The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

God's Provision to Come into His Presence: Jesus – God the Heavenly New Covenant Provider – Hebrews 8

In Matthew's account of the Triumphal Entry of Jesus, he quotes Zechariah 9:9, "Tell the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey." Then it states: "So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them" (Matthew 21:4-6). Matthew's account is unique from the other Gospel accounts in that it speaks of a "donkey and colt" as opposed to just a donkey (cf. Mark 11:7; Luke 19:32-35; John 12:14-15). This is not so much a discrepancy as it is a detail of symbolic communication. Matthew's gospel was written primarily to Jews to explain the gospel to them. Some have seen Matthew's account of Jesus riding both the donkey and colt as pointing to a transition taking place, from the Old Covenant donkey to the New Covenant colt.

Earlier in His ministry Jesus said clearly that righteousness suited for entry to heaven needed to exceed Pharisaical righteousness (Matthew 5:20). Jesus spoke of the incompatibility of a patching up old clothes with new cloth to illustrate that which is old needs to be replaced with something new at times (Matthew 9:16). He pointed out that new wine needed new, not old wineskins otherwise the skins would burst. All of this was to say the Old Covenant could not be patched up or the wine of a New Covenant poured into the old wineskins of the Old Covenant. That which is new needs new material. The New Covenant Jesus was ushering in needed New Covenant wineskins (Matthew 9:17). This was not easy for Hebrews to accept.

Paul is making an argument to the Hebrew believers in Jesus for not returning to the rituals and law of the Old Covenant. In the last chapter he spoke of the annulling of the former covenant due to its weakness and unprofitableness to perfect the saint (Heb. 7:18-19). In this last chapter Jesus is presented as the "surety" or down payment, or proof "of a better covenant" (Hebrews 7:22). Now in chapter 8 Paul will elaborate more on why the New Covenant is "better" than the Old Covenant.

Hebrews 8 (NKJV)

8 Now this is the main point of the things we are saying:

We will now be given a summation of what has been argued thus far in Hebrews. It is a summary of why the New Covenant in Christ is better and superior to and makes the Old Covenant obsolete and annulled.

We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.

Jesus is the fulfillment of the Melchizedekian Priesthood promised by God in the Messianic Psalm 110:4. Jesus has provided through the cross a "once for all" (Hebrews 7:27) completely sufficient and superior atoning sacrifice for all sin. Unlike a Levitical priest who can enter the Holy of Holies only once a year and then with fear and trembling, Jesus "is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens." Just as an attorney sits when he rests his case before a judge, Jesus is seated and has rested His case for atonement of sin. And He Himself and His wounds are the decisive evidence for His case and through Him our case as well. Jesus is the "Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man." The distance in superiority of the New to the Old Covenant is as vast as the distance from heaven to earth.

One commentator provides a further good summary stating:

            The divine oath of Psalm 110:4 [quoted in Hebrews 5:6; 7:17 and 21] which prophesied            of the establishment of an eternal Melchizedekian priesthood had now, in the lifetime of         those to whom the Epistle to the Hebrews was written, been fulfilled. Such a Priest is not          a figment of wishful thinking or speculation. He is now a reality. He is the believer's          possession. The waiting is over. Jesus has risen and sits exalted on the right hand of God.           He has completed everything    necessary for the atonement of the sins of the whole human        race and has sat down in God's heavenly sanctuary in the place of preference and          blessing. All of God's favor and authority are His to command. He does not stand or bow in the presence of God as a sinful priest must. He is seated, because He is the Son, and His sacrifice is completed. Although He represents men who are upon the earth, He is not     ministering in an earthly temple or tabernacle; He deals with spiritual realities in God's        heavenly abode.[1]

Because of what Jesus has done on the cross you and I can come and fellowship with the Father even when we have messed up. Even if we've missed or neglected our devotions, even if we've missed church services or some other shortcoming we can come to the Father through faith in the Son Jesus and fellowship in His Presence. Because of what Jesus did on the cross for us, the impediments and obstacles to God's Presence composed of our sins and spiritual shortcomings are obliterated, the veil of any separation caused by sin is torn asunder and we can enter into God's Holy Presence to fellowship in sweet loving peace and security. God truly and graciously loves us into His presence. Because of this we offer sincere and heartfelt praise to God.

For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer. For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”


The Levitical priests offered "gifts and sacrifices." Jesus offered Himself as the greatest gift and sacrifice. Levitical priests are limited by the law. They "serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things." In other words the Tabernacle and Temple, Law of sacrifices and Feast Days, these all were only a "shadow" (Greek skia) an interception of light, something behind what the light shines on and lesser than the light source.


This "shadow" is important because it is a "pattern" (Greek typos) or a die, a shape, a statue, a resemblance, a model, imitation, a figure or pattern of something else. "Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, 'See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain." It was important that Moses follow Gods' instructions precisely so that the "pattern" or model God gave him would be an accurate presentation of what God was revealing about His plan of sacrifice and salvation from sin.


But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.


A team that wins the championship does not fire its coaches. But there are many coaches fired from the teams that didn't win the championship. You don't change a winning combination. You keep changing and trying to improve a combination that doesn't win. Similarly, if the Old Covenant was a "winner" in perfecting the saints it would have been kept, but because it was a loser in this regard a New Covenant was sought to accomplish what the Old Covenant could not accomplish. This "loser" status of the Old Covenant was not any reflection on God, it was a reflection and revelation to humanity of their weakness and shortcomings. The Old Covenant was based on human obedience (e.g. Deut. 4:1). That humanity could not obey the Old Covenant exposes the deficiency in fallen sinful humanity.


Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord.


God found "fault with them." It was fallen, rebellious, sinful humanity that led to the loss under the Old Covenant and the need for a New Covenant. God foresaw this and laid out this as part of His overall plan so that there would be no mistake about the neediness of sinful humanity and the greatness of His grace.


Here we are introduced to the heart of the New Covenant as well as the distinctive difference and superiority of the New Covenant to the Old. The Old Testament prophets Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 36) both were inspired by God to predict a New Covenant, "not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord." God led His people "by the hand," tenderly like a Father holds the hand of their child and leads them. He led them out of the bondage of Egypt but "they did not continue in My covenant." They received the incredible opportunity to walk with God and receive all His blessings but they complained against God and refused to obey Him and so God "disregarded them, says the LORD." They did not enter the Promised Land. They did not enjoy the Presence of God. But God had a plan to fix humanity.


