A Priest Forever

“For it is witnessed of him, ‘You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek’” (Heb. 7:17).

- Hebrews 7:15–17

Many Jews in the first century were looking forward to a Messiah who would serve also as priest. However, most expected this Messiah to be a part of Aaron’s order even though the book of Psalms expects a priest from the order of Melchizedek (Ps. 110). This false expectation was one factor that made some in the original audience of Hebrews question their commitment to Christ. In response, the author of Hebrews emphasizes the superiority of Christ by emphasizing the superiority of the Melchizedekian priesthood.

The Levitical priesthood was inferior to the priesthood of Melchizedek because the sacrifices under the Levitical order cannot make anyone righteous. However, the sacrifice of the priest from the order of Melchizedek is able to make men righteous. When He came two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ brought with His priesthood a change in the priestly requirements of the Law (7:12). This change is all the more evident because Jesus Christ is not from the priestly tribe of Levi but from the royal line of Judah (vv. 13–14).

As if the fact that Jesus was from the tribe of Judah was not enough to confirm the change in priesthood, the author of Hebrews gives yet more evidences that confirm the existence and superiority of Christ’s priestly work to that of the Levites. We are told in verses 15–16 that Jesus, arising in the order of Melchizedek, is made a priest not because He was part of the correct family but “by the power of an indestructible life.” This indestructible life guarantees not only the superiority of His priesthood, but also its eternality. John Calvin notes that unlike the Levitical ordination, it was not “a mortal man, who consecrated him, but the Holy Spirit, and that not with oil, nor with the blood of goats, nor with the outward pomp of vestments, but with celestial power.”

This indestructible life qualifies Jesus to be a priest forever and enables Him to make His disciples righteous because He will never die or cease to be our priest. The Levitical system was a temporary fix, never able to perfect anyone. David recognized this problem in Psalm 110. He looked forward to a Messiah who would be a permanent priest and thus able to perfect the people of God. But while it was a future hope for David, it is a present reality for us. Jesus has come as the High Priest in the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 7:17), and He will perfect all of His disciples.

Coram Deo

If you are a Christian, God has imputed the righteousness of Christ to you. Thus, you are part of the kingdom of God. One day, righteousness will be not only a declared reality, but, when we are glorified, we will actually be holy and free from all sin. We should all look forward to that blessed day when Christ will perfect us.

Passages for Further Study

Isa. 4:2–4
Isa. 62:1–5
Obad. 17
1 Cor. 15:42–49
Phil. 3:20–21

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.