“Melchizedekian Superiority” – Hebrews 7:11-28

November 11th, 2018

Hebrews 7:11-28

“Melchizedekian Superiority”

Aux. Texts: Genesis 14:17-20

Call to Worship: Psalm 110

 

Service Orientation: The Levitical priesthood could never provide a relationship with God.  But it did point to Jesus Who could (Lk 24:27, 44; Jn 5:39-40) .  Understanding this will determine if you find peace, security and rest through your relationship with God.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week: Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.  — Hebrews 7:27

 

Background Information on Melchizedek:

  • The big picture that the writer wants us to see is that Jesus perfectly fulfills what was foreshadowed in the Genesis account of Melchizedek. Melchizedek’s character type as king, priest, righteousness, and peace was fulfilled to perfection in Christ.  Melchizedek’s qualifications, being without genealogy and without beginning or end, prefigured Jesus’ who had no priestly genealogy or priestly term of service but was appointed by God and ministers eternally.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Genesis, 218)
  • Since it is easier to show the superiority of Melchizedek to Abraham, than to show the connection between Jesus and Melchizedek, the author begins there. This superiority is clearly seen in that Melchizedek extracted tithes from Abraham.  Trusting God as he did, Abraham would not pay tithes to just anyone.  Very clearly he recognized this man as a true priest of God, even though he was a Gentile.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 145)
  • The author of Hebrews interprets the Melchizedek narrative of Gn 14:17-20 in light of that which the psalmist declares in Ps 110:4: “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek” (Italics mine). Thus, with use of the words translated “forever” (eis ton aiona), Scripture associates eternality with a Melchizedekan-type priesthood–a fact the writer of Hebrews expounds extensively in the rest of chapter 7.  When our author reads the Genesis passage in this light, the lack of reference to Melchizedek’s heritage and death makes sense.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 256)
  • Abraham did not do this because a law required it. He did it because of what he saw in this man.  He knew he was God’s priest.  Then, after the tithe was received, this mysterious priest blessed Abraham.  Further on, the author will observe that the lesser is always blessed by the greater, making it clear which of these two men is the greater.  Beyond that, it will be argued by Jewish logic (our logic doesn’t accept this kind of reasoning), that ALL of the Levitical priests were still in the loins of Abraham and thus THEY TOO paid tithes to this great man.  If Melchizedek is worthy to receive tithes from Aaron and his successors (in Abraham), then he is clearly the greater priest.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 145)
  • The fact that there is no genealogy for this man in a book (Genesis) stressing the genealogies of its important men, is significant to the writer. He assumes the Holy Spirit did this purposely to show that Melchizedek would appear as a type of Christ.  It’s an argument from silence.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 146)
  • Only in Psalm 110, in the midstream, as it were, of the history of the Israelites, is there an isolated, and for this reason cryptic, mention of one who is “a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” The psalm, which expresses the expectation of the establishment of a messianic priesthood and kingdom, was written some hundreds of years after the inauguration of the Levitical order.  This in itself is eloquent of the imperfection and impermanence of the Levitical order, since it is obvious that, if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood, it would have been superfluous and indeed meaningless to speak of another priest belonging to a different order, rather than one named after the order of Aaron.  Thus the plain implication of this flash of revelation is that the old and inferior order is to be superseded by a new and superior order, which, compared with the inadequate and temporary nature of the former, will be distinguished by full and abiding efficacy.  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 255)
  • Our author desires to do only one thing right now–prove the surpassing greatness of Melchizedek’s priesthood. To do this, he must dwell on the greatness of the man himself.  It is rare to find Scripture featuring the greatness of any man, for there is only one truly great man, the Lord Jesus.  However, because Melchizedek has been chosen as a TYPE of Christ, his greatness is extolled.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 147)
  • Our author, it is important to notice, invests Melchizedek not with allegorical but with typological significance. He is content here to draw attention to the messianic significance of the Hebrew names Melchizedek and Salem, the former of which means “king of righteousness,” and the latter “peace.”  Accordingly, as king of righteousness and king of peace Melchizedek is presented as the type of the messianic priest-king, the marks of whose kingdom are righteousness and peace.  In Christ we see the appearance of the expected everlasting king promised to David’s line under whom righteousness flourishes and peace abounds (Ps 72:7; cf. Ps 97:2; 98:3, 9); he is “the Prince of Peace,” of the increase of whose government and peace there shall be no end (Is 9:6f.); he is the long-awaited king who will speak peace to the nations (Zech 9:9f.), and “the righteous Branch,” whose name is “the Lord our Righteousness” and who administers justice in his glorious reign (Jer 23:5f.; 33:15f.).  As king he is just, and as priest he justifies all who trust in his atoning sacrifice (Rom 3:26; 5:8f.).  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, pp. 247-48)
  • Abraham had given Melchizedek a tithe of the plunder because Abraham saw he was God’s representative. In return this representative invoked God’s blessing upon Abraham.  Melchizedek functioned as God’s mouthpiece and, therefore, was greater than Abraham.  He acted in the capacity of priest, and that made him superior to Abraham.  (Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary: Thessalonians, Pastorals & Hebrews, 189)

