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The Priesthood of Christ – a sermon on Hebrews 4:14-5:10




The centre of the Christian life is not your personal relationship with God.  The centre of the Christian life is Christ’s personal relationship with God.  But the good news is, you are in Christ, the Man after God's own heart.

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18 thoughts on “The Priesthood of Christ – a sermon on Hebrews 4:14-5:10

  1. woldeyesus


    The "new covenant" of the Spirit making God's law second nature, writing it on the hearts of people and opening a completely free, new and living way of personally knowing and worshipping God by means of the death of Jesus, has absolutely nothing to do whatsoever with baptism in water, the written law (be it the Torah, the gospel or the Koran) and religion.

    (Jer. 31: 31-34; John 4: 21-26; Matt. 16: 13-28; 17: 1-13; 26: 26-29, 64; 27: 50-56; 2 Cor. 3; Heb. 10: 19-25; Rev. 5; Koran IV. 4: 156-159)

    The sooner we submit to God's work and trust in his judgment, the better for all of us.


  2. Theo K

    Hi Glen,

    Thank you for this moving sermon!

    I have a somewhat general question, what do you make of the Father's displeasure and His disciplinary action toward the sins of His people? (1 Cor 11, Hebrews 12) What place do you have for them in your theology?

    Thanks and God bless!

  3. Glen

    Thanks Theo, Heb 12 is wonderful on this. "What son is not disciplined?" asks the writer - No son, not even *the* Son (5:8). Therefore a) chastisement is inescapable and b) whatever chastisement that happens, happens in the grip of the Father's unbreakable adopting love. And the writer is at great pains to point that out. God loves us fiercely and therefore hates the sin in our life. I heard a story of David Wilkerson going to a boy who was smashing in a window and saying "Son, that's not you, that's not you." That's what God is saying regarding our sin. And we'll feel deeply grieved at that point, but deeply liberated too.

    It's like the prodigal. When did he really loathe his sins - in the pigsty or in the father's arms? In the father's arms is when he despised himself. As he is robed he senses how very putrid he is and how much he wreaks of pig. But it's not the distaste of the father that reveals that - it's his fierce and unconditional love.

    Those are the first thoughts off the top of my head, I've got lots of posts on the subject, floating around the place, but I'll leave it there for now...

  4. Theo K

    Thanks for the answer Glen.

    Just to clarify, are you saying that the Father is never angry toward His children?

    Any posts you may point me to, are more than welcome!

  5. Glen

    Posts like:


    Of course fathers can be angry with their children (and the Father is angered by His children), but that's absolutely the terms in which to frame that discussion - unbreakable adopting love. It seems to me that people all too readily retreat from unbreakable-love-union language in order to speak of God's displeasure. We must avoid that.

    Tell me about yourself Theo - where are you? How did you come across the blog?

  6. Theo K

    Thanks for the links Glen. Interesting staff!

    I am in Greece, and I had come across your site ( a while ago, as a result of a google search on 'trinitarian OT'. I do find your view on the matter very intriguing, to say the least.

    During the last few months I have been following your blog, I find it very edifying.

    Sometimes, as is the case with this article, I wonder about the biblical balance (searching for balance in such an imbalanced world. Not an easy task!)
    What I mean is this, when people sin, yes, the gospel offers comfort. On the other hand, there are very serious exhortations, even rebukes, and warnings (such as Heb 12:14).
    And I believe that when people live in gross sin, then the Bible questions whether they are Christians or not. This is what I take from the lists of Paul with the various sinful lifestyles that exclude someone from the kingdom of God. For example, 1 Cor 6:9-11. So in such cases, what is the balance?

    You tell someone who goes to the brothel (to take the example from the second link) :

    - you go there, you are a Christian, and Jesus goes with you, feel how horrible it is.


    - Living like that does not allow you to call yourself a Christian. Don't deceive yourself (1 Cor 6:9). Repent and come to Christ.

    Does this make any sense? What do you think?!?

  7. Preschool yorba linda

    what a amazing post you wrote...just love it.such a meaningful and spiritual words!! You just talk about the heart of christian life the heart of christian behavior.its all about the Christ's personal relationship with God but the main thing is we are in a Christ so we are also in a personal relationship with God.Christ is a way to reach the God...we are very much blessed with the love of Jesus...

