IDS Weekend Radio Show: Episode 16, New Covenant, part 12

Geoff Volker and Paul Honeycutt continue their discussion of Hebrews 7 and  the priesthood of Jesus in comparison with that of the Old Covenant.

IDS Weekend Radio Show: Episode 15, New Covenant, part 11

Geoff Volker and Paul Honeycutt continue their discussion in Hebrews 7 of the priesthood of Jesus (the Melchizedek priesthood) as compared to the Aaronic priesthood of the Old Covenant.

IDS Weekend Radio Show: Episode 14, New Covenant, part 10

Geoff Volker and Paul Honeycutt examine the priesthood of Melchizedek as it is found in Hebrews 7.

IDS Weekend Radio Show: Episode 11, New Covenant, part 7

Geoff Volker and Paul Honeycutt look at Jeremiah 31 as it prophecies the coming of the New Covenant.

IDS Weekend Radio Show: Episode 10, New Covenant, part 6

Geoff Volker and Paul Honeycutt once again examine the New Covenant as described in Hebrews 8:8-13 and Hebrews 10:14-18.

Got Solid Food? King of Righteousness, King of Peace, Priest of the Most High God

Those with appetite for “solid food” are brought to understanding via in-depth study beginning with the last half of Hebrews 6 that “hope [is] like a sure and firm anchor of the soul” [v. 19 (HCSB)] if it rests in the “high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek” (v. 20) — Jesus — and that hope is illusory if it rests in other than Him, the Priest-King.  As Dr. John MacArthur advocated via Hard To Believe:  The High Cost and Infinite Value of Following Jesus, the wide gate and broad road that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13) is prevalently marked “Jesus”; alas, it’s not Jesus the Priest-King which interests the unregenerate.  Astonishingly, even among the regenerate elect, Truth regarding the Priest-King is quenched; evisceration of the church via concomitant woeful beliefs and practices has been and continues to be the result.

At Hebrews 5:6, remember, the Writer quoted Psalm 110:4:  “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek”.  At 5:12, the Writer lamented:  “You need milk, not solid food”.  At 6:4 – 8, the Writer solemnly warns those satisfied with “milk” of their inevitable curse and burning; faith without appetite is dead (assuming mental capacity).

[Then], the author [] related his readers’ condition to the purpose of God, as evidenced especially in his dealings with Abraham.  In [6:20], the author completes his careful preparaton for the ‘teaching difficult to explain’ (5:11).  He does this by a skilful combination of motifs:  (1) traditional teaching about the resurrection or exaltation of Christ is re-expressed in terms of the entry of a high priest into the inner sanctuary; and (2) the contrast between Jesus’ ministry and that of the OT priesthood is expressed by use of the Melchizedek motif.  This comparison and contrast, both based on exegesis of OT texts, will prove to be the heart of the epistle.

Paul Ellingworth, The New International Greek Testament Commentary ~ The Epistle to the Hebrews, pp. 347 – 348 (link previously provided).  The “heart of the epistle” is, indeed, the expostion of its central theme:  The New Covenant.  The Writer

argues powerfully that a new priesthood signals a new covenant.  You cannot graft Christ’s high-priesthood onto that of the Mosaic order.  Nor can the Mosaic priesthood survive under the ‘better covenant’ established in Christ’s atoning blood.  There is a new covenant and a new priesthood, and former things have passed away.

Edgar Andrews, A Glorious High Throne, p. 189 (emphasis sic) (link previously provided).  John MacArthur astutely observed:

The accounts of Melchizedek in sacred history are one of the most remarkable proofs of the divine inspiration and unity of Scripture.  The whole concept of Melchizedek is an amazing insight into the fact that God wrote the Bible.  In Genesis we have only three verses about Melchizedek.  Some thousand years later David makes a briefer mention of him in Psalm 110:4, declaring for the first time that the Messiah’s priesthood would be like Melchizedek’s.  After another thousand years, the writer of Hebrews tells us even more of Melchizedek’s significance.  He reveals things about Melchizedek that even Melchizedek, or his contemporary, Abraham, did not know — and of which David had only a glimpse.  So we reason that the God who wrote the book of Hebrews wrote the book of Genesis and Psalm 110 — and all the rest of Scripture.

The MacArthur New Testament Commentary ~ Hebrews, p. 173 (link previously provided).  Prior to asserting such, Dr. MacArthur explained:

In biblical study, a type refers to an Old Testament person, practice, or ceremony that has a counterpart, an antitype, in the New Testament.  In that sense types are predictive.  The type pictures, or prefigures, the antitype.  The type, though it is historical, real, and of God, is nonetheless imperfect, and temporary.  The antitype, on the other hand, is perfect and eternal.  The study of types and antitypes is called, as one might expect, typology.

