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The Doctrine of the Law and Grace Unfolded: Chapter 12 - Christ the High Priest of the New Covenant

By John Bunyan

      FOURTH. [A fourth office of Christ under the new covenant is His priestly]. Thus, passing this, I shall now speak something to Christ's priestly office. But, by the way, if any should think that I do spin my thread too long in distinguishing His priestly office from His being a sacrifice, the supposing that for Christ to be a priest and a sacrifice is all one and the same thing; and it may be it is, because they have not thought on this so well as they should-namely, that as He was a sacrifice He was passive, that is, led or had away as a lamb to His sufferings (Isaiah 53); but as a priest He was active-that is, He did willingly and freely give up His Body to be a sacrifice. "He hath given His life a ransom for many." This consideration being with some weight and clearness on my spirit, I was and am caused to lay them down in two particular heads.

      And therefore I would speak something to is this, that as there were priests under the first covenant, so there is a Priest under this, belonging to this new covenant, a High Priest, the Chief Priest; as it is clear where it is said, We "having a high priest over the house of God" (Heb 3:1; 5:5,10; 7:24-26; 8:1, 4; 10:21).

      Now the things that I shall treat upon are these-First, I shall show you the qualifications required of a priest under the Law; Second, his office; and, Third, how Jesus Christ did according to what was signified by those under the law; I say, how He did answer the types, and where He went beyond them.

      First, For his qualifications:-

      1. They must be called thereto of God-"No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as Aaron" (Heb 5:4). Now Aaron's being called of God to be a priest signifies that Jesus Christ is a Priest of God's appointment, such an one that God hath chosen, likes of, and hath set on work- "Called of God an High Priest," etc. (Heb 5:10).

      2. The priests under the law they must be men, complete, not deformed-"Speak unto Aaron," saith God to Moses, "saying, Whosoever he be of thy seed in their generations that hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God. For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach; a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous, or a man that is broken-footed, or broken-handed, or crook-backt, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken; no man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the Lord made by fire; he that hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God" (Lev 21:17-21). What doth all this signify but that, (1.) He must not be lame, to signify he must not go haltingly about the work of our salvation. (2.) He must not be blind, to signify that he must not go ignorantly to work, but he must be quick of understanding in the things of God. (3.) He must not be scabbed, to signify that the priest must not be corrupt of filthy in his office. (4.) In a word, he must be every way complete, to signify to us that Jesus Christ was to be, and is, most complete and most perfect in things pertaining to God in reference to His second covenant.

      3. The priests under the law were not to be hard-hearted, but pitiful and compassionate, willing and ready, with abundance of bowels, to offer for the people, and to make an atonement for them (Heb 5:1,2). To signify, that Jesus Christ should be a tender-hearted High Priest, able and willing to sympathize and be affected with the infirmities of others, to pray for them, to offer up for them His precious blood; He must be such an One who can have compassion on a company of poor ignorant souls, and on them that are out of the way, to recover them, and to set them in safety (Heb 4:15). And that He might thus do, He must be a man that had experience of the disadvantages that infirmity and sin did bring unto those poor creatures (Heb 2:17).

      4. The high priests under the law were not to be shy or squeamish in case there were any that had the plague or leprosy, scab or blotches; but must look on them, go to them, and offer for them (Lev 13), all which is to signify, that Jesus Christ should not refuse to take notice of the several infirmities of the poorest people, but to teach them, and to see that none of them be lost by reason of their infirmity, for want of looking to or tending of. [10]

      This privilege also have we under this second covenant. This is the way to make grace shine.

      5. The high priests under the law they were to be anointed with very excellent oil, compounded by art (Exo 29:7; 30:30). To signify, that Jesus, the Great High Priest of this new covenant, would be in a most eminent way anointed to His priestly office by the Holy Spirit of the Lord.

      6. The priest's food and livelihood in the time of his ministry was to be the consecrated and holy things (Exo 29:33). To signify, that it is the very meat and drink of Jesus Christ to do His priestly office, and to save and preserve His poor, tempted,

      and afflicted saints. O what a new-covenant High Priest have we!

      7. The priests under the law were to be washed with water (Exo 29:4). To signify, that Jesus Christ should not go about the work of His priestly office with the filth of sin upon Him, but was without sin to appear as our High Priest in the presence of His Father, to execute His priestly office there for our advantage-"For such a high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens" (Heb 7:26).