10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.


Under the Old Covenant the Laws of God were written impressively on stone tablets. But as impressive as these Laws of God were and as impressively as they were delivered (cf. Exodus 19), they were external. But in the New Covenant God would "put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people." Jon Courson aptly explains, " grace would put into us everything God wants out of us.…" [2]


The New Covenant is a covenant of grace. It does involve effort from us, but only effort energized by God's grace and the power of the Holy Spirit in a spiritual birthed person (Phil. 2:12). In reality, this New Covenant is "God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). As Paul was inspired to write to the Corinthians, "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (1 Cor. 15:10).


The Old Covenant was as effective as making a New Year's resolution; a few weeks after a well intentioned resolution is made, we fail. But the New Covenant is effective because it is based on God's internal empowerment of the spiritually birthed believer in Jesus. The New Covenant is powerful because the Presence of God comes to reside within the believer by the Holy Spirit who indwells them (e.g. Romans 8:9-10; 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19-20). We are never alone and we are never to attempt to live in our own strength. The Holy Spirit is in us and will empower us to do, by God's grace, what He calls us to do, for His glory, until He returns.


11 None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.


Here is the outcome of the New Covenant. It involves the presence of God within, the still small voice of the Spirit leading and guiding and assuring the born again believer. The still small voice with which God spoke to Elijah is not available to all who call on God by grace through faith in Jesus (e.g. 1 Kings 19:12). Praise the Lord for His presence and still small voice!


A congregant who hadn't been in church for some time finally returned and went to the pastor to complain that the pastor hadn't sought him out to bring him back to church. The pastor's response was, "That's not my job. That's the job of the Holy Spirit. Under the New Covenant the Holy Spirit reminds you of what God has written on your heart. The believer knows they should be in church and knows they should read their Bible, and knows they should serve the Lord. You knew you should be in church. You should have simply listened and followed the leading of the Spirit."


A problem arises when people insert themselves in the role that is meant for the Holy Spirit. the spouse complains to or injects what they believe are helpful nudges to get their partner to do what they feel God wants them to do. But more often than not such efforts are counterproductive and more aggravating than advancing the cause of Christ. We have to rest people and circumstances in the hands of the Lord. This is part of what we saw in Hebrews 3 - 4. In the New Covenant we can live at rest knowing that the Holy Spirit is always at work. Yes, there will be times when we are called upon to correct or to encourage, but before we do anything we should sensitively seek the leading of the Holy Spirit in what we do.


Jon Courson offers the following insight:


            Gang, we don’t need anyone to put rules on us or regulations around us because the Lord          lives in us. And that’s the great thing about Christianity. When you’re walking with the    Lord, when you’re living in the New Covenant, you don’t have resolutions and         regulations, stipulations and obligations. Those are the way of the law.


      Instead, you just do what the Lord is writing on your heart, telling you in your mind,       whispering in your ear moment by moment.…

      “Talk to that guy over there,” or,

“Go to the Mission,” or,

“Make her some chocolate chip cookies.…”

      And all you have to do is say, “Okay. Far out!”—and do it. That’s what it means to be a           born-again New Covenant, Spirit-led Christian, for whatever God wants from you, by His           grace, He will work within you (Philippians 2:13).


      Our brothers and sisters in the first-century church were the most radical Christians in all            of history. They sold all of their possessions. They spread throughout the world. They            lived for the kingdom. But you know what? They didn’t get together and study Hebrews,             because Hebrews wasn’t yet written. They didn’t study the theological implications of   Romans because Romans wasn’t written. They didn’t scrutinize the teachings of Jesus as            recorded in John’s Gospel because John’s Gospel wasn’t written.


      They didn’t have the written New Testament—but they did understand the reality of the             New Covenant. They obeyed what the Lord was writing in their hearts. And as a result, they turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6). Then, when the New Testament was     written and began to circulate through the church, it was a confirmation of what they             were already doing because it was the same Lord who had been writing His will for them           upon their hearts.


      Today, sad to say, many don’t understand the New Covenant. Our Trinity is God the    Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Bible. We’ve lost touch with how the Holy Spirit speaks to us moment by moment because we’ve replaced His voice with the written          Word. Many churches and organizations study the Bible and are right in their theology—            but they’re dead right because theirs is knowledge for knowledge’s sake. The New       Testament was never intended to be an esoteric, intellectual, theological trip for people           who like to fill notebooks, answer questions, and work on workbooks. That was never the          intent of the New Testament writer. What was the intent? To provide a way believers           could be confirmed or corrected in what they were already living out as a result of          obeying the still, small voice of the Spirit.


      The person who’s really used by the Lord is one who simply says, “You’re going to tell             me moment by moment what I should do, and, Lord, I will just say, ‘Yes,’ to whatever             You say.” A whole lot of people have made the New Testament writings the new law.          Like Pharisees searching for jots, tittles, and interesting insights, they fail to see that the       Word was simply written to nudge them along in their walk and to confirm the voice of   the Lord in their heart.[3]


Please don't use these words to diminish your study of God's word. Please don't abuse these words to rationalize a more lackadaisical and lazy walk with God. These words should do just the opposite. The Spirit inspired scripture and uses scripture to speak to us and confirm His will. The point is that we need to live and walk in the Spirit if we are to realize the purpose and power of God's word. It's not either or but both and. The New Covenant life in the Spirit is Listening to the inner still small voice of the Spirit, confirming it with His inspired word, then walking in obedience to His confirmed word. That is a living way.


The problem is that Christians are students of the word but never graduate to life to apply what they learn. The problem is that our study of scripture doesn't' t lead us into God's presence, it only leads to a class room experience that never produces spiritual fruit. The problem is students of scripture aren't first listening to their Teacher the Holy Spirit. Listen to the Spirit. Confirm His words with His Word.



12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”


"For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness." Think about that people. Think about that. "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness." The New Covenant is God's revelation and fulfillment of what the prophet Micah wrote, "Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will casts all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will give truth to Jacob and mercy to Abraham, which You have sworn to our fathers from days of old" (Micah 7:18-20).