* * *

Melchizecek is [] a type of Christ.  As mentioned earlier, the Bible gives very little historical information about Melchizedek.  All that we know is located in Genesis 14, Psalm 110, and Hebrews 5 -7.  The most detailed information is in Hebrews 7:1 – 3.

* * *

Chapter 7 is the focal point of Hebrews.  It concerns the central, the most important, part of Judaism — the priesthood.  No sacrifices could be made except by the priest and no forgiveness of sins could be had apart from the sacrifices.  Obedience to the law was exceedingly important, but the offering of sacrifices was even more important.  And the priesthood was essential for offering them.  Consequently, the priesthood was exalted in Judaism.

The law God gave Israel was holy and good, but because the Israelites, as all men, were sinful by nature, they could not keep the law perfectly.  When they broke the law, fellowship with God was also broken.  The only way of restoring fellowship was to remove the sin that was committed, and the only way to do that was through a blood sacrifice.  When a person repented and made a proper offering through the priest, his sacrifice was meant to show the genuineness of his penitence by obedience to God’s requirement.  God accepted that faithful act and granted forgiveness.

Id. at 172.  Guthrie and Moo add:

The type of commentary found in 7:1 – 10 is known as midrash [running exposition on the Old Testament text].  J. A. Fitzmyer has noted that Hebrews 7 has features in common with a midrash:  The Old Testament text is the point of departure, the exposition is homiletical, the author stresses details of the scriptural passage, the text is shown to be relevant to the contemporary audience, and the focus is on the narrative of the Old Testament situation, not just the individual characters.

The author of Hebrews may have been familiar with speculations about Melchizedek in various religious communities of his day.  Yet, the author’s treatment of this priest can be explained wholly on his treatment of the two Old Testament texts in which Melchizedek is named.  His treatment of Melchizedek in 7:1 – 10 can be explained as an expostion of Genesis 14:17 – 20 with Psalm 110:4 in mind.

George H. Guthrie, Douglas J. Moo (Clinton E. Arnold, Gen. Ed.), Hebrews, James; Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, p. 43 – 44 (italics sic) (link previously provided).  Ellingworth further observes:

The central problem in this passage is the status of Melchizedek in relation to Christ.  Elsewhere in Hebrews, whenever OT figures are drawn into the argument, their place in the hierarchy is made crystal clear, usually by contrast with that of Jesus.  The angels are ministering spirits (1:13), but Jesus is Son; ‘Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant …, but Christ was faithful over God’s house as a son’ (3:5f.); the levitical priests hold their office ‘according to a legal requirement concerning bodily descent’; Christ holds his ‘by the power of an indestructible life’ (7:17).  * * *

Melchizedek is unique among OT figures in Hebrews in that his status is neither contrasted with that of Christ nor directly related to that of believers.  * * *  The passage as a whole excludes a temporal succession between Melchizedek and Christ, since both are priests “for ever”, and the argument thus cannot strictly be called typological.

* * *

The awkwardness of the introduction of Melchizedek into the argument remains:  he constitutes an unnecessary complication in the comparison and contrast between priesthood in the old and in the new dispensations.  In an author whose argument is generally so well articulated, the awkwardness demands explanation, and one is driven to look for external factors which more or less obliged him to speak of Melchizedek.

Ellingworth at 350 – 351.  While Dr. MacArthur’s observation regarding the “divine inspiration and unity of Scripture” (supra)  is surely the correct view, we’ll consider the “external factors” next time (Deo volente).  For now, please consider Dr. MacArthur’s observations regarding the Levitical Priesthood, as Hebrews 7:1 – 3 instructs us as to the superiority of Melchizedek’s priesthood (and, of course, that of Jesus) to the Levitical Priesthood:

First, as mentioned above, the entire tribe of Levi was dedicated by God for religious service.  Although all priests were Levites, not all Levites were priests.  All priests, in fact, not only had to be descended from Levi but also from Aaron, Moses’ brother.  The nonpriestly Levites served as helpers to the priests, and probably as singers, instrumentalists, and the like.  The priesthood was strictly national, strictly Jewish.  Second, the Levites were subject to the king just as much as were the other tribes.  Their priestly functions were not under the control of the king, but in all other matters they were ordinary subjects.  They were in no way a ruling class.  A Levite, in fact, could not be king.  They were set aside as a first fruit to God for special priestly service (Num. 8:14 – 16).  Third, the priestly sacrifices, including the one by the high priest on the Day of Atonement, were not permanent.  They had to be repeated and repeated and repeated — continually.  They had no permanence.  They provided no permanent forgiveness, no permanent righteousness, no permanent peace.  Fourth, the Levitical priesthood was hereditary.  A man who served as a priest did so because he was born into the right family, not because he lived a right life.  Fifth, just as the effects of the sacrifices were temporary, so was the time of priestly service.  A priest served from the age of 25 until the age of 50, after which his ministry was over (Num. 8:24 – 25).

