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? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.
This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him,
“You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”
For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.
And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, 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.’”
This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.
The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 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.
For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 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. 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 7:11-28, ESV)
This is a long passage and the argument a bit intricate so let’s break it down by major points. It is an exposition of Psalm 110:4, which he quotes.
- The promise of a new priesthood indicates that “perfection” or a complete way of atonement was not achieved under the Law and Aaron’s priesthood.
- Changing the priesthood to Melchizedek requires a whole system change. The priesthood of Aaron is linked to the Mosaic law. The Melchizedek priesthood is linked to the new covenant mentioned in Jeremiah 31, which the author of Hebrews will take up in chapter 8.
- The Melchizedek priesthood of Jesus lasts forever, a clear advantage over the priesthood of Aaron.
- The Melchizedek priesthood is founded on God’s personal oath, but there is no oath for Aaron’s priesthood.
- There were many priests in the Mosaic covenant system but only one in the Melchizedek priesthood.
- This Melchizedek priest does not need to offer sacrifice for his sin before offering it for the people because he is sinless.
- This Melchizedek priest does not have to offer sacrifice over and over like Aaron’s priests do but did it once for all.
- CONCLUSION: Jesus’ priesthood guarantees a better covenant.
The implication once again is that for the Hebrews, these Jewish Christians considering abandoning Christianity for their former Judaism, to leave the faith is folly. God predicted a better solution was coming in Psalm 110 and in Jeremiah 31 and many other places. The implication for all believers is that God has planned our salvation from the beginning with planned systemic shifts (Jesus talks about new wine in new wineskins) that all hinge around the greatest human being who has ever lived, Jesus Christ the holy, innocent and unstained one, now exalted above the heavens. You’d do best to stick with him.