Pastor David B. Curtis

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The End of the Mosaic Law

Hebrews 7:11-19

Delivered 04/08/2001

We are studying the Melchizedekian priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ. In our last study, we examined the high priestly ministry of Jesus Christ, and proved His superiority as a priest from the order of Melchizedek compared to the priesthood of Levi.

This is a subject that few believers understand, but it is a subject of great importance. The first ten verses of chapter seven deal with the subject of the superiority of Melchizedek. Verses 1-3 introduce and describe the historical figure Melchizedek. Melchizedek was a king-priest of the ancient city of Jerusalem. He met Abraham in Genesis 14 and blessed him. We learned that Melchizedek was a "type" of Christ. A "type" is something that "pre-figures" something that is to come. Melchizedek was like Christ in certain ways that were written about him. For example, Melchizedek was without a traceable genealogy-without an official beginning or end. His birth and death were never recorded. This is similar to Jesus Christ in that Christ, as the Son of God, has no parents, and He is eternal - without beginning or end.

Verses 4-7 teach that Melchizedek is greater than Abraham. Abraham paid Melchizedek tithes, acknowledging the greatness of the person of Melchizedek. And verses 8-10 teach that Melchizedek is greater than Levi. Having established Melchizedek's greatness, both personally and in comparison to Abraham and Levi, the writer moves on to his next point.

In verses 11-19 we see why the new priesthood supersedes the old. The writer argues that Christ's priesthood is superior to that of the Aaronic order. It is superior, because he accomplished what they never could. He brought us near to God:

Hebrews 7:19 (NKJV) for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.

The argument of verses 11-19 constitutes a bold and even radical declaration by the writer. This section asserts unequivocally that the death and resurrection of Jesus has introduced a new and permanent priesthood that will bring the Levitical priesthood to an end, and with it the demise of the Law of Moses.

To suggest that either of these institutions were inadequate and needed change was to assault Judaism at its most sacred and revered precincts. But this was the teaching of Christianity from the beginning.

Acts 6:11-15 (NKJV) Then they secretly induced men to say, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God." 12 And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council. 13 They also set up false witnesses who said, "This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law; 14 "for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us." 15 And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.

Stephen was accused of speaking against the law and the temple and so was Paul:

Acts 21:27-28 (NKJV) Now when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, 28 crying out, "Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place."

The early Christians understood that the Mosaic law, the priesthood and the temple were passing away. Paul taught this in:

2 Corinthians 3:9-11 (NKJV) For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. 10 For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. 11 For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious.

The Aaronic priesthood and the Mosaic law have been superseded. The nature of this argument is found in verses 11 and 12. Verses 13-19 simply illuminate and illustrate this fundamental principle.

Hebrews 7:11 (NKJV) Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron?

The word "perfection" is from the Greek word teleiosis, which signifies the act or process of consummating. It speaks of completeness. An institution is perfect or complete when it affects the purpose for which it was instituted. The purpose of the priesthood was to expiate sin, to provide access to God by the offering of sacrifices. The Levitical priesthood was imperfect because it could not expiate sin, it could not bring access to God.

Hebrews 10:1-4 (NKJV) For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.

The Old Testament worshipers had no final and secure relationship to God under the law.

Hebrews 10:14 (NKJV) For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

Unlike the law, those sanctified by the sacrifice of Christ acquire a perfect standing before God in which sin is completely put away, and the needs of the conscience fully met. The priesthood and sacrifices couldn't remove sin.

Romans 3:25 (NKJV) whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,

The word "propitiation" means: "the removal of wrath by the offering of a sacrifice." The verse goes on to say, "God had passed over the sins that were previously committed" - The words "passed over" are from the Greek word paresis, [par'-es-is]. This is its only use in the New Testament. Paresis means: "to pass over, to overlook, to disregard, to allow to pass without notice." Under the Old Covenant, God passed over or overlooked sin. God saved on credit in the Old Covenant until the bill was paid in full at Calvary.

The Levitical priesthood was imperfect, because it could not accomplish fully and totally the goal for which priesthood is designed. On the other hand, the priesthood of Jesus Christ is perfect:

Hebrews 7:19 (NKJV) for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.

Jesus Christ alone brings us into access with God.

