Wednesday, May 18, 2005

It's All About Him: Hebrews -- Lesson 28

To start at the beginning of this series, click here.

A Better Priesthood

The Writer has established the priesthood of Jesus the Messiah by connecting him with Melchizedek. But the question remains, "What of the levitical priesthood?" Here is what the Writer has to say:

Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests.

When the Writer asks, "If perfection was through the Levitical priesthood...," he implies that perfection did not come and, therefore, a new priesthood was in order. But he also notes the need for a change of Law concerning a legitimate priesthood. The Levitical priesthood is based on the commands in the Torah. They are, by definition, descended from Levi. Since Jesus is descended from Judah, He cannot officiate at the altar in the temple.

And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life. For it is attested of Him, "You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek." For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. And inasmuch as it was not without an oath (for they indeed became priests without an oath, but He with an oath through the One who said to Him, "The Lord has sworn And will not change His mind, 'You are a priest forever'"); so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.

Jesus is a priest by virtue of an indestructible life and the sworn oath of the Lord God! The Law made nothing perfect. The offerings of the priests never changed the hearts of men and women. The blood of goats covered sin, but did not clear the conscience. Even more so, nothing about the older priesthood gave access personal access to God. With Jesus as our high priest, we have complete forgiveness of sin and free access to the throne of grace by which we receive the help that we need. This is the better hope.

The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever. (Hebrews 7:11-28, NASB 95)

Every Levitical priest has died or will die, but Jesus continues forever. There is no loss of continuity. They are many, He is one. They die, He lives on. They must make offerings for their own sins, He is holy, innocent, undefiled, and exalted above the heavens. They offer goats, He offered Himself. They are weak, He is perfect.

So here is the Jesus in the book of Hebrews:

  1. The radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His nature.
  2. Greater than David because He is seated at the right hand of God.
  3. Superior to the angels and prophets, because He is the Son
  4. Our kinsman by taking on our flesh and blood.
  5. Greater than Moses, because the builder of the house is greater than the house.
  6. A greater high priest, because He was appointed by the sworn oath of God, because He offered Himself as an offering, and because He lives forever.

It only remains to compare the New Covenant in Jesus' blood with the Old Covenant. That is the topic we will pick up next.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lovely series of contrasts here. As to the greatness of the Lord Jesus, we might say

He is greater than David with regard to His Sonship.
He is greater than Angels with regard to His Power.
He is greater than Moses with regard to His Authority.
He is greater than Aaron with regard to His Priesthood.

More careful consideration could probably improve the series considerably - I'm not sure how to bring the covenant into it. It is so refreshing to see you centering your comments on the Lord rather than on the contrasts.

Henry IX
carmich@bigfoot.com

10:04 PM  
Blogger Don said...

Henry,

This is a perfect progression of the Book of Hebrews so far. I wish I had put it the way you have.

The covenant is hard, because it is so much deeper than the other topics. You have His own blood, offered in a true place rather than a shadow, with better effect. He is all of it: Priest, Mediator, and Sacrifice.

Perhaps this works:

He is a greater mediator with regard to His blood.

-or-
He is a greater sacrifice with regard to His blood.

Still I am not satisfied with this.

Don

1:19 PM  

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