“For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law”
( Hebrews 7:12 )
About a year ago, I sat through a series at church about the Ten Commandments. Each week the pastor would give his message on the next commandment instructing the congregation how to follow it and live it out in their lives. I spent the entire time wondering why a teaching series like this existed. I came to the conclusion that the Church as a whole is missing vital information concerning everything that took place at Calvary. This passage declares that when there is change in priesthood by necessity there also must be a change in law. And if there has been a change in the law, why are we still acting as if there hasn’t been?
Christians still want to live under the Old Testament Covenant which is why we have this hybrid of grace and works that permeates the Church. We teach salvation by grace but holiness by Law as in the example of the teaching series on the Ten Commandments. However Paul said in Colossians, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him” ( Colossians 2:6 ). How did you receive Christ? The only acceptable answer is by faith. So it makes sense that we continue in Him in the very same way. In fact, Paul said in Galatians, “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” ( Galatians 3:10 ). His point is that Jesus became the curse so we could be redeemed from the law’s curse to live by faith ( Galatians 3:13-14 ).
This is why we must pay attention to Jesus and everything that took place at His death and resurrection. “Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess” (Hebrews 3:1). Why? Because the covenant of grace that He ushered in is far superior in every way than the old system of the law. “But the ministry Jesus has received is superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises” ( Hebrews 8:6 ). If we, as New Testament believers, have better promises, then it only makes sense that we know what they are and operate out of them instead of the old system that is aging and ready to disappear ( Hebrews 8:13 ).
This comes as a shock to many people but the old system did not work. Look at this passage from scripture. It actually says this very thing – the old system was broken “For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said: “The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord” ( Hebrews 8:7-9 ). The time for change came with Jesus.
The old system of Laws only dealt with the external ( Hebrews 9:10 ) which is why it could never work. Take an apple tree, for example; when the fruit is ready to be picked you might find evidence that it had a worm. However if it is early enough in the season when you pick the apple, there is a chance that the worm is still inside. This is because the apple actual grows around the worm and the worm ruins the apple from the inside out. The law was geared toward the flesh, but since the core was bad, it showed us that we were already defeated and in need of a savior. This is why God had to deal with the heart of man, not merely external behavior which manifests because of what is inside. This is why there was a need for a new Covenant and new system.
“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear” ( Hebrews 8:10-13 ).
Jesus dealt with the core of mankind which is why we must be born again, so that our nature is no longer according to the flesh which is corrupt. Instead it is according to spirit fashioned after Jesus’ in true righteousness and holiness ( Ephesians 4:22-24 ). He put the law of God on the inside of us, writing them on our hearts and minds so that we can know all his ways, it becomes part of us; cleansing us from the inside out, not just a system of rules to live by. This is the change in law. It is not of the letter which condemns, it is of the spirit which gives life. “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” ( II Corinthians 3:6 ).
As believers, our covenant is glorious, which is why it seems inconceivable that anyone would choose to return to the old system of being under the law. “Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone [The Ten Commandments], came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? ( II Corinthians 3:7-8 ). The point here is that Jesus ushered in a new system with His priesthood, then gave us the Holy Spirit, which allows us to live in a completely different way. Not by a list of “dos and don’ts” but by His Spirit. “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace” ( Romans 8:6 ). Unlike the commandments which arouse the desire to sin ( Romans 7:11 ), living by the Spirit of God actually produces the righteous requirements the law describes ( Romans 8:4 ), which is why the new system under Jesus’ priesthood actually works!
“Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” ( II Corinthians 3:12-18 )
So instead of spending ten weeks doing a study on the Ten Commandments, which actually puts a veil over our hearts and dulls our minds to the things of God, we should spend time focused on Christ and the change that came with His priesthood. We do not need to be told what the law of God is, through Christ these things have been written on our hearts and exist in our minds and will be evident in our lives by walking and living by the Spirit of God ( Jeremiah 31:31-33, Hebrews 8:10-13, Hebrews 10:15-16 ). We should always look at the law through the filter of Christ which will always confirm what is spoken to us through the Holy Spirit. This is why by necessity there had to be a change in law when there was a change in priesthood. Through Christ a better hope is introduced by which we can draw near to God ( Hebrews 7:18 ).