Hebrews Lesson 96 August 9, 2007
NKJ Isaiah 40:31 But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.
Well as you can see (visual testimony) that overindulgence in ice cream and lobster is not fatal. I went up to Connecticut last week. I took the hot weather with me. It was 96 or 97 degrees which is hot. It is not quite as humid. They think it is just terrible; but here where it ranges from 95% in the morning to about 60% their range is from 80% down to about 45%. It is humid but it is... We get the grand prize for humidity here, living in the swamp. So it was great. The ordination was great. I am going to give a report on Sunday morning when I will have pictures by then so that you can get an idea of how things went. It was very good and we had a tremendous weekend.
One of the members of the ordination council is Dr. Elliott Johnson. Elliott was a doctoral student – in fact he got his ThD the same year that Charlie and George Meisinger got their ThM's. So they knew him back then. Charlie hadn't seen Elliott since then. He is one of the good guys up there at Dallas Seminary that are really holding the line against the influence of progressive dispensationalism and several other things - just a real solid guy. He was impressed with the depth of the ordination and all that went into preparation for it, even having the general public (the congregation) invited to witness the questioning.
He said, "I have been to a lot of ordinations and they are all back in the conference room somewhere. The elders or the deacons grill the pastor."
He thought it was a great idea to have the congregation there. He saw a few things he liked.
Well, somebody sent me an email today. I've had this before and I thought it was rather amusing. I thought I would read it to you and share the humor. It has a lot to say about how things are interpreted today and how people read things the way they want to read things and shape things the way they want to shape them.
Judy who is a professional genealogical researcher discovered that Hillary Clinton's great great uncle Remus Rodham, a fellow lacking in character, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in 1889. The only known photograph of Remus shows him standing on the gallows. On the back of the picture is the inscription:
Remus Rodham, horse thief, sent to Montana territorial prison 1885. Escaped 1887. Robbed the Montana Flyer 6 times. Caught by Pinkerton detectives. Convicted and hanged in 1889.
Judy emailed Hillary Clinton for comments. Hillary's staff of professional image adjusters cropped Remus's picture, scanned it, enlarged it, and edited it with the image processing software so that all that is seen is the headshot. The accompanying biographical sketch is as follows:
Remus Rodham was a famous cowboy in the Montana territory. His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with Montana's railroad. Beginning in 1883 he devoted several years of his life to service at a government facility finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887 he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889 Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed.
I guess it is all how you look at things, right?
Well before we get started we need to make sure that we are in fellowship. I know the mention of Hillary Clinton probably got half of you out of fellowship and it may take you 5 minutes to get you back in fellowship. Nevertheless we will have silent prayer and then I will open in prayer. Let us pray.
Well, tonight we are back in Hebrews 7:11. We will be back in Hebrews 7:11. As I started getting back into the flow of Hebrews 7, I realized it was taking me a long time because it had been a little over 2 months, maybe three months, since we actually went through this first part of Hebrews 7. I figured if it was taking me that long to get my head back into Hebrews 7 it would probably take you even longer. So, I thought that we needed to have some review to reorient ourselves.
What happened is that we hit those last couple of verses (7, 9, 10, 11) that deal with (mostly 10 and 11) the fact that Levi paid tithes in Abraham's loins and how that verse was used as a proof text in many theologies for different positions. So we took a little bit of a side track down two major rabbit trails dealing with:
- the origin and transmission of the soul and
- the origin and transmission of the sin nature.
Now I concluded the second part of those two series last week. So we are back into our flow of Hebrews. Let's take some time this evening. I want to review.
As I was doing this I went back to the first chapter of Hebrews. I noticed certain thematic elements that come into play in Hebrews 7, 8, 9, and 10 that were identified in the introduction. Now that we have studied through the first 6 ½ chapters and are on the verge of getting into this next section, it all of a sudden stands out a little more as to what the writer was doing. Hebrews takes a number of different threads as it were – threads of doctrine related to the person of Christ, related to His sanctification in His humanity during the time that He was on the earth, certain threads related to His ascension and His present session at the right hand of the Father. The Psalm that is quoted the most in Hebrews is Psalm 110. Psalm 110:1 is quoted two or three times; Psalm 110:4 is quoted two or three times which are very important for understanding the Doctrine of the Ascension. This doctrine is just embedded back there in the Old Testament. If you went back and just read Psalm110 you might not on your own pick out all the implications that the writer of Hebrews is picking out. That is the way that doctrine progresses.
