The Greatness of Melchizedek’s Order in Relation to the Levitical Priesthood
by John Lowe
The Levitical Priesthood
The Levitical Priesthood traces through the three sons of Levi, through the Sadducees until it went extinct at the death of Christ when it was replaced with the Priesthood of Christians which endures until the second coming.
Lesson #23 ID5b
The Greatness of Melchizedek’s Order in Relation to the Levitical Priesthood (7:11-28)
Scripture: Hebrews 7:11-28 (NIV)
11If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? 12For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also. 13He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. 14For our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. 15And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, 16one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. 17For it is declared:
“You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek.”
18The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19(for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.
20And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, 21but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him:
“The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind:
‘You are a priest forever.’”
22Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.
23Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25Therefore he is able to save completely c those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
26Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.
Having established Melchizedek’s superiority both personally and in comparison, with Abraham and Levi, the writer was ready to make a new point. This superiority was needed since the Law was superseded. The inaccuracy of the legal and Levitical systems had to be replaced by something better.
In this section, the writer took his argument one step further. Not only is Melchizedek greater than Aaron, but Melchizedek has replaced Aaron! It is no longer “the order of Aaron” or “the order of Levi.” It is forever “the order of Melchizedek.” Why would God make such a radical change?
(7:11). If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that
priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?
The words translated “perfect” and “perfection” are keywords in this epistle (Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 6:1; 7:11, 19; 9:9; 10:1, 14). They essentially mean “completed, fulfilled.” The Old Testament priests could not by their ministry, complete the work of God in the heart of a worshipper. “For the Law made nothing perfect” (Heb. 7:19). The animal sacrifices could not give any worshipper a perfect standing before God (Heb. 10:1-3). The Mosaic system of divine Law was not a perfect system. It was “added,” to serve as a “schoolmaster” to prepare the way for the coming of Christ (Gal. 3:19-4:7).
In other words, the thing which characterized the Aaronic priesthood is that it is incomplete. It never brought perfection, complete communion with God. It never gave redemption and acceptance before God to the people. It never achieved its goal. Therefore, we need Christ.
The bottom line here is this: Perfection was not attainable through the Levitical system. Sins were never put away and the worshippers never obtained rest of conscience. The priesthood that was set up under the Law of Moses was not the ultimate one.
Another kind of priesthood is now in effect. The perfect priest has now come, and His priesthood is not reckoned according to the order of Aaron but rather after the order of Melchizedek.
(7:12). For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also.
We are no longer under the Mosaic Law. The Mosaic Law belonged to the Aaronic priesthood where they offered bloody sacrifices. The Mosaic Law and the Aaronic priesthood go together. Since the priests received their authority from the Old Testament Law (Heb. 7:28), and since the priesthood has been changed, there has also been a change in that Law.
(7:13). He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar.
(7:14). For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.
The Lord Jesus belonged to the tribe of Judah and therefore could never be a priest here on earth. The priestly tribe was the tribe of Levi. The priesthood had to be changed since Christ did not come from Levi.
The Law of Moses made no provision for the priesthood from the tribe of Judah. Since our high priest is from the tribe of Judah, according to His human ancestry, then there must have been a change in Moses’ Law. There has been! The entire system of Old Testament Law has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ and has been taken out of the way (Col. 2:13-14). The believer has been set free from the Law (Gal. 5:1-6) and is dead to the Law (Rom. 7:1-4).
This new arrangement does not suggest that a Christian has the right to be lawless. “Free from the Law” does not mean “free to sin.” Rather, it means we are free to do the will of God. We obey, not because of outward compulsion, but because of inward restraint (2 Cor. 5:14; Eph. 6:6). The indwelling Holy Spirit enables us to fulfill the “righteousness of the Law” as we yield to Him (Rom. 8:1-4).