What does Hebrews 5 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
Hebrews chapter 5 opens as part of one continuous train of thought, from the end of chapter 4. At the end of chapter 4, the writer explained that Christ's status as fully human made Him uniquely qualified. Jesus can understand our weaknesses and temptations, since He has experienced them just as we have. Here at the beginning of chapter 5, we see that a human high priest must be able to empathize with the people, and to offer a sacrifice for their sins. Only because Jesus was fully human was He able to fulfill this role.

The early part of chapter 5 once again refers to Psalm 2 and Psalm 110. The point made here is that Christ was called to His position of High Priest by God. The Old Testament verses are explained as a prophecy about the Messiah being both priest and king, something that was not the case in the days of Moses, or David, or Solomon. The figure used to illustrate this is the mysterious Melchizedek, from Genesis chapter 14. According to the writer of Hebrews, Melchizedek's unique combination of priesthood and kingship was a symbol of the eventual role Christ would play as both our High Priest and the One who made David's kingly line eternal.

Later verses in chapter 5 transition to another dire warning. Earlier, the writer of Hebrews chided the readers to pay more attention to their faith. Those who are careless run a risk of drifting into error, and error always comes with consequences. In this case, there is much more to be said about how Christ is part of a superior High Priesthood, but the original readers need to be warned, first, not to be careless and apathetic about the Word. This warning will continue through all of chapter 6.

Here, the specific criticism is of spiritual immaturity. This letter is written specifically to Jewish Christians of the early church. Apparently, there was a lack of development in their Christian lives. Knowledge and wisdom are not magically imparted at the moment of salvation. Some aspects of our spiritual lives take time and effort to develop. Those who fail to develop are like children who are still dependent on milk, when they should be eating solid food.

The end of chapter 5 and the early verses of chapter 6 form an interesting approach by the writer of Hebrews. On one hand, he points out that these Christians are immature and need to learn more about the subject. In this case, it is the idea of Jesus as a High Priest, using the example of Melchizedek. On the other hand, the writer sees these Christians as too spiritually immature for deeper details. So, what does the author of Hebrews do? He warns them about their lack of depth, but chooses not to start "from scratch." Instead, he will continue on with his examination of Christ's High Priesthood.

As the next chapter will say, directly, this letter is not meant to re-explain the basic doctrines of the faith. Rather, the author will press on to show how Jesus, as our High Priest, is superior to any other figure seen in Scripture.
Verse Context:
Hebrews 5:1–10 explains how Jesus fits the requirements of a high priest. Earlier verses showed that the Messiah promised by the Old Testament would be entirely human (Hebrews 2:17). That humanity allows Christ to sympathize with our temptations and weaknesses. Here, the writer of Hebrews points out that this also makes Jesus qualified to be our ultimate High Priest. Because of His humanity, His prayers, His sacrifice for sin, and His appointment by God, Jesus' status is far superior to any other figure.
Hebrews 5:11–14 is the beginning of yet another warning from the writer. Prior verses have begun to introduce the idea of Christ's High Priesthood. This is being tied to the Old Testament figure of Melchizedek. Here, the original audience is chastised for being spiritually immature. Like children who never learn to eat solid food, they are criticized for being dependent only on milk, from a spiritual standpoint. That will make much of the information the writer wants to relate hard to understand. This discourse on immaturity will continue through chapter 6.
Chapter Summary:
Hebrews chapter 5 completes the previous commentary about Jesus' humanity. His human existence qualifies Him to understand other men and to offer sacrifice to God on our behalf. Jesus also fulfills the roles of both high priest and king, which the author demonstrates by returning to the Old Testament. The figure of Melchizedek is used to illustrate this point: that Christ, unlike any before, was able to be both the kingly Son of David and the High Priest for all people. The deeper meaning of this example, however, may well be lost on the letter's audience, since they are languishing in spiritual immaturity.
Chapter Context:
The book of Hebrews shows how Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of God's purpose for mankind. For the sake of Jewish Christians, in particular, the author explains that Christ is superior to all other figures, and His covenant is superior to all other relationships. Chapter 5 continues the point made in chapter 4, that Christ's humanity makes Him a uniquely qualified High Priest. This passage bridges that idea into the writer's next warning: spiritual immaturity. This call to avoid apathy will run through all of chapter 6, before the writer returns to Jesus' priesthood in chapter 7.
Book Summary:
The book of Hebrews is meant to challenge, encourage, and empower Christian believers. According to this letter, Jesus Christ is superior to all other prophets and all other claims to truth. Since God has given us Christ, we ought to listen to what He says and not move backwards. The consequences of ignoring God are dire. Hebrews is important for drawing on many portions of the Old Testament in making a case that Christ is the ultimate and perfect expression of God's plan for mankind. This book presents some tough ideas about the Christian faith, a fact the author makes specific note of.
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