So far we have seen that some people in this Hebrew church have been drawing back in doubt concerning the trustworthiness of the gospel. The gospel is the good news of what Christ has accomplished for His people by laying His life down for His elect. These Hebrew readers have begun to suspect that the former testimony given to them by angels – that is, the old covenant under Moses – may have been a more reliable, trustworthy testimony.
We saw one of the reasons why they had begun to think this. The old covenant provided them with something tangible to assure them. Although the works of the old covenant could not perfect them, they could still nevertheless observe their works. Christ gave them nothing tangible but faith alone.
The author uses this fact to draw a parallel between these Hebrews and the unfaithful Hebrews in Numbers 13. In this parallel we saw the unfaithful Hebrews in Numbers 13 paralyzed into unbelief by the sight of giants living in the promised land. Though God had previously delivered the Hebrews in Numbers 13 from mighty armies in the recent past, and had promised to deliver them yet again in the future, they yet refused to believe His word and they began to pine again for the days of slavery in Egypt. They drew back with unbelief.
We saw this same distrust of God’s word play out in the garden of Eden. There, God had told Adam that in the day you eat of it you shall die. Adam refused to believe this was true though. Instead, he believed God had lied to him.
We saw how even Jesus Himself had been tempted to distrust God’s word. We saw this in His temptation in the wilderness. But unlike Adam, Jesus did not succumb to this temptation. Instead, He trusted God’s word implicitly.
We saw the author chastise his Hebrew readers for their doubt. Rather than trusting Christ’s testimony and entering into God’s rest, they were instead in the habit of laying different foundations of repentance from dead works. Though they have reached a point in time where they should not only have settled on the cross of Christ as the only foundation, but also should have begun to teach the testimony to all who were once like they were, weary and heavy laden, they instead continue to need someone to teach the good news to them.
The author reminds these readers that Christ’s testimony is a greater testimony than that of angels, for while angels gave them the testimony of the law, it was the Son Himself who gave them testimony of His cross. He also warns them that though he has much to say about the good news of the cross and of Christ’s priestly obedience, it will nevertheless be difficult for him to explain it to them since they have become dull of hearing.
For this reason, the author closes out the sixth chapter of his epistle by encouraging his readers to follow the example set by Abraham who,after being promised a son, waited patiently twenty-four years for God to fulfill this promise. Therefore, says the author, because you have the unchangeable character of God, as well as the guarantee of His oath to assure you of the promise He has made to you, therefore be patient and hold fast to the testimony of Christ set before us.
So this is where we are now. On the cusp of examining those things which the author tells us are difficult to explain to the dull of hearing. I trust none of us here today are dull of hearing, and so I doubt anything here will be difficult to explain. It might be difficult to hear me explain it, but that would be my fault.
I have a question for these Hebrew readers. What does it take to bring God’s elect to glory? And by glory, I mean immortality. What does it take for God’s elect to obtain immortality?
Does it take a cooperative effort between God and His elect, both of them working together in this life, cooperating with each other to bring the elect to glory? Many people who would say yes. The Romanists, the Pharisees, the Arminians, they would all say yes to one extent or another.
Many others who would say no, it only takes the cross, but then these same people either cannot explain what this means, or they will turn right around and add the caveat that if the cross hasn’t at least effected the beginnings of an improvement in my behavior, then that cross was never meant for me. This doesn’t sound any different from what the first group says. It just staples the cooperation onto the end rather than at the beginning.
Our question this morning is, what does it take to bring God’s elect to immortality?
You guys have probably heard of something called Covenant Theology. Covenant Theology is a reformed theological concept that is very popular in Presbyterian and reformed churches today. Be that as it may, covenant theology may be popular, but it is far from Biblical.
What covenant theology teaches is that Adam was placed on probation in the garden, meaning that if Adam had obeyed then he would have received immortality and eternal life as a reward for his obedience. This is unbiblical. It ignores the fact that the law which God had imposed on Adam – “in the day you eat of it you shall die” – did not come with an expiration date!
