Jesus, the only priest sworn-in into the priesthood by God
Jesus, the only priest sworn-in into the priesthood by God - Hebrews 7:11-28
God is perfect. God is perfectly righteous and holy. And God said, “Be holy for I am holy”.(1) So perfection is God’s will for his people. The Levitical priests taught the people what the holy law of God expected from them - perfection in what they did, said, thought, and intended. The priests also made sacrifices for the sins of the people. But the Old Covenant Levitical priesthood did not make anyone perfect, righteous, or holy. The law didn’t make anyone perfect. The law revealed to the people who were trying to keep it how imperfect, unrighteous, and unholy they were. The law told them what to do, but it didn’t give them the power to do it. “The law was their guardian”(2) and schoolmaster to watch over them and teach them about God and themselves. The law was like a mirror to them in which they were seeing all their imperfections. The law taught them about God’s perfect nature and how different he is from them. And also it taught them about their sin and unrighteousness in the light of God’s perfect righteousness. The law’s job in educating the people about their sinfulness was in order to bring them to the end of themselves so that they would come to trust in Jesus and his perfect obedience unto death in their stead, and not trust in their own imperfect righteousness.
“For on the one hand…the law made nothing perfect”.(3)
“But on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.”(3)
As briefly introduced above, “a better hope…through which we draw near to God”(3), is Jesus. Jesus “becoming [perfectly] obedient to the point of death”(4) is that better hope for “those who draw near to God through him”.(5)
The Levitical priests were sinful just as the people were. They sacrificed for their own sins as well as for the sins of the people every year on the day of atonement. “For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the Lord from all your sins.”(6) Death comes to all of us because of our sin. “The soul who sins shall die.”(7) Death has claimed Levite priests as well. So “The former priests were many in number because they were prevented by death from continuing in office”.(8) They could not make sacrifices and intercession for themselves and the people perfect enough to keep them in a perfect and constant relationship and fellowship with God. They always struggled to “know the Lord”.(9)
“Because of its weakness and uselessness”(10), the Levitical priesthood had to come to an end and be replaced by another high priest Jesus Christ, “who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life.”(11)
“And it was not without an oath…“The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever.’”(12) And “an oath is final for confirmation”,(13) it is God’s final word on who is the true priest of God forever to make a sacrifice and intercede for his people. By God swearing-in Jesus into “a priest forever”(12) the Levitical priesthood was done away with as well as every other priesthood besides Jesus is today is not authentic or necessary, not even the apostle Peter.
Under the Levitical priesthood though people were forgiven, “every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.”(14) So “in his divine forbearance he [God] had passed over former sins”.(15) God forbore or tolerated the people and their sin for the time being until Jesus came. But people’s consciousness of sin remained by always being reminded of it by bringing more and more sacrifices. The sacrifices of the OT never removed God’s judgment on their sins. Those sacrifices only pointed to the final sacrifice in Jesus, while God “passed over…[their] sins”,(15) until Jesus “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”(16) who not only took the sins of Jews but also the sins of the believing non-Jews.
The act of Jesus taking away the sin is called expiation. And taking on himself the wrath of God for the world’s sin is called propitiation. Expiation of sin means the removal of the sin; which results in the propitiation of sin, meaning - God changing his mind about the sinner by God’s wrath being appeased by Jesus. We have “a high priest, [who is] holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners”,(17) not like the Levitical priests who needed to offer constant sacrifices for their own sins and who “were prevented by death from continuing in office”(18) as priests.
The law and its priests made nothing perfect. But Jesus' sacrifice was “once for all when he offered up himself”.(19) “For by a single offering he [Jesus] has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”(20)
So then on the one hand by Jesus’ living and dying for us we who trust in him for salvation are “perfected for all time”(20) and that without being mixed with our progressive sanctification. Or as another Scripture says “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”(21)
And on the other hand, or on the other side of the coin we “are being sanctified”(20) as those who have a new heart, the Spirit within us, and Jesus our great high priest interceding for us from the throne of God. That progressive transformation from within is the fruit or the outcome of being “perfected for all time”(20) - having been once for all justified, but we're also being progressively “conformed to the image of his Son”(22).
“Consequently, he [Jesus our only priest] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”(23)
“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.”(24)
Jesus, the Son of God is the only and the last high priest for the lost and sinful humans who turn to him by faith alone. There isn’t another legitimate priesthood and there are no men or women priests beside Jesus on earth or in heaven who are approved by God. He was perfected forever through his perfect obedience unto death, and also “he has perfected for all time”(20) all those who draw near to God through Jesus. And since God made an oath about his Son to be the priest forever, no one can change it. God said it and that settles it. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy [of forgiveness] and find grace to help in time of need”(25) in order to be transformed into the holy character of Jesus, through him.
“Jesus our great high priest “will not bring about part of our salvation and leave what remains to ourselves and to others…. Whatever belongs to our entire, complete salvation, he is able to effect it.” John Owen (1616-1683)
(1)Leviticus 11:44; (2)Galatians 3:24; (3)Hebrews 7:19; (4)Philippians 2:8; (5)Hebrews 7:25; (6)Leviticus 16:30;(7)Ezekiel 18:20; (8)Hebrews 7:23; (9)Hebrews 8:11; (10)Hebrews 7:18; (11)Hebrews 7:16; (12)Hebrews 7:20-21; (13)Hebrews 6:16; (14)Hebrews 10:11;(15)Romans 3:25; (16)John 1:29; (17)Hebrews 7:26; (18)Hebrews 7:23; (19)Hebrews 7:27; (20)Hebrews 10:14; (21)Romans 5:1; (22)Romans 8:29; (23)Hebrews 7:25; (24)Hebrews 7:28; (25)Hebrews 4:16
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