13 In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

Twice the Old Covenant is said to be "obsolete" (Greek palaioo) or worn out, decayed, obsolete. It's ready and time for it to "vanish away."It remains useful in that we can look back at it and see the revelation of God laying the ground work for the New Covenant and It's Provider Jesus. But it is no longer to be relied upon. It is old and worn out. It's time to move on to live under the New Covenant.

One commentary states:

            Verse 13 gives the writer's concluding remarks on his citation of the new covenant text   from Jeremiah 31:31-34. But this only serves as a launching pad for the main discussion    of its superiority which is developed in chapters 9 and 10. The main contention at this        point was that the announcement of a new covenant and the introduction of the Son             necessitated the cancellation of the Mosaic covenant (7:11,18; 8:7). The new and the old           are incompatible. They cannot coexist. The new antiquates the old. Being obsolete, the     old was near its vanishing point. It was gone—in A.D. 70.[4]

The New Covenant is a beautiful provision of God's grace. It takes into account and overcomes what the Old Covenant did not. You see, under the Old Covenant the spotlight was on our sin. Under the Old Covenant we experienced guilt and failure. Such guilt and failure is a weight that slows us down to a crawl and even sinks and smothers us in the quicksand of sin. But the New Covenant liberates us from sin and guilt. Under the New Covenant we see our sinfulness, our limitations, our shortcomings in all their various forms, but because of God's gracious provision in Christ He is merciful and blesses us, and puts up with us and keeps drawing us closer to Himself. Under the New Covenant God's constant reminder is "their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more."  

Mercy is not getting what you deserve. Grace is getting what you don't deserve. It is the mercy and grace of God that draws us into His presence.

      What makes me want to know God and walk with Him? Why do I start my day wanting            to touch base with the Lord and be in the Word? Why am I here. . .? One reason: God’s   mercy. I am such a jerk. I have failed so miserably. I have missed the mark so greatly. I         have been so inconsistent and stubborn. I’ve been such a sinner. And yet God keeps             blessing me; He keeps putting up with me; He keeps allowing me to know Him.


      I look at my life, my family, this church, the nation, the world—and I say, “Lord Your    mercy is incredible. How good You’ve been to me. I don’t pray the way I could or          should. I don’t know as much as I should know at this point in my walk with You. I don’t     serve You with the kind of faithfulness You’re worthy of. But, Lord, You just keep             blessing. You keep showing mercy. You keep forgiving—and I have no other choice but           to want to know You more.”[5]

This is God's provision to come into His presence. Jesus is the One in Whom and through Whom this provision has been delivered.

[1] Complete Biblical Library Commentary - The Complete Biblical Library – Hebrews-Jude.
[2] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 1481). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
[3] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 1482). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
[4] Complete Biblical Library Commentary - The Complete Biblical Library – Hebrews-Jude.
[5] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (pp. 1482–1483). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Near the Cross

“Then they struck Him on the head with a reed and spat on Him; and bowing the knee, they worshipped Him” – Mark 15:19

Read that verse, “Then they struck Him on the head with a reed and spat on Him; and bowing the knee, they worshipped Him.” What an incredible picture. Striking and spitting are not words we commonly associate with worship. Of course their worship was a mockery. But if we pause a second maybe it will lead us to some self examination. And maybe when we are examined we will see that  our worship is sometimes mixed with things in our life that have no place in the same sentence with worship too. Worship is a way of life and our lives are too often anything but worshipful.

I want us to take a look at the scene around the cross of Christ. The cross is central to the Christian message; to the gospel. Without the cross there is no gospel. God in His word tells us that at the cross Jesus satisfied the just requirement of God to justify the forgiveness of sin. Jesus atoning death on the cross is the basis for God to justly forgive our sin.  Jesus paid the debt of all sin for all humanity on the cross. God passed over Old Testament sins in His foreknowledge of the cross (Romans 3:25). When we are born again through faith in Jesus and walk in the light of God’s word we walk in a place where our sins are cleansed from us (1 John 1:7, 9). The glory of the cross of Christ is that He paid a debt He did not owe for those who owed a debt they could not pay. Jesus became sin for us so that we could receive His righteousness by grace through faith in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). We are saved at the cross.

But we are also sanctified at the cross. The cross has an ongoing application in the Christian life. The cross humbles us and helps understand the depth of God’s love in Christ. And it is in the cross that we are to identify. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” ( Galatians 2:20). The cross is Gods revelation of our salvation, but it is also His revelation about living. We have to see ourselves and others in light of the cross. How do we do that? The first step is to go to the gospel account themselves.

When we look at the account of the cross we see a juxtaposition of scenes, a melting pot of people, and really, people that are representative of those throughout history, even us. When we look at the cross and the people gathered around it God uses the scene to convict and challenge us.  Therefore, that’s what we we look at now, the people around the cross at the crucifixion. We will look at them and connect them to their representative group. And as we look at these people we should ask if we are like them in any way and assess the good and the bad and where we stand with Jesus at the foot of the cross. That is how the cross begins to work in us. We will be looking at the account in Mark 15.

Mark 15 (NKJV)

15 Immediately, in the morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council; and they bound Jesus, led Him away, and delivered Him to Pilate.

First, the Political Religious Professionals – Mark 15:1 – They sought to maintain their position at all costs; even crucifying an innocent man. Are you willing to sacrifice others to get what you want?

Then Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”

He answered and said to him, It is as you say.”

And the chief priests accused Him of many things, but He answered nothing. Then Pilate asked Him again, saying, “Do You answer nothing? See how many things they testify against You!” But Jesus still answered nothing, so that Pilate marveled.

Now at the feast he was accustomed to releasing one prisoner to them, whomever they requested. And there was one named Barabbas, who was chained with his fellow rebels; they had committed murder in the rebellion. Then the multitude, crying aloud, began to ask him to do just as he had always done for them. But Pilate answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy.

11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd, so that he should rather release Barabbas to them. 12 Pilate answered and said to them again, “What then do you want me to do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?”

13 So they cried out again, “Crucify Him!”

14 Then Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?”

But they cried out all the more, “Crucify Him!”

15 So Pilate, wanting to gratify the crowd, released Barabbas to them; and he delivered Jesus, after he had scourged Him, to be crucified.

