Hebrews 7:20-25… And inasmuch as it was not without an oath 21 (for they indeed became priests without an oath, but He with an oath through the One who said to Him, “The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, ‘You are a priest forever.’”); 22 so much more so Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. 23 Indeed, the priests existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, 24 but Jesus, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. 25 Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
Melchizedek was a type of Christ – superior to the patriarch Abraham who carried in his loins the future priesthood. Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek (Gen. 14) proved his inferiority to Melchizedek’s priesthood, for by tithing to him Abraham’s inferior priesthood yet to be born (Levi) also tithed to Melchizedek. Now in v. 20 the author adds that Jesus’ superior priesthood came with an oath taken by God Himself – something the Jewish priesthood could not boast of.
The Jewish priests became such on the basis of their ancestry. Only Levites could serve at the Temple, and only the descendants of Aaron could be priests who served at the altar and in the Holy of holies. But the priesthood of Jesus was superior to the Law which in itself was imperfect because it was unable to make anyone perfect (vv. 18-19). Verses 20-21 reveal Jesus Christ’s superior priesthood in that, contrary to the Jewish priests, Christ was made a priest according to God’s sworn oath! The author then quotes Psalm 110:4 to prove that before Christ took on flesh God swore on oath to him that he would be a priest forever, and God does not change His mind.
Having shown his Jewish audience the superiority of Jesus Christ over Judaism – and doing so by using the Jewish Scriptures no less – the author then made the logical move in v. 22 to show that Jesus had become the “guarantee of a better covenant.” This of course meant that the Old Covenant – the Law of Moses in the OT – was no longer in vogue. And the fact that this new covenant is guaranteed by the superior Priest Himself proves that the old covenant of Moses – the Law – has been replaced with something better. It comes down to having faith in the God of the Bible in order to believe Him, but consider the following from the NT: God the Father swore on oath that Christ would be and is the superior Priest (Psalm 110:4; Heb. 7:14-17). God the Son guaranteed that He Himself was and is the better covenant (Heb. 7:22), and God the Spirit is pledged as the downpayment for the believer’s future redemption (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14). Clearly God has gone to great lengths to assure His people of His promises and His honor.
The Jewish priests were many during their 1,500 years, and they all died. Jesus, however, continues as a priest forever because he lives. His priesthood is enduring and he “lives to make intercession” for those who draw near to him for salvation (v. 25). Jesus made it possible to draw near to God (4:16; 7:19), and those who do are saved because of his intercession. Now it’s by virtue of his death and resurrection that he intercedes. He is not continually in the ear of the Father telling Him to go easy on sinners. His presence in heaven at God’s right hand, awaiting his full manifestation at His second coming, is itself an intercession on behalf of all believers.
Food for Thought
Christians know that Christ is superior, but we don’t always live our lives to attest to this knowledge. Christ is superior to sex, but many choose to sin sexually. Christ is superior to riches, yet some sell their souls to materialism. Christ is superior to sleep, yet many regularly sleep in on Sundays and disdain worship. For many the knowledge that Christ is superior is just knowledge. But their unwillingness to put their knowledge into action says something very telling.
Hebrews 7:26-28… For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28 For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever.
The Jewish high priest was a simple man. He was sinful, and if it weren’t for God’s Law that allowed priests to serve in the Temple through their tribal heritage he would never have been able to approach God the way God allowed him to. His sinfulness was like any other man, so when he did approach the altar once per year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) he had to offer not only a sacrifice to atone for the sins of the Israelites but also one for his own sins.
But Jesus Christ was different. Verse 26 notes that it was “fitting” for mankind to have a priest like Jesus. Whereas the men who served as high priests were not always able to meet the needs of the people, Jesus was able. Because of their sinfulness the Jewish high priests were simply not fit to mediate for God’s people adequately and eternally. Some of them even abused the Jews. Not Jesus! He was fit to serve, fit to forgive, and fit to be the High Priest forever.