There is an old saying that "familiarity breeds contempt"- I think it could be better stated that "familiarity breeds indifference." Now that is not always the case, but I fear that many Christians have become indifferent by reason of their familiarity to one of the greatest privileges that is set before us in the Word of God - access to God.

Romans 5:1-2 (NKJV) Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Through Jesus Christ, we have access to God. The Greek word for access is prosagoge, which means: "admission, access." The word comes from ago "to bring" and pros "facing". It is used of a person who brings another into the presence of a third party. The word access is used in only two other places:

Ephesians 2:18 (NKJV) For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
Ephesians 3:12 (NKJV) in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.

Jesus Christ has brought us in and given us access to God. I fear that we have become indifferent to the glorious privilege of access. We take for granted our privilege of access to God.

The Jew, under the Levitical priesthood, was kept from God's presence by the veil in the temple, and the Gentile was kept out by a wall in the temple with a warning on it that any Gentile who went beyond would be killed. But when Jesus Christ died, he tore down the veil and broke down the wall; giving all believers the privilege of access to God.

Hebrews 7:11 (NKJV) Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron?

The "if" is a second class condition meaning: "If and it's not." Perfection did not come through the Levitical priesthood. The parenthetical statement, "for under it the people received the law" is a reminder of the close interdependence between the priestly and the legal systems. "Under it" - is literally "on the basis of it." The law and the priesthood belonged together for the simple reason that, since the law, representing the divinely ordered standard of conduct and character was universally broken (Romans 3:9-23). There was a continuous necessity for the ministry of reconciliation, which the Levitical priesthood provided, even though imperfectly.

The writer is saying that the Mosaic Law was given in order to validate the Levitical priesthood. If the Levitical priesthood is taken out of the Mosaic Law, nothing of meaning is left. Why? Because the whole purpose of having a religious system is to bring people into a personal relationship with the living God. If there are no priests to represent the people, then there is no reason to have a religious system.

It is very important that we understand what the writer is communicating in this verse. The concept is that the Levitical priesthood and the Mosaic Law are inseparable. If someone wanted to incorporate the Mosaic Law into their religious system today, they would also have to incorporate the Levitcal priesthood, because it was the basis for the Mosaic Law.

If the Aaronic priesthood was permanent and perfect, why did David in Psalm 110 speak of another priesthood and order?

Psalms 110 (NKJV) The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool." 2 The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies! 3 Your people shall be volunteers In the day of Your power; In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning, You have the dew of Your youth. 4 The LORD has sworn And will not relent, "You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek." 5 The Lord is at Your right hand; He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath. 6 He shall judge among the nations, He shall fill the places with dead bodies, He shall execute the heads of many countries. 7 He shall drink of the brook by the wayside; Therefore He shall lift up the head.

This psalm, which expresses the expectation of the establishment of a messianic priesthood and kingdom, was written about 500 years after the inauguration of the Levitical order. This in itself is eloquent of the imperfection and impermanence of the Levitical order.

Our author is basing his argument on the unfolding of redemptive history. If Aaron's priesthood was sufficient, why talk about another one? Not only is Aaron's priesthood superseded but so is the law:

Hebrews 7:12 (NKJV) For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.

The law and the priesthood were interwoven, so the law was also temporary. The words "being changed" are from the Greek word metatithemi, which means: "to transpose, to put one thing in place of another." Thus the priesthood of Melchizedek was replacing the priesthood of Aaron.

"...there is also a change of the law." - change here is metathesis, a noun which means: "disestablishment, removing." Not only was the Levitical priesthood removed but so was the law.

Now let me ask you a question, "Is the Mosaic law binding upon believers?" Some say the Mosaic law is divided into three parts - moral, civil, and ceremonial - and only the ceremonial law is done away. This distinction between the moral law and the ceremonial law is drawn by Christian theologians but not by New Testament writers. There is no justification in the Old or New Testament for drawing this separation among parts of the Mosaic law. The Mosaic law is a unity, it was one law in which there were different aspects.

Law equals the total Mosaic law - it is done away in Christ.

Mark 9:4-8 (NKJV) And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah"; 6 because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid. 7 And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!" 8 Suddenly, when they had looked around, they saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves.

God was illustrating that the Old Covenant was passing away when the two saints vanished and left Jesus by himself. This is my Son, hear him.

