Hebrews Lesson 97 August 23, 2007
NKJ Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'
Open your Bibles with me to Hebrews 7. We missed last time, but the time before we had sort of a review summary of these first 6 chapters leading up into this chapter 7 which focuses on the contrast between the limited temporary priesthood (the Aaronic priesthood, the Levitical priesthood) versus the royal high priesthood after the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 7 is to a large part an exposition of Psalm 110:4 from the Old Testament. The focus of this section is to demonstrate these limitations and that because these limitations were understood even within the Old Testament because of Psalm 110:4 that the Jews should have understood that the Levitical priesthood was going to be replaced with a superior priesthood that would not end. So that is what the writer is doing in this particular section from verse 11 down through the end of the chapter is stressing the permanence of the Melchizedekean priesthood. We see that because of the third line in Psalm 110:4
NKJ Psalm 110:4 The LORD has sworn And will not relent, "You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek."
It is that word "forever" that indicates the difference. So he unpacks it. That is one of those words that you can just (say, you can) move over very quickly and not pick up all of the significance of it.
Remember 1446 BC was the approximate date as far as we can determine when the Exodus occurred. They left Egypt in 1446 and went to Mt. Sinai and it was there that God revealed to Moses the 613 commandments of the Mosaic Law. While they were there at Mt. Sinai, for that year that they were there, it was the time when they constructed the clothing for the High Priest. He had the snazziest uniform of anybody in the Old Testament. He had the finest threads. The reason I use the word threads is because the scriptures emphasized it couldn't be mixed threads; it had to be of linen. The colors were glorious and brilliant. He would be seen from a distance. It wasn't loud but the blues and the reds and all the jewelry and the gold breastplate, all of this - when the sun hit that breastplate and reflected off of it, all of this was such that it would draw tremendous attention to him. He was dressed better than anybody else in the whole nation and probably dressed better than any priest in the ancient world of any other religion.
It was with the Mosaic Law that the Levitical priesthood was established and that Aaron was appointed as the High Priest. God stipulated that the high priesthood would follow from those who were directly descended from Aaron. So from approximately 1445 BC when Aaron would have been anointed and installed as the High Priest down through the time of David which was roughly about 1,000 BC. So we are talking a little over 400 years. The Levitical priesthood had functioned and they had a direct lineage of high priests from Aaron. Then during David's life, sometime between approximately 975 and about probably 1000 BC somewhere in there David wrote Psalm 110:4.
So the Old Testament priesthood, (the Levitical priesthood, the Aaronic high priesthood) is functioning well and there are no problems and yet there is this indication in Psalm 110 that the Messianic Royal High Priest will come and He will not be a descendent of Aaron. He will not be from the tribe of Levi and that He will have a qualitatively different high priestly ministry and it will be a ministry that will go on forever. So that is the background to understanding the structure and the argument in these next verses.
So we come to verse 11 and it begins:
NKJ Hebrews 7:11 Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood
Then there is a parenthesis there. Of course, it is not in the original. This is understood from the syntax. It is a correct understanding.
(for under it the
That is, the Levitical priesthood.
people received the law), 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?
So it is a question that is based on a conditional supposition in the protasis. Protasis is a technical grammatical word for the first part of an "if" clause. You have "if such and so then so and so". The first part is called protasis – pro for first. Then the second part is called the apodosis. Therefore the condition is expressed - "if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood."
In the Greek you have an opening clause made up of three particles - ei men oun. The oun is your concluding particle, your inferential particle that means therefore. He is drawing a conclusion from the previous ten verses. The conclusion then involves an "if" clause, a men. The men is a continuational particle. The key if clause is the ei there.
This is really a second-class condition. I think the last time I covered this I treated it as a first-class condition, but more (the same significance) as a debater's type of use of a first-class condition which is "if we are going to assume this is true; but then it is not". Actually this is a second-class condition. I did some more work on this since then. There are only fifty second-class conditions in the entire New Testament.