The first term that describes the fitness of Jesus as the great High Priest is “holy” (Gr. hosios). This is a word used of persons who live justly before God (not the normal word used for holy – hagios – which speaks of a state of being separated unto God). Jesus’ actions, as opposed to God’s appointment of Him as the Christ, proved him to be the Priestly Christ. Whereas the priests in Israel were “set apart” (holy) by God, Jesus lived a holy life fit for a priest. Second, Jesus was “innocent” (Gr. akakos – not evil) in that he was without fault. Third, Jesus was “undefiled” (Gr. amiantos) in that he was pure and untainted. Fourth, Jesus was “separated from sinners.” The Jewish Mishnah required the high priest to separate himself from sinners seven days before the Day of Atonement so as to avoid ritual defilement. But not Jesus. His work is done, and so he is “exalted above the heavens” – separated from sinners. And whereas the previous three terms that described Jesus were adjectives, the term “separated” is a perfect tense participle which shows that his holy separation is a once for all event with ongoing benefits.
So Jesus’ ministry was superior to the Jewish high priests. Whereas the priests offered daily sacrifices for themselves and for the people, Jesus offered one sacrifice on one occasion. He was the Priest, and he offered himself. He was qualified as a Priest of Melchizedek’s order to offer the sacrifice, and he was qualified to be the sacrifice in that he was without stain or blemish. And because his sacrifice was perfect, it was offered “once and for all” – one time for all people. Whereas the weakness of the Law (18-19) appointed weak priests (limited; lacking courage), it also contained an oath which appointed God’s Son “made perfect forever.”
Food for Thought
Now because God’s oath in Psalm 110:4 came after the Law of Moses (about 450 years) it proved itself greater than the Law itself. The Mosaic Law was imperfect, weak, and useless because it only revealed our sinfulness without making us holy. The oath, however, came after God’s children realized that they could not attain holiness apart from God. Though the oath came after the Law, Melchizedek the one who prefigured the priesthood, came before the Law and revealed himself to Abraham, the Father of Israel. God had it all mapped out before time began! So the Law revealed sin, and Christ came to perfect those of us the Law condemned.
20 Καὶ καθʼ ὅσον οὐ χωρὶς ὁρκωμοσίας· οἱ μὲν γὰρ χωρὶς ὁρκωμοσίας
And according as much as not without an oat the ones indeed for without an oath
εἰσὶν ἱερεῖς γεγονότες, 21 ὁ δὲ μετὰ ὁρκωμοσίας διὰ τοῦ λέγοντος πρὸς
are (PAI) priests having become (RAPtcp), the but with an oath through the one saying (PAPtcp) to
αὐτόν· ὤμοσεν κύριος καὶ οὐ μεταμεληθήσεται· σὺ ἱερεὺς εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα.
Him: “He has sworn (AAI) Lord and not will change his mind (FPI). You priest into the eternity.”
22 κατὰ τοσοῦτο [καὶ] κρείττονος διαθήκης γέγονεν ἔγγυος Ἰησοῦς.
By such also of better agreement has become (RAI) guarantee Jesus.
23 Καὶ οἱ μὲν πλείονές εἰσιν γεγονότες ἱερεῖς διὰ τὸ θανάτῳ κωλύεσθαι
And the indeed more are (PAI) having become (RAPtcp) priests through the death to be hindered (PPIn)
παραμένειν· 24 ὁ δὲ διὰ τὸ μένειν αὐτὸν εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα ἀπαράβατον ἔχει
to continue (PAIn). The but through the to stay (PAIn) him in the age not-stepping across has (PAI)
τὴν ἱερωσύνην· 25 ὅθεν καὶ σῴζειν εἰς τὸ παντελὲς δύναται τοὺς
the priesthood. From where also to save (PAIn) into the all complete he is able (PPI) the ones
προσερχομένους διʼ αὐτοῦ τῷ θεῷ, πάντοτε ζῶν εἰς τὸ ἐντυγχάνειν
coming to (PMPtcp) through him to God, always living (PAPtcp) to the to appeal (PAIn)
ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν. 26 Τοιοῦτος γὰρ ἡμῖν καὶ ἔπρεπεν ἀρχιερεύς, ὅσιος ἄκακος
on behalf of them. Such for to us even was fitting (IAI) high priest, holy, not bad
ἀμίαντος, κεχωρισμένος ἀπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτωλῶν καὶ ὑψηλότερος τῶν
pure, having benn separated (RPPtcp) from of the sinners and higher of the
οὐρανῶν γενόμενος, 27 ὃς οὐκ ἔχει καθʼ ἡμέραν ἀνάγκην, ὥσπερ οἱ
heavens having become (AMPtcp), who not has (PAI) by day necessity, as indeed the
ἀρχιερεῖς, πρότερον ὑπὲρ τῶν ἰδίων ἁμαρτιῶν θυσίας ἀναφέρειν ἔπειτα
high priests, first on behalf of his own sins sacrifices to carry up (PAIn) then
