Hebrews 6:1-8, “Falling Away”

[1]Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, [2]of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.  [3]And this we will do, if God permits.
[4]For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, [6]if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. (NKJV)

Chapter 6 builds upon 5:12-14.  It doesn’t occur in a vacuum, irrespective of what has gone before, or what will come after.  As we’ve seen, the writer has turned aside for a moment to remind his readers, including us, that “the faith” isn’t merely an exercise in certain historic facts and doctrinal truths, but rather that these facts and truths are intended to have a radical and permanent effect in the hearts and lives of sinful men and women.  They’re intended to bring such folks from cursing to blessing – from slavery to sonship – from being foreigners to being “family”.

The writer has contrasted where they are with where they ought to be; that when they should be “teachers,” that is, reaching out and helping others to understand spiritual truth, they themselves are in need of “teaching.”  They are still “on the bottle,” as it were, still in spiritual infancy.

6:1, “therefore” continues his exhortation and admonition.

An Exhortation, 6:1-3.

These believers were to “go on,” to advance, to progress, not “start over.”  True, they weren’t where they were supposed to be, but the answer was not to go back to the beginning, not to “get saved” all over again, not to “rededicate” themselves, but to “go on” from where they were.
In vs. 1a-2, it’s necessary to remember the context of the book – a contrast between the Old and the New:  to show the inability of the Old compared with the efficacy of the New.  Cf. 8:7, 8.
1.  “dead works” – not “sins” – the OT sacrificial and ceremonial system, 4:10.
2.  “faith toward God,” that the Mosaic system is no longer operative, but that God has “provided for Himself a lamb,” (Genesis 22:8).
3.  “baptisms” – washings, Leviticus 15:13 with other OT references either to bathing or washing and being clean.
4.  “laying on of hands” – Leviticus 1:4: identification with OT sacrifices.  The OT Jew, in bringing a sacrifice to the altar, would lay his hand on the head of the animal.  This signified that he himself deserved to die because of his sin, but was able to live because of the death of an innocent substitute.  Thus was pictured salvation by substitution and sacrifice, which was ultimately, finally and completely fulfilled in the substitutionary death of the Lord Jesus.  In this Christmas season, we might remember that the cradle wasn’t the reason the Lord Jesus came into this world.  He came to die, in order that we through Him might live.

An Explanation, 6:4-6.

Much discussion of these verses centers on whether or not the writer is thinking of “true” Christians.  Without getting into all the various arguments pro and con, it seems to me that verse 6 establishes beyond doubt that the writer is thinking of “true” Christians.  He describes them as having been “renewed unto repentance.”  This is not a description of one who is still “dead in trespasses and sins.”  He also describes them as having been “partakers of the Holy Spirit.”
But what is the writer teaching in these verse?  This is a question of paramount importance.  Some folks never get beyond the first five words of v. 6, “…if they shall fall away,…” and conclude, sometimes quite vehemently, that Christians can indeed lose their salvation, and that “eternal security” is a doctrine from the pit.  I had a Boston Church of Christ elder once tell me that he believed that one could be child of God and still end up in hell.

“If they shall fall away.”  This isn’t to be taken as “when” or “since.”  There is no “if” in the original language.  We might translate the verse like this:

“For [it is] impossible, those once enlightened, who tasted of the heavenly gift and became partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the good word of God and [the] works of power of [the] age to come and [who] fell away, again to renew [them] to repentance, crucifying for themselves [as they do] the Son of God, and exposing [Him] publicly.”

For these people, the “falling away” is as real as any of the other things said about them.  Is the writer thus teaching that it is possible to fall away and lose your salvation??  We don’t think so, primarily of what else is said of these people.  Those groups who believe that you can lose your salvation also believe that you can be “born again” or “saved” again.  I have heard of some who claim to have been saved several times.

However –

If verses 4-6 actually teach that you can lose your salvation, it also teaches something else:

IF YOU CAN LOSE YOUR SALVATION……

YOU CAN NEVER EVER GET IT BACK!!

I can’t put it any more plainly than the writer did; if those truly saved can lose their salvation, then, in the words of vs. 4, 6, it is impossible…to renew them again to repentance (emphasis added).

There are at least two results to the teaching that Hebrews 6:4-6 teaches the loss of salvation.
1.  a superficial view of sin and the innate sinfulness of human nature.  The logical result of this view is “sinless perfection,” for anything less than that opens us up to the danger of losing our salvation.  How much “sin” is “too much”?  After all, it was a minor sin, as we look at such things – the eating of a fruit – that caused Adam and Eve to lose their place in the Garden of Eden and brought into the world all the terrible things that have happened since then.
Even those who believe that they have been “entirely sanctified” recognize that they aren’t perfect, but this is just looked upon as “making mistakes,” hence, sin is minimized and so also in “holiness.”
2.  a superficial view of salvation.  There is no understanding of what salvation is, this being “saved,” then “lost,” then being “saved” again, only to repeat the cycle who knows how many times.
Salvation is a life-changing, nay, it is a life-giving work of the Holy Spirit.  “Being saved” isn’t just the result of some little ritual or ceremony in or of the church, with God passively standing around until we “do our part.”  It is ultimately the work of the Triune God, initiating and completing that work.  True, we must and do believe in order to be saved, but without the working of the Holy Spirit, we have neither the desire nor capability to do so.

One question remains:  why would it be impossible to be “saved” more than once?

It’s impossible to be saved more than once because such a thing would mean that we say, in effect, that the death of Christ was a failure, and that we turn our back on it.  It’s impossible to be saved more than once because God will not permit such an insult to His Son, as the following verses teach.

We have such a superficial view of God in our time.  We pretty much seem to have an idea to the effect that God has to wait on the sidelines of His own creation until we decide to send Him into the game.

There’s a meme I see on facebook every so often that boldly proclaims, “If it’s not in the word of God, it’s not the will of God.”  It gets a lot of “likes”.  Leaving aside the fact that almost nothing in our modern society is mentioned in the Bible: computers, the internet, cars, fancy church buildings with padded pews and air conditioning, etc, this is not how Scripture views things.  It says that God works all things after the counsel of His will, Ephesians 1:11.

Scripture teaches that He superintends and oversees every part of our existence.  That’s hard for some people to accept, but Daniel told a wicked, idolatrous king that even his very breath was in the hand of God, Daniel 5:23, and that God “owned” all his ways.  Then there’s what Joseph told his brothers when the evil of what they had done to him had become known and their father was dead, and the brothers had come to Joseph to beg him not to “get” them:  “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant if for good…,” Genesis 50:20.  These verses don’t mean that God approved or accepted what they did, but simply that they didn’t catch Him off-guard or cause Him to have to go to some imagined “Plan B.”

If I can use a hackneyed phrase:  God “sees the big picture” – which He Himself is painting.  We see only an occasional brush-stroke.  Even our growth in the faith is subject to the will of God, v. 3:  this we will do, if God permit.  But this does not release us from the obligation to be diligent, v. 11, in the things of God.  The writer has much more to say about all this as he goes along.

An Example, vs. 7, 8.

Even in farming, fertile and productive land receives blessing from God, but if it bears thorns, it is rejected…, v. 7.  To “bear” the thorns of unbelief and rejection of Christ means that we, in turn, would be rejected.

There is so much to the Christian life.  This is what the writer to the Hebrews wanted his readers to realize.  I think he would want that for us, too.

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Hebrews 5:12-6:8, Get Your Exercise.

[12]For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.  [13]For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.  [14]But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.  [6:1]Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance  from dead works and of faith toward God, [2]of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.  [3]And this we will do if God permits.
[4]For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, [5]and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, [6]if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

The verses from 5:11-6:20 aren’t really a development of the author’s line of thought, which deals with the superiority of the priesthood of Christ over the Aaronic priesthood.  They are a result of the difficulty the author felt in trying to communicate with his readers, who were perhaps developing incorrect views of Christ and who were thus in danger in going back to the familiar and beloved OT ritual.  Perhaps persecution was also beginning to arise.  So he turns from his line of thought about priesthood and writes about what they needed to do to correct some difficulties in their beliefs and behavior – and to continue his warning to them.

The title from the post comes from v. 14, where the writer mentions “exercise.”   He wasn’t referring to physical exercise, but to that exercise of the mind and heart which distinguishes both good and evil (emphasis added).  Not everything that looks good in this world is good; evil usually comes attractively packaged.

His readers should have advanced to the point where they could explain to others the basics of the Christian faith.  They had not, but themselves needed to be reminded of these truths.  However, they weren’t supposed to stay there, but were to advance to maturity and understanding.

But the writer doesn’t merely “point the finger” at his readers.  He says in 6:1, let us go on.  He included himself.  None of us is to the point where we ought to be.  None of us has arrived at that conformity with Christ which is the ultimate goal of our salvation, and which won’t be fully realized till we get to heaven.

Unitl that happens, there are things for us to do.  As Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:6, stir up the gift which is in you….  While that was written specifically to Timothy, the application may be made to us as well.  The word translated “stir up” means “to rekindle.”  Even as the fire on the altar of the Tabernacle needed daily tending, so also our own lives need fresh and daily infusions of grace.  We do this through reading and study of the Word, through prayer and through fellowship with other believers.  Two or three times a year, or a haphazard approach to this won’t work.  In this regard, truly no one lives to himself.

The goal of the Christian life is “perfection,” that is, maturity, not “sinlessness.”  Indeed, the more one measures himself by the Word, the less he thinks of himself.  I’ve known people who will categorically say, “I do not sin,” but such a person neither knows himself nor the God of the Bible.  Those in the Scripture who had the highest praise from God had the lowest regard for themselves.  Cf. Job 40:4 and Romans 7:15-24.

People tend to condemn Job for some of the things he said.  And maybe he said some things he wouldn’t have said if he hadn’t suffered the things that he did.  However, in rebuking Job’s three friends, God said, “…you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has,” Job 42:7.  What Job said didn’t bother God; it shouldn’t bother us.  In fact, some of the greatest testimonies of faith in Scripture were uttered by Job.  For example, “…after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God,” Job 19:26, after which he said, “How my heart yearns within me!” v. 27.  And Job 13:15, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (!)

As for Paul’s lament in Romans 7, some folks say that that was written about his life before the Damascus Road.  However, before that fateful day, (though there was no “fate” about it), Paul was more than content with his spiritual condition.  He tells of his pre-conversion life in Philippians 3:4-6, in which, among other things, he says, concerning the righteousness which is in the law, [I was] blameless.  See also Galatians 1:13, 14.  It was only after he met Christ, or rather, that Christ met him, that he said of all those things, [I] count them as rubbish.  The KJV translates it, count them but dung.  The Greek word means “excrement,” or “that which is thrown to the dogs.”  “Dogs” weren’t the friendly, lovable pets we have, but were detested wild scavengers.

In 6:1, the writer speaks of leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ.  This does not mean, “abandoning” them.  There are apparently some folks in our day who believe that a sign of “maturity” or “growth” is to do that very thing.  That holding the tenets of Scripture is a bad thing.  That it is a good thing to “dialogue” with other religions and try to “understand” them.  I freely admit that in the US, we have “freedom of religion,” though many seem to think that means “freedom from religion.”  However, people seem to overlook that part of the 1st Amendment which says, “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  I have no right in this country to force anyone to believe as I do, but then neither have they the right to force me to believe as they do.  This has largely been lost sight of in our current society.

We are to hold on to the basic truths of Christianity, not leave them altogether.  After all, those “basics” are the foundation of everything else.  If they’re destroyed, nothing is left.

Hebrews 4:15-5:10, Our Great High Priest, part 2.

In our previous post, we saw that the writer had briefly mentioned the priesthood of Christ in an earlier passage.  In the next several chapters of Hebrews, he will expand on that teaching.  We saw last time the general responsibility of the High Priest, which was, once a year on the Day of Atonement, to enter the Holy of Holies in order to sprinkle blood on the mercy seat.  This would atone for the sins of the nation for that year, though each individual Israelite was also responsible to bring gifts and offerings to God for his own sins.

Having laid that groundwork, the writer now moves in the fifth chapter to the priesthood of Christ.

1.  The origin of the priesthood of Christ, vs. 1-3.
There are some who deny even the existence of the Lord Jesus, and say that He’s a complete figment of the imagination.  It just seems to me, for someone who doesn’t exist, that He’s had a tremendous effect of history and society.  There are others who say that He just decided to become the Messiah on His own.  A noted Muslim scholar, who spoke some time ago at a local Catholic university, teaches that Jesus was just one of a number of self-proclaimed, self-deluded Jews who claimed to be the Messiah and who wound up being executed by the Romans.  It’s true that there were a number of false Messiahs around that time, but the writer to the Hebrews says that Jesus wasn’t one of them:  He did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, v. 5.  See also v. 4.  Even the OT priesthood wasn’t self-originated, but God singled out a single family to fulfill that office.  There were even those who were disqualified from being priests because they couldn’t prove their genealogy from Aaron, from that family, cf. Ezra 2:62; Nehemiah 7:64, an event so important that it’s mentioned twice in the OT.

In v. 5 and 6, the writer quotes two OT Scriptures:  Psalm 2:7 and Psalm 110:4 to show that even the OT prophesied such a Person.  Verse 6 introduces Melchizedek, about whom the writer has a great deal to say in 6:20-7:28.

We don’t know for certain when Jesus became aware of His destiny, humanly speaking, but we do know that by the age of twelve, He was aware of it, Luke 2:41-50.  Later on, in His ministry, He said, “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me,” John 6:38.  Even His message wasn’t “His”:  “…I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things,” Jphn 8:28. (NKJV)  There are a number of other Scriptures, especially in John, which teach the same thing.  Jesus was sent by the Father.

2. The outcome of Christ’s priesthood, vs. 4-6.
a.  for Himself, vs. 7, 8.
Cf. 2:10, 17; 4:15.  Also see Isaiah 53:3, 4:  He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.  We can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like for the Lord to assume humanity.  He never complained about it, but there are indications that He felt it greatly.  In Luke 12:50, He said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with [His suffering on the Cross], and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!”  He didn’t come to be praised and petted.  His birth was largely ignored in the events of the day – much like it is today – even at Christmas!  His life was spent in a troublesome province in the Roman Empire, and His death was just another of many deaths in that time.  He was despised and rejected, Isaiah 53:3.  He still is – even by many who claim to believe in Him.
There are a couple of other things.  Some who knock on your door will tell you that Jesus was only a creature of God.  He wasn’t God. They misuse several Scriptures to try to prove that.  Hebrews 5:8 disproves their claim:  He learned obedience by the things He suffered.  If He were just a creature in Heaven, wouldn’t He have “learned obedience” there, instead of having to learn it here?
Further, v. 7 says, in the days of His flesh,…He…offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear.
This is another of those things far beyond our understanding and experience.  When was the last time you – or I – prayed with “vehement cries and tears”?  I’m afraid that too often prayer is just part of some “liturgy” or a certain number of forms prescribed by a religious official.  It isn’t real prayer at all.
I suppose part of the reason for that is the prevailing view that “God has done all He can do and now it’s up to” us.  After all, if He’s already done all He can do, what’s the point is asking Him to do any more?
I think another reason the Lord prayed so fervently was that He missed His Father.  After all, He had spent eternity in perfect fellowship with Him.  Now that was hindered by the Lord’s humanity.  I don’t understand the Incarnation at all, but it must have been difficult for our Lord – to get tired, hungry, to have to walk from here to there, to be around people, even His own family, who didn’t understand Him or His message.  He no doubt had an awareness of the Father we know nothing about, but still, it wasn’t the same – and He missed it.
b.  for His people, vs. 9, 10, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.
There’s quite the discussion about the place of “work” in our salvation.  On the one hand, there are those who insist that we must have works in addition to our faith in order to be saved.  We have to keep the Mosaic Law, or the edicts of some “church.”  “Faith” seems almost optional in this view.  We must have “works.”
On the other hand, there are those who insist that we’re “saved by faith alone.”  Works has nothing to do with it.  As long as you’ve made a profession of faith, that’s all that’s required.
The truth lies between these two extremes.  Paul puts it quite clearly in Galatians 5:6:  …in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.  We might translate that last part: “faith energized by love”.
Make no mistake on this!  Paul isn’t saying that we’re saved by faith and works.  Neither are we.  There is nothing to be added to faith:  baptism, agreement with some statement of faith or catechism, as good as some of these may be, church membership, doing good works, etc. etc.
The issue lies around the character of faith:  what is “saving faith.”  There are those who deny that there are different “kinds” of faith, and say that all faith is the same.  I believe this is incorrect.  There is what may be called “a historical faith,” that is, it’s simply about the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord.  There is a “doctrinal” faith, which simply agrees with a particular statement of doctrine.  There is a “natural” faith, which I heard about a lot when I was in Fundamentalism.  This is the faith that expects the car to start when you turn the key or push the button, or for a chair to hold you up when you sit on it.  There is even a “devilish” faith, James 2:19.  Are demons saved?  Though they might have their place, except for the last one, none of these “faiths” saves us.
Saving faith doesn’t come from us.  It isn’t just the “exercise of our wills.”  It come from God’s grace, Ephesians 2:8: Acts 18:27.  Saving faith “obeys” God.  This is the whole essence of James, and it’s the essence of Hebrews 5:9.

3. Obstacles to the priesthood, vs. 11-14.
These verse start the introduction to 6:4-6, about which we’ll have more to say.  According to the writer, there were two obstacles standing in the way of his readers understanding what he was saying.
a.  their dullness, v. 11.
Even the OT lamented this.  In Matthew 13:15, our Lord quoted Isaiah 6:9, “For the hearts of this people have become dull.”  In our day, we might call it “Gospel-hardened,” that is, we’ve become so familiar with what we believe the Bible says that we don’t really think about it.  As it were, we’ve gotten used to it.  The readers of Hebrews had “gotten used” to Moses, and had a hard time learning something different.
b.  their “immaturity,” v. 12-14.
They had been believers long enough that they should have been able to teach others, but they themselves hadn’t even mastered the basic principles of the faith.  They still needed the “milk of the Word,” and couldn’t digest what Peter wrote of some of Paul’s writings:  things hard to understand, 2 Peter 3:16.  Sadly, many of their descendants are with us today.

Hebrews 4:15-5:10, Our Great High Priest, part 1.

[15]For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.  [16]Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  [5:1]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.  [2]He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness.  [3]Because of this he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sin.  [4]And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called, just as Aaron was.  [5]So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him, “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.”  [6]As He also says in another place:  “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” [7]who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, [8]though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.  [9]And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, [10]called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,” [11]of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.  (NKJV)

The writer had briefly mentioned the High Priestly office of our Lord in 2:17, where he wrote that the Lord Jesus had to be born into this world in order to fulfill that office.  Perhaps that ought to serve as a reminder this “holiday season,” in which even the name “Christmas” is becoming offensive to some, and forbidden, that Christmas isn’t about gifts and decorations and parties.  A line in a movie we recently watched said that “Christmas is the celebration of all that’s good in this world.”  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Christmas is a reminder that there is nothing good, spiritually speaking, in this world and God Himself had to intervene in order to do something about it.

And He did it in a way that seems counter-productive to human wisdom.

There’s a lot of preaching to the effect that God has done all He can do, and now it’s up to us.  That we have to do our part before He can do His part.  Christmas puts the lie to all that.  While it is indeed true that Mary had to carry the developing baby Jesus in her womb and give birth to Him, and that Joseph had to take care of her and her Child, if God had not moved first, there would have been no life, no development, no birth and nothing for them to do.  Any child they could have had “doing their part” could never have been a savior.  Indeed, such children would need and did need to be saved themselves, cf. John 7:5.  And they did have several children after the birth of Jesus, cf. Matthew 1:25, which indicates that they did enjoy a normal marital relationship afterwards, and Matthew 13:55, 56, which lists His brothers by name and indicates that there were at least three sisters.  Likewise, we are responsible to repent, to believe, to live godly lives according to the Word of God, but without the life-giving work of the Holy Spirit, we do not, can not, and will not, do any of those things.  That’s the clear teaching of our Lord in John 3:  that without the work of the Spirit we can neither perceive spiritual truth nor participate in spiritual life.

The writer’s purpose in writing the book was to encourage his readers to persevere in the faith and to be wary of leaving it, even a little bit – even to “drift”.  But the sad truth is that we do “drift.”  That’s why God doesn’t leave us on our own.  We have One who can intervene for us, One who can help us in our daily walk with God.  We have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, 4:14.

In ch. 5, the writer tells us a little more about the High Priest.
1.  Office of the High Priest in general, v, 1-3.
a. Godward, v. 1:  to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.
The Jew to whom Hebrews was written had long experience with the Mosaic system.  There was no way he could come directly into the presence of God, but had to go through a mediator, through the priests and sacrifices.  He had learned, or at least should have learned, that, apart from those sacrifices he was forever shut out from the presence of God because of sin.
I remember talking with a lady who was upset with all the references to “blood” in Christianity.  There are many like her.  But God didn’t institute the sacrificial system because He was just interested in blood.  No, no.  The sacrifices were meant to show that forgiveness of sin could only come through the sacrifice of an innocent substitute.  Every time an Israelite brought a sacrifice to the Tabernacle, he put his hand on the head of the animal.  This was a confession that he deserved to die, but that he could live only because a substitute had died in his place.
b. Manward, v. 2:  to have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray.  The priesthood was no place for pride, for “looking down” on those whom the priests were supposed to serve.  They needed sacrifices just like the “ordinary” Israelite, as the writer points out in the next verse.  But even they were restricted in their “access” to God, that is, in being able to go into the holy of holies, where God resided symbolically in the Ark of the Covenant and the mercy seat.  Only one man had that privilege, and that only one time a year – and not without sacrifice.  It was a death penalty sin for anyone else ever to enter that place, or even for the High Priest, if he entered it on any other day.  In fact, it’s said that they would tie a rope around the High Priest when he went in on the Day of Atonement, in case something happened and he died while in there.  Nobody else could enter, so the rope was there in order for them to be able to pull him out.  I don’t know that this ever happened, but it shows the solemnity with which they viewed all this.
I know we don’t live under those rules, but I do wish that some of that solemnity would enter into our own “worship” of God.  It would take care of some of the current froth and frivolity in it.
c. Inward, v. 3:  he himself is subject to weakness.
This last is key to understanding the contrast later drawn by the author between Christ and Aaron.  There were to be no “personalities” in the priesthood.  Even though the priests had a high calling, a special calling, in and of themselves they were no different from the “laity,” a distinction, by the way – “clergy” and “laity” – unknown in Scripture.

In our next post, Lord willing, we’ll look at what the writer says about the priesthood of the Lord Jesus.