The Book of Hebrews #26 chapter 7:20-28
The Book of Hebrews
Jesus: The Guarantee of a Better Covenant
Hebrews 7:20-28
         
Tonight we're going to study Hebrews 7:20 to 28 to conclude our study of Jesus and Melchizedek. And as we come to these verses, we find the Holy Spirit continuing to pile up proofs that the priesthood of Jesus Christ is superior to that of Aaron.
 
He is writing to Hebrews and saying, "Come to Christ" and then seeking to convince them that Jesus is not just sufficient to save, but is superior to what they’ve had in Judaism.  In particular, he is dealing with the priesthood and how the priesthood of Melchizedek is superior to that of Aaron.
 
His argument is built off of a single verse of Scripture found in Psalm 110:4 and He milks that text for every possible conceivable particle of truth. The text of Psalm 110:4 says that, "The Lord has sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek."
 
It was a Messianic prophecy predicting that when Messiah came, He would be a priest who would bridges the gap between himself and God.  But He would not be a priest from the line of Aaron, but after the order of Melchizedek.
 
So far, the author has talked about the priesthood of Melchizedek historically and then how it was better than Aaron’s and then how Jesus is like Melchizedek. The conclusion then, is the new covenant under Christ is better than the old covenant because it has a better priest.
But he’s not through yet.  As much as He has covered, it would seem there is nothing left.  But verses 20 through 28 give us three reasons Jesus is a superior High Priest.  And I’ll just take my points directly from the text.
 
The first one is He is
 
1. The Surety of a Better Covenant
 
If you want to know what guarantees the Old Covenant is better than the New, then look at Jesus.
 
verses 20 to 22
 
Now to get the gist of this passage, it helps me to drop out verse 21 for a moment, because it is a parenthesis, and read 20 and 22 as a complete thought.
 
In other words, He was a surety of a better testament because He was made a priest with an oath. He says it in a negative way, "not made priest without an oath." But the positive way to pharse tha is God made Him a priest by an oath.
 
Now when I read that, I thought, “So what?” But think about what He is saying.  There's something very important about God making an oath.
 
According to verse 21, every other priest got to be a priest without an oath, but with Jesus, God gave an oath.  What was the oath in regard to?  That the priesthood would last forever.  God never said that to Aaron, but He did with Jesus.  Therefore, the priesthood of Jesus is superior because God bound His Word by an oath.
Now, that doesn't mean that unless God swears and makes an oath, His Word is no good. It simply means that wherever God makes an oath, His Word has to do with an eternal transaction and that is extremely significant.
 
Because on the one hand, the Jews had a temporary priesthood that could not bring them access to God, and on the other hand, they had the eternal priesthood of Jesus that was guaranteed by God Himself.
 
Now it strikes me as kind of odd that God would take an oath, and the as best I can determine, the only reason God ever did it is to attach an importance or a significance to what was being done, and that was for our sake.   And by the way, every time God takes an oath, it is attached to Jesus in some way. 
 
So whenever God makes a promise that relates to Christ, He oftentimes adds an oath to it giving it eternal character and significance.
 
For illustration’s sake, think about God’s promise to Abraham to establish a people on the earth who would be His people.  He later confirmed that with David, promising his kingdom would be forever.  All of that was given with an oath because it is an eternal promise. Christ is an eternal king. So the promise of God that is attached to the eternal fulfillment of Christ is given with an oath.
 
Therefore, when God gave this indication that there would come a Messiah who would be after the order of Melchizedek, He confirmed it with an oath attaching eternal significance to it.
 
So Jesus is a permanent priest, sworn by God to be forever and because of that, verse 22 then becomes a reality.
 
Verse 22
 
In other words, because of the fact that God placed an oath on it, "Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant."
 
The covenant that God made with Jesus is better than the old one, because the old one is temporary and the new one is what eternal.
 
Now let’s talk just for a moment about the word “surety”.  The word "surety" means guarantee. Christ is the guarantee of a better covenant because He's a better priest.  
 
So follow the thought:  The covenant is between God and man, and Christ is the guarantee of it. This covenant can do everything the first covenant couldn't.  The first covenant couldn't save from sin.  It could only cover sin. The first covenant couldn't give access to God. It only gave a temporary kind of relationship. But Jesus can do what the first could not.
 
And all of that is guaranteed in and through Christ.
Now, there's a beautiful illustration of how Christ guarantees this new covenant found in Genesis 43.
 
Verses 8-9
 
Now remember the setting.  Joseph is now a ruler in Egypt.  His brothers long ago sold him into slavery.
Now there is a famine in the land, and things are desperate.  All of the brothers, with the exception of Benjamin, who is the baby, travel down to Egypt to try and get some relief from the famine.
 
