Derek Prince - To Those Who Continue To Obey
Now we're going on to chapter 5. I'm going to begin once again translating extemporaneously from the Greek text. Your outline is then in front of you, I trust. We're on Page 5/1. Just looking at what it says in connection with the first verse, this is the first occurrence of the verb for offer or offering and the noun for sacrifice. They go together. We'll take the verse. For every high priest being taken from among men is appointed [or ordained] on behalf of men in things relating to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. We've already looked at that verse earlier on. It would be good just to turn back in your note outline to Page 2/3. I hope this doesn't confuse you. Right at the bottom of 2/3 where it says "Appendix to chapter 2," and then it goes to the Old Testament picture of the high priest, it then refers to Hebrews 5:1 and it says this: The function of a priest is to give man an ongoing relationship with God.
To do this, he does two things: He offers sacrifices on behalf of man and he receives gifts on behalf of God. In that context, I pointed out two things which are continually brought out in Hebrews. That God does not entertain an ongoing, continuing relationship with man unless two conditions are met. First, there must be a priest. Second, there must be a covenant. Without a priest and a covenant you may come to God in a moment of crisis or need, but you will never have a permanent, ongoing relationship with God because that is God's basic requirement which He will not vary. I suppose probably many of you would realize this is true in respect of a covenant. I imagine it's probably new for most of you that it's equally true in respect to the priest.
See, the unique feature of the revelation of Hebrews is that it depicts Jesus as our High Priest. Much of the New Testament speaks of the sacrifice that was made, the victim. This is the only part of the New Testament that I know of that depicts the priest. A victim without a priest is impossible. There has to be a priest to offer a victim. So, the revelation of this epistle is in many ways, it goes outside the scope of much that we're familiar with in, quote, "Charismatic" or Evangelical Christianity. And, I would say without a doubt, equally so in Catholic or liturgical forms of Christianity. This is an area which is almost completely overlooked, according to my observation, by the great majority of Christians and churches today.
Now we will go back to Hebrews 5:1. I've translated that. Note the two things that the priest deals with: gifts and sacrifices. Without a sacrifice there's no approaching God. Without a priest, you can't offer Him a gift. You can't just walk up to God, and slip something into His hand and say, "Please take that". That's not how God is approached. Going on in verse 2, the high priest taken from among men must be able, the translation says: to deal gently with the ignorant and those who are going astray, since he himself also is surrounded with weakness. I think the modern translations say "subject to weakness" if I'm not mistaken. "Beset with weakness". The King James says "compassed with weakness," and that is actually right in line with the original Greek.
The word that's translated "deal gently," I've been trying to think of some other way to express its meaning. I think you could put in a way "react tenderly" or "not overreact". In other words, when the man comes to the priest and says, "I've stolen," the priest is enough of a man to know that he himself is capable of stealing so he doesn't say, "Well, God will have nothing to do with you"! He's reminded, "I could have been that man". That's why the priest that God has appointed for us knows what it is to be a man. I don't know whether as parents some of you may have been so far above the level of your children at some times that they could never come to you and tell you their problems. I'm sure that's not true of all, but it is a mistake that parents make.
I've dealt with good many young people who've come to me at various times for deliverance and confessed to me the most horrible things. I've often said to them, "I want you to know something about God. He is un-shockable. It doesn't matter what you tell me, or Him; God will not be shocked. Your parents might. Your friends might, but not God". This is the point that's brought out here. This kind of a high priest is not going to get so shocked by your worst confession that he won't help you. The reason is he can say to himself, "There but for the grace of God go I". As a matter of fact, in my own experience again, the longer I'm in the ministry the less I'm shocked by what I hear.
Twenty years ago I couldn't have believed some of the things that I hear about people in churches. I've discovered that incest is common among Christians. I don't want to make an overstatement but I've heard confessions of incest, I would say, dozens of times. Homosexuality is much more common in churches than we're willing to acknowledge. Sometimes in the leaders. Years ago if I'd heard that I think I would have exploded. I've just come to see sin is sin. It's not to be condoned, but it's not our business to condemn. We have a high priest who doesn't condemn us. Going on now in the description of the priest in verse 3: and because of this [that's his weakness] he is obligated as for the people, also for himself, to offer for sins. Put in the word "sacrifice", "to offer sacrifice for sins".
