Written by 8:37 am Bible Studies, Hebrews

Perfect, Indestructible, Effective | Hebrews 7:11-28

Let’s begin with an admission. This section of Hebrews is very… Hebrew. Basically from here to the end of chapter eight, the author dug in hard on the matter of the priesthood. Frankly, I’ve been known to speed read from here until chapter nine. But since we’re doing a verse-by-verse study, I cannot do that this time. And, of course, I’m glad I didn’t. So, allow me to remind you of something before we trudge ahead.

As we read the author’s teaching contrasting Christ’s priesthood to Aaron’s, remember that he preached this/wrote this to believing Jews who were tempted to return to the old system. That is the impetus behind everything in this letter. Therefore this talk about the priesthood is incredibly relevant. But, I think we’ll find that it is just as relevant to us as well. So let’s get to it because we have a sizable portion of verses to wade through.


11 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. 14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.
– Hebrews 7:11-14 (ESV)

Perfection. The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The precepts of the LORD are upright, instructing the wise. A Jew may have found the author’s statement in verse eleven hard to swallow. The Torah prescribed the Levitical priesthood and the Aaronic high priests. If Torah is perfect, how could one say that perfection wasn’t its goal? The author’s point here links to what he said in verse twenty-eight – the word of oath, which came later than the law. If perfection was something the law could offer, why would the LORD establish a new priesthood much later (Psalm 110:4) while the Levites and Aaron’s line were still serving as priests?

Great question. The answer is that the LORD was telegraphing His intention to establish a new covenant that would replace the old one. Why a new covenant? The author said that when the priesthood changes, so does the law. Why? Because the new priesthood doesn’t draw its authority from the old covenant. Therefore, if there’s a new priesthood it must draw it’s authority from a new covenant.

To further nail this down, the author also pointed out that Jesus’ genealogy would have disqualified Him for priesthood under the old covenant. For Jesus to be our high priest, a new covenant had to be in place from which He drew authority to serve in that role. All of this could only mean one thing. The old covenant was null and void.

Why would anyone want to return to a null and void system? I’ll suggest a few possibilities and move on. First, at this point in history, Jewish ethnicity and Jewish religious practice were intimately tied together. It’s entirely possible that as Gentiles increased within the church, the Jewish distinctiveness of the New Covenant was being diluted. In Acts chapter fifteen, the council of Jerusalem  released Gentile believers from adherence to Jewish dietary laws and observance of feasts, only telling them to refrain from things polluted by idols, strangled things, blood, and sexual immorality.

19  Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.
– Acts 15:19-20 (ESV)

As the numbers of believing Gentiles increased, the observance of Jewish custom decreased. I can only imagine that the Jewish believers found the church’s practices increasingly unlike what they grew up with. The temptation to return to the old ways might have been fairly strong.

Second, the presence of Judaizers was (and is) and ongoing problem in the church. Judaizers are false teachers – wolves – who mislead as many as they can into returning to the law of Moses. Unlike the first group, this isn’t a sentimental desire for familiar forms of worship. These wolves teach that adherence to the law is how we remain in God’s grace once we’re born again. False teachers are always looking for a following and seduce as many as they can into their fake sheepfold.

These two things brought together could’ve been a perfect storm to move believing Jews toward a return to something null and void. But don’t judge them too harshly. We all become sentimentally attached to the methods and ways of worship that we grew up with. Many of us have ran head-on with frustrations over what we perceive as lukewarmness in other believers, which, if we’re careless, can fan a flame of legalism. When we find ourselves feeling either of those, in that moment, are we all that different from sentimental Jewish believers.

Let’s continue.

An Indestructible Life

15 This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, 16 who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is witnessed of him,
“You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.”
18 For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.
– Hebrews 7:15-19 (ESV)

I wrote in my notes, “What becomes more evident?” It’s the change in the covenant. Verse twelve introduces the idea, and fifteen brings reinforcements. So let’s ask the question: How does it become more evident?

Christ’s priesthood isn’t based on a commandment, but on His very nature: His indestructible life.

This is in contrast to the mortal frailty of the former priests. Allegedly, a rope was tied around the ankle of the high priest before he entered the Holy of Holies, just in case he died in God’s presence, so they could drag him out without entering themselves. (Just so you know, the Bible doesn’t prescribe a rope for the High Priest’s ankle. This is found in Jewish writings, but not the Scriptures.) But Christ didn’t need a rope. In fact, He didn’t just enter and then get out like the former priests. He entered and stayed, and took a seat! He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty and will stay there, interceding for us, until the appointed time of of His return!

