional ecstasy to the neglect and ignoring of the Scriptures. The moment men look to the subjective, or within themselves, for evidence of faith and proof of salvation, they lay themselves open to the uncertain voices that can arise within men's minds. Any appeal to the subjective leaves men with no genuine test, no criterion of truth, no absolute standard of morality and guidance. The Holy Spirit leads men to live in harmony' with the truth of the Bible and bears witness to that fact. Christians must not rest content with claiming to possess the Holy Spirit apart from the Word and obedience to it. The Word of God together with the Holy Spirit is the chosen instrument for the development of saving faith.

Faith and Knowledge.—The Bible forms the knowledge basis for faith. By the Holy Scriptures and from no other source we know who Jesus Christ is and what He has done. From the Word of God we know what the living Christ is doing in His priestly ministry. From this source alone we know what the law of God is and what God expects of us in terms of obedience. In the Bible, God has made known His will, His saving acts, and His plan of redemption. God Himself has revealed all this to us.

Nothing in the writings and philosophies of men, nothing in the experiences of men, gives us the Word of God. Granted that it is possible to reduce this knowledge to mental understanding and no more. But God seeks far more from us than a mental grasp of these eternal truths. Nowhere in the Bible does intellectual understanding of the Word stand in opposition to saving faith. Faith involves the affirmation of the intellectual, objective truth of the Word as well as our total commitment to obey that Word. Faith not only believes what God has said but opens our whole life to what is revealed there. This is the obedience of faith that God requires for salvation.

This obedience is made possible by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit does not destroy our freedom nor does He overpower us. He does not exchange our will and mind for His. We live in union with Him and under His control by virtue of faith's total free response. The living Christ quickens the whole being to live in harmony with Him. Our concept of saving faith can be distorted either by equating it with some inner ecstasy in the heart or by mere mental assent to the facts about God and Christ in the Scriptures.

To make faith identical with inner experience is to lay oneself open to the deceptions of much that is seen in modern revivals. We are not summoned to seek emotional excitations that we identify as the presence of God. Nor are we summoned to try to discover God in our inner lives this way and make our boast of Him there. We do not bear witness to some inner feeling we call God. We can only witness to the living Christ of history and of eternity. How and when Christ comes to us in our inner lives is His business. We cannot afford to wait for some overwhelming feeling to be sure. We cannot insist that everyone else share the same experience as proof of their faith. Our certainty is tied to the eternal Christ who became man, to the Son of God who died and was raised into heavenly places for us. Our anchor is at the throne of God, not in human experience.

We can witness to the saving power of Christ, to what He has done and is doing for us; but saving faith is not there. Saving faith always turns outward to Christ and to the Word of God. Faith makes the total response to these great facts and revealed truths, which remain true regardless of what men and women may experience. There is no such thing in saving faith as having the Spirit apart from the Word of God.

Unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it (Heb. 4:2).

Today we need a widespread revival of true Christianity. This would involve a revival of Bible study, of the great truths given to us by revelation from God. Saving faith does possess an objective doctrinal factor. It calls for a return to the truths of the Bible and never away from them. Men tend to concentrate too much upon the inner experience and too little upon the realities of the living God. For this reason much of religion tends to swing the pendulum to ecstasy and emotional excitation.

The saints listed in chapter 11 of Hebrews had nothing else to go on but the naked Word and the reality of the living God.

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith (chap. 11:7).

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went (verse 8).

By faith Moses . . . esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible (verses 24-27).

At no time did these men of God make an appeal to themselves. They turned outward to the living God, who moves in history independent of how men feel. They committed themselves morally and spiritually to the revelation from God. This is not to deny the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, and peace. But emotions and excitations can mock us openly and make fools of us. They often do. Christ never does. Men struggle to arrive at some feeling of peace, joy, and love by way of self-concentration. People who look within tend to push their religion to extremes, and test the truth of it by what they feel. We do need a genuine commitment to Christ and a radiant witness to that fact. There is no substitute for that. Faith in God is the most powerful force in the life, but only because it is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who comes in response to our faith.

And what of ourselves? With all these witnesses to faith around us like a cloud, we must throw off every encumbrance, every sin to which we cling, and run with resolution the race for which we are entered, our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom faith depends from start to finish: Jesus who, for the sake of the joy that lay ahead of him, endured the cross, making light of its disgrace, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God (chap. 12:1, 2, N.E.B.).

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