Hebrews 7

Hebrews 7  •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 9
IN THE LAST verse of chapter 6, the Lord Jesus has been presented to us in two characters. First, as the Forerunner; His arrival in heaven being the preliminary to the arrival there of the children whom God has given Him. Second, as an High Priest after Melchizedec’s order; whose ministry ensures the safe arrival of the children, and the fullness of their blessing. This last verse also has completed the digression which began with verse 11 of chapter v., and has brought us back to the exact point we had reached in verse 10 of that chapter.
Consequently in the first verse of chapter 7, we resume the interrupted flow of thought, and the whole chapter is occupied with the contrast between the Priesthood of Christ and that of Aaron. We are made to see the immeasurable superiority of Christ as a Priest of Melchizedec’s order; and we hear at least of some of those things, which were hard to be uttered to a people who were dull of hearing. We, being Gentiles, may not have our minds so filled with the faded glories of the Aaronic priesthood, and hence we may not find the theme so difficult.
In the first three verses of our chapter we are given a most graphic summary of all that is recorded of Melchizedec in the latter part of Gen. 14 We learn that he is introduced there with the design of furnishing us with a type of the Son of God. His very name had a meaning, as is so often the case with Biblical names, and interpreted, it means, King of righteousness. He is presented as King of Salem, which interpreted means peace. In the coming millennial age the Lord Jesus will be manifested in just that double character.
Moreover, in the Old Testament story Melchizedec is introduced abruptly; no genealogy is given, no mention is made of his birth, his death, nor of the number of his years, no hint is given of another arising to succeed him in his priestly office. This is the more remarkable inasmuch as Genesis is exactly the book which does furnish us with just those details in regard to the other striking characters that pass across its pages. Why then were these details omitted as regards Melchizedec? Just that he might be a more accurate type of the Son of God. We believe this to be the meaning of the third verse, and not, as some have imagined, that he was some kind of supernatural personage.
Having then this condensed summary in our minds we are bidden in verse 4 to consider in detail his greatness as contrasted with Aaron or even Abraham; and that firstly, as shown in connection with the law as to tithes. This occupies verses 4 to 10.
Aaron and his descendants, who came out of the tribe of Levi, were supported by the tithes which they received from the rest of the children of Israel. Yet the patriarch Abraham, out of whom came Levi and Aaron and all his descendants, paid tithes to Melchizedec. Hence it is argued, Levi and Aaron, who were in this way acknowledged as superiors by the rest of Israel, themselves acknowledged Melchizedec as their superior, by Abraham their father.
And further, Abraham, who paid tithes to Melchizedec, also received blessing from him; and it is said, “without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better” (ch. 7:7). So in this way also the superiority of Melchizedec to Abraham and his descendants is established. The point here, be it remembered, is not that Melchizedec was a greater man than Abraham as to his character, or that he knew more of God—as to that we have no information, one way or the other—but simply that he must be acknowledged as holding from God a higher position; and in that higher position or order he was typical of Christ.
Verses 11 to 14 are occupied with another point of the argument, based upon the fact that our Lord sprang out of Juda, and hence had no link with the priests of Aaron’s order. He was an altogether different priest and of a different order. What did this show? It showed that perfection had not been reached by the Levitical order of things, and it indicated that a change had come in as regards the whole law-system of which the Levitical priesthood was a part. We shall find rather more detail as to that change when we read the next chapter.
In verses 14 to 19 the argument is enforced by another consideration. Aaron’s priesthood was instituted in connection with the law. Christ’s priesthood is sustained in the power of endless life. The law is here spoken of as, “the law of a carnal commandment,” (ch. 7:16) inasmuch as its commands were all aimed either at curbing and suppressing the evil tendencies of the flesh, or at bringing out of it the good that pleases God. But then, as we are told in the epistle to the Romans, the flesh is not subject to the law of God, and in it no good dwells.
Hence the commandment going before Christ has been set aside, as verse 18 informs us. Though in itself holy and just and good, it was rendered weak and unprofitable by reason of the bad and impossible nature of the flesh with which it had to deal. Verse 18 does not for one moment mean that the holy demands of God have been abated, or that they have been set aside so that now men may just act as they please. But it does mean that the whole law system has been set aside in favor of something much higher and better.
In order that this may be plainly seen we quote the passage as rendered in the New Translation by J. N. Darby, “For there is a setting aside of the commandment going before for its weakness and unprofitableness, (for the law perfected nothing,) and the introduction of a better hope by which we draw nigh to God.” As in chapter 6, so here, Christianity is described as “a hope.” Only it is “a better hope.” When Israel entered the land of promise, they took it as a foretaste of better and larger things to come with the advent of their Messiah. We Christians have entered into good things of a spiritual sort. We have the forgiveness of sins, eternal life and the gift of the Spirit; yet they are but foretastes of the fullness of heavenly blessing which is to come. A better hope has been introduced, and by that hope-since it centers in Christ, who as High Priest has gone for us within the veil—we draw nigh to God, instead of being kept at a distance as was the case with the most eminent saint under the law. This thought we shall find greatly amplified when we come to chapter 10.
The law, as we are reminded here, made nothing perfect. God was not perfectly made known in connection with it, nor was redemption perfectly accomplished, nor were believers perfected as regards their consciences. It came in by the way as a provisional measure, filling up the time until Christ came. Now, Christ being come, it is superseded by something which goes far beyond it, both in the standard it sets, and in what it gives and accomplishes.