  8. Glen

    Hi Theo,

    I'm not a great fan of balance. Or rather, I'm not a great fan of *seeking* balance. In these kinds of matters I don't think a healthy view is found in the middle of two extremes, I think the healthy, well-rounded view is found by pursuing the radical gospel of Christ deeper. On the other side of Christ alone I think you find a concern for holiness - and really *only* there do you find it. On the near side of Christ alone that concern is not just incomplete but leading us in the wrong direction. I'm all for holiness but how do we preach for it? How does Hebrews preach for it?

    The difference between 1 Cor 5 (you are sinning grossly and you belong to Jesus) and 1 Cor 6 (there are those who sin grossly and do not belong to Jesus) is a matter for pastoral wisdom. I'm definitely up for saying chapter 5 things: "This ends now, you cannot live like this, you belong to Jesus". And I'm definitely up for saying chapter 6 things: "I don't think you belong to Jesus." Again the difference between the two is a matter for prayerful guidance from the Lord.

    The question for the gross sinner is not "Have I done something to sever my union with Christ?" but "Do I belong to Jesus in the first place?" And I'm not trying to shy away from hard words in this area. But in both chapter 5 and chapter 6 land the antidote to sin is the gospel - offering Christ again to the unworthy.

    I guess my question for you would be: On what does my standing with God depend?

  9. Theo K

    I see your point. I 'll try to jot down my thoughts!

    Hebrews is filled with (1) stern warnings (e.g. 2:3, 12:14 - if you don't seek after holiness you will not see the Lord), and (2) incredible promises in Christ. Both are there. Same pattern throughout scripture I would think (for example, what do you do with Mat 7:21-23?)

    I am surprised by your reading of 1 Cor 5. I would think the argument of Paul in 1 Cor 5 is the same with 1 Cor 6: that such people are NOT Christians (v.11 : anyone who is called a brother), and once this is publicly displayed by their sinful lifestyle, they are to be cast out (v.13 - 'put away from among yourselves that wicked person')

    So I guess what I am saying is that the Bible does not allow anyone to say about himself or about anyone else that 'you are sinning grossly and you belong to Jesus' (because we do not know the heart, we only see outward behaviour).

    In other words, I agree that 'holiness' is realised as we behold the glory of the Lord and we are transformed. And this is true for genuine believers. On the other hand, the church always has false believers in its ranks. And they need to be addressed in such a way that they won't be able to deceive themselves anymore.

    Concerning your question, the standing of the believer with God depends on his union with Christ. And I agree that nothing and noone could ever pluck them out of the hand of Jesus. But, experimentally, how does that work out? How does 'Christ alone' work out? If I am united with Jesus, I will bear good fruit. It is inevidable. He will make sure of it (Phil 1:6). He causes me to bear good fruit, he is the good vine. ('Every branch in me that doesn’t bear fruit, he takes away' - John 15:2). So, how do I know I am united with Jesus? I bear good fruit. I walk with Him now.

    This is the reasoning I believe the Bible uses to enable us to 'make our calling and election sure'.

    What do you thinK? (and thank you for the interaction :)

  10. Glen

    Oops - serves me right for commenting without a bible open. When I said "1 Cor 5" I meant the case of members of Christ going to a prostitute (which is chapter 6:15ff). So re-read "1 Cor 5" with 6:15 instead, and "1 Cor 6" means particularly "1 Cor 6:9-10." In sum, there are clearly "those" who will not inherit the kingdom but there is also clearly "you" who are members of Christ yet still participating in those hellish activities. And Paul makes his point not by saying they have ceased to be able to claim union with Christ, the way he preaches the abhorrence of sin is by highlighting their ongoing union with Christ.

    On Matt 7 I'm not wanting to deny that those who say "Lord, Lord" are hell-bound. But notice that they are hell-bound while performing incredible works - works that I'm not sure I'll ever emulate! If I'm to experimentally assess my standing with Christ and my works are to exceed these guys, I'm in trouble. But I notice that Jesus speaks of the issue of final importance - "I never *knew* you."

