Christ Our High Priest

March 23, 2014
Psalm 72
Hebrews 2:17–18 17Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. ESV

The point

  1. To understand temptation
  2. To get people to turn to Christ in all their temptations.
  3. To see Christ as the high priest

The Text

  1. We will deal with our text in reverse order.
  2. The order of the text is thus:
    1. Christ had to be made like his brothers
    2. So that he might become our merciful and faithful propitiator, that is to say our high priest,
    3. And he is such a high priest because he suffered when tempted
    4. And so he is able to help us when we are tempted
  3. This brings together all we have studied lately.
  4. Our order will be thus:
    1. What is temptation
    2. Why does the verse label Christians as, "the tempted ones"
    3. Christ gives us aid in our temptations
    4. And so Christ, in order that he might give us this aid, underwent the same temptations and suffered under them
    5. In so doing, he became our merciful and faithful high priest
    6. This is why he had to be made like us in every respect.


  1. Defined
    1. To be tempted is to be enticed to evil; to be provoked; or to be tried.
    2. A temptation is any thing, state, or condition, whereby a man may be tried, exercised, or tempted
  2. Verses
    1. James 1:13–15 13Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. ESV
    2. Matthew 26:41 41Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” ESV
  3. When we say temptation we mean one of two things (and both fit the above definition).
    1. Most commonly we mean when we really want to do something that we know we shouldn't
    2. We also mean when sin calls to us and beckons us.
    3. When sin tempts us, at what point do we become tempted? As soon as sin tempts, or when we desire to answer it?
  4. This may be helpful,
    1. think of a sin knocking at your door
      1. You hear the knocking
      2. You desire to answer the door though you know you shouldn't (entering in)
      3. You then open the door to the sin
    2. How do we label those three stages?
      1. The last stage, the opening of the door is the committing of the sin, but how do we label the knocking and the desiring to answer.
      2. We usually think of when we desire to open the door is when we were tempted. Satan tempted, and when we started listening, when what he said started to make sense, when we really wanted to heed his advice, then where we tempted.
      3. However we can also say that as soon as Satan tempted, before we desired to open the door to him and to what he was selling, we were tempted.
      4. These words all fit together, Satan is the tempter, who tempts, when he does so we are tempted.
        1. Our language has made a mess of this.
          1. If temptation equals desire, what do we call the knocking? ...
          2. If we come at this verse with our day-to-day definition of temptation, it will be much less meaningful and impactful than if we are able to approach it correctly.
      5. When we suffer a temptation to enter into us, then we "enter into temptation." Whilst it knocks at the door we are at liberty; but when any temptation comes in and parleys with the heart, reasons with the mind, entices and allures the affections ‥ we "enter into temptation."
  5. To further this distinction What is the hardest part of temptation?
    1. Is it the picking yourself back up after you have fallen to it again and again. You finally have made some progress against it and then you fall again, and now you must rise and face the challenge afresh but now you are worn out and the sin you wrestle with is not.
      1. You know Jesus was tempted like you are but this is not much comfort to you because he did not have a sinful nature that called to him.
      2. Jesus never knew what it was like to fail and fail and fail, and have to march on against the face of it with no real hope of conquering.
      3. If you think this way, and we probably all do, this verse will not impact you. It will be a light thing to you.
        1. Because Christ never underwent this.
        2. This verse does not touch on this topic.
        3. Christ's suffering all came about, not during the "entering in" of temptation but during the "knocking" of temptation.
        4. If all your struggle with sin is here, in this area, this verse offers no hope nor help to you.
        5. If this describes you there are other verses intended to give you help and support,
          1. You're struggle is not temptation as such, your struggle is bondage to sin. Sin comes calling for you and you give way because it has you. It is able to rule over you and turn you to its will.
          2. You will not be free but in recognizing this. Christ died. In him you died. If this is recognized by the eye of faith, sin will no more reign in your life.
          3. Romans 6:2b–4 How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. ESV
          4. Romans 6:6–7 6We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For one who has died has been set free from sin. ESV
          5. Romans 6:11 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. ESV
          6. Romans 6:12–14 12Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. ESV
          7. It does NOT argue, that because Christ was also in bondage to sin, therefore he can relate to you in all your sinfulness and help you. NO, Christ died. Therefore, sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
    2. Or, is the difficulty of temptation the never giving in.
      1. You are praying and you want to sleep, or you are reading and you want to eat, or you are giving your time to others and you just want to take some time for yourself.
      2. And every minute that you do not yield, the temptation grows. A little sleep, a little food, a little time for myself. But now is not the time for those things, now is the time for laying yourself out in his service, now is the time for picking up your cross and following him.
      3. This is temptation, and it seemingly grows as it is not yielded to. Every time you yield to it, it is as if a reset has been hit and you start over.
      4. Jesus never hit that reset button. His temptations grew and grew, he never satisfied them or yielded to them.
      5. And this was not only during his ministry, though that is where his chief temptations where. His whole life he never gave in, they were allowed to grow over a lifetime.
  6. This suffering of Christ under temptation will give us insight into the nature of temptation, and how the Epistle to the Hebrews uses this word.
  7. It might also help us if we use the word tried alongside of the word tempted.

