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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:Christ is our high priest and we share in his anointing
Text:LD 12 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God The Son
 
Preached:2011
Added:2011-12-28
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Note:  all songs from the 2011 Book of Praise

Psalm 92:1-4
Psalm 110
Hymn 38
Hymn 1
Hymn 9

Readings:  John 17, Hebrews 10:1-18
Text:  Lord's Day 12
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus,

Last Sunday afternoon, we began this mini-series on the offices mentioned in Lord’s Day 12.  We looked at the office of prophet.  Christ is the chief prophet and we share in his anointing.  This afternoon, we’re looking at the office of priest.  We’ll see that Christ is our High Priest and here too we share in his anointing.    

Let’s begin by asking:  what does it mean to have a calling to be a priest?  To answer that, we need to first look at the background.  The office of priest is clearly described in the Old Testament.  Old Testament priests served at the tabernacle or the temple.  They were from the tribe of Levi, descended from Aaron.  They were responsible for making the sacrifices on behalf of the people of Israel.  They also brought prayers for the people before God.  In these ways they represented the people. 

But there were also ways in which they represented God.  God would give revelation to his people through the priests and the Urim and Thummim.  The Urim and Thummim were some kind of means of revelation used by the high priest to give God’s answer to questions.  We don’t know exactly what they were.  However, we do know that they communicated God’s will and they were stored in the breastpiece of the high priest’s ceremonial regalia.  The priests also represented God when they blessed the people.  Each Sunday at the end of the morning service we hear the Aaronic benediction of Numbers 6.  God gave those words for the high priest to bestow his blessing on the people.  

So we have ways in which the priests represented the people and we have ways in which the priests represented God.  What that highlights is the fact that the ministry of the priests in the Old Testament was mediatorial.  They were mediators in the covenant of grace.  They went between God and his people.  And it’s important that we keep this in mind as we consider Christ’s office of High Priest as well.   

As the one who fulfilled the Old Testament office of priest, our Lord Jesus is the ultimate mediator of the covenant of grace.  As our high priest, he goes between God and us, ensuring that this relationship of fellowship is both established and maintained.  His work as our high priest has different aspects. 

The first has to do with the establishment of the relationship of fellowship.  That brings us right to the cross and the good news of what our Saviour did there.  The innocent Lamb of God was sacrificed for our sins.  He hung on the cross in our place and took what we deserved.  He bore our punishment.  He turned away the eternal just wrath of a holy God and turned his favour towards us.  The great High Priest made the one sacrifice that ended all sacrifices for sin.

We see this clearly taught us in Hebrews 10.  Under the old covenant, the priests had to make sacrifices repeatedly.  They were never done their work.  Note the words “repeated endlessly year after year” in verse 1.  And “day after day every priest stands” in verse 11.  As opposed to that, our great High Priest Jesus made one sacrifice.  “Once for all” says verse 10.  Verse 12 says that he sat down, indicating his work was done.  And verse 14 says that he made one sacrifice which has made us perfect forever.

So that puts an end to all human striving for reconciliation and atonement with God.  Sometimes you’ll hear people talk about making atonement for their sins.  “I have to make atonement for what I’ve done.”  It’s true that you may have to come to terms with other people with regard to what you’ve done.  You have to work at reconciliation with people you’ve hurt, make amends with them.  But with regard to God, you do not and you cannot make atonement.  That’s because only Christ can do it only Christ has done it.  Once.  Period.  Only what he has done can establish a relationship of fellowship with God.  You need him to have acted on your behalf, to be your Mediator.

Your relationship of fellowship with God needs to be established through Christ our great High Priest.  It also needs to be maintained through him.  Here too, he acts as our Mediator, he works on our behalf.

One of the most beautiful pictures of Scripture that we have of that is found in John 17.  As it usually is, the context there is crucial.  This took place on the Thursday evening before Good Friday.  Within 24 hours he would be on the cross, making that sacrifice we just heard about.  The end is near.  So what does our Saviour do?  He prays this prayer which reveals the love he has for his people.  This is often called the High Priestly prayer of Jesus.  In this prayer, he intercedes for those who have been given to him.  He calls out to the Father on their behalf. 

Loved ones, the key thing to remember is that this is a window into the ongoing work of Christ as our high priest.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  What he prays here, he continues to pray for his people.  He continues to intercede for you before the throne of God in heaven.  The words in John 17 are not a once-off prayer that tells us some history.  These words reveal the heart of our Saviour and how he continues to intercede for us before the Father.