τῶν τοῦ λαοῦ· τοῦτο γὰρ ἐποίησεν ἐφάπαξ ἑαυτὸν ἀνενέγκας. 28 ὁ
the ones of the people. This for he did (AAI) once for all himself having carried up (AAPtcp). The
νόμος γὰρ ἀνθρώπους καθίστησιν ἀρχιερεῖς ἔχοντας ἀσθένειαν, ὁ
Law for men appoints (PAI) high priests having (PAPtcp) weaknesses, the
λόγος δὲ τῆς ὁρκωμοσίας τῆς μετὰ τὸν νόμον υἱὸν εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα
word but of the oath-taking of the with the Law Son into the age
τετελειωμένον having been completed (RPPtcp)
Jesus like Melchizedek…
· Greater in that he blessed Abram (1), Greater in that he received tithes (2); Greater in his names (2); Greater in length of priesthood (3, 8) – like the Son of God; Greater priesthood signified by an indestructible life (16); Greater commandment (18-19); Greater hope by which man can draw near to God (19); Greater in that it came by oath (20-21); Greater covenant (22); Greater in that his priesthood is permanent (23-25); Greater in having offered one sacrifice once for all (27); Greater as a Son made perfect, not a priest who is weak (28).
· Rampant confusion as to who He is
o He or she?
o All knowing, all powerful?
o If so, why allow suffering; If not, who prevails over Him?
o Most attempt to “draw near” to God through good works
· Israel drew near to God through the priesthood
· Gentiles drew near to God through Israel
· Jesus came from Israel and draws all men unto himself. Those who draw near to God through Him are saved. But only through him (John 14:6).
o Jesus’ past work and present presence w/God is our intercession.
· Saved Forever?
o Father swore on oath (Psalm 110:4)
o Son guaranteed a better covenant (7:22)
o Spirit pledged as down-payment of future redemption (2 Cor. 2:1; 5:5; Eph. 1:14)
Character of our High Priest
· He was appropriate – “fitting”
o Holy – he lived justly before God; not simply separated by God.
o Innocent – not evil; without fault
o Undefiled – pure; untainted
o Separated from sinners – (perfect participle)
o Does not officiate at an altar but sits next to the Majesty above the heavens.
o He is perfect without limitations – “made perfect forever” (Perfect participle)
What’s He Doing?
· Offering gifts – our praises and living sacrifices to God.
o Are you a part of that? Some folks don’t worship, so Christ never gets to bring your praise to the Father. No wonder he says in the end: “I never knew you!”
o Only Jesus can offer our praise to God (not dead saints, not Mary)
Jesus is better than…
· Sex outside of marriage for lustful pleasure
· Sleeping late on Sundays for extra sleep
· Spending money on appetite and material things for status
· Worldly friendships
· Drug-induced highs
· Law-breaking (quote that new TV show)
Some Christians are like my son who plays baseball. Daniel likes baseball, but he doesn’t love it. He doesn’t care to watch it on TV or play it with his friends. He never asks me to throw the ball with him, and he doesn’t think to practice. He has to be told to practice by me. He wants to be a pitcher when he plays, but he has never gone out on his own to practice with the net I bought him. And when I suggest he go out and practice he normally gives me a slight attitude then does so unwillingly. One of the key things is that he has no baseball hero that he wants to be like – at least not one that he attempts to mimic. But he does like baseball. He likes the games, and during practice he has a pretty good time. Once he gets home he forgets about it until I remind him of the next practice or game. His problem is that he doesn’t love baseball. And the fact that he only likes it without loving it will keep him from not only being a good player but of ever truly having fun playing the game.
This is what many Christians are like today. They don’t practice, and they don’t look forward to the games. They put little to no effort into their games because they don’t truly love Jesus Christ. He isn’t their hero, and they make little to no effort to mimic him. Their preacher may remind them to practice, but they do so unwillingly. Like my son playing baseball, they could take it or leave it. They know that God is supreme and superior to all else, but it doesn’t translate into action, performance, or a changed life. They tend to consider all other things (sex, education, materialism, leisure, sleep, etc.) superior to Christ. They would never admit such, but their actions betray their hearts.