Agonizomai: Heb 7:11-13 - Christ - The Fulfillment of the Law

Friday, January 15, 2010

Heb 7:11-13 - Christ - The Fulfillment of the Law

Heb 7:11-13 - Christ - The Fulfillment of the Law

Heb 7:11-13 Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? 12 For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. 13 For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar.

See the development of the thought about superiority here. Perfection was a requirement of God and this principle was not lost on the Jews. They understood well enough the need for perfection. Most of them (almost all) simply thought that perfection was attained through their own perfect obedience to the law. They had a deficient comprehension of the fall and the corruption of the human heart which had led to a total depravity by which the unaided human heart was incapable of any thought, deed or inclination that was pleasing to God - on account of which it was impossible for any fallen man to pass the perfection test.

The very law they had received could only condemn them - but could never save them from God’s wrath against all but continual, unbroken and perfect obedience. The law could make no one perfect; it could only point out how imperfect the people truly were. And the law was given under the administration of the Levites - the priests, who were all descendants of Abraham through Levi, including Aaron. In fact, it was forbidden for any but a person from the tribe of Levi to occupy the office of priest under the law. It was a hereditary office. The Levites were dedicated to the full time service of God as the tithe of the firstborn of Israel.

But though Melchizedek was a priest, he was neither a Jew, nor a Levite, nor yet was he under the Levitical laws, which he preceded. He was a Gentile - a Canaanitish prince. His authority, which Abraham himself acknowledged (and in him all Israel symbolically) was not derived from the Jewish history, but from God himself. (Which is actually where the Levite authority came from, too - but that is a large digression)

This is why the Psalm 110 passage attributed to David is enlisted to point to Christ as the "other priest after the order of Melchizedek". It is because under the law Christ, a son of Judah, not being a Levite, could not be a priest in the traditional and legal sense under the Mosaic Law. Yet he was a priest of the same sort as Melchizedek - a priest of the Most High God - a person who came between not just the Jews and God, but the whole of humanity and God. It was about the human race as a whole, and not just the Jews.

Now, since God is the originator of the law, and since he is the perfect law-keeper of his own laws, He could not leave the law untouched and have the Christ, a non-Levite, be in contravention of it. Therefore, it was absolutely essential that the law be changed. When was that ceremonial law changed? As we have seen, it was when he had purged all sin by offering himself up as the perfect sacrifice. {Heb 1:3-4} At this point he became the High Priest of His people (all who believe in Him), having offered up an acceptable sacrifice. At this point the Mosaic Law, with its sacrificial/ceremonial precepts, was abrogated in favour of the gospel for those who would believe it; the covenant of works was fulfilled by Christ on behalf of men, and was superseded by the covenant of grace, based entirely upon that vicarious work.

To the Hebrews, this abrogation of the sacrificial/ceremonial law was ground shaking. It was why so many could not accept Jesus as the Messiah. But these Hebrews to whom the author was writing and preaching had supposedly taken that step. How could they go back? How could they think about going back to such a superseded, obsolete, abrogated, fulfilled covenant when perfection had not only come, but been wrought on their behalf (if they truly believed)? They could not. They could do so only if there had never been a true work of conversion and repentance to begin with. But the author believed better things for them.


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