They don’t recognize Joseph, but he knows them.  And he wants to see ol’ Ben, so he sent them all back and said, "Bring Benjamin."
 
Well, Judah says to his father, "I want to bring Benjamin," and his father says, "Not Benjamin.  I’ve already lost one boy, and I’m not taking a chance with Benjamin."
 
So Judah says, "Look Dad, it’ll be OK; I guarantee it.
 I will be the surety of Benjamin." And that’s our word.
 
Judah says, “I will take personal responsibility for Benjamin, and if anything happens, I’ll be bear the responsibility.
 
That’s a beautiful illustration of our relationship with Jesus Christ.  He, as our big brother, goes before the Heavenly Father and says, “I’ll take responsibility.  I guarantee their saifety.”
 
There are also a couple of great New Testament examples of that as well.  One of them comes from the very familiar story of the Good Samaritan.  Remember?  The Samaritan comes along, takes care of the victim of the attack, gets him to shelter and then guarantees any debt will be taken care of.
 
There's another beautiful example in the little book of Philemon.
It's the story of a slave named Onesimus who was really giving problems to his master who is Philemon.  But Onesimus crosses paths with Paul and Paul leads him to the Lord and sends him back to Philemon with the message, "If he’s done you wrong or owes you anything, just put it on my account, and I’ll settle up with you later.”  And Paul guarantees the debt will be paid.
 
That is exactly what happens with you when Christ gets involved in your business.  He is the guarantor who takes your place before God and says,  "Charge to my account whatever my people do, and I will fully pay their debts. Whatever they owe, I'll pay it." He's the guarantee, so that our covenant with God can never be violated. Every time we bring a debt to bear, Jesus pays it. And therefore the covenant is maintained.
 
And all wrapped up in that is the security of the believer. He pays every debt instantly upon its being owed so there is never a record of any wrongdoing or debt on your account.  Jesus guarantees it.
 
I feel sorry for those Christians who think they have to maintain the covenant. "Well, I've got to work and make sure I don't get disconnected from God."   Listen:  God is never satisfied with your performance.  It always falls short, but He is forever and completely satisfied with the performance of Jesus.
 
He takes care of all the debts. He's the guarantor of the covenant. That's all you need. He is our surety, securing the covenant.  And because of that, He’s a better High Priest.
 
Here’s the second thing.  He’s not only the Surety of a Better Covenant, but He is
 
2. Savior to the Uttermost
 
Verses 23-25
 
Now, in verse 23, he’s back to Aaron and the Levites again.  There really were many priests. They just kept coming and dying and coming and dying, one after the other and on and on that cycle continued.
And death has this way of disqualifying you from serving as a priest.
 
And God let the Israelites know that the priesthood was temporary right off the bat.
 
In Numbers 20, the death of Aaron is close and in verse 23, God tells Moses and Aaron the time for his death is close, so here’s what I want you to do.   Get Aaron and his son, Eleazar in front of the people and take the priestly garments off of Aaron and put them on his son.
 
God made it a point that this was to be done out in the open in front of everyone so they could understand that the priesthood was temporary. God wanted everybody in Israel to see that priests of the Levitical order kept dying. So He made Aaron's death totally public, so nobody would think that Aaron just kind of floated off into never, never land.
 
So from the very first priest, everybody knew this was a dying, temporary priesthood.  And that’s what this verse in Hebrews is talking about.
 
There were many priests, and they just kept dying and having to be replaced. But our priest never dies!  Well, to be honest, He did once, but it didn’t last!   That's why He can save to the uttermost!  There is no stopping His salvation. It goes all the way into access with God, anchors us there and holds us forever, because He's a forever priest. That's the meaning of
 
verse 24
 
There’s quite a difference between these priests.  They all died and had to be replaced; Jesus never dies, therefore, there is no possibility of an end to His priesthood.  He will never be succeeded by one who couldn't measure up to Him, because He'll always be the only high priest.
 
That’s what the word "unchangeable" is talking about.  It means indissoluble.  It can never come to a conclusion or an end. It describes something which belongs to one person and can never be transferred to anyone else.
 
Jesus Christ has a priesthood that is absolutely incapable of ever being altered. It can't be replaced. It is eternal.
 
He also uses the term “continues”, which means permanence. It means to remain for good.
 
He is our priest today. He is our priest until the day we die. He was the priest of Paul. He was the priest of every Christian who has ever lived.
 
 
And He'll be the priest of every Christian who ever lives, and He'll be my priest throughout every possible conceivable point in eternity, because He has an unchanging, continuing, forever priesthood. And I'll never have to stand at his graveside and wonder what the next one will be like. He is eternal.
 