Immortality means you can never die. This is not what God had promised Adam. What God had promised Adam was death for disobedience. Had Adam obeyed, then Adam would have had to have continued to obey or else he would have died. And everyone upon whom Adam would have ever imposed God’s law would themselves have had to have obeyed. And kept obeying. And never ever have ever disobeyed or else they too would have died.
What does this mean? It means that even if Adam had obeyed, then he would still have been unable to bring anyone to glory. The law did not promise him life immortal. Instead, it promised him life for as long as he continued to obey.
This past week I posted an essay to my blog about the garden temple and Adam’s priesthood. I don’t know if you guys had the opportunity to review that essay or not, but it sets the background to what we are discussing here today.
Adam was not literally a priest, nor was the garden literally a temple. Rather, the garden was a type. Adam was also a type. Adam parallels not only Christ, but also Aaron. That is, Adam is not only a type of Christ, but also a type of Aaron. This is why Scripture tells us Adam broke the covenant just as the people of Israel also broke a covenant.
What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, O Judah?
Your love is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that goes early away.
Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets;
I have slain them by the words of my mouth,
and my judgment goes forth as the light.
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
But like Adam they transgressed the covenant;
there they dealt faithlessly with me.
One of the points of the garden was not to show us some covenant of works possibility of what man might could have possibly achieved had he obeyed. No. One of the points of the garden was to show us that even by man’s own righteousness, man cannot bring himself to glory.
Adam was righteous before he disobeyed, correct? He was righteous. And yet he still could not bring anyone to glory. Aaron had blood sacrifices he could present for his sin. And yet he still could not bring anyone to glory. These two parallel each other. These two men had entered into covenant with God, and yet neither could bring a single person to glory.
This is why Adam failed. Adam did not only fail because he disobeyed. Rather, Adam failed because he was never meant to succeed. He failed, because he could have never brought God’s elect to glory, not even if he had obeyed.
The best that Adam could have done had he obeyed would have been to impose God’s law upon many men. In turn however, the lives of these many men would have continued to remain as equally conditioned upon their obedience as it would have continued to remain conditioned upon Adam’s.
This is exactly how it was to be with Aaron and Israel, as well. They were a kingdom of priests, a holy nation who were to impose God’s law upon all the nations. Romans 3:19 says, “Now we know that whatever things the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped and the whole world may be held accountable to God.”
The problem was not only that Israel failed to do this, although they did fail to do this, but rather the problem was that the law which they were to impose did not have the power to bring anyone to glory.
Romans 3:20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
In the garden, Adam was to offer the fruit of his labor to God as a tribute or sacrifice to God. He was to keep the garden; that is, he was to guard it. He was to also guard his righteousness, as well.
He was to do this by obeying the law that God had imposed upon him. “In the day you eat of it you shall die.” The fruit, or reward, of Adam’s labor was continued life resulting in continual demand for his obedience as a condition for continued life. In other words, it was a vicious circle. Obey to live so long as you live to obey.
As long as Adam obeyed, then he would continue to live; and as long as he lived, then he would be required to continue to obey. In the day you eat of it you shall die, meaning that as long as you don’t eat of it you shall continue to live. But the moment you do eat of it, you’re dead no matter how long you have already obeyed and lived.
This is not immortality. This is not someone who has the power of an indestructible life. This is instead someone who can sin and who did sin, and who even if he had obeyed would have continued to be able to sin and would have continued to be able to die.
The only thing Adam could earn with his obedience was the reward of being able to continue to live. But the only thing he could do with his reward of being able to continue to live was to keep obeying or else he would die. There is no expiration date on the command. In the day you eat of it you shall die. And this will never stop being the case for you, Adam. For as long as you live, in the day you eat of it you shall die.
What happened to this command then when Adam did disobey? The command could no longer provide the reward that Adam was to obtain by his obedience. As a consequence, he had to die.
