Jesus: Our Priest Forever

Hebrews 7:11-22

August 13, 2017

In June of last year, the Associated Press reported the story of a Colorado woman who saved the life of her 5-year-old son from a mountain lion attack. The five-year old had been playing in the front yard of their home when she heard a scream, only to discover a mountain lion on top of her son with the the top of her son’s head in its mouth.

As I imagine that any of us would do, the mother charged the big cat and tackled it, prying her son’s head from its mouth and scaring the animal away. Mother and son both survived, but Sheriff’s Deputy, Michael Buglioni attributes that to the mother’s swift actions.

Now, if you are like me — and like most sane people — we celebrate the mother’s actions. In the news feed, I didn’t find anyone criticizing the mother or suggesting that she should have let her son fend for himself (that’s the law of the jungle, right?).

Yet, isn’t it interesting that while we will celebrate the bravery and courage of a someone who takes swift action when there are physical threats (animal attacks, train wrecks, etc…), but when it comes to the spiritual threats around us, we ignore them mostly, remaining passive.

We raise our kids in church and take them to Sunday School and we think that is enough. Then, when real spiritual threats seem to rise up in the lives of those we love, we remain passive and do not act with the ferocity of this mother.

With that in mind, imagine with me for a moment, a world with a different mindset — a world where Christians are as zealous for the Truth and willing to engage the strongholds of Hell in our midst with Spiritual weapons with the same fervency as this mother who saved her son…and folks, if you imagine what that might look like, you are imagining how the church is supposed to be engaging in the society. Remember, our purpose, corporately, is to tear down and replace.

And folks, if we don’t act on that calling, taking it seriously, then on one hand we risk the judgment of God and on the other we risk becoming one more irrelevant institution that belonged to a bygone generation.

If you don’t believe me about this, let me ask you a question. Have you ever heard of the YMCA? Do you know what YMCA stands for? Did you know that it was originally founded as an evangelistic institution? I challenge you to define it that way today. They lost their focus and since have become irrelevant…except perhaps to those who want to exercise and get into shape.

And while I fear the judgment of God most, the possibility of becoming an irrelevant institution ought to make our knees quake.

So, what does this have to do with our text this morning? A great deal.

You see, at the heart of our text is the language of a transition from the failed Levitical priesthood to the greater priesthood of Melchizedek, fulfilled in Christ. And this is one of those areas in which the wolves attack our children and the people we love.

Verse 12 is the key:

“For with the priesthood being altered (or changed), by necessity, there is a change in the law, too.”

Let me show you the importance of this single verse in its context. First, there are people in our community that advocate abstinence from eating pork — it is an unclean food along with shellfish (or shark or any other fish without scales). That’s Leviticus 11, by the way.

And they say, “See, God never changes, so his law never changes.”

Yet, in Mark 7:19, we are explicitly told that Jesus declared all food clean.

Some, who attack the Bible would say, “Ha, that’s an inconsistency!”

No, it is not an inconsistency. “With the change of the priesthood there is necessarily a change to the law as well.”

Now, if you wish to abstain from pork for personal reasons, that is fine, but don’t say you are doing so for theological reasons, that would just be plain wrong.

Another example: there are some who advocate that Christians ought to buys prayer shawls and wear them for prayer time — that is Numbers 15 and Deuteronomy 22, by the way. Many prosperity preachers like using this one because they insist that you can be exceptionally holy if you just wear one of these shawls with tassels and they conveniently sell them in their online stores…

But first century gentile Christians never adopted wearing such things, nor do we do it today. Why? With the change of the priest comes a change in the law.

Some well-meaning pastors do the same thing with the tithe. Over the years and growing up, I can’t tell you how many sermons I have heard saying, “If you don’t tithe 10% to the church, then you are sinning.” Yet, Biblically, the tithe worked out to about 23% of your income (that would be the “Full Tithe” mentioned in Malachi 3:10)…not to mention the fact that it was only charged to land-owners. If you were a renter or a tenant, you were off the hook.

Now, is giving bad? No, not at all, but the New Testament we find moving away from a formal tithe and stressing giving that is sacrificial, cheerful, and generous. Why? Because with the change in the priesthood there is necessarily a change in the law.

But is it just Judaizing cults (like the SDA) and ill-informed pastors that we need to protect from? No.

Atheists use this as well. I have often heard Christians in discussion saying, “the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin.” Only for the Atheist to respond with: “so, you must want to gather them up and stone all of them…that’s what your Bible teaches, doesn’t it?”

What is moral is fixed because that is based on God’s character, but the law — the application of the Moral Law of God — punishments for immorality, has changed with the change of the priesthood.

Now, you might be tempted to say, “that’s nice…perhaps a little academic…but it doesn’t really apply to me.” But we are not done because while the Judaizers are trying to put you back under the shackles of a Levitical priesthood, Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy seeks to put you back under the shackles of a new human priesthood when the text clearly says that Jesus is priest forever.

Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy believe that their priesthood is the New Testament replacement for the failed priesthood of Levi…that the Pope has in essence inherited the mantle of Aaron. But that is clearly against the plain teaching of the text as well. Further, while most of us are clear in our minds that Roman Catholicism is in error, how many of our friends or family members have left the protestant church for the Romish church (often because they got married to a Roman Catholic) and we passively sit by and say, “well, at least they are in church.” Are they really in church?

