The Law vs. The Oath (Hebrews 7:28)

“For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever” ( Hebrews 7:28 )

The entire book of Hebrews contrasts in one way or the other the vast differences between the Old Covenant and the New. Whether it is contrasting Jesus’ priesthood with the Levitical priesthood or the outcome of those priestly duties, the result is the same, the New Covenant is far superior in every way imaginable ( Hebrews 8:6 ).

The point of the entire book is to show us that the Covenant of the Law is inferior to the Covenant which Jesus ushered in and secures for us. In fact the writer goes to great lengths to describe that this Covenant is backed by an oath from God that it is eternal and permanent. Because of the oath, God will never revoke or change his mind concerning these promises ( Hebrews 6:16-18, Hebrews 7:18-22 ).

This particular verse is a prime example of this contrast. The law sets up men to intercede based on frailty and weakness, which is not very effective considering the job they are required to do. However, the New Covenant, based on the oath that Jesus is the one to make peace for us ( Romans 5:1 ), is very effective because Jesus is already perfect and sinless. In other words, he fulfilled the requirements of approaching God in perfection, so He is able to perfectly intercede on our behalf ( I Timothy 2:5 ). Not only is this so, but since He defeated death once for all His position is eternal since death no longer has claim over Him ( Romans 4:25, Romans 6:9 ). This give us both confidence and assurance of every promise made to us throughout the Scriptures because Jesus is the guarantee of everything written to us ( Hebrews 7:22 ).

When you really break it down, the Law is what strengthens sin in our lives showing our guilt and shame ( Romans 3:19-20, Galatians 3:10-11, Galatians 3:21 ). Then when you consider that those set up to make intercession are subject to the same weaknesses, we can see the need for a new system. “The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God” ( Hebrews 7:18-19 ).

The better hope is Jesus. He is the only one that can make us righteous and acceptable to God ( Romans 3:22, 4:5, 16, Romans 5:1, II Corinthians 5:21, Titus 3:5-7 ). He took our sin and gave us His righteousness ( II Corinthians 5:21 ) so that we can stand justified before God ( Romans 8:30 ). Since we now can stand in His presence we also know that we have boldness in approaching Him by faith ( Hebrews 4:16, Hebrews 10:22 ). This is by far a more superior and advantageous covenant in every way imaginable.

This Covenant is backed by an oath, not the law, “Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant” ( Hebrews 7:22 ). And the oath is founded on better promises, “But the ministry Jesus has received is as 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 ). This is why the contrast between the law and the oath is so great and is very important to us to understand because we are heirs of the New Covenant, founded and secured in Jesus Christ. “For the Law sets up men in their weakness [frail, sinful, dying human beings] as high priests, but the word of [God's] oath, which [was spoken later] after the institution of the Law, [chooses and appoints as priest One Whose appointment is complete and permanent], a Son Who has been made perfect forever” ( Hebrews 7:28 AMP).

Jesus is the High Priest Who Meets Our Needs (Hebrews 7:26-27)

“Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself” ( Hebrews 7:26-27 )

When choosing Jesus as our High Priest, God chose the very best. He did not withhold anything from us but sent Jesus who could perfectly fulfill the requirements of both the sacrifice needed for the forgiveness of sins and for the role of High Priest, who made offering and intercession for us. This is an amazing truth, mankind chose individuals based on ancestry who were subject to sin and death, and God chose Jesus, who was sinless and perfect ( Hebrews 7:28 ).

One of the greatest goals of this letter to the Hebrews is to show the superiority of Christ’s eternal High Priesthood as being different and far superior to the Levitical office. In fact, the writer does everything to connect Jesus with the priesthood of Melchizedek. The reason is because the Levitical line was flawed by the sin and death of the priests. It was perpetuated by death, never having permanence or perfection ( Hebrews 7:16 ). This is why there was a need for another priest “If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come—one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?” ( Hebrews 7:11 ).

Jesus on the other hand is perfect, sinless, pure, holy, blameless and set apart from sinners ( Hebrews 7:26 ). These qualifications alone show His superiority over the Levitical priests. Not only that but they are also the elements of a perfect sacrifice. Unlike the earthly priests, Jesus did not have to first sacrifice for his own sins before making intercession ( Hebrews 7:27 ). This is because He was perfect and sinless, which already qualified him to make intercession on our behalf. He was both the perfect sacrifice and the perfect intercessor.