MacArthur/Hebrews at 174.

Got Solid Food? Two Unchangeable Things

For the promise to Abraham or to his decendants that he would inherit the world was not through the law, but through the righteousness that comes by faith [Romans 4:13 (HCSB)].

Was (were) Abraham(’s decendants) promised that (t)he(y) would “inherit the world”?!  Yes … according to the Holy Spirit (!).  Romans 4:13 is the source of such information; nowhere within the Old Covenant Scriptures is any such indication to be found.  Despite progressive revelation, multitudes today confine the promises by YHVH [to Abraham (and his seed)] to the physical land of Canaan [disregarding, of course, Joshua 21:43 (“So the LORD gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it”)].  Jesus’ declaration that “[y]our father Abraham was overjoyed that he would see My day; he saw it, and rejoiced[]” is relegated to a “hard saying of Jesus”.

The Holy Spirit, again via Paul (via his letter to the churches of Galatia), informs us – unequivocally — as to the identity of the beneficiaries of the promises by YHVH [to Abraham (and his seed)]; to wit:

Just as Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness, so understand that those who have faith are Abraham’s sons.  Now the Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and foretold the good news to Abraham, saying ‘All the nations will be blessed in you’.  So those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith [Galatians 3:6 – 9 (HCSB)].

Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed.  He does not say ‘and to his seeds,’  as though referring to many, but ‘and to your seed,’ referring to one, who is Christ (v. 16).

And if you are Christ’s, then your are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise (v. 29).

Lamentably, multitudes today insist that we “make God a liar”, simply/ironically because we believe Him (!); their system-driven theology blinds them to crucial Truth.  Their Israel-centered hermeneutic has wrought/wreaks church-eviscerating doctrines which Dr. John MacArthur rightly recognized as woeful error and, concomitantly, wrote (decades ago) The Gospel According to Jesus.  In response, classical dispensationalists (Dr. Charles Ryrie led the charge), rightly recognizing that doctines such as Jesus’ Lordship are antithetical to dispensationalism, besieged Dr. MacArthur, who then wrote Faith Works/The Gospel According to the Apostles, and proclaimed himself a “leaky dispensationalist”.  Dr. MacArthur, of course, adhered and adheres to the Israel-centered hermeneutic — satisfied to be “leaky” — and is today a champion of those who insist that we “make God a liar”.  Discouraged but undeterred, we pursue Truth.

We’ve seen that the Writer of Hebrews “sets the table” for the “solid food” (5:12) about to be fed to those with appetite for “solid food” {those upon whom the warning (6:4 – 8 ) is not operative [such warning being operative upon those self-satisfied with “milk” (5:12)]} with “God[‘s … ] promise to Abraham” (v. 13).  We’ve also seen that we’re to be “imitators of those who inherit the promises through faith and perseverance[]” and that the key to that clause — which ends the sentence which comprises v v. 11 – 12 — is “the promises”.

Because God wanted to show His unchangeable purpose even more clearly to the heirs of the promise, He guaranteed it with an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us [Hebrews 6:17 – 18 (HCSB)].

At p. 168 of The MacArthur New Testament Commentary ~ Hebrews, Dr. MacArthur categorically asserts that “[t]he two unchangeable things are God’s promise and His pledge, His promise and His oath” (emphasis sic).  Surprisingly, Edgar Andrews, at p. 182 of A Glorious High Throne [note:  For links to any commentary not linked within the instant “post”, please see previous “posts” (click link below to The Book of Hebrews or to Jim McDermott)] , concurs, as does Paul Ellingworth, at p. 342 of The New International Greek Testament Commentary:  The Epistle to the Hebrews.  The broader context, however, indicates otherwise.

The ‘two unchangeable things’ of 6:18 are the two parts of Psalm 110:4, to which the author alludes:  ‘You are a priest forever’ and ‘in the order of Melchizedek.’  The allusion as used here begins a transition back to a discussion of Melchizedek in chapter 7.  In that chapter the author expounds the two parts of Psalm 110:4 in inverse order:

‘You are a priest forever’ (Heb. 7:15 – 28).

‘In the order of Melchizedek’ (Heb. 7:11 – 14).

Why are these two proclamations by God ‘unchangeable’?  In the words of Psalm 110:4, ‘The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind.’  God cannot lie (Heb. 6:18).

George H. Guthrie and Douglas J. Moo, Hebrews, James  Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, p. 41.

Dr. Guthrie, via Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, G.K. Beale and D.A Carson, eds. (2007, Baker Academic), additionally asks and answers at p. 967:

Why do these two facts give encouragement to those who have fled to God to take hold of hope (6:18 – 19)?  Christ has become our high priest according to the order of Melchizedek (6:20) in fulfillment of the psalm’s prophetic oath.

