FIFTH SECTION.-vii. 1-28.
The New Priesthood after the Order of Melchizedek.
MELCHIZEDEK MADE LIKE UNTO THE SON OF GOD.
VH.—1. For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of God Most High, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him,
2. To whom also Abraham divided a tenth part of all (being first, by interpretation, King of righteousness, and then also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;
3. Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God), abldeth a priest continually.
Ln chap. v. we read that Jesus was called of God, even as was Aaron. In many points Aaron was a type of Christ. But there were other respects in which the priesthood of Aaron utterly failed even to prefigure that of Christ. By a special divine provision the name of another is found, in whom, what was wanting in Aaron as type, was foreshadowed. The difference between the priesthood of Aaron and Melchizedek is a radical one. ln the right understanding of what that difference is, and in the knowledge of that in which Melchizedek has been made like unto the Son of God, lies the secret of this Epistle, and the secret of the Christian life in its power and perfection. The secret may be expressed in one word—PRIEST FOR EVER.
The whole place Melchizedek occupies in sacred history is one of the most remarkable proofs of the inspiration and the unity of Scripture, as written under the direct supernatural guidance of the Holy Spirit. ln the Book of Genesis all we know of him is told in three short, very simple verses. A thousand years later we find a Psalm with just one single verse, in which God Himself is introduced, swearing to His Son that He is to be a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. Another thousand years pass, and that single verse becomes the seed of the wondrous exposition, in this Epistle, of the whole work of redemption as revealed in Christ Jesus. All its most remarkable characteristics are found enveloped in the wondrous type. The more we study it the more we exclaim: This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. We see in it nothing less than a miracle of divine wisdom, guiding Melchizedek and Abraham with a view to what was to take place with the Son of God two thousand years later; revealing to the Psalmist the secret purpose of the divine mind in the promise made to the Son in heaven; and then, by the same Holy Spirit, guiding the writer of our Epistle to his divinely-inspired exposition. To the believing mind no stronger proof of inspiration could possibly be given. lt is indeed the Eternal Spirit, the Spirit of Christ Himself, through whom all was wrought and in due time recorded.
In the first three verses of our chapter we are reminded of the story of Melchizedek, and the exposition is given of his name and history. His name signifies—King of righteousness. He is also called, from the city where he reigned, Salem, meaning Peace—the King of peace. The two titles thus combined proved how he was destined of God to be the figure of His Son. Righteousness and peace are mentioned together both in the Old Testament and in the New as characteristic blessings of the kingdom of Christ. Righteousness as the only foundation of peace: peace as its sure and blessed result. The kingdom of God is righteousness and peace, and, as the sure fruit of these, joy in the Holy Ghost.
Melchizedek was priest and king—a thing unknown in all the history of Israel. What was always kept asunder in God's people had, by the divine forethought, been united in Him who had been made like unto the Son of God. It is the glory of Christ as the Priest-King that our Epistle is specially to unfold.
The silence of Scripture as to his genealogy and birth and death is then interpreted as proof of how different his priesthood is from that of Aaron and the priests in Israel, where descent was everything. So had God prepared in Him a wondrous prophecy of His Son, whose right to the priesthood lay in no earthly birth, but in His being the Son of God from eternity to eternity. Made like unto the Son of God, Melchizedek abideth a priest continually.
A Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. This word of God is in the Psalm which forms the connecting link between Genesis and our Epistle. The Holy Spirit who first inspired it, and then expounded it, is waiting to lead us into the mystery of its glory, as a living experience. That word for ever, that we meet in the expressions, Priest for ever, eternal salvation, eternal redemption, perfected for ever, not only signifies without end, but infinitely more. God is the Eternal One; His life is eternal life. Eternal is that which is divine, in which there is no change or decay, but everlasting youth and strength, because God is in it. The everlasting priesthood of Christ means that He will do His work in us in the power of the eternal life, as that is lived in God and heaven. He lives for ever, therefore He can save completely.
May God teach us to know what it means that Christ is our Melchizedek, a Priest for ever. lt is the spiritual apprehension of this everlasting priesthood, as communicating even here and maintaining an everlasting, unchangeable life in us, that lifts our inner experience out of the region of effort, and change, and failure, into the rest of God, so that the immutability of His counsel is the measure of that of our faith and hope.
7. in this chapter we have now the beginning of the things hard to be understood except by the perfect . lt is only those who press on to perfection, who long to possess the very utmost of what God is able to work in them through Christ, who can inwardly appropriate the revelation of the eternal priesthood. Neither talent nor genius can suffice—it is the heart that thirsts for the lioing God that will understand this teaching about our being brought nigh to God.
2. The Holy Spirit, through whom the history was recorded, and the vath to the Son revealed, and the exposition inspired, can alone lead us into the spiritual power and blessing here revealed. And the Holy Spirit only leads as He is known as the indwelling One, is waited on in deep humility, and yielded to in meek resignation. What a solemn, holy, blessed thing to believe that the Spirit of God is leading us into this perfection-truth as a possession and experience.
3. He abideth continually: an unchanging, never-ending life, the characteristic of Melchizedek, who was made like to Christ, of Christ in His heavenly priesthood, and of the life of the believer who learns rightly to know and trust Him.
