Hebrews: The Perfect High Priest

For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.  He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.  For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

Hebrews 7:26-28

Grab a Bible and let’s conclude our study of chapter 7 of Hebrews.  

Starting with verse 15’s “This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek,” God emphasizes again the differences between the Levitical priesthood and Jesus.  Melchizedek, a high priest 400 years before the Law of Moses even started, had no “legal requirement concerning bodily descent” (v. 16) as did the priests under Moses; neither does Jesus under the New Testament.  Just as Melchizedek in a figurative sense had “the power of an indestructible life” (v. 16) by virtue of there being no record of his birth or death (cf. 7:3), so also Jesus literally has “the power of an indestructible life” by virtue of having been resurrected from the dead never to die again (cf. Romans 6:9).  The prophecy about the Messiah being “a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek” (v. 17; cf. Psalm 110:4) is again quoted, illustrating that Jesus fulfilled it.

Jehovah then returns to the topic of the new covenant replacing the old, stating: “For one the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God” (vs. 18-19).  God set aside the law of Moses due to its inherent weakness in that it “made nothing perfect” because it could not provide forgiveness of sins, a point made later in Hebrews (cf. 10:1ff).  Christ as our high priest provides us “a better hope,” in that his sacrifice does provide forgiveness of sins and thus makes it possible for us to “draw near to God” through him (cf. John 14:6).

God then stresses even more how Jesus’ priesthood and covenant is superior to the priesthood and covenant of Moses’ law by pointing out this better hope was not introduced “without an oath” (v. 20).  “Those who formerly became priests” – the Levitical priesthood – were made such under divine command (cf. Exodus 28:1ff), with no oath being required.  Yet Jesus – “this one” – “was made a priest with an oath” (v. 21).  God’s promise in Psalm 110:4, quoted yet again in verse 21, is the oath which made Jesus priest:  “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever.’”  The result?  “This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant” (v. 22).  He is the “guarantor” by virtue of giving his own life on the cross as the collateral.  This “word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever” (v. 28).  God’s oath in Psalm 110:4, coming centuries after Moses’ law was established, appointed his eternally perfect Son as the Christian’s high priest.

Another comparison is given by pointing out that “the former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office” (v. 23).  The mortality of the Levitical priests was the reason there were so many of them over the years.  Yet Jesus “holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever” (v. 24; cf. 7:16).  The result?  “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (v. 25).  We can be completely saved through Jesus because for the past two thousand years he has not stopped making intercession for us at the throne of God as our high priest…and he will continue to do so until the end of time!

Unlike the priests under Moses’ law who “in their weakness” were sinners and thus had to offer daily sacrifices for themselves as well as for the nation (vs. 27-28), it is “fitting” that our high priest is sinless and exalted (v. 26).  Thus, his sacrifice at Calvary was offered “once for all” (literally, one time for all time).  Christians should thank God every day for Jesus, the perfect high priest!

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