“The appointment of this new Priest was ratified by an oath, whereas Levitical priests were not. His inauguration was certified by God when He said, ‘The Lord has sworn an irrevocable oath, You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.’ In keeping with the strength of this vow, Jesus has become God’s personal guarantee of a better covenant. Levitical priests were numerous, but death prevented them from remaining in office. Because this Man remains forever, His priesthood is permanent. He is therefore able to save completely all that draw near to God through Him, because He lives to forever intercede for them. Such a High Priest is perfectly suited to our needs, for He is immaculate, guileless, unstained, separated from sinful men, and exalted above the heavens.
Furthermore, He does not need to offer repetitive sacrifices like Levitical priests, first for personal sins and then for others, for He offered Himself as the sacrifice for sin once and for all. All priests appointed by the law are spiritually and physically imperfect. But God’s oath, sworn after the era of Mosaic law, appoints His perfect Son High Priest forevermore.” (paraphrased)
In this passage, the writer continues to accumulate evidence for the validity, efficacy, and eternality of Christ’s priesthood. In this passage, the writer proves He is:
Commissioned by God’s oath (vv. 20-22)
Continuous via His endless life (vv. 23-24)
Competent to save completely (vv. 25-26)
Capable of offering Himself (v. 27)
Consecrated forever (v. 28)
Whereas the Levitical priesthood was established by God’s law, Christ’s priesthood was established by God’s oath. God planned for the new to replace the old, therefore the former was not established with His sworn statement. The true value of any vow is based on the integrity of the one who makes it. We are called to bear witness to God’s oath, for He will not change His mind. God swears to honor Christ’s priesthood eternally, confirming Him as our only hope of salvation. Because God can swear by no one greater than Himself, He highlights His own statement with a pledge to reinforce its validity. By firmly establishing this office above all others, God personally guarantees the effectiveness of His Son’s priesthood. By His work on the cross, Christ personally guarantees salvation for all “who come to God through Him” (v. 25).
The word “surety” (egguos) is often used in legal terminology, referring to one who submits resources as collateral for a pending contract. A egguos often co-signs loans, certifying that money will be repaid. It is also used of a sponsor or bail-bondsman who pledges the accused will appear in court.
The concept of one becoming surety for another is not uncommon. Paul offered to pay Onesimus’ debt to Philemon (vv.18-19). Judah pledged himself as collateral to his father for the safe return of Benjamin (Gen. 43:9 & 44:32-33). As our Egguos, Jesus is willing and able to offer Himself as the security behind His plan of salvation.
Here the writer first uses the term “covenant” – a word he employs seventeen times in his epistle. Although God guarantees He will fulfill His part of the compact, it is the responsibility of each Believer to fulfill their part. This new covenant is better because the terms are simplified, it is universal, and the sacrifice is perfectly suited to human needs.
There was an inherent weakness in the Levitical system: priests were restricted from continuing their ministry due to their own mortality. Moses brought Aaron and his son Eleazar to Mt. Hor. There Moses took Aaron’s priestly garments and put them on Aaron’s son (Num. 20:25-29 & Ex. 40:13-15). When Eleazar died in Canaan years later, his son Phinehas took his place (Josh. 24:33). The historian Josephus calculated a succession of eighty-three high priests officiated until Jerusalem’s temple was destroyed in 70 AD. This list of ministers was extensive, but all eventually passed away.
When mortal priests die, their tenure in office ends. When Jesus died, His tenure in office began. “Continuing forever” is a legal term meaning unalterable and permanent. In contrast to transitory priests, our immortal Priest ministers without predecessors or successors. Jesus Christ is unique and irreplaceable as the sole Mediator between God and man (I Tim.2:5).
“Unchangeable” (aparabaton) is used only here in the New Testament and refers to that which is steadfast and nontransferable. The term confirms the impossibility of Christ’s priesthood being passed on to another. Because God’s eternal purposes are changeless, the priesthood of His Son is perpetually effective.
Those who accept Christ as their Great High Priest are saved to the “uttermost” (panteles). This word bespeaks completion or perfection. Because He atoned for sin, He can purge our thoughts, guide us daily, and eternally represent us before God. Only a high priest who can do all these things can save in the most comprehensive sense. What Jesus begins, He completes (Phil. 1:6). While it is true we are saved by His death, Paul affirms we are continuously being saved because He is alive (Rom. 5:10).