MELCHIZEDEK AND ABRAHAM.
VII.—4. Now consider how great this man was, unto whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth out of the chief spoils.
5. And they Indeed of the sons of Levi that receive the priest's office have commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though these have come out of the loins of Abraham:
6. But he, whose genealogy Is not counted from them, hath taken tithes of Abraham, and hath blessed him that hath the promises.
7. But without any dispute the less is blessed of the better.
8. And here men that die receive tithes; but there one, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.
9. And, so to say, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes hath paid tithes;
10. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melohizedek met him.
Now consider how great this man was. lf we rightly apprehend the greatness of Melchizedek, it will help us to understand the greatness of Christ, our great High Priest. The Hebrews gloried in Abraham, as the father of the chosen people; in Aaron, who as high priest was the representative of God and His worship; in the law as given from heaven, in token of God's covenant with His people. ln all these respects the superiority of Melchizedek is proved. He is more than Abraham (4-10), more than Aaron (11-14), more than the law (11-19).
Melchizedek is more than Abraham; of this a double proof is given. Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek; Melchizedek blessed Abraham. According to the law the priests received tithes from their brethren, but here a stranger receives them from the father of the whole people. There is more; in Israel men who die receive tithes; but here one of whom it is witnessed that He liveth, who abideth continually. And in Abraham, even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes. All was so ordered of God as a hidden prophecy, to be unfolded in due time, of the greatness of Christ our High Priest. Consider how great this man was.
There is a second proof of his greatness; Melchizedek blessed Abraham. But without any dispute the less is blessed of the better. Abraham had already been blessed of God Himself (Gen. xii. 2). He here accepts a blessing from Melchizedek, acknowledging his own inferiority, unconsciously subordinating himself and the whole priesthood that was to come from him, to this priest of the Most High God.
The unfolding of this divinely-ordained type not only reveals the superiority of Christ to the Levitical priesthood, but sets before us most suggestively two of the characteristics of our relation to Christ as Priest. We receive blessing from Him; He receives tithes from us.
Christ comes to bring us God's blessing. We have seen in chap. vi. 14 what God's blessing is. lt is in Christ that the blessing is confirmed and imparted. And if we would know fully what the blessing is Christ brings us, we have only to think of the priestly blessing in Israel.
On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them,
The Lord bless thee, and keep thee;
The Lord make His face to shine upon thee, and be
gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give
These are indeed the spiritual blessings in the heavenlies with which God hath blessed us in Christ and which, as High Priest, Christ dispenses. He brings us to the Father, and we learn to know that He blesses and keeps us. ln Him, the Son, God's face shines upon us, and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is our portion. ln Him God lifts up His countenance upon us, and, by the Holy Spirit, gives His peace unto our hearts. Christ the High Priest makes every part of this blessing a divine reality, a living experience in the power of a life that abides continually.
Christ gives us the blessing, we give Him the tithes. The tithes to God are the acknowledgment of His right to all. Our High Priest has a right to the surrender of all we have, as belonging to Him, to the willing sacrifice of all He asks or needs for His service. The connection between the tithes and the blessing is closer than we know. The more unreservedly we place all that we have at His disposal, the more we in very deed forsake all for His sake, the richer will our experience be of the fulness and the power which our High Priest can bless.
Without dispute the less is blessed of the better. This is the true relation. The more we know of that better name which Jesus has received, and have our hearts filled with His glory, the lower we shall bow, the less we shall become in our own eyes; and thereby the fitter and the more willing to be blessed. And the more ready, too, to render Him not only the tithes, but the whole of all we are and possess. As in our spiritual life this twofold relation to our great High Priest is maintained, and a deep faith and dependence on His divine fulness of blessing is cultivated, along with an absolute surrender to His disposal and service, the mighty power of His priesthood will be revealed in our hearts. And we shall see with ever-increasing clearness that the two dispositions, faith in Him who blesses and consecration to His service, have their root in the one cardinal virtue of humility, making us ever less and less in our own eyes, until we sink into that nothingness, which is the death to self, and makes room for Him to be All. Then the word will be fulfilled in us in a new meaning: Without dispute the less is blessed of the better.
1. Melchizedek blessed Abraham. The work of thy High Priest, O my soul, la simply blessing. Learn to think this of Jesus, and seek to have a great confidence that He delights to bless. He is nothing but a fountain of blessing; rejoice greatly in this and trust Him for it.
2. Remember that the all-comprehensioe blessing of thy Melchizedek in heaven is—the Holy Spirit from heaven in thy heart. As it is written: "Christ redeemed us, that the blessing of Abraham might come upon us, in Jesus Christ; that we might receioe the promise of the Spirit through faith." The Holy Spirit "abiding continually " in the heart is the high-prlestly blessing.
3. This day He comes to meet thee, as thou returnest from the battle weary and faint. Bow before Him, and let Him bless thee l "Even as the Holy Ghost saith, To-day." Believe that Jesus is all to thee.
MELCHIZEDEK MORE THAN AARON AND THE LAW.