The key marker that you always look for (You always memorize certain things when you are going through a language that what makes a first class condition a first class condition.) is it starts with the particle "ei"; and then you have an indicative mood verb. Then in the apodosis you have an indicative mood verb. In a second-class condition also starts with a ei, but what makes the difference is in the second clause. In the apodosis you have a particle that is not translated is just an. Of the 50 second class conditions in the New Testament, 11 of them do not have the an. See that is what you were taught to look for, that an. That is your sort of syntactical marker that you have a second-class condition. That is not there. But nevertheless that is what was happening in the transition of Greek at that time in the Koine Greek. The an was dropped more and more and eventually that disappeared from the language. So I didn't catch that when I was going through it last week. This is actually a second-class condition. The significance is the same as I interpreted it last week. That is that this is not a true proposition in the condition.
"Therefore if". I am going to retranslate the first part of this before we get into a complete - I want to look at each of these words before we get into a complete retranslation.
"If perfection." Perfection is the noun teleiosis. Teleiosis the root there is telei. You have teleao, tellos, and you have a whole bunch of different words built off of that same root telo which has to do with bringing something to completion, not so much the idea of perfection in the sense of flawlessness. In fact it is doubted by many people that the word group ever refers to perfection or flawlessness anywhere in the Scripture. It always has to do with bringing something to completion, something that is partial or incomplete and it is leading to that which is complete. It is the same word that you have for perfect in I Corinthians 13:8-13 when it says:
NKJ 1 Corinthians 13:10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
Some people try to make that flawlessness. It means when you are face-to-face with the Lord or when you go to heaven or something like that. But, that totally runs against the context that the word there used in I Corinthians 13. It has to do with completion and the completed canon.
So Hebrews 7:11 shouldn't be translated "If perfection came through the Levitical priesthood" but rather "if completion". If the Levitical priesthood was the completed final end priesthood, then it wouldn't be necessary for another priesthood - is what he is saying.
"If completion was through the Levitical priesthood, and it is not."
That is how he is setting it up. It is a second-class condition.
Now the next phrase that we have to look at there is the phrase "if completion were through the Levitical priesthood." That is the preposition through which is a translation of the Greek preposition dia plus the genitive. Dia takes either a genitive or an accusative. If it takes the accusative case, it has the idea of causation. You would translate it because. Let me give you and example. This is one of my favorites.
NKJ Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
NKJ Ephesians 2:9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
There is a dia plus the genitive. If "faith" was in the accusative case, you would translate it "for by grace you have been saved because of faith". But you are not saved because of faith. You are saved because of the grace of God. Faith is simply the instrument or the means through which you appropriate that which God has already accomplished for you and you are saved because of His grace and because of the work of Christ on the cross. So through indicates the instrument or the intermediate cause of something. So we see that the Levitical priesthood is viewed here as simply the intermediate cause of how the people came to know the law. As we will see, we will look at some passages related to the qualifications and purpose of the priesthood in the Old Testament.
One of their purposes was to instruct the people on the requirements of the Mosaic Law. They were to teach the people the 613 commandments of the Law, the prohibitions and the positive mandates. They were to teach them. So people learned the law through the priesthood just as you learn the Word of God through the teaching of a local pastor. So as the writer of Hebrews is setting this up he says,
NKJ Hebrews 7:11 Therefore, ifcompletion were through the Levitical priesthood
What need would we have for another priesthood? But you see it didn't come through the Levitical priesthood. Then there is a parenthetical statement that says "for under it".
the people received the law), 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?
Under it needs to be analyzed just a little bit. This is in the Greek preposition epi. It is used with the genitive again. It means on the basis of something. It has the idea that through the Levitical priesthood, for on the basis of it. There you have the third person singular feminine noun. The feminine noun relates to the noun for priesthood so we know that the "it" there refers back to the priesthood.
"For on the basis of it (i.e. the priesthood) the people received the law." So the law established the priesthood and sets up the qualifications for the priesthood and defines the priesthood, but the purpose for the priesthood was to teach the people the law and then to lead them in the various ceremonial rituals that were involved in the Old Testament law.
So for under it the people received the law.
That is the Greek verb nomotheteo. It is a perfect passive indicative, third person singular.
Now everybody always hears those grammatical terms and wonders, 'Well, what does all that mean?"