Romans 6:14 (NKJV) For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

Believers, we are not under the law, because we have endured its curse and obeyed its precepts in the person of Jesus Christ our Federal Head.

Earlier in Hebrews the writer told the readers that the Heavens and earth were going to pass away:

Hebrews 1:10-11 (NKJV) And: "You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. 11 They will perish, but You remain; And they will all grow old like a garment;

If you remember our study of these verses, we said that "heavens and earth" was referring to the Old Covenant. The writer here says that the old covenant is about to pass away. Not many years later, it did in the destruction of Jerusalem.

With the passing away of heaven and earth, the law was also to pass away.

Matthew 5:17-18 (NKJV) "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

These verses are saying that the law remains until heaven and earth pass away. The Mosaic law ended when heaven and earth passed away, which was when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in AD 70.

If one understands the book of Hebrews, he will understand that the priesthood of Jesus Christ has replaced the Levitical priesthood, and the Mosaic Law is no longer operative in any way.

Verses 11 and 12 tell us very clearly that the priesthood and law were being changed. They were imperfect. They could not remove sin and provide access to God.

Now, in verses 13-17 are given as an extended proof of the principle stated in verse 12. We see two examples that show us the law was indeed being changed. If the law wasn't being changed, Christ couldn't be a priest.

Hebrews 7:13-14 (NKJV) For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.

This demonstrates just how radical the change of law was. It was a well known fact that Jesus was of the tribe of Judah, not the priestly tribe of Levi.

Numbers 3:10 (NKJV) "So you shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall attend to their priesthood; but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death."

Those of the tribe of Judah could never function as priests; how then is our Lord a priest? The law has been changed. If the Mosaic law were still in effect, Christ could not be our High Priest.

Uzziah was king of Judah, our Lord's tribe. He was a great king and was greatly used of God. As great as Uzziah was, he couldn't be a priest.

2 Chronicles 26:16-18 (NKJV) But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the LORD his God by entering the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. 17 So Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him were eighty priests of the LORD; valiant men. 18 And they withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, "It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honor from the LORD God."

Uzziah defies the priests and receives judgment from the Lord; "...the leprosy broke out on his forehead before the priests in the house of the Lord, beside the altar of incense" (vs 19). This was God's way of saying, "I told you that only those who are descendants of Levi can be priests, and when I say something, I mean it."

Someone from the tribe of Judah couldn't be priest. So how can Jesus Christ of the tribe of Judah be our priest? The only answer is the law has been changed. The law of Moses has been canceled.

Verse 14 says our Lord "arose" out of Judah. The word "arose" comes from the Greek word anatello. Many translations use "descended" (NIV, NAS). But in none of the Old Testament usages of the verb was it employed to mean a descendant of a certain tribe or family. Anatello means: "rise, spring up", and may be used of the rising of a star or of the springing up of a shoot from the roots of a plant. The concept of one who is to "arise" has a messianic significance in Scripture.

Numbers 24:17 (NKJV) "I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel, And batter the brow of Moab, And destroy all the sons of tumult.
Malachi 4:2 (NKJV) But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings; And you shall go out And grow fat like stall-fed calves.
2 Peter 1:19 (NKJV) And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts;

The assertion that our Lord has arisen from Judah carries a distinctly messianic connotation.

The second illustration is given in verses 15-19:

Hebrews 7:15 (NKJV) And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest

What is "far more evident"? The order of Melchizedek is superior to that of Aaron. "Another priest" - in the Greek there are two words for another; allos which means: "another of the same kind" and heteros, which means: "another of a different kind. The word used here is heteros to show the distinction between Christ and the priests of Aaron:

Hebrews 7:16 (NKJV) who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life.

He is saying that our Lord did not become a priest on the basis of a physical fleshly requirement. In studying the Old Testament, you discover that there were numerous fleshly requirements placed upon the priest. It wasn't every son of Aaron who was allowed to be a priest. You had to meet ridged physical requirements. There were at least 142 blemishes that could disqualify a priest (Leviticus 21:1 - 22:16).

