Hebrews Bible Class: A Superior Priesthood after the Order of Melchisedec
Read Hebrews 7:11-28
Do you ever wish that God would just give us a list of rules to follow? Then if you simply obeyed, you’d be righteous, right? Wrong. The children of Israel found this out quickly after entering into a covenant with God (Exodus 24). Besides, before the law there was a greater problem that the law never solved: Death. In Genesis 5, before the law was given, occurs the repeating phrase, “and he died.” The law and its priesthood had fallible priests who continually succumbed to death’s cold squeeze. If a priest could always remain in the presence of God and live and – now that would be different. We have this in the Lord Jesus Christ, a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.
In our last article we noticed that the superiority of the man Melchisedec (v1-10) is foundational to show that Christ is part of a Superior Priesthood after the order of Melchisedec (v11-28).
We will notice here:
- V11-14 – The Necessity of Change
- V15-19 – The Rise of a Superior Priest
- V20-22 – A Priest, Superior by Oath
- V23-28 – A Priest with a Non-transferable Priesthood
V11-14 – The Necessity of Change
Just as Melchisedec is greater than Abraham and Levi, so his priesthood is greater than Aaron’s. By extension, Christ’s office is greater than Aaron and His successors. The Levitical priesthood was not perfectly sufficient to bring people near to God, thus the need for something better (v11).
The writer gives two successive implications that build off the point made by v11.
1. Since the Levitical priesthood is linked with the law, the law must be changed if there is a change of priesthood. (v12)
2. The law would have to be changed with the priesthood because the priest in question sprang from Judah, not Levi (v13-14)
V15-19 – The Rise of a Superior Priest
The Levitical priesthood demonstrated its insufficiency because it was linked to the law which could make nothing perfect. It would be disanulled (“put away”, 9:26). The Melchisedecian Priesthood was founded beforehand with an undying priest, as v3 shows. Our Lord is the high priest of this perfect priesthood because He has become a priest according to “the power of an endless life” instead of earthly ancestry. This is emphasized in the quotation in v17, “Thou art a priest forever...” from Psalm 110:4. He is alive forever and will be priest forever, giving us a better hope “through which we draw nigh to God.” Since the law was insufficient, it is a glorious truth that God provided a way for us to come near to Him.
V20-22 – A Priest, Superior by Oath
Jesus Christ is priest by oath. We will search in vain to find a priest that the LORD swears into office, who declares that He will never change His mind. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the only man in whom the LORD could have full confidence. Psalm 110:4 is re-emphasized with a different spin on the words, “sware and will not repent.” Since His priesthood must be linked to a better covenant than what has come before through Sinai, His endless life and eternal priesthood is the guarantee of a better covenant which cannot fail.
V23-28 – A Priest with a Non-transferable Priesthood
The Levitical priesthood was subject to death. There are 82 high priests recorded by Jewish historians from Aaron to AD70. Because of life, Christ’s priesthood is non-transferable. Our High Priest permanently holds the office of High Priest.
Because He is our ever-continuing priest, He has a perfect continuing work of intercession that guarantees our salvation until completion. He continually pleads our case before God, based on the merits of His own blood. In the Old Covenant, a sin offering would have to be made, but where Christ stands as High Priest in the better Covenant, no offering is required for He offered up Himself once (v27). Therefore, because of His intercessory work, the believer is guaranteed a salvation where we will be saved once and for all from both the presence of sin and the power of sin.
But how can He make intercession for us? Chapter 5:7-9 has already demonstrated that He is able to be truly sympathetic to our cause as humans, but the perfection of His person is what makes Him suitable to be in the presence of God.
Firstly, His character shows Him perfect, a Priest who was fitting for us to have:
1. Holy – this is in relation to Him being consecrated to God. It is not the usual word for ‘holy.’
2. Harmless – complete innocence in every word, thought or action.
3. Undefiled – ever ethically clean
4. Separate from sinners – a perfect participle. In all things He has been separated from men.
Secondly, His position:
And made higher than the heavens – an aorist participle. Based on His character, He holds a place that no man has ever held before.
Third, His initial sacrificial work:
Other priests needed to daily make sacrifice for themselves and others, but this High Priest made one offering for the sins of others. He did not make offering for Himself, because He has been made a priest without infirmity and is ever unable to sin, and so will never die. His position will never be transferred.
How astounding that our Great High Priest ever lives to bring about our eternal salvation! He is the man who guarantees our acceptance with God. Imagine a Jew going to the Levitical High Priest, only to find He has grown old and died. Yet we have a High Priest to eternally build a relationship with, who always understands our cause, and will save us in finality since we have come to God by Him.
1. Notice how the author to the Hebrews uses Psalm 110:4 in chapters 5 and 7. What does this teach us about how to read the Word of God?
 Emil G. Hirsch. Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906., “High Priest,” http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7689-high-priest (accessed June 23, 2017).