Sometimes I will use the phrase progress of doctrine. People don't know what that means. It doesn't mean…well, it can mean two things. It means that doctrine progresses in the Scripture because you have progressive revelation. So with the Old Testament you have certain things revealed in the Pentateuch, certain things revealed in the prophets, certain things built on that when you get into the gospels, and more things built on top of that in the epistles. But once the canon is closed, you have another type of progress of doctrine. That is the progress of the church's understanding of doctrine so that our understanding of the doctrine of the trinity today is far superior to the Apostle Paul's doctrine of the trinity.
Now when I say that some people say, "Wait a minute. He had the Holy Spirit and he was inspired when he wrote all of that."
He understood the trinity, yes, but he didn't have the word trinity. See, you have the word trinity. That encapsulates all that is taught there in that one vocabulary word and he didn't have that. That was not coined until Tertullian coined it in the early part of the third century. So with the development of vocabulary (came) the development of technical language to articulate the nuances of these doctrines. We who live 2,000 years later understand things that were only implicit in the minds of the apostles as they wrote these things. They did not understand the full import of everything that they said.
So let's start with about 3 points of general introduction to Hebrews.
- First of all, we remember that Hebrews was written not so much as an epistle initially; but it bears the marks of having first been an oral message. It was a message of exhortation or challenge to challenge the Hebrew believers (mostly former priests who had become Christians) with the need to stand fast in their Christian doctrine and Christian beliefs and not fall by the wayside and fade out and go back into Judaism. So the listener and/or reader are challenged to respond to God's teaching and to stand fast and not fall away and give up rewards and inheritance.
- The second thing we see is the theme of Hebrews. The writer of Hebrews draws out the implications of the Savior's session on the current sanctification of the saints and their future service in the kingdom. In other words, we've boiled it down to living today in the light of eternity. That is what he is doing. He is drawing out the implications. What is Christ doing at the right hand of the Father today? Why is He doing it? Why is He there? What are the implications of His high priestly ministry in relation to the body of Christ, the church? And, what does this have to do with our future destiny? All of that boiled down to living today in the light of eternity.
- Then the third point of introduction is that the book of Hebrews is structured around five sections which contain a doctrinal exposition or a teaching point developing out something we already know about the person and work of Christ and then a section that is more of a challenge or an application and within that challenge or application there is also a warning of the dangers of falling away or treating doctrine lightly. So there is a strong challenge and warning to these believers at that time not to fall away, not to give up because if they do they jeopardize eternal rewards – not only temporal blessings, but also eternal rewards.
Now we have seen this outline before. We have the prelude, which is the first four verses. The emphasis on the prelude is on the God who speaks. Over and over and over again as we go through Hebrews we focus on God's revelation. God has spoken; God has said; God has revealed. These are the oracles of God. Again and again and again there is a reference to God speaking and because God has spoken, there is a necessary response on our part to be obedient to what He has said.
We are not to sit there and go, "Isn't that interesting. God spoke. Well, let's go into the classroom and talk about this and bandy it about and see what our opinions are about it."
No, when God speaks we are to respond. It is like that commercial that they had for one of the stockbroker firms. When they speak, everybody listens. Well, it is sort of like when God speaks everybody is supposed to respond and respond in obedience. So the emphasis is on God speaking. He has spoken in times past.
NKJ Hebrews 1:1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,
NKJ Hebrews 1:2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;
The emphasis there and the implication is that He is speaking now. It is something that is final and complete. That revelation process has been completed.
The rest of the prelude introduces the basic themes related to the Son. He created all things. He has purged us from sin. He has cleansed us from sin. He has ascended to heaven. He is now seated at the right hand of God the Father above the angels and this seating is related to His victory in His humanity. He is the future heir of all things.
