Study On The Book Of Hebrews
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This chapter introduces the final section of the epistle (Heb. 11-13) which I like to call “The Superior Principle – Faith.” The fact that Christ is a superior Person and that He exercises a superior Priesthood ought to encourage us to put our trust in Him. The readers of this epistle were being tempted to go back into Judaism and put their faith in Moses. Their confidence was in the visible things of this world, not the invisible realities of God. Instead of going on to perfection (maturity), they were going “back to perdition [waste]” In Hebrews 11 all Christians are called to live by faith. In it, the writer discusses two important topics relating to faith.
This is not a definition of faith but a description of what faith does and how it works. True Bible faith is not blind optimism or a manufactured “hope-so” feeling. Neither is it an intellectual assent to a doctrine. It’s certainly not believing in spite of the evidence! That would be superstition. True Bible faith is confident obedience to God’s Word in spite of circumstances and consequences. Read that sentence again and let it soak into your heart and mind.
This faith operates really quite simply. God speaks and we hear His Word. We trust His Word and act on it no matter what the circumstances may be. The circumstances may be impossible, and the consequences frightening and unknown; but we obey God’s Word just the same and believe Him to do what is right and what is best.
The unsaved world does not understand true Bible Faith, probably because it sees so little faith in action in the church today. The world fails to realize that faith is only as good as its object, and the object of our faith is God. Faith is not some “feeling” that we manufacture. It is our total response to what God has revealed in His Word. There are three words in verses 1-3 that summarize what true Bible faith is: substance, evidence, and witness.
The word translated “substance” means literally “to stand under, to support.” Faith is to a Christian what a foundation is to a house: it gives confidence and assurance that he will stand. The word evidence simply means “conviction.” This is the inward conviction from God that what He has promised He will perform. Witness is an important word in Hebrews 11. It occurs not only in verse 2, but twice in verse 4, once in verse 5, and once in verse 39. The summary in Hebrews 12:1 calls this list of men and women “so great a cloud of witnesses.” They are witnesses to us because God witnessed to them. In each example cited, God gave witness to that person’s faith. This witness was His divine approval on their lives and ministries.
The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that faith is a very practical thing (v. 3), in spite of what unbelievers say. Faith enables us to understand what God does. Faith enables us to see what others cannot see. As a result, faith enables us to do what others cannot do! The best way to grow in faith is to walk with the faithful.
Hebrews 11:1-3 Reflection Questions:
How much confidence are you putting in the visible things of this world versus the invisible kingdom of God?
Are you obedient to God’s Word regardless of the consequences and circumstances?
Journal on what and when God‘s divine approval on your life and ministry has been to built your faith.
How could reading the Bible daily build your faith? Do you?
No Old Covenant worshiper would have been bold enough to try to enter the holy of holies in the tabernacle. Even the high priest entered the holy of holies only once a year. The thick veil that separated the holy place from the holy of holies was a barrier between people and God. Only the death of Christ could tear that veil and open the way into the heavenly sanctuary where God dwells.
A gracious invitation (vv. 19-25): “Let us draw near…Let us hold fast…Let us consider one another.” This threefold invitation hinges on our boldness to enter into the holiest. This boldness rests on the finished work of Christ; on the Day of Atonement, the high priest could not enter the holy of holies unless he had the blood sacrifice. But our entrance into God’s presence is not because of an animal’s blood but because of Christ’s shed blood. This open way into God’s presence is “new” and not part of the Old Covenant that “grows old and is ready to vanish away”. It is “living” because Christ “ever lives to make intercession” for us. Christ is the new and living way! On the basis of these assurances – that we have boldness to enter because we have a living High Priest – we have an “open invitation” to enter the presence of God. The Old Covenant high priest visited the holy of holies once a year, but we are invited to dwell in the presence of God every moment of each day. What a tremendous privilege!
A solemn exhortation (vv. 26-31): This is the fourth of the five exhortations found in Hebrews. It is written to believers and follows in sequence with the other exhortations. The believer who begins to drift from the Word will soon start to doubt the Word. Soon, he will become dull toward the Word and become “lazy” in his spiritual life. This will result in despising the Word, which is the theme of this exhortation. The evidence of this “despising” is willful sin. This exhortation is not dealing with one particular act of sin, but with an attitude that leads to repeated disobedience. How does an arrogant attitude affect a believer’s relationship with God? It is as though he trods Jesus Christ underfoot, cheapens the precious blood that saved him and insults the Holy Spirit.