The perfect tense gives us the time frame. It is completed action. So it is looking at the fact that the people had completed the action of receiving the law. This is what had happened in the past in the Old Testament. He is bundling the entire Old Testament period up together in one big bundle looking at it as completed action in the past. So the people received the law through the priests in the Old Testament.
It is a passive voice because the people don't perform the action; they receive the action. The action is actually performed by the Levitical priests who carry out the instruction and lead the people in the ritual. The perfect tense indicates it is completed action. The passive voice indicates the people received the law. The indicative mood is a mood of reality. It is a third person singular because "people" is viewed as a collective noun which means it acts as a singular rather than a plural even though it is talking about a group of people. So it talks about the fact that in the Old Testament the people learned the law through the Levitical priesthood. That was part of its function. But that apodosis "if completion were through or if it were possible through the priesthood, what further need would there be for another priesthood?"
That is his point. If we got it all with the Levites, why would Psalm 110 come along and talk about a different priesthood, a priesthood that isn't mentioned for almost a 1000 years? From the time of Abraham in approximately 2000 BC to the time Psalm 110:4 is written there is no mention in the Scripture of Melchizedek. All of a sudden out of the blue, David writes about the fact that there will be a priesthood associated with the rule of the Messiah that is eternal in nature.
So God has given them the law and the law is to be taught to the people by the priesthood. Now just a couple of things about the Law, because people always get confused about the Law. People tend to look at the Mosaic Law through the eyeglasses of the Pharisees in the gospels. We make the mistake of thinking that the Pharisees are accurately interpreting the law. They are not.
This is why Jesus comes along and says, "Your righteousness had to exceed the Scribes and the Pharisees."
They have a legalistic self righteousness. It is not a consistent obedience to the law. They have taken the law and they have basically reinterpreted it within their own traditions. Their traditions have become more important than the Law itself and has caused them to misinterpret the Mosaic Law and caused them to almost deify the Law in and of itself or make an idol of the Law itself so that if anybody were to come along and questions the Law, they wouldn't really be questioning the 613 commandments that Moses gave; they would be questioning rabbinical tradition.
Now what happened was this. In the Mosaic Law you had 613 commandments. Some of them were positive; some of them were negative. The warning passage, the discipline at the end of the Mosaic Law in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 (We have gone through these before) the five stages of discipline or five cycles of discipline that you have at the end of the Law was set up and says "if you disobey the Law and you get involved in idolatry and you disobey the Law, then God is going to take you out of the land."
This happened historically to the Northern Kingdom, approximately 10 tribes. It is always referred to as ten tribes even though when Assyria defeated them a lot of the people in the north headed south get out of the way. The Northern Kingdom of Israel was taken out under divine discipline in 722 BC. Then the Southern Kingdom was taken out in 586. This wasn't pleasant. This was not a wonderful period that people looked back to with fond memories. In 722 when the Assyrians came through, they killed - well over a couple of hundred thousand Jews were slaughtered. There was famine. There were all kinds of torture. There were families that were ripped apart. All of this took place. It was a horrible, horrible experience.
Then the Babylonians came along a little more than a hundred years later under Nebuchadnezzar. You had invasion by Nebuchadnezzar in 605. You had another invasion by Nebuchadnezzar in 592 and then his third and final invasion led to the destruction of Jerusalem and destruction of the Temple and everything is wiped out. That occurred in 586. This is a horrible time. Nobody wanted to go back through this again. Nobody wanted to go through this again so when the Jews came back under Ezra and Zerubbabel and Nehemiah there were those who were extremely conservative among the priests who said, "Okay. We have to establish some guidelines here to make sure that we don't violate the Law. If you make a mistake and violate one of those 613 commandments, God is serious. He is going to knock you on the side of the head with a whole bunch of 2x4's. We didn't like it so we have to do something to make sure we don't break those 613 commandants."
So what they did was they were going to take various interpretations of those commandments and extrapolate those and develop them into hundreds and hundreds of other commandments to build a fence around the law.