In the Old Testament every high priest in the Aaronic line, when he dealt with the question of sin, always started by bringing his own sin offering before he brought a sin offering for the people. A continual reminder that he himself was subject to sin. Verse 4: And no one takes this honor for himself, but only one called by God, just as Aaron. That's a point that we need to absorb, I think, especially in our contemporary American culture. There are a lot of things in the ministry of God that are not decided by vote. No one voted for Aaron. God chose him. He didn't ask anybody's approval, He didn't put it before the Board; He just said, "Aaron is the high priest".
When his high priesthood was challenged by leaders of the other tribes, He said, "We'll have an end to this once and for all. Tell every tribal head to bring his tribal staff into the tabernacle and put it out before the ark". Then He said to Moses, "Go in twenty-four hours later and take out the rods". Every tribal head had his name on his rod. When Moses went in there was one rod that had budded, blossomed and brought forth almonds in twenty-four hours. That was the rod that had on it the name of God's chosen high priest, Aaron. God said, "Let that be an end. Let there be no more dispute about this from now on".
I think it's very important in contemporary Christianity, even for people such as ourselves, that we learn to recognize where we don't make the decisions, where it's not a matter of a congregational vote. Speaking about this, congregation, and this is merely an example, I don't believe the leadership of this congregation is up for voting. And anybody that has that attitude has got a serious misunderstanding of God. If a leader misbehaves as unfortunately happens at times, there are scriptural ways to handle the situation. But the appointment is God's. I had to deal with a very painful situation about two years ago that some of you here will know what I'm talking about. I don't want to speak about it in such a way that anybody else would identify the person. I had to deal with a man much younger than myself who was the head of a congregation that had once been a very flourishing congregation.
But, through his misconduct and irresponsibility everything was going wrong starting with his own life, his family, his home, and then the people he was supposed to be caring for. I had been giving him oversight for a number of years. And eventually I had to go to this congregation, hold a meeting of the leaders, go into the various things that had taken place in detail, as a matter of fact Jim was there with me, and then say, "I can no longer give oversight to this congregation while this man leads it". I put the issue before the other elders. They disagreed with me and sided with the leader. About six months later they changed their minds. Rather naturally, I think, I was concerned whether I had failed in my responsibility of giving oversight.
There were people that kind of indicated in a round about way that shouldn't have ever happened. I certainly could wish it had never happened. I am not sure that I could have prevented it happening. As I meditated on this, one thing became very clear to me. I was not the person that put that man in charge of that congregation. God did it. Without a shadow of a doubt God did it. I was probably the only person, humanly speaking, that could undo it. So there is a tremendous solemnity about leadership. Do not, please, deceive yourselves with the idea that you put leaders over God's people. It's not your choice. It's God's choice, just as it was with Aaron. That does not mean that a leader can do as he pleases. He'll be a dictator. The responsibilities of leadership are tremendously solemn.
"To whom much is given, of him shall much also be required". I think perhaps it's appropriate that I mention tonight that incident in that chapel in Wales when the head of the land with his eyes followed the speaker, every move, every inclination. As leaders we need to bear in mind the head of the church is watching continually. This is so contrary to the democratic spirit of America. It's something that has to be contested. Why is such and such a person our leader? The answer is: Because God made him our leader. And if God didn't, we might as well close the store. I'm not thinking now of this congregation. I'm thinking of a third situation which I don't need to go into. God's choices are not always man's probabilities. I'm glad they aren't.
