THE NECESSITY OF A DIFFERENT PRIESTHOOD (Hebrews 7:11-14)—continued
For the priesthood of Aaron, called “the Levitical Priesthood,” was in its very nature and purpose transitory and transitional. It is a Levitical priesthood, because it fell under the rules and ordinances of the temple of the shadows and the types as outlined in the book of Leviticus. From Aaron to Christ, covering a period of some 1,500 years, this priesthood obtained and was sanctioned by the law of God for Israel. However, it was never meant by God Himself to be permanent and abiding. It was so instituted as to give place for another priesthood. The law of the temple ceremonies of the Old Testament pass away when they are fulfilled in Christ!
There was a change made in the priesthood itself. The priesthood was changed. Aaron’s priesthood gives way for the priesthood after the order of Melchizedek. With this change of the priesthood there was also a change of the law. Writes the author of Hebrews “For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.”
This is a very important point which we ought to understand; it is crucial to the argument here in Hebrews.
The point that ought to be understood is that this changed law is made necessary by the change of the priesthood. As the priesthood is, so is the law! For the law is based upon the priesthood! This is a matter of necessity. The term necessity means in the Latin: that which cannot cease. It is from “ne-cesso“: that which has in it a quality which cannot be stopped. The term in the Greek language is “anagkees” which is derived from the verb “anaykizoo“—to force, to demonstrate, to prove. And thus is the case here. The law must be changed when the priesthood is changed, because upon this priesthood the people received the law. The entire legality and sanction of the law rested upon this Levitical-Aaronic priesthood. This is not a mere logical necessity, based upon logical demonstration of a manmade premise. On the contrary, this is a necessity which follows from the God-ordained connection between priesthood and law as revealed by God Himself concerning the Mystery of salvation. One has but to study carefully this matter in the O.T. to see that this is implied in the very structure of the law-giving itself through Moses.
O, to be sure, this matter is truly logical. It is part and parcel of the reasonable service which is ours; only, it is the reasonableness not of man who thinks himself to be self-sufficient to make his own logical constructions concerning God (vain philosophy), but it is the logic of faith which receives the words of God, and in all its premises and conclusions subjects itself to the revealed Word and will of God. Yes, then we can read here a certain syllogism, a form of logical reasoning; new wine in the old bottles, so to speak!
In this case we have then the following syllogism:
1. Only when the priesthood abides is the law of such a priesthood valid.
2. The priesthood was indeed changed with the coming of Christ after the order of Melchizedek.
3. Conclusion: the law of the Levites no longer obtains under the priesthood of Christ.
This point the readers, the Hebrews, must see. Only when this is seen will they not fall back into unbelief and lose both Moses and Christ. We too must see this point and confess very consciously what is so articulately stated in the Belgic Confession, Article XXV, which we quote in full.
We believe that the ceremonies and figures of the law ceased at the coming of Christ, and that all the shadows are accomplished; so that the use of them must be abolished among Christians: yet the truth and substance of them remain with us in Jesus Christ, in whom they have their completion. In the meantime we still use the testimonies taken out of the law and the prophets, to confirm us in the doctrine of the gospel, and to regulate our life in all honesty to the glory of God, according to his will.
CERTAIN SALIENT POINTS CONCERNING THE DIFFERENT PRIESTHOOD (Hebrews 7:11ff)
It is important to see that this priesthood of Christ is really a unique and altogether different priesthood; that it is not merely another priesthood of the same kind, but that it is a priesthood which is really a different kindof priesthood! It is what the Greek calls “heteros.”
We ought to notice the following salient points concerning this priesthood as the writer lets this pass in review before our believing eyes. It is to the following matters that the writer calls our attention.