Second, the Pragmatic Secular Politician – Mark 15:2-15 – Pilate was willing to do anything to maintain the peace; even crucify an innocent man. Pilate was baffled at Jesus’ silence before His accusers. He was baffled the people would choose a murderer for release over a clearly innocent man. But he was unwilling to do what he knew was right. The peace in order to keep his position was his priority. What is your priority? Are you willing to sacrifice others to get what you want?

Third, the Political Radical  – Mark 15:7 – Barabbas was a political soldier willing to murder for his cause. He was willing to spill blood, fight not talk. He was past diplomacy and willing to take matters into his own hands to get what he wanted. How about you?

 Fourth, the Easily Persuaded Crowd – Mark 15:8-11 – Are you a part of a crowd that is easily stirred and steered by emotions?

 16 Then the soldiers led Him away into the hall called Praetorium, and they called together the whole garrison. 17 And they clothed Him with purple; and they twisted a crown of thorns, put it on His head, 18 and began to salute Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 Then they struck Him on the head with a reed and spat on Him; and bowing the knee, they worshiped Him. 20 And when they had mocked Him, they took the purple off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him.

 Fifth, the Pitiless Soldiers – Mark 15:16-20 – They welcomed Jesus as a Lamb for their slaughter. They took pleasure in grinding the crown of thorns into His brow. They were twisted. They turned worship into something perverse. They got their pleasure to the degree they inflicted pain on others. How about you?

21 Then they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross.

Sixth, the Compelled Public Person – Mark 15:21 – Simon of Cyrene was just another face in the crowd probably just curious about the commotion. Until he was unexpectedly compelled to carry the cross of Jesus. His encounter with Jesus was sudden and unexpected, but so shocking that it changed his life forever. How about you?

 22 And they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull. 23 Then they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but He did not take it.

24 And when they crucified Him, they divided His garments, casting lots for them to determine what every man should take.

25 Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him.

Seventh, the “Place of the Skull” People – Mark 15:22-25  – These are the nameless people who simply go with the flow of injustice and cruelty. They are simply doing their job not caring or convicted that what they are involved in is sadistically and satanically sinful. Their prime interest is deciding how to divide the spoils for themselves. They don't care enough to question let alone refuse to participate or, heaven forbid, resist. They are walking dead people and their office is rightly “The Place of the Skull.” Because of their mindless and heartless participation they facilitate humanities greatest sin. Are you involved in sinful activity?

Eighth, the Sentimental People – Mark 15:23 – There were at that time women who would try to ease the pain of the crucified with an anesthetic concoction. They didn't realize Jesus had to experience the full brunt of the suffering to fully atone for sin. These are people who mean well but their sentimental intrusions actually run counter to what God is doing.  We do this when we try to soften the conviction of the Spirit or discipline of God in someone's life. How about you, focused on someone’s pain instead of God’s overall plan for them lately?

26 And the inscription of His accusation was written above:


27 With Him they also crucified two robbers, one on His right and the other on His left. 28 So the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And He was numbered with the transgressors.”

Ninth, the Properly Guilty People – Mark 15:26-28 – The two robbers were actually getting what they deserved. They were actually guilty and suffering justly. There was no getting down from the cross; no escape. How about you, are you guilty and suffering justly?

 29 And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 save Yourself, and come down from the cross!”

31 Likewise the chief priests also, mocking among themselves with the scribes, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Even those who were crucified with Him reviled Him.

Tenth, those Who Attack the Vulnerable Viciously – Mark 15:29-32 – Crucifixion was a bloody site. And keep in mind that, unlike what has been frequently displayed as a cross removed up on a hill away from the crowds, crucifixion was done on street level for all to view. When the people in these verses blasphemed and mocked Jesus they did so viciously face to face. And they did this as Jesus was helpless before them. In these people we see deep hatred, total in-love, and the basest form of the sinful nature. How about you, kicked anyone while they were down lately?

33 Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

35 Some of those who stood by, when they heard that, said, “Look, He is calling for Elijah!” 36 Then someone ran and filled a sponge full of sour wine, put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink, saying, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to take Him down.”

Eleventh, the Spiritually Shallow – Mark 15:35-36 – These were curious to see something supernatural, an “event,” something spectacular, a show. They were clueless about the true significance of what was happening before them. They totally missed the point and purpose of the cross. How about you, are you missing the point God is making because of your pursuit of an “event”?

 37 And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last.

38 Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!”

 Twelfth, those Who See and Believe – Mark 15:39 – The gentile Roman centurion watched the crucifixion and though he had likely seen many others crucifixions, he had never seen one like this. He was open to the impression God was making in Christ. He didn't know the theology, but what he did know was, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” How about you, would you make that admission?

 40 There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome, 41 who also followed Him and ministered to Him when He was in Galilee, and many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.

Thirteenth, the Women Looking on – Mark 15:40-41, and 47 – These were women who had believed in Jesus and though they didn't fully understand, they followed Jesus to the end, even to the cross. How about you, will you follow Jesus to the end, even if it leads to a cross?

 42 Now when evening had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate marveled that He was already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him if He had been dead for some time. 45 So when he found out from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. 46 Then he bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen. And he laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. 47 And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses observed where He was laid.

 Fourteenth, the Fearful Follower Who Steps Up – Mark 15:42-46 – Joseph of Arimathea was a secret follower of Jesus. But following Jesus secretly isn't really possible. At some point you're going to have to step up and step out into the light and align with Jesus. Joseph stepped up and was blessed with having his tomb to burry Jesus in but more importantly, to have Jesus resurrect from. Because he stepped up God greatly used him. All he had to do was take courage by faith and align with the Lord. Jesus did the rest. How about you, is it time for you to step up and see how Jesus will use you?

Fifteenth, the Conspicuous by Their Absence Disciples - Where are the disciples? There are women present who followed Jesus to the end. And John mentions he was in close proximity to the cross as Jesus instructs him to watch over His mother (John 19:26-27). But for the most part the disciples are conspicuous by their absence. They retreated in fear. They valued their lives more than following Jesus. How about you, are you conspicuous by your absence when the cross of sacrifice is in view?