In verses 20 to 22 we go a step further. Our attention is drawn to the fact that the Lord Jesus was instituted as Priest forever by the oath of God. There was no such impressive and solemn word when Aaron was instituted in the priest’s office. This indicates that there is a better testament, or covenant, connected with Jesus. Moreover He stands related to that covenant in a way that neither Moses nor Aaron ever were to the old covenant. He has become the Surety of it; that is, He has accepted full responsibility in regard to it, has become bail for it, so that should anything go wrong the cost of it would fall upon Him. This is of course full guarantee that nothing will go wrong with it to all eternity. All that is established in connection with the new covenant will abide.
Another contrast is brought before us in verses 23 and 24. Aaron and his descendants exercised their office one after the other and died. The’ Lord Jesus abides forever and consequently His priesthood is unchangeable, that is, it never has to be transmitted to another. The happy result which flows from this is stated in verse 25. Those that avail themselves of His priestly services, coming to God by Him, are saved “to the uttermost,” (ch. 7:25) or, “completely,” because He always lives to make intercession for them. The salvation here spoken of is that daily, momentary salvation from every adverse power, which every believer needs all the way home to glory.
This verse is often quoted to show that the Lord is able to save the worst of sinners. That is most happily true, and the verse that states it is 1 Tim. 1:1515This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. (1 Timothy 1:15). Had that been the point here our verse would doubtless have ended, “seeing He died for them and rose again.” But the word is, “seeing He ever liveth” (ch. 7:25). The salvation therefore is that which flows to us by His life of unbroken priestly intercession.
Suppose a distressed Jew had applied to the high priest of his day for that compassion and help which he should be ready to give him, according to the second verse of chapter v. He finds him perhaps a most kindly and helpful man. But on going a little later, just when the crisis of his case has arrived, he learns that he has that very day died! You can easily imagine the Jew’s distress. Another man who knows nothing of his case, and possibly of an entirely different disposition, becomes high priest. There was no salvation to the uttermost for him in the former high priest, and if he now gets any salvation at all he can only get it by beginning all over again with the new man. Thanks be to God, no experience at all akin to this can ever befall us. Our High Priest lives eternally.
Let us not leave verse 25 without noticing that in it believers are described as those “that come unto God by Him” (ch. 7:25). It is a very prominent thought in this epistle that the Christian has boldness and liberty to come to God, whereas in the former dispensation all true access to God was forbidden. These words also indicate that the great objective in all Christ’s priestly service is to bring us to God, and to maintain us there. On the one hand there is no access to God save BY HIM. On the other, all His compassionate service on our behalf, sympathizing, succoring, saving, is a means to an end. The end being this, that thereby lifted above the things that otherwise would overwhelm us, we might be maintained in the presence of God.
The last three verses of our chapter seem to clinch the whole argument and to sum up the situation, and we find that everything hinges upon the greatness of the ONE who is our High Priest.
What an extraordinary statement is made in verse 26! We should certainly have reversed it, and stated that seeing our High Priest was so wonderful a rather remarkable people were suited to Him. But no, the statement here is, that an High Priest of this remarkable character was suited to us! As the Holy Ghost views things, the many sons being led to glory, the Christian company, bear such a character that no less an High Priest becomes them.
The character of our High Priest is presented to us in a seven-fold way; and each item gives us a point of contrast with the priests of old. The first three items, holy, harmless, undefiled, present no difficulty. It is obvious that none of these three things characterized in an absolute way any priest of Aaron’s race.
The fourth is, “separate from sinners,” (ch. 7:26) or, more accurately, “separated from sinners” (ch. 7:26). It refers not only to the fact that He was ever wholly separate to God in His spirit and ways, even while eating and drinking with publicans and sinners, but to the fact that now in resurrection He is apart altogether from the whole scene where sinners move. “In that He died, He died unto sin once: but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God” (Rom. 6:1010For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. (Romans 6:10)). We may quote also the Lord’s own words in John 17:1919And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. (John 17:19), “For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” The root meaning of “sanctify” is to set apart, and the Lord was alluding to the place He was about to take up in resurrection and in glory. In our verse, the thought of His glory comes in the fifth item which closes it, “Made higher than the heavens” (ch. 7:26). Our High Priest is not merely a risen Man, but exalted above all. The heavens and all that they contain are beneath His feet. If we consider these five items alone, we can see that no high priest constituted under the law is worthy of mention beside Him.
But there is more. A sixth contrast fills verse 27. They offered up daily sacrifices, not only for the sins of the people but for their own sins as well. He offered one sacrifice, and He offered it once for all. It was for the people truly, but it was not for Himself. It was “HIMSELF,” instead of being for Himself. He was the Sacrifice as well as the Offerer! Here we have the great truth alluded to, which we shall find expanded in all its glorious details when we come to chapters 9 and 10.
Seventhly, and lastly, there comes the contrast between the persons who held priestly office under the law, and the Person who is our High Priest today. They were just men, with the usual infirmities of men. He is the Son Himself. This of course is the bed-rock fact upon which all stands. WHO HE IS, settles everything. It carries with it all the contrasts which have been dwelt upon in the chapter. Let us dwell upon it—He is the Son, who is consecrated forever more.
The word “consecrated” is really “perfected,” as the margin of a reference Bible will show. Here we get that word, perfect again, which we had in verse 9 of chapter 5. There it was stated that His whole course of testing and obedience on earth having been brought to completion in death and resurrection, He became the Author of eternal salvation. Here we find that in the same way He became High Priest. The Son was eternally with the Father. He was Creator and Sustainer of all things. But it was not then that He assumed this office. It was when He had become Man, tasted all possible sorrows, endured all possible testings, suffered death and reached perfection in His risen glory, that He was constituted High Priest by the oath of God.
Now let us just meditate upon these things, giving them time to sink into mind and heart, and surely we shall be filled with confidence in His ability to save to the uttermost, and have our hearts filled with praise and thanksgiving to God.
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