Lesson 17: "He [Christ] is Able Also to Save Them to the Uttermost That Come Unto God by Him" (Hebrews 7:25)
The Book of Hebrews. Welcome to lesson #17. You will recall we read all 28 verses of Heb. ch. 7 at the end of our last lesson. I hope you have re-read that (two or three times) and you are now all pumped up, ready to discuss (ch. 7). But, don't try to analyze this without first having a good strong contextual framework in place to fit it all in. Think about the Christians in and around Jerusalem in the AD 60's or what we might call the second generation of the church. Some were undoubtedly saying, we need a high priest over us. Now, I deduct this from Heb. 4:14, where the writer said: "we have a great high priest." You see, it's so easy for politics and economics and traditions to shape our thinking. This happens...WHEN? This happens when we lax off in Bible study, prayer, stop attending the worship assembly (etc.). This was undoubtedly the state of the church in and around Jerusalem as the HEBREWS writer saw it. At least, this was happening to a high degree. Now, that doesn't mean NO ONE was doing their Christian duty. We are simply speaking in general terms. Now, I'm talking about the Lord's church...the best the Lord's got. I'm not even counting that denominational stuff they didn't even know any thing about and didn't happen until you approach the times in which we live. And it is sad to say; but, in this sense, the church has been lax all of my lifetime. I've been lax, it was not one of my better days; but, it's true. I venture to say, the same thing is happening in your community, even today. The Holy Spirit did not give us this book of HEBREWS to just take up space. It has been (and it will be) pertinent in every generation. We have reached a place that any excuse, any excuse, is good enough to miss the worship assembly. "I have married a wife and therefore I cannot come." (Luke 14:28). Jesus anticipated this, prophesied this and it couldn't be said plainer. Through the Holy Spirit, He had it written down for us. Jesus gave this picture of the kingdom of God, i.e. the church in Luke ch. 14, even a year or two before the day of pentecost, i.e. months and months before the birthday of the church. Why did Jesus say that? He made it clear, "except your righteousness shall exceed the righteouness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." We make all kinds of excuses; but, excuses are simply not accepted by our Lord Jesus Christ. Now, occasionally some one has a reason; but, excuses are simply not accepted. Jesus did not accept excuses in the AD 60's and Jesus does not accept excuses today. An excuse is a sham reason. You cannot get to heaven perpetrating shams. It's just that simple.
Alright, if your contextual perspective is beginning to take shape, let's get down to discussing ch. seven. The shadow-type thinking of the HEBREWS writer is and his thesis is that Christians are NOT just worldly people in contrast to whatever might have been happening in and around Jerusalem. Christians are sanctified, i.e. set apart and Christians have a mission to seek and to save the lost, they are to be "holy brethren" (Heb. 3:1), thus (figuratively speaking) Christians in this dispensation are priests of God. Not according to the Aaronic priesthood; but, according to a new order. Now, if Christians are the ordinary priests in this writer's shadow-type thinking in the Christian dispensation, then Jesus the Christ is our High Priest over this priesthood of believers called Christians. Now, with the temple still in existence, just down the street, and a Mosaic type high priest of the Jews religion supposedly officiating there; then, when the writer mentioned the phrase "high priest," the first thing that jumped into their mind was the Jewish high priest down at the temple with which they were all familiar. So, our writer bangs on the point, emphasizes and re-emphasizes THAT in this new dispensation (i.e. this Christian period of time in which we live) Christians are equivalent to priests in the old dispensation and OUR High Priest is (therefore) Jesus the Christ in this new dispensation. Now, let me show you, by way of review, our writer has slowly built and spotlighted and emphasized and re-emphasized this thesis over and over in the text we have already covered, trying to get it ground into their thinking. Jesus is our High Priest. That so-called high priest at the temple in Jerusalem was presiding over a dead religion (Matt. 23:38). That old system, the Mosaic system, had been superseded. It had served its purpose. Now, Jesus emphasized that we should not think of this as a destruction of the old system (Matt. 5:17), rather this was a fulfillment of the old system...i.e. the logical conclusion predetermined (i.e. prophesied) and was built-in, i.e. it was built-into the Mosaic system from the very beginning. The apostle Paul made this point in Gal. 3:19 by asking this question: "Wherefore then serveth the law?" (i.e. the Mosaic law). Then the apostle answered his own question in these words: "It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made." Now the word "seed" in that context is defined (three verses earlier) as Jesus Christ. Thus, when the Messiah came, the Mosaic system was fulfilled (Deut. 18:18-19 and Acts 3:22-23, 7:37). Now, if you are not familiar with those verses, please hit that pause button long enough to go find it and read those verses...right now!
