Christ’s High Priestly Robe and His Unchangeable Priesthood

For Lord’s Day, November 16, 2014

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Dear Saints,

While driving this morning, I was listening to a lecture by one of my professors about the priesthood of Christ as figuritively represented by the Old Testament high priest, especially his robe.  He spent a lot of time on Exodus 28 and the typology of the high priest, and pointed out something really important that I did not think of when I preached on the Golden Garments of the High Priest recently.  I’d like to share his insight with you, as I think it will lead nicely into tomorrow’s text (Exodus 29:38-46).

Dr. C.J. Williams (professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at RPTS) draws our attention to the following verse:

They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it [Christ’s robe], but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did. (John 19:24)

What should be noticed is that they did not tear Christ’s royal robe (which they had earlier mockingly put upon Him); rather they cast lots for it and then someone acquired it as one, whole, preserved piece.  John notes that this lack of rending Christ’s robe fulfilled the prophecy of casting lots to get them in Psalm 22:18.  But also, remember what we learned about the High Priest’s robe in Exodus 28:31-32: it must be made of one piece (like chain mail) with a special embroidery around the neck, so that it would not be rent.  This clothing design was to prefigure the eternal priesthood of Christ (which can never be rent; rather, it is forever finished and complete on behalf of God’s people whom Christ represents as Mediator eternally).

In our sermon on this text, we did consider what A.W. Pink pointed out: the high priest tore his robe in response to Christ saying Who He was, noting along with the tearing of the veil in the temple shortly thereafter that the ceremonial system was now expired in the finished work of Christ to which it pointed.  But here we see Christ’s robe not being rent (for His true priesthood will never expire nor need repetition of His sacrifice, also seen in the rending of Himself as the true veil of the true heavenly temple, per Hebrews 10:20).  These connections with Christ’s un-rent robe are yet another juxtaposition that teaches us what the writer to the Hebrews emphasizes, quoting Psalm 110:4:

Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec. (Hebrews 5:8-10)

Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. (Hebrews 6:20-7:1)

And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest,Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. (Hebrews 7:15-17)

(For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore. (Hebrews 7:21-28)

What is the point?  Jesus is clothed in a priestly robe that can never be rent, because He has an unchangeable, everlasting priesthood as promised by the Father to Him from all eternity (Psalm 110:4).  Thus, the reality of the typology of the Tabernacle system pointing to Christ and His Church is this: I will be your God, and you will be My people, forever!

Dr. Williams also taught that the priests who pointed to Christ never actually lived up to the priesthood of Christ.  God thus demonstrated that He would provide His true eternal High Priest by the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of His Son, as He said he would in 1 Samuel 2:35:

And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever.

We will see this eternal, personal relationship with you as the household (tabernacle) of God by virtue of His High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, highlighted in our text tomorrow.  So we are today reminded by Christ’s robe which is never rent that He has once and for all put you into a personal relationship with the Personal Triune God that begins here on this earth and will last forever in the New Heaven and the New Earth.  Let us personally praise Him together as His assembled tabernacle tomorrow on the Lord’s Day as we again have the privilege of tasting of the eternal Sabbath that awaits us!

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant