“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” Hebrews 5:1 ESV.
Religion is not primarily a social affair. Christianity, as God gave it to mankind, does not deal principally with one’s neighbor. It’s primary purpose is “in relation to God.”
Before the objections pour forth, let us recognize that the second most important command, to love one’s neighbor, still stands. But it is second, not first. If we don’t relate properly to God and find ourselves in a proper relationship with him, there can be no true relationship with other people.
Jesus served, by God’s design and decree, as the true and final high priest. In that role, he acts on our behalf “in relation to God,” or in matters that have to do with the Father. Just as his role took as its main task the reconciliation of man to God, so our every action must also have in view our relationship to him and the relationship of others to him, as well.
That means that our task was defined by Jesus, through his role as high priest and sacrificial lamb, as being in its essence a vertical, more than horizontal, effort. Ours is not to improve society, relieve suffering, promote social justice, nor preserve the environment, although they are objectives worthy in and of themselves. Ours is to return people to God’s side.
The means by which this task is accomplished has also been determined by God: By the proclamation of a message is man returned to God. Without the communication of a specific content about God, Christ, the Spirit, and the church, a person is doomed to live forever without the divine presence.
Jesus was called and appointed by God to his task, Hebrews 5:4-5, 10. After completing that task, “he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” verse 9. As did Jesus, our activities performed in space and time serve to prepare ourselves and others for eternity and for the eternal God.
Anything less is unworthy of our calling to God’s priesthood.