Therefore, if you wouldn't break any of these extra commandments – if you wouldn't break through the outer fence of protection – then you certainly wouldn't break one of God's 613 commandments. So they set as it were a border fence around the law. That became known as the Mishnah eventually. At the time of Jesus it was still oral. But, by the late first century it was written down. This is rabbinical theology; this isn't biblical. This is the development of Judaism. This is where you get the rise of your three major groups in Israel – the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes.
Now the Essenes aren't mentioned in Scripture. They are mentioned by Josephus, but they are not mentioned by the New Testament at all. They were monastic, not completely, but they tended to be very ascetic. They were very concerned with moral purity. They lived out in the desert near the Dead Sea in a community near Qumran. These were the people that stored the Dead Sea Scrolls and hid them in the caves around Qumran. So we would classify them as the hyper-righteous ascetics.
The Pharisees were the conservatives. They were the ones who were really concerned with preserving Jewish tradition and the biblical text. They were very moral. When you look at them through Jesus' eyes, they turn morality into a means of spirituality so that produced what we now call legalism. They were the religious conservatives within Israel.
The third group was the Sadducees. The Sadducees were the religious liberals. They didn't believe in miracles. They didn't believe in the existence of angels.
This is why when the Sadducees came to Jesus and said, "You have this woman and she is married to a man and he dies and then she remarries a second time and then he dies and she remarries the third time and he dies and she remarries a fourth time and he dies. She remarries a fifth time and he dies and she remarries a sixth time and he dies and she remarries a seventh time and he dies."
See I have seven there, the number of perfection. So she had 7 husbands and they all die.
They said, "Well, whose wife is she going to be in the resurrection?"
Jesus is saying, "You guys don't even believe in the resurrection. Why answer that question?"
They said, "Wait a minute. You ought to get the DA after her because all of her husbands died. That is kind of suspicious."
The Sadducees didn't believe in angels. They didn't believe in resurrection. They didn't believe in life after death. That is why they were sad you see. (Laughter) See, you will never forget that now.
So we had the Pharisees and the Essenes and the Sadducees. That becomes Judaism. That is what begins to be hardened and calcified about the time of Christ in the first century. Now what happens (just to let you know how it develops from there) is when the temple is destroyed in AD 70 and there are no more sacrifices, the Sadducees have nothing to offer. The Essenes expect the Messiah to come back. They sort of disappear. Some of them - a lot of people believe a lot of the Essenes went to Masada because Qumran wasn't very far from Masada. So a lot of them were probably killed in Masada around AD 73.
For those of you who don't know, Masada was sort of like the Alamo - the Jewish version of the Alamo. After the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, the more radical zealot elements all left to go to one of Herod's fortresses out in the desert up on top of what we would call a butte. He had built this fortification up there and they were able to hold out. But the Romans couldn't let a pack of Jews hiding out in the wilderness stay there. They had to go and destroy them. That is a remarkable story in and of itself. That would have wiped them out.
So the only group that was left that had any kind of clout and any kind of faith or trust in the Bible as something significant were the conservatives, the Pharisees. So the Pharisees were able to pull things together and to reshape Judaism (Jewishness) so that you could survive in an environment without a temple and without sacrifices. So over the next hundred years, the Pharisees and their immediate descendents were the ones who shaped what has became modern Judaism. Modern Judaism has nothing to do with the Old Testament. Modern Judaism is rabbinical theology as defined by the Pharisees and then further refined during the first 1,000 years after Christ. So when you are talking or witnessing to a Jew, a lot of times he is going to have some very unusual interpretations of the Old Testament because that is what Judaism and rabbinical theology say. It doesn't have anything to do with the Old Testament.
Sometimes you get people that think, "Well the Jews believe x, y and z about the Old Testament. Who are we to say that it means something different?"
That is because we have to understand that modern Judaism is shaped by rabbinical theology and not as it was in the Old Testament. So all of this is simply a way of introduction saying, why was the law important? Don't think of the law in negative terms just because of what the Pharisees did to it. The law had a role and as I pointed out in previous studies in this series, the law was considered good and perfect and just by the Apostle Paul. So therefore it had within its purpose within its function – it was righteous. So we have to recognize that there were certain limitations to the Mosaic Law. The Law could never justify according to the New Testament. Acts 13:39 along with Romans 3:28 and Galatians 2:16 which says:
NKJ Galatians 2:16 "knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
- The Law could not justify.