VII.—11. Now If there was perfection through the Levltloal priesthood (for under It hath the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should arise after the order of Melchizedek, and not be reckoned after the order of Aaron?
12. For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity also a change of the law.
13. For he of whom these things are said belongeth to another tribe, from which no man hath given attendance at the altar.
14. For It Is evident that our Lord hath sprung from Judah; as to which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priests.
When God, in Psalm ex., spake with an oath of a priest after the order of Melchizedek, it was a prophecy of deep spiritual meaning. Why should the order of Aaron, whom God Himself had called, whose work took such a large place in the purpose of God and of Scripture, be passed over for the order of another, of whom we knew nothing save one single act? What need was there that another priest should arise after the order of Melchizedek, and not be reckoned after the order of Aaron? The answer is, Because the order of Aaron was only the figure of the work of Jesus upon earth; for His eternal and almighty priesthood in heaven something more was needed.
Let us see and grasp this. Aaron's work was the shadow of Christ's work upon earth, of sacrifice and blood-shedding, of atonement and reconciliation with God. Aaron entered indeed within the veil with the blood, in token of God's acceptance of the atonement and the people. But he might not tarry there; he had to come out again at once. His entering only once a year, and that only for a few moments, served mostly, as we see in chap. ix. 7, 8, to teach the people that the way into the Holiest was not yet opened; that for this they would have to wait till another dispensation came. Of a life in the Holiest of All, of a dwelling in God's presence, and fellowship with Him there, of a communication to the people of the power of a life within the veil,—of all this there was no thought. The glory of Christ's priesthood consists in His rending the veil and entering in for us: of His sitting at the right hand of God to receive and impart the Spirit of God and the powers of the heavenly life; of His being able to bring us in, that we too may draw nigh to God; of His maintenance in us of the life of heaven by His unceasing intercession and ministry in the power of an endless life; of all this the ministry of Aaron could afford no promise.
lt was in all this that Melchizedek was made like unto the Son of God. As priest of the Most High God, he was also king, clothed with honour and power. As such his blessing was in power. And as one, of whose death and the end of whose priesthood Scripture mentions nothing, and who abideth continually, he is the image of the eternal priesthood, which is ministered in heaven, in eternity, in the power of an endless life.
The revelation of the mystery and the glory of the Melchizedek priesthood of our Lord Jesus is the great object of the Epistle. And I cannot urge my reader too earnestly to see that he enters fully into the infinite difference between the two orders or ministries of Aaron and Melchizedek. The apparently simple question, What need was there that another priest should arise after the order of Melchizedek? has more to do with our spiritual life than we think.
ln the opening verses of our Epistle we found the work of Christ divided into two parts. When He had effected the cleansing of sins (that was after the order of Aaron), He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high (that was after the order of Melchizedek). There are too many Christians who see in Christ only the fulfilment of what Aaron typified. Christ's death and blood are very precious to them; they do seek to rest their faith upon them. And yet they wonder that they have so little of the peace and joy, of the purity and power which the Saviour gives, and which faith in Him ought to bring. The reason is simple, because Christ is only their Aaron, not their Melchizedek. They do indeed believe that He is ascended to heaven, and sits upon the throne of God ; but they have not seen the direct connection of this with their daily spiritual life. They do not count upon Jesus working in them in the power of the heavenly life, and imparting it to them. They do not know their heavenly calling, with the all-sufficient provision for its fulfilment in them secured in the heavenly life of their Priest-King. And, as a consequence of this, they do not see the need for giving up the world, to have their life and walk in heaven.
The work of redemption was accomplished on earth in weakness (2 Cor. xiii. 4); it is communicated from heaven in resurrection and ascension power. The cross proclaims the pardon of sin; the throne gives the power over sin. The cross, with its blood-sprinkling, is the deliverance from Egypt; the throne, with its living Priest-King, brings into the rest of God and its victory. With Aaron there is nothing beyond atonement and acceptance; nothing of kingly rule and power; it is with Melchizedek that the fulness of power and blessing comes, the blessing that abideth continually. lt is as the soul no longer ever again seeks the foundation, but resting on it and it alone, is built up into Christ Jesus, the perfected and exalted One, that it will be delivered from its feebleness, and know the power of the heavenly life. The more we consider and adore our blessed King-Priest, our Melchizedek, the stronger will our confidence become that from His throne in heaven He will, in divine power, Himself apply to us all the blessed fruits of His atonement, and make a life in God's presence and nearness our daily experience.
7. When He had effected the cleansing of our sins—Sorf be praised for our Aaron! Glory be to the Lamb that was slain /—He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high l God be praised for our Melchizedek l Glory to the Lamb in the midst of the throne l The Holiest is now opened, with our great High Priest to bring us in and keep us there.
2. The effecting the cleansing of sins by Jesus preceded the sitting on the throne. But the application in us in power follows. This is the reason why we arc here first tavght about the High Priest in heaven, then in chap. olll. about the heavenly sanctuary, and after that in chap. ix. about the power of the blood in heaven, and from heaven in us. lt is only in the knowledge of Jesus in heaven we shall know the full power of the cleansing blood.
3. Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus on the throne in heaven! The worship and the fellowship of a heavenly Christ makes heavenly Christians.
A PRIEST FOR EVER-IN THE POWER OF AN ENDLESS LIFE.
VII.—15. And what we say Is yet more abundantly evident, if after the likeness of Melchlzedek there ariseth another priest,
16. Who hath been made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.
17. For it is witnessed of him,
Thou art a priest for ever
After the order of Melchlzedek.
lN the words of Psalm ex. each expression is full of meaning. We saw (v. 4-6) that the word, Thou art Priest is the proof that Christ did not glorify Himself to become Priest, but was appointed of God. We have seen the deep significance of the words, after the order of Melchizedek. We now come to what is implied in its being said, Thou art a Priest for ever.
The word ever or eternal is one of the most important in the Epistle. lt is found seventeen times. lt contains all that distinguishes the New Testament from the Old; the healthy Christian life of the perfect, from the stunted sickly growth of the babes. To understand what it means we must connect it with God, the eternal One. Eternity is an attribute of Deity and of the divine life, and has its true existence only in the fellowship of that life. ln God there is no change, or ageing, or fading; He is all that He is in an ever-fresh, never-changing, youth. As some one has said: "He is the Ancient of Days, and yet the youngest of all, for He lives ever in the freshness of the eternal strength that knows no past." The eternal life is that which always remains the same, because it is always in God. And when God speaks to His Son, Thou art Priest for ever, it not only means that the priesthood will never cease, but it points to what is the root and cause of this; it roots in the life and strength of God. Christ is become a Priest after the power of an endless life. Unceasingly, without one moment's cessation, in unbroken continuity, He lives and works in the power of the divine life.
The contrast will make the meaning clear. He is made Priest, not after the law of a carnal commandment, as Aaron, but after the power of an endless life, even as Melchizedek who abideth a priest continually. Law and life are the contrasts. Every creature naturally acts according to the life that is in it, without any law or compulsion from without. The bird needs no law to bid it fly, or the fish to make it swim: its life makes it a delight. A law is a proof that the life is wanting. The law that forbids stealing is a proof that the life of those for whom it is made is wrong. And a law is not only a proof that the right life is wanting, but it is helpless to produce it. lt may check and restrain, but cannot inspire. It can demand, but cannot give; it has power to command, but not to create what it seeks. Aaron became priest after the law of a carnal commandment, a law that made nothing perfect, and was disannulled for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof; Christ, after the power of an endless life. Every act of His holy and blessed priesthood, every application of the fruits of His eternal redemption, is wrought in the power of an endless life.
These two principles mark two systems of religion, two ways of worshipping God, two experiences of the inner life. The one is that of the law, with atonement and acceptance
with God, as typified in Aaron. The Christian trusts in Christ
as his Redeemer, and seeks, by the great motive of gratitude, to
compel himself to love and obedience. His life is one of
unceasing effort. But he is painfully conscious of failure;
obedience is not his life and delight. The New Testament
offers a better life. Through unbelief and sloth the majority
of Christians know little of it. But here it is, opened up by the
Holy Spirit, as the mystery of Melchizedek. Jesus Christ is
become a Priest after the power of an endless life. These
precious words are the key to the higher life. Jesus lives in
heaven as High Priest in the power of an endless life. And as
He lives, so He works in that power. This is the meaning of
His being a Priest for ever. His work does not consist, like
that of Aaron, in a series of successive acts, that ever cease,
and ever need to be renewed. No, each work He does for us
He is able to do in the power of an endless life. He works
it within us as a life, as our own life, so that it is our very nature
to delight in God and in His will. His priesthood acts as an
inner life within us, lifting us up, not in thought but in spirit
and in truth, into a vital fellowship with God. He breathes
His own life in us. And He works it in as the power of life, a
life that is strong and healthy, because it is His own life from
heaven. And He works it in the power of an endless, an
indissoluble life, a life that never for a moment need know a
break or an interruption, because it is the life of eternity, the
life maintained in us by Him who is a Priest for ever, a Priest
who abideth continually.
And why is it so many Christians experience and prove so
little of this power of the endless, the unchanging life that abides
continually? Some know nothing of it, they only know of Christ as Aaron. And some hear of it but are not willing to give up all to purchase this pearl of great price; to give up the world for this heavenly life. And some, who would fain give up all, cannot, dare not, will not, believe that Christ is indeed Melchizedek, a Priest for ever, a Priest who does everything in eternal life-power.
He abideth a Priest continually. The continuity of His priesthood is never interrupted or broken; as little the continuity of the action of His priesthood; as little the experience of that action. Everything Christ as my High Priest in heaven does for me He does in the power of an endless life, as a Priest who abides continually; what He works can abide continually too. Oh for faith to consider and know and trust Christ Jesus, Priest for ever, Priest after the power of the endless life!
1. The power of an endless life. There is not a more significant or lmportant expression in the whole Epistle. lt is life we need, and a strong life, and a life that never glves wag. Here we have lt—the life more abundant.