O.K., I started to show by review that the writer has already hit several licks in our previous text trying, of course, to establish this thesis, i.e. Jesus the Christ is now our High Priest. Let's start back in Heb. 2:17, it says: "Jesus took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him, the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest." The HEBREWS writer from this beginning slowly and progressively and systematically develops this figure, Christ is our High Priest. Then in the first verse of ch. 3, the writer said: "holy brethren...consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession..." Then the writer gradually builds from there. In ch. 4:14, our writer said: "Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession." He keeps mentioning "our profession" in connection with this. You see, Jesus (our High Priest) is doing his duty; the problem is with us (priests) in our service under the High Priest. Then in the next verse (v.15) our writer began to describe the nature of Jesus our High Priest that has passed into the heavens. He said, "we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities." Just because Jesus is in heaven on the right hand of God, don't think that he is not in touch. Jesus our high priest is observing us and we can obtain mercy at his throne of grace (v.16)...it's implied continuously. In the first 10 verses of ch. 5, our writer pursued this analogy in great detail, concluding that David had said that Christ would be a priest for ever "after the order of Melchizedek." (That's ch. 5, v.6.) This is where our writer introduced the figure of Melchizedek for the first time, borrowing his figure from David (in Psalm 110:4). You see, David was their hero, what David said was accepted without question. The book of Psalms with them was a commonly studied and a commonly quoted book. Thus, our writer used David as a springboard here and shows that this was David's idea and this was David's understanding, this was David's figure of speech. Thus, please listen to David, do you get it?
Then beginning in Heb. 5:11, our writer departed from this theme and lashed out with a strong criticism: "ye are dull of hearing...ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles." Then in ch. 6, he softened up a bit, saying: "beloved, we are persuaded better things of you" (that's v.9). Then in v.12, he said: "we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end..." Then, the writer pointed out this "hope" is very important. We're talking about the hope of heaven. Then, at the end of ch. 6 (v.20), our writer comes back to his theme: Jesus is our high priest. He is the forerunner, he is for us entered in to the heavens (i.e. within the veil) and made a high priest for ever "after the order of Melchizedek." You see, if the HEBREWS writer could get this theme burned in to their thinking; it would give those lax Christians in and around Jerusalem real perspective with emphasis upon their own duties. They would no longer look at themselves as mere street people, i.e. sheep without a shepherd (as Jesus said back in Matt. 9:36). As priests of God, or servants of Jesus the Christ (their High Priest), then it would be natural for them to shift their thinking to their own duties, i.e. "our profession" as the HEBREWS writer put it. So, in ch. 7, our writer came back to this theme and HERE tries to burn it in (i.e. into their thinking), Jesus is our High Priest. Our writer does this by the strategy of reviewing the details of his thesis...sort of point by point (if you will).
