About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Jesus Like Melchizedek (ch. 7:11-28)


Before we go any farther we should review the three different priesthoods the writer has been, and still is, talking about.  First of all you have the priesthood of Melchizedek who lived during the time of Abraham.  Then you have the Levitical priesthood which was during the time of Moses and beyond.  Then lastly, you have the priesthood of Jesus.  Here in verse 11 we note that if "perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood Ö why was there still need for another priest to come."  The Priest to come is referring to Jesus, and is compared to the Melchizedek priesthood.  Jesusí priesthood has nothing to do with the Levitical priesthood according to the author.


The word "perfection" here should be seen as coming into maturity for the full measure of what God has for us to be.  It speaks to completeness, a holiness that New Testament Christians understand they have in Christ.  That means that God views us as being holy and righteous even though we aren't.  That being said, how He views us as through the lens of the cross, He wants to move towards. 


The phrase "for on the basis of it was the law given to the people" may be hard to understand.  I like how the HCSB puts it.  "For under it the people received the law."    The word "people" is in reference to the Jews of the Old Testament who were subject to the law.  The JCSB seems to suggest that the people received the law through the Levitical priesthood.  However you view this phrase, verse 11 is saying that the Levitical priests were on a lower level than Melchizedek.


The word "if" in verse 11 clearly tells us that perfection does not come through the Levitical priesthood.  As a matter of fact it does not come through any law and that includes our Christian Evangelical law.   In verse 11 the author asks the question why is there a need for another priest, one after the order of Melchizedek.  


You might wonder where he got the idea that there should be another priest besides the Levitical priesthood.  The answer is simple.  Psalm 110:4 that was written long after the Law of Moses came into existence tells us that there is a need for such a high priest.  This verse is a statement made by God Himself.  It was not man's idea that there needed to be another priest.  It was God's idea as seen in Psalm 110:4.               


Verse 12 tells us that "when there is a change in the priesthood, there must be a change in the law."  What does this mean?  The Old Testament law said that only the descendents of Levi could be priests.  No one from another tribe could be a priest.  So, if you were going to allow someone other than a Levite to be a priest, you would obviously need to make a new law that would allow this to happen.  This is speaking of Jesus being a new priest and thus a new lave, a new covenant, would have to be instituted.  I think this is seen in the next few verses.   

To be clear, the pronoun "he" in verse 13 refers to the priest who is of the order of Melchizedek, who we know to be Jesus.  


The writer goes on to say in verse 13 and 14 that Jesus was not a descendent of Levi but of Judah .  Jesus was not in the lineage of the Levitical priesthood required by the Law of Moses.  Therefore, by right of the law, He could not be a priest in the Levitical system.  Jesus would have to be a priest under a whole new system.  He did not become a priest because He was born into the priestly family.  His priesthood is like Melchizedekís because both He and Melchizedekís priesthood "was on the basis of the power of an indestructible life" as seen in verse 17.  This means that as the Jews understood, Melchizedek was eternal, and as the writer understood, so was Jesus.  Both Melchizedek's and Jesus' priesthood did not come about, did not stem from, law, but from who they were, that is eternal beings. 


The author then quotes from Psalm 110:4 that is prophetic of Jesus.  This verse is the basis of which the author is basing his teaching on.  It reads, "You (Jesus) are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek."  The reason why Jesus could be a priest forever is because He is eternal, having no beginning and no end.  It's not hard to understand.   


This discussion is pointing out the weakness of the Old Testament Law.  It is so weak that the writer in verse 18 says that the "former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless."  This is a very important issue that few Christians understand today.  I have always maintained that the Law of Moses does not apply to New Testament Christians, especially as it applies to salvation.  Here we see that the Law of Moses has been set aside.  Romans 10:4 tells us that Christ is the end of the law.  Colossians 3:16 says that it was nailed to the cross with Jesus.   


The author has pointed out one specific problem.  The problem is that after the Law of Moses was instituted God covenanted with Himself, or, made an oath, that another priest would come after the order of Melchizedek, not after the order of Aaron and the Levitical priesthood.  This created a problem because, whoever that would be, if he was not from the tribe of Levi, the Law would not permit that.  God would have to change the Law but changing any law was not permitted.  See Galatians 2:10 and Deuteronomy 27:26.  So what did God do?  He cancelled the whole law.  He nailed it to the cross with Jesus as Paul said in Colossians 2:14.      


In verse 19 we see the word "perfect" again, as we saw in verse 11.  The law makes no one perfect.  The Law of Moses was never meant to make people perfect.  The law consisted of ceremonial, religious, and civil laws that were meant to be the constitution, you might say, for the nation of Israel . 


