Jesus: God's holy provision for an unholy world

“Prepare to meet your God, O Israel,” declared Amos. These are some of the most frightening words of the Bible. In hearing them no sane Israelite ran to get his ticker-tape ready, or camped out on the street in preparation for God’s hand waving drive-by parade. This was scary stuff. God was coming to visit His sinful people as a consuming fire and a jealous God (Deuteronomy 4:24).

Isaiah knew the fearfulness of this reality first hand. He was privileged to a vision of the very throne room of God Himself. The magnificence and holiness of the LORD upon His throne was so great that even the pure and mighty seraphim had to cover their faces in His presence. Isaiah, upon seeing this vision was completely undone. "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!" (Isaiah 6:5).

The Apostle John had a similar reaction when he beheld the glory of the risen Christ. ‘When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead’ (Revelation 1:17). And it is no wonder when we consider the words of Hebrews 10:31. ‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.’

Add to these truths the fact that our sin makes us God’s enemies, and the idea of a priest becomes the most precious and relevant idea imaginable. For you see, the priest has the job of effecting reconciliation between the holy God and sinful man, so that we can live forever with Him without being consumed by His wrath. If there is no priest, there remains only the promise of destruction for sinful man. The good news is that we do in fact have a priest. His name is Jesus Christ.

Therefore [Jesus] had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:17)

The priest’s reconciling work is centred on dealing with the problem of sin. Sin cannot be simply swept under the carpet of the universe. God is omnipotent (all-powerful), but there are still many things He cannot do. He cannot cease to exist. He cannot sin, and He cannot dismiss sin without its just punishment being met. Sin has to be dealt with, so that the glory of God’s justice and righteousness is upheld. Propitiation for our sins must be made in order for us to be reconciled to God. Making propitiation is the very heart of Jesus’ priestly ministry.

To propitiate someone means to make that person favourable to you. Propitiating God means appeasing His wrath (His just and holy anger against us in our sin. See Romans 1:18ff). Romans 3:25 tells us how Jesus accomplished this.

God put forward [Jesus] as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Romans 3:25)

Propitiation happens by Jesus’ blood (His death on the cross). On the cross Jesus drank the full cup of God’s wrath against sin. In so doing, God's wrath was totally appeased. As priest Jesus offered himself as the perfect sacrifice for sins, so that through a single offering, never to be repeated, our sin would be completely and utterly done away with.

For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Hebrews 9:24-26)
But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:12-14)

Hear this amazing truth. All those who are trusting in Christ Jesus as their great high priest have been perfected for all time by His single offering. There remains for such no condemnation. In Romans 8:34, Paul asks the question, “who is to condemn [God’s elect]?” Answer: nobody. On what basis? The perfect priestly work of Jesus.

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died- more than that, who was raised- who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:34)

Jesus’ priestly work involved more than His sacrificial death on our behalf. He also constantly intercedes for us. That is, Jesus is in heaven perpetually pleading His perfect sacrifice on our behalf before His Father. This intercession guarantees the perfection of our eternal salvation.

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)

Isaiah was undone before God’s throne, but having Jesus as our great high priest ought to give us the humble confidence to draw near to the throne of grace.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God,… Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Now that we have been reconciled to God through Jesus’ high priestly work, we are welcomed to draw near to Him. His wrath is gone. All that remains is an abundance of mercy and grace ready to help us in our time of need. Do you need help in putting off your corrupt old self, which belonged to your former manner of life? Do you need help so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God? Then draw near to God through Jesus, knowing that perfect propitiation has been made on your behalf, and receive the grace you need.

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