New Testament Lesson 46 (Hebrews 7–13)
Limits of the Aaronic Priesthood
● The Melchizedek priesthood is necessary to perform all the ordinances necessary for salvation (Hebrews 7:11–12; 10:1–9). The Aaronic priesthood cannot do this.
● The law of Moses had only the Aaronic priesthood, also called the Levitical, lesser, or preparatory priesthood (D&C 84:25–27).
The Melchizedek Priesthood
● The distinction between Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood (D&C 107:1–4).
● Abraham sought for the blessings of the higher priesthood, and received it from the high priest Melchizedek (Abraham 1:1–4; D&C 84:14).
● Who Was Melchizedek?
— Melchizedek was a king and high priest of the Lord’s people in pre-Israelite Canaan (Hebrews 7:1–2; JST Genesis 14:26–29).
— Hebrew Malki-Zedek means “King of righteousness.”
— He was king of Salem (Hebrew, Shalem), which means “King of peace.”
— These are also names of Jesus Christ; Melchizedek was a symbol of Christ.
— Salem was located in Jebusite country, hence its eventual name: “Jebu-salem” which later became “Jeru-salem.”
— Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek.
— Abraham paid his tithes to Melchizedek.
— There was a temple at Salem, which sat upon the same spot as Solomon’s temple—on Mt. Moriah.
— The rock at the top of Mt. Moriah is the one upon which Abraham nearly sacrificed Isaac.
— The same rock sat within the Holy of Holies of Solomon’s temple, and remains there today.
— The rock now sits inside the Dome of the Rock on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.
— Melchizedek turned a wicked people into a celestial people (Alma 13:14–19).
● The Melchizedek priesthood is “without descent”—not conferred by reason of lineage but rather because of righteousness (Hebrews 7:3; JST Hebrews 7:3).1 Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “The right to this higher priesthood was not inherited in the same way as was the case with the Levites and sons of Aaron. Righteousness was an absolute requisite for the conferral of the higher priesthood.”2
● The Aaronic priesthood, being incapable of bringing men to perfection, was hereditary in nature, passing from father to son (Hebrews 7:19–21). Then, as now, it was received by men “without an oath.”
● Jesus received His priesthood with a solemn oath (JST Hebrews 7:20).
— Christ held the same priesthood that Melchizedek did (Hebrews 7:15–17).
— Melchizedek priesthood is the power of “endless life” (Hebrews 7:16) because. . .
— It administers the ordinances that bring endless posterity—the promise to all who inherit God’s glory (D&C 84:19–22; 132:19–24).
● The higher law (the gospel of Christ) requires a higher priesthood (Hebrews 7:11–14; Alma 13:11–12).
● Neither the law of Moses nor the priesthood of Aaron which administered it was capable of bringing God’s children unto perfection. The Melchizedek priesthood, the higher priesthood, can minister to gospel ordinances in their fulness and is therefore capable of purifying our lives so that we can again enter into the presence of the Lord (3 Nephi 27:19, 20).
● The oath and covenant of the priesthood: (D&C 84:33–44).
— Things promised by the priesthood holder (vv. 40, 43–44).
— Things promised by God (vv. 33–39).
● The penalty for breaking this covenant (D&C 84:40–42; 132:4–7).
● Why does God use a covenant to make these promises?
— It gives us the assurance that we will be exalted if we do our part (D&C 82:10).
— God will keep his promises if we remain faithful to the end (Hebrews 6:10–19).
— Those who break their covenants will be damned (Hebrews 10:26–31).
What Is Faith?
● Paul’s classic definition (Hebrews 11:1). Joseph Smith substituted the word “assurance” for the word “substance” (JST Hebrews 11:1).
● By faith we receive “a good report,” which means “a testimony” (Hebrews 11:2).
● Faith is the power by which the worlds were created (Hebrews 11:3).
● “Things which are seen were not made of things which do not appear” (Hebrews 11:3), which means they were not created by chance out of nothingness.
Faith in Whom?
● Faith in Christ (Hebrews 11:6). Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “Faith unto life and salvation centers in Christ. The first principle of the gospel is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It matters not who has faith or what age of the earth’s history is involved; faith has been, is now, and everlastingly shall be in the Son of God.”3
● Paul cites multiple examples of faith from the Old Testament: (Hebrews 11:4–40).
— Abel: What did Abel achieve through faith? (v. 4)
— Enoch: What did Enoch achieve through faith? (v. 5)
— Noah: What did Noah achieve through faith? (v. 6).
— Abraham: What did Abraham achieve through faith? (vv. 8-10, 17-19)
— Sara: What did Sara achieve through faith? (vv. 11-12)
— Isaac: What did Isaac achieve through faith? (v. 20)
— Jacob: What did Jacob achieve through faith? (v. 21)
— Joseph: What did Joseph achieve through faith? (v. 22)
— Moses: What did Moses achieve through faith? (vv. 23-31)
● Paul’s list of things endured and accomplished in the past through faith (Hebrews 11:32–38). For example, a “better resurrection” is achieved by the faithful (v. 35).
