By Mike Willis
For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law (Heb. 7:12).
Our Bibles are conveniently divided into two sections entitled the Old Testament and the New Testament. The division in these books is not arbitrarily made at the whim of man. The Scriptures speak of the “new testament.”
For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins (Matt. 26:28; cf. parallels in Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Cot. 11:25).
Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life (2 Cor. 3:6).
And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance (Heb. 9:15).
The “new covenant” is contrasted with the “old” covenant. “In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away” (Heb. 8:13). Hence, the concept of a New Testament and an Old Testament is revealed in the Scriptures.
A Change in Priesthood Demands
A Change in the Law
The writer of the book of Hebrews argues from the priest-hood of Jesus that a change of laws has occurred. Our text says, “For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law” (Heb. 7:12). The Old Testament priesthood descended through the lineage of Aaron. His descendants were assisted in their ministry at the altar by the other descendants of the tribe of Levi.
Jesus was from the tribe of Judah. From the standpoint of the Old Testament, Jesus could not serve as a priest. Hebrews 7:14 says, “For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.” The silence of the Scriptures closed the door on the descendants of the tribe of Judah from serving as priests. Hence, if Jesus is a priest today, then the law must have changed.
Hebrews develops the idea that Jesus is our high priest and that his priesthood is after the order of Melchizedek, rather than a Levitical priesthood. That Jesus serves as our High Priest is central to the book:
Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:14-15).
And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec (Heb. 5:4-6).
Believing that Jesus is our Great High Priest, we conclude that we are living under a different law from the Old Testament, the Law of Moses.
Changes in the Testament
Because the law has changed there are many differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Here are some of them:
1. The sacrifice is different. The Old Testament commanded that the blood of bulls and goats was to be offered on a literal altar for sin. Under the New Testament, the blood of Christ was shed once for all times on the cross of Calvary as an atonement for the sins of men under both covenants.
2. The priesthood is different. The Old Testament legislated a separate priesthood that was passed down to the descendants of Aaron. Under the New Testament, every Christian is one of God’s priests. We are a royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:9) offering our spiritual service to God (Rom. 12:1-2).
3. The worship is different. Under the Old Testament, the Law allowed for a separate group of singers (organized by David) who used mechanical instruments of music in worship to God. The Scriptures declare, “And he set the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king’s seer, and Nathan the prophet: for so was the commandment of the Lord by his prophets” (2 Chron. 29:25). The use of mechanical instruments of music in the Christian dispensation is without divine authority.
Furthermore, there is nothing in the Old Testament that corresponds with the Lord’s supper. Jesus instituted the Lord’s supper on the night he was betrayed. The Lord’s supper was not a part of the Old Testament worship. Prayer in the name of Jesus was not a part of the Old Testament worship. Jesus said, “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:23-24). The manner of funding God’s worship has changed from tithing to a free-will offering (1 Cor. 16:1-2). The preaching of apostolic doctrine” was not a part of the Old Testament (cf. Acts 2:42).
4. God’s marriage laws are different. The Old Testament allowed men who participated in polygamy to be received into the fellowship of God and his people (Abraham, Jacob, David, etc.). In the New Testament, the Lord instructed, “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband” (1 Cor. 7:2). No one could serve as an elder or deacon but those who were the husband of one wife (1 Tim. 3:2, 12). There were other Old Testament legislations that are not a part of the New Testament law of marriage. Here are some Old Testament laws on marriage that are not duplicated in the New Testament: (a) A priest could not marry a prostitute or a divorced woman (Lev. 21:7); (b) One who falsely charged that his wife was not a virgin when they married could never divorce his wife (Deut. 22:19); (c) One who commited fornication with a woman who is not betrothed was fined 50 shekels, married the woman, and could never divorce her (Deut. 22:28-29); (d) If one divorced his wife and she married another, he could never have her again as his wife, even if her second husband died (Deut. 24:1-4); (e) Adulterers were to be put to death (Lev. 20:10). Those who claim that there is but one eternal covenant have not explained why these provisions of the Old Testament are not still binding today.
We need to remember the fundamental themes of the Bible, one of which is that in these days, God speaks to us through his Son. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds” (Heb. 1:1-2). We are no longer living under Old Testament legislation.
Guardian of Truth XLI: 18 p. 2
September 18, 1997