 

Background Information on the Passage:

  • Please bear in mind that this entire chapter is an exposition of Ps 110:4 and the author is developing as many points as he can on that verse to show the superiority of Jesus’ priesthood. (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 155)
  • The key phrase of this passage is we draw near to God (v. 19b). God’s ultimate desire for men is for them to come to Him.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 183-4)
  • There is much in this argument which for us is difficult to understand. It speaks and thinks in terms of ritual and ceremony long since forgotten; but one eternal thing remains.  Man seeks the presence of God; his sin has erected a barrier between him and God but he is restless until he rests in God; and Jesus alone is the priest who can bring the offering that can open the way back to God for men.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 85)
  • We ought not think of the law and the priesthood as two quite separate things that happened to be operative at the same time among the same people. The priesthood is the very basis of the law.  Without that priesthood it would be impossible for the law to operate in its fullness.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 66)
  • The ability of Jesus Christ has already come into focus before in this epistle, but nowhere as comprehensively as here. In 2:18 is was his ability to help, in 4:15 his ability to sympathize, but here his ability to save.  Salvation has been mentioned before, but only here is the verb used applied to Jesus.  This makes it more personal.  But it is made even more comprehensive by the fact that his ability to save is said to be for all time (eis to panteles).  The Greek generally means “wholly,” but a temporal meaning is justified by papyri parallels (MM).  The meaning seems to be that as long as the high priest functions, he is able to save, a thought which is strengthened by the words he always lives (pantote z n).  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 166)
  • (v. 12) We ought to look at the verse, however, through the eyes of a person of Jewish descent in the first century of the Christian era. The law of God was valid eternally and could not be terminated.  The apocryphal literature of that era, as well as the rabbinical books of somewhat latter date, speak of the lasting validity of the law.  Jesus, in a certain sense, reflected that sentiment when he said: “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Mt 5:18).  But Jesus fulfilled the law (Mt 5:17), not to set it aside but to effect a change.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 194)
  • (v. 12) If the law says that the high priest must be from the tribe of Aaron, but He has come from another source, then the law must change. Notice the affirmed and unmovable assurance of the apostolic writers.  So certain were they that Christ was the Son, the High Priest, that they were willing, yes, even demanding that the law be set aside.  No wonder they were persecuted!  (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 118)
  • (v. 12) A priest served from the age of 25 until the age of 50, after which his ministry was over (Nm 8:24-25). (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 174)
  • (v. 12) That the priesthood of Melchizedek is fulfilled in Christ alone is true enough, but our epistle teaches with the clearest possible emphasis that the introduction of the order of Melchizedek means the disappearance of the order of Levi; consequently any suggestion that the latter is still in force in the ministry of men is inadmissible and shows a surprising disregard of the instruction so plainly given by our author. (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 262)
  • (v. 12) The priesthood was the very heart and soul of the Law. The Law clearly spelled out who could be a priest and what he was to do in the way of rituals and sacrifices to deal with sin.  So when you come along with a different priesthood which changes all that, it means the Law is cancelled in favor of a new program.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 150)
  • (v. 13) From the beginning of the Aaronic priesthood, genealogy determined everything, personal qualification nothing. If you descended from Aaron, you could serve; if you did not, you could not.  Consequently, the priests often were more concerned about their pedigrees than their holiness.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 177)
  • (v. 13) A priest, of course, was supposed to be godly, just as all Israelites were supposed to be godly. A number of priests who were especially ungodly were severely punished by God.  But godliness was not a qualification for their serving at the altar.  First, they had to be pure descendants of Aaron.  Even with this pedigree, however, any one of more than 100 physical blemishes or deficiencies could disqualify them from officiating.  But there was not a single moral or spiritual qualification that they had to meet.  Their serving had nothing at all to do with character, ability, personality, or holiness.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 191)