NKJ Hebrews 1:4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
So the session, the seating at the right hand of the Father, is going to then be related to His priesthood. But, before the writer can get there, the first thing he has to establish is that Christ is superior to the angels. That is the focus in the first section in chapter 1:5 to 2:4. So 1:5 to 2:4 has a doctrinal exposition of His deity and humanity. The emphasis though is going to be on both of these. Psalm 2:7 emphasizes His deity, His eternal sonship which is quoted in verse 5.
NKJ Hebrews 1:5 For to which of the angels did He ever say: "You are My Son, Today I have begotten You"? And again: "I will be to Him a Father, And He shall be to Me a Son"?
Then it is connected to Psalm 89, and the second part of the verse which relates to His humanity and His being the Davidic Son. So these two things are brought together and then in verse 8 it emphasizes again His deity. It will be an eternal reign. Then in the second part of that section in verses 10 through 12 it talks about how we will be elevated up because of the plan of God, that the Lord laid the foundation of the earth, laid the plans - verse 10 which quotes Psalm 102.
But the focal point of this is that in His sonship and in His humanity He is qualified and He is elevated above the angels - because in His deity He is already there. But, in His humanity He has to go through this second qualification process which when He passes the test when He is buried, resurrected, ascended to heaven; then He is elevated over the angels in His humanity.
At the end of the chapter we read:
NKJ Hebrews 1:13 But to which of the angels has He ever said: "Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool"?
Then we have a quote from Psalm 110:1 which reads:
NKJ Psalm 110:1 A Psalm of David. The LORD
Now I want you to watch this. I am going to go ahead and connect it to Psalm 110:4 in this introduction so you can watch how the theme develops.
The capital, the upper case LORD is referring to YHWH. So that is referring to God the Father.
said to my Lord,
That is Adonai in the second "Lord". That's a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ, the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ.
"Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool."
Now we all know from English that when you have a second person singular command, it assumes the presence of the second person singular pronoun.
So when I tell you to jump what I have actually said is, "You jump." When I say to leave, I am actually saying, "You leave."
So when the First Person of the Trinity says to the Second Person of the Trinity, "Sit at My right hand" He is actually saying, "You sit at My right hand."
Now it is important to put that first "you" in there because we connect it to the second use of the second person pronoun - You sit until I make your enemies your footstool.
Now we have identified that in the conversation in Psalm 110 that the "you" is a reference to the Second Person of the Trinity, the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ. So when we come to Psalm 110:4 which is the key verse behind Hebrews 7 dealing with the Melchizedekean priesthood we read:
NKJ Psalm 110:4 The LORD
That is YHWH, the First Person of the Trinity.
has sworn And will not relent, "You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek."
Who does that you refer to? Second person singular – the Messianic Davidic King – the eternal Second Person of the Trinity.
So the point that we are bringing out here is that this shows from the exegesis of Psalm 110 that this other person is viewed as being fully divine in Psalm 110. You have a multiplicity of persons there in the Old Testament. You don't have a singular deity. You have multiplicity of persons there. You have two divine beings in conversation. The second one is identified as becoming a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. It is the unpacking of that verse that is going to be significant in the book of Hebrews.
So the first section closes with this reference to Psalm 110:1 and then you have the practical exhortation and warning in chapter 2 right here in 2:1-4. In 2:1-4 there is a conclusion drawn and that conclusion is a challenge to give strict attention to obedience lest we drift away. The default position of your sin nature is carnality and to drift away from doctrine. So whenever you stop walking by the Spirit, your spiritual gears shift into carnality and you automatically start drifting away. So, there has to be attention given. We have to focus on our spiritual life. It is not something that is just going to happen. There has to be discipline, mental discipline.