      8. The high priest under the law, before they went into the holy place, there were to be clothed-with a curious garment, a breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe, and a broidered coat, a mitre, and a girdle, and they were to be made of gold, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen; and in his garment and glorious ornaments there must be precious stones, and on those stones there must be written the names of the children of Israel (read Exodus 28), and all this was to signify what a glorious High Priest Jesus Christ should be, and how in the righteousness of God He should appear before God as our High Priest, to offer up the sacrifice that was to be offered for our salvation to God His Father. But I pass that.

      Second, Now I shall speak to His office. The office of the high priest in general was twofold. 1. To offer the sacrifice without the camp. 2. To bring it within the veil-that is, into the holiest of all, which did type out Heaven.

      1. [First part of the high priest's office]. (1.) It was the office of the priest to offer the sacrifice; and so did Jesus Christ; He did offer His own Body and Soul in sacrifice. I say, HE did OFFER it, and not another, as it is written, "No man taketh away My life, but I lay it down of Myself; I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again" (John 10:17,18). And again it is said, "When He," Jesus, "had offered up one sacrifice for sin, for ever sat down on the right hand of God" (Heb 10:12). (2.) The priests under the law must offer up the sacrifice that God had appointed, and none else, a complete one without any blemish; and so did our High Priest, where He saith, "Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body has Thou prepared Me," and that I will offer (Heb 10:5). (3.) The priest was to take of the ashes of the sacrifice, and lay them in a clean place; and this signifies, that the Body of Jesus, after it had been offered, should be laid into Joseph's sepulchre, as in a clean place, where never any man before was laid (Lev 6:11, compared with John 19:41,42).

      2. [Second part of the high priest's office]. This being one part of his office, and when this was done, then in the next place he was, (1.) To put on the glorious garment, when he was to go into the holiest, and take of the blood, and carry it thither, etc., he was to put on the holy garment which signifieth the righteousness of Jesus Christ. (2.) He was in this holy garment, which hath in it the stones, and in the stones the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel, to appear in the holy place. "And thou shalt take two onyx stones, and grave on them the names of the children of Israel: six of their names on one stone, and the other six names of the rest on the other stone, according to their birth (Exo 28:9,10). And this was to signify, that Jesus Christ was to enter into the holiest, then He was there to bear the names of His elect in the tables of His heart before the Throne of God and the Mercy-seat (Heb 12:23). (3.) With this he was to take of the blood of the sacrifices, and carry it into the holiest of all, which was a type of Heaven, and there was he to sprinkle the mercy-seat; and this was to be done by the high priest only; to signify, that none but Jesus Christ must have this office and privilege, to be the people's High Priest to offer for them.

      "But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people" (Heb 9:7). (4.) He was there to make an atonement for the people with the blood, sprinkling of it upon the mercy-seat; but this must be done with much incense. "And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin- offering which is for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin-offering which is for himself: and he shall take a censor full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the veil: and he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that he cloud of the incense may cover the mercy-seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not: and he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy-seat eastward, and before the mercy-seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times. Then shall he kill the goat of the sin-offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the veil, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy-seat and before the mercy-seat." (Lev 16:11- 15). Now this was for the priest and the people; all which doth signify that Jesus Christ was after His death to go into Heaven itself, of which this holy place was a figure, and there to carry the sacrifice that He offered upon the Cross into the presence of God, to obtain mercy for the people in a way of justice (Heb 9). And in that he is said to take his hands full of sweet incense, it signifies that Jesus Christ was to offer up His sacrifice in the presence of His Father in a way of intercession and prayers.

      I might have branched these things out into several particulars, but I would be brief. I say, therefore, the office of the priest was to carry the blood into the holy place, and there to present it before the mercy-seat, with his heart full of intercessions for the people for whom he was a priest (Luke 1:8-11). This is Jesus Christ's work now in the Kingdom of Glory, to plead His own blood, the nature and virtue of it, with a perpetual intercession to the God of Mercy on behalf of us poor miserable sinners (Heb 7:25).

      [Comfortable considerations from Christ's intercession]. Now, in the intercession of this Jesus, which is part of His priestly office, there are these things to be considered for our comfort-

      1. There is a pleading of the virtue of His Blood for them that are already come in, that they may be kept from the evils of heresies, delusions, temptations, pleasures, profits, or anything of this world which may be too hard for them. "Father, I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world," saith Christ, "but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil" (John 17:15).