- Second, the Law could not give eternal life according to Galatians 3:21. The law could not give eternal life.
- Third, the law could not provide the Holy Spirit. Galatians 3:20. This is why as we will see when we get into the next chapter when we deal with the New Covenant that there has to be a new covenant and the sign of the New Covenant is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. That's why you have to have a new covenant because the old covenant could not provide the Holy Spirit.
- Fourth, the Law never produced miracles. Galatians 3:5.
- Fifth, the Law could not resolve the problem of the sin nature. In fact the law exposed the sin nature. Romans 8:3, 7.
One of the basic problems that Christians have is trying to understand their relationship to the Law.
I will never forget the first church I ever pastored. About 6 months into pastoring there I made the comment from the pulpit that the Ten Commandments didn't have anything to do with anybody today. I visibly saw hackles come on the back of people's necks. They had never heard that before. So I spent about the next month having to go back and teach on that – that The Ten Commandments didn't establish those principles as being wrong. Murder was murder and murder was wrong before the Ten Commandments. Idolatry was condemned before the Ten Commandments. Adultery was condemned before the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are nothing more than a prelude to a legal document similar to the prelude of our Constitution in relationship to our body of federal law known as the U.S. Constitution. It is the first Ten Commandments which summarize the fundamental principles that are then carried out in relationship to both civil and ceremonial law in the other 603 commandments in the Mosaic Law. The Ten Commandments had to do with Israel only and once Israel went out of existence then the Mosaic Law was no longer a factor.
People today have so much trouble. The Law does have a role today because it sets a pattern and precedence. We can go to it for patterns and precedents, but it is not a law that is to be taken point-by-point and applied to other nations or other circumstances. So here are about 4 points on the relationship of the church to the law.
- Roman 10:4 Paul said that Christ is the end of the law for believers in the Church Age. Christ is the end of the law. The law no longer applies. Now back in the late 70's to early 80's you had a group of people (they are still around) called Christian Reconstructionists. The reason they are called Christian Reconstructionists is because they want to reconstruct America's social and political environment and laws according to the Mosaic Law. One of their foremost writers who is brilliant and I appreciate a lot of things he has done in other areas was a man by the name of Greg Monson who wrote a book called Theonomy and Christian Ethics. Theonomy is just a combination of theos for God and nomos for law. We were supposed to be under God's law. But what he meant by God's law was not God's overarching righteous standard but the Mosaic Law in specific. Yet we are not under the law. And they tried to say Christ fulfilled the ceremonial law and the civil law is still in effect. This ignores the fact that the Mosaic Law was never intended for anybody else other than Israel.
- So that leads to the second point which is that since the church is specifically not under the law, then the law has nothing to do with the Christian way of life. Nothing in the Mosaic Law has anything to do with the Christian way of life. Now we have often talked about the fact that there are in a very simplified not over simplified sense two (but we will look for our purposes) major ways to interpret and organize the Bible theologically. We hold to dispensationalism. In dispensationalism we believe that there is a consistent distinction between God's plan for Israel and God's plan for the church. This is the result of a literal, plain interpretation of Scripture. We don't impose dispensationalism on the text. We believe that if you take the text at its face value and read it according to the principles of historical, grammatical interpretation then where that will necessarily lead you to dispensational truth. On the other hand, there is the reformed or Presbyterian Calvinist view called covenant theology. In covenant theology, they work more of a top down system as based more on logic than it is on exegesis. The difference is that in covenant theology and reformed theology they have sort of a principle that if it wasn't prohibited by the New Testament then it is still in effect. I know that went passed you very fast. People are tired. It has been a long day. If the New Testament doesn't prohibit it, then it is still in effect. In other words if the New Testament doesn't say stop observing the Sabbath, then the Sabbath still continues. Dispensationalists would say that unless the commandment is restated in the New Testament, it ended with the ending of the law. Therefore you don't have to have a statement that says the Sabbath observance ended because when the law ended at the cross. So did Sabbath observance. So you don't have to say don't observe the Sabbath. It is the only commandment that isn't reiterated in the New Testament. Everything else in the Mosaic Law in terms of the Ten Commandments is restated in the New Testament. But many other aspects of the law both in terms of the moral law and in terms of the governmental law are not restated in the New Testament because why? Because there is not a "Christian theocratic nation" operative in the Church Age. The Mosaic Law was the constitution for a nation, an ethnic people descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who lived in a particular geographic area and needed to have a law code to govern their social, political, ceremonial and civil conduct. So when we get into the New Testament because Israel is going to be kicked out of the land and they are going to be under the fifth cycle of discipline and because the Jews as an ethnic people are not the center of God's plan in the Church Age, you don't have the reiteration of those particular things. So you don't have (whereas in the Old Testament you have) capital punishment.