What should a believer do who has drifted away into spiritual doubt and dullness and is deliberately despising God’s Word? He should turn to God for mercy and forgiveness. There is no other sacrifice for sin, but the sacrifice Christ made is sufficient for all sins. It is a fearful thing to fall into the Lord’s hands for chastening, but it is a wonderful thing to fall into His hands for cleansing and restoration. David said, “Let me fall now into the hand of the Lord; for very great are His mercies” (1 Chron. 21:13).
An encouraging confirmation (vv. 32-39): In case any of his readers should misinterpret his exhortation, the writer followed it with words of encouragement and confirmation. His readers had given every evidence that they were true Christians. He did not expect them to despise God’s Word and experience the chastening of God. The readers had been willing to suffer reproach and persecution, even to the spoiling of their goods. At that time they had great confidence and hope; but now they were in danger of casting away that confidence and going back into their old religion.
The secret of victory was in their faith and patience (“courageous endurance”). The believer who lives by faith will “go into perfection”. But the believer who lives by sight will “draw back unto perdition”. What is perdition in this context? To put it simply; a believer who does not walk by faith goes back into the old ways and wastes his life. “The saving of the soul” is the opposite of “waste”; to walk by faith means to obey God’s Word and live for Jesus Christ. We lose our lives for His sake – but we save them (see Matt. 16:25-27)! We can be confident, as we walk by faith, that our Great High Priest will guide us and perfect us!
Hebrews 10:19-39 Reflection Questions:
What is the gospel verse that talks about the tearing of the veil between the holy place and the holy of holies at Christ’s death?
What does it mean to you to dwell in the presence of God every moment of each day? Do you do it?
The major theme of Hebrews is “God has spoken – how are you responding to His Word”?
The tenth chapter of Hebrews emphasizes the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ, in contrast with the imperfect sacrifices that were under the Old Covenant. Our Lord’s superior priesthood belongs to a better order – Melchizedek’s and not Aaron’s. It functions on the basis of a better covenant – the New Covenant – and in a better sanctuary, in heaven. But all this depends on the better sacrifice, which is the theme of this chapter.
The need for a better sacrifice (vv. 1-4): Sin, of course, is man’s greatest problem. It has been said well that, “We are not sinners because of sin. We sin because we are sinners.” So, why were the Old Covenant sacrifices inferior? After all, they were ordained by the Lord; and they were in force for hundreds of years. The very nature of the Old Covenant sacrifice made them inferior. The Law was only “a shadow of good things to come” and not the reality itself. The sacrificial system was a type or picture of the work our Lord would accomplish on the cross. This meant that the system was temporary, and therefore could accomplish nothing permanent. The very repetition of the sacrifices day after day, and the Day of Atonement year after year, pointed out the entire system’s weakness.
The provision of the better sacrifice (vv. 5-9): It was God who provided the sacrifice and not man! The verses in Psalm 40:6-8 makes it clear that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant sacrifices. Each of the offerings typified the sacrifice of Christ and revealed some aspect of His word on the cross (see Lev. 1-7). Twice in these verses (see Heb. 10:6, 8) the writer stated that God “had no pleasure” in Old Covenant sacrifices. This does not suggest that the old sacrifices were wrong, or that sincere worshipers received no benefit from obeying God’s Law. It only means that God had no delight in sacrifices as such, apart from the obedient hearts of the worshipers. No amount of sacrifice could substitute for obedience. Jesus came to do the Father’s will. This will is the New Covenant that has replaced the Old Covenant. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus Christ has taken away the first covenant and established the second.
The effectiveness of the better sacrifice (v. 10): Believers have been set apart (“sanctified”) by the offering of Christ’s body once for all. No Old Covenant sacrifice could do that. An Old Covenant worshiper had to be purified from ceremonial defilement repeatedly. But a New Covenant saint is set apart finally and completely.