Sixteenth, the Savior Jesus – Mark 15 – Jesus refused to be intimidated by enemy accusations (15:2-5). Jesus peacefully and courageously went along with the Father's redemptive plan, even when injustice after injustice was perpetrated against Him (15:6-15). Jesus took the blows and blasphemies (15:16-20). Jesus refused to take anything to reduce His pain or lighten the load of sin (15:23). Jesus did not resist being crucified (15:25). Jesus didn't defend Himself even though the enemy attacked a Him at His most vulnerable time (15:26-32). Jesus cried out the opening words of the great redemptive Messianic Psalm 22 as He fulfilled His mission and breathed His last (15:33-34). How much are you and I like Jesus as God fulfills His mission in and through us?

They struck Jesus, spat on Him, mocked and blasphemed Him and desecrated worship of Him (Mark 15:19). And yet these were part of God’s ingredients of redemption. They are the colors chosen by God to paint the picture of His love for sinners (e.g. Romans 5:8). As we draw near the cross we will likely grow more and more uncomfortable as we begin to see more and more that we are too much like the enemies of Jesus and not enough like His friends. But no matter where God has shown us to be, we need to remember those climactic victorious words of Psalm 22 –

For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted [Jesus];

Nor has He hidden His face from Him;

But when He cried to Him, He heard.

My praise shall be of You in the great assembly;

I will pay My vows before those who fear Him.

The poor shall eat and be satisfied;

Those who seek Him will praise the Lord.

Let your heart live forever!

All the ends of the world

Shall remember and turn to the Lord,

And all the families of the nations

Shall worship before You.

For the kingdom is the Lord's,

And He rules over the nations.

All the prosperous of the earth

Shall eat and worship;

All those who go down to the dust

Shall bow before Him,

Even he who cannot keep himself alive.

A posterity shall serve Him.

It will be recounted of the Lord to the next generation,

They will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born,

That He has done this.

(Psalm 22:24-31)


“Woman, behold your son! . . . Behold your mother!” – John 19:26 and 27

Cross-fit is a relatively new way of exercising that relies on the idea of muscle confusion. In other words rather than use the same exercises over and over again a wide assortment of various exercises are used to keep both the exerciser and their muscles interested. But there is another cross-fit exercise I want to discuss with you. “Bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). There is a cross fitness that touches on the here and now but that goes further and transcends mere physical fitness. Cross fitness of your physical body does profit “a little.” But I want to talk to you about a cross fitness that will yield eternal benefits. I want to talk to you about the benefit of the cross of Christ to you, your relationships, family, and the life of those precious family members you already have and that you love so much.


Healthy relationships and families are formed at the foot of the cross of Christ. In John’s gospel we are given a wonderful insight into the creative power of the cross of Christ. Here it recounts:

“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” 27 Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.” (John 19:25-27).  This is a beautiful and powerful picture of how families are formed at the foot of the cross.


It was in the shadow of the cross that John’s family and the family of Jesus in His mother were joined and formed. Jesus had four brothers and more sisters (Matthew 13:55-56) yet He chose to entrust His mother to the care of John the apostle. Jesus was more concerned about eternal relationships than temporal ones (Matthew 3:33-35; Luke 8:21; cf. also fulfilled prophecy of Psalm 69:8). When we come to the cross of Christ we are adopted into God’s family and are eternally united (Romans 8:14; 1 Peter 4:17). Are you a part of the family of God? Do you treat your fellow Christians as family?


In our day the family is more broken and fragmented than ever. The world is redefining family and they’re making a real mess of things. The world has left God’s scripture revealed definitions of marriage between one man and one woman in order to permit and even encourage that which God calls sinful. Marriage is not seen as a life commitment made by two people to each other in the presence of God consummated by intercourse. Marriage is seen as mere formality to affirm worship of the god of sex. Sex before marriage, what God calls the sin of fornication, is a regular practice, even among Christians! People “fall in love” and “fall out of love” with abandon. This leads to the proliferation of adultery. The world is at a loss. They’ve tried open marriages. They try “living together.” The current trend is a mighty push for the legalization of same-sex marriage. The moral gates are bulging and near breaking under the rising flood waters of polygamy, pedophilia, pederasty, the removal of age of consent and statutory rape laws, human-animal unions, transient marriage where people switch male/female roles on a whim, and a host of other such sinfully creative ways (cf. Romans 1:24-32).  The cross-less world needs some cross-fitness training.


The sin of our first parents threw a monkey wrench into the relational mechanism. Groping in the darkness people look in the mirror and can’t even see who they are. The real problem is in the human heart. And you can’t fix a heart attack with a change in clothes or a change in genitalia.  People without God don’t know who they are and seeking solutions in science only complicates the problem.


Tempting ungodly and unscriptural attractions are often rooted deeply in the psyche and life story of those who battle them. The solution is not to embrace such temptations. That is the way of the world. The world is at a loss to deal with such problems and so they simply incorporate them into their system. But no amount of worldly proclamation that something is right can change what God declares is wrong. God made us and knows what is best for us.


God offers us a promise. He says, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). You are not the only one with sexual temptations. You are not the only one who has messed up a relationship or relationships. Your temptations are common to others and God is aware of them. He promises to be faithful to not allow you to be tempted beyond your capacity to resist. With the temptations He promises to provide you a way to escape and bear them. God will not allow you to be crushed. God promises to bring you through. He is reaching down and offering you a helping hand. Will you take hold of it? Will you let Him train you? Will you enter into and follow His cross fit plan?


The solution is found in Jesus Christ and in particular at the foot of the cross of Christ. The apostle Paul said, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). The cross of Christ is the heart of a powerful gospel that is able to deliver us from the power of sin (Romans 1:16). So powerful is the cross of Christ that Paul made it his central focus. “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, but whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). The cross is an instrument of demarcation between us and the world. The cross is our protection. The cross is what God puts between us and the world when we trust in Jesus as Savior. The cross is impregnable. The cross is the greatest most powerful weapon against the temptations we face.


By faith in Christ we receive forgiveness for our sinfulness. By faith we accept that Jesus on the cross paid all that was necessary to fulfill God’s just requirements to forgive our sin. And by faith we receive His righteousness put to our account (2 Corinthians 5:21; cf. also Romans 5). By faith we identify with Jesus. By faith we cast the “old man” of sin behind us and put on the “new man” of Christ-likeness (e.g. Ephesians 4:17-24). By faith we live by leaning on Jesus trusting in Him to help us and hold us and love us. By faith we hear and echo Paul’s inspired proclamation, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I love by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Jesus and His cross is the solution to our temptations, sins and confusion.