This is why God chose Jesus to reconcile the world to Himself, because He was the only one qualified for the job. In fact, Jesus’ redemptive work was so perfect that it only required one sacrifice to forever wipe away and forgive the sins of the entire world ( Hebrews 7:27, Hebrews 8:12, Hebrews 9:14, Hebrews  9:15, Hebrews  9:26, Hebrews  9:28, Hebrews  10:10, Hebrews  10:12, Hebrews  10:17, Hebrews  10:18, I John 2:2 ). The truth is that God loved us so very much that He sent Jesus to do what mankind could not in restoring the relationship between God and man ( Isaiah 59:15-18, John 3:16, Romans 5:1-2, I Timothy 2:5, I John 2:1 ). Through Jesus we are brought into a right standing with God, restored, forgiven and accepted solely on His account. This is why Jesus’ priesthood is far superior to the Levitical priesthood in every way imaginable. This high priest is perfectly adapted to meet our needs which is why God chose the very best right from the start!

Jesus is Able to Save Completely Because He Has Permanent Priesthood (Hebrews 7:23-25)

“Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” ( Hebrews 7:23-25 )

One of the most amazing truths in the entire Bible is that Jesus is able to save completely, perfectly and to the uttermost because of His resurrection from the dead. In fact our entire belief system hinges on this truth. Without the resurrection we would die in our sin, shame and guilt. Paul said in Romans 4, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” ( Romans 4:25 ), meaning that His resurrection is the positive proof that we have been restored to a state as if we had never sinned in the first place. The payment for sin was satisfied once for all when Jesus was delivered over to death to make atonement. Since it was satisfied and all debts forgiven, death no longer had claim on Jesus and had to release him from the grave.

This has incredible implications for us, because through Jesus, the grave has no claim on us either. Jesus has been appointed by God as our High Priest on oath that He would remain as such eternally. Before this time, death had been a problem in the Levitical priesthood because it continually interrupted this office. The position of High Priest was a lifetime position ( Numbers 35:25 ). So it was like starting over every time a new High Priest was appointed following the death of the previous High Priest. However, since death has no claim on Jesus ( Romans 6:9 ), His priesthood cannot be interrupted, therefore He is able to complete the work assigned to Him as High Priest.

The High Priest’s job was to make atonement for the people once a year. He was mankind’s representative before God in all things. The problem was that he first had to sacrifice for his own sins, disqualifying him from approaching God to make atonement in the first place. Jesus on the other hand was sinless so His sacrifice for sin, when offering himself as payment, was more than enough to permanently wipe out the debt that sin created. In fact the writer of Hebrews has stated over and over that our sins are paid for, forgiven and forgotten ( Hebrews 9:12, Hebrews 9:14, Hebrews 9:26, Hebrews 9:28, Hebrews 10:10, Hebrews 10:12, Hebrews 10:14, Hebrews 10:18, Hebrews 10:22 ). Which means that Jesus’ atonement as High Priest worked the first and only time it was given. And if it worked, then by no means does it need to be made again ( Hebrews 10:10-14 ). In fact, Jesus now sits at the right hand of God the Father because His work is finished and complete ( Hebrews 1:3, Hebrews 10:12 ).

Since this work is finished and death has no claim on Jesus, he resides as High Priest forever. And if He lives forever with this office, He is also able to save for all time and eternity those who come to Him by faith. In fact, God promised Jesus on oath that this would always be the case which is why he promised Him that He would provide a High Priest, not after the Levitical line perpetuated by death, but after Melchizedek who had no record of death ( Hebrews 7:3 ).

This is incredible news and very important to know because it assures our hearts before God. In fact these things have been written to give us insight and confidence in approaching God by faith ( John 20:31, I John 5:13 ). Knowing that we have been saved, forgiven and restored to a state where we are justified and righteous before God should give us boldness in approaching Him without the consciousness of sin and resulting guilt ( Hebrews 4:16, Hebrews 10:22 ). Then knowing that Jesus lives forever to assure this relationship, making petitions and intercession on our behalf, should usher us into a state of heart peace and empower us to live a life like no other. These truths have been written for our benefit; so that we may understand all that we have access to through Christ Jesus.

Jesus is the Guarantee of a Better Covenant (Hebrews 7:20-22)

“And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever.’” Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant” ( Hebrews 7:20-22 )

Several times throughout the gospels the voice of God was heard over Jesus. The first instance is when he was baptized by John. A voice came from heaven and said, “This is my Son, whom I love: with him I am well pleased” ( Matthew 3:17 ). Another notable event was on the mount of transfiguration. While Jesus was speaking with Moses and Elijah a bright cloud enveloped them and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” ( Matthews 17:5 ). Lastly right before Jesus death, while He was praying in the garden He said, “Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” ( John 12:28 ). Everyone there had different reaction to the voice of God, some said it had thundered and others said an angel had spoken to him. However look at Jesus’ response “This voice was for your benefit, not mine” ( John 12:30 ).