2. We shall often have occasion to refer to these words. We are so accustomed to think of a priest as a man who dves certain things on behalf of other men, separate from himself, that we apply this mode of thinking to the Lord Jesus. Christ is no outward Saviour, nor can He gioe us any salvation as an outward thing. All He dves for us and to us. He puts into our heart, makes it our life. We need to know that all He does as High Priest for us in heaven. He also does within us as a life He gives. He is Priest, and can save in no other way, than after the power of an endless life. lt is only as a life within us that His priesthood can attain its object.
3. Jesus was crucified in weakness, but raised in the power of God. He won the power through the weakness, the sacrifice of all unto the death. Let all who would know Him in the power of the endless life enter into the fellowship of His death, walk in deep humility and meekness and dependence upon God, in the path in which He trod to reach the throne.
A BETTER HOPE, THROUGH WHICH WE DRAW NIGH TO GOD.
VH.—18 For there is a disannulling of a foregoing commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness
19. (For the law made nothing perfect), and a bringing in thereupon of a better hope, through which we draw nigh to God.
In ver. 12 we read, For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. When the order of Aaron had to give way to that of Melchizedek, the law, under which Aaron had ministered, had to give way to the new order, to the law not of commandment, but to the law of the power of the endless life. The reason of this is now given. There is a disannulling of the foregoing commandment, because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law made nothing perfect. Perfection was what God and man sought as deliverance from sin and its effects; perfect restoration and perfect fellowship. The law could make nothing perfect, neither the conscience nor the worshipper. Jesus came to work out, and reveal, and impart that perfection the law could only foreshadow.
And what this perfection is, we are now told: "There is a disannulling of the commandment, and a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw nigh to God." To bring man nigh to God, into full favour and actual fellowship, is the object of every priest. Aaron could not do it; Jesus has done it. This is the glory of the New Testament; it brings in a better hope, a real drawing nigh to the living God, a communion of the Holy Spirit with Him. This is the perfection which, not the law, but Jesus gives. ln chap. vi. hope was already mentioned as that through which we enter within the veil, whither our Forerunner has gone for us. ln the power of the endless life He has opened the veil and opened the way; He has brought in the better hope through which we draw nigh to God.
Draw nigh to God! This expression is one of the fingerposts on the way to the higher teaching that is to come. It gives us the main object of Christ's work: to enable us to live our life in the nearness of God. There are Christians who, in seeking salvation, only think of themselves and their own happiness: Christ is simply a means to an end. There are others who go farther: they feel a personal relation to Christ, and desire greatly to know and serve Him better. But even with these, there is something lacking which is indispensable to a whole and vigorous Christian character. They do not know that Christ is only the way, the door to the Father, and that His great desire is to lead us through and past Himself to the Father, really to bring us to God! He wants us to live the same life He lived upon earth — always looking up to, depending upon, and honouring a God in heaven above Him.
Draw nigh to God! Nothing but this can satisfy God and His love. He longs to have His children come to dwell in that love, and to delight in His presence. He sent His Son to bring us to Him. This is what constitutes full salvation. God as the author of our being longs to have us yield ourselves and wait upon Himself to work His work in us. As the righteous and holy One He seeks to have us wholly given up to His will and wisdom. As the unseen and hidden One, He asks that we should withdraw ourselves from the visible and hold fellowship with Him. Man was created for the presence of God. The nearness of God was to be his native atmosphere. lt is this God is willing to vouchsafe to each of us; it is this the heavenly priesthood makes possible; it is this God would have us seek.
As God is no outward Being, so is nearness to Him nothing external, but an inner spiritual harmony of disposition, a fellowship and unity of will. As His spirit gives us more of the divine nature, and God works His will more freely and fully in us, we come nearer to Him, we become truly united to Him.
Draw nigh to God! Nothing less than this is what the redemption of Christ has won and set open for us. This was the weakness of the law, that it made no provision for God's people entering into His sanctuary, His immediate presence. The way into the Holiest has been opened by Jesus. We may boldly enter in and appear before God. Seated on the throne our High Priest has the power by His Holy Spirit to make the drawing nigh to God our continual abiding experience. He does this in the power of the endless life. Life never works from without, always from within. Our High Priest by His life-power enters our life, and renews it, and lifts it up; His heavenly life becomes our actual life, and the presence of God surrounds and shines on us as the sunlight shines on our bodies. He is able so to shed abroad the love of God in our hearts that His presence is our joy all the day.
Draw nigh to God! Nothing less than this must be what our faith claims. The redemption in Christ is so perfect and allprevailing, His salvation so complete, the power of His life in us so heavenly and indissoluble, the action of His priesthood so unceasing and unbroken, and the working of His Spirit so sure and so divine, that it is indeed possible for us to dwell all the day in the enjoyment of God's love and fellowship. lt is a life-state He has entered into, has opened to us, and lives to keep us in. Let us believe it. Yes, let faith be the one habit of our soul—a faith that honours our King-Priest on the throne in expecting from Him what is impossible to man, what is possible only to God, to keep our hearts all the day within the veil before the face of God.
Christ is the door. The door of what? the door of the heart of God. Through Him l can enter in and abide in God's love, can dwell in God and God in me. He is the living door, who takes me up, and brings me in to God. He does it most surely, because He is High Priest in the power of the endless life.
