Read the Passage: Hebrews 7
Listen to the Redeemed Mind Podcast: Hebrews 7
Example of Melchizedek (7:1–10)
Earlier, in Hebrews 5, as he quoted Ps. 110:4, the author started to explain that Jesus is a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. The author then gave a tangential warning about apostasy, before returning to the character of Melchizedek at the end of Hebrews 6. Note that the author cites Melchizedek five times in Hebrews 7, which is as many times as Melchizedek is mentioned in the rest of Scripture combined. The author’s description of this man can perhaps provide some clues as to His identity: Melchizedek is: (1) King of [Jeru]Salem, (2) Priest of God Most High, (3) King of Righteousness, (4) King of Peace, (5) He has no father, nor mother, nor genealogy, (6) He has no beginning of days, nor end of life, (7) He is like the Son of God, and (8) He is a Priest continually. While there is some debate and room for discussion, it seems likely that Melchizedek was a theophany—that is, a pre-incarnate manifestation of Jesus Christ.
As was noted, taken all together, the given characteristics of Melchizedek seem more likely to be describing Jesus than an obscure priest in the Old Testament. This conclusion is bolstered in Heb. 7:4–10 by the author’s return to a familiar line of reasoning, as in these verses he argues that Melchizedek was not only prior to Abraham and Levi, but also that Melchizedek was superior to both of them. The author’s argument for Melchizedek’s superiority over Levi and Abraham centers upon the giving and receiving of tithes, as well as the act of blessing. In summary, the author notes that while the Levitical priests who descended from Abraham received tithes from Israel; Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek, who in turn blessed Abraham. Since “the lesser is blessed by the better” (Heb. 7:7), writes the author, Melchizedek is superior both to Abraham and to Levi.
Change of Priesthood (7:11–19)
In Heb. 7:11–19 the author continues his argument about the superiority of the priesthood of Melchizedek over that of Levi (or Aaron). In Heb. 7:11 the author notes that the old Levitical priesthood was inadequate, for it could not bring about perfection or salvation. Observe that the “law” cited in Heb. 7:11–12 is a reference to the ceremonial law, which contained the sacrificial system, including specifying the Levitical priesthood. The author’s reference to the “priesthood being changed” (Heb. 7:12a) refers to the switch from Levi to Melchizedek, and the “change of the law” (Heb. 7:12b) refers to the shift from the sacrificial system to the gospel of Christ. Specifically, the change that is in view in this passage is the way in which forgiveness or “perfection” (Heb. 7:11) is attained. Under Levi (or Aaron) forgiveness was temporary via the Day of Atonement; under Jesus forgiveness is permanent via the cross of Christ.
The author continues to turn his readers’ attention from the sacrificial system to Jesus as he notes that Christ “arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing” (Heb. 7:14). In other words, Jesus was not just a Priest within the old sacrificial system, but He brought about a “new and living way [to God]” (Heb. 10:20). While the sacrificial system and Levitical priesthood was an object lesson that faithfully pointed toward Christ, since it was “a fleshly commandment” (Heb. 7:16), it resulted in some people errantly adopting a works-based salvation scheme. In contrast, Jesus’ atonement for sins did not rely upon mankind, as it was “according to the power of an endless life” (Heb. 7:17). As Ps. 110:4 notes, Jesus is a Priest “forever.” Observe that Psalm 110 is alluded to or quote at least twenty-seven times in the New Testament, making it the most referenced Psalm in the New Testament.
Superiority of Christ (7:20–28)
In Heb. 7:20–28 the author explains the security available to believers via the priesthood of Christ. In Heb. 7:20–22, as he again quotes Ps. 110:4, the author notes that Jesus was appointed High Priest via an oath by God, who cannot lie (cf. Heb. 7:28). Next, in Heb. 7:23–25 the author notes that whereas the old covenant high priests would die and need to be replaced, the new covenant High Priest never dies, but is always making intercession for His people, for Jesus “lives to make intercession for [believers]” (cf. Heb. 7:25). In Heb. 7:26–28 the author comments about the sinlessness of Jesus, as he describes Christ as being “holy, harmless, undefiled, [and] separate from sinners” (Heb. 7:26). Thus, Jesus had no need to offer sacrifices for His sins, as did the human high priests. In summary, then, Christ is superior to human high priests, for He does not die, and He is without sin.
- Who was the enigmatic character known as Melchizedek? Do you believe he was an ordinary man or was he a pre-incarnate manifestation of Jesus Christ?
- If the Levitical priesthood was ultimately ineffective, what was the purpose of God giving His people the Old Testament sacrificial system?
- What is the author of Hebrews referring to as mentions a change of priesthood and a change of law?
- In what ways has mankind turned the gospel into a good work that must be completed for salvation?
- If Jesus is without sin, what does it mean when Paul notes that Jesus became sin for us (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21)?