The Minister of the Sanctuary

1916 10 When the apostle is showing how the sympathies of our Great High Priest are in constant exercise towards His suffering and sorrowing saints, he shows, at the same time, how the Lord's own pilgrimage through this world perfected Him as the lowly and obedient Man for the performance of this blessed part of His present priestly functions. Hence, we read: "In that he himself path suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted." "We have not an high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." "Though he were a son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered, and, being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Heb. 2. 18; Heb. 4:15; Heb. 5:8-9).

In this manner the Spirit of God instructs the believer as to the perfect way in which the great Sympathiser is qualified to help him through a lifetime of suffering, which is the direct result of a life of pious obedience. The pathway of the lowly Nazarene, so incomprehensible to the ordinary Jewish mind, is by this means turned to account, as it were, for the saints' blessing.

But there is another requirement of the Christian life which is contemplated in this Epistle, also forming in itself a contrast with what was true in Old Testament days. Just as the walk is one of adversity in contrast with worldly ease and prosperity, so the worship of the believer is spiritual and heavenly in contrast with what was carnal and earthly with the Jew. And the Epistle goes on to develop how the Lord Jesus, as the minister of the sanctuary on high, supplies every weakness and deficiency of the saint in this respect also.

The believer learns, therefore, that if meekness characterised the Lord Jesus on earth, majesty crowns Him in heaven. He is our High Priest. But what a Priest! He has passed through the heavens and taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty there. The glory of the Aaronic priesthood, in spite of its impressive ritual, its brilliant robes and its venerable lineage, all paled before the splendours of the new Priest that had arisen. For the one saluted by God as High Priest was of the order of Melchisedec, and not of the order of Aaron at all. And the seventh chapter of the Epistle demonstrates the exceeding superiority of this order, and hence of Him who is pre-eminently of this order Jesus, the Son of God, our ever-living Priest before the face of God,

Now, the apostle shows how this heavenly Priest suits us, and that not because of the sorrows of our pilgrimage, but because of the dignity of our worship. It is our privilege to draw near to God, even into His immediate presence the holiest of all (Heb. 10:19-22). How can we do so? How can we act becomingly in the sanctuary? Because we, poor and feeble ones as we are, have this great High Priest over the House of God, and "he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto. God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25). In coming near to God, therefore (for the verse, of course, applies not to sinners, but to saints), we are permitted to do so with boldness, because whatever the greatness of our infirmities He is able to save to the uttermost.

Because, therefore, of the intimacy of our heavenly relationships and exercises, we need such an One on high for us. Indeed, such a necessity is stated most strikingly in the scripture itself: "For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens" (Heb. 7:26). The fact that we have been made holy, and partakers of the heavenly calling, in contrast* with the ancient earthly people, made it necessary for there to be one to represent us on high and to intercede for us in our approach to God. Such an One, exactly suited to the spiritual worship now introduced, we ever have in our adorable Lord.

{*The contrast is illustrated in Luke 1:9-10. While Zacharias was in the temple (naos, the holy place) the people were without "His lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord; and the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense."}

Christ, then, is in the sanctuary above for us. His priesthood is superior to that of Aaron or Melchisedec, though it is of the order (not yet of the exercise) of the latter. The sphere of His priestly service is in heaven, not on earth, but in the holies above, the true tabernacles "which the Lord pitched and not man."
"No temple made with hands
His place of service is;
In heaven itself He stands,
A heavenly priesthood His.
In Him the shadows of the law
Are all fulfilled, and now withdraw."

An earthly sanctuary, therefore, has now no place nor meaning according to the Epistle to the Hebrews. The sanctuary has been changed as well as the priesthood. And the holy place on high is the sphere of the Lord's service.

His priesthood was not of the order that Ministered in the holy place below. "If he were on earth," the apostle says,* "he should not be a priest (Heb. 8:4). On the contrary, He has obtained a "more excellent ministry" (Heb. 8:6) which He exercises in the sanctuary on high.

{*The reference in this passage is not to the work of propitiation, which is a basis laid once for all by a unique and exceptional priestly act (Heb. 2:17), but to the service of priestly intercession and aids now carried on above.}

"The blessedness of the ministry of Him who ministers for us in the true tabernacle, is, that it is entirely independent of us. It is by Him for us. Our conscious enjoyment of it will depend, indeed, on our walk, on our humbleness, on our self-judgment, on many things; but the ministry itself depends alone on our unfailing High Priest. He is a faithful minister, ever performing His functions in a manner well-pleasing to God." W. J. H.