The more I watch things today… I have heard within the last two weeks of so many cases of young people. There has always been young people - teenagers who grow up, leave, go off to college and sort of sow their wild oats. But what we are seeing today is a level of – and I am hearing more and more reports of this – where kids who grow up and are well-taught and well-grounded in apologetics and worldview and the whole thing; they leave and by the time they get into their twenties they are off almost to the verge of neo-paganism and witchcraft. There is such an incredible amount of pressure in the culture and from the peers on these kids that they feel so left out. You go into some parts of this country and I have seen this with young ladies and shall we say a little more mature ladies in their 30's and even 40's trying to figure out if they are going to find a man who is a believer and positive to doctrine. They can barely find other women who are positive to doctrine, much less a man. So when you look at young kids, teenagers, college-aged kids growing up and going off to college, they feel like they are completely isolated. It is very easy for that peer pressure to convince them that Christianity and intense devotion to doctrine is not that important. As soon as they do their gears slip into carnality and it doesn't take long at all. Two or tree months and you don't even recognize them any more. That is what the apostle was warning right here. You have to give more earnest attention.
NKJ Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away
He gives an example from the Old Testament. He goes to Sinai and says, "Look at the Mosaic Law. If the Jews who had the Mosaic Law were rebellious and were disciplined in such an extreme manner in coming out of the wilderness that they weren't allowed to enter into the Promised Land, how much more will we who have such a greater salvation i.e. inheritance (Remember we are defining the word salvation having to do with that end result – salvation, deliverance, the full orbed manifestation of everything we get with our justification) that how much more we will be accountable when we stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ?"
From there we go to section two. Section two extends from 2:5 down through 4:13. There are two divisions in this section. There is the doctrinal exposition or the pedagogical development in 2:5 to 3:6. Then this is followed by a much lengthier practical exhortation and warning in 3:7 to 4:13. As we go through this we see the themes begin to be developed a little bit more. We see an emphasis on the Son being made a lower than the angels. It has already been indicated that He is elevated at the ascension above the angels. Now the writer goes back in his logic and says that He is created lower than the angels. In His deity He was over the angels; He is lower than the angels.
Why was it necessary for Him in His humanity to go through all of this kind of testing?
In verse 10 he writes:
NKJ Hebrews 2:10 For it was fitting for Him,
That is the Father
for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
The "many sons to glory" are the Church Age believers. So what he is saying is that it is fitting in order to bring you to your maturation point so that you can be a successful co-ruler with Jesus Christ in the Millennium. In order to do that it was necessary for the Captain of Our Salvation to be perfected, that is to be brought to completion through sufferings.
So he sets the standard and He blazes the trail for us. He has to go through the same kinds of suffering, the same kind of testing, the same kind of temptation that we do, yet without sin. Now that comes up at the beginning of the next section. So you see how each section sort of builds on the sections before.
Then we come to Hebrews 2:17-18. At the conclusion of this little section he says:
NKJ Hebrews 2:17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren,
that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
Now look back to verse 10. He had to go through this process of being perfected through suffering. You connect that with the fact that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest because He has been tested in all things as we are. He had to be made like us. He had to live His life on the earth in His humanity as a human being.
Now that brings up an interesting question that I have been thinking through more and more dealing with the hypostatic union. We think about the hypostatic union and I have talked to some degree about this already. You have the two natures in Christ, but it is one person. It is one individual. He is not schizo.
He is not saying, "I am over here today. Now I am over here. Let's go back over here and be divine; now let's go over here and be human."
It is one person. So everything is coming out of one person. But, He has two natures. One is undiminished deity and the other is true humanity. He has always got both of these natures there.
But some how and this is the issue with kenosis in Philippians 2:5-11 where it is translated, "He did not think it robbery to be thought equal to God, but He gave up His attributes."
He didn't give them up. He willingly restricts them.
The question came up when we were at the ordination this last week. The standard question was to define the hypostatic union. And the answer that was given by David was the standard answer that you will find like Jesus Christ our Lord John Walvoord's book on Christology or any number of other classic works on Christology that Christ willingly gave up the independent use of His eternal attributes.
After he gave the definition I said, "Okay David, tell me when Jesus the Second Person of the Trinity ever used His attributes independently of the Father's will."
