And they truly – Under the Jewish dispensation. The object of this verse and the following is, to state one more reason of the excellence of the priesthood of Christ. It is, that owing to the frailty of human nature, and the shortness of life, the office of priest there was continually changing. But here there was no such change. Christ, being exalted to the heavens to live forever there, has now an unchangeable priesthood, and everything in regard to his office is permanent.
But this man – Greek “But he” – referring to Christ.
Because he continueth ever – Greek “Because he remains forever.” The idea is because he does not die, but ever lives, he has an unchanging priesthood. There is no necessity that he should yield it to others, as was the case with the Jewish priests because they were mortal. The reason in their case, why it passed to others, was not that they did not perform the office well, but that they were mortal, and could not continue to hold it. But this reason could not operate in the case of the Lord Jesus, and therefore his priesthood would be permanent.
Hath an unchangeable priesthood – Margin, “or, “which passeth not from one to another.” The margin expresses the sense of the passage. The idea is not strictly that it was “unchangable,” but that “it did not pass over into other hands.” The Levitical priesthood passed from one to another as successive generations came on the stage of action. This reasoning is not designed to prove that the priesthood of Christ will be literally “eternal” – for its necessity may cease when all the redeemed are in heaven – but that it is permanent, and does not pass from hand to hand,
Wherefore he is able also – As he ever lives, and ever intercedes, he has power to save. He does not begin the work of salvation, and then relinquish it by reason of death, but he lives on as long as it is necessary that anything should be done for the salvation of his people. We need a Saviour who has power, and Christ has shown that he has all the power which is needful to rescue man from eternal death.
To the uttermost – This does not mean simply “forever” – but that he has power to save them so that their salvation shall be “complete” – εἰς τὸ παντελὲς eis to panteles. He does not abandon the work midway; he does not begin a work which he is unable to finish. He can aid us as long as we need anything done for our salvation; he can save all who will entrust their salvation to his hands.
That come unto God by him – In his name; or depending on him. To come to God, is to approach him for pardon and salvation.
Seeing he ever liveth – He does not die as the Jewish priests did.
To make intercession for them – see the note at Rom_8:34. He constantly presents the merits of his death as a reason why we should be saved. The precise mode, however, in which he makes intercession in heaven for his people is not revealed. The general meaning is, that he undertakes their cause, and assists them in overcoming their foes and in their endeavors to live a holy life; compare 1Jo_2:1. He does in heaven whatever is necessary to obtain for us grace and strength; secures the aid which we need against our foes; and is the pledge or security for us that the law shall be honored, and the justice and truth of God maintained, though we are saved. It is reasonable to presume that this is somehow by the presentation of the merits of his great sacrifice, and that that is the ground on which all this grace is obtained. As that is infinite, we need not fear that it will ever be exhausted.
Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. We again observe how, at the end of successive stages of the argument, thoughts to be enlarged on afterwards are brought in. Here it is the perpetual intercession of Christ before the heavenly mercy-seat. In the view of his office thus arrived at there is, in fact, a transition to the main subject set forth in the three chapters that follow; viz. the fulfillment in Christ of the ceremonial of the Law, and especially of the high priest’s intercession on the Day of Atonement. And thus from Melchizedek the train of thought passes to the high priest. The type of the former has been sufficiently shown to be fulfilled in the higher order of Christ’s priesthood; it is now to be shown how, being of such higher order, it is the antitype of the Aaronic priesthood too, accomplishing what it signified. Hence in Heb_7:26 the word “high priest” (ἀρχιερεὺς) is for the first time introduced, as the key-note of what is coming.
Summary of the foregoing argument.
I. (Heb_7:1-11) What does the Melchizedek priesthood of Psa_110:1-7. signify?
1. (Heb_7:1-4) One not depending on human ancestry, and one forever abiding.
2. (Heb_7:4-11) One of a higher order than that of Aaron; for:
(1) Melchizedek, being of a race apart, received tithe from Abraham the patriarch.
(2) This denotes a higher position than that of the Aaronic priests, who tithed their brethren of the same race with themselves, in virtue only of a special ordinance.