With that in mind, let’s briefly look at how he prays for us as our High Priest.  He prays for our protection (verse 11).  He prays that God would keep us so that we may be united.  He prays that God would protect us from Satan (verse 15).  Satan prowls around like a roaring lion and he wants to devour us.  Our High Priest prays to guard us from the devil’s paws and fangs.  Christ prays for our holiness (verse 17).  He prays that God would set us apart, sanctify us through the Truth of his Word.  So that we would not be conformed to the world, but to him.  Finally, he prays that we would be with him so that we would see his glory (verse 24).  He wants us with him in heaven.  Your High Priest prays that you’ll be in his presence.  Brothers and sisters, isn’t it a comfort to know that you have Jesus praying for you?

One of the intriguing things about Jesus’ High Priestly prayer is that he not only prays for existing believers, but also for those who do not yet believe.  Look at verse 20, “My prayer is not for them [the disciples] alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message...”  Our High Priest prays for all the elect.  He prays for those whom have been given to him by the Father.  He prays for those who were chosen from before the foundation of the world.  He knows who they all are, and he continually intercedes for them.  He knows who will come to believe in his once-for-all sacrifice for sins.  He doesn’t just have that knowledge sitting passively in his mind – he actually actively prays for those people.  Even right now he is praying for those who are not yet Christians, but who will become Christians.  He is praying for your grandchildren who have not even been conceived or born yet who will become Christians.  He knows their names and everything about them and as high priest he intercedes for them.  What do we take away from that?  We see again the great love of our High Priest.  As the one who prays and intercedes in the covenant of grace, he is actively involved with our salvation at every single moment.

Why did he speak that prayer in John 17 and why does he continue to make this his prayer?  It’s about unity and glory.  He prays that all who are his will be united and that this unity will stand as a testimony to the world.  The world will see and hear that Christ was sent by God into this world for the salvation of sinners.  The world will see the love that God has for his people.

There is one more thing that I can mention about Christ’s work as our High Priest.  It has to do with his ministry on God’s behalf in the covenant of grace.  We see that briefly but powerfully at the end of Luke’s gospel.  Our Saviour was ascending into heaven.  As he was doing this, his hands were uplifted in blessing.  Luke 24:51, “While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.”  This was not an off-hand, casual sort of thing.  This was the act of a priest, of our great High Priest.  He ascended into heaven blessing his people.  The blessing doesn’t stop.  He is still continuing to bless us from where he is in heaven.  He does that particularly through his Word and through the sacraments.  He continues to do good for us and to strengthen us in the covenant through these means of grace.  The end of Luke 24 reminds us that our Saviour did not abandon us, but continues to act as our High Priest and mediator.        

Now our Catechism says that we share in his anointing with regard to this office too.  The Roman Catholic Church teaches that there are a special class of people still in the New Testament who are called priests.  Against that, the Bible teaches that there are priests in the New Testament, but these priests are every single Christian.  Every one who believes in Christ is a priest for him.  Think of what it says in 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood...” 

So what is our calling then as priests?  What do priests do?  In the Old Testament, they made sacrifices.  In the New Testament, our great High Priest made a sacrifice.  So it is with Christians who share Christ’s anointing too.  They make sacrifices. 

Now here we have to be careful to distinguish two types of sacrifices in the Bible.  There are sacrifices for sin.  The Old Testament priests made their blood offerings of bulls and goats.  Our great High Priest Jesus fulfilled all those sacrifices when he made the one sacrifice of his body on the cross.  In other words, there are no more sacrifices to atone for sin.  As I mentioned earlier, we cannot atone for ourselves. 

But there is another sacrifice found in the Old Testament that is also found in the New Testament, a sacrifice that continues to be expected from God’s people.  It’s the sacrifice of thankfulness.  God’s people in the Old Testament made thank offerings.  God’s people in the New Testament continue to make thank offerings.  They make sacrifices of gratitude for what God has graciously done for them in Christ. 

What are those sacrifices?  Romans 12:1,2 tells us.  After outlining the dire condition of sinful human beings, the apostle Paul preached the glorious gospel of grace in Romans 4-11.  Then he comes to chapter 12 and there he begins to describe what impact the gospel has on the life of a Christian.  It’s about living sacrifices – not the dead blood sacrifices of the Old Testament.  These sacrifices of thankfulness are alive – they’re our own bodies, our entire lives.  Everything about us is now to be devoted to God because of what Christ has done.  There’s not a single area of our lives that we can hold back.  We have been bought with the blood of Christ, and we now we live accordingly, showing our love and gratitude. 

What’s the standard for determining what that love and gratitude looks like?  Obviously there can be no other standard than the Word of God.  The Bible has to determine how we think, speak and act, as we show our thankfulness.  We need to be faithful students of the Word of God in order to be faithful priests in God’s service. 