He never did. So that's really not a good definition, but it is one we have all heard and one that has been used again and again and again for decades if not for centuries. So we have to think through what is really going on with the hypostatic union is that Jesus willingly sort of blocks off His deity. He assesses those divine attributes when it is important to demonstrate His divine credentials and who He is as the Messiah, as the predicted Son of God because remember in the Old Testament you have all those passages like Psalm 110:1, 110:4, Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6 all of which indicate that the Messiah is going to be fully God. He is going to be called eternal God. They will call Him Emmanuel, God with us. Micah 5:2 He will be born in Bethlehem. He who's going forth is of old - eternality. He will be born in Bethlehem. So He demonstrates that He is divine through the use of certain divine attributes, but He only accesses His deity to demonstrate His credentials. He never assesses His deity to solve the problems in His humanity, to deal with the weakness of His flesh in terms of His limitations of His humanity.
When we did that study a couple of weeks ago in Genesis when we were dealing with sorrow and grief and dealing with funerals and the loss of a loved one and I traced the use of the various compounds of lupeo and how antilupeo is used to intensify. It is an intensified grief and sorrow and anguish that Jesus is going through when He is in the Garden of Gethsemane. That is probably the closest He ever came to giving up because the pressure was so intense, but He had to pass the test without being strengthened by His deity because that was the whole point - that He was going to solve all of His problems and handle all the testing on His own as a man in contrast to the first Adam who failed and who gave up and acted independently of God. So Jesus has to handle all of these things in His humanity. That means He can now be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God. That is the spiritual life starting with salvation, making propitiation for the sins of the people.
NKJ Hebrews 2:17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
NKJ Hebrews 2:18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.
Now that takes us through - it emphasizes a few of these themes related to priesthood that we see in the teaching portion, the doctrinal exposition part of that particular section. Then in 3:7 down to 4:13 we have this long section dealing with the challenge of listening to God's Word. The centerpiece of this is a threefold and if you add verse 13 almost a fourfold repetition of the idea in Psalm 95:7 and 8 picking up at the last phrase, the last part of the sentence.
NKJ Psalm 95:7 For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, And the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice:
NKJ Psalm 95:8 "Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, As in the day of trial in the wilderness,
"If you hear His voice." He takes us back to chapter 1, verse 1. God has spoken in these last days. God has spoken by the prophets and the fathers. So if He has spoken, our response is not to harden our hearts to that. This Psalm 95 is an indictment on Israel for their failure in the wilderness in general and at Kadesh Barnea specifically because they failed to trust God and to rest in His provision so that they can then enter into their promised rest, which is entering into the Promised Land. So they failed to do that.
That leads to the next section which begins in 4:14. You have a doctrinal exposition in 4:15 to 5:10 and then a lengthy practical exhortation from 5:11 to 6:20 and embedded in the middle of that is a short warning section.
Now it begins in verse 14 with a statement.
NKJ Hebrews 4:14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God,
What is he doing there? He is going back and picking up that theme that ended the previous didactic section with in verse 17 and 18 talking about the high priest. So he goes back and picks up the thread of the high priest, he picks up the ascension. He passed through the heavens. Then we have an exhortation.
let us hold fast our confession.
NKJ Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but
So he is unpacking this whole doctrine of the high priestly ministry of Jesus Christ.
was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
NKJ Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
So he begins an exposition of the high priestly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Again He connects that to Melchizedek in verse 6. He quotes from Psalm 110:4 and then he breaks off. In verse 10 he says:
NKJ Hebrews 5:10 called by God as High Priest "according to the order of Melchizedek,"
NKJ Hebrews 5:11 of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.
So he didn't get very far into the topic and he broke off in order to challenge them and to warn them because they have become sluggish and dull of hearing because they didn't take their spiritual life seriously enough. So they have slipped into carnality gear and they are veering way off course and he has to grab their attention and warn them about the dangerous consequences of what is going to happen if they are off course. If they continue they can even end up in the sin unto death. So we have this lengthy section from 5:12 down through the end of chapter 6 in the midst of which is that very well known very famous warning section in chapter 6:4-8. All this simply challenges them to the fact that there are real and serious consequences to failure in the spiritual life. It is not that you will lose your salvation, but there is tremendous damage that is done both in time and in eternity.