And while these still may be big ideas, they are essential ideas if we are going to advance the Christian life…if indeed it is our desire to advance the Christian life…which, by the way, is something we list as one of our “highest aims” in our church constitution. So, if you are a committed “Burryite,” this belongs to you…first and foremost, though, it is a Biblical mandate, so if you are a Christian, this belongs to you.

In the context of the passage, then, this is how the author develops the idea:

Verse 11:

“If on the one hand, therefore, perfection were possible through the Levitical Priesthood, for the people received the Law through it, what is the use of raising up another priest by the order of Melchizedek and not one named after the order of Aaron.”

In other words, if the Levitical Priesthood could truly intercede for us and make atonement for our sins, why bother with Jesus? But, since God did bother with sending Jesus, it is a sign that the old priesthood was deficient.

And thus verse 12, which we have already looked at:

“For with the Priesthood being changed, by necessity, there is a change in the Law as well.”

Does that make the old law bad? Most certainly not. Paul writes in Galatians 3:19-27 that the Old Law was never meant to save…only to drive us to Christ because we couldn’t fulfill it in the first place.

Verse 13:

“For the one of whom this is spoken holds his place in another tribe, from which no one has taken care of the Altar.”

Now, this may not sound like a big deal, but it is. The altar is a place of sacrifice and sacrifices are made for sin…both for the sins of the priest and for the sins of the people. In fact, the Levitical priests could only come before God on the basis of a blood sacrifice.

But the New Priest does not need a sacrifice to come before God…he comes before God on the basis of his perfect obedience… which is what the author is speaking of in verse 16 as an endless or “indestructible” life.

What does that mean for us?

First, there are no altars in the church. We have communion tables, but no altars because Jesus made the one and only sacrifice needed for our sins. Second, if you happen to attend a Romish Mass at some point (wedding or funeral, for example), do not participate in Communion because their table is meant to represent a continuing sacrifice by a new priesthood — something that the Bible will argue is absolute futility.

verses 14-16:

“For it is clear that the Lord sprung up from Judah, a tribe which Moses did not speak of concerning priests… (already discussed that last week)… and yet, it is even more evident that if another priest is raised up in the likeness of Melchizedek, who is not (insert “a priest”) according to the Law and commandment of the flesh, but according to the power of an endless life.”

Jesus did indeed die, but he rose again from the dead, proving his power over death. And here became our King and our Prophet, but also our eternal Priest.

Verse 17: “For it is testified that ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.’”

Note, that is Psalm 110:4.

Verses 18-19:

“For on the one hand, it is an annulment of the former command because of its deficiency and weakness, for the Law made nothing perfect!”

Stop there for a moment… This is a reference to the sacrificial and ceremonial laws of the people — sacrifices, food ways, festivals, clothing, etc… This is not a reference to Moral Law which simply reflects God’s character (and thus condemns us)… but all of these festivals and sacrifices and rules — all of them are weak and deficient. They had no efficacy; efficacy lies only with Christ who these things foreshadow. So, why would any Christian be drawn to the empty and weak things that can produce no perfection?

The rest of verse 19 and verse 20:

“On the one hand, there is the introduction of a better hope through which we approach God, and in as much as it is not without an oath — for without an oath they became priests — “

The Levites were born into their role; God swore an oath establishing Jesus’.

Verse 21:

“But with an oath, he said to him, ‘The Lord has sworn and will not have second thoughts — You are a Priest forever!’”

And that leads us into verse 22:

“And so, Jesus has become the assurance of so much greater of a covenant.”

Remember, a priest’s primary role is as an intercessor. And if the intercession is ineffectual (as was the Levitical intercession), you are lost, utterly lost. The Levitical order was nothing more than a shadow of what would come in Christ.

And now that Christ has come, we should neither look back to an older, ineffective priesthood, nor should we create a new human priesthood that isn’t even a foreshadowing, but is instead an abomination. We should cling to Christ as our eternal, never to be replaced, priest.

Beloved, the wolves are in our midst and sometimes dressed as sheep and they are putting our children and those we love into danger and we cannot afford to play games with them.

When I was a kid, it was the Moonies that the church saw as a threat and I remember programs and videos and talks about the dangers of the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon. And to the best of my knowledge, none of us youth fell into their trap.

But while the Moonies don’t seem much of a threat to us, there are many more Christian cults and false religions around us today than ever…not to mention the cult of atheism. And for some reason, we’re not responding. It seems that many church folk would rather stick their heads in the sand and let the church die than to vigorously do battle against the culture.

Now, when we talk about a change in the law, will the atheists listen? Not likely. They are fools and they have suppressed their innate knowledge of God.  Will the cultists listen? No. The Romanists? No, they are too committed to their priesthood.

So why bother? My prayer is that Christians in the church will listen so that our children do not fall prey to the wolves…or mountain lions…in our midst. It’s time we stop letting those wild animals prey on the children of our neighborhood and start acting like the church — attacking them as did that Colorado mom.

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