A New Priest and a New Law
Hebrews is that book of the New Testament that teaches us about our Lord’s High Priestly ministry at the Right Hand of the Father. The Hebrews to whom he was writing knew all about the priestly ministry coming out of Judaism. They knew that the priest was the man who offered sacrifices to God on behalf of the people. They knew that the priest was the only one ordained of God to do so and that he came from the priestly tribe of Levi and specifically the family of Aaron, Moses’ brother—a law established by God centuries ago. But Jesus was not of the tribe of Levi but of Judah. “How could he serve as priest?” these Hebrew Christians might legitimately ask. “Because he was ordained of God from eternity to be a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek,” the Preacher answers. He has rehearsed the account from Genesis 14:18-20 showing Abraham’s submission to Melchizedek and cited Psalm 110:4 referring to Christ.
The Preacher further proves our Lord’s superiority to the Levitical priesthood. His argument is thus set forth: 1) A Levitical priest was made so by legal requirement and bodily descent; he did not earn the priesthood, he was born one. Our Lord, however, is priest “by the power of an indestructible life” and by oath of his Father in heaven who “will not change His mind.” 2) A Levitical priest could not remain a priest by sting of death; our Lord continues a priest forever. 3) The Levitical priest must offer sacrifices daily and first for himself. Our Lord made one sacrifice once for all for his people and not for himself.
What this all means is that the Levitical priesthood was ultimately weak and useless because it could not perfect the conscience of the person. For this reason it was set aside. But we must not think God made a mistake by instituting the system in the first place; on the contrary, the Levitical priesthood, sacrifices, and laws governing them were in anticipation of Christ. They foreshadowed his coming and made his people long for him. And with his coming and the institution of his priesthood, a new law is now instituted—the law of liberty in Christ Jesus (James 2:12). And a better covenant and hope is introduced through the priestly ministry of Christ, for the Father has appointed His Son who “has been made perfect forever” through suffering, and through his blood “he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” We are Gentile Christians but our heritage is Hebrew and we best learn it to fully understand how great a salvation we have.