Christ was tempted

  1. As was said Christ, being, sinless never entered into a temptation, he had no sinful desire so to do.
  2. Christ was under constant temptation though. It was always knocking on his door, though he never opened that door nor desired to do so.
  3. Hebrews 4:15 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. ESV
  4. 4 ways in which Christ was tempted or tried and that to give us insight into what temptation is
    1. Christ was tempted in his state and condition in the world.
      1. He was poor, despised, persecuted, reproached, especially from the beginning unto the end of his public ministry. Herein lay one continued temptation; that is, a trial of his obedience by all manner of hardships. Hence he calls this whole time the time of his temptations, "You have continued with me in my temptations;" In this temptation he suffered hunger, poverty, weariness, sorrow, reproach, shame, contempt; wherewith his holy soul was deeply affected. And he underwent it cheerfully, because it was to be the condition of them whose preservation and salvation as their high priest he had undertaken. Owen
      2. Luke 22:28 28“You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, ESV
    2. Christ had particular temptations which befell him
      1. Temptations from his various relations, which deeply affected his compassionate heart with sorrow;
        1. The Jews, his countrymen, said: John 10:20 “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” ESV
        2. His hometown "took offence at him", saying: Mark 6:3 3Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him ESV
        3. His family likewise mocked him: Mark 3:21 21And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” ESV
      2. under particular temptations Temptation from his followers, who forsook him, left him, and one betrayed him
        1. John 6:66 66After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. ESV
        2. Matthew 26:31 31Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ ESV
        3. Matthew 26:49–50a 49And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 50Jesus said to him, "Friend, do what you came to do." ESV
      3. Temptation from the anguish of his mother, when “a sword pierced through her soul” in his sufferings;
      4. Temptation from his enemies of all sorts; who were continually trying him, testing him, speaking and working evil against him.
    3. Christ was tempted by Satan
      1. Most well known are Satan's 3 temptations of Jesus during his fast in the wilderness.
      2. Matthew 4:2–? 2And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3And the tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." and "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down" and "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me" ESV
      3. Matthew 4:11 11Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. ESV
      4. Think on this, after Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness fasting, finally culminating in wrestling with Satan in his temptations, afterwards in his exhaustion angels ministered to him. After all of this, did Satan leave him alone? Or did he slink away to try Jesus yet another way, and another way, exercising all of his craft and cunning against him.
        1. Christ's temptations never stopped. It is true he had times of refreshing, but through the course of his ministry Satan was never to leave him alone.
      5. Satan ‥ set upon him in the entrance of his ministry ‥ and followed him in the whole course of it by the instruments that he set on work. He had also a season, an hour of darkness, allowed unto him, when he was to try his utmost strength and policy against him; under which assault from him he suffered, as was foretold from the foundation of the world, the bruising of his heel, or the temporal ruin of all his concernments.
        1. In other words, Satan was aloud to wreak havoc on Christ at the end of his life, and this is called the bruising of Christ's heal, upon which Christ exclaims, "I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity"
    4. Lastly, Christ was tempted in his desertion
      1. When God deserted him, he suffered the trial of it. This was the greatest of his sufferings and the greatest of his temptations.
        1. Psalm 22:1–2 1My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? 2O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. ESV
        2. Hebrews 5:7 7In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. ESV
  5. In all of these, Jesus was without sin.
  6. See what the Scriptures here mean by temptations or by trials. Not perhaps what we would most commonly mean but something that is deeper than a mere lust or wayward thought. Who can bear the betrayal of a close friend or family member? Who can withstand God turning his face away?
    1. Proverbs 18:14 14A man's spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear? ESV
    2. he was a man of sorrows, and much acquainted with grief
    3. Isaiah 53:5 5he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. ESV
  7. Let Christ's temptations give you insight into the nature of temptation.
  8. Hebrews 2:18 18For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. ESV