Verse 19 speaks of a better hope where we can draw close to God.  We know that better hope, not to be a weak law, but the eternal Lord Jesus Christ.        


In verses 20 and 21 we note that the Levitical priests became priests because they were born into the family of Levi, yet, Jesus became a priest due to an oath, due to a covenant that God made with Himself.  The writer quotes from Psalm 110:4 where Godís covenant is stated.  "The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind: you are a priest forever."  We understand this Psalm to be talking about Jesus.  God has covenanted with Himself to make Jesus a priest forever.  I've said this before, but it is interesting for me to note that Jesus will be our priest forever.  That means, even though we will be like Jesus in the next life, we will always need Jesus to be our priest.


Verse 22 says this clearly.  "Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant."  You see, God gave the Law to Moses.  It was a covenant, but now there is a better covenant that has replaced the Law of Moses.  This covenant is seen in the above Psalm.  God decided to make a new priesthood of which Jesus is the one and only priest forever.  This covenant far outweighs the Mosaic Covenant.  It is the New Covenant that has been ratified at the cross of Christ.  


In verses 23 to 25 the writer makes the point that the Levitical priests died and had to be replaced.  So, Psalm 110:4 could not be speaking of them.  Yet, Jesus has never died.  He lives forever.  He doesnít have to be replaced.  This makes Jesus a much better priest.  He sits beside God constantly interceding for us. 


In verse 25 the author says that Jesus is able to save completely those who come to God through Him.  Jesus and only Jesus can save us completely.  Only His sacrifice can make us perfect in Godís eyes.  Jesus is the only one who is representing us before God right now, much like a lawyer represents his client before a judge.  Remember, the author of this book is making the point that Jesus is better than all of the Old Covenant priests.  His priesthood is eternal while the Levitical priesthood was temporal. 


I believe the Greek verb tense is important here.  The verb "come to" in the phrase "those who come to God" is a present middle participle.  Present means that the action of coming is right now.  It's not a past action when we first came to God.  Middle means that those who are presently coming are both doing the action and receiving the action of this verse.  A participle is both a noun and a verb.  It combines the action of coming with the person who is a believer.  Therefore, the verb "come to" in its purist sense is "the comers."   The term "the comers" is a participle.  It emphasized that the one's who are coming just don't come, they themselves are the coming ones.  Inherent in who they are is that by nature they are always coming to God.  That's just who they are.  What this does is dispels the teaching that states once you are saved you are always saved.  Salvation is for the "continually coming ones," "the continually trusting ones," not merely those who once cam or once trusted.              


From verse 26 to the end of this chapter the writer compares Jesus to the high priest of the Levitcal system.  Verses 26 and 27 say that Jesus is "holy, blameless and pure, set apart from sinners, is exalted above the heavens."  When comparing Jesus with the traditional high priest, there just isnít any comparison.  The high priests that the Jews were used to had to offer sacrifices over and over again, not only for the people but for themselves as well.  Jesus does not have to offer such sacrifices over and over again.  He offered Himself as a sacrifice once and for all.  There are no other sacrifices to be made, not even one.  Besides, Jesus did not have to offer His sacrifice for Himself since He is perfect.  


Verse 28 speaks of Godís covenant that came after the Law of Moses.  This is in reference to Psalm 110:4 where God made an oath that came a long time after the Law of Moses was instituted. We often think of Godís covenant that was made in Abrahamís day, that being the Abrahamic Covenant.  It also cannot be the Mosaic Covenant. This oath, or covenant, canít be what is being talked about here since the writer says that this covenant that makes Jesus a priest forever came after Moses.  This oath was made in Davidís day since it is recorded in Psalm 110:4.  I believe this covenant is what theologians call the Davidic Covenant, the third of the three Old Testament covenants.  


Verse 28 clearly states that the coming of Jesus, the Messiah as priest, has nothing to do with the Law of Moses but with God's oath, or, God's covenant.  As Paul said in Romans and Galatians; it is all about grace and not about law.


This chapter ends with the phrase, "the Son who has been made perfect forever."  We should not understand this phrase to mean that Jesus was at one time not perfect, because He has always been perfect.  Again, as I have stated earlier concerning the word "perfect," it should be understood in terms of completion.  The work that Jesus needed to do on earth was perfect in the sense that it was complete.  It completed God's will to bring about the New Covenant in the blood of Jesus.  The eternal Son, was made in human flesh, died as a human, rose from the dead into a new being, thus perfecting, or, completing, Jesus being the first of a new eternal race of people.               

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