A priest must live forever in order to intercede perpetually. Intercession is better translated intervention – “to entreat on behalf of another.” Isaiah prophesied the Messiah would make intercession for transgressors (Isa. 53:12). At the Last Supper, Jesus told Peter that He has prayed for him (Lk. 22:32). Later that same night, Jesus prayed for His followers (John 17). Today His ministry is characterized by unbroken intervention on our behalf (Rom. 8:34). This is pictured by John the Beloved who envisioned Christ in high-priestly garments (Rev. 1:13). As mankind’s effectual representative to God, He continues in heaven the work He began on Calvary (Rev. 7:9-10).
The last three verses of this chapter are a character sketch of the ideal priest. The writer gives a four-fold reason why Christ is perfectly suited to the task of human redemption. These statements underscore His sinless nature.
1. Jesus is holy.
There are two Greek words for “holy.” Hagios refers to human dedication to God. The other term is hosios and is used here to depict Christ’s personal character, which is absolutely pure.
2. Jesus is harmless.
The word akakos means “guileless and innocent in character and disposition.” Jesus is holy in His relationship with God and non-injurious in His relationship with men. He wronged no one. No guile was found in His mouth (I Pet. 2:22). Even when reviled, He did not retaliate (I Pet. 2:23).
3. Jesus is undefiled by worldly contamination.
The ritual purity of priests is contrasted with the moral purity of Jesus. He lived in our world while remaining unsoiled by sinful contaminates. Christ was totally free of any impurity or moral blemish which might hinder His relationship with God. He shunned everything that could compromise His holiness. Following His example, we are admonished to keep ourselves unspotted from the world (Jas. 1:27).
4. Jesus is free from the influence of sinful men.
Jesus committed no sins and had no need to seek His Father’s forgiveness. Though tempted like others, He remained sinless. He was a friend of sinners, but was not defiled by their morality (Mt. 11:19).
~ He ate with tax collectors (Mt. 9:11).
~ He conversed and assured a a dying thief (Lk. 23:42-43).
~ He ministered to an adulteress (Jn. 4:18).
~ He confronted Saul the blasphemer (Acts 9:3-5 & I Tim. 1:13).
~ He allowed a sinful woman to wash His feet with her tears (Lk. 7:44).
~ He touched and healed lepers (Mk. 1:40-41).
Jesus may be compared with a doctor who constantly works among the sick, but is immune to their diseases. He incarnated as an innocent babe and ascended as innocent as He arrived. Because of His purity, Jesus is exalted far above the heavens. The writer used this same concept when he began his epistle (1:3).
Human priests have character flaws. Both priests and people must make atonement for their sins (Lev. 4:3). Aaron was commanded to offer a sacrifice for himself before sacrificing for others (Lev. 16:6-11). For centuries, an endless stream of sacrificial animals moved through the tabernacle and temple areas. These innumerable offerings are contrasted with Christ’s singular sacrifice. His crucifixion eliminates the need for perpetual offerings. “Once” is ephapax, meaning “once for all.” His once-and-for-all sacrifice is completely sufficient to save everyone. He is the Lamb of God who can take away the sins of the entire world (Jn. 1:29). Referring to Himself, Jesus foretold the Son of Man would give His life as a ransom for many (Mk. 10:45). The term “offering” means “to place on an altar.” When Jesus laid Himself upon the altar of the cross, He became simultaneously both the Priest and the Sacrifice.
Four hundred and thirty years after Melchizedek met Abraham, the Aaronic priesthood was established (Gal. 3:17). But the inherent weakness of this priesthood was its mortality rate. Transitory priests foreshadowed the impermanence of this priesthood, which was destined to perish as well. Centuries before the birth of Levi, God swore He would raise up a unique Priest. The old covenant, based on imperfect law, was replaced by the new covenant, based on God’s perfect Son.
QUESTIONS: CHRIST’S PERMANENT PRIESTHOOD
1. In 7:26, what words are used to describe Christ?
2. The value of an oath is based on the integrity of the one who made it. True or False?
3. How many times is the word “surety” (egguos) used in the Bible?
4. One who becomes “surety” for another is like:
A. a bail-bondsman
B. a co-signer
C. a sponsor
D. one who puts up collateral
E. all of the above
5. According to Galatians 3:16-17, how may years elapsed between Abraham’s era and the giving of the law?
6. Human mortality was an inherent weakness in the Levitical priesthood. True or False?
7. Who took Aaron’s priestly clothing and put them on his son Eleazar?
8. Who does John see in Revelation 1:3 dressed in priestly garments?
9. Jesus is pictured as interceding and intervening in heaven on our behalf. List specific things you intercede for on behalf of others.
10. What specific things are you are willing to sacrifice in order to improve your spiritual life?