“For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.”
This whole epistle appears to be devoted to an exhibition of the mediatorial relations which our Redeemer bears to his Father and his church, prominent among which his priesthood is the peculiar theme of the inspired writer. The epistle begins with the testimony of his sonship, and as the medium of divine revelation to the saints on earth, God who spake to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, and by whom also he made the worlds. Who being the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, &c. The Son of God thus identified, is next presented in the perfect work of purging our sins, and then sitting down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. In purging our sins, his priestly office is involved, and a comparison of him with angels and with the priests of the Levitical order, by way of contrast, is instituted; wherein his unexampled pedigree, the higher order of his priesthood, and the superiority of the testament of which he is the surety, are brought to view. The disparity between the order of Aaron’s priesthood, and that of Melchisedec, is very clearly and strikingly demonstrated by several qualifications which Christ possessed over those possessed by Aaron and his sons, among which is that found in our text, namely, the oath, by which the perpetuity and immutability of his priesthood are established.
The law maketh men high priests which have infirmity. That is, the law to which the Levitical priesthood belonged, for Aaron and his sons had infirmities, were liable to diseases, like other men, and could not long fill the office by reason of death, yet the law expressly made these men high priests, and allowed no other men to hold the office. Hence we are told that there being a change of the priesthood, there must of necessity be also a change of the law. The law could not recognize any but Levites, and it is evident that our Lord sprung out of Judea, of which tribe Moses (or the law,) spake nothing concerning the priesthood. The law under which Aaron was made a priest is called the law of a carnal commandment; that is, it had reference to the fleshy persons, descent, physical and mental properties of those who were to hold the office. If a son of Aaron was blemished in his person, or unsound physically, he was disqualified, because the Levitical law and priesthood regarded the commonwealth of Israel as the fleshly descendants of Abraham. But Christ is not made a priest after the law, but by the power of an endless life. And there was verily a disannulling of the law going before, for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope, by the which we draw nigh unto God. The inspired writer having thus explained the distinction between the covenants, or testaments, or laws, goes on to speak of the oath which was required in the priestly office of Christ, as another essential difference between the two priesthoods and laws, and in doing so, makes use of the words of our text, before summing up the arguments.
In the foregoing references to the testimony, we see that the men which were made high priests by the law, all had infirmities, and had first to offer sacrifices for their own sins, and then for the people’s; and such was their infirmity they could not continue in the office by reason of death. But the word of the oath which was since the law, maketh the Son who is consecrated for evermore. The word of the oath is quoted in the twenty-first verse of this chapter, from Psalm cx. 4, “The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent. Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.”
The word of this oath was since the law. Not that the word was not spoken, or the oath taken until after the legal dispensation expired, for the law and the prophets were until John, but the inspired psalmist declares that it was in the past tense in his days, more than fifteen hundred years before the days of John the Baptist. And we understand that Christ, as signified by the peculiar order of his priesthood, was a Priest, without predecessor or successor, without descent, without father or mother, in the priesthood, and without beginning of days or end of life. Thou art a priest forever, after the order of Melchisedec, was the word of the oath, and that order is expressly defined as signifying that his priesthood was without beginning or end, and after the power of immortality. So long then as Jesus has embodied in himself the immortality of his body and members, as their mediatorial Head and Life, the words of the oath by which he is made priest have been in force. But his appearance now in the end of the world to officiate in the priestly office, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, was in the order of time, subsequently to the priesthood of Aaron. In the same sense in which he is called the second Adam. Not that Adam existed before him in reality, for before the dust of the world, out of which Adam was formed, was made, Christ existed in his mediatorial relation to his body and members, as one brought up with the Father. In manifestation to us, Christ was the second Adam, while as the Lord from heaven, his goings forth were of old, from everlasting; so in the order of divine revelation, the types preceded their antitypes, the shadows, their substance. The word of the oath, “Thou art a Priest,” not thou shalt be a Priest, the word of the oath is in the perfect tense, but this word of the oath by which he is made a Priest, involved the necessity of his advent to the world, and of his being made under the law to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. Moreover, the word of the oath consecrated him as the High Priest for evermore, and thus secures the perpetuity of his priesthood. He is not to be removed by infirmity, by death, or anything else. He is not to be superceded by any other priests or priesthoods, sacrifices or sufferings, but to represent his people as their only dependence for acceptance before God for evermore.
In the summing up of what had been said, the amount of testimony is thus given: “We have such an High Priest, who is set on 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 pitched and not man” who has by so much obtained a more excellent ministry, than that under the Old Covenant or Testament; by how much also he is the Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. The superior excellency of the new covenant over the old is to be estimated by the superiority of the priesthood of Christ over that of Aaron. The better promises are those which God, that cannot lie, made before the world began, and which is confirmed by oath. An oath for confirmation with men is an end of all strife, wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things, by which it is impossible that God should lie, we might have a strong consolation who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us, which hope we have, as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil, whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus made an High Priest forever, after the order of Melchisedec.
Well might the inspired penman assure us that “Such an High Priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.” And also that he is able to save unto the uttermost all who come unto God by him, seeing that he ever liveth to make intercession for them. One who is easily touched with the feelings of our infirmities, having been tempted in all points as we are, and yet without sin. Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.
April 1, 1857.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 3
Pages 444 - 447