Okay, that brings us now to section four which is chapter 7:1 through 10:39. So we have 4 chapters to deal with. They are not going to be the kind of chapters for the most part that we get mired down in a lot technical exegesis. There is a lot of narrative here and there is also some sort of what I would call filler verses that we will get into because the standard process apparently in Jewish commentary is that if they wanted to quote a passage to make a point rather than just quoting the first part of it they would quote the entire passage simply to make a point out of one phrase. So in chapter 8 when he has this lengthy quote of the New Covenant passage from Jeremiah 31 he quotes the whole passage; but the only point that he is making is that the term New Covenant implies that the older covenant was temporary and was always designed to be replaced. That's it! That is the only point he is making from about a 5 verse quotation. We will of course take our time going through it to make sure that we understand the New Covenant.
Okay, let's look at chapter 7. The section is going to emphasize the necessity of a new high priest, a high priest that has to be superior to the priestly ministry that was part of the Mosaic Law. The Aaronic high priesthood and the Levitical priesthood were tied to the Mosaic Law. The Mosaic Law was intended to be temporary. It had limitations. It was designed to provide a priesthood only for the Jews. Because the Jews had come to Mt. Sinai God had said there in Exodus 19 that He was going to make of them a kingdom of priests.
But, even as God was speaking to them from Mt. Sinai they cowered in fear and said, "Oh, we can't listen to the voice of God so let's send Moses up as an intermediary and he can talk to Moses and Moses can talk to us."
In other words the people don't want - as a nation they rejected the idea of being a priestly nation. They wanted to have a subcategory to be the intercessor for them. This is where God sets up in the Mosaic Law the intercessory ministry of the Levitical priesthood in relationship to their rejection. So we have a development of the limitations of the Levitical priesthood in this section. So we have a doctrinal exposition from 7:1 through 10:18. Then we have 20 verses of warning from 10:19 to 10:39. That will be a rugged exposition going through that particular warning. That's almost as tough a warning as we dealt with in chapter 6. So we get into that section and deal with that. That takes us through our orientation so far.
So we come to Hebrews 7:1 and it's a contrast between the priesthood of Melchizedek and the priesthood of Aaron. Let me just remind you of some things that we covered already in relationship the Levitical priesthood in contrast to Christ's priesthood.
- The Levitical priesthood was based on tribal relationship to Levi. The Aaronic high priesthood was based on direct descent from Aaron. The base qualification is physical. It is not spiritual. You can read through passages in Numbers that give the qualifications for the priests and it never talks about the spiritual status. It never talks about whether or not they are regenerated, saved, justified, their faith or anything. The only qualification has to do with their age. It has to do with the fact that they are free from certain physical defects and that they are related to Levi and for the Aaronic priests. They have to be a direct descendent from Aaron. So it is based on genetics and their tribal relationship to Levi.
- The second thing in terms of background is Jesus Christ is not from the tribe of Levi. He is from the tribe of Judah, the line of David, and thus he is not qualified according to the Mosaic Law to serve as a priest. This is a point that is made in verse 13 of this chapter.
NKJ Hebrews 7:13 For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar.
The Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, was from another tribe and the tribe of Judah could not officiate at the altar. So it had to be based on something else. So Jesus Christ was from the tribe of Judah, the line of David, and couldn't serve in the temple.
- The Levitical priesthood was designed and intended to be a limited priesthood. It was limited in terms of the time in which it would be active. It was limited in terms of the people to whom it applied. It didn't apply to Gentiles. It only applied to Jews. Gentiles had another basis unless they became a proselyte within Judaism; Gentiles had access to God separately under the Noahic Covenant and more ancient patriarchal priesthood. So the Levitical priesthood went into effect at Mt. Sinai in 1446 BC and it ends at the cross. That is your time period. It was designed as part of a limited covenant. Now see it is almost teaching the next chapter. The point of the next chapter is that because the next covenant is called the New Covenant it implies that the Old Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, was intended to be temporary. This is really better terminology. We have all heard and I have used it for ages that the clarification that you have unconditional and conditional covenants. But there are conditions even within the unconditional covenant. God told Abraham that "I am going to give you this land." But the Jews weren't going to be allowed to live in the land and reap the blessings of the land if they weren't obedient. There is a condition there and that condition will be met at the end of the tribulation period when they call upon Jesus as their Messiah to come and deliver them. Then they will enter into the kingdom and enjoy the blessing of the land on the condition that they are all saved. So there are those conditions. A better term to distinguish the Mosaic Covenant from all the other covenants is the term temporary. It had a temporary nature, a temporary purpose. It was never intended to go on forever. It was intended to be replaced by the New Covenant. So the Levitical priesthood as the priesthood was related to the Mosaic Covenant and was limited in time and extent. It's only for the Jews. It is part of the temporary Mosaic Law. Therefore it is not for all time. It is not universal. It is only a narrow priesthood.
