Christ’s Eternal, Effectual Priesthood
“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.”- Hebrews 7:23–25
Forever—that is how long Christ will be our High Priest. We know His priesthood will endure because God has sworn by Himself an oath to that effect, and the Lord cannot and will not violate His vows (Heb. 7:20–22; see 6:13–20). This proves the superiority of the Melchizedekian priestly order of Christ, for God made no oath to confirm the Levitical order, proving its temporary nature and ultimate inability to secure what it, and the Mosaic law, pictured—atonement and the perfection of God’s people (7:1–19).
If the Melchizedekian order and its High Priest, Jesus Christ, are superior to the Levitical order, then Jesus is superior also to any of the individual priests from the tribe of Levi. The author of Hebrews brings that idea to the forefront in today’s passage when he says that the death of the Levitical priests in every age prevented them from continuing their ministry on behalf of God’s people. Whatever benefits the Levitical priesthood could provide were only temporary, for the priest’s death meant, in a sense, that the whole thing had to start over again. A new priest had to offer new sacrifices and by his new intercession secure again the blessings of the covenant. Even Aaron, as magnificent as his ministry was since he was the first official high priest of Israel, could not mediate divine blessing forever, since he died and his priestly work and the benefits it provided came to an end (Num. 20:22–29). Implied in all this is that one of the reasons why the Mosaic system could not make anyone perfect is that it could not provide a high priest whose atoning work and blessings could continue past his death (see Heb. 6:11, 19).
Jesus also died, and Hebrews 9–10 stresses that He had to die in order to perfect His people. However, Jesus did not remain dead. He was raised in the power of His indestructible life (7:16, 24; see Rom. 6:9). Thus, the oath the Father swore to His incarnate Son that He would be a priest forever has been fulfilled (Ps. 110), and Jesus will never cease to mediate the blessings He has secured for His people. He cannot fail to bring about the final and complete salvation of His people, since He ever lives to intercede for us with the Father (Heb. 7:25). Christ lives to bless us forever, so great is His love for us, and He alone will redeem us in His own irresistible power. John Owen comments that Jesus “will not bring about part of our salvation and leave what remains to ourselves and to others. . . . Whatever belongs to our entire, complete salvation, he is able to effect it.”
John Calvin writes: “What sort of pledge and how great is this of love towards us! Christ lives for us, not for himself!” Jesus lives to magnify the glory of the Holy Trinity, but His love for us is evident in that He also lives to ensure that God’s salvation never comes to an end for us. This is the living and true God, the One who does not think it beneath Him to live for our sake through the priestly work of the Son. Let us meditate on this great love today.
Passages for Further Study