(3) The blessing of Abraham by Melchizedek is similarly significant.
(4) The idea of an ever-living priest with a right to tithe transcends that of the temporary claims of a succession of dying men.
(5) Levi himself virtually paid tithe to Melchizedek.
II. (Heb_7:11-18) The Aaronic priesthood, and with it the whole dispensation based upon it, is thus shown to have been imperfect and transitory; for:
1. Otherwise a priesthood of another order would not have been spoken of in Psa_110:1-7.
2. Which priesthood is evidently distinct from the Aaronic, our Lord being of the tribe, not of Levi, but of Judah.
3. What has been seen (Psa_110:5 and 8) as to the Melchizedek priesthood being not “after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life,” makes this “more abundantly evident.”
Conclusion (Heb_7:18-20). The Aaronic priesthood (being in itself unprofitable) is therefore now superseded by an availing one, “through which we draw nigh unto God.”
III. (Heb_7:20-26) Christ’s priesthood is thus availing; for:
1. The Divine oath (Psa_110:1-7) established it, marking it as resting on the eternal Divine counsels.
2. It is (as shown by the same psalm) “unchangeable.” The one Priest abides forever.
Conclusion (Heb_7:25). We have, therefore, in him at last, a perfectly availing and eternal interceding High Priest.
For such an High Priest became us – Was suited to our condition. That is, there was that in our character and circumstances which demanded that a high priest for us should be personally holy. It was not requisite merely that he should have great power; or that he should be of a rank superior to that of the Jewish priesthood; but there was a special propriety that he should surpass all others in “moral” purity. Other priests were mere mortal men, and it was necessary that their office should pass to other hands; they were “sinful” men also, and it was necessary that sacrifices should be made for themselves as well as others. We need, however, a different priest. We need not only one who ever lives, but one who is perfectly holy, and who has no need to bring an offering for himself, and all the merit of whose sacrifice, therefore, may be ours. Such an high priest we have in the person of the Lord Jesus; and there is no truth more interesting, and no proposition more susceptible of proof, than that he is exactly Fitted to man. In his moral character, and in the great work which he has accomplishcd, he is just such a Saviour as is adapted to the wants of ignorant, fallen, wretched, sinful man. He is benevolent, and pities our woes; wise, and is able to enlighten our ignorance; compassionate, and ready to forgive our faults. He has made such a sacrifice as was necessary to put away our guilt, and offers such intercession as we need to have offered for us in order that we may be preserved from falling.
Who is holy – Not merely “outwardly righteous,” but pure in heart.
Harmless – Not injuring anyone. To no one did he do wrong. Neither to their name, person, or property, did he ever do injury; nor will he ever. He is the only one who has lived on earth of whom it could be said that he never, in any way, did wrong to another.
Undefiled – By sin; by any improper desire or passion. He was unstained by crime; “unspotted from the world.” Sin always defiles the soul; but from every such pollution the Lord Jesus was free.
Separate from sinners – That is, he did not associate with them as such. He did not partake of their feelings, plans, pleasures. Though he mingled with them, yet it was merely to do them good, and in all his life there was an entire separation from the feelings, principles, and views of a sinful world.
And made higher than the heavens – Exalted above the visible heavens; that is, at the right hand of God; see the Eph_1:21 note; Phi_2:9 note. We needed a high priest who is thus exalted that he may manage our cause before the throne of God.