The author called the former commandment weak and useless. Again, these are statements that might’ve been hard to swallow for a believing Jew, but this isn’t a slight against the law itself. The law is perfect in its purpose, and the law perfectly accomplishes its purposes. But it was never given for the purpose of making its adherents perfect. What was the purpose of the law?

24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.
– Galatians 3:24

From a New Testament perspective, the law was given to shepherd the hearts of Israel until the Messiah arrived. What does that mean? It means that the purpose of the law was to underscore our need for a Savior. The reality of our constant and unceasing failure to keep the perfect law of the LORD served as an ever-present reminder that we are separated from our God without remedy in ourselves. This is what Paul meant in Romans chapter seven when he wrote that the law caused sin to increase (Romans 7:7-12). The law’s purpose is to show us our sinfulness, and it does this perfectly. It perfectly highlights our imperfections.

The better hope, then, is in Christ! Hope for forgiveness. Hope for relationship. Hope for resurrection. Hope for inheritance. Hope for eternal life. The law provided a shadow of these things. Christ provides them in their fullness!

An Oath

20 And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, 21 but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him:
“The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind,
‘You are a priest forever.’”
22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.
23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, 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.
– Hebrews 7:20-25 (ESV)

You might read verse twenty and think big deal. Why does an oath make Christ’s appointment to priesthood better than Aaron’s? Twenty-first-century people have a diminished view of oaths. Ancient people took oaths far more seriously than we do. We break oaths all the time, rather flippantly. Presidents break their oaths of office. People lie under oath in courts. Parents break their promises to their kids. Broadly speaking, we simply don’t place a high value on being people of integrity. An oath is built on the integrity of the one taking it, so a low integrity culture means oaths have a low value. But this oath is more than an oath given one man to another. This is God’s oath, hence built upon his character. So will God ever appoint a different High Priest and replace Jesus as He did Aaron? No because His oath is backed up by his character.

“The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind,
‘You are a priest forever.’”

That means one thing for us. Since there will never be another High Priest, there also will never be another covenant. This is why Jesus is the guarantor of a better covenant. Remember, a change in the priesthood would necessitate a change of covenant. Jesus is the High Priest, forever, of a covenant that will never end because He will never end. Then comes my favorite line in this entire chapter.

Consequently, 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.

He offers an uttermost salvation. That means I am so utterly saved that nothing can undo what He has done. But notice, this uttermost salvation is only for those who draw near to God through Jesus. That sounds familiar.

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
– John 14:6 (ESV)

Notice further, Christ’s intercession is only for those who draw near to the Father through Him. So not only is uttermost salvation exclusively for those who draw near to God through Jesus, His prayers have the same limited scope. He only prays for His church. He prays for our endurance. He prays for our transformation. He prays for our provision. He prays for those who come to the Father through Him without ceasing.

I hope you find that comforting because there is no greater comfort than to know that Jesus did more than die for you He lives for you. He fulfilled his own teaching. We demanded his coat which He gave, but He also gave His cloak. His eternal session is His cloak thrown over His church, the ones who demanded his coat – his death. And He will continue to cover us with the cloak of His prayers until we see Him face to face.

Just a little more, then we’re done.

Effective Prayers

26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.
– Hebrews 7:26-28 (ESV)

The author listed several qualities: holy, innocent, untainted, separated from sinners, and exalted. Let’s sum that up into one word: righteous. His prayers for us are effective. James said that the prayers of a righteous man has great power as it works (James 5:16). He is the Righteous One. Jesus’ prayers are always effective. You can be comforted that the Righteous One prays powerfully effective prayers for you. Unlike priests who were beset by their own sins, whose prayers ebbed and flowed in their effectiveness, Christ the Son, who is made perfect forever, prays for you and never fails.

At the end of this very Hebrew chapter, the author brought us to a truth that resounds for all of God’s people, Jew or Gentile. The LORD has given us a better High Priest, who is the guarantor of a better covenant, who’s prayers for us are always effective because He is forever the Righteous One, and by His perfectly effective intercession provides an uttermost salvation for everyone who draws near to the Father through Him.

Why would anyone born again Jew ever want to go back to something less than this?

Why do you and I – born again Gentiles – cling to our traditions that embrace lesser things than this?

The only answer is that we’ve been enticed to look away. The more you gaze at Jesus, the longer you keep your eyes fixed upon Him, the more you know Him in His unveiled majesty, the more every other alternative seems utterly foolish.

Let us turn our gaze back to Him and let go of every tradition, every desire, every way of life that would lead us to something lesser.

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Last modified: September 19, 2023