Instead of being able to reward Adam with continual life in return for continual obedience so that he could continue to obey in order to continue to live, the law could now only demand his death for his disobedience. There is no more reward for obedience to be had. The law has been weakened by Adam’s flesh.
So who then can be raised to immortality? Or as the disciples put it, who then can be saved? With man, it is impossible.
Some Christians think that God saved His people back to what Adam had before he sinned. No. God’s people are going far beyond anything Adam had. Adam never had immortality. Adam could sin and did sin. What Christ has saved His people to is resurrection immortality and a new body that is incapable of sin.
What God shows us in the garden of Eden is not what man could supposedly have achieved had he obeyed. Instead, what God shows us with the garden of Eden is the fact that even if Adam had obeyed, he would have still needed a savior, someone who could bring him to glory. Even if Adam had obeyed, he would still have needed a savior.
Goodbye infralapsarianism. Not that I ever was an infralapsarian, but I say this for anyone who is. If you believe that God decreed to discriminate between sinners, then know that your view is unbiblical, because the fall of man was irrelevant where it concerned the salvation of a people. Even had they obeyed and had never sinned, they would have still needed a savior. Know then, that you cannot hold to an infralapsarian view of God’s eternal decrees and remain Biblically consistent. The very first two chapters of Genesis undo you.
It is their infralaparianism that drives these reformed, muddle headed theologians to develop silly concepts like covenant theology and the covenant of works.
Christ was ordained from before the foundation of the world. And when I say Christ, I mean His death, His resurrection, and His priesthood. He is the immortal, sinless high priest who now “keeps” or guards His temple. Or as Philippians 4:7 puts it, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
This peace is the peace He made between God and His people by dying for their sins. It is God’s rest. You could say “and God’s rest, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Now, with all this we have just heard in mind, let us now take a look at the opening verses of chapter 7.
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed them, and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of the everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.
According to God’s law, the law which He gave to Moses and the Israelites, anyone appointed to the office of high priest had to first be able to prove they were a descendant of Aaron,who was himself from the tribe of Levi. He had to provide a genealogical record of his descent, thereby proving beyond all doubt that he was a member of the Levitical tribe and a direct descendant of Aaron.
We have a problem then when it comes to Melchizedek, because we have no record of his genealogy. We don’t know who his parents were. This rules him out as being able to serve as a high priest in the Old Covenant.
To further matters, according to God’s law, all Israelites had to pay tithes to the descendants of Levi who had received the priestly office. That is, they had to pay tithes to their priests.
One reason for this was to show all of Israel that the Lord Himself was Levi’s portion. While everyone else in Israel had received as promised a portion of the land which God had promised the Israelites, Levi had instead received as his portion the Lord Himself rather than land.
Therefore Levi has no portion or inheritance with his brothers. The Lord is his inheritance, as the Lord your God said to him.
A greater blessing, right? Levi’s portion is superior to any other Israelite’s portion?
Except that we have a problem here too. Because this man Melchizedek, whose genealogy we cannot trace back to Levi or to Aaron, received tithes from Abraham, the father of Levi and Aaron. This meant that Levi and Aaron, who were at this time still in Abraham’s loins, so to speak, tithed to Melchizedek too. And because they had tithed to Melchizedek in Abraham, their portion and priesthood is proven to be an inferior portion and priesthood to the greater portion and priesthood of Melchizedek. Turns out that Levi’s blessing is not so much greater than Israel’s, after all.
What made Melchizedek’s priesthood superior to Levi’s is not only that Levi tithed to Melchizedek, thus proving that Melchizedek’s priesthood has a greater worth, but also that we have no record of Melchizedek’s death. We don’t know when he died. We know he did die, but we can’t say when. We can’t say his priesthood ended here or it ended there, because the fact is we don’t know when it ended. And so in a sense, his priesthood continues, because we don’t know when he died.
