What does Hebrews 5:1 mean?
ESV: For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.
NIV: Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.
NASB: For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of people in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins;
CSB: For every high priest taken from among men is appointed in matters pertaining to God for the people, to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.
NLT: Every high priest is a man chosen to represent other people in their dealings with God. He presents their gifts to God and offers sacrifices for their sins.
KJV: For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:
NKJV: For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.
Verse Commentary:
Chapter 4 closed with a description of Jesus' connection to mankind. His full humanity allows Him to understand what human temptation is like. So, as this verse continues to explain, He is able to act as a proper high priest. This role requires the priest to communicate between God and men. This includes making offerings for sin.

Earlier portions of Hebrews explained that Messiah had to be human, not merely some angelic being (Hebrews 2:17). One reason for this is the issue explored between the end of chapter 4 and the beginning of chapter 5. In order for Messiah to truly represent humanity, as a priest, He had to be human. Without humanity, He would not be able to sympathize with human weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15), would not be able to act as a mediator between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5), and would not be someone we could approach in confidence (Hebrews 4:16).

The idea of being "appointed" in this verse is important. A true priest is not someone who simply decides to take on the task. They have to be selected for that role by God. One cannot simply declare, "I'm a priest" and make it so. This is even more critical for a high priest, who acts on behalf of all people. Jesus' appointment to the role of our ultimate High Priest will be further explained using examples from the Old Testament, such as Aaron and Melchizedek. This verse summarizes the details seen in verses 4, 5, and 6.
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.
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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