Because He lives forever making intercession, He takes us to the uttermost extreme possibility of salvation. He never stops. We go all the way, as far as there is to go.
 
Now, let's look at this just a moment in verse 25, because this verse is one of the greatest verses in the text.
 
Verse 25
 
What does it mean when it says, "Wherefore He is able also to save"? What does it mean to save? Well, the doctrine of salvation is the main theme of Scripture. The main theme of revelation here in the Word of God is salvation. That's what the Bible's all about.
 
Actually, there is a little sermon within the sermon here in this verse that tells us all about salvation.
 
For instance, here we find
 
  • The Basis of Salvation
 
The word "wherefore" is the basis. "Wherefore" takes us backwards to His unchanging priesthood. The reason He can save us to the uttermost is because He is a forever priest.
He can take us all the way because His priesthood is eternal. Other priests fell short, because they kept dying. But based on His unchanging priesthood is His ability to save us to the uttermost. That's the basis.
 
Then we have
 
  • The Nature of Salvation
 
What is its nature? The word "save." He is able to save, in the fullest sense. The word "salvation" has three parts, past, present and future, three tenses to salvation.
 
The past tense has to do with deliverance from sin's guilt.
 
The present tense addresses deliverance from sin's power.
 
And the future tense is deliverance from sin's presence.
 
The first is done at the cross, the second at the throne as He intercedes and continues to cleanse us, the third at the Second Coming as He comes and removes us from this earth.
 
So salvation has three tenses. In fact, in Titus 2:11-13 all three tenses are listed. Titus 2:11, "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men." We have been saved.  Secondly, the present tense, "teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lust, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present age." There's the present tense.  We're being saved or being kept saved.
Then we find the future in verse 13, "looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ." There are the three tenses. We have been saved. We are being kept. And we shall be redeemed, in the full sense.
 
And so the nature of salvation, uttermost salvation, is total. It is salvation past, present and future that is ours in Christ.
 
Then look at
 
  • The Power of Salvation
 
What's the next word? "Able." The other priests weren't, but He is.
 
Back in chapter 2, verse 18, it says, "For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to help them that are tempted." It's not just that He's willing, but He is able.
 
How many times have you and I stood beside someone with an illness or problem wishing we could do something to help?  We are willing but unable.
 
There are some of you who’ve prayed for a friend or loved one to be saved.  You are so willing for them to be saved, but unable to do anything about it.
 
But our great high priest is not only willing, He's able. Aaron was willing, but he wasn't able. Praise God for Christ, who is able. That's the power of uttermost salvation.
 
 
 
Then there is
 
  • The Extent of Salvation
 
It is to the “uttermost”.  There is kind of a double meaning in that word.  It means that He will bring us to full salvation, something the priests couldn't do.  But it also means He will hold us there forever. Salvation is both perfect and complete. It is eternal and forever. He is able to save exhaustively and forever, comprehensively and eternally, all the way.
 
Then we have
 
  • The Objects of Salvation
 
Who gets this salvation? "Wherefore He is able to save them." Which them? "Them that come unto God by Him." That's the object of uttermost salvation. Perfection is open and available to them that come unto God by Him. There's no other way. Jesus said, "No man comes unto the Father but by me."
 
There's only one way. He is able to save all, but all aren't saved.  It is only them that come unto God by Him.  He doesn't say that He saves to the uttermost those that are baptized. It doesn't say that He saves to the uttermost those that are church members, or any of that. It says He saves those that come unto God by Jesus Christ.
 
"Come" is one of God's favorite words. He started it in Genesis 7:1 with Noah, and He wraps up the whole Bible in Revelation 22:17 by saying, "Come." The whole Book of Revelation is come, come, come, come to salvation. It's not enough to hear. There must be a response.
Then He goes on to one other point and that is
 
  • The Security of Salvation
 
How do you know that once you've got it, you're going to hang onto it? Notice the next phrase:  "Seeing He ever lives to keep on making intercession for them."
 
Not only does He save you initially, but He keeps interceding on your behalf. And you know how His intercession works? "Father, He just sinned. Put it on my account." He constantly is your guarantee that the covenant is never violated.
 
People say, "Can you lose your salvation?" Not as long as Jesus is guaranteeing it.  And how long will He be doing that? Forever. He secures us by His perpetual life. He said, "Because I live, you shall live also."   In other words, as long as Jesus is alive, I’ll be alive.
 
What a high priest! He is the surety of a better covenant, a Savior to the uttermost, and the third thing:
 
3. Separate from Sinners
 
All those Levitical priests were sinners, and they had to go around offering sacrifices for themselves before they could for the people.
 
verse 26
 
 
 
 
Now, that's not like Aaron, because verse 27 describes Aaron.
 