The Tempted Ones

  1. In this verse, Christians are "the tempted ones" this is our name and this is our condition.
  2. Not because we are always sinning and desiring to be sinning, but because Satan, this world, and our old nature are enemies to God and being unable to fight directly against him, have all set their sights on us to destroy us by hurling temptations and trials at us.
  3. Owen
    1. It is reconciled persons who emphatically are the tempted ones
    2. They are the mark of Satan and the world, against which all their arrows and darts are directed
    3. As Christ had an hour of darkness to conflict withal, so have they also
    4. Such was the condition of the believing Hebrews when Paul wrote this epistle unto them.
      1. Hebrews 10:32 32But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, ESV
    5. Unto them, therefore, and by them unto all others in the like condition, the apostle has respect in his description of those whom the Lord Christ is ready to help; they are tempted ones. This is the proper name of believers. Owen
    6. As Satan is called the tempter; so we may be called the tempted. Our calling is to oppose temptations, and our lives are a conflict with them.
  4. Christ therefore suffered under temptation.

Christ therefore suffered under temptation

  1. Why?
    1. Because our lot is to be the tempted ones.
    2. For this reason was he tempted in all these ways, that he might help us in our temptations.
    3. The blessed effect and consequent hereof is expressed in these words, “He is able to help them that are tempted
    4. For this reason, for us, The Lord Christ suffered under all his temptation.
  2. Suffering and Temptation together
    1. He had the heart of a man, the affections of a man, and that in the highest degree of sense and tenderness. Whatever sufferings the soul of a man may be brought under, by grief, sorrow, shame, fear, pain, danger, loss, by any afflictive passions within or impressions of force from without, he underwent, he felt it all.
    2. we are apt to think that what came upon him was so overbalanced by the blessedness of his relation unto God as not to cause any great trouble unto him. But we mistake when we so conceive. No sorrows were like to his, no sufferings like unto his. He fortified not himself against them but as they were merely penal; he made bare his breast unto their strokes, and laid open his soul that they might soak into the inmost parts of it, All those reliefs and diversions of this life which we may make use of to alleviate our sorrows and sufferings he utterly abandoned. He left nothing, in the whole nature of sorrow or suffering, that he tasted not and made experience of. Indeed, in all his sufferings and temptations he was supported with the thoughts of the glory that was set before him; but our thoughts of his present glory should not divert us from the contemplation of his past real sufferings. All the advantage that he had above us by the excellency of his person, was only that the sorrows of his heart were enlarged thereby, and he was made capable of greater enduring without sin.
    3. "He himself has suffered when tempted"

How do we stand under trials and temptations?