    Also, on making my calling and election sure... 2 Pet 1 mentions the works that flow from saving faith (v4ff), but I don't read Peter as telling me to look at *them* to make my calling and election sure. If fruit is lacking I need to re-remember that my sins have been cleansed (v9). In other words my assurance leads to works, not works leading to assurance.

    For me, Calvin's definition of faith is pretty unmatchable:

    “A firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence towards us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”

    Assurance is part and parcel of faith. Later Calvinists departed from Calvin and detached assurance from the gift of faith. But I'm with Calvin, it is assured faith that leads to fruit, not fruit that leads to assured faith.

    On your understanding, how do you avoid the conclusion that my assurance of faith is only as good as my current performance?

  11. Theo K

    Hi Glen,

    Before anything else, I do want to say that I admire your commitment to the gospel of grace and your love for Jesus. I understand that you will probably disagree with much of what I am about to say. For what is worth, I can only ask that you give it careful consideration.

    Concerning 1 Cor 5 and 6. My understanding is that Paul specifically says that all nominal believers living in unrepentant gross sin are to be considered non-christians and be cast out (ch. 5). The same thing I see in ch. 6. All these are to be told that they ‘deceive themselves’. As for the Corinthians, he tells them that ‘And such *were* some of you’ (6:11). They are not anymore… And as for the second part of ch.6, the only way I see of rightfully handling it without making Paul contradict himself within the space of a few verses is to say that in this second part he explains to them why it is impossible for someone to live in fornication and call himself a Christian. (concerning the Corinthians, I will just add these two verses in support of my understanding of how Paul treats such cases: 1 Cor 15:34, and 2 Cor 13:5)

    Mat 7: I think the most important clue of what happens with these people is that Jesus calls them: ‘workers of iniquity’. That is what characterized their life-time. And this proved that Jesus ‘never knew’ them. For if He had, they would be workers of righteousness.

    2 Peter 1:
    8: For *if these things* (the things mentioned in previous verses) be in you, and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    9: But he that lacks these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and has forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
    10a: Why the rather, brothers, give diligence to make your calling and election sure,
    10b: *FOR* if you do *these things* (again v.4-7), you shall never fall:
    11: *FOR* so an entrance shall be ministered to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    On the matter of assurance, you will have to prove to me from the Bible where you get that someone living in unrepentant gross sin is allowed to have assurance. In fact I would dare say that if someone is so confident of his faith in Christ, and yet has so little regards holiness of life, and the keeping of Christ’s commandments, is a non-Christian antinomian.

    Assurance of faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Are you saying that if a genuine believer starts living in unrepentant sin the Holy Spirit will not take away his assurance? (in order to bring him back, as an act of mercy)

    My assurance that I have genuine faith, and that I am truly united with Christ is indeed as good as the marks and signs of God’s grace I see in me. (again, 2 Cor 13:5).
    I base that in all of 1 John :
    5:13 These things have I written to you that believe on the name of the Son of God; *that you may know that you have eternal life*, and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God.
    Things such as: “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whoever does not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loves not his brother.” (3:19)

    And also on the words of Christ: “why call you me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” No one can have Jesus as his Saviour and not as his Lord…

    As far as quotations go: “The assurance of Christ’s righteousness is a direct act of faith, apprehending imputed righteousness: the evidence of our justification we now speak of, is the reflex light, not by which we are justified, but by which we know that we are justified” Rutherford’s Christ dying and drawing.

    I got this from the ‘marrow of modern divinity’ by Edward Fisher, with comments on it by Thomas Boston. If you haven’t read it yet, it is really worth the time. It has much to say to our discussion. Sections include:
    -The necessity of marks and signs of grace
    -How to attain to assurance
    -Marks and evidences of true faith
    -How to recover lost evidences <-- I think you will like this section especially!
    -Marks and signs of Union with Christ

    Now after you read this, or if you have already read this book and you still hold to your position, I guess will just to have to agree to disagree on this one!

    I apologize for the long comment, but I do consider this an important issue.