For such a High Priest became us, holy, harmless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens. Such a High Priest, it is said, for us was fitting. The same word ἔπρεπε was used in Heb_2:10, where the humiliation of Christ was spoken of. It was there said that to make the Captain of our salvation perfect through suffering “became” God—was befitting to what we conceive of the Divine nature. It is now said that our High Priest’s being such as is here described “became” us—was befitting to our state and needs. That he should be both human and superhuman was in all respects fitting—the one that he might be our sympathizing brother; the other that his intercession might avail. The further description of him in this verse is suggested by the qualifications of the Aaronic high priest, what they typified being realized in Christ. The high priest was by his consecration a holy person, ἅγιος (Le 21:6, 8, etc); he bore on his miter “Holiness to the Lord” (Exo_39:30); he must be without personal blemish (Le 21:17, etc); he must keep himself continually from all ceremonial pollution (Lev_21:1-24. and 22); he must purify himself by a sacrifice for himself and by special ablutions before entering the holy of holies (Lev_16:1-34); when there, he was conceived as in God’s presence, apart from the world of sinners outside. Christ was not only ἅγιος, but ὅσιος, personally and inwardly holy (Christians in the New Testament are all called ἅγιος, but not all ὁσι ́οι: for the use of which word, el. Tit_1:8; Act_2:27; Act_13:34, where it is applied to Christ, τὸν ὅσιον σου: and Rev 15:4-16:5, where it is applied to God as his special attribute, ὅτι μόνος ὅσιος); Christ was actually free from evil (ἄκακος) and undefiled (ἀμι ́αντος). by any contact of sin; and as such he has passed to God’s actual presence (cf. διελελύθοτα τοὺς οὐρανοὺς, Heb_4:14), separated forever from the world of sinners.
Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once for all, when he offered up himself. The expression “daily” (καθ ἡμέραν) is not in strictness applicable to the high priest, who did not offer the daily sacrifice. The reference throughout what follows being to the high priest’s peculiar functions on the Day of Atonement, κατ ἐνιαυτόν might have been expected. There are two tenable solutions:
(1) that the daily offerings of the priests are regarded as made by the high priest, who represented the whole priesthood, on the principle, qui facit per altos tacit per se;
(2) that καθ ἡμε ́ραν (as is suggested by its position in the sentence) belongs not to οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς, but only to Christ: “who has no need daily, as the high priests have yearly:” for his intercession being perpetual, an offering on his part would be needed daily, if needed at all. This view is supported by the fact that the daily sacrifices are not spoken of in the Law as including a special one in the first place for the priest’s own sin. “This he did.” Did what? Offer for his own sins as well as for the people’s? No; for, though it has been seen above (Heb_5:7) how the high priest’s offering for himself might have its counterpart in the agony, the Sinless One cannot be said to have offered for sins of his own. And, besides, he having offered himself (ἑαυτο ̀ν ἀνενεγκας), the offering could not be for himself. We must, therefore, take “this he did” as referring only to the latter part of the preceding clause, while ἐαυτὸν, προσενέγκας answers to the former part; or as implying generally, “did all that was needed for atonement.”
Who needeth not daily, as those high priests – As the Jewish priests. This is an additional circumstance introduced to show the superior excellency of the High Priest of the Christian profession, and to show also how he was suited to our wants. The Jewish high priest was a sinful man. He had the same fallen and corrupt nature as others. He needed an expiatory sacrifice for his own sins as really as they did for theirs. When he approached God to offer sacrifice, it was needful to make an atonement for himself, and when all was done it was still a sacrifice offered by a sinful man. But it was not so in the case of Jesus. He was so holy that he needed no sacrifice for himself, and all that he did was in behalf of others. Besides, it was necessary that the sacrifices in the Jewish service should be constantly repeated. They were imperfect. They were mere types and shadows. They who offered them were frail, sinful men. It became necessary, therefore, to repeat them every day to keep up the proper sense of their transgressions, and to furnish a suitable acknowledgment of the tendency to sin alike among the people and the priests. Neither in the nature of the offering, nor in the character of those who made it, was there any sufficient reason why it should cease to be offered, and it was therefore repeated day by day. But it was not so with the Lord Jesus. The offering which he made, though presented but once, was so ample and perfect that it had sufficient merit for all the sins of the world, and needed never to be repeated. It is not probable that the Jewish high priest himself personally officiated at the offering of sacrifice every day; but the meaning here is, that it was done daily, and that there was need of a daily sacrifice in his behalf. As one of the Jewish people, the sacrifice was offered on his account as well as on the account of others – for he partook of the common infirmities and sinfulness of the nation.