Now, for the time we have left, let's touch on a few of these points. In 7:1, our writer began by discussing "this Melchizedek." We have said before, the Melchizedek figure (sometimes spelled with an "s" and sometimes spelled with a "z") comes from Gen. ch. 14 and then was used by David in prophecy of Psalm 110:4 as a figure of the Messiah that should come. Here in ch. 7, the writer's main point is summarized in v.4..."Now consider how great this man [i.e. Melchizedek] was." O.K., observe in this statement, Melchizedek was a man. Now some try to make as if Melchizedek was an angel or some superhuman person from the words in v.3: "without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life." The point is simply this: there is no scriptural record of his pedigree nor of any descendant from this man. It is simply another way of saying that nothing is recorded about his birth, his parents, nor his death. Melchizedek simply appears on the scene in Gen. ch. 14...where he came from we do not know, what ultimately happened to this priest-king (...man), we do not know. Melchizedek was a king as well as a priest, a priest of the most high God (v.1). Now, this shows that in the days of Abraham, there were other godly people besides Abraham. We simply do not know all about the worship and devotional system that God employed back under the patriarchal period of bible history. The point you want to get, i.e. the writer's point of view is: that Abraham showed respect unto Melchizedek, or to say it another way, Melchizedek was looked upon by Abraham as Abraham's superior. (1) Melchizedek was a king, the king of Salem. (2) Melchizedek was also a priest of the most high God...i.e. a priest of Jehovah God. (#3) Abraham paid tithes, i.e. he gave one-tenth part of the spoils of war to this priest-king named: Melchizedek. Now this does not teach us anything about tithing in the N.T. dispensation as some would have you to believe any more than it teaches us to go to war as Christians, i.e. following Abraham's example. The circumstance was (there) that Lot, who was Abraham's nephew (who lived in Sodom on the east side of the Dead Sea), was kidnapped (or abducted), i.e. both Lot and "his goods" along with some of the women and others (Gen. 14:12). Lot was a shepherd and had great herds and great wealth. This abduction was done by a coalition of tribal kings in that area. Abraham put together his own army of 318 men from his trained servants (shepherds, I suppose) and pursued after those bandit kings and their armies, finally overtaking them, surprising them, recovering Lot and the others along with their goods and other spoils of war, I would assume. The battle took place at or near Damascus a hundred miles or so to the north. At that time, Abraham lived (or dwelt) in the plains of Mamre also know as Hebron (now, at a later time, that was also John the Baptist's home town if you remember, that was place # 6 on your old 4-gospel map-worksheet, if you are interested). But, here's the point, on the way back from Damascus, Abraham and his troops passed through Jerusalem, you can see on your map, this was the natural route he would have taken. It was in this place of Jerusalem, back then called Salem, that Abraham encountered Melchizedek. You must keep in mind though, this all happened about 1800 years before the time the book of HEBREWS was written (just about as far on the other side of the cross as we live on this side of the cross). However, the promise came through Abraham, you will remember. Now, when I say that, I'm trying to call your attention back to Acts 2:39 and many other similar passages that relate to this. The bottom line (for us) is simply this: what does all this prove? Melchizedek was superior to Abraham, point (#1). Then point (#2), Abraham was superior to the Levitical priesthood, "the less is blessed of the better," (do you see that in v.7). Then, point #3, in a federal sense, i.e. Abraham being the common ancestor of the twelve tribes (one of which was Levi, from which the Mosaical priests came); thus, the tribe of Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek also, in the sense that it was done through their common ancestor, Abraham. The Levitical priesthood was added because of transgressions (you will remember)...until Christ should come (that's Gal. 3:19). Then point (#4), Christ was/is superior to Melchizedek. O.K. here is the bottom line: Abraham was superior to the Mosaic priesthood. Melchizedek was superior to Abraham. Christ was/is superior to Melchizedek; thus, Christ is superior to all. The Mosaic law, i.e. the 10-commandment law, was given by God, under, and through the Levitical priesthood. When the priesthood was changed, i.e. Christ became our high priest, then the law "of necessity" (it says v.12) was "changed also." Thus, there was a complete, thorough, and total change. A new law, a new system, a new dispensation. Christ did nor even come from the Levitical tribe (v.14). Thus, for those in the AD 60's in and around Jerusalem, who desired to go back under the Mosaic system, i.e. under the Levitical priesthood and the Law of Moses were simply ignorant, i.e. willingly ignorant of why Christ came, what God expected of them and what their duty or profession really was.
Now, as I have emphasized before, our writer is speaking in a general sense. In a general sense it was true. However, this does not mean there was not a single Christian to be found doing their duty in the AD 60's in and around Jerusalem. Undoubtedly there were many Christians very faithfully practicing their profession as priests (so to speak). On the other hand, just like today, there was an alarming number in their ranks who were NOT faithfully practicing their profession. They were Christians in name only. Now, I surely don't have to drive home, there was/is a parallel between those folks and us folks today, 1900 years later. Do you recognize the resemblance? If you do, then you are beginning...just beginning to identify with the HEBREWS writer and the problems of the AD 60's. Can you make the application today? We will continue this in Lesson # 18, until then, have a good day!