Leviticus 21:17-21 (NKJV) "Speak to Aaron, saying: 'No man of your descendants in succeeding generations, who has any defect, may approach to offer the bread of his God. 18 'For any man who has a defect shall not approach: a man blind or lame, who has a marred face or any limb too long, 19 'a man who has a broken foot or broken hand, 20 'or is a hunchback or a dwarf, or a man who has a defect in his eye, or eczema or scab, or is a eunuch. 21 'No man of the descendants of Aaron the priest, who has a defect, shall come near to offer the offerings made by fire to the LORD. He has a defect; he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God.

The requirements of a Levitical priest were all physical: they were descendants of Levi through the family of Aaron, they could not be married, etc. What they had was a bunch of men who met physical requirements, but who were ungodly, running their religious system.

Our Lord didn't become a priest by meeting these physical requirements. He became a priest according to the power of an endless life. The word "endless" in verse 16 is the Greek word akatalutos. This is a compound word made up of: luo meaning: "to loose"; and kata meaning: "down" and a meaning: "not." Thus the compound word means: "not to loose nor to dissolve or disunite." The word describes that which cannot be dissolved. Jesus' priesthood is based upon his indestructible life.

Hebrews 7:23-24 (NKJV) Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. 24 But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood.

Jesus was ordained by Divine commandment. To prove this he quotes Psalm 110:4:

Hebrews 7:17 (NKJV) For He testifies: "You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek."

The law has been changed:

Hebrews 7:18 (NKJV) For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness,

This is truly an amazing statement. God is promising to set aside the Mosaic Law and the Levitical system. The word "annulling" is from the Greek verb athetesis. It is a legal term that points to the complete cancellation of the commandment in question - the Mosaic law. The same verb is used in 9:26 translated: "putting away". The disappearance of the Mosaic law is as absolute as the putting away of sin.

The writer tells the Hebrew believers that they must set aside the Law and the Levitical priesthood. Most of them were raised with this system from the time they were born, and it had become ingrained in them. They had a tough time setting it aside, because it was so familiar to them. This is similar to what goes on today. Many of us come from different backgrounds, and sometimes we think, "I really miss that particular ritual we used to practice at my old church. It was really a strong part of my worship system, and it gave me such a warm feeling toward God. I wonder why we do not do that here? That is what the Jews were doing in the book of Hebrews. Their old way of worship was ingrained in them. They wanted to mix it in with the worship of Christ. But God says we cannot do that. He set it aside "because of its weakness and uselessness" - It was unable to affect a total and permanent reconciliation between God and man. It made no sense for the Jews to return to the Law, because it is useless. Why would anyone return to something that is of no use?

Romans 8:3-4 (NKJV) For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

What the law couldn't do, Christ did.

Hebrews 7:19 (NKJV) for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.

"The law made nothing perfect" - this is the issue. If we are not made perfect before God, our efforts and worship are worthless. The law did not make us perfect, therefore, it is worthless. Why? The Law can be summed up in two words: be perfect. The problem is, we cannot be perfect.

However, through the order of Melchizedek, God has provided a solution. Verse 19 declares "The bringing in of a better hope" - "bringing in" is the word epeisagoge, which is used only here in the New Testament. It is used by Josephus in Ant.xi.6.2 for the introduction of a new wife in place of the repudiated one.

It is this hope, he affirms, not the old one, which furnishes us with our access to God. Our Lord has accomplished for us what the law and priesthood never could, he has provided access to the Father. The point is clear: we cannot save ourselves by obeying the Law, because we cannot obey the Law. Jesus Christ, the priest-king from the order of Melchizedek, is the only one who has fulfilled the Law, and therefore, is the only one through whom we may have eternal salvation.

Because of that salvation, we have access to God. That's why throughout the epistle, we have an appeal not to neglect the glorious privilege we have of access to God:

Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV) Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 10:19-22 (NKJV) Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

May our familiarity not breed indifference to this great privilege. We have access to God.

This chapter may seem somewhat abstract and remote from your daily life, but we are linked with them by the ever present danger that tempts us to compromise our faith in Christ. The people of the first century, to whom this letter was written, were being oppressed by their neighbors, they were being threatened and physically abused, they were losing their jobs because of their confession of the Lord Jesus Christ. And they were being tempted to fall back to Judaism to escape persecution. Their temptation was very real, and the temptation exist today to forsake our confession of faith to escape persecution. May our trials and persecution cause us to draw near to God and not forsake Him. We have access to God. Are you using this blessed privilege?

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