So far that’s what the Catechism summarizes as the Bible’s teaching about our office as priests.  But the Bible does say more.  Let’s think in terms of intercession.  The Old Testament priests had a ministry of intercession.  They prayed for others, bringing them before the throne of God.  We’ve seen how our Saviour as our High Priest has a ministry of intercession.  He prays for us and he prays even for those who are not yet Christians.  Now what does Scripture say about us?  What about James 5:16 where it says, “pray for each other.”  And what about 1 Timothy 2:1, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for everyone...”  And then Paul goes on to especially apply that to those who rule over us.  Scripture clearly speaks of Christians being given a calling for intercession.  That fits with our priestly office.  As those who share Christ’s anointing, we’re to intercede in prayer for others.  If you’re not making a habit of praying for others, then not only is your prayer life anemic, but you’re also missing out on a big part of what it means to be someone who shares Christ’s anointing as a priest.

So who do we pray for?  Well, certainly we would make intercessions for those who are closest to us.  We’ll be praying for our spouses and our children, our parents, brothers and sisters, and so on.  We’ll be praying also for our spiritual brothers and sisters in our local church.  As 1 Timothy 2 teaches us, we’ll also be praying for those in authority – for our governments. 

Then we’ll also be praying for those who are not yet Christians.  Unlike our Saviour, we don’t know who the elect are.  We don’t know who will come to true saving faith and who will not.  But that doesn’t stop us from praying.  In fact, it even gives us greater reason to pray.  We want to see them come to faith.  When we have unbelieving loved ones or friends or neighbours or fellow workers or students, it grieves us that they’re in the dark.  We bring them up in our prayers then regularly, interceding for them before the throne of God.  We ask God to be gracious and to give them the gift of his Spirit so they believe.

Finally, brothers and sisters, as priests we also have a calling to intercede for those who are persecuted as Christians.  Our calling as priests is to intercede for them before the throne of God.  We pray for them – that God would give them strength to be resolute in their testimony to the truth.  We pray that God would set them free and vindicate them.  We pray that God would use their witness to convert their persecutors.  We pray that the world would take notice of their stand on the gospel and become curious.  But as priests, we also intercede where we can in this world before people.  Where we can, we bring their cases to the attention of our government and others who have influence.  Being priests also means interceding for the persecuted however and wherever we can!  Since our Saviour speaks up for us, we will also speak up for them.         

Our Saviour’s work as our High Priest will stand forever as a testimony of his love for us.  Some day we will be in his presence because of it, because he made the sacrifice that paid for our wickedness.  Some day we will be with him body and soul because of his intercession for us.  His work as our Priest gives us the hope of a glorious age to come.  And that hope also motivates us now each day as we live for him.  Now, as we wait for that great day, we are making the sacrifice of our lives, offering everything we do and everything we are to him.  Why?   Because we love him.  Because we want to see him praised and adored.  AMEN. 

Prayer:

Our Great High Priest in heaven,

Thank you for making the once-for-all sacrifice for our sins.  We’re glad that you took the punishment we deserved.  We give thanks that you have also been praying for us, not just once or twice, but continually, even before we were conceived and born.  What great love you have for us!  We want to reciprocate as best as we can.  Please help us with your Spirit.  We need your help, because we’re weak and sinful in ourselves.  Please work in us with your Spirit so that we will live as sacrifices of thankfulness for you.  As we’re here together, we tell you that we don’t want to hold anything back from you.  Help us to see that more and more become the reality in our lives.  Please give us more grace. 

O God, Father, Son and Spirit, we intercede too for those around us.  We pray for our families and for those we love.  Please bless our spouses and our children.  We pray that you would continue to hold them in the palm of your hand.  We pray for our church family here too.  We pray that all of us would be confident of your love and assured of your blessed presence in our lives.  We pray for the lost whom you’ve placed in our lives, whether family, friends, neighbours, fellow students, or co-workers.  O God, you know their names.  We pray for them again that you would show your grace to them, that you would make Jesus desirable to them.  Please give them the gift of your Spirit so that they would believe the gospel. 

We pray for our authorities.  We pray particularly for our Prime Minister and his cabinet.  We ask that you would give them hearts that want to serve you.  Please make them effective as they rule this land and make them a blessing to all Canadians.  We pray that you would turn their hearts away from wickedness, especially such things as the evil of abortion.  We ask, Father, that would make them see the great sin that this is and that they would protect all the citizens of this land, both born and unborn.

O Father, we also pray for the persecuted.  We pray for believers who are imprisoned or otherwise persecuted for their faith.  Please give them all the grace they need to stand in the face of these trials.  We pray that you would help them to give a powerful witness to the gospel.  We pray for those who persecute them that you would turn their hearts from this wickedness, that you would convert them to yourself.  We pray that your church would be built up through the faithful witness of your martyrs.        




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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