  • (v. 14) The descendants of Levi were made to be the priests, but God proclaimed through prophecy that the Messiah would come through the tribe of Judah. This is further proof that the Levitical priesthood was temporary.  The better High Priest was coming.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 101)
  • (v. 18) The word used for cancellation is athetēsis (NIV – set aside); that is the word used for annulling a treaty, for abrogating a promise, for scoring a man’s name off the register, for rendering a law or regulation inoperative. The whole paraphernalia of the ceremonial law was wiped out in the priesthood of Jesus.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 79)
  • (v. 21) The Aaronic priesthood was instituted by divine law; Christ’s priesthood, by divine oath. A law can be annulled; an oath lasts forever.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 200)
  • (v. 22) This is the writer’s first use of the term “covenant (diathēkē), a word whose importance for him may be gauged from the fact that he uses it no fewer than seventeen times, whereas in no other NT book is it found more than three times. In nonbiblical Greek it denotes a last will and testament, but in the LXX it is the normal rendering of the Hebrew “covenant”.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 70)
  • (v. 22) The author may have chosen this word rather than synthēkē, the usual word for “covenant,” because the latter might suggest an agreement made on more or less equal terms. By contrast, there is something absolute about a will.  One cannot dicker with the testator.  And in like manner man cannot bargain with God.  God lays down the terms.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 70)
  • (v. 22) The covenant God makes with his people is an agreement that has two parties, promises, and a condition. The parties are God and his people.  The promises are:  “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts,” says God, “I will be their God, and they will be my people” (Jer 31:33; Heb 8:10).  And the condition is faith.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 202)
  • (v. 22) Earlier we saw how God gave His oath to Abraham, that the patriarch might be assured that God never changes His purposes. So here it is given that WE (all believers) might be assured that Jesus’ ministry as our high priest will never be changed.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 156)
  • (v. 22) Originally, covenants were agreements between two parties. Each party had certain obligations and responsibilities.  If either side failed, the covenant was broken.  Jesus provided a way to guarantee the acts of both parties.  He guaranteed the people’s part by providing a perfect sacrifice.  This ensured that the people would always be righteous before God.  Jesus also guaranteed God’s part by securing God’s permanent forgiveness and presence.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 105)
  • (v. 22) In classical literature the engyos was a person who guaranteed that a legal obligation would be carried out. In this letter we see that in heaven Jesus “now acts as the guarantor and representative of those who are still on earth awaiting the rest promised to the people of God.”  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  Hebrews, 134)
  • (v. 23) Josephus says that there were eighty-three high priests from Aaron to the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70 (Antiq. XX, 227 [x.1]; the Tal says there were eighteen during the first temple and more than three hundred during the second, Yoma 9a). (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 71)
  • In the final verses of chapter 7 the author sums up the discussion started at 5:1. One can easily note the parallel ideas between 5:1-3 and 7:26-28.  The author begins 7:26-28 with a statement concerning our high priest’s character and status (v. 26).  The descriptions “holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners” all emphasize the Son’s sinless character in contrast to the sinfulness of the earthly priests.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 269)
  • The Aaronic order came to an end with the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70. The new order, however, was inaugurated with Jesus’ death and existed simultaneously with the Levitical priesthood until Jerusalem was destroyed. (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 193)
  • We who live in a different era and in another culture are unable to fathom the turmoil that must have taken place when Jew and Christian realized the Levitical priesthood had definitely ended in A.D. 70. After Jesus’ ascension, Christians continued to attend the prayer services and festivals at the temple in Jerusalem (Acts 3:1; 20:16; 21:26).  The end of an era, however, had come because Jesus by his death on the cross had fulfilled the law.  Jesus had become the great high priest, but not in the Aaronic order; he appeared as a priest like Melchizedek.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 195-6)

 

The question to be answered is . . . What does Hebrews 7:11-28 teach us about our relationship with God?