When I went back to Cambridge University after World War II . and before I left I was anything but a Christian. When I got back, some of the Christians discovered that I'd been converted and they said, "We would never have believed it would happen to you"! I said, "I'm glad God had more faith than you did"! We're going on to verse 5. So also Christ did not glorify himself to become a high priest; but the one who said to him, You are my Son, I today have begotten you. As he says also in a second place, You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek. Those are two quotations from the Old Testament. We've already looked at them because they were quoted initially in chapter 1. Perhaps it would be good just to glance at them for a moment to have them before our eyes.
Psalm 2:7. This is a picture of the resurrected Christ installed as king on the heavenly mountain of Zion. And then here prophetically in the psalm He's represented as saying: "I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, 'Thou art My Son; today I have begotten Thee.'" So we see that the acknowledgment came from the Father to the Son. If you study the relationship of Jesus with the Father, He never took the initiative. It was always the Father's initiative and His response. So it is here. The Father said to Him, "Thou art my Son; this day I have begotten thee".
I'd like to give you another reference in the Old Testament just for a moment in Psalm 89. We will be looking at this again later on. Psalm 89, we could begin at verse 24. This is what's called a Messianic psalm, that is to say, it's a prophetic picture of the Messiah, and God is here talking of the Messiah. It's a beautiful passage. "My faithfulness and My lovingkindness will be with him, and in My name his horn will be exalted. I shall also set his hand on the sea, and his right hand on the rivers". So He's going to have world dominion. Now listen to this. He will cry to Me, "Thou art my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation". Put that together with Psalm 2:7 and we have a conversation in heaven between the Father and the Son. First, the Father said to the Son, "Thou art my Son". And then the Son in return replies, "Thou art my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation".
The point that I wish to emphasize which is brought out by the writer of Hebrews is the appointment was made by God. Then in Psalm 110:4, the other passage that's quoted here in Hebrews 5. This is a picture of Christ again resurrected and exalted at the Father's right hand. Then the Holy Spirit makes this declaration: The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, "Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek". Again, it's the Father that makes the decision and the appointment. We'll go on in Hebrews 5:7 which is a very significant verse. Who [that is speaking about the Son, the high priest, Jesus]. Who in the days of his flesh, having offered up petitions and supplications to the One who was able to save him out of death, with strong cries and tears. And having been heard because of his piety.
I think this translation says, we'll come to that word in a moment. I don't think "piety" is at all a good translation. So, in the days of his flesh (that is, while He is still on earth), Jesus is a priest. But He was not a priest in the tribe of Levi. As a priest He had to have something to offer because all priests offer. Because He was not a Levite He could not offer the Levitical sacrifices, that would have been out of order. What were the sacrifices that He offered in the days of His flesh? Prayer. It says "petitions and supplications". A petition is asking for something but a supplication has a specific meaning. When you supplicate you are a suppliant, if you know that word. And a suppliant asks for one thing only. What's that? Mercy, that's right. Supplication is pleading for mercy.
In the Greek Orthodox Church, if I'm not mistaken, and there is probably somebody here that knows better than I do, at certain seasons or in certain ceremonies they repeat again and again the words kyrie elieson. How many of you have ever heard that? Christe eleison. Kyrie elieson. Christe eleison. Kyrie elieson. It means "Lord have mercy," Christie elieson means "Christ have mercy". There was a time when I reacted against that and I thought, This is just empty ritual, and furthermore, I don't like the smell of incense. But I'll tell you what. The longer I live, the more I see I need God's mercy. If I were in a church where they were saying that, I would say it with all my heart. "Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy. Have mercy on me that I'll never get so clever that I don't need Your mercy".
Jesus offered prayers and supplications. Let's just compare for a moment Hebrews 13:15. Through him [that's through Jesus] let us offer up a sacrifice of praise continually to God. There is the same type of sacrifice. As priests we do not offer cattle, but we do offer the sacrifice of praise, petition and supplication. Jesus is our pattern. That's what He offered in the days of His flesh. This is a very profound verse. "He offered them to the one who was able to save him..." I think the translation says "from death". Is that right? Yes. It's a legitimate translation but my understanding of the events is it isn't what it means. I said "out of death". What's the difference? To save a person from death would be to keep them from dying. To save them out of death would be to let them die and bring them back to life.