“[T]he promise to Abraham is the theological basis for ultimate fulfillment of that promise in ‘the heirs’ (6:17) — that is, the new-covenant community”.  * * *  God’s “nature being what it is, therefore, his oaths carry a lasting certainty.  Specifically for Hebrews, since God has sworn an oath in the form of Ps. 110:4 (109:4 LXX), therefore, Jesus has become the guarantor or guarantee of a better covenant (7:22), being a ‘permanent’ high priest (7:24).  He is the same — yesterday, today, and forever (13:8).  This provides strong encouragement for those of the new covenant, because their relationship with God could not be more stable.”  Id. at 966.

Thus, believers have fled to take hold of the hope — the ‘horns of the altar’ where atonement has been made for sins through Jesus’ high priestly offering (see also Lev. 16:18 [see Ex. 30:1 – 10]).  This hope, therefore, enters ‘behind the curtain’ (6:19) and gives us a place of refuge.

* * *

For the author of Hebrews, the Christian’s hope is to enter the inner sanctuary behind the curtain because that is where Jesus has gone as our high priest.  In the old covenant religion, only the high priest could enter the inner sanctuary, and he could do so only once a year on the Day of Atonement.  Jesus, however, has entered the true Most Holy Place, heaven, and there intercedes always for us (Heb. 7:25).  Thus our hope is made as sure as it could be, Jesus providing a superior, lasting covenant that guarantees our permanent audience with the living God.

Guthrie, Moo at 41 – 42.

“Since the ancient promise is finally fulfilled in Christ, only those can benefit who have fled to Him for salvation.”  Andrews at p. 183; Andrews aptly quotes from two hymns (the first, anonymous; the second, Augustus Toplady):

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the lord,

Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!

What more can He say than to you He has said,

You who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

 

Nothing in my hand I bring,

Simply to thy cross I cling.

“The divine kingship and efficacious work of our High Priest is the basis of our security.  There can be no greater safety.”  Id. at 185.  Deo volente, we’ll more closely examine the “solid food” that is the teaching about our Priest/King next time.  Again:  How’s your appetite?!

Got Solid Food? Setting The Table

“Your father Abraham was overjoyed that he would see my day; he saw it, and rejoiced”.  John 8:56 (HCSB).

“For when God made a promise to Abraham, since He had no one greater to swear by, He swore by himself”.  Hebrews 6:13 (HCSB).

[The Writer] is saying, ‘Not only can you look around you at the true believers as examples; even Abraham, who lived a thousand years before Christ came to earth, is a model for your trusting in Him.  Look back in your own history and see a man who totally trusted God.’

The MacArthur New Testament Commentary ~ Hebrews at 161.

We’ll “see” next week (Deo volente) how Hebrews 6:13 ff. transitions from table-setting to the “solid food”.  First, though, we must briefly consider the preceding few verses, for they give rise to some crucial considerations.

Hebrews 6:10 is “tailor-made” for Thank You cards and the like given to Christians.  Of course, it’s only the regenerate elect whose past and ongoing service TO THE SAINTS is “remembered” by God; He is no one’s debtor!  Furthermore, such service is “remembered” only when the labor of love is for His name (His merits, His glory, and advancement of His kingdom).  Verse 10 is, of course, compatible with Galatians 6:10; that is, ministry to those outside “the household of faith” is indeed encouraged, but, such is not contemplated via Hebrews 6:10. Continue reading

You Talkin’ To Me?! (“Got Solid Food?” series)

Here is the critical basis for understanding the epistle [to the Hebrews]; and here is where people often get mixed up, especialy in interpreting chapters 6 and 10.  * * *  The key to interpreting any part of Hebrews is to understand which group is being addressed.  If we do not understand that, we are bound to confuse the issues.  … .  We must always understand what group it is to whom He speaks .  … .  The primary message is addressed to believers.  Periodically, there are interspersed warnings to the [ ] unbelieving groups.  In a masterful way, in a way that could only be divine, the Holy Spirit speaks to all [ ].  He meets every one of their particular needs and their specific questions in this one supernatural masterpiece.

None other than Dr. John F. MacArthur, Jr., wrote what you’ve just read [The MacArthur New Testament Commentary ~ Hebrews (pp. xi, xv)]! Continue reading

Plowboy Would “Get” This?!

The fact that Hebrews 6:7 – 8 is an agrarian metaphor gives Tyndale’s “plowboy” no advantage in understanding the meaning of those verses.  Knowledge of Old Covenant Scriptures and/or access to commentaries, though, gives rise to such understanding.  Before pursuing such understanding, though, a brief consideration of two more familiar agrarian metaphors is warranted.  Jesus’ parables regarding soils and wheat and tares are familiar, to be sure; as is all too often true, however, familiarity in no way ensures understanding. Continue reading