on Hebrews 7 :28
For the law maketh men high priests - The Jewish priests have need of these repeated offerings and sacrifices, because they are fallible, sinful men: but the word of the oath (still referring to Psalm 110:4) which was since the law; for David, who mentions this, lived nearly 500 years after the giving of the law, and consequently that oath, constituting another priesthood, abrogates the law; and by this the Son is consecrated, τετελειωμενον, is perfected, for evermore. Being a high priest without blemish, immaculately holy, every way perfect, immortal, and eternal, He is a priest εις τον αιωνα, to Eternity.
I. There are several respects in which the apostle shows the priesthood of Christ to be more excellent than that of the Jews, which priesthood was typified by that of Melchisedec.
1. Being after the order of Melchisedec, there was no need of a rigorous examination of his genealogy to show his right.
2. He has an eternal priesthood; whereas theirs was but temporal.
3. The other priests, as a token of the dignity of their office, and their state of dependence on God, received tithes from the people. Melchisedec, a priest and king, after whose order Christ comes, tithed Abraham, δεδεκατωκε τον Αβρααμ, the father of the patriarchs; Jesus, infinitely greater than all, having an absolute and independent life, needs none. He is no man's debtor, but all receive out of his fullness.
4. He alone can bless the people, not by praying for their good merely, but by communicating the good which is necessary.
5. As another priesthood, different from that of Aaron, was promised, it necessarily implies that the Levitical priesthood was insufficient; the priesthood of Christ, being that promised, must be greater than that of Aaron.
6. That which God has appointed and consecrated with an oath, as to endure for ever, must be greater than that which he has appointed simply for a time: but the priesthood of Christ is thus appointed; therefore, etc.
7. All the Levitical priests were fallible and sinful men; but Christ was holy and undefiled.
8. The Levitical priests were only by their office distinguished from the rest of their brethren, being equally frail, mortal, and corruptible; but Jesus, our high priest, is higher than the heavens. The statements from which these differences are drawn are all laid down in this chapter.
II. As the word surety, εγγυος, in Hebrews 7:22, has been often abused, or used in an unscriptural and dangerous sense, it may not be amiss to inquire a little farther into its meaning. The Greek word εγγυος, from εγγυη, a pledge, is supposed to be so called from being lodged εν γυιοις, in the hands of the creditor. It is nearly of the same meaning with bail, and signifies an engagement made by C. with A. that B. shall fulfill certain conditions then and there specified, for which C. makes himself answerable; if, therefore, B. fails, C. becomes wholly responsible to A. In such suretiship it is never designed that C. shall pay any debt or fulfill any engagement that belongs to B.; but, if B. fail, then C. becomes responsible, because he had pledged himself for B. In this scheme A. is the person legally empowered to take the bail or pledge, B. the debtor, and C. the surety. The idea therefore of B. paying his own debt, is necessarily implied in taking the surety. Were it once to be supposed that the surety undertakes absolutely to pay the debt, his suretiship is at an end, and he becomes the debtor; and the real debtor is no longer bound. Thus the nature of the transaction becomes entirely changed, and we find nothing but debtor and creditor in the case. In this sense, therefore, the word εγγυος, which we translate surety, cannot be applied in the above case, for Christ never became surety that, if men did not fulfill the conditions of this better covenant, i.e. repent of sin, turn from it, believe on the Son of God, and having received grace walk as children of the light, and be faithful unto death, he would do all these things for them himself! This would be both absurd and impossible: and hence the gloss of some here is both absurd and dangerous, viz., "That Christ was the surety of the first covenant to pay the debt; of the second, to perform the duty." That it cannot have this meaning in the passage in question is sufficiently proved by Dr. Macknight; and instead of extending my own reasoning on the subject, I shall transcribe his note.
"The Greek commentators explain this word εγγυος very properly by μεσιτης, a mediator, which is its etymological meaning; for it comes from εγγυς, near, and signifies one who draws near, or who causes another to draw near. Now, as in this passage a comparison is stated between Jesus as a high priest, and the Levitical high priests; and as these were justly considered by the apostle as the mediators of the Sinaitic covenant, because through their mediation the Israelites worshipped God with sacrifices, and received from him, as their king, a political pardon, in consequence of the sacrifices offered by the high priest on the day of atonement; it is evident that the apostle in this passage calls Jesus the High Priest, or Mediator of the better covenant, because through his mediation, that is, through the sacrifice of himself which he offered to God, believers receive all the blessings of the better covenant. And as the apostle has said, Hebrews 7:19, that by the introduction of a better hope, εγγιζομεν, we draw near to God; he in this verse very properly calls Jesus εγγυος, rather than μεσιτης, to denote the effect of his mediation. See Hebrews 7:25. Our translators indeed, following the Vulgate and Beza, have rendered εγγυος by the word surety, a sense which it has, Ecclus. 29:16, and which naturally enough follows from its etymological meaning; for the person who becomes surety for the good behavior of another, or for his performing something stipulated, brings that other near to the party to whom he gives the security; he reconciles the two. But in this sense the word εγγυος is not applicable to the Jewish high priests; for to be a proper surety, one must either have power to compel the party to perform that for which he has become his surety; or, in case of his not performing it, he must be able to perform it himself. This being the ease, will any one say that the Jewish high priests were sureties to God for the Israelites performing their part of the covenant of the law! Or to the people for God's performing his part of the covenant! As little is the appellation, surety of the new covenant, applicable to Jesus. For since the new covenant does not require perfect obedience, but only the obedience of faith; if the obedience of faith be not given by men themselves, it cannot be given by another in their room; unless we suppose that men can be saved without personal faith. I must therefore infer, that those who speak of Jesus as the surety of the new covenant, must hold that it requires perfect obedience; which, not being in the power of believers to give, Jesus has performed for them. But is not this to make the covenant of grace a covenant of works, contrary to the whole tenor of Scripture! For these reasons I think the Greek commentators have given the true meaning of the word εγγυος , in this passage, when they explain it by μεσιτης, mediator."