I hope it didn't upset anybody here that last night Texas celebrated its 400th execution after reinstating the death penalty in 1982. I don't think I need to go into the fact that if you are a Bible believing Christian, then you shouldn't have a problem with the death penalty. You (might) ought to have a problem with the fact that it is not consistently applied or applied as frequently applied as it should be or as efficiently as it should be.
But nevertheless the death penalty isn't contrary to anything in Scripture. In fact it is mandated by Scripture. In the Old Testament capital punishment was associated with teenage rebellion. Why? To protect the divine institution of the family and the divine institution of the nation so that you wouldn't have rebellious kids who weren't properly oriented to authority growing up. So you had the death penalty. You also had the death penalty for adultery and death penalty for homosexuality and death penalty for all these other things. You don't have the death penalty for those things in the New Testament because we are not a nation. We don't have to have a civil government. That is why these things are not carried into the New Testament with death penalties. You are not addressing a political institution in the New Testament. The church is not a political institution. It is a multi-national, multi-ethic organism that is in all nations across the board. There is not to be an establishment for the Christian theocracy in the Church Age. So since the law ended, the church is not under the law and the law is not a basis for the spiritual life of the church.
- Believers in the Church Age are under a higher law – a higher law. We are under the law of Christ. The trouble with the Law of Christ and the law of love and the law of faith which is what we have in the New Testament is that this involves thought. You have to think through - first of all you have to understand what these things mean in terms of the law of Christ which is to love one another as Christ loved us. You have to think that through. That is more complicated because the first thing you have to do is figure out what love means. Most people don't have a clue what love means. They start at the wrong place. They start with their own experience and their own feelings. They start with how their mother and their father dealt with them. If you didn't have good parents, if you had abusive parents that can lead you down a very wrong road. But most people don't start with the right definition. In fact if you look the word love up in most dictionaries, you should have all kinds of problems because they define love as basically some sort of sentimental feeling. In the Bible it has nothing to do with sentiment. Your barometer for love in the Bible is ethical. That is again and again between John 13 and John 17 Jesus says, "If you love me, you will keep My commandments." How do you know if you love Jesus? Because you know the Word of God and you obey the Word of God. If you don't know the Word of God, then you don't know if you are obeying Him or not. So if you don't know the Word of God you can't love Jesus. You can sing "Oh how I love Jesus" but you don't have a clue. That is unfortunately how most evangelicals are today. They think they love God, but what they have done is in the idolatry of their own souls they generated an abstract idol of God that they have fallen in love with. They are worshipping a manifestation of their own arrogant self. The Bible says that love is the highest ethic for the New Testament. To understand that you have to understand the character of God because the love of God cannot be understood in distinction from His righteousness and justice. The three go together. You can't talk about love without talking about the standard of love and the virtue in love, which comes out of His righteousness and out of His justice. So in the New Testament the higher law gives us a certain level of freedom. The Old Testament as Paul said the Mosaic Law in Galatians he said was like a tutor. When you were a little kid – in the Roman world you had a pedagogue. You had a hired slave and that slave's job was to walk around and tell you "you can do this and you can't do that. Don't do this don't do that." Everything was defined for you. Then once you reached maturity and you are a huios (an adopted adult son) then all of a sudden you have to live your life based on principle and you are the one that has to apply the principle and make the decisions. See that is how it plays out in history. The Jews were like a little kid. The Law was like a pedagogue that told them "Do this. Do this. Don't do this. Don't do this." Everything in life was spelled out by the law. But when you get into the Church Age, now you are expected to know the principles of revelation under the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit so you have a greater degree of responsibility to learn the Word and to apply it. Nobody is standing over your shoulder going, "Don't do this. Don't do this. Wear this. Do this. Don't do this." In other words it calls for a much greater involvement of your thinking and a much less involvement of your emoting. It is probably why the Church Age will fail spiritually because people reject that. So the third point is believers in the Church Age are under a higher law, the Law of Christ.
