The epistle then develops the priesthood of the Lord Jesus, comparing it with that of Aaron; but, as we shall see, with a view to bring out the difference rather than the resemblance between them, although there is a general analogy, and the one was a shadow of the other.
This comparison is made in chapter 5:1-10. The line of argument is then interrupted, though the ground of argument is enlarged and developed, till the end of chapter 7, where the comparison with Melchizedec is pursued; and the change of law, consequent on the change of priesthood, is stated, which introduces the covenants and all that relates to the circumstances of the Jews.
A priest then as taken from among men (he is not here speaking of Christ, but of that with which he compares Him) is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins; he is able to feel the miseries of others because he is himself compassed with infirmity, and offers therefore for himself as well as for the people. Moreover no one takes this honour to himself, but receives it, as Aaron did, being called of God. The epistle will speak farther on of the sacrifice-here of the person of the priest, and of the order of the priesthood.
So that Christ glorified not Himself to become a High Priest. The glory of His Person, manifested as man on the earth, and that of His function, are both of them plainly declared of God: the first, when He said, "Thou are my Son, this day have I begotten thee" (Psalm 2); the second, in these words, "Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedec." (Psalm 110) Such then in both personal and official glory is the High Priest, the expected Messiah, Christ.
But His glory (although it gives Him His place in honour before God, and consequent on redemption, so that He can undertake the people's cause before God according to His will) does not bring Him near to the miseries of men. It is His history on earth which makes us feel how truly able He is to take part in them. "In the days of his flesh," that is, here below, He went into all the anguish of death in dependence on God, making His request to Him who was able to save Him from it. For, being here in order to obey and to suffer, He did not save Himself. He submitted to everything, obeyed in everything, and depended on God for everything.
he was heard because of His fear. It was proper that He who took death on Himself, as answering for others, should feel its whole weight upon His soul. He would neither escape the consequences of that which He had undertaken (compare chapter 2), nor fail in the just sense of what it was thus to be under the hand of God in judgment. His fear was His piety, the right estimation of the position in which sinful man was found, an what must come from God because of it. For Him however to suffer the consequences of this position was obedience. And this obedience was to be perfect, and to be tried to the utmost.
He was the Son, the glorious Son of God. But thought this was so, He was to learn obedience (and to Him it was a new thing), what it was in the world, by all that He suffered. And, having deserved all glory, He was to take His place as the glorified Man-to be perfected; and in that position to become the cause of eternal salvation (not merely temporal deliverances) to them that obey Him; a salvation which taken in consequence of His work of obedience, saluted by God as "High Priest after the order of Melchizedec."
That which follows to the end of chapter 6 is a parenthesis which refers to the condition of those to whom the epistle is addressed. They are blamed for the dullness of their spiritual intelligence, and encouraged at the same time by the promises of God; the whole with reference to their position as Jewish believers. Afterwards the line of instruction with regard to Melchizedec is again resumed.
For the time, they ought to have been able to teach: nevertheless they needed that some one should teach them the elements of the oracles of God-requiring mild instead of meat.
We may observe that there is no greater hindrance to progress in spiritual life and intelligence than attachment to an ancient form of religion, which, being traditional and not simply personal faith in the truth, consists always in ordinances, and is consequently carnal and earthly. Without this people may be unbelievers; but under the influence of such a system piety itself-expended in forms-makes a barrier between the would and the light of God: and these forms which surround, preoccupy, and hold the affections captive, prevent them from enlarging and becoming enlightened by means of divine revelation. Morally (as the apostle here expresses it) the senses are not exercised to discern both good and evil.
But the Holy Ghost will not limit Himself to the narrow circle and the weak and futile sentiments of human tradition, nor even to those truths which, in a state like this, one is able to receive. In such a case Christ has not His true place. And this our epistle here develops.
Milk belongs to babes, solid food to those who are of full age. This infancy was the soul's condition under the ordinances and requirements of the law. (Compare Gal 4:1, seqq.) But there was a revelation of the Messiah in connection with these two states-of infancy and of manhood. And the development of the word of righteousness, of the true practical relationships of the soul to God according to His character and ways, was in proportion to the revelation of Christ, who is the manifestation of that character, and the center of all those ways. Therefore it is that, in chapter 5:12,13 the epistle speaks of the elements, the beginning, of the oracles of God, and of the work of righteousness; in chapter 6:1, of the word of the beginning, or of the first principles, of Christ.