Contributor: Okwudili Prince-Isaac
INTRODUCTION: Following on from our previous topic where Apostle Paul dipped into the person of Melchizedek, in teachings in a concerted attempt to set forth the live-giving ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, we will progress toward emphasizing and proving His pre-eminence and the innate superiority of the covenant He mediates. Priesthood, in Israel’s throughout Israel history was one of the most revered institutions (Gen.14:18-20, Gen.41:45, Exod.18:1) and remained most untainted unlike the chronicles of many Judges, Kings and Prophets, who came and departed in irregularly pattern. The offices of the priest and the high priest were the sole reserve of the Levites and descendant of Aaron respectively (Num.3:10). Strangely, our Lord Jesus Christ came from a different tribe (Judah) which Moses never mentioned with priesthood, and neither did anyone from that tribe serve at an altar (Heb.7:14)
Text: Hebrews 7:15 – 22
“15 This change has been made very clear since a different priest, who is like Melchizedek, has appeared. 16 Jesus became a priest, not by meeting the physical requirement of belonging to the tribe of Levi, but by the power of a life that cannot be destroyed. 17 And the psalmist pointed this out when he prophesied, “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”18 Yes, the old requirement about the priesthood was set aside because it was weak and useless. 19 For the law never made anything perfect. But now we have confidence in a better hope, through which we draw near to God. 20 This new system was established with a solemn oath. Aaron’s descendants became priests without such an oath, 21 but there was an oath regarding Jesus. For God said to him, “The Lord has taken an oath and will not break his vow: ‘You are a priest forever.’” 22 Because of this oath, Jesus is the one who guarantees this better covenant with God" NLT
SUB-THEME: Verse 7: “This change has been made very clear since a different priest, who is like Melchizedek, has appeared”.
1. NATURE OF PRIESTHOOD
ii. JESUS (Melchizedek Order)
2. PROOF OF PREFERENCE/NEWNESS
NATURE OF LEVITICAL PRIESTHOOD
The law which upon which the Levitical priesthood was instituted (Exd 28:1), revealed that the priests were fragile, dying creatures, not able to save their own lives, much less could they save the souls of worshippers who came to them. The law dictated that, upon the demise of the father, the office should descend to his eldest son, according to the order of carnal or natural generation. Indeed, none of the high priests under the law were without father or mother, or without descent (unlike Melchizedek), and they had not life and immortality in themselves. They had both beginning of days and end of life; and so, the carnal commandment, or law of primogeniture, directed their succession. They had no power or authority to convey spiritual life and blessedness to those who came to them. The record has
it that there were eighty-three high priests in regular succession from Aaron to the death of Phineas, the last high priest at the siege of Jerusalem AD 70.
Points to note-
1. The high priest had to offer sacrifices for his own sins, inclusive (Heb.5:3, Heb.7:27).
2. All every Levitical priest ended their tenure by death.
THE NATURE OF JESUS’ PRIESTHOOD
The life and immortality which he had in himself were his right and title to the priesthood, not his descent from former priests (unlike the very law instituting the Levitical priesthood which supposed the priests to be weak, frail, dying, creatures, not able to preserve their own natural lives). But the high priest of our profession holds his office by that innate power of endless life which he has in himself (Rev 1:18, Heb. 7:16) not only to preserve himself alive, but to communicate spiritual and eternal life to all those who duly rely upon his sacrifice and intercession. It appears the unchangeable God’s changed His way when it came to this priesthood (Mal 3:6). But that is not the case because he has expressly stated that a new covenant was on the way (Jer.31:31-34). He took an oath to Christ, which he never did to any of the order of Aaron. The anticipation in the priesthood of Christ reveals the true foundation of all the hope we have towards God for pardon and salvation. By this hope we are encouraged to draw nigh unto God, commune with and enter into a covenant-union with him (Heb.4:16) The result is a true heart, and with the full assurance of faith, having our minds sprinkled from an evil conscience (Heb.9:14). This was unimaginable within the Levitical priesthood, rather it kept men at a distance, and under a spirit of bondage.
Points to note –
1. Jesus our new High Priest, though sinless, offered Himself for sinful man (including the Levitical priest)
2. Jesus our new High Priest lives for evermore (Rev 1:18), though he suffered ‘death’ in His way to eternal victory.
COMPARISM/PROOF OF NEWNESS AND PREFERENCE
1. This change of the family lineage (from priestly to kingly tribe) strongly indicates a real change of the law of the priesthood (Heb.7:12)
2. There is a change in the efficacy of the priesthood. The Levitical order was feeble and unprofitable, made nothing perfect (Heb.7:19, Act 13:39) and could never justify men’s persons from guilt;
3. The Levitical Order could not sanctify the worshipper from inward contamination; it could not cleanse the consciences of the worshippers and the Levitical priests from dead works (Heb.10:2). However, the new Priesthood ushered healthy conscience (Heb.9:14), and victory over sin and death
4. Jesus’ priesthood rather brought in a better hope; one that emboldens the believer to draw near to God (Heb.4:16). In this instance, the sin barrier is removed
5. God took an oath to Christ (Ps 110:4), attesting to the eternal tenure of the Priesthood; which he never did to any of the order of Aaron which remain temporary
6. The new priesthood was a security and the priest a surety; a fundamental change in the dispensation of that covenant (Heb. 7:22, Heb.8:6). A surety is defined as a person who takes responsibility for another person performance of an undertaking.
7. The Levitical priesthood remains under the condemnation of the law and the sentence of death (Lev.18.5,1Cor.15:56). However, the new Priesthood fulfilled the requirements of the law and broke the power of death (Rom.5:12-14)
Apostle Paul urged the Hebrew believers (an all Christians) to be consistent in our belief to enable them (us) access the fullness of God in its currency. His argument that “If the priesthood is changed, the law must also be changed to permits it” is reflective by Jesus’ admonition against ‘new wine in old-wine skin’ (Luke 5:37). Unlike the covenant of works by which every transgressor is shut up under the curse (Deut.27:26, Jer.11.3), the better covenant, of which Jesus was the Surety, is distinguished from the Sinai covenant with Israel, with its legal dispensation. The Church is free of ‘Sinai obligation’ by this better covenant and every believer now has access to light, perfect liberty, and abundant privileges. Indeed, the old had passed away, and the new has taken its place (2Cor.5:17)