- Fourth (which I have alluded to already) the only one of the Ten Commandments not repeated in the New Testament is in relationship to the Sabbath. There is a very famous well known Old Testament theologian. I don't know if he is still alive. He taught for years. He was in the Old Testament department at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School up in Chicago for years. A friend of mine once asked him. He said that he observed the Sabbath every Sunday. I have never figured out how they went from the 7th day to the 1st day, but that is another story. He said, "Well, I don't watch football." Okay. There are a lot of people that is what they do. They made this a cultural thing and added their own traditions to it. How rabbinical.
Okay, we have looked at the limitations of the Law. We have looked at the church in relationship to the Law. Now I want to look at the purposes for the Mosaic Law. There are six purposes for the Mosaic Law and I am going to summarize these under 6 points. A couple of them I won't talk about much because I already have in some degree. This will synthesize it for you.
- The first purpose for the law was to provide a civil, criminal, and ceremonial law code for the nation. It provided a civil code for how people got along and dealt with each other when there were problems in an agricultural society. If your sheep get into somebody else's pasture and they produce sheep with your neighbor's sheep, then you have got to figure out who the lambs are going to belong to. Those are civil issues. You have criminal issues. What happens when somebody steals or commits murder? Then you have ceremonial issues in terms of how are you as a people going to come before God when you are violators of the law, transgressors. What is involved in cleansing and reconciliation with God? So it provides a civil, criminal and ceremonial law code there. You can't divide the law easily into one part and another part. There are three sections and they are interwoven. You have civil law, criminal law, and ceremonial law.
- The law was designed to teach the people who had been bought with a price and redeemed out of slavery in Egypt. It was to teach the redeemed people how a redeemed nation would live in holiness or set apart to the service of God. God is saying, "Now that I bought you and brought you out of Egypt and you are mine, this is how you live. This is how you will be distinct from all other peoples on the earth. So it was teach a people how a redeemed nation would live set apart for the service of God.
- The law was to demonstrate that no one could consistently keep the law. No one could keep all 613 commandments. Paul thought he was doing a good job until he came to "thou shall not covet." Then all of a sudden he realized it touched on all these mental attitude sins and he was in trouble. So the law was to demonstrate that no one could consistently keep the law. Therefore you can't get saved by obeying a law code. The law wasn't given to show people how to get saved, but to show people that you can't save yourself through your own righteousness because nobody can live up to the law code. Therefore the savior must do it for you.
- It was to communicate God's grace in relationship to human failure. Time, time, time, and time again in the Mosaic Law people failed. They became ceremonially unclean. They violated or transgressed the Law and there is always a sacrifice to take care to the sin. God's grace covers everything.
- It provided a law code that would promote freedom and prosperity for the nation. If they would just do what God said to do, they would have maximum freedom and maximum prosperity. The prosperity in the nation was not linked to having the right political system or the right political party in power. It wasn't linked to understanding the dynamics of the right economic system. It was linked to obeying God. If they obeyed God, God would make sure that they were prosperous. If they disobeyed God, it didn't matter how right their politics were or how right their economics were; it would destroy the nation and God would take away their prosperity.
- Then the sixth purpose of the Mosaic Law was to serve as a tutor to lead us to Christ. Galatians 3:24
Now all of this was important in the Old Testament. It was the priest that was to communicate and to teach the law to the people. If you go back into the book of Leviticus, the work and the qualifications and the responsibilities of the priesthood are outlined. That is why it is called Leviticus because it has to do with the regulations for the Levites. There are two sections that are important. One is in chapter 8 through 10 where God regulates the priesthood. I just want to go back and pick up a couple of things for illustrative purposes here in Leviticus 8 through 10.