That is how God answered the cry of Jesus. He did not save Him from dying but He brought Him back from death. We need to turn again to Psalm 89. I should have let you keep your finger there. Psalm 89, just verse 26 since we've already looked there. "He will cry to Me [the Father is speaking], 'Thou art my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation.'" That's the Son speaking to the Father. How did the Father become the rock of salvation to the Son? By what act? One specific word. Resurrection, that's right. He saved Him "out of death," not "from" death. That is how the Lord, the Father, answered the prayer of Jesus. Let's go back to Hebrews 5:7, we haven't finished. It says that He was heard, hearkened to, and it means "accepted". It doesn't mean just that His prayer was audibly heard, but it means it was heard and accepted because of His piety.
I don't like the word "piety". I'll show you another place in Hebrews where the same word is used as a verb. Hebrews 11:7. I'm going to quote to you the version which Ruth and I quote to each other, the King James. By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. That same word is translated "moved with fear". The NIV, does anybody have an NIV? What does it say. "Because it is holy fear". I think that's probably as good as you can get. Not so much "piety" but "holy fear".
It impresses me that Jesus was moved by the fear of the Lord. If Jesus moved in the fear of the Lord, how can you and I ever dispense with that? Let me show you a prophecy about Him in this connection in Isaiah 11. Keep your finger in Hebrews, we'll be back there before the night is over! This is another Messianic prophecy. I want to go through it quickly, but I want to bring out a point. Then a shoot will spring up from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch from his roots will bear fruit. The branch from the stem of Jesse is the Messiah, Jesus. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him. And it's the sevenfold Spirit that's portrayed in Revelation 5. Glad you got me straight. The first one is "the Spirit of the LORD". That's the Spirit that speaks in the first person as God.
And then there are six more in pairs. The spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And the immediate result of the Spirit of the Lord resting upon Him is in the next verse: He will delight in the fear of the LORD. That really is a solemn lesson. If there's one characteristic which I should say is particularly lacking among God's people today, in general I would say it's the fear of the Lord. It's evidence that we're not really led or controlled by the Holy Spirit because where the Holy Spirit is in control, we will delight in the fear of the Lord. If you want to study one day, take a concordance based on the King James Version and look up all the passages which speak about "the fear of the Lord".
It will astonish you how many there are and I do not believe that there is anything in the life of a man of God to which greater blessings are promised than the fear of the Lord. "He that hath it shall abide satisfied and shall not be visited with evil". That would be enough if that was the only promise but it's one among many. "He that hath it shall abide satisfied and shall not be visited with evil". If you're discontented and dissatisfied, it's evidence you don't have the fear of the Lord. How was the fear of the Lord manifested in Jesus in His prayers? We're going back to Hebrews 5:7. Are you there? Hebrews 5:7. It says He was heard [hearkened to] because of His "holy fear". When it speaks about Jesus praying with strong groans and tears, what scene immediately comes to your mind? Gethsemane, that's right. We are really directed to Gethsemane.
If we wish to know how the fear of the Lord was expressed in the prayer of Jesus, we have to turn to the passage which describes His prayer in Gethsemane. We'll do that in Matthew 26. Matthew 26 is the more complete version of this particular incident. Matthew 26. Beginning at verse 36, I'm going to read about nine verses. Matthew 26:36: Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane,. I'm planning to speak on this as it now stands on Friday morning. It's very much in my mind. Gethsemane means "a press". Did you know that? What kind of a press? An olive press where they trampled on the olives and the beautiful olive oil flowed out. In order for the oil to come out, the olives had to be trampled, just torn up, torn to shreds. That's significant. The name is no accident. Gethsemane is the place where the olive oil was squeezed out of our Lord.
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray". And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. I mustn't preach my sermon for Friday today. It's such a tremendously moving thing. I think it's touching that he wanted three men with him. What a responsibility to be one of those three men and how they failed, they just went to sleep. Then He said to them, "My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me". And He went a little beyond them. That's a mark of a leader, did you know that?
