Our Great High Priest -- By: J. B. Rowell

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 118:470 (Apr 1961)
Article: Our Great High Priest
Author: J. B. Rowell

Our Great High Priest

J. B. Rowell

[J. B. Rowell is Pastor of the Central Baptist Church, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.]

“They truly were many priests”—”We have a great high priest” (Heb 7:23; 4:16 ).

The New Testament recognizes no distinctive priesthood, save that of our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ our Lord. The apostles were never called priests, as distinguishing them from other believers. Holy Scripture affirms, “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?” (1 Cor 3:5; cf. 1 Cor 4:6).

Angels, gods, sacrificing priests. Under the caption, “No Dignity on Earth Excels the Order of the Priesthood,” the Catechism of the Council of Trent asserts: “For as bishops and priests…are the representatives on earth of God himself, it is clear that their function is such, that none greater can be conceived; wherefore they are justly called not only ‘angels’ (Mal. ii.7), but also ‘gods’ (Ps. lxxxi.6), holding as they do amongst us the power and authority of the immortal God.”1

Dealing with sacrifice and priesthood of the new law, the same Catechism speaks of our Lord committing this priesthood to His apostles, and adds, “he then ordained them priests, and commanded that they and their successors in the priestly office should immolate and offer his body.”2

Notable absence from the New Testament. Since the Roman church speaks so dogmatically about this appointment of the apostles as priests, one could expect to find some of the apostles making such a claim for themselves. Instead, we find Peter speaks of himself as “a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ,” while Paul is referred to as “our beloved brother Paul” (2 Pet 1:1; 3:15). James speaks of himself as “a servant of God, and of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:1 ); and John as “your brother, and companion in tribulation” (Rev 1:9). The fact is, no one was ever called a priest, or claimed to be a priest, in Rome’s sacrificial sense.

Rome’s favorite apostle,...

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