Every time God spoke audibly to Jesus it was for our benefit. Jesus understood God’s nature completely because they are one and the same so the words were not said for Jesus’ sake ( John 1:1, Colossians 1:15, Colossians 1:19, Hebrews 1:1-2 ) However, He said these things about Jesus so we could have insight into this relationship between the two. Through it we see that God loved Jesus, God was pleased with Jesus and God’s name was glorified through Jesus. These are important truths to know.

In the same way, the oath made between God and Jesus that He would eternally be our High Priest was made solely for our benefit so we could understand that the covenant made on our behalf was lasting and eternal. In fact God wanted to make His intent very clear so He made us this promise and then confirmed it with an oath and hinged everything on his character, “Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. ( Hebrews 6:17-18 ). Knowing this should give us boldness and courage to approach God on the basis of being reconciled through Jesus.

Because of this oath, through Christ we have full access to God. We have boldness to enter into the very presence of the Father to find grace and help in every circumstance of life ( Hebrews 4:16 ). This is why the Law was weak and useless ( Hebrews 7:18 ). It could not bring us into perfect fellowship with God the Father ( Hebrews 7:11 ), however Jesus did. And because God promised Him on oath that He was a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek, He has become the guarantee of a better, stronger and more advantageous covenant ( Hebrews 7:22 ). God wants us to know this; which is why He made this oath to Jesus. This is something we should constantly remind ourselves so that we can live in a state of peace, being assured that we are acceptable to God solely on the basis of what Jesus did for us. This is an amazing truth, which is why John said, “This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything” ( I John 3:19-20 ).

The oath made to Jesus was made solely for our benefit so that we would know and rest in the covenant that Jesus secures for us. Through Christ we have peace with God ( Romans 5:1 ) and confidence to approach Him through faith ( Hebrews 4:16 ). This is why the covenant of grace we have is far superior to the old covenant in every way imaginable and this new covenant is guaranteed eternally by the oath made on our behalf.

The Law was Weak and Useless (Hebrews 7:18-19)

“The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God” ( Hebrews 7:18-19 )

The solution to the chasm that sin created is not the Law. As this passage clearly declares using it in this way is weak, useless and ineffective. Paul called the Law the ministry of death ( II Corinthians 3:7 ). So relying on it to bring us into fellowship with God, bridging the gap caused by sin, only brings us death and condemnation.

On the other hand, if it is used in accordance to its true purpose then we will be justified by it. “the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law” ( Galatians 3:24-25 ). The Law was set aside when Jesus ushered in the New Covenant because it was useless in bringing a person into perfect fellowship with God ( Hebrews 7:11 ). The Law defined our sin in relation to God’s holiness. So in essence it accused us before God, bringing further separation instead of reconciliation. Which is why Paul told Timothy, the Law was not made for the righteous man, but for sinners ( I Timothy 1:8-10 ). It showed us the need for a savior. So trusting in Christ to save us is the better hope that this passage is describing by which we draw near to God for reconciliation.

Paul made this very observation about the purpose of the Law in Romans 7, “What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. ( Romans 7:7-13 ).

The main point that the writer is making is that to draw near to God we must set aside the Law, because the Law strengthens sin in our lives increasing its hold on us instead of bringing us the reconciliation we need.  Instead we should cling to the better hope by which we have full access to God.

This blessed hope is in the person of Jesus Christ who has paved the way for us to enter blamelessly into the God’s very presence ( Hebrews 4:16, Hebrews 10:19-22 ).  His blood has completely wiped away the effects of sin in our lives once for all ( Hebrews  9:12, Hebrews  9:14, Hebrews  9:26, Hebrews  9:28, Hebrews 10:10, Hebrews 10:12, Hebrews 10:14, Hebrews 10:18, Hebrews 10:22 ). This is why we have this access. Jesus imputed His righteousness to us when we believed; the righteousness required to fulfill the entire law. Adherence to the law couldn’t make us righteous because of our sin nature ( Galatians 3:21 ). However Jesus fulfilled it because He was sinless. Then He gave us His Spirit to replace that sin nature when we were born again, which is how He imputed His righteousness to us. This is why He is the better hope by which we can come before God.

When we understand this, it gives us boldness and confidence before God instead of uncertainly and fear. Under the Law, the High Priest was allowed to enter into the Holy of Holies and into the presence of God once a year when he made atonement for the people. However, when Jesus was crucified on the cross the curtain that had separated the people from God’s presence was torn entirely in two from top to bottom ( Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45 ). This was done by God himself showing us that Jesus paved the way for us to come with full assurance of faith and clean consciences ( Hebrews 10:22 ). His body is now the curtain by which we can freely enter at will ( Hebrews 10:20 ).

This is why the law is set aside when we are saved, because its purpose has been fulfilled in bringing us to Christ to be justified by faith. Now that Jesus is our High Priest, He assures this access eternally. “For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever” ( Hebrews 7:28 ). Jesus is the better hope which gives us confidence before God.

Juli Camarin

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