  1. If we are the tempted ones and Christ has suffered when tempted, how then should we oppose temptations?
  2. We turn to Jesus
  3. The great duty of tempted souls, is to cry out unto the Lord Christ for help and relief.
    1. If we be slothful, if we be negligent under our temptations, if we look other ways for assistance, if we trust unto or rest in our own endeavours for the conquest of them, no wonder if we are wounded by them, or fall under them.
    2. This is our duty upon our first surprisal with them, which would put a stop to their progress; this our wisdom [in our greatest temptations]
  4. Whatever we do against them without this, we strive not lawfully, and shall not receive the crown.
  5. Were this more our practice than it is, we should have more freedom from them, more success against them, than usually we have.
  6. Never any soul miscarried under temptation that cried unto the Lord Christ for help in a due manner,—that cried unto him under a real apprehension of his danger, with faith and expectation of relief.
  7. And hereunto have we encouragement given us, by the great qualifications of his person in this office. He is “faithful,” he is “merciful,” and that which is the effect of them both, he is “able;” he is every way sufficient to relieve and help poor tempted souls. He hath
    1. a sufficiency of care, wisdom, and faithfulness, to observe and know the seasons wherein help is necessary unto us;
    2. a sufficiency of tenderness, mercy, and compassion, to excite him thereunto;
    3. a sufficiency of power, to afford help that shall be effectual;
    4. a sufficiency of acceptation at the throne of grace, to prevail with God for suitable supplies and help.
  8. He is every way “able to help them that are tempted.”

Unto being a merciful faithful high priest

  1. Therefore in this, he is our merciful and faithful high priest.
  2. Merciful
    1. Merciful in that his heart abounds towards us in our suffering under trials.
    2. The apostle does not speak to the mercy of Christ in general but as he suffered.
    3. He suffered and was tempted, that he might be merciful, not with the mercy that he has had from before the beginning of time, but a merciful high priest on our behalf.
  3. Faithful
    1. Faithful in that he accomplished all the will of the Father on our behalf.
      1. John 17:4 4I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. ESV
    2. Faithful in that he will not fail to help us when we call to him in our temptations.
      1. His faithfulness here concerns his exact, constant, careful consideration of all the concerns of his church, under their temptations and sufferings.
      2. He is constantly careful of them. All of the wants and sorrows of his suffering and tempted brethren are his concern.
      3. 1 Corinthians 10:13 13No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. ESV
  4. The advantage of the brethren from hence lies in the help that he is thus able to afford unto them. This in general, as we have showed, consists in a speedy coming in with relief unto them, who being in distress, do cry out or call for it
    1. ?There are three things that tempted believers do stand in need of, and which they cry out for:
      1. Strength to withstand their temptations,
      2. Consolation to support their spirits under them.
      3. Seasonable deliverance from them.
    2. All these he gives. So stand! Stand in the test and in the trial.
  5. Matthew 24:13 13But the one who endures to the end will be saved. ESV
  6. Revelation 2:10 10Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. ESV
  7. James 1:12 12Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. ESV


  1. Up to here, we have been describing the manner of Christ's office of priest.
    1. He is merciful and faithful, able to help us under our afflictions, trials, and temptations because he suffered when tempted.
  2. But what of the thing itself. What is it to be a high priest.
    1. To be a high priest is, "to make propitiation for the sins of the people" last words of 17
      1. to “appease,” “to atone,” “to please,” “to reconcile.” “to turn away anger.”
  3. Christ became man so that he might make propitiation for the sins of the people. This is why he came, this is why he took on our nature, so that he might be our high priest.
  4. "Therefore was he made man, that he might be a sacrifice able to purge our sins." --Chrysostom (Krih–sahss–tum) 347–407
  5. It must be so; it could not be otherwise. God having designed Christ unto the office and the work of high priest, it was indispensably necessary for Christ to be made like unto his brethren in all things.
  6. ? Hebrews 10:5 5Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; ESV
    1. God the Father prepared a body for him that he might be a high priest and make propitiation for the sins of the people.
  7. Christ was made as we are that he might be our high priest and through his priesthood might become like he is.
    1. 2 Corinthians 5:21 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ESV