- For the Messiah to come and have a universal priesthood which is what is predicted… If you look in your Bible, the next section starts in verse 11 and goes down to verse 19. Right in the middle is verse 17 which is a quote from Psalm 110:4 that "You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. That as we have already seen is God the Father talking to God the Son in the pre-incarnate period saying, "You will be a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek." So in order for the Messiah to have a universal priesthood that would apply to all mankind, then it had to have a different base than a Jewish race-based priesthood.
- The Melchizedekean priesthood was a royal high priesthood that is universal in space and time. It is for all mankind, not just for Jews. So it is not based on ethnic qualifications but on spiritual qualifications. It is a royal high priesthood because Melchizedek of course was the king-priest of Salem.
- The writer of Hebrews refers to this as the pattern for the priesthood of Jesus Christ.
NKJ Hebrews 7:1 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him,
Melchizedek is a picture by analogy of the source of blessing. But it is to Melchizedek that Abraham gave a tenth. He is not required to. It is a grace offering. Ten percent just happened to be the round figure that most people used in the ancient world. There was nothing magical or mystical about 10%. It was a standard round number and there is evidence throughout the ancient world that this was a standard number in many different cases for taxes - property taxes, different kinds of religious taxes as well. It is just a tenth.
And so Abraham gives that to Melchizedek and that shows that Abraham who is the father of the Jews as a people used himself spiritually as inferior to Melchizedek. Now that is important to understand because any priesthood that derives from Abraham would also be viewed as being inferior to Melchizedek. That is the thrust of this whole initial section.
It talks about Melchizedek that he was without father, without mother, without genealogy. That is not saying (I will go over this one more time) that he didn't have parents. There is only one person in the Bible who didn't have any parents other than Adam. That was Joshua the son of Nun. (Laughter) Melchizedek was without father and without mother in the genealogical record. We don't know who his parents were. There is no indication in the canon of Scripture as to who his parents were. He was without genealogy. Why? Because, he is not in the line of the seed. The genealogies in Genesis deal with tracing the line of the seed from Adam to Noah and from Noah to Terah and from Terah down to Joseph. But Melchizedek isn't in the line so there is no genealogy. We don't know who his parents are. We don't need to know. It is irrelevant to the purpose of Genesis.
NKJ Hebrews 7:3 without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.
In other words there is no genealogy so there is no record of when he was born or when he died, not that he wasn't born or that he didn't die. Melchizedek is not some pre-incarnate manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are always some people who come along and think that this is what it means. He is made like the Son of God in terms of this literary analogy. So he becomes the forerunner in terms of the prototype for this royal priesthood.
Verse 4 through 11 focuses on the greatness of Melchizedek.
NKJ Hebrews 7:4 Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils.
This is what he is unpacking. This is his purpose of focusing on Melchizedek. Abraham paid tribute to his superior.
NKJ Hebrews 7:5 And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham;
Levi is a great grandson of Abraham.
They are set up over the rest of the Jews as the spiritual representative of God. Therefore they are to receive the tithes.
NKJ Hebrews 7:6 but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises.
The point is his genealogy is not derived from him. It is Melchizedek. So he makes the point in verse 8.
NKJ Hebrews 7:8 Here mortal men receive tithes, but there
That is in that instance with Melchizedek…
he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives.
That is that Melchizedek lived. So he drives home the point in verses 9 and 10.