For this he did once – That is, once for all – ἐφα ́παξ ephapax. He made such an atonement that it was not needful that it should be repeated. Thus, he put an end to sacrifice, for when he made the great atonement it was complete, and there was no need that any more blood should be shed for human guilt.
For the Law maketh men high priests, having infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was after the Law, maketh the Son, perfected for evermore. With men (i.e. a succession of men; cf. Heb_7:8) having infirmity is contrasted the one Son, for ever perfected. The absence of the article before υἱὸς does not imply the meaning “a son;” the title denotes here, as throughout the Epistle, the peculiar Son of prophecy (see under Heb_1:1). There is here no denial of his complete humanity, though he is plainly regarded as more than man. Nor is his participation In human ἀσθενεια, in the sense explained under Heb_5:1-14., denied. His implied freedom from it may mean either that he never had any inherent in himself, none due to personal imperfection, or that now, in his exalted state, he is altogether removed from it. In both these senses the implication is true; and both may be understood; but τετελειωμένον being here opposed to ἔχοντας ἀσθενει ́αν (as υἵον to ἀνθρω ́ πους), the latter sense may be conceived to have been especially in the writer’s mind. It is, in fact, our ever-living High Priest, interceding for us above, after passing through human experience, and after atonement completed, that is now being presented to our view. It is to be observed, lastly, that τετελειωμένον in this verse may be intended to bear, or at any rate to suggest, the special sense noted under Heb_5:9, and strenuously maintained by Jackson, and hence to be not incorrectly rendered by “consecrated” in the A.V; and this notwithstanding Alford’s protest against this rendering as “obliterating both sense anti analogy with Heb_2:10 and Heb_5:1.”
For the law – The ceremonial law.
Which have infirmity – Who are weak, frail, sinful, dying. Such were all who were appointed to the office of priest under the Jewish Law.
But the word of the oath – By which one was appointed after the order of Melchizedek; note, Heb_7:21.
Maketh the Son – The Son of God. That appointment has resulted in his being set apart to this work.
Who is consecrated forevermore – Margin, “Perfected;” see the note at Heb_2:10. The idea is, that the appointment is “complete” and “permanent.” It does not pass from one to the other. It is perfect in all the arrangements, and will remain so forever.
The subject of this chapter is the exalted high priesthood of the Redeemer. This is a subject which pertains to all Christians, and to all men. All religions imply the priestly office; all suppose sacrifice of some kind. In regard to the priestly office of Christ as illustrated in this chapter, we may observe:
(1) He stands alone. In that office he had no predecessor, and has no one to succeed him. In this respect he was without father, mother, or descent – and he stands in lonely majesty as the only one who sustains the office; Heb_7:3.
(2) He is superior to Abraham. Abraham never laid claim to the ofrice of priest, but he recognized his inferiority to one whom the Messiah was to resemble; Heb_7:2, Heb_7:4.
(3) He is superior to all the Jewish priesthood – sustaining a rank and performing an office above them all. The great ancestor of all the Levitical priests recognized his inferiority to one of the rank or “order” of which the Messiah was to be, and received from him a blessing. In our contemplation of Christ, therefore, as priest, we have the privilege of regarding him as superior to the Jewish high priest – exalted as was his office, and important as were the functions of his office; as more grand, more pure, more worthy of confidence and love.
(4) The great High Priest of the Christian profession is the only perfect priest; Heb_7:11, Heb_7:19. The Jewish priests were all imperfect and sinful men. The sacrifices which they offered were imperfect, and could not give peace to the conscience. There was need of some better system, and they all looked forward to it. But in the Lord Jesus, and in his work, there is absolute perfection. What he did was complete, and his office needs no change.
(5) The office now is permanent. It does not change from hand to hand; Heb_7:23-24. He who sustains this office does not die, and we may ever apply to him and cast our cares on him. Men die; one generation succeeds another; but our High Priest is the same. We may trust in him in whom our fathers found peace and salvation, and then we may teach our children to confide in the same High Priest – and so send the invaluable lesson down to latest generations.
