Summary: Various pseudo-Christian spin offs claim to provide exclusively the priesthood that allows its worshipers to be made right with God. However, Hebrews 5 presents the truth that there is only one priest we will ever need--the Great High Priest Jesus Christ.
In the summer of my 19th year I was excited to take a summer job in Yellowstone National Park working as a dishwasher in Canyon Village. I say I was excited, because I had longed dreamed of the great trout fishing amid all the natural beauty that Yellowstone is famed for.
But what I didn’t count on is that I was going to be the object of someone else’s fishing in Yellowstone National Park. What I didn’t know was that the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints was making a concerted effort to reaching the summer employees of Yellowstone National Park with their false gospel.
So, as I often shared the Good News of Jesus Christ while washing pots with my fellow employees, as you might guess, I encountered a Mormon. And in the course of my discussions with her, she decided to set up an appointment with a couple guys who seemed to be nearly resident Mormon missionaries. The result was that I spent a couple hours being the lone subject of a multi-media presentation aimed at converting me to Mormonism.
To make a long story short, the presentation explained how through the gradual and long apostasy of the Christian Church, many plain and precious parts of the Gospel of Jesus Christ had been left out. And all of these plain and precious truths had been restored through multiple revelations given by the angel Moroni to the American Prophet Joseph Smith early in the 19th Century. And most notable among these was the restored Aaronic priesthood—the authority which was exclusively given to the Mormon Church to baptize people in Jesus Christ, because the authority of baptizing with the authority of the Aaronic priesthood had been lost, and had specifically been restored to the church by Moroni through the Prophet Joseph Smith. The implication, of course, was this, that I wasn’t headed to heaven unless I allowed myself to be water baptized by a representative of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, because only they had God’s authority to do so, because only they had received the Aaronic Priesthood. And a verse they quoted that assured me this was necessary was from the passage which we consider this morning, Hebrews 5:4. “And no one takes the honor (of being a high priest) to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was.”
Well, I had been a Christian for about two years at that point, and I was vulnerable. They had, after all, quoted the Bible. And they had added a lot to what the Bible was. And I had no idea what the Aaronic priesthood was all about, or whether it was necessary, because I had never been taught about that. And I remember feeling very confused, even lost, and I was away from home, without any of the leaders of my church to talk to, about this very confusing new teaching.
Well, by the grace of God somehow, I survived that dose of false teaching to continue following the true Jesus. But the dilemma I faced then was similar to the dilemma that the Jewish Christians in the first century were facing. I had been presented with the idea that Jesus’ ministry, His sacrifice, wasn’t enough, that somehow, I needed someone authorized because they were a priest after the order of Aaron to minister to me before I could be assured of salvation. These Jewish believers were wondering whether any high priest could do—whether they could return to multiple priests who ministered in the temple after the order of Aaron and still expect their sins to be forgiven. And the answer for both of us, when the Scriptures have been studied, and when we thoroughly understand the Book of Hebrews is this: Accept no substitutes, Jesus as the Great High Priest is the only one who had made peace with God for all of us once for all. Jesus is the only High Priest we will ever need.
And believe it or not, that is the testimony of Hebrews 5, when properly understood, despite Mormon Scripture twisting. But it was an issue that even these first century Jewish Christians didn’t fully understand apparently, until the writer of Hebrews made this clear in Hebrews 5-10.
The issue of the high priestly ministry of Jesus Christ enters the discussion at the end of Hebrews 4 when the author encourages his readers to seek help from Jesus, their great High Priest, in their time of need, especially as they considered falling away from Jesus and returning to Judaism.
And the author now begins to embark on a long teaching along these lines: that Jesus Christ is the only High Priest, the only mediator between God and man, that these Jewish Christians will ever need. And he begins to explain this in the first seven verses of Hebrews 5 by making the case that Jesus was uniquely and supremely qualified to make peace with God.