NKJ Hebrews 7:9 Even Levi, who receives tithes,
Now Levi never received tithes; only his descendents did some 300 or 400 years later at the time of the Exodus and the giving of the Law. Only then did you have any kind of tithing or priesthood set up. So Levi didn't literally receive tithes. He is simply set up as a metonymy of source.
paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak,
NKJ Hebrews 7:10 for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.
That last phrase has to be understood in light of the phrase "so to speak" or "in a manner of speaking" or "figuratively speaking" he is still in the loins of his father." He is simply drawing the physical connection that if the father is inferior to someone then the grandson is inferior. That is the simple point that is being made here.
Then we get to verse 11.
NKJ Hebrews 7:11 Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law),
Now this passage is going to sets up an argument. It starts with what is called a first class condition in the Greek which we usually understand to mean if and the speaker assumes it to be true. Now he can assume it to be true and it may not be true. He can assume it to be true and it is true. He can assume it to be true for the sake of argument. That is how it is set up in a debate. That's the kind of first class condition we have here.
"Therefore, assuming" he is saying. "That perfection came through the Levitical priesthood." But it didn't. That is the point of the parenthesis.
what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron?
What he is saying is. "Why would we need another priesthood if the first priesthood was sufficient?"
We could set it up in terms of a logical syllogism this way. P1 is your first proposition. If completion came (but it didn't) (assuming it did) through the Levitical priesthood, there would be no need of another priesthood.
Now who is he addressing? Remember, he is addressing we believe mostly converted Levites. They are tempted to go back to all of the pomp and circumstance and all of the ritual of the temple from their own Jewish patriotism. We believe that the writer wrote this in that era around 62 to 66 AD just before the Jewish revolt. There was just this maelstrom of Jewish patriotism going on against the Romans. There is all this rebellion that is being fomented so there is pressure there that "you guys were Levites and you have become Christians. You are anti-Jewish now." So there is cultural pressure on them to give up their Christianity for patriotic reasons and to come back into the fold as it were. It was a time of tremendous division among the Jews. They were fighting each other more than they were fighting the Romans. You had the Zealots. You had the Pharisees. You have the Sadducees. You had the Essenes. You have all these different (many other) groups and subgroups and they were all fighting each other. It was a time of incredible arrogance. This is why they couldn't unite against a common enemy. When you look at how much they did to defend against the Romans and they were that divided we can only imagine what they would have done and they would never have been defeated by the Romans if they hadn't been that divided at their core.
So he is writing to these Levites and he is saying, "Look you have to understand this. If completion had come through the Levitical priesthood there would be no need of priesthood."
Proposition 2: Completion did not come through the Levitical priesthood. We know that because Jesus Christ is the final completion of all the prophecies and promises in the Old Testament.
What is the conclusion? Therefore another superior priesthood was intended and necessary. This is why in verse 17 he is going to quote from Psalm 110:4 to show that from the Old Testament from the time of David it was understood that another order of priests would be necessary according to the order of Melchizedek, not the order of Aaron or the Mosaic Law. The Mosaic Law had a purpose, but it was not a purpose that was related to salvation or a purpose that was permanent.
Last time we looked at a couple of references in Romans related to the purpose of the Law and there are basically three.
- First of all it was to expose sin in Romans 3:20.
NKJ Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
So the first thing that happens is the law exposes the fact that we just can't do it. It is impossible. Man is incapable of living up to God's standard. Other verses we looked at were Romans 7:5 and Romans 7:7.
- The law was also given to reveal man's inability to measure up to God's standard. In Romans 7:9 Paul said:
NKJ Romans 7:9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.
What he is saying is, "I thought I was alive. But once I really understood the Law when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. I realized that I was a sinner and that I was dead."
- Then the purpose of the Law was to reveal man's spiritual death.
NKJ Romans 7:13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.
That is spiritual death, not physical death. It is revealing; it is not producing. He is already spiritually dead. It is producing a knowledge of that death in him. That is what you would have to understand of Romans 7.
So the Law was not given for salvation but to expose sin, to expose man's inability, and to reveal the fact that man was spiritually dead.
Okay, we made it into Hebrews 7:11. Next time we will deal with the change of the priesthood and the necessity of that getting into the rest of this particular section.
Let's bow our heads in closing prayer.