1. A life nigh to God: This is the better hope, which enters into that which is within the veil. Hold fast the glorying of this hope. Gioe diligence unto the fulness of the hope: hope maheth not ashamed.
2. God near, the world far; the world near, God far. Jesus entered the presence of God in the path which He opened up for us. That path was humility and meekness, obedience and death. lt cost Jesus entire and intense self-surrender to open the path and enter in. He has won for us the power to follow Him, and communicates lt to all upright souls in the power of an endless
3. Nigh to God! is this thy life? is this thy desire? is this thy expectation? lt is the salvation Christ has prepared for thee, and waits to gioe thee.
JESUS, THE SURETY OF A BETTER COVENANT.
VII.—20. And inasmuch as it is not without the taking of an oath
21. (For they indeed had become priests without an oath; but he with an oath by him that saith of him,
The Lord sware and will not repent himself,
Thou art priest for ever);
22. By so much also has Jesus become the surety of a better covenant.
Ln chap. vi. the deep meaning of God's oath was set before us. On His side it is a proof of His unchangeable purpose concerning something which He binds Himself faithfully to perform. On our side it points to something in which there is special need of faith, and calls us to the exercise of full and unhesitating confidence as to the certainty of God's fulfilment of the promise. ln the words of the appointment of Christ as High Priest we have already found three significant expressions—there is a fourth one we are now to notice. The Lord sware and will not repent Himself: this oath of God is a new proof of the glory of Christ's priesthood and its superiority to the old. God confirmed His blessing to Abraham with an oath; that blessing is eternal and unchangeable. Aaron was made a priest without an oath: his priesthood was only temporary, a shadow of what was to come. At the first announcement of a priest after the new order, God again interposed with an oath: inasmuch as it was not without the taking of an oath, by so much hath Jesus become the surety of a better covenant. The oath points us to
the covenant, to its being a better covenant, to Jesus being its surety, and to the priesthood as that in which the covenant and the suretyship have their power.
A better covenant. The object of a covenant is to define and settle the relation between the two parties who enter into it, and to give security for the faithful fulfilment of their engagements to each other. The old covenant which God made with Israel had proved a failure. At its establishment they were most ready to promise, All that the Lord hath said will we do and be obedient. But how soon was the covenant forgotten and the promise broken. They had undertaken what they could not perform; the vow and the purpose availed nothing without the strength. ln course of time God promised to establish a new covenant, and in it to provide for what had been wanting, for the power to obey, and so to keep the covenant. lt would be a covenant of life— giving that new life into the heart, out of which obedience would naturally spring. Of this better covenant, established on better promises, we shall hear in the next chapter.
The surety of a better covenant. lt is this Jesus has come to do, to give the covenant its security, and to undertake that its engagements shall indeed be fulfilled. He is surety of the covenant on both sides. Surety to us that God will keep His promise, and give us His life and law and Spirit in our heart; surety to God for us, He will ensure our obedience and our keeping the covenant.
Become a Priest with an oath. It is in the priesthood of Jesus that the covenant and the suretyship have their power. It is the Priest for ever who deals with sin and takes it away in the power of an endless life. lt is the Priest for ever, the Son of God, perfected for evermore, who has opened a new and living way, a new state of life, and works all in the power of an endless life, in whom we have a divine surety that every promise and every obligation of the better covenant will be fulfilled by God and by us.
lt is to give us a living and most complete assurance that all this will be so, that the installation of Jesus in the Priest's office was announced by an oath from heaven. God does so long that we should in very deed become to the full partakers of the eternal redemption His Son has obtained for us, and because He sees it is impossible for Him to work out His will in us except as our hearts open to Him in faith and expectation, He is ready to do anything He can, to awake our confidence and compel us to trust Him perfectly. And so His Spirit reminds us that the priesthood of Jesus, and all the blessings which come from it in the power of our eternal life, are absolutely sure and certain. As if it is not enough that we know that as the Son of God He is the Almighty One, as Son of Man the merciful and faithful High Priest, as the exalted One, a King upon God's throne, God calls us to consider the oath He took. He swears by Himself. He points to Himself and His honour as God, to Himself as the Eternal and Almighty God and charges us to believe that this Priest for ever He has given us does indeed save with an everlasting salvation, with a salvation in which the power of eternity works.
When God confirmed by oath to Abraham His promise of blessing, Abraham, though he knew but little of what that blessing would yet be, believed God: he was strong in faith, giving glory to God. And we, who know the Son in whom God has now revealed Himself, and in regard to the efficacy and eternal life-power of whose work for us God has now sworn His oath to us, shall we doubt or hesitate? God forbid! Oh that our hearts were opened to understand! The one thing God asks of us, is the faith that sees what He has promised to do, and that sinks down before Him to let Him work what He has undertaken. The one thing we have to strive after, as we move on in the path the Epistle opens up to the inner sanctuary, is that our faith stand not in the wisdom of men, in our own thoughts of the way or the measure in which God will fulfil His promise, but only and entirely in the power of God. What needed an oath of God to assure us of it, needs and has the power of God to work it.