Christ’s sacrifice need not be repeated (vv. 11-18): Again the writer contrasted the Old Covenant high priest with Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest. The fact that Jesus sat down after He ascended to the Father is proof that His work was completed. The ministry of the priests in the tabernacle and temple was never done and never different: they offered the same sacrifices day after day. This constant repetition was proof that their sacrifices did not take away sins. What tens of thousands of animal sacrifices could not accomplish, Jesus accomplished with one sacrifice forever!
The phrase “sat down” refers us again to Psalm 110:1. Christ is in the place of exaltation and victory. When He returns, He shall overcome every enemy and establish His righteous kingdom. Those who have trusted Him need not fear, for they have been “perfected forever” (v. 14). Believers are complete in Him (Col. 2:10). We have a perfect standing before God because of the finished work of Jesus Christ. How do we know personally that we have this perfect standing before God? Because of the witness of the Holy Spirit through the Word (vv. 15-18). The witness of the Spirit is based on the work of the Son and is given through the words of Scripture. The New Covenant believer can say that his/her sins and iniquities are remembered no more. There is “no more offering for sin” (v. 18) and no more remembrance of sin!
Hebrews 10:1-18 Reflection Questions:
How does it make you feel knowing what Jesus did on the cross for you?
Do you have complete trust in what Jesus did or are you trying to earn your way to redemption?
Knowing what Christ has done, how free do you feel and what are going to do with that freedom?
The Old Testament system, which provides the prefigurement for Christ’s sacrifice, was a gory affair indeed. During the thousand-plus years of the old covenant, there were more than a million animal sacrifices. So considering that each bull’s sacrifice spilled a gallon or two of blood, and each goat a quart, the old covenant truly rested on a sea of blood. Why the perpetual sea of blood? For one main reason – to teach that sin demands the shedding of blood. It demonstrates that sin both brings and demands death. Steaming blood provided the sign – even the smell – of the old covenant. Thus, the devout worshiper of the old covenant came with a definite awareness, first, that sin requires death – second, that such a sacrifice required a spirit of repentance – third, that he was pleading the mercy of God – and, fourth, in some cases, that a great sin-bearer was coming.
Of course, the old covenant system was flawed in that, by design, it could only deal with sins of ignorance and could never completely clear one’s conscience. But then came Jesus with the new covenant in His own blood – a superior blood sacrifice that completely atoned for sins and completely cleared the conscience. Jesus was no uncomprehending, unwilling animal, but rather a perfect God-man who consciously set His will to atone for our sins. He is therefore a superior Savior and priest. With this being understood, the logic of verse 15 and the following verses becomes clear.
The job of mediator is to arbitrate in order to bring two parties together; here, the Holy God and sinful humanity. As the Father’s mediator, it is Christ’s job to bridge the vast gulf and obtain entrance for us into God’s holy presence. His sacrifice is the medium of arbitration, because His shed blood is both retroactive and proactive in bringing forgiveness for sins. The point in verses 16-17 is that Christ’s death activated His incredibly rich will – a fact alluded to by Paul in 2 Corinthians 8:9. Think of the benefits we enjoy because of Christ’s death: forgiveness, a clear conscience, peace, purpose, and ultimately eternal life in Heaven! All this is impossible apart from His death. And it is all activated by His death.
The writer wants his readers to understand that the old covenant law was initiated with a pronounced spilling of sacrificial blood that prefigured Christ’s blood in initiating the new covenant. The noun “blood” is used six times in verses 18-22. The old covenant sailed on a sea of blood, for two fast reasons. First, to emphasize the seriousness of sin; the Bible takes sin seriously, more than any other religious scripture. Sin alienates one from God; sin is rooted in the hearts of humanity. Sin cannot be vindicated by any self-help program. Sin leads to death – and it will not be denied. The second reason is the costliness of forgiveness; death is the payment. It will either be Christ’s life or our life!
Having demonstrated the importance of blood/death in the old covenant, the writer now describes the surpassing effect of Christ’s sacrifice in establishing the new covenant. He begins by stating that the better sacrifice of Christ brings better purity (v. 23). Next, the writer expresses that Jesus’ blood grants us a better representation before the Father (v. 24), and as a further evidence of the superiority of Jesus’ shed blood is its efficacy (vv. 25-28a). Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient and thus needed no repeating. He is our constant priest, but this in no way suggests that He is perpetually offering Himself. The sacrifice was so monumental and efficacious that it could only be once-for-all. His blood is totally sufficient. The sufficiency of Christ’s atoning death is the centerpiece of our salvation.