It is at the foot of the cross that families are reconciled to God and each other. Think of a family where the husband loves his wife like Jesus loved His bride the church. Think of a wife who lovingly sacrifices and submits to their husband. Think of Dads and Moms who love their children with Christlike love. Think of children growing in and being discipled in the love of Jesus. Oh what a family that could be! (cf. Ephesians 5 and 6). Have you brought your family; your spouse; your children; your parents to the foot of the cross?


When we are born again through faith in Christ we receive the regenerating indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-11; Titus 3:4-7). And wonderfully the Holy Spirit is called “the Spirit of adoption; (Romans 8:15). That means that every person regenerated by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is adopted into God’s family. We become “sons of God” or daughters of God (Romans 8:14). And we are able to call on God as our Father. “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba [i.e. “Daddy”] Father” (Romans 8:15).


“The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16). What are the benefits and blessings of being a part of God’s family? “And if children, then heirs – heirs of God and join heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). And though as a family member of God’s family we may be persecuted we will suffer “with Him.” And if we suffer with Him we will “also be glorified together” in the presence of God (Romans 8:17b). That should put everything in perspective. As Paul was inspired to write, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). Adoption into the family of God puts all things in proper perspective. Such a family goes beyond this world into eternity.

Monday, March 21, 2016

God's Provision to Come into His Presence: Jesus – God's High Priest of a Better Covenant – Hebrews 7

In the fifth book of the Bible, the last book of the Pentateuch, we find the inspired words, "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law" (Deuteronomy 29:29). We are not always ready to receive revelation from God. This is due to where we are at in our walk with Him. Spiritual immaturity prevents us from receiving all God has for us. And there is a natural progression to God's revelation.

God has to teach us "the elementary principles" of His truths before He can take us "on to perfection" (Hebrews 6:1). There are first parents before there are offspring. There are patriarchs before there is a promise. There is a Exodus before there is a wilderness, and a wilderness before there is a Promised Land. There is agitation and aggravation before there is rest. There is a historical record of the futility of sinful humanity to save itself in their own strength before we can truly understand the gracious faith-based gospel of Jesus Christ. There is an Old Testament before there is a New Testament. We must learn to roll over, then sit up, then crawl, and toddle and walk before we learn to run. That is true of children. That is true of us as spiritual children too.

God is patient with us. He walks us through the stages of growth from sinner to saved and from saved to sanctified life by His prevenient grace and the help of the Holy Spirit. But there comes a time when we need to graduate and progress from "milk" to "solid food" (Hebrews 5:12-14). What we will be introduced to in the rest of Hebrews is some solid spiritual food.

At the end of Hebrews chapter six the "hope we have as an anchor for our soul" is affirmed. This hope will anchor us; it will keep us from drifting away. The reason for that is it is a hope that is "both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil" (Hebrews 6:19).  Entering into and living in the presence of God is the great theme of this epistle.

"Presence " is capitalized because it refers to the Holy of Holies or the innermost sanctum of the Tabernacle and Temple, where God made His "Presence" known. Because the presence of God overwhelms all other things this Holy of Holies was often simply referred to as "the Presence."  

Entering the "Presence" of God and doing so "boldly" or confidently is an incredible blessing. Whenever we need help, with confidence (not irreverence), but securely, warmly, in love, we can come, "to the throne of grace , that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16). That is a magnificent promise of God provided by Him through Jesus Christ. There is no greater promise and no greater gift God could provide to us than making a way for us to be forgiven and cleansed of our sin and live eternally with Him in His presence.

Jesus is the One by which it is made possible by God for a sinner to be forgiven and made acceptable to come into the presence of God. The last verse of Hebrews 6 states that regarding this "Presence" that Jesus was "the forerunner" Who "has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 6:20). We can enter the Presence of God and live there as we follow Jesus the forerunner.

In the Old Testament there is a mysterious priest named Melchizedek. This figure and Jesus are connected in Hebrews 7. Melchizedek is unique and it's important we understand Who He likely is. This would have aroused the curiosity of the Hebrew recipients. And when we look further we will see how important this figure is.

Hebrews 7 (NKJV)

7 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him,

Who was Melchizedek? We are first introduced to Melchizedek in Genesis 14 where Abraham is returning from a rescue mission to save his nephew Lot. On his return Abraham was met by Melchizedek. Scripture records:

·         Genesis 14:18–20 (NKJV) - 18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. 19 And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tithe of all.

Melchizedek came out to Abraham with "bread and wine." This is our first clue as to the identity of Melchizedek. Do we know Anyone else with which "bread and wine" was used in a significant way? That's right, Jesus introduced the memorial meal with the Passover the night before He went to the cross (Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-23).

Melchizedek blessed Abram noting that Abram was "of God Most High." Melchizedek connected Abram with the God Most High of the Bible. Melchizedek identified God Most High as "Possessor of heaven and earth." This speaks to the sovereignty of God Most High. Melchizedek blessed God Most High and attributed praise and credit to Him for delivering Abram's enemies into his hand.

Abraham then  "gave him [Melchizedek] a tithe of all." By giving a tithe to Melchizedek Abraham was recognizing and accepting the priestly position of Melchizedek. By giving a tithe to Melchizedek Abraham was acknowledging his position as king and priest. Giving a tithe was a part of worship. People weren't to give God a tenth of their income haphazardly. They were to give with their heart, worshipfully. Cain and Abel are an example of how the heart in giving is just as important as the object given (Gen. 4:3-5). We honor God when we give (Proverbs 3:9-10). The wise men honored Jesus with gifts (Matthew 2:11). Abram was honoring Melchizedek and God with his tithe.  

It should also be mentioned that the idea of disregarding tithing (or giving a "tenth" of income) because it is "legalistic" would seem to be countered here since when Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizedek it was 400 years before the Law was given.

After this meeting with Abraham, Melchizedek isn't mentioned again until Psalm 110, a Psalm of David and a Messianic Psalm announcing the reign of Messiah. this Psalm states:

Psalm 110

A Psalm of David.

1     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 is a Psalm promising and depicting the final victory of Messiah. It expresses the highest regard of God for Messiah by stating Messiah was to be seated at His right hand and that He was "a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek." This is significant because God does not speak of Messiah being a priest according to the Aaron or the Levitical priesthood, but of this mysterious priest Melchizedek.