7. Do hold fast these two things. Faith must see what God promises, and then allow God to fulfil the promise in us. Pray for the enlightening of the Holy Spirit, to get delivered from all partial and defectioe uiews of what our High Priest can work in us, and then regard as your highest work, to wait upon God and yield to His operation in adoring trust.
2. The content and substance of the vath of God is, the lioing personal Christ, as Son and Priest; that is, as Priest in the power of the dloine and eternal life which He lmparts. He that clings to Christ will be led on to know all that God has promised in Him.
A PRIEST, ABLE TO SAVE COMPLETELY.
VII.—23. And they indeed have been made priests many In number, because that by death they are hindered from continuing:
24. But he, because he abideth for ever, hath his priesthood unchangeable.
25. Wherefore also he ls able to save to the uttermost1 them that draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
Ln the order of Aaron there was a continual succession of priests, one dying and another taking his place. That characterised the whole system; it bore the mark of change and weakness and death. lt could not effect anything that was really abiding and permanent, much less anything that was eternal. The whole inner life of the worshipper was what the system was, subject to change and decay. But He, because He abideth for ever, hath His priesthood unchangeable. He Himself is the Eternal One, who abideth Priest for ever. His priesthood is unchangeable; the life, in the power of which He ministers, and the life which He ministers, is a life that abides unchangeable too. His priesthood is an everlasting one, ever living, ever active.
Wherefore also He is able to save completely them that draw near unto God through Him. Wherefore, that is because He abideth for ever, because there is never a single moment in
which His priestly action, His watchful care of us, His loving sympathy and succour, His working in us in the power of our endless life, is not in full operation. Therefore He can save completely, that is, there need never be a moment in which the experience of His saving power is intermitted, in which the salvation He has wrought does not save. To confirm this, it is added, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them. Without ceasing there streams forth from Him to the Father the prayer of His love for every one and every need of those that belong to Him; His very person and presence is that prayer, so closely and so inseparably is He identified with those He calls His brethren. And without ceasing there streams forth to Him from the Father the answer of His good pleasure, and the power of the Holy Spirit, bearing that answer. And even so, without ceasing, there streams forth from Him to each member of His body the grace for the timely help. Because He ever liveth to make intercession, without one moment's intermission, therefore He is able to save completely.
He is able to save completely. The connection of the promise with the character and work of Christ shows us what it means. The great complaint of Christians is that their experience is so changeful—that the blessed sense of God's love and grace passes away, and that what they know of the keeping, cleansing, power of Christ does not last; the sense of nearness to God does not abide continually. lt is somehow as if there is a necessity of its being lost. With change of circumstances, alas, comes too often change in the nearness of God and His saving power. Could what Christ does for them at times but be maintained continuously, could it but abide,—their joy would be full, their salvation complete. We have here the very promise such Christians need. Because he abideth for ever, because He ever liveth to make intercession, because He is a Priest for ever, who exercises every function of His office in an endless life-power, that never for a moment intermits its action, He is able to save completely. ln Himself He has been perfected for evermore, with Himself He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. The salvation He has wrought out is a life in the opened sanctuary of God's presence in the power of God's Spirit; all that is needed is that the believer be kept abiding for ever, ever living in this salvation-life which Jesus has opened up. And this he can do, when once he learns to trust to Jesus for it, because he understands that He ever liveth to make intercession. He prayed for Peter that his faith might not fail. Because His work of intercession never pauses or ceases, our faith and our experience of the power of that intercession need never fail. He is able to save completely!
Them that draw near unto God through Him. ln ver. 19 we saw that to enable us to draw nigh to God is the better hope the gospel brings—the one aim of Christ's priesthood. Here we have it again. One reason why so many have no conception of Christ as able to save completely is simply that they have never understood fully what salvation is. The following chapters will open it up to us—and may God's Spirit truly open it!—that to come to God through Christ, to draw nigh to God means nothing less than an entering into the Holiest of All, and dwelling there all the day, spending our life there, abiding there continually. lt is only those who believe it possible, will give themselves up to it. lt is only those who forsake all to give themselves up to it to whom it will be possible. But for all who come to God through Him the promise is sure: He abideth for ever; He is able to save completely.
Oh, let us fix our eyes and hearts on Jesus in heaven, our Melchizedek, our Priest-King on the throne of power, and on His unceasing intercession. And let our one desire be to believe that the God who hath sworn by Himself, by His own life as God, means to do for us something above all we can ask or think.
7. Able to save completely. This is that solid food for the perfect which only the truly consecrated soul can apprehend. lt is of the things "hard of interpretation, seeing ye are become dull of hearing."
2. Like priest, like people. The character of a priest determines the character of the pevple whose worship he leads. The character of Christ's priesthood determines the character of those who belong to Him. And our view of what that priesthood can effect will determine our religious character. Of what infinite importance to worship and to trust Him, as able to save completely. That will determine our Christian character and life.