Finally Christ’s blood gives us a better hope that He “will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him” (v. 28b). Here we have a brilliant fresh perspective on the return of Christ. Our Lord Jesus entered the heavenly sanctuary “to appear in the presence of God on our behalf” (v. 24), and He “will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him” (v. 28). Hallelujah! – He is coming again as both King and Priest. The blood of Christ may be a stumbling block to a lost world. But for the heart that knows the depth of its sin and its lostness, the metaphor of the sea of blood is sweet because it means Jesus gave His life for us.
Hebrews 9:15-28 Reflection Questions:
What were your thoughts of the “sea of blood” before this study? Was it disgusting or is it sweet because of what it represented?
What stands out for you in this study?
The writer of Hebrews begins his telling comparison between the saving powers of the old and new covenants with a brief summary in verses 1-5 of the layout and furnishings of the wilderness tabernacle, which he concludes by saying, “Of these things we cannot now speak in detail” (v. 5). Indeed, there was no real need to discuss them in detail because his Jewish readers were well acquainted with the desert sanctuary and its regulations for worship.
The inadequacy of the Old Covenant (vv. 6-10): The old system was inadequate for two reasons – its limited access and its limited efficacy. Just how restricted the access was, is seen in the experience of the official hereditary priesthood as verse 6 describes it. If they were fortunate, they got to go into the outer room once in their priestly lives for a week. The Israelite layperson’s access was even less – the front of the courtyard, and that’s all! If one was fortunate enough to attain high priest, one could have access for a blessed (and tense!) minutes at best. On the Day of Atonement, when the high priest took his censer in to first burn incense in God’s presence, it was prescribed that he must not stay too long “lest he put Israel in terror.” The people waited with bated breath, so that when he came out from the presence alive, there went up a sigh of relief. In verses 7-8 the point is crystal-clear: throughout the ages of the old covenant, there was no direct access to God, period!
But as inadequate as the access to God under the old system was, it was exceeded by its limited efficacy. The blood sacrifice that the high priest offered only covered sins of ignorance (v. 7). There was no provision in the old covenant’s sacrificial system for forgiveness of premeditated sins! Premeditated, willful sins were called sins of the “high hand,” and for such there was no remedy (see Num. 15:30-31).The spiritual limitations of the old system went even deeper, because since only sins of ignorance were forgiven no one could have a completely clear conscience (vv. 9-10). So the limitations of the old covenant were profound – limited access and limited efficacy. The average Joes were several ecclesiastical layers removed from access to God’s presence – and their consciences never rested easy.
The adequacy of the New Covenant (vv. 11-14): Christ’s unrestricted access is dramatically stated in verses 11-12. Christ came having given His own precious blood once and for all, and then He sat down at the right hand of the Father – never more to leave. Everything foreshadowed by the earthly tabernacle is fulfilled in His priesthood in ways beyond description. But there is even more, for the unlimited access is crowned with unlimited efficacy as Christ makes consciences clean. To make this point, the author reiterates the limited nature of the old system in verse 13. Considering that the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer had that much effect described in Numbers 19:1-13, “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (v. 14). There is deep glorious forgiveness in the new covenant, and it is available to all! What more can we ask for than forgiveness of our sins and a clear conscience? We have exactly that in Christ!
Hebrews 9:1-14 Reflection Questions:
What type of priest was Zechariah in Luke 1:5-25?
How does the old covenant point to Christ?
What type of sins were committed by the high priest and Jewish leaders that convicted Jesus to death?
The study of the Word of God, especially lofty passages in Revelation or Ezekiel or Hebrews, sometimes makes us feel like we are traveling on the wings of angels. Certainly John’s Revelation was given to expand our minds and quicken our heartbeats to the glories we will experience. As we continue to consider the surpassing glory of the Christ’s heavenly priesthood, let us imagine what it must have been like when the Lamb of God ascended to take His seat at the right hand of the Father as our eternal High Priest. This is what the writer of Hebrews wants us to see and take to heart at this point in the letter (vv. 1-2). The precise point here is that Christ’s priestly session in Heaven is transcendentally supreme and superior to the old earthly priesthood of Aaron.
