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Sermon March 3, 2019

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1387

March 3, 2019 Hebrews 5.1-10

Rev. Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)


The Source of Eternal Salvation”



  • Called to Serve as Mediator/High Priest 5.1-4


Hebrews has so far demonstrated the superiority of Christ over the high position of angels, that He has destroyed the power of death and the devil, and is superior over the great Hebrew deliverer, Moses, and those are just a few of the things we have seen in Hebrews 1-4. Jesus is our great high priest and thus gives us access to the throne of grace where we find mercy and grace in abundance.

Hebrews 5 strengthens the understanding of Jesus as our high priest, as the Mediator between us and God the Father. This chapter begins by talking about human priests, those who were called by God to serve as a mediator on behalf of the people. Human priests offered sacrifices for the forgiveness of sin of the people as well as for the priest himself. This was a position that only would come by God’s call, that is, it was not a self appointed position. We still consider this in leadership today, while not with the title of priest, those who serve in positions of leadership as considered called by God through the congregation they serve. In our tradition of Presbyterianism, that means Teaching Elders (pastors) and Ruling Elders (the session), are not self appointed, but are called by God through the collective voice of the congregation. There are other factors included in calling Elders to serve, but at the root of our process, this is how we trust God’s call in leadership.



  • Christ the Supreme Mediator/High Priest 5.5-6


Hebrews speaks of the human priests to show that Jesus is far superior to them as well. Jesus was appointed by God the Father to become our high priest. The author quotes from two Psalms, 2.7 and 110.4.

I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you (2.7).


The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (110.4).


Here God’s word in Hebrews affirms God’s word in the Psalms to show that Jesus Christ is our Mediator. He is our high priest. He is not only the priest who offers a sacrifice for our sins, but that sacrifice is His own self His own life for our sake. He is the perfect lamb who gave Himself on the cross to bear our sins and to wash us clean by the blood offering. He was raised from the dead to bring us from death in our sinfulness to life in His resurrected life. I think this is something like what Paul in saying in Philippians 3,


8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead (Phil 3.8-11).


The phrase I want us to see in detail is “to know Him and the power of His resurrection”. This is part of what it means to have Christ as our Mediator/Priest. We, by His sacrifice, now share in His suffering – that is, we receive forgiveness by the cross. And we share in His resurrection – that is, we receive life in His resurrected life. Because Christ is God’s Son, because He is appointed priest, He is the only one who could be the priest and the sacrifice that ends our need for any other priest or sacrifice.

Now, this is not to say that we do not have other rolls as priests. The Bible does not end the priesthood with Christ. But it does end the need for us to have a priest offer sacrifices for our sins and serve as a mediator between us and God. Peter helps us see the roll of the priesthood,


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).


You and I are a chosen race (not of color or ethnicity, but one in Christ), you and I are a royal priesthood, you and I are a holy nation, we belong to God. The second half of this verse reveals the roll we have as a royal priesthood – to proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Our roll in the priesthood of all believers is proclamation!


There’s a great passage from Judges 5 that relates to this roll of the priesthood, our roll. This is from the song of Deborah and Barak in Judges 5,


10 “Tell of it, you who ride on white donkeys, you who sit on rich carpets and you who walk by the way.
11 To the sound of musicians at the watering places, there they repeat the righteous triumphs of the Lord, the righteous triumphs of his villagers in Israel.


Tell of it! What is it? This is a scene where the people who ride up and the people who sit on rich carpets being carried up by servants and those who can’t afford either, they all gather at the watering hole to tell of it, to tell of the righteous triumphs of the Lord! These are the same things we are told to proclaim in 1 Peter 2, the excellencies of God. In Judges they sang of God’s mighty works for Israel and now we sing of that as well as the mighty triumphs of our high priest and Mediator.

These next few points in Hebrews 5.7-10 are our song.


  • Christ – in His Flesh 5.7


Verse 7 In 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.


This verse exalts Christ’s humanity. It speaks of prayers and supplications offered with loud cries and tears. Most likely this is a reference to the prayers offered on the Mount of Olives, in the garden where Jesus sought the Lord with cries and tears, at one point in the story we read,


And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22.44).