      2. In case the devil should aspire up into the presence of God, to accuse any of the poor saints, and to plead their backslidings against them, as he will do if he can, then there is Jesus, our Lord Jesus, ready in the Court of Heaven, at the right hand of God, to plead the virtue of His Blood, not only for the great and general satisfaction that He did give when He was on the Cross, but also the virtue that is in it now for the cleansing and fresh purging of His poor saints under their several temptations and infirmities; as saith the Apostle, "For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life"-that is, by His intercession (Rom 5:10).

      3. The maintaining of grace, also, is by Jesus Christ's intercession, being the second part of His priestly office. O, had we not a Jesus at the right hand of God making intercession for us, and to convey fresh supplies of grace unto us through the virtue of His Blood being pleaded at God's right hand, how soon would it be with us as it is with those for whom He prays not at all (John 17:9)? But the reason why thou standest while others fall, the reason why thou goest through the many temptations of the world, and shakest them off from thee, while others are ensnared and entangled therein, it is because thou hast an interceding Jesus. "I have prayed," saith He, "that thy faith fail not" (Luke 22:32).

      4. It is partly by the virtue of Christ's intercession that the elect are brought in. There are many that are to come to Christ which are not yet brought in to Christ: and it is one part of His work to pray for their salvation too-"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe," though as yet they do not believe "on Me," but that they may believe "through their word" (John 17:20). And let me tell thee, soul, for thy comfort, who art a-coming to Christ, panting and sighing, as if thy heart would break, I tell thee, soul, thou wouldst never have come to Christ, if He had not first, by the virtue of His blood and intercession, sent into thy heart an earnest desire after Christ; and let me tell thee also, that it is His business to make intercession for thee, not only that thou mightest come in, but that thou mightest be preserved when thou art come in (Compare Heb 7:25; Rom 8:33-39).

      5. It is by the intercession of Christ that the infirmities of the saints in their holy duties are forgiven. Alas, if it were not for the priestly office of Christ Jesus, the prayers, alms, and other duties of the saints might be rejected, because of the sin that is in them; but Jesus being our High Priest, He is ready to take away the iniquities of our holy things, perfuming our prayers with the glory of His own perfections; and therefore it is that there is an answer given to the saints' prayers, and also acceptance of their holy duties (Rev 8:3,4). "But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause He is the mediator of the New Testament," or covenant, "that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called," notwithstanding all their sins, "might receive the promise of eternal inheritance" (Heb 9:11-15).

      Third. The third thing now to be spoken to is, to show where and how Jesus Christ outwent and goes beyond these priests, in all their qualifications and offices, for the comfort of poor saints.

      1. They that were called to the priesthood under the law were but men; but He is both God and man (Heb 7:3,28).

      2. Their qualifications were in them in a very scanty way; but Jesus was every way qualified in an infinite and full way.

      3. They were consecrated but for a time, but He for evermore (Heb 7:23,24).

      4. They were made without an oath, but He with an oath (Verses 20,21).

      5. They as servants; but He as a Son (Hebrews 3:6).

      6. Their garments were but such as could be made with hands, but His the very righteousness of God (Exo 28; Rom 3:22; Phil 3:8,9).

      7. Their offerings were but the body and blood of beasts, and such like, but His offering was His own body and soul (Heb 9:12,13; 10:4,5; Isa 53:10).

      8. Those were at best but a shadow or type, but He the very substance and end of all those ceremonies (Heb 9:1,10,11).

      9. Their holy place was but made by men, but His, or that which Jesus is entered, is into Heaven itself (Heb 9:2,3,24).

      10. When they went to offer their sacrifice, they were forced to offer for themselves, as men compassed about with infirmity, but He holy, harmless, who did never commit the least transgression (Heb 7:26; 10:11).

      11. They when they went to offer they were fain to do it standing, to signify that God had no satisfaction therein; but He, when "He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God," to signify that God was very well pleased with His offering (Heb 10:12).

      12. They were fain to offer "oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins"; but He, "by one offering hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Heb 10:11,14).

      13. Their sacrifices at the best could but serve for the cleansing of the flesh, but His for cleansing both body and soul-the blood of Jesus Christ doth purge the conscience from dead works, to live a holy life (Heb 9:13,14).