Apart from its unspeakable glory, the supremacy of His priesthood is seen in that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father. His posture points to His completed work. It is the physical expression of His triumphant cry from the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Because in His person He brought finite man and infinite God together, He could then do what no one else could – He could bear all our sins in a single cosmic sacrifice.
Jesus’ footwashing service here on earth was not an aberration of the Incarnation. Serving is part of His divine being. Think of it! Jesus, our eternal Priest who sits at the Father’s right hand in ineffable glory enthroned on emerald atop a crystal sea amongst the adoration of millions, serves in our behalf! “God serves me”! It is a ludicrous expression but true. Take a deep breath, swallow your disbelief, and humbly believe it. Jesus’ prayers are placed in your service and mine. There are no lapses, no disaffections, no uneven devotion – only a loving constancy of intercession – serving, serving, serving… The writer goes on to further demonstrate the surpassing nature of Christ’s priesthood by pointing to its superior reality and substance (vv. 3-5).
Our author’s logic moves from Christ’s superior session, through His superior reality, and now to His superior covenant and ministry. He introduces the subject of the new covenant by pronouncing the old covenant flawed (vv. 6-8). The old covenant was flawed, not in what was spelled out in the Law’s requirements, for the Law was good, but in that it was “weakened by the flesh” of the people (Rom. 8:3), because “the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s Law; indeed, it cannot” (Rom. 8:7-8). Because of this, it could not deliver on its wonderful promises. But the new covenant was founded on “better promises,” both because of their extent and because of the covenant’s ability to bring them to fulfillment in the lives of sinful humanity. This new covenant was to prove superior in every way, because it was founded on “better promises” (v. 6).
So what are these promises? First of all, the new covenant promises superior inwardness (v. 10a). The problem with the old covenant was, it was patently external. Its laws were written on stone. They provided no internal power to live them out. To be sure, there was (and is) great benefit in memorizing God’s Word, but the writing on the heart was beyond the power of unaided man. Something far more radical was needed – a spiritual heart operation.
Next, the new covenant promises a superior relationship (v. 10b). This is perfectly fulfilled in all who partake of the new covenant, in which believers actually become God’s possession and possess God. There is a tender, truer relationship of heart to heart, spirit to spirit – so that “I will be their God, and they shall be My people” is true in a deeper, more soul-satisfying way than those on the outside can imagine.
Superior inwardness and superior relationship are followed by a superior knowledge (v. 11). The old covenant was corporately entered into by a nation, including many who did not know God personally. But those who experience the new covenant come one by one as they are born into a relationship with God. Jesus defined eternal life by saying, “And this is eternal life, that they know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). God’s command “Know the Lord” is meant to allure men and women, boys and girls toward life. For those on the inside, personal knowledge will make them ache for more.
Finally, there is the promise of superior forgiveness in the new covenant (v. 12). This is precisely what the old covenant could not do. Under the old covenant, sins were never completely forgiven because they were never truly forgotten. They were covered, awaiting and pointing to the forgiveness through Christ’s death. Forgiveness is the most important of the qualities we have discussed, for it is the basis of the other three. Here forgiveness is tied to memory. God never forgets anything. In fact, He cannot forget unless He wills to do so. Any sin He remembers must be punished because He is holy. The new covenant brings total forgiveness! God does not just forget our sins. It is impossible for God to remember them!
Hebrews 8:1-13 Reflection Questions:
Do you know God personally? Do you ache for more of God?
Why is important that we forgive “those who sin against us”?
How are the above promises accomplished?
So far we have seen that Christ is a superior priest because of God’s oath and because of the permanence of Christ’s priesthood. No matter how devoted and obedient the Aaronic priests were, they could not always meet the needs of all the people. But Jesus Christ perfectly meets all our needs. Being perfect, He is able to exercise a perfect ministry for His people. Because of their sins, some of the Old Testament priests not only were unable to serve the people, but actually abused them. This could never happen with Jesus Christ and His people.