The Need for Endurance
● No one will ever approach perfection without suffering (JST Hebrews 11:40).
● Christ is our example of faith and endurance (Hebrews 12:1–3).
● God tries our patience and endurance to test our faith (Hebrews 12:5–11).
● We must be tried “even as Abraham” in order to be sanctified (D&C 101:4–5).
— See Doctrinal Insights below for Joseph Smith’s teachings about this principle.
● Those who cannot endure chastening will lose their inheritance (D&C 136:31).
— See Doctrinal Insights below for Joseph Smith’s teachings about this principle.
Sanctification Through Christ
● What does it mean to be sanctified?
— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “To be sanctified is to become clean, pure, and spotless; to be free from the blood and sins of the world; to become a new creature of the Holy Ghost, one whose body has been renewed by the rebirth of the Spirit. Sanctification is a state of saintliness, a state attained only by conformity to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. . . . Those who attain this state of cleanliness and perfection are able, as occasion may require, to see God and view the things of his kingdom. (D&C 84:23; 88:68; Ether 4:7).4
● The dead cannot be made perfect without us (Hebrews 11:40).
— The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead. The Apostle says, ‘They without us cannot be made perfect’; (Hebrews 11:40) for it is necessary that the sealing power should be in our hands to seal our children and our dead for the fulness of the dispensation of times-a dispensation to meet the promises made by Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world for the salvation of man.”5
The Promised Reward
● If we have patience and faith, we will inherit eternal life (Hebrews 10:35–39).
● We must maintain hope and faith, and help others to do so also (Hebrews 12:12–15).
● We will dwell with God and Christ in the celestial kingdom (Hebrews 12:22–29).
— Paul says an “enumerable company” will be exalted (v. 22). How many? Millions and millions, according to Daniel 7:10 and Revelation 5:11.
● What does it mean that “God is a consuming fire?” (Hebrews 12:29)
— The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “God Almighty Himself dwells in eternal fire.”6
— The “fire” of the Second Coming is the actual presence of the Savior, a celestial glory comparable to the glory of the sun (D&C 76:70) or a “consuming fire” (Malachi 3:2; 4:1).
— “So great shall be the glory of his presence that the sun shall hide his face in shame.” (D&C 133:49).
— “The presence of the Lord shall be as the melting fire that burneth, and as the fire which causeth the waters to boil” (D&C 133:41; Isaiah 64:2; JS-History 1:37).
— “Element shall melt with fervent heat” (D&C 101:25) and “the mountains flow down at thy presence.” (D&C 133:44).
● “Neither the law of Moses nor the priesthood of Aaron which administered it was capable of bringing God’s children unto perfection. The Aaronic priesthood is a lesser authority, and it administers the preparatory gospel only. The Melchizedek priesthood, on the other hand, is the higher priesthood, commissioned to minister the gospel ordinances in their fulness and capable of purifying our lives so that we can again enter into the presence of the Lord.”7
● Those who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood were foreordained to do so (Alma 13:1–5). Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “Alma taught the great truth that every person who holds the Melchizedek priesthood was foreordained to receive that high and holy order in the pre-existent councils of eternity. . . . Thus, he explains, Melchizedek priesthood holders have been “prepared from the foundation of the world” for their high callings. The Lord has prepared them “from eternity to all eternity, according to his foreknowledge of all things.”8
● We must be tried “even as Abraham” in order to be sanctified (D&C 101:4–5). The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they, in like manner, offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him.”9
● Those who cannot endure chastening will lose their inheritance (D&C 136:31). The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “You will have all kinds of trials to pass through. And it is quite as necessary for you to be tried [even] as . . . Abraham and other men of God . . . God will feel after you, and He will take hold of . . . and wrench your very heart strings, and if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Celestial kingdom of God.”10
● “Cast not away therefore your confidence” (Hebrews 10:35-38) Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught:
“Sure it is tough—before you join the Church, while you are trying to join, and after you have joined. That is the way it has always been, Paul says, but don’t draw back. Don’t panic and retreat. Don’t lose your confidence. Don’t forget how you once felt. Don’t distrust the experience you had. . . .
“With any major decision there are cautions and considerations to make, but once there has been illumination, beware the temptation to retreat from a good thing. If it was right when you prayed about it and trusted it, and lived for it, it is right now. Don’t give up when the pressure mounts. . . . Face your doubts. Master your fears. ‘Cast not away therefore your confidence.’ Stay the course and see the beauty of life unfold for you.”11
1. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith ,323.
2. Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 478.
3. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966–73], 3:211.
4. Mormon Doctrine, 675–676.
5. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 356.
6. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 367.
7. The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles [CES manual, 1979], 385–386.
8. Mormon Doctrine, 290.
9. Lectures on Faith, Lecture Sixth, 58.
10. As quoted by President John Taylor in Journal of Discourses, 24:197.
11. “Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence,” Ensign, Mar. 2000, 6-11).