Verse 27
 
Jesus didn’t have to do all that.  He was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners and made higher than the heavens.
 
He was a fitting high priest.  In other words, He fits the requirements. He does all that we need Him to do. He is the perfect one. His sympathy is the fullest because He has endured temptation to its extreme.  And He is fitting because not only is He sympathetic, but He's able. He not only feels what we feel, but He knows the way of escape.
 
And so in verse 26, He addresses the sinlessness of Jesus Christ. Look at the terms He uses.
 
First of all, He uses the term "holy." The only high priest, incidentally, in the Old Testament, who was fitting to get before God was a holy one. His holiness wasn't his own, but he had to offer sacrifices to render himself holy. And so the priest, as it says in verse 27, every day had to offer up a sacrifice for his own sins first and then for the people. And then he would run into God in this kind of a temporary holiness, and he could only stay for a minute on the Day of Atonement once a year, and then he'd have to get out of there as fast as he could. He wasn't holy, of his own holiness. But Christ was.
 
In fact, when Christ was born, in Luke 1:35, His humanity was called, "that holy thing." He was holy from the very beginning.
Now, the word we normally see translated "holy" is a word that means separated unto God, and it's a very important word in Scripture. But that's not the word here. It's as if the Holy Spirit wants to just emphasize the holiness of Christ so much that He pulls out a completely different word. This word refers to holiness of character as opposed to a holiness of service. The Lord Jesus is unlike us in that He is holy in both senses of the word.
 
Then it says He's harmless. Holiness points toward God, harmless toward men. No wickedness toward men. Jesus never harmed men. He lived for others. He went about doing good, always for others, never injuring anyone else.
 
Some of the Levites were mean as snakes.  Not Jesus.
 
And then we read He was undefiled. That means free from blemish and defilement. Think about that:  Jesus Christ for 33 years was in the world, under the curse, living daily with sinners and Satan, and yet He came away from all of that with absolutely no trace of defilement. Jesus Christ moved through the world and was untouched by any of its blemishes.
 
He was in contact with Satan, but He always came out as spotless as He went in. When He touched the leper, the leper was clean. He contacted death, and death died. There never was a priest who was undefiled. But Jesus was such a high priest.
 
And then He says this. "He is separate from sinners." Aren't you glad? I am so glad that He is. He is a different class of creature than sinful men. In fact, He is made higher than the heavens.
That's the class that He's in. That’s our high priest.
 
Then in verse 27, he carries the contrast a little further.
 
Verse 27
 
He doesn't need to do that. He doesn't have any sin. He doesn't have to offer for His own sin because He doesn't have any.
 
And notice, at the end of the verse, "for this he did once, when he offered up himself."
 
He not only doesn’t have to offer any sacrifices for His own sin, He doesn’t have to keep repeating what He did for you and me either.
 
As a perfect, sinless priest, He did it once and it was done. He is the Perfect Priest offering the perfect sacrifice.
 
He is the surety of a better covenant, the Savior to the uttermost and separate from sinners.
 
Then notice the summary statement in verse 28.
 
When God set up the Levitical priesthood, it made men priests who were weak.  They couldn't bring access to God. They couldn't save to the uttermost, and because they were sinners, there work was never finished.
 
But when God set up the priesthood of Jesus, He did it with an oath, and it was a perfect priesthood forever. And He brings salvation in all three tenses.
 
Let me close with this:
 
In the Old Testament, the priest wore a breastplate and on the breastplate were 12 stones representing the tribes of Israel.  There is lots of symbolism there, but at a bare minimum that means that wherever that priest went, including into the Holy of Holies, he carried with him every individual Jew.
 
He also wore what the Bible calls an ephod. Now, we don't really know what an ephod looked like, but apparently it was some kind of a thing that went over the shoulders. And on the ephod were all the names of the 12 tribes also. So on his chest and on his shoulder, the priest carried the people he represented.
 
So what’s the point?  Think about it this way:  When the priest went into the presence of God, he carried the children of Israel near his heart, representing his affection and love, and on his shoulder, representing his power and strength.
 
And there we find an indication of what the priesthood, and more directly, what the priest was to be. He was to have a heart for the people and the strength to help them.
 
The Old Testament priest was limited at both points.  He could have the heart for the people, but it was a human heart, and he was given certain power by God, but it was limited.  He didn’t have the kind of heart that could love supremely,nor the shoulders that could carry us eternally.
 
 
But my priest, Jesus Christ, is, right now, at God's right hand, and on His heart is my name. He loves me supremely. And beyond that, on His shoulder is my name and He will carry me forever. Not only is He willing, but He's able.
 
 Let's pray.

 

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