Old Testament priests were “set apart” for their ministry, so in that sense they were “holy.” But they were not always holy in character. They were sinners like the people to whom they ministered. The word “harmless” (v. 26) means “blameless.” No Jewish priest could claim this distinction. “Undefiled” means “unstained.” Again only Jesus Christ can claim these characteristics. When He was ministering on earth, our Lord was a friend of publicans and sinners (Matt. 9:10; 11:19), but His contact with them did not defile His character or His conduct. There was contact without contamination. He was not isolated, He was separated. Today, He is “separate from sinners” because of His position (“made higher than the heavens”); but He is not separate from the people to whom He ministers. He is always available to us at His throne of grace.
Another proof of His sinlessness is the fact that our Lord never had to offer sacrifices for His own cleansing, as did the priests. On the annual Day of Atonement, the high priest first had to sacrifice for himself before he could sacrifice for the people (Lev. 16). There were also daily sacrifices offered as a part of the temple ritual; and if a priest had sinned, he had to bring a sacrifice for his own cleansing. But Jesus Christ offered just one sacrifice for our sins and settled the matter forever (9:23-28).
This is the kind of priest we need! We are prone to sin daily, even hourly; and we need to be able to turn to Him for spiritual help. As our High Priest, Jesus Christ gives us the grace and mercy that we need not to sin. But if we do sin, He is our Advocate at God’s throne (1 John 2:1-2). If we confess our sins to Him, He forgives us and restores us (1 John 1:9).
The application is obvious: why turn away from such an adequate High Priest? What more can you find in any other person? The men who served under the Law of Moses had human infirmities and weaknesses, and they often failed. Our heavenly High Priest has been “consecrated [perfectly] forevermore” (v. 28) and there is no spot or blemish in Him. Such a High Priest “suits us perfectly”!
Hebrews 7:26-28 Reflection Questions:
When you are out in the world, does your character and conduct model that of Christ’s? Do you stand out?
Are you availing yourself of Jesus’ gracious ministry? What is your need? Bring it to Him in prayer today!
With these verses the writer took his argument one step further. Not only is Melchizedek greater than Aaron, but Melchizedek has replaced Aaron. It is no longer “the order of Aaron” or “the order of Levi.” It is forever “the order of Melchizedek.” Why would God effect such a radical change?
Because both the priesthood and the Law were imperfect (vv. 11-14): The words translated “perfect” and “perfection” are key words in this epistle. They essentially mean “completed, fulfilled.” The Old Testament priests could not by their ministry complete the work of God in the heart of a worshiper. The animal sacrifices could not give any worshiper a perfect standing before God. The Mosaic system of divine Law was not a permanent system. It was “added” to serve as a “schoolmaster” to prepare the way for the coming of Christ (Gal. 3:19-4:7). The new arrangement does not suggest that a Christian has the right to be lawless. “Free from the Law” does not mean “free to sin.” Rather it means that we are free to do the will of God. We obey, not because of outward compulsion, but because of inward constraint. The indwelling Holy Spirit enables us to fulfill the “righteousness of the Law” as we yield to Him (Rom. 8:1-4).
Because, being imperfect, the priesthood and the Law could not continue forever (vv. 15-19): The word “another” in verse 15 means “another of a different kind.” The Levitical priests were made priests by the authority of a temporary and imperfect Law. Jesus Christ was made Priest by a declaration of God. Because the Law was “weak and useless (v. 18), it could not continue forever. But because Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, He lives by “the power of an endless life” (v. 16). What a contrast between the profitless Law and an endless life. The writer kept in mind the temptation his readers were facing to go back into the old temple system. This is why he reminded them (v. 19) that Jesus Christ has accomplished what the Law could never accomplish: He brought in a better hope, and He enables us to draw near to God. To go back to Judaism would mean losing the enjoyment of their fellowship with God through Christ. The only hope Judaism had was the coming to Christ, and that blessing these believers already had.
Because God’s oath cannot be broken (vv. 20-22): No priest in the order of Aaron was ever ordained and established on the basis of God’s personal oath. The important thing was that a priest belonged to the right tribe and met the right physical and ceremonial requirements (Lev. 21:16-24). Jesus Christ’s heavenly priesthood was established on the basis of His work on the cross, His character, and the oath of God (v. 21). Note the introduction of the statement: “The Lord swore and will not repent [change His mind].” The matter is finally settled and it cannot be changed. The writer has given these three reasons why God changed the order of the priesthood from that of Aaron to that of Melchizedek. Then the writer of this letter to the Hebrews closed this section with a fourth.
