Jesus’ priesthood is more comparable to that of Melchizedek’s than it is to the priesthood of the Levites. This point is developed in three chapters (Hebrews 5:5-6, 10-11; 6:19-20; 7:1-28). In this writing, we will continue to consider Hebrews chapter seven.
1. Another Priest
“And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest” (Hebrews 7:15).
“It is yet far more evident” (Hebrews 7:15 cf. 7:14). The scriptures foretold of one who would come in the likeness of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4).
“There arises another priest” (Hebrews 7:15). The word “another” is heteros, “another of a different kind.”
“Who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life” (Hebrews 7:16).
The Levitical priests, serving under the Law of Moses, became priests by fleshly commandment. Kevin Berry comments, “Their appointment was made, not on account of any superior excellence on their part, but solely on the ground of carnal descent. The Law of Moses prescribed the conditions” (ed. Devin W. Dean, Studies in Hebrews, The Gospel Journal Commentary Series).
However, Jesus was made a priest in a much more dramatic way. He was made a priest according to the power of an endless life (cf. Hebrews 7:16). He arose from the dead to die no more (cf. Hebrews 7:23-25).
“For He testifies: ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek’” (Hebrews 7:17 cf. Psalm 110:4). The word “forever” indicates that Jesus’ position as High Priest was to be an enduring one. It is according to the power of an endless life (cf. Hebrews 7:16).
[Note: The word “forever” does not necessarily, literally mean “forever”; that is eternal. It can mean “age-lasting” (cf. Exodus 40:15; Numbers 25:10-13). Jesus would personally serve as intercessor through the Christian dispensation. This intercessory role may not be needed in the future heavenly existence (cf. Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:14-16; 7:24-25)].
“And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath (for they have become priest without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him: ‘The LORD has sworn and will not relent ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Mechizedek’), by so much more Jesus has been become surety of a better covenant” (Hebrews 7:20-22).
This was never said of the Levitical priesthood. However, it was said of Jesus’ priesthood (Hebrews 7:21 cf. Psalm 110:4). Jesus’ priesthood would not change or be replaced.
Jesus’ priesthood implies a change in the law (Hebrews 7:11-14). This change was needed to bring us to perfection (Hebrews 7:11, 19). We have a better covenant, with better promises, and a better hope (Hebrews 7:22; 8:6; 7:19). Jesus Himself is the surety of these things (cf. Romans 1:4).
2. Power of New Priesthood
“Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore, He is also able to save to the uttermost those who came to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:23-25).
Levitical priests died. Aaron was replaced by Eleazar, and Eleazer by Phinehas (Numbers 20:21-29; Joshua 24:33 cf. Judges 20:27-28). There were 81 High Priests who had served by 70 A.D. (Robert Milligan, The Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 268).
Kings also came and went. Judah had a few good kings. Most were bad. Progress that good kings had made was sometimes halted or reversed by the next in line (cf. Psalm 146:3-4; Ecclesiastes 2:18-19).
However Jesus’ work will not be interrupted by physical death. Therefore, He is able to save to the uttermost. J.E. Wright comments, “Salvation to the uttermost does not mean a temporary or partial forgiveness, but absolute pardon forever” (Tom Wacaster, Studies in Hebrews). He will see this work to its ultimate completion.
“For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless (innocent – NASB, ESV), undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26).
Five things are said of Him: (1) He is holy. He is perfect in His devotion to God. He is without sin (cf. Hebrews 4:15). (2) He is harmless. Some take this to be nearly synonymous with the previous point. Some versions translate the original word “innocent.” Others take this to mean that He is harmless toward us. He is without malice or ill will (cf. Hebrews 7:25). The original word is akakos. It means “without evil (or harm).” Either interpretation is possible. However, since this word is sandwiched between “holy” and “undefiled,” the first position seems more likely. (3) He is undefiled. He is pure, free from contamination (cf. Hebrews 13:4; James 1:27; 1 Peter 1:4). He is without spot or blemish (Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 1:18-19). (4) He is separate from sinners. Some take this to be nearly synonymous with the previous three points. Other take this to be nearly synonymous with the last point, which comes next. That is He is in heaven (cf. Hebrews 1:3; 1:13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2). (5) He is higher than the heavens (Hebrews 7:26 e cf. 4:14). He ascended far above all the heavens (Ephesians 4:10). He is positioned “far above all principality and power and might and dominion” (Ephesians 1:20-21).
“Who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for He did once for all when He offered up Himself” (Hebrews 7:27).
The sacrificial work of the Levitical priests under the law of Moses never ended. It was a daily recurring task (Exodus 29:38-46; Numbers 28:1-10; Hebrews 7:27; 10:11-12).
Jesus’ sacrifice was once for all (Hebrews 7:27; 10:10). It needs not to be repeated.
Further, Jesus did not need to make sacrifice for Himself, as the priests of old. He was (is) without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
“For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever” (Hebrews 7:28).
This is a summary of what has been said. The Levitical priests and Jesus are being contrasted.
The Levitical priests had weakness. What is the weakness in context? Some believe that it is spiritual weakness. They sinned, as others did (cf. Hebrews 7:26-27). Others believe that it is physical weakness or limitation. They died (Hebrews 7:23). This position seems more likely to me. “Weakness” is placed in contrast with “perfected forever.” “Forever” in context is contrasted with “death” (Hebrews 7:23-24). The word “perfected” refers to Jesus being made qualified to be a merciful and faithful High Priest (Hebrews 2:10 cf. 2:17-18; 4:15-16; 5:8-9).
Jesus is different. He is without sin (Hebrews 4:15). He is holy, harmless, undefiled (Hebrews 7:27). Moreover, He always lives to make intercession (Hebrews 7:25). He is the perfect High Priest (Hebrews 2:10, 17-18; 4:14-16; 5:8-9; 7:28).