Christ alone our high priest

  1. What is a priest briefly
    1. The office of priest, for one to perform it on behalf of others, came in after sin, upon the first promise.
      1. Genesis 3:15 15I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” ESV
    2. Before this, in the garden, when mankind was yet sinless, every one was to be a priest for himself, or perform in his own name things unto God
    3. This privilege failed by sin. Mankind was cut cut off from all gracious intercourse between God and man
    4. As such, a new way was provided, and included in the first promise, for the transaction of things between God and sinners.
    5. This was by Christ alone, the promised seed.
    6. But until Christ was to come. God instituted and ordained temporary priesthoods of various sorts. Specifically the priesthood of Aaron
    7. He did this
      1. Because Christ was not immediately to come and
      2. To institute a sacrificial system;
        1. partly for his honour and glory in the world,
        2. partly to testify the subjection of his people unto him;
        3. partly to teach and instruct them in the nature and benefits of the priesthood which he had designed for them, (who were to be a kingdom of priests)
        4. mostly to teach them of the Christ who was to come and to to teach them to put their trust in him for their coming deliverance.
  2. Therefore, from the promise of Messiah in Genesis 3 onwards, Jesus Christ is the only real priest.
    1. Those who were appointed as priests before Christ came as the true priest are called priests in the same way as rulers are called gods, in other words they are called priests because they represented the true Priest. Not because they themselves were real priests and able to bring mankind back to God.
    2. The true, proper, and absolute high priest is Jesus Christ alone, the Son of God Owen
    3. 2 brief examples of this
      1. Oath
        1. The oath of God was necessary for the ordination of a true priest.
        2. Jesus alone was made a priest by an oath of God.
        3. Hebrews 7:20 20And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, ESV
      2. Reconciliation
        1. The chief part of the priest's office was to perform the things toward God which on the part of the people were to be performed.
        2. This in our verse today is; "to make propitiation for the sins of the people"
        3. to “appease,” “to atone,” “to please,” “to propitiate,” “to reconcile.” “to turn away anger.”
        4. All this, Christ alone could do.
        5. He alone did, and could do, the true and proper work of a priest, namely, "to make propitiation for the sins of the people"
        6. The sacrifices of other priests could only represent what was to be done, the thing itself they could not do; for
        7. Hebrews 10:4 4For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. ESV
  3. Therefore,
    1. Christ alone is the true priest
    2. Christ alone is the true prophet
    3. Christ alone is the true king

A Plea

I need a high priest. I need someone who prays for me whose prayers are always heard and answered. I need a righteousness not of my own, for how, how I ask, will I stand in the presence of the living God, whose dwells in inapproachable light? How will I answer him if he asks me to give an account of my days? His eyes would pierce through every excuse. If I be not washed by the blood of Christ, what have I? I need a righteousness with which to stand before God.
This is a clear, settled, indisputable persuasion and conviction of my soul, I need a righteousness wherewith to appear before God. Nothing of my own will do. No one can argue me away from this persuasion by any means. I need a righteousness to stand before God, for he is holy, therefore I too must be holy, but I am not.
This lies at the bottom of all the saints’ communion with Christ,—a deep, fixed, resolved persuasion of an absolute and indispensable necessity of a righteousness wherewith to appear before God. The holiness of God's nature, the righteousness of his government, the severity of his law, the terror of his wrath, are always before them. They have been all convinced of sin, and have looked on themselves as ready to sink under the vengeance due to it. They have all cried, “Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved?” “Wherewith shall we come before God?” and have all concluded, that it is in vain to flatter themselves with hopes of escaping as they are by nature. If God be holy and righteous, and of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, they must have a righteousness to stand before him;
I have weighed my own righteousness in the balance, and have found it it wanting. There is nothing there for me to stand upon. I need a redeemer. I need a priest. I need a messenger, a righteous one, one of a thousand to declare me righteous in the presence of the living God.

This is Jesus Christ our high priest.

2 Corinthians 1:10 10He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. ESV