But it might also remind us of other times when Jesus revealed his days in the flesh. In Luke we also see Jesus weeping for Jerusalem, “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it (Luke 19.41). Or we might recall in John’s gospel when Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus (John 11.35).


In every aspect of Jesus’ humanity, He showed great reverence. He displayed honor and glory to His Father. He gave us the perfect example of what it means to be human.

In this we proclaim the excellencies of the Christ who came in human form and revered His Father by praying to Him, by trusting in Him, by being faithful to His purpose as priest and mediator.



  • Christ – in His Obedience 5.8


We proclaim and sing of Christ’s obedience.


Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.


It seems strange to speak of Christ learning obedience, but the Bible speaks of Jesus increasing in wisdom and stature as a young boy at the end of Luke 3.52. I think it was also part of Jesus’ growth to be tempted by the devil in Matthew 4. In every case of growth and learning, Jesus was obedient to God. The great significance of that is that Jesus was obedient on our behalf, just as He was the perfect sacrifice on our behalf. Paul says it this way in Romans 5.19,


For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.


Jesus, in His obedience, set right what Adam messed up. This is what we proclaim and sing about, the obedience of Jesus Christ who has set us right with God through His obedience.


  • Christ – in His Perfection 5.9


We also proclaim the perfection of Christ. Starting back in verse 8 through the first part of 9,


Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9And being made perfect...


Perfection might be too technical a word for the modern ear. Biblically I see the word perfect as meaning whole, complete, and in this case human as God intended. But it also signifies that Jesus was perfect in completing the task for which He was sent, to reconcile the world to God. Jesus, in perfect obedience, in whole priestly form, in complete flesh, fulfilled the Father’s purpose. Now Jesus was indeed perfect in that He was without sin. He did not sin. In the previous chapter we see that Jesus was tempted as we are yet without sin. That is precisely because He was an obedient human being.

The Bible calls us to perfection as well. When Jesus was preaching on the mountain in Matthew 5, He was raising the bar on everything in our conduct as believers and ended one section of that sermon with these words, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5.48). Or to the rich young ruler he said, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matt 19.21). Now is Jesus saying that the rich young ruler would never sin or never make a wrong step the rest of His life? No, but He would be a step closer to wholeness and to life. He would tear down an idol that kept him at a certain length from fellowship with God.

Yes, Jesus demonstrated a higher perfection than we have in no sin, but Jesus also demonstrated that we too can be perfect through obedience and suffering and living as God intended us to live. This is the excellent Son of God of whom we proclaim perfection.


  • Christ – the Source of Eternal Salvation 5.9


Our last proclamation (from this passage) is in that Christ is the source of eternal salvation.


And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him (Heb 5.9).


He is the One! He is the Source! There is no other name by which we are saved (Acts 4.12). He is the Way and the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except by Jesus (John 14.6). If there was ever a call for us to proclaim the gospel, this is it! Jesus is the Savior. But there is this little caveat at the end, to all who obey Him. Just as Jesus was called to be obedient to the Father so are we called to be obedient to the Son. Jesus does not call us to Him just as our insurance policy to get to heaven, He calls us to obedience. He calls us to discipleship. He calls us to responsibility. He calls us to do good works. He calls us to be whole and human and a priesthood.


Like those in Judges who sang songs about the righteous triumphs of the Lord, like those Peter calls to tell of the excellencies of the Lord, we are they who are called to proclaim Christ, our high priest, the perfected human obedient to the end, the source of our salvation. Let me propose one last passage that is considered to be an early hymn of the Christian community. It is a song or hymn that includes much of what we have seen in Hebrews 5.1-10. You know it well, I hope, from Philippians 2.


5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2.5-11).


Here is Christ our priest who died on the cross. Here is the Christ in human flesh who emptied Himself. Here is the Christ obedient to the point of death on a cross. Here is Christ, who reconciled us perfectly and is therefore highly exalted. Here is Christ, the Savior, the song we sing, the proclamation we make, the One we seek to follow and become like in every way possible. He is the source of our life, our obedience, our wholeness, our salvation. Of this we can sing and proclaim at the watering places and at every corner when opportunity arises. Let us make the proclamation to others as Hebrews has proclaimed it to us.