(6) His work is firm and sure; Heb_7:20-22. His office is founded on an oath, and he has become the security for all who will commit their cause to him. Can great interests like those of the soul be entrusted to better hands? Are they not safer in his keeping than in our own?
(7) He is able to save to the uttermost; Heb_7:25. That power he showed when he was on earth; that power he is constantly evincing. No one has asked aid of him and found him unable to render it; no one has been suffered to sink down to hell because his arm was weak. What he has done for a few he can do for “all;” and they who will entrust themselves to him will find him a sure Saviour. So why will people not be persuaded to commit themselves to him? Can they save themselves? Where is there one who has shown that he was able to do it? Do they not need a Saviour? Let the history of the world answer. Can man conduct his own cause before God? How weak, ignorant, and blind is he; how little qualified for such an office! Has anyone suffered wrong by committing himself to the Redeemer? If there is such an one, where is he? Who has ever made this complaint that has tried it? Who ever will make it? In countless millions of instances, the trial has been made whether Christ was “able to save.” Men have gone with a troubled spirit; with a guilty conscience; and with awful apprehensions of the wrath to come, and have asked him to save them. Not one of those who have done this has found reason to doubt his ability; not one has regretted that he has committed the deathless interest of the soul into his hands.
(8) Christ saves to the uttermost; Heb_7:25. He makes the salvation complete. So the Bible assures us; and so we see it in fact as far as we can trace the soul. When a Christian friend dies, we stand at his bed-side and accompany him as far as we can into the valley of the shadow of death. We ask him whether he feels that Christ is able to save? He replies, “yes.” When he has lost the power of speaking above a whisper, we ask him the same question, and receive the same reply. When he gives us the parting hand, and we, still anxious to know whether all is well, ask the same question, a sign, a smile, a lighting up of the dying eye, declares that all is well. As far as we can trace the departing soul when it goes into the dark valley, we receive the same assurance; and why should we doubt that the same grace is bestowed further onward, and that he saves “to the uttermost?” But what else thus saves? Friends give the parting hand at the gloomy entrance to that valley, and the frivolous and the worldly coolly turn away. The delusions of infidelity there forsake the soul, and minister no comfort then. Flatterers turn away from the dying scene – for who flatters the dying with the praise of beauty or accomplishments? Taste, skill, learning, talent, do not help then, for how can they save a dying soul? None but Jesus saves to the “uttermost;” no other friend but he goes with us entirely through the valley of death. Is it not better to have such a friend than to go alone through that dark, gloomy path? Any other gloomy and dangerous way may be more safely trod without a friend, than the vale of death.
(9) The Christian religion is suited to our condition; Heb_7:26-27. It has just such a High Priest as we need – holy, harmless, undefiled. Just such an atonement has been made as is necessary – ample, rich, full, and not needing to be made again. It reveals just such truth as we want – that respecting the immortality of the soul, and the glorious state of the redeemed beyond the grave. It imparts just such consolation as is suited to our condition – pure, rich, unfailing, elevating. It reconciles us to God just as it should be done – in such a way that God can be honored, and the purity and dignity of his Law maintained. It is the religion adapted to dying, ignorant, sinful, wretched man. No other system so much consults the true dignity of our nature, and the honor of God; no one diffuses such consolations through the life that is, or fills with such hopes in regard to the life to come.
(10) since, then, we have now such a Great High Priest; since the promises of the gospel are settled on so firm a foundation; and since the gospel in its provisions of mercy is all that we can desire it to be, let us yield our hearts entirely to the Saviour, and make this salvation wholly ours. We have the privilege, if we will, of drawing near to God with boldness. We may come near his throne. Though we are poor, and sinful, and deserve neither notice nor mercy, yet we may come and ask for all that we need. We may go to God, and supplicate his favor, with the assurance that he is ready to hear. We may go feeling that the great atonement has been made for our sins, and that no other offering is now needed; that the last bloody offering which God required has been presented, and that all that he now asks is the sacrifice of a contrite and a grateful heart. All that was needful to be done on the part of God to provide a way of salvation has been done; all that remains is for man to forsake his sins and to come back to a God who waits to be gracious.