  12. John B

    Glen, I like Calvin's definition of faith a lot. But is the "freely given promise of Christ" apart from repentance, or, more literally, metanoia? Jesus began his ministry with a call to metanoia; and concluded it by sending his disciples to proclaim metanoia and forgiveness of sins to all nations. While I greatly admire the reformers, I think that in their opposition to the Roman system of penance, they sometimes stressed sola fide to such an extent, that they seem at times to leave little room for repentance/metanoia. But it's there in the very beginning of The Ninety-Five Theses and shows forth more clearly as Reformation theology matures and moves past the stage when it is primarily speaking in reaction to Rome.

  13. Glen

    Hi Theo, (and John)

    We read 1 Corinthians 6 differently.

    v1-8 - Don't go to law before unbelievers
    v9-10 - Here is how different such unbelievers really are to us
    v11 - You are not such people any more
    v12-18 - Since you are not such people stop acting like them.

    Paul grounds his imperatives firmly in the indicatives: these people *are* members of Christ, they *are* temples of the Holy Spirit. Without denying the perseverance of the saints, I don't know what else to say but that these sinners are told to stop sinning precisely because they are united to Jesus.

    Matt 7 - your reading would be a lot more convincing if the people who cried "Lord, Lord" were doing ungodly things. In fact they are doing all the works that Jesus commands of his disciples (e.g. Matt 10:1ff; 28:18ff)! If I am to base my assurance on my works I need to be doing more than a super-apostle.

    2 Pet 1 - again with v9, unless you are denying the perseverance of the saints, what Peter is calling works-light Christians to is a re-remembrance of the purging of their sins through the promises by which they participate in the divine nature. From this will flow works. And yes even those works will give a secondary sense of assurance, but it can only be secondary.

    If my assurance is only as good as my works then my works are *not* the fruit of faith. Works done in order to be sure are not the fruit of saving faith in Christ. Why? Because saving faith in Christ rests wholly on His work and does not rest at all on mine. If you tell someone to seek their assurance only or primarily in their works, you have cut the root that produces such works. Does that make sense? I think it's a crucial point. The only way we can have the fruit of faith (which, indeed, may provide secondary evidences of our union with Christ) is to have faith. And to have faith is to look entirely away from self and only to Jesus. If we can't find our assurance in Christ alone then we can't have any. Fruit produced in order to be assured will be fruit that comes from some other tree. The only tree that bears fruit is Christ alone.

    And this ties in with John's question about repentance. As Calvin taught, "legal repentance" is that had by Cain, Saul or Judas. It springs only from the terrors of the law and is not a repentance unto life. "Evangelical repentance" springs from an assured faith in God's goodness to us expressed in Christ. That repentance alone is saving.

  14. John B

    Glen, if the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints is the starting premise, then, in and of itself, Paul and Peter here are exhorting saints to act like saints. But without the presupposition of perseverance, the Apostles seem to be admonishing disciples against willfully turning away from following Christ. Peter puts this in strong and graphic language at the end of the next chapter of his letter!

    Followers of Jesus are assured of "God's goodness to us expressed in Christ", for those who do not draw back, and by faith preserve their souls.

  15. Theo K


    We both agree that Jesus is our salvation, that everything depends upon his grace alone, from first to last. From eternity past to eternity future. That He gives eternal life to His sheep and none will ever perish.
    And at the same time, the Bible is clear that the Christ who justifies is the Christ who sanctifies. You can’t have the one without the other. To suggest otherwise is to belittle the sanctifying and preserving grace of God in Christ.
    Concerning Mat 7, don’t ignore the preceding verse: Therefore, by their fruits you will know them. (7:20)

    Concerning 1 Cor 5-6, I think it would be weird for Paul to say to the church in ch.5 about such people: "kick them out, they are not Christians", and in the next chapter to propose something different. Anyway let's not focus on this, it isn't key to our discussion.