We are told in Psalm 110 that the Messiah will be a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. The question we need to answer then is this: if the sacrifices offered according to the Levitical priesthood could make us perfect with God, why then is there a need for a Messiah to arise with a priesthood after the order of Melchizedek?
The answer is that the sacrifices offered according to the Levitical priesthood cannot make us perfect with God. They are inferior sacrifices offered by an inferior priesthood who possesses an inferior blessing. We need the superior sacrifice of someone who holds the superior office of a superior priesthood and who is in possession of a superior blessing.
When Christ took upon Himself human flesh and condescended to be conceived by the Spirit and born of a virgin, He came in without Adam’s guilt imputed to Him. You and I were conceived by human flesh. Christ, however, was conceived by the Spirit. So even though He was born of a human and does have a human nature in addition to a Divine nature, yet He was without Adam’s guilt imputed to Him.
He upheld the law perfectly throughout His life. However, His law obedience is NOT imputed to His elect. That is, God was not looking for someone to obey the law for the elect so that He could then count the elect as having obeyed. Why not? First, because God would have been unjust to have disregarded His people’s law disobedience. He cannot simply sweep aside their law disobedience, replace it with Christ’s law obedience, and then pretend as if His people hadn’t broken His law. No, wrath for their disobedience must be satisfied. But also secondly, once Christ did satisfy that wrath by dying for His people’s law obedience, then there is no point in imputing Christ’s law obedience to them, because they have already had all their sins atoned for by His death. (More about this coming later.)
Well then, what was the point of Christ’s law obedience? Covenant theology tries to answer this question by saying the point of Christ’s law obedience was the same as Adam’s; that is, that He might merit immortality by obeying the commandment. The problem with this is that you then have to go back and read immortality into the law that God gave to Adam in Genesis 2. In the day you don’t eat of that tree, then you will receive immortality.
There are several huge problems with this. Number one, it implies that Christ alone was not always the only source of eternal life and immortality. Rather, it implies He was a second source in addition to man’s own obedience. That is, it implies man could have earned eternal life and immortality quite well apart from Christ had he but merely obeyed the garden law.
Another problem with answering our question with covenant theology is that it ignores verse 12 of this very chapter. “For when there is a change in the priesthood there is necessarily a change in the law, as well.” We will discuss this verse in just a moment.
As to our question though, what was the point of Christ’s law obedience? The author addressed this very question earlier in this very epistle. The point of Christ’s law obedience was to become the perfect source of salvation for His people.
In chapter 5 of Hebrews, we saw that Christ had become the source of salvation for His people by learning obedience through what He suffered.
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.
He learned obedience through what He suffered. And being made perfect. How was He made perfect? He was made perfect by learning obedience through what He suffered.
What does that mean, He learned obedience through what He suffered? Does that mean Christ would not have obeyed had He not learned to? No, not at all. It means He had never suffered before, and He had never had to obey before.
Keep in mind we are talking about the second Person of the Trinity. God the Son had never had to obey before. He was God, after all! Who is God going to obey? He had agreed before. He had agreed with the Father and He had agreed with the Spirit. But obey? As if He were subordinate and a little less than God? No.
He had also never had to suffer before. Previous to His incarnation, God had never suffered before. I mean, think about that. God suffered. He suffered temptation, He suffered under the futility of sin – other people’s sin. God suffered. He had to learn to suffer and He had to learn to obey. And because He did both perfectly, without fail, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.
Something about His obedience though. As we mentioned earlier, verse twelve of chapter seven says “For when there is a change in the priesthood there is necessarily a change in the law, as well.”
We saw this with Adam, didn’t we? What was the law given to Adam? In the day you eat of it you shall die. But when Aaron was appointed priest, we saw a new law. It was no longer in the day you eat of it you shall die. It was now a whole slew of commandments and ordinances.
This doesn’t mean Aaron wasn’t still guilty of disobeying Adam’s law, or that God had swept aside Adam’s law and then treated everyone as if it no longer mattered that they had disobeyed it. No, Aaron still stands guilty of disobeying Adam’s law. But he now has a whole new series of laws to contend with, as well. And what’s worse, he is already guilty of breaking every one of those laws.