The name "Melchizedek" means literally king of righteousness. He was an interesting and mysterious figure in the Old Testament. He was the "king of Salem" which is an early reference to being the king of what came to be Jeru-Salem or Jerusalem. " Jerusalem is called the city of the Great King."[1] Therefore we might say Melchizedek was King of the Great King.

Melchizedek was also the "priest of the Most High God." This is unique and would be problematic to Hebrews hearing this or reading this word. That's because the Law forbade one man to be both king and priest. A man could be a king and a prophet like David or a priest and a prophet like Aaron but they could not be a priest and a king. King Uzziah, who instituted revival in the kingdom overstepped his boundaries seeking to be priest in God's Temple. When he did that God struck him with leprosy (cf. 2 Chronicles 26). But Melchizedek was both the king of Salam and priest of the Most High God. Hmmm, interesting.

to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,” without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.

Who was Melchizedek? He was respected and recognized as a priest of the Most High God of Abram. Notice it states, "to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all." Abram gave him, Melchizedek, the tithe. It doesn't say Abram gave a tithe to God Most High, but to Melchizedek.

Melchizedek is referred to as "king of righteousness." A Messianic title is "THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Jeremiah 23:5-6; 33:16). Jesus, as Messiah, has the title of being "Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6). When Melchizedek appears on the scene in the Old Testament he is "without father, without mother, without genealogy." This would be the case if Melchizedek was indeed a Christophany or pre-incarnate Christ.

Melchizedek is further described as "having neither beginning of days nor end of life." This is just like Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, the First and the Last (e.g. Rev. 1:8, 11, 17).

Melchizedek is specifically referred to as, "made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually." That seems to be a pretty clear connection of Melchizedek with being a pre-incarnate Jesus. Pastor Chuck Smith in the Word for Today study Bible notes comments:

            There are some who see Melchizedek as a type of Christ; interpreting v. 3 to say that his    family remains anonymous in order to enhance the symbolic connection to Jesus. Others    take the most literal meaning, that Melchizedek had no genealogy because he was Jesus            Christ Himself, in a Christophany, and that He had always existed. This would seem to be           the most obvious and clear interpretation.

            He is called the "king of Salem," which could be a reference to Jerusalem, where Jesus      will rule and reign. But it also means "king of peace," which He certainly is. He is called           the "Prince of Peace" In Isaiah 9:6. The name Melchizedek means "king of     righteousness," and this certainly also describes Jesus.

            In two different passages in the book of Jeremiah, the Messiah is referred to by the name Yahweh-Tsidkenu, which means "Yahweh our righteousness" (Jer. 23:26; 33:16). Also in          John 8:56, when Jesus said that Abraham rejoiced to see His day and saw it, this could            easily be a reference to when Abraham saw Jesus in the form of Melchizedek.

            We can't be dogmatic concerning the identity of Melchizedek; but whether he was Jesus   Himself, or just a type of Jesus, the point here in this passage is that there is a higher priestly order than the Levitical order and that Jesus is of the superior order of          Melchizedek, which predates the Levites. Thus, Jesus is eminently qualified to serve as            our High Priest. [2]

There is truly only One "king of peace," and that is Jesus the Prince of Peace. There is truly only One who is the "king of righteousness," and that is THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS, Jesus.

Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils.


Even though Abraham lived 400 years before the Law was given he knew intuitively to give a tithe or a tenth of his spoils to Melchizedek. And the fact that the patriarch Abraham gave Melchizedek a tithe indicates the greatness and authenticity of this priest and his priestly line.


And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham; but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better. Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, 10 for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.


The issue being addressed here to the Hebrews is Could Jesus be our High Priest if He did not come from the tribe of Levi? This was an important issue to the Hebrew. Jesus was descended from the tribe of Judah and priests came from the tribe of Levi. Is there a basis to consider Jesus our High Priest even though He didn't come from the tribe of Levi? That is what is explained here.


It states, "without contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better." The superiority of the priesthood of Melchizedek (to which Jesus belongs) to that of the Levitical priesthood is being established. Since Melchizedek blessed Abraham, Melchizedek is "better" than Abraham. And, since the Levi and the priestly line was "in the loins of his father," then they too are blessed by Melchizedek and therefore lesser than the priest Melchizedek.

11 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?

If "perfection" or completion of the purpose of the priesthood were through the Levitical priests, then God would not have spoke of Messiah Jesus as rising in the order of Melchizedek.

12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.

The Levitical priesthood was introduced in the Law of Moses. If another priesthood is revealed by God then it indicates a change in the Law.

13 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. 15 And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest 16 who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. 17 For He testifies: “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.”

Melchizedek is spoken of as the priest of the Most High God. Messiah Jesus is referred to by God the Father as "a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek." Yet neither were connected to the priestly line of Levi. Therefore, Jesus, our Great High Priest, is priest "not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. For He testifies: 'You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek."

18 For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, 19 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 of the Old Covenant "made nothing perfect." Therefore there is an "annulling" (Greek athetesis) or a putting away, abolishing, rejection of, nullification of the "former commandment." This is because of the "weakness" (Greek asthenes) or lack of strength, feebleness, impotence, sickness, weakness, and "unprofitableness" (Greek anopheles) or uselessness, unprofitableness of the "former commandment." The only thing the Law is powerful in doing is clarifying and exposing the inability of human beings to keep it in their own strength.


The critically important point is now made here to the Hebrews, some of whom may have been contemplating a return to their Old Covenant ways. The Old Covenant of Law is therefore to be replaced "on the other hand," by the, "bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God." The Law and keeping the Law is a powerless, weak, feeble, impotent and in the end sick way of trying to come into the presence of God. The Law profits us nothing and is useless to bring us into the precious presence of God. But thanks be to God there is a "better hope, through which we draw near to God."

20 And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath 21 (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him: “The Lord has sworn And will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek’ ”), 22 by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant.

Wow! Look at this. Paul is saying here that Jesus was "not made priest without an oath." Jesus was made Priest with an oath from God! - "The LORD has sworn and will not relent, You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek." No Levitical priest became a priest with such a heavenly endorsement. Levitical priests became priests by virtue of their simply being from the tribe of Levi. Jesus was made Priest with the firsthand, clear and undeniably endorsing oath of God the Father. That is an incredibly powerful endorsement in God's word (Psalm 110:4) and by God Himself and shows the absolute superiority of the Priesthood of Jesus over that of the Levitical priesthood.