      14. Those high priests could not offer but once a year in the holiest of all, but our High Priest He ever liveth to make intercession for us (Heb 9:7; 12:24,25).

      15. Those high priests, notwithstanding they were priests, they were not always to wear their holy garments; but Jesus never puts them off of Him, but is in them always.

      16. Those high priests, death would be too hard for them, but our High Priest hath vanquished and overcome that cruel enemy of ours, and brought life and immortality to light through the glorious Gospel (Heb 7:21,23; 2:15; 2 Tim 1:10).

      17. Those high priests were not able to save themselves; but this is able to save Himself, and all that come to God, by Him (Heb 7:25).

      18. Those high priests" blood could not do away sin; but the blood of Jesus Christ, who is our High Priest, "cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).

      19. Those high priests sometimes by sin caused God to reject their sacrifices; but this High Priest doth always the things that please Him.

      20. Those high priests could never convey the Spirit by virtue of their sacrifices or office; but this High Priest, our Lord Jesus, He can and doth give all the gifts and graces that are given to the sons of men.

      21. Those high priests could never by their sacrifices bring the soul of any sinner to glory by virtue of itself; but Jesus hath by one offering, as I said before, perfected for ever those that He did die for. Thus in brief I have showed in some particulars how and wherein Jesus our High Priest doth go beyond those high priests; and many more without question might be mentioned, but I forbear.

      Christ the forerunner of the saints.

      FIFTH. A fifth office of Christ in reference to the second covenant was, that He should be the forerunner to Heaven before His saints that were to follow after. First, He strikes hands in the covenant, [and then] He stands bound as a Surety to see everything in the covenant accomplished that was to be done on His part; [next] He brings the message from Heaven to the world; and before He goeth back, He offereth Himself for the same sins that He agreed to suffer for; and so soon as this was done, He goeth post-haste to Heaven again, not only to exercise the second part of His priestly office, but as our forerunner, to take possession for us, even into Heaven itself, as you may see, where it is said, "Whither the Forerunner is for us entered" (Heb 6:20).

      First. He is run before to open Heaven's gates-Be ye open, ye everlasting doors, that the King of Glory may enter in.

      Second. He is run before us to take possession of glory in our natures for us.

      Third. He is run before to prepare us our places against we come after-"I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:1-3).

      Fourth. He is run thither to make the way easy, in that He hath first trodden the path Himself.

      Fifth. He is run thither to receive gifts for us. All spiritual and heavenly gifts had been kept from us had not Christ, so soon as the time appointed was come, run back to the Kingdom of Glory to receive them for us. But I cannot stand to enlarge upon these glorious things, the Lord enlarge them upon your hearts by meditation. [These things have I spoken to show you that saints are under grace.]


      [10] The duty of the priests, under the law, led them to be familiar with the most loathsome and catching diseases; and doubtless they took every precaution to avoid contagion. Poor sin-sick soul, do you consider your state more loathsome and dangerous than the leprosy? Fly to Christ, our High Priest and Physician; He will visit you in the lowest abyss of misery, without fear of contagion, and with full powers to heal and save.-ED.

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See Also:
   The Epistle To The Reader
   Chapter 1 - The Words Opened
   Chapter 2 - What the Covenant of Works Is
   Chapter 3 - Under the Covenant of Works
   Chapter 4 - Who is Under the Covenant of Works
   Chapter 5 - What Men May Attain To
   Chapter 6 - The Doctrine Proved
   Chapter 7 - Free and Unchangeable
   Chapter 8 - The Conditions of the New Covenant
   Chapter 9 - Christ is the Surety of the New Covenant
   Chapter 10 - Christ the Messenger of the New Covenant
   Chapter 11 - Christ the Sacrifice of the New Covenant
   Chapter 12 - Christ the High Priest of the New Covenant
   Chapter 13 - Conditions Fulfilled
   Chapter 14 - Covenant of Grace Unchangeable
   Chapter 15 - Brought into the New Covenant
   Chapter 16 - A Word of Experience
   Chapter 17 - The Privileges of the New Covenant
   Chapter 18 - Two Hell-Bred Objections Answered
   Chapter 19 - Use and Application
   Chapter 20 - A Legal Spirit
   Chapter 21 - The Use of the New Covenant
   Chapter 22 - The Unpardonable Sin
   Chapter 23 - Objections Answered


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