The chief difference lies here. The old covenant required perfect obedience from the very commencement of life; this is impossible, because man comes into the world depraved. The new covenant declares God's righteousness for the remission of sins that are past; and furnishes grace to enable all true believers to live up to all the requisitions of the moral law, as found in the gospels. But in this sense Christ cannot be called the surety, for the reasons given above; for he does not perform the obedience or faith in behalf of any man. It is the highest privilege of believers to love God with all their hearts, and to serve him with all their strength; and to remove their obligation to keep this moral law would be to deprive them of the highest happiness they can possibly have on this side heaven.
on Hebrews 7 :28
For the law - The ceremonial law.
Which have infirmity - Who are weak, frail, sinful, dying. Such were all who were appointed to the office of priest under the Jewish Law.
But the word of the oath - By which one was appointed after the order of Melchizedek; note, Hebrews 7:21.
Maketh the Son - The Son of God. That appointment has resulted in his being set apart to this work.
Who is consecrated forevermore - Margin, "Perfected;" see the note at Hebrews 2:10. The idea is, that the appointment is "complete" and "permanent." It does not pass from one to the other. It is perfect in all the arrangements, and will remain so forever.
The subject of this chapter is the exalted high priesthood of the Redeemer. This is a subject which pertains to all Christians, and to all men. All religions imply the priestly office; all suppose sacrifice of some kind. In regard to the priestly office of Christ as illustrated in this chapter, we may observe:
(1) He stands alone. In that office he had no predecessor, and has no one to succeed him. In this respect he was without father, mother, or descent - and he stands in lonely majesty as the only one who sustains the office; Hebrews 7:3.
(2) he is superior to Abraham. Abraham never laid claim to the ofrice of priest, but he recognized his inferiority to one whom the Messiah was to resemble; Hebrews 7:2, Hebrews 7:4.
(3) he is superior to all the Jewish priesthood - sustaining a rank and performing an office above them all. The great ancestor of all the Levitical priests recognized his inferiority to one of the rank or "order" of which the Messiah was to be, and received from him a blessing. In our contemplation of Christ, therefore, as priest, we have the privilege of regarding him as superior to the Jewish high priest - exalted as was his office, and important as were the functions of his office; as more grand, more pure, more worthy of confidence and love.
(4) the great High Priest of the Christian profession is the only perfect priest; Hebrews 7:11, Hebrews 7:19. The Jewish priests were all imperfect and sinful men. The sacrifices which they offered were imperfect, and could not give peace to the conscience. There was need of some better system, and they all looked forward to it. But in the Lord Jesus, and in his work, there is absolute perfection. What he did was complete, and his office needs no change.
(5) the office now is permanent. It does not change from hand to hand; Hebrews 7:23-24. He who sustains this office does not die, and we may ever apply to him and cast our cares on him. Men die; one generation succeeds another; but our High Priest is the same. We may trust in him in whom our fathers found peace and salvation, and then we may teach our children to confide in the same High Priest - and so send the invaluable lesson down to latest generations.
(6) his work is firm and sure; Hebrews 7:20-22. His office is founded on an oath, and he has become the security for all who will commit their cause to him. Can great interests like those of the soul be entrusted to better hands? Are they not safer in his keeping than in our own?
(7) he is able to save to the uttermost; Hebrews 7:25. That power he showed when he was on earth; that power he is constantly evincing. No one has asked aid of him and found him unable to render it; no one has been suffered to sink down to hell because his arm was weak. What he has done for a few he can do for "all;" and they who will entrust themselves to him will find him a sure Saviour. So why will people not be persuaded to commit themselves to him? Can they save themselves? Where is there one who has shown that he was able to do it? Do they not need a Saviour? Let the history of the world answer. Can man conduct his own cause before God? How weak, ignorant, and blind is he; how little qualified for such an office! Has anyone suffered wrong by committing himself to the Redeemer? If there is such an one, where is he? Who has ever made this complaint that has tried it? Who ever will make it? In countless millions of instances, the trial has been made whether Christ was "able to save." Men have gone with a troubled spirit; with a guilty conscience; and with awful apprehensions of the wrath to come, and have asked him to save them. Not one of those who have done this has found reason to doubt his ability; not one has regretted that he has committed the deathless interest of the soul into his hands.
on Hebrews 7 :28
7:28 The law maketh men high priests that have infirmity - That are both weak, mortal, and sinful. But the oath which was since the law - Namely, in the time of David. Maketh the son, who is consecrated for ever - Who being now free, both from sin and death, from natural and moral infirmity, remaineth a priest for ever.