Bible treehuggercomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Hebrews 7:20-22

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.

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Last week’s entry discussed the perfect and everlasting priesthood of Jesus Christ after the order of Melchizedek.

The unknown author of Hebrews, inspired by the Holy Spirit, cites Psalm 110:4 (verse 17). God is speaking to His Son:

The Lord has sworn
    and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever
    after the order of Melchizedek.”

In order to better understand verse 20, here are the previous two verses:

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.

The author refers to the imperfect nature of the Levitical priesthood, which was based on genealogy rather than character. Melchizedek preceded the Levite priests and was also a king. He blessed Abraham (Genesis 14), and from that, God began delivering His promised blessings to our father in faith and his descendants.

The author is saying that God ended the priesthood of the Old Testament and made a New Covenant with us through Jesus Christ. He did this through an oath (verse 21), one that He never made with the Levite priests.

Therefore, the New Covenant a) replaces the Old Covenant and b) is unparalleled by any other priesthood (verse 22). As such, the Hebrews whom the author addresses can have every confidence in Jesus as the Great High Priest.

John MacArthur explains, referring to the veil over the Holy of Holies, which only the high priest could see once a year for a few seconds on the Day of Atonement. After the Crucifixion, God rent the veil in the temple in Jerusalem, meaning that Jesus became our Mediator and Advocate with God the Father. People finally had access to God. Emphases mine below:

We saw that Aaron’s priesthood was limited because it couldn’t provide one thing that was primary; it couldn’t provide perfection. And another term for perfection is what? Access to God. Aaron’s priesthood could not bring men to God. All through the ministry of Aaron and the Levites, the veil remained. Right? There never was access to God. The one thing men needed most couldn’t be provided by Aaron. Therefore, there had to come another priest who could bring access to God, a priest after a different order, and that is Jesus Christ. And David, in Psalm 110:4, when he made the statement concerning Messiah, “Thou art a priest forever after the of Melchizedek,” was prophesying that when Messiah did come, He indeed would be a priest after a different order” …

The goal of our faith is access to God. The goal of Christianity is to bring men into the presence of God: that Jesus Christ could do; Aaron could not. The veil always remained. But in Christ, the [ve]il was – what? – was rent and access was made. And in verse 19 of chapter [7], we go into the presence of God where our forerunner has entered, verse 20, and we are anchored there. That’s something Aaron couldn’t do.

The design for us is that we have access to God.

Matthew Henry’s commentary tells us:

There is a change in that covenant of which the priesthood was a security and the priest a surety; that is, a change in the dispensation of that covenant. The gospel dispensation is more full, free, perspicuous, spiritual, and efficacious, than that of the law. Christ is in this gospel covenant a surety for us to God and for God to us, to see that the articles be performed on both parts He, as surety, has united the divine and human nature together in his own person, and therein given assurance of reconciliation; and he has, as surety, united God and man together in the bond of the everlasting covenant. He pleads with men to keep their covenant with God, and he pleads with God that he will fulfil his promises to men, which he is always ready to do in a way suitable to his majesty and glory, that is, through a Mediator.

This post is appearing fortuitously on Reign of Christ Sunday in 2019, the final Sunday in the Church year. The readings are here.

Christ reigns as King; this day used to be known as Christ the King Sunday.

Christ also reigns as Great High Priest.

He reigns as both forevermore.

In that sense, He is like Melchizedek, who was both king and priest. Melchizedek did not inherit his priesthood. He was a priest because of his excellent character.

Aaron and the other Jewish priests were never kings.

Jesus Christ is both King and Priest, sitting at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

He is our guarantor of salvation.

MacArthur explains:

Jesus Christ Himself engaged as the guarant[o]r in the service of the Father says to the Father, “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. You see?

Our covenant with God cannot ever be broken, because as soon as a debt exists, Christ pays it. Isn’t that a fantastic thing? Wrapped up in that is the security of the believer. He pays every debt instantly upon its being owed. He is the surety of a better covenant. And dear ones, there was no such surety in the old covenant. When you blew it, you had to come crawling back all by yourself. But in Jesus Christ, we have the surety of a better covenant. He is our guarantee; not only is He willing to be, better than that, He’s able. I like that part. Right? And God is completely satisfied with His performance. The only question remaining is are you satisfied with Him? He is the surety of a better covenant. If you’re satisfied with Him and what He’s done in your behalf, that’s all you need. He takes care of the covenant.

I hope that this gives us a lot to think about as we contemplate Christ the King today.

And, as we are one week away from Advent, it is worth considering the previous posts from Hebrews 7 about the universal priesthood that Christ represents: the priestly order of Melchizedek, Melchizedek and Abraham, Jesus compared to Melchizedek and His eternal, sufficient and superior priesthood.

The closing verses of Hebrews 7 are read on one of the Sundays in Pentecost (Year B of the three-year Lectionary). They provide more insight into the perfection of Jesus. These, too, will help to heighten our experience of Advent as a time of spiritual preparation as we recall our Lord’s earthly birth in a month’s time:

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[a] those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

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.

A Son who humbled Himself to be amongst mankind and who gave Himself in obedience to the Father as the one perfect and sufficient sacrifice for our sins.

May we be ever grateful.

Next time — Hebrews 8:1-7