    You say: “And to have faith is to look entirely away from self and only to Jesus.”
    Yes, this is what we exhort sinners to do so that they will come to Christ. But, once you profess faith in Jesus, how do you know it’s real? What is the evidence that your faith is real? To seek for evidence that your faith is real does NOT mean that you base your salvation upon such evidence. This evidence proves that indeed you have believed and you are not deceiving yourself. This evidence (which I wouldn’t call ‘works’ but heartfelt obedience, which is solely God’s gift) is the work of God in me (Phil 1:6, 2:13). Does this make sense?
    If we are never to look at ourselves, then what do you make of 2 Cor 13:5?
    What about 1 John? The whole letter was written with this goal, to help believers examine their faith (1 John 5:13).

    Concerning Calvin, I just had a look at the Institutes, Calvin agrees with my understanding of the value of good works as a confirmation of our election and of the indwelling of the Spirit. (3.14.18, 3.14.19, 3.14.20)
    E.g. “We now see that the saints have not a confidence in works that either attributes anything to their merit, since they regard them solely as gifts of God from which they may recognize his goodness and as signs of the calling by which they realize their election…” (3.14.20) I think it’s pretty plain… (3.14.18 and 3.14.19 are even clearer, titles are:
    3.14.18 : “The sight of good works, however, can strengthen faith”
    3.14.19 : “Works as fruits of the call”)

    He also sees 2 Peter 1:10 in the light I used it: 3.6.1, 3.15.8

    Brother, I think you have focused on one truth so much that you took it out of proportion, you haven’t taken into account the whole counsel of God.

    Just these last couple of days I was reading the following, may you be blessed by them, and thank you for the irenic conversation!
    “Going hard after a holy God – in order to confirm our justification”
    Paul Washer on the gospel and perseverance
    Biblical Counseling: Gaining a Balanced Picture on God’s Counsel

  16. Theo K

    Just to clarify, I am not saying you are doing 70% well (for example) and thus you have 70% assurance. I am saying you follow Christ and you bear fruit, however imperfectly, and you have 100% assurance…

    Basically I am saying:
    You produce fruit because you believe, and observing the fruit you know you believe… (1 John 5:13)

  17. John B

    Hi Theo,

    Thanks for the links! I especially liked this Thomas Schreiner quote cited in the Biblical Counseling article:

    "We must remember that Paul’s theology is multifaceted… It is possible to diminish the centrality of justification, but it is also possible to exaggerate its importance so that other aspects of Pauline soteriology are shoved into the background… It is imperative to avoid reductionism, as if justification were the only part of Pauline theology."

    I also appreciated your citations of Calvin's Institutes. Glen commends Calvin's definition of faith. Here's how Calvin defines repentance:

    "A real conversion of our life unto God, proceeding from sincere and serious fear of God; and consisting in the mortification of our flesh and the old man, and the quickening of the Spirit."

    Calvin stresses that faith and repentance, though united, ought not be confounded.

    Balance *is* radical!

  18. Glen

    Hi guys - haven't forgotten our discussion. Theo - to clarify, I'm not saying we never look to our works and I'm not denying that fruit is a *secondary* assurance of our union with Christ. But you have said:

    "My assurance that I have genuine faith, and that I am truly united with Christ is indeed as good as the marks and signs of God’s grace I see in me."

    This makes my salvation as certain as my works. And any works I perform from this uncertain foundation will not be the fruit of faith - because faith is an assurance that Christ *is* given to me! I don't object to looking at our fruit as a secondary evidence. But because you have placed works in the position you have, they can't even function as evidence - because they would have to be the fruit of *faith* to do that!

    On 1 Cor 6 - I just don't see how you're putting together the language of "members of Christ" and "temple of the Holy Spirit", the perseverance of the saints *and* your position. My point from 1 Cor 6 is simply that Paul uses their union with Christ to call their sin into question (rather than vice versa), This was the original point that I made which you picked up on, but I haven't seen anything to refute this particular point.

    On Matt 7 - the trees and fruit is referring to false prophets.

    On 2 Pet 1 - works can be secondary evidences, but a) we participate in the divine nature through the promises alone and b) fruitless Christians are *first* called back to remember that they were cleansed from their sin - i.e. that they *are* saved. From that will flow the works as secondary evidences.

    On 2 Cor 13 - again, I don't deny that there are secondary assurances of salvation that we can have. But if we don't first seek our security in *Christ* we'll never find it anywhere else.

    God bless

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