3. What a view of the place and power of intercession l Christ's whole life is gioen up to lt. His power as Priest-King on the throne has no other channel for lts exercise. You long to save others. Giue yourself to prayer and intercession. Present yourself before God as a sacrifice for your fellowmen, offering to be filled with His Spirit and consumed by His fire. Count intercession the secret of bringing down the blessing of heaven. Connect the two things inseparably together—unceasing intercession and power to save completely in Christ. Complete salvation and unceasing intercession in us.
SUCH A HIGH PRIEST, THE SON PERFECTED FOR EVERMORE.
VH.—26. For such a High Priest became us, holy, guileless, undented, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;
27. Who needeth not dally, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.
28. For the law appolnteth men high priests, having infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was after the law, appolnteth a Son, perfected for evermore.
For such a High Priest became us—was suited to us, as being what we needed. The words refer to the whole chapter, but specially to the verse that just precedes—such a High Priest, one who abideth for ever, one who is able to save completely. lt also refers to what now follows, in which His personal characteristics are summed up. Holy, in fellowship and harmony with God; guileless, in the purity of His disposition; undented, in His having conquered all temptation from sin and the world; separated from sinners, a true Man among men, and yet one who had kept Himself free from their sin; made higher than the heavens, now exalted in the glory of God, to communicate to us the life and the blessings of the heavenly world.
Who needeth not daily like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people; for this He did once, when He offered up Himself. We saw that the glory of Christ's priesthood, in contrast with that of the many who had, by reason of death, to succeed each other, was, that He alone is Priest, because He abideth ever. Here we have the same truth from another side: in contrast with the daily ever-repeated sacrifices, He accomplished all when He offered Himself once. That which has to be repeated is imperfect; that which need be done only once is perfect and lasts for ever. Farther on we shall find the word once again, as having the same meaning with regard to His sacrifice which for ever has with regard to His priesthood.
He offered up Himself. We have here the first mention of the sacrifice of Christ. In chap. ii. we had mention of His death, here we see that it was death upon the altar. He is both Priest and Victim. His divine priesthood, as it is exercised in heaven, is the application of the blood and the virtue of that sacrifice which He brought upon earth. The once for all of the sacrifice is the counterpart of the lienceforth for ever of the throne of the heavens.
For the law, this is the conclusion of the whole, appointeth men high priests, having infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was after the law, appointeth a Son, perfected for evermore. The law was a preparation, to waken the need and the hope, of that true, supernatural, heavenly communion with God, which should be, not in words or wishes, but in the power of the eternal life. What the law could not do, God hath done, appointing as High Priest, the Son, perfected for evermore.
ln these last words we have the summing up of the whole preceding teaching of the Epistle. ln chap. i. it had spoken of the Son of God and His glory: He came from God, He is God, and has the life of God in Him; He is able to bring us near, into the true possession and enjoyment of the very life of God. In chaps, ii.-v. we had His humanity, His being made perfect through suffering and obedience. He so perfected a new human nature, which from heaven He imparts to us in the power of the Holy Ghost. ln chap. vii. we have now been taught what it means that He is the Priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek, whose person and priesthood and work are all in the power of the endless life, and who, because He ever abideth and ever intercedeth, is able to save completely, and to make our drawing nigh to God a life that abides continually. Such a High Priest became us, the Son, perfected for evermore.
And if such a High Priest became us, what becomes us now towards Him? Surely one thing, that we fully seek to know and to trust and to experience His saving power. If your heart does indeed long for deliverance from sin, for true near fellowship with God, for complete salvation, for a life in the power and the likeness of the Son of God, our Leader and Forerunner within the veil—you must learn to know Jesus both as Son of God and your High Priest. You must pray for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, that you may know the exceeding greatness of God's power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power in Christ Jesus, when He raised Him from the dead and set Him at His own right hand. You must believe that the mighty power by which He was thus perfected for evermore, and is seated at God's right hand, is working in you. Yield yourself up in faith to this mighty working of God in Christ, to the power of the eternal life with which from heaven He will work in you to draw you nigh to God, and keep you there. As you believe this, and trust Jesus for it, He Himself will make it your experience. Oh beware of thinking that these are beautiful words and images that Scripture gives; they are meant by God as the most downright actual realities for daily life and walk. God has given you such a High Priest that you might live an impossible life, a life above sense and reason, a supernatural life in the power of His Son. When Jesus ascended the throne His disciples were to wait for a communication direct from Himself of the spirit and power of the heavenly life into which He had entered for them. lt is the same Holy Spirit, dwelling in us in Pentecostal power, who alone can make all the blessed objective truth of the Epistle a living reality within us.
7. Ere we part from this chapter note well the three words in which lts practical teaching gathers up what our Melchizedek, who abideth a priest continually, is to us. The law of His working is: He dves all after the power of an endless life. The object of His work: the better hope, by which we draw nigh to God. The measure of His work: able to save completely. The power of eternal life, the nearness of God, and complete salvation are what He has to bestow.
2. The eternal priesthood of Christ: this is the first of the perfection truths that lead us to the perfection life. A Son, perfected for evermore, is our High Priest, who out of Himself and in Himself gives us the life we are to live.
3. The one thought of God in His word here is to make us feel what a complete salvation there is for us with such a Savlour. God speaks to us in His Son, glving us in Him His own lift.