First of all, he calls attention to the fact that theappointment is different in the priesthood of Christ. Now, no priest takes this honor to himself, but is appointed by God. In this case of Christ the appointment is not that which is based. upon a carnal commandment, but it is based upon God’s word of oath/giving, as it is written: “Thou art a priest . . . The Lord ‘hath sworn . . . .” Psalm 110:4 (Verse 17)
Secondly, he indicates that the rule, the standard of this priesthood is different. It is not according to the rule of a carnal commandment, but it is according to the standard of the power of indissoluble life. (Verse 16)
Thirdly, the duration of this priesthood of Christ is singled out. It is not a priesthood which is executed in a succession of generations of priests, but it is that of an unchanging priesthood in one man, Jesus, who is made the surety of a better Covenant. (verse 23)
Fourthly, we should notice that, according to the writer, the nature of this priesthood is different. It is not a priesthood which can rest as the ephod on the shoulders of a mere man (Aaron) but it is that which can only be borne by the Son of God, perfected in the flesh, through His death and resurrection. (Verses 26-28)
Fifthly, the scene, the plain on which this priesthood is executed is different. It is really executed in the realm of the heavenly, and not on the plain of the earthly. Christ did not bring his sacrifice in the earthly tabernacle, but he brought it in the true tabernacle after which the earthly house was copied and patterned. Here he brings the true and complete service, as the high priest which became us. (Heb. 8:1 ff.)
PROOF THAT THIS IS A DIFFERENT PRIESTHOOD (Verses 13-18)
The writer to the Hebrew Christians argues not from certain logical premises, but he unmistakably argues from certain revealed truths and facts, which God aforetime spoke through the prophets, and which were realized in these last days through His Son!
It is good for us to notice how the writer marshals his evidence from the Scriptures and from the great and mighty deeds of God in Christ.
The first piece of evidence from the Scriptures is, that Christ, although a priest, is not from the tribe of Levi, but is from the tribe of Judah. Now Moses did not at any time or anywhere say any thing in the name of God, as the law-giver, concerning the tribe of Judah to stand at the altar. And whereas Moses did not speak of Judah at the altar but only of Levi, a change must have been effected. We have a different priesthood! In the Old Testament dispensation, where the law obtained of Levi, the following syllogisism was in effect:
3. Hence: Judah might not attend at the altar in the temple. (e.g. a case in point is the brazen attempt on the part of King Uzziah, who is smitten with leprosy until the day of his death for attempting to usurp the place of the God-appointed priest at the altar.
Now here must be either something very wrong or very right. Christ is either the greatest imposter, or he is the one who supersedes Levi’s priesthood with a greater and more abiding priesthood. The historical fact is that Christ is born out of the tribe of Judah as David’s great Son. This is evident before. It is clear before hand! And the implication of this ought not to be obscured by unbelief. Christ does not fall under the law of the Levitical priesthood! He is a different priest and therefore the law is changed in regard to his priesthood!
The second piece of evidence is offered us in verse 15. There we read “And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchizedek there ariseth another priest who was made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life . . . .”
There are various elements which we ought to notice in this piece of evidence here offered. In the first place, it ought to be noticed that the writer is here not arguing from a revealed premise, but is stating a historical fact. This is not so clear from the KJV of this text, but it is crystal clear from the original Greek. We notice:
1. That this is evident from the “far more evident.” Now the historical fact speaks louder than inference from revealed premises. The one is the cogent argument from Scripture, the other is the evidence of the Word made flesh; it is what God has spoken unto us in these latter days, when he came to us in Jesus, Immanuel!
2. This is corroborated by what we read in the Greek verb translated “there ariseth.” This is not a mere hypothetical possibility. The sentence is a conditional sentence of determined reality. The “if there ariseth” really means: whereas there has arisen! The term in the Greek is “anistatai!” Perhaps this is the emphatic middle voice: if very emphatically and really one arises, so that he was born and grew up, and was actually placed in office by God directly out of heaven, as happened at the occasion of Jesus’ baptism-by John. (Matthew 3:13-17; John 1:32-34)
3. That this refers to the preponderant evidence of the accomplished fact is plain from the phrase “who is made.” In the Greek this is the perfect tense. “Gegonen” is the perfect tense of something completed ups till the present moment. Christ has not been made a priest after the similitude of Melchizedek. He is the king-priest forever in the heavens. And this priesthood does not fall under the law of Levi, but under the law of a King-Priest. Wherefore our Lord is out of Judah, as Jacob saw the latter end of the tribes when he said: “Judah, thou art he. The scepter shall not depart from Judah. . . .” Genesis 49:10