When Christ went to the cross, He satisfied the death demands of both Adam’s law and Aaron’s law, and He did this vicariously, on behalf of His elect. But because He is a high priest after the order of Melchizedek, there was also a change in the law. He not only satisfied the demands of the old law, but He brought in a new law too.
Now let me say right at this point that this new law is NOT the gospel! This is where Richard Baxter went wrong. It is where Lordship Salvation goes wrong today. Christ’s new law is not the gospel. A new commandment I leave you, love one another even as I have loved you is not the gospel.
Christ satisfied the demands for the death of His people not only for breaking Adam’s law and Aaron’s law, but also for breaking even His own law. Love one another even as I have loved you. And every one of His elect have disobeyed that law. But Christ has died even for that sin.
Now, the only way He could be this perfect sacrifice that satisfied God’s wrath was by obeying these old laws perfectly. And this He did. But not vicariously. His people are not made righteous by His law obedience. They are made righteous by His death.
Because He has obeyed perfectly, He has no need to sacrifice for Himself. He has no sin. Why is this important?
Aaron had to keep sacrificing every day. And part of the reason why he had to do this was because he sinned every day. He would sacrifice in the morning, and by noon he’s already sinned again a thousand times. He’ll have to sacrifice again tomorrow, and this will never stop.
Christ has no need to sacrifice every day. So the one sacrifice He has made for His people is enough to atone for all their days of sinning.
Now, this bothers a lot of people. And they don’t even realize it bothers them.
You see, the way the natural man looks at the gospel, he sees the reason why Christ only needs to sacrifice once is because he, the natural man, is going to produce some fruit with the Spirit’s help that is going to make unnecessary any additional sacrifices Christ might need to make. The natural man says the purpose of the cross was to prepare him to receive the Spirit. After he receives the Spirit though, Jesus won’t need to make any more sacrifices, because the Spirit is going to start working with the natural man to produce some fruit that is going to cancel out any need for further sacrifices.
So the natural man says you get the cross first, then afterwards you start growing some patience, some gentleness, some self control with the Spirit’s help. You might also soak your cheeks once or twice with tears as you ponder the depths of your sins. If you sin . . . ha-ha, when you sin in the future then you just pluck some of that fruit you and the Spirit grew, you break it open and then you smear it all over that dirty ol’ sin and the memory of that sin will be gone just like that. Lickety-split! And if ever you have any doubts as to whether you ever got the cross to start with, well you just reach right out and pluck some of that juicy fruit you and the Spirit grew and you let that fruit tell you about the cross.
The natural man hates the gospel. He detests it. And the reason he detests it is because it tells him that God condemns the most noble and respectable qualities of man. The natural man wants to be worshiped for those qualities. He wants God to respect those qualities. He wants those qualities to serve as proof that he is as God is. The fact that God condemns those qualities enrages him. The natural man reasons that if God will not respect those qualities, then he, the natural man, will just have to invent a god that will then.
False religion always looks at righteousness in terms of its own behavior, because that is what the serpent promised in the garden. If you partake of that tree then you will obtain the knowledge that you will need to be as God. By altering your behavior with the use of that knowledge, you will become as God is.
The gospel is about what Christ has accomplished for His people at the cross. Faith in that gospel is about whether God has lied about what He said Christ has accomplished for His people at the cross. Is He trustworthy? Can His testimony be trusted?
The law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever. The law cannot bring anyone to glory. Only the word of a promise can bring God’s elect to glory.
What was the promise though?
Psalm 2. You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will make the nations Your heritage and the ends of the earth Your possession.
The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind. You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.
Now, if the word of a promise is the only thing that can bring God’s elect to glory, then the only thing His elect can do in response to that promise is trust that God will fulfill it.
And there we’ll close. Next time we will pick up with this word of the oath and continue.