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The Worthiness of Christ

In Hebrews 7.26-28, the sacred writer offers us several descriptions of Jesus:


“For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens, who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.”


“Fitting” (prepo) indicates that Jesus is perfectly suited — right and proper — to be our leader and savior. No other is like him.


Under the Levitical order, there was no guarantee the high priest would be a man of moral excellence. There was always doubt that the successor to the office would be as capable an intermediary for the people as his predecessor. But with Jesus, such qualms are unnecessary. He is eminently qualified and remains so. And he perfectly meets the needs of our condition.


This passage gives us three categories of Jesus’ preeminence.


Ethical

First of all, the author describes his ethical excellence. He does this in three ways.


First, he is “holy” or sacred (hosios). The term means Jesus is “religiously right, righteous, pious” (Abbott-Smith, p. 325). It stresses his godly character, a “perfection that is lacking in nothing” (Spicq, p. 55). He is loyal to his covenant obligations (cf. Acts 2.27; Acts 13.35; Ps. 16.10).


Second, he is “harmless” (akakos—“not harmful”). He lacks all desire to harm, for he is perfectly innocent right down to his motives. Hence, he is without guile, free from a rotten, conniving disposition intent on inflicting harm. Spicq notes the term has a “double meaning” concerning Christ — “perfect, whole,” on one hand; and, on the other, “innocent, without malice.” Indeed,

“like an innocent lamb (Jer. 11.19), Christ is the spotless victim, acceptable to God (Job 8.20; cf. Job 2.3; 36.5; Prov 2.21; Prov 13.6)” (Spicq, pp. 54-55).

Third, he is “undefiled” (amiantos), which means “without stain, pure…chaste” (Spicq, p. 55). The term stresses his sinless record (2 Cor. 5.21; Heb. 4.15). Neither Buddha, Confucius, Plato, nor Gandhi — as extraordinary as they were — can lay claim on moral perfection.


No one else comes close to the ethics of Jesus, who does everything right by God (hosios), behaves harmlessly and honestly to others (akakos), and does nothing wrong to anyone (amiantos).


Exalted

In addition to his ethical excellence, Jesus presently assumes a glorified status.


“Separate from sinners” translates a perfect passive form: “Still separated from sinners.” The passive form suggests something done to him rather than something he achieved.


In that light, the phrase is not likely about his holiness (which he achieved of his own power). That is established with the words, “holy, harmless, undefiled.”


Instead, “still separated from sinners” most likely alludes to his ascension, when he was separated from this realm of sinners and taken up to heaven by God, having “passed through the heavens” (Heb. 4.14). The result of this physical exhalation is that he has become “higher than the heavens” (i.e., skies, Heb. 7.26). Indeed, his ascension put him “far above all the heavens” (Eph. 4.10).


Hence, the phrase is not about his holiness but about his glorification. Though he

“lived among sinners, received sinners, ate with sinners, was known as the friend of sinners, yet he is set apart from sinners” (Bruce, p. 157).

Indeed, New Testament writers frequently link Jesus’ physical ascension with his governmental ascension. When Jesus was separated from sinners at the ascension, God seated him “at his right hand in the heavenly places,” exalting him “far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Eph. 1.20-21).


In short, Jesus is “set apart from sinners and has become higher than the heavens (skies)” both physically and in terms of authority. He stands above us all!


Effective

Finally, the author describes the effectiveness of Jesus’ priestly work (Heb. 7.27-28).


The priests under the Mosaic regime were plagued with “weakness” (Heb. 7.28). They sinned often. When they offered sacrifices, therefore, they had to offer sacrifice “first for [their] own sins and then for the people’s.” And they had to offer these sacrifices regularly. Sadly, however, those animal sacrifices were not sufficient to “take away sins” (Heb. 10.4).


Conversely, Jesus’ sacrifice is perfectly effective in taking away sins (cf. Heb. 1.3; 2.17; 5.1). Since he had no weakness, he offered himself as a spotless sacrifice (cf. Isa. 53.10; Rm. 8.3; 2 Cor. 5.21; Mk. 10.45; 14.24).


What’s more, so flawless was his sacrifice that he doesn’t need to offer up himself over and over again each time we sin. He only needed to die “once for all” (Heb. 7.27), an expression that means “once for all time” (Jackson, p. 505).


Indeed, Jesus is the only one whose one-time priestly work — both as an offerer and an offering — has the power to remit sins indelibly. As Peter put it,


“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4.12).


Conclusion

Jesus is worthy to be our Lord and Savior! He is ethical, exalted, and effective.


But as wondrous as Jesus’ qualifications are, one of the most breathtaking aspects of the New Testament is that it calls upon the followers of Christ to share with him in his worthiness.


First, faithful disciples must share in his ethics. Indeed, we are to pursue his “perfect” holiness to the best of our ability (Mt. 5.48). His moral perfection was designed to be a model for us to “follow his steps” (1 Pt. 2.22-23). Christians are commanded to “pursue…holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12.14). And though we fall “short” of sinless perfection (Rm. 3.23), yet if we keep “imitating Christ” (1 Cor. 11.1) — i.e., if we keep “walking in the light as he is in the light” (1 Jn. 1.7) — we can be cleansed in his holiness, presented to God “holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight” (Col. 1.21-22).


Second, his faithful disciples will share in his exaltation. Paul noted that we shall become “joint heirs with Christ” (Rm. 8.17). He informed the Corinthians:


“He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you” (2 Cor. 4.14).


And to the church of Colosse, he wrote:


“When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3.4).


The exaltation of Christ will become the exaltation of Christians! We’ll be raised as he was raised. We’ll be transformed as he was transformed (Phil. 3.21). We’ll be “separated from sinners” like him, and brought to glory in heaven where we shall “reign with him” (2 Tim. 2.12; cf. Rm. 5.17). We too shall be set apart from sinners both physically and in terms of authority.


Finally, like Jesus, Christians must become effective in our efforts against sin.


While no Christian can take away sin, we can do much to curb sin’s influence in this world. If we are applying the characteristics of Christ to our lives, Peter says this will “keep [us] from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pt. 1.8, ESV). In fact, the more we grow in Christ, the more effective we’ll become in our fight against sin (Mt. 13.12).


Too, Jesus calls upon us to be “the salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Mt. 5.13-16), meaning we must influence the people of this world to live righteously and eschew evil.


Furthermore, our prayers are effective in healing the sins of this world (Jm. 5.16).


May every Christian share in the worthiness of Christ!


 
Resources
Abbott-Smith, G. A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1922.

Bruce, F. F. The Epistle To The Hebrews. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984.

Jackson, Wayne. A New Testament Commentary: Third Edition. Jackson, TN: Christian Courier Publications, 2019.

Spicq, Ceslas. Theological Lexicon of the New Testament, Vol. 1. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996.

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