Because, being men, the priests died (vv. 23-25): Not only was the priesthood imperfect, but it was also interrupted by death. There many high priests because no one priest could live forever. In contrast, the church has one High Priest, Jesus the Son of God, who lives forever. An unchanging priest means an unchanging priesthood, and this means security and confidence for God’s people. The fact that the unchanging Christ continues as High Priest means, logically, that there is an “unchangeable priesthood” (v. 24). The Greek word translated “unchangeable” carries the idea of “valid and unalterable.” The word was used at the end of legal contracts. Our Lord’s priesthood in heaven is “valid and unalterable.” Because it is, we can have confidence in the midst of this shaking, changing world. The conclusion of the matter is in verse 25. The fact is that Christ saves completely, forever, for all who put their faith in Him. Because He is our High Priest forever, He can save forever.
Hebrews 7:11-25 Reflection Questions:
How do you yield to Jesus through the Holy Spirit?
Are you fellowshipping with God daily?
When I was much younger (which was a long time ago) I used to love watching the old Sherlock Holmes movies with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. I would always try to solve the mystery before the end of the movie (which I wasn’t very successful at). The one thing I did learn is to never overlook any character in the story, even the most incidental. If you were asked to name the most important people in the Old Testament, I doubt that Melchizedek’s name would be on your list. He appeared once in Genesis 14:17-24; and he was referred to once more in Psalm 110:4. You could hardly call this “top billing.” But the Holy Spirit reached back into the Old Testament and used those two passages to present a most important truth: the priesthood of Jesus Christ is superior to that of Aaron because “the order of Melchizedek” is superior to “the order of Levi.”
The record of the event of Melchizedek and Abraham is in Genesis 14:17-24, so take the time to read it. The writer of Hebrews wanted us to note several facts about this mysterious man: He was both king and priest (v. 1), Aaron never had that privilege. It’s important to note that Melchizedek was not a “counterfeit” priest: he was the “priest of the Most High God” (Gen. 14:18 & 22). His ministry was legitimate.
His name is significant (v. 2b).In the Bible, names and their meanings are often important. The name of Melchizedek is “king of peace” as well as “king of righteousness.” “Righteousness” and “peace” are often found together in Scripture. True peace can be experienced only on the basis of righteousness. If we want to enjoy “peace with God” we must be “justified [declared righteous] by faith” (Rom. 5:1). Man cannot produce righteousness by keeping the Old Testament Law (Gal. 2:21). It’s only through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross that righteousness and peace could have “kissed each other.”
He received tithes from Abraham (v. 2a). This important fact is explained in verses 4-10. The word “tithe” means one tenth.” Under Jewish Law, the Jews were commanded to give God one tenth of their crops, herds, and flocks (Lev. 27:30-32). Tithing, however, did not originate with Moses. Abraham practiced tithing long before the Law was given. In fact, archeologists have discovered that other nations also tithed in that day.
His family history is different (v. 3). Melchizedek was a man, so he had to of had parents. But there is no record of his genealogy in the Old Testament; and this is significant because most great persons in the Old Testament have their ancestry identified. It was especially important that the priests be able to prove their ancestry. Melchizedek was not an angel or a superhuman creature; nor was he an Old Testament appearance of Jesus Christ. He was a real man, a real king, and a real priest in a real city. But as far as the record is concerned, he was not born, nor did he die. In this way, he is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God. Though Jesus Christ did die, Calvary was not the end; He arose from the dead and today lives in “the power of an endless life (v. 16). The application is clear: neither Aaron nor any of his descendants could claim to be “without genealogy” (v. 3). They could not claim to have and endless ministry or claim to be both kings and priests like Jesus Christ.
