The Lifetime Guarantee, Part 2

    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. 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 7:20-25).

 
    With the understanding that Christ Jesus is supreme in every way over the old covenant and its priesthood, this question remains: Where in our life with God is there room for anything but the Lord God our Creator, who offered to us the perfect relationship?

It is frightening to see so many Christians today who, like the original readers of Hebrews, spend an inordinate amount of energy filling their lives with everything but God. Is God so small that we must look to other 'gods” to fill the void we feel in our souls?

    I know people who can tell me all I want to know about angels and their ministry. Others can name all the principalities of darkness and the way they work. Still others understand cults, addictions or politics. But too often, these same people who can name all the legions of angels have trouble describing the character of Christ. That is like a wife spending more time in her husband's shop among his tools than she does with her husband. Not a pretty relationship.

    Will we forever live with a 'Jesus and something else” mentality and never consider that Jesus alone will be quite sufficient for the needs of our soul?

When will we rise to the level of Paul and say, 'I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13)? The reason we feel a void in our lives is because Jesus is the only one who can fill that void. He is the only one who can direct our paths and make our burden light. He is the only one who can set our hearts free.

    Why would a strong, professional athlete choose to walk with a cane? Why would a healthy adult choose to eat nothing but baby food? Why would the bride of Christ desire to spend more time with their neighbor than with their spouse? Why would anyone but the ignorant choose to worship God through any other avenue but Jesus, the Way?

    Hebrews 7 shows us the complete fallacy of ever going away from, or progressing on to, any other Lord and Savior but Jesus.

There is no one greater than Him, and certainly no room for a return to the type of worship there was before Christ. God has taken the 'former regulation” and, 'having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). There was no turning back for these Hebrew Christians; their whole former way of worship was canceled at Calvary. And if that wasn't proof enough that a new and better covenant had been established, then God sealed that idea by using the Romans to destroy Jerusalem and its Temple in a.d. 70.

    We have learned that Jesus was the guarantee of a covenant that was better than its predecessor, but we still don't know what a covenant is. In Christian circles today we are guilty of tossing around Biblical terms with no idea of what they really mean. As I write this I find myself just as guilty as the next. The word 'covenant” is a perfect example. For most of us the word means a contract between two people. We understand it to be an agreement, an arrangement, and a vow or pledge where two people obligate themselves to live according to their agreement. We use marriage as an illustration, and we are correct. Marriage is a covenant, an agreement freely entered into between two people of equal standing who pledge to keep their marriage vows.

    The covenant that I just described falls under the Greek word suntheke. However, the Greek word in our passage is diatheke, and there is a world of difference between the two. Suntheke always describes an agreement made on equal terms, and it includes the idea that the agreement can be altered. But diatheke denotes a last will and testament. It is an irrevocable decision that cannot be broken by anyone. Thousands of marriage covenants are broken every year in America, but the covenant between God and man can never be broken. This is the type of covenant that Jesus guarantees: one that can never be altered or broken. I never knew this aspect of the word 'covenant” until I studied this passage. It makes me wonder how many other acceptable theological terms I throw around without really knowing what they mean.

    Just as no one can change the terms of a will, for the testator's decisions are final, so no one can change God's decisions, for His will is final.

Even the prophet-for-hire Balaam knew that 'God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19). Our covenant with God, therefore, comes to us completely one-sided. He decided what is acceptable in His sight, what could be done for those who are unacceptable, and how to accomplish His goal of reconciling His people back to Himself. In doing so, God made a covenant, a will, for His people. And this will was put into effect after the death of the Son of God. Hebrews 9:16-18 says:

    In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood.

    This is also why the second covenant was not put into effect until Christ died. God's covenant with us is based upon the fact that Jesus died, and when He did His will was put into effect. Now God offers to the heirs of Christ all the death benefits of Christ (Romans 8:17; Galatians 3:29). We must understand that God's will for us is not made on an equal-terms basis. We have not bargained with God to gain His approval. God established the terms of our relationship with Him and we cannot alter them, nor could we have made them.

    Now that the covenant of God has been established with His people through the death of His Son, what is the role of the Son? The author of Hebrews reminds us that '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” (7:24-25). Jesus is now our permanent (aparabatos, meaning 'valid,” 'inviolable,” 'unalterable,” 'nontransferable”) priest. There is no need for a successor because Jesus 'lives forever.” His priesthood will always remain His and His alone because it cannot be transferred to anyone else, nor can it be altered or invalidated. Jesus is not a football quarterback who needs to be traded off when His effectiveness for the team wanes. Since He lives forever there is no need to replace Him. He is in His place as our intercessor and high priest. Jesus is and always will be the only way to God. He is not the best way among many ways, as some 'Christian” pastors are teaching. Jesus is the only way, and He knew this to be true during His earthly ministry. ''I am the way, the truth and the life,'” Jesus said. ''No one comes to the Father except through me'” (John 14:6). Who enters into the presence of God by any other means except through Jesus? 'No one.”

    Christ serves us in heaven as a permanent priest who intercedes for us. But what is the result of that role? 'He is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” In this verse the verb 'to save” (sozo) is used in an absolute sense, meaning Jesus saves in the most complete, comprehensive way possible. He saves us from everything and anything we need saving from. No sin in our past is so horrible that Christ's blood cannot wash it clean. No matter what our need as a sinner, when we stand before Jesus we will find One who is able to save us completely.

    If we ever thought of returning to our old ways of living, this passage should take care of that, for there is no other way into God's presence.

These readers cannot return to their Jewish roots because now there is a permanent high priest interceding for them. This act of eternal intercession continues the work that Jesus began while He was on earth.

    As our high priest, Jesus has made 'atonement for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17). He is able to help us when we are tempted and to 'sympathize with our weaknesses” because He 'has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (4:15). In Hebrews 7:25 Jesus' high priestly function is summed up in terms of His intercession: 'He always lives to intercede for them.” Paul told us the same thing in Romans 8:34, 'Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Paul probably learned this from Isaiah 53:12, which says, 'Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

    But the intercession of Jesus was never limited to the heavenly realms. ''I have prayed for you,'” Jesus told Peter at the Last Supper, ''that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers'” (Luke 22:32). We must also recall the lengthy prayer of Jesus found in John 17, for in it we find a clue as to the way Jesus is still interceding for us today. I mention this because throughout Christianity, the character of Christ's intercession has been terribly misrepresented. Many have pictured Him tearfully pleading and crying with arms outstretched before a stern and reluctant God. Such has been the picture of Christ painted in early Christian catacombs. However, Jesus is our throned high priest. He is not standing or bowing or kneeling as he pleads our case before an angry God. Rather, He is our high priest seated in the presence of a loving Father who willfully and joyfully gives to His Son all that He requests.

    The final result of this is that we, the people belonging to God, the royal priesthood and holy nation (1 Peter 2:9), may rest eternally secure in the fact that Jesus has presented to us a lifetime guarantee.

And the duration of the guarantee is for His lifetime, not ours. His word can never be changed; His will can never be contested; His covenant with His people can never be altered; His place as our high priest can never be transferred to another, and therefore His rule and reign will never end. If a person is ever going to take advantage of a guarantee, this is the one worthy of a lifetime investment. No stocks, bonds, money markets, securities, homes, land, coins or stamps will guarantee both a temporal and an eternal return on our investment. Only Christ can do that. Only Christ is our guarantee of a better life.