He goes a little further. and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let his cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt". And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak". He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, "My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Thy will be done". And He came back and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. Then He came to His disciples, and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners".
It impresses me that Jesus had to say those words three times. I don't think that was vain repetition. I think when He said it the third time He knew it was settled, He didn't have to say it again. I wonder if you ever had to say something more than once to God? "God, take my life. God, take my life. God, take my boyfriend. God, take my boyfriend. Take my career". Sometimes we're not sure the first time we really meant it. It isn't that God hasn't heard; it's that we've got to come to a place where we know there is no turning back. He was heard because of His holy fear. You and I will also be heard if we have the same holy fear.
How is that fear manifested? Very simple. What do we have to say? "Not my will, but Thine, be done". In the English language they're all words of one syllable. There's a lot of meaning in them. ANd there comes a place in our prayer life where we cannot expect God to hear our prayers until we have sincerely said: "Not my will, but Thine, be done". We're continuing with the next verse. Although he was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered; and having been made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all those who regularly obey Him. We'll do verse 10 later. Possibly it might seem strange to you that it should be said of Jesus that He was made perfect. You might react by saying, "I thought Jesus was always perfect".
So far as His sinless nature is concerned, He was and is. But this is speaking about Him becoming the source of eternal salvation. As the source of eternal salvation He had to be made perfect, He had to go through all the things that it took to make Him able to offer and be the source of salvation. You understand that being perfected is not necessarily related to dealing with sin, although if there is sin we cannot be perfected without it being dealt with. The fact that we are in the process of being perfected does not necessarily mean that we have sinned. The other way to translate perfect is "mature".
We are being brought to maturity, or completion, or fulfillment to be in God's eternal purposes the very thing that God ordained us to be. In that sense, every one of us has to go through the process of being made perfect, mature, complete. Jesus is the pattern, we have to follow in that pattern. I want you to notice two things. First of all, it involves suffering. It's my personal impression that anybody who is going to be made perfect will have to go through suffering. I don't think there is any way around the suffering.
Again, I feel there are severe limitations to much of the presentation of scriptural truth which we are exposed to today in the sense that it suggests you don't really need to suffer. Well, Jesus, to my way of thinking, proved that to be incorrect. He needed to suffer. There was no other way that He could be made perfect. I'm personally inclined to believe that if you are going to be made perfect, part of the process will be suffering. If you want to avoid suffering, first of all, I doubt whether you'll succeed. And secondly, if you do, you will not arrive at perfection. The other element in being made perfect is obedience. He learned obedience by what He suffered. I'll tell you a secret. There's only one way to learn obedience.
Do you know what that is? Obeying, that's right. I was listening to myself preach on the radio just a few days ago and I really sometimes say things I need to hear! I heard myself say, "There's only one way to achieve perseverance. That's by persevering". There are some very simple truths in the spiritual life that we would gladly evade but we can't. There's only one way to achieve perseverance. That's persevering. There's only one way to achieve perfection. That's by obeying. There's only one way to learn obedience. That's by obeying. Jesus never disobeyed but He had to learn what it is to obey. The crux of all that He learned is expressed in what we read about Gethsemane. "Not My will but Thine, be done". I believe that's painful of every human personality.
I was talking just recently with a brother who's a leader of a very fine fellowship in Jamaica and I was there just a year ago, and offered them some counsel and he was telling me what had come out of that. Basically it was good. He said, "Things are going well, but," he said, "we have suffered inside". He kind of gestured somewhere at his innards. I knew what he meant. I wonder how many of you know what he meant. What is the essence of that suffering? "Not my will, but Thine, be done". There's no other way. Notice the emphasis on obedience. He learned obedience. Through learning obedience He became the source of salvation. But, He is the source of salvation only to those who obey Him. There is no way around the issue of obedience. The tense used in the Greek is a continuing present tense. "To those who continue to obey Him".