He had authority to receive tithes and to bless Abraham (vv. 4-10). The greatness of Melchizedek is seen in the fact that Abraham gave tithes from the loot of a miniwar. Abraham acknowledged the authority of Melchizedek. Furthermore, Melchizedek blessed Abraham in a special way; and “the less is blessed by the better” (v. 7). In giving Melchizedek tithes and in receiving his blessing, Abraham affirmed the greatness of this king-priest. But how does this relate to Aaron? In an interesting way: Aaron and the tribe of Levi were “in the loins” of Abraham, yet unborn. So, when their father, Abraham acknowledged the greatness of Melchizedek, the tribe of Levi was also involved. The paying of the tithes involved not just the patriarch Abraham, but also the unborn generations in his loins. Since Jesus Christ came “of the seed of Abraham” (Heb. 2:16), does this mean that He too was a part of this experience? No, because Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God. His identification with Abraham was for “the days of His flesh” (Heb. 5:7). Since Christ existed before Abraham (John 8:58), He could not have been “in Abraham” as were Aaron and his family.
Hebrews 7:1-10 Reflection Question:
What are some O. T. and N.T. examples of using “peace and righteousness” together?
No one should misinterpret his exhortation to spiritual maturity; the writer ended this section with a tremendous argument for the assurance of salvation. All of us Christians are not making the spiritual progress we should, but we need never fear that God will condemn us. The writer gave three arguments for the certain salvation of true believers.
Gods promise (vv. 13-15): God’s main promise to Abraham is recorded in Genesis 22:16-17. In spite of Abraham’s failures and sins, God kept His promise and Isaac was born. Many of God’s promises do not depend on our character but on His faithfulness. The phrase “patiently endured” (v. 15) is the exact opposite of “slothful” (Heb. 6:12). The readers of this letter were about to give up; their endurance was running out. We Christians today have more of God’s promises than did Abraham! So what’s keeping us from making spiritual progress?…We don’t apply ourselves by faith. To use the illustration of the farm, the farmer does not reap a harvest by sitting on the porch looking at the seed. He must get busy and plow, plant, weed, cultivate, and perhaps water the soil. The believer who neglects church fellowship, ignores their Bible, and forgets to pray is not going to reap much of a harvest.
God’s oath (vv. 16-18): God not only gave Abraham a promise, but He also confirmed that promise with an oath. God did not do this only for Abraham. He has also given His promise and oath to “heirs of promise” (v. 17). Abraham and his descendants are the first of these heirs (see Heb. 11:9), but all believers are included as “Abraham’s (spiritual) seed” (Gal. 3:29). So our assurance of salvation is guaranteed by God’s promise and God’s oath, the “two unchangeable things” (v. 18). We have great encouragement concerning the hope set before us! Hebrews is a book of encouragement, not discouragement! The phrase “fled for refuge” (v. 18) suggests the Old Testament “cities of refuge” described in Numbers 13:9 and Joshua 20. We have fled to Jesus Christ, and He is our eternal refuge. As our High Priest, He will never die; and we have eternal salvation. No avenger can touch us, because He has already died and arisen from the dead.
God’s Son (vv. 19-20): Our hope in Christ is like an anchor for our soul. The anchor was a popular symbol in the early church. However a spiritual anchor is different from material anchors on ships. For one thing, we are anchored upward – to heaven – not downward. We are anchored, not to stand still, but to move ahead! Our anchor is “sure” – it cannot break – and “steadfast” – it cannot slip. No earthly anchor can give that kind of security! The writer then clinches the argument: this Savior is our “forerunner” who has gone ahead to heaven so that we may one day follow (v. 20)! Jesus Christ is “within the veil” as our High Priest. We can therefore come boldly to His throne and receive all the help that we need. But we must not be “secret saints.” We must be willing to identify with Christ in His rejection and go “without the camp, bearing His reproach” (Heb. 13:13). The Hebrew believers who received this letter were tempted to compromise to avoid that reproach. However, if we live “within the veil,” we shall have no trouble going “without the camp.”
Don’t miss the lesson of the past three studies: believers must go on to maturity, and God has made it possible for us to do so. If we start to drift from the Word, then we will also start to doubt the Word. Before long, we will get dull toward the Word and become lazy believers. The best way to keep from drifting is – to lay hold of the anchor! Anchored heavenward! How much more can you be?
Hebrews 6:13-20 Reflection Questions:
Are you progressing to spiritual maturity?
In what ways will you expand on your “spiritual maturity” journey?