Truly "by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant." "Surety" (Greek eggyos means  a pledge, a guarantee, a limb offered as pledge. Jesus Himself, is the "limb offered," in pledge to the superiority of His Priesthood. He is the reason that the New Covenant is a "better" (Greek kretton) or stronger, nobler, more advantageous, more excellent, superior, better, best "covenant" than the previous Old Covenant. The New Covenant is not merely another covenant it is a superior better covenant. A "covenant" (Greek diatheke) is a a contract, testament, a disposition, arrangement, a covenant.


23 Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. 24 But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood.


The Levitical priests died and therefore there was a continuous succession of priests and a constant changing in the priests. The Talmud states there were 18 Levitical high priests before the destruction of the first Temple and over 300 before the destruction of the second Temple. In the Levitical line of priests there were many priests. But in the line of Melchizedek there was only One, Jesus. Jesus is our Dependable and Familiar High Priest. We don't have to worry about getting  a new unfamiliar high priest when we come to Jesus. Jesus is "unchangeable" (Greek aparabatos) or not passing away, untransferable, unchangeable, High Priest. Jesus will always be there for us when we seek Him out.


Jesus alone is worthy and qualified as High Priest today. There is a priesthood of believers generally as Christians go to God on behalf of others and to others as ambassadors of Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5:18-21; 1 Peter 2). But there is no longer a basis or reason for people to necessarily go to God through anyone other than Jesus. We can go directly to God through Jesus; no one else. It is a shame and misrepresentation when the church sets up priests as a kind of blockade to the throne of God. We are all priests by virtue of our saving relationship to God in Christ. There are no other steps or obstacles to God. Remember that because God has torn the curtain of separation from top to bottom, He has removed all obstacles to enter and live in His Presence. This is the incredible "uttermost" of salvation provided in Jesus. This is something any Hebrew would understand and it was an incredible blessing. What is just as incredible is that apparently some of these Hebrews were so quickly losing sight of this incredible blessing of Jesus our High Priest of a better covenant.


25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.


Because of all of the superiority of the Melchizedekian priesthood of Jesus, He is able to save "to the uttermost" (Greek panteles) or to the fullest extent, to the entirety, completely, perfectly, uttermost extent. This will be an ongoing theme in Hebrews from this point on; that the priesthood of Jesus and the New Covenant is superior to the Old Covenant and as such, it would be foolish to return to the old ways.


Jesus is our unchangeable and constant High Priest, we can always "come to God through Him." The idea here is not that Jesus is praying for us constantly. Jesus is not making intercession for us so much with His words as He is with His wounds. [3]The scars in Jesus' hands and feet and side are all the evidence the Judge needs to pronounce a "Not guilty" to all who repent and believe in Jesus.


In a courtroom lawyers stand to present their case to a jury before a judge. They present their case and then when they are finished they notify the judge saying "the defense rests" and sit down.  Jesus has presented His case on the cross. The cross is the basis for the perpetual eternal forgiveness for everyone who believes in Him. That is why the letter of Hebrews opens with the magnificent inspired words: "who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high," (Heb. 1:3). Jesus has made His case. His defense for us has rested. And we can rest in Him. When we approach the throne of grace to find help in time of need, we can rest assured we will be given forgiveness and grace because Jesus is seated at the right hand of God.


26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.


The high priests of the Levitical priesthood were not "Holy" (Greek hosios) which means undefiled by sin, free from wickedness, pure and holy. They were not "harmless" (Greek akakos) or not bad, innocent, harmless, without guile or fraud, free from guilt. They were not always "undefiled" (Greek amiantos) or unsoiled, undefiled, free from what deforms or debases. They were not "separate from sinners" but were themselves sinful, less than holy, harmful to others and defiled by the things of this world (v. 26). Not so Jesus! The Levitical priests had to offer sacrifices for themselves and then for the people because of their sin (v. 27a). Jesus offered Himself as an atoning sacrifice for all - "For this He did once for all when He offered up Himself" (v. 27b; cf. also Hebrews 5:3; 7:27).

      Thus, Jesus completely fulfills the picture and the type of Aaron’s priesthood [cf. Hebrews 5]. But He is represented more fully in the Melchizedekian order.


      Why is this important?


      Because every one of you is relating to Jesus in one of those two ways.…


      Many people relate to Jesus only as the fulfillment of the Aaronic priesthood. And what   they see is this: a Man who became like us, who laid down His life for us, who did not          choose that position for Himself but only sought to glorify the Father and to obtain our            salvation through His sacrifice for us. And for them, that’s as far as it goes. They do not      understand that Jesus is not only the fulfillment of the Aaronic priesthood, but that He is          Melchizedek. Melchizedek’s ministry is not to obtain salvation. It is to maintain     salvation. That is why Jesus ever lives to make intercession (Hebrews 7:25).


      The Melchizedekian order is a ministry of maintaining my salvation based upon His           wounds—and it’s a done deal. That means that as I drive home tonight, and I have     something I need to pray about or a promise I wish I could claim, I don’t have to say, “I     can’t claim this promise because I haven’t prayed with the kind of intensity I should,” or,            “I can’t pray now because I haven’t read my Bible in three months.” No, I can simply             say, “Jesus continues to save me because His ministry is intercession based upon what He             once offered, upon the wounds He now has. There’s no discussion about my worthiness. I        am free. I am completely and totally free.”


      Aaron’s line was always busy working, always pleading, always sacrificing. In the             Melchizedekian order, however, there’s nothing more to be said, nothing more to do. It       was done once and for evermore when our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, offered   Himself as a sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary.[4]

Under the Law high priests were weak because they were fallen men. But Jesus, High Priest by God's ordained oath, which came after and replaces the Law, "has been perfected forever." Jesus' atoning sacrifice is totally sufficient and fulfills all that is required for the person who desires to come into the presence of God. To that all we can say is "Glory!" and "Thank You Lord!!!"


[1] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 1477). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
[2] Chuck Smith, The Word for Today Bible, (Costa Mesa, CA: Word for Today, 2012), p. 1586.
[3] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 1479). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
[4] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 1480). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.