In chapter 8 we have the consecration of Aaron. This is where his sons are publicly recognized. We do something similar to it today in the church. It is called an ordination. It is a time publicly recognized the formal service dictated in this case by the law indicating that Aaron and his sons were specifically identified and set apart for the service of God. Because they are set apart for the service of God, the Mosaic Law contains certain regulations for them. There were some things they could do and some things that they couldn't do. So chapter 8 describes their consecration. It describes how they are washed initially and how the blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled on them as a sign of their salvation. It typifies salvation. It is not a sign of their salvation. But it shows that they are being set apart to God. You have the various offerings that had to be offered outlined in chapter 9. There had to be a sin offering. There had to be a burnt offering. There had to be various peace offerings and grain offerings. All of these offerings were designed according to verse 7 to make atonement for themselves. They were a fallen priesthood. They were just as much sinners as the people they were representing. First before they could serve the people they had to be cleansed and they had to have these sacrifices applied to them.
Also we see that God has specifically defined who would serve as a priest and who wouldn't.
There were those who were qualified and those who weren't. Aaron's high priesthood would go through as a descendent down through his son Eleazar. He had two sons Nadab and Abihu in chapter 10 who decided that they could define how to get to God and how to serve God on their own. See you have the same problem today.
You have a lot of people who want to say, "Well, I think that the way God would do it is this way."
So they trot down their little avenue of Nadab and Abihu rebellion. So we learn that they tried to come to God's presence with their own fire that wasn't set apart through the correct formal service that had been defined by the Mosaic Law. So this is why the text says that they offered profane fire. That means common. It wasn't set apart. It wasn't set apart through ceremonial sanctification. So when they went in, the Lord devoured them. They just sort of evaporated. He zapped them right there. They had the instant death penalty because God is emphasizing the fact as He said in verse 3:
NKJ Leviticus 10:3 And Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD spoke, saying: 'By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.' " So Aaron held his peace.
Then if you get down into chapter 10:8ff there are certain regulations that priests had to follow. They were not to drink wine or any kind of intoxicating beverage. They couldn't drink wine or beer. They had to eat certain prescribed foods. They were given the remnants of certain offerings to sustain them. If you skip over a few chapters to chapters 21 and 22, there are further regulations for the priests that if you are going to serve God you have to live a certain kind of lifestyle. In terms of grooming, they were told in verse 5:
NKJ Leviticus 21:5 ' They shall not make any bald place on their heads, nor shall they shave the edges of their beards nor make any cuttings in their flesh.
You know how the Roman Catholic priests - they would cut their hair a certain way. Well, that is what pagans did. So when God gives these regulations for the priesthood, it is set against what the pagans did so that they wouldn't follow pagan practices. They weren't to trim their beards a certain way. They weren't to shave a bald spot on their heads a certain way. They weren't to cut their flesh to scar themselves a certain way, which is what many of the pagan priests did. They had to have a family that was held to a higher ethical standard. So in verse 9 if a priest's daughter was a prostitute, then she would be burned at the stake. The burning at the stake had to do with the picture of purification. So there was a higher standard there. He had to marry a wife that was a virgin (verse 13). He couldn't marry a widow or a divorced woman or a woman who had been a prostitute. They were qualified because they had to be descendents of the tribe of Levi. If you read through all of these qualifications they were all physical and genetic. They couldn't have any sort of blemishes. They couldn't be crippled in any way because they had to picture man at his best. There is no qualification that they had to be a believer. There was no qualification for them spiritually. It had to do simply with the genetic heritage with Aaron and the Levites. So the priesthood was regulated, but it was regulated on the basis of physical descent and it is on the basis of physical qualifications and some moral qualifications, but no spiritual qualifications.
Now we will stop there, come back next time and look at some of the other issues related to priesthood as it was understood by these Jews, these Hebrews that are receiving this letter. These came out of the priesthood and they probably had some distorted ideas based on what the rabbis taught at the time as to what the future priest would be like at the time that the Messiah returned. That is why he spent so much time dealing with the need for a new priesthood and why Jesus fits this qualification. This was clearly set up in the Old Testament.