 

Answer: Only Jesus (after the order of Melchizedek) can provide the perfection necessary for us to draw near to God.  Jesus is the guarantee of a better covenant with God.  Look to Jesus!

 

The OT program was a beautiful symbol of what God would do through Christ.  We must not think though, that the OT saints didn’t know God’s forgiveness or His presence.  The Psalmist says they did (Ps 32:1).  David found it impossible to escape from God’s presence (Ps 139:7).  God’s presence has always been available to those who put their trust in Him.  However they had to do so apart from the religious system of Israel, for the Jewish priesthood didn’t help anyone enjoy God’s presence.  It did just the opposite.  It caused people to stand at a distance from Him.  The awesome ceremonies with only the high priest going into the most holy place, tended to make people fear the presence of God.  It taught them that sin separates from God.  Yet those who laid hold of the promises of God knew His presence in spite of the barrier the Jewish legal system created.  Even so, that system demonstrated the fact that a “better hope” was needed and was coming.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 154)

 

We have now reached the part of this letter which modern readers sometimes find a little difficult.  It makes use of occasionally unfamiliar imagery and relies on a form of argument which seems strange to us.  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  Hebrews, 126)

 

On three occasions in chapter 7 the writer stresses that Jesus is “a high priest forever” (7:3, 17, 21) quoting Ps 110:4 as an authority for his conviction.  He cites this Psalm because it contains God’s oath that this distinctive priesthood “after the order of Melchizedek” will be permanent and changeless.  The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind.  Nothing could be more definite.  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  Hebrews, 131-2)

 

Christ is not another Aaron; he replaces Aaron with a priesthood that is both different and better.  And with the Aaronic priesthood went the law that had been erected with that priesthood as its basis.  Lacking that priesthood, that law had to give way.  It had lost its basis.  So the author says there must be a change of law.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 67)

 

Despite their longings, all Jews lived with limited access to God, regardless of their godliness.  The Old Covenant’s Aaronic priesthood, with its sacrificial system and the veil over the Holy of Holies, institutionalized that limited access.  Official access was granted only once a year to the high priest–and that was after he had first offered a sacrifice for his own sins (cf. 7:27).  The problem, of course, was the radical holiness of God and the radical sinfulness of man–a dilemma which the Old Covenant was powerless to reconcile.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 194)

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Another (heteros)

 

Greek Allos = {English} another = an additional one of the same kind.

 

(Heb 7:11, 15) Greek Heteros = {English} another = of a different kind.

 

Whereas earlier in the epistle the writer was at pains to stress the identification of Jesus Christ with his “brethren,” he here emphasizes that he was separated from sinners.  This is true in two ways.  His sinless character at once sets him apart from other men, all of whom are sinners.  Moreover his office equally sets him apart, for only the high priest, even in the Levitical order, was permitted into the holy of holies, and then only after purging his own sin.  It is a cardinal feature of NT teaching that Jesus Christ, in spite of his likeness to men, nevertheless stands unique above them.  It is only when this uniqueness is recognized that the full glory of the ministry of Jesus on men’s behalf can be appreciated.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 168)

 

What does Hebrews 7:11-28 teach us about our relationship with God?:

I-  The Levitical priesthood could never bring you to God but only point out your sin that keeps you from God.  (Heb 7:11, 18-19, 27-28; see also: Lv 16:11; Ex 25:40; Ps 51:16; Rom 7:10-12; 2 Cor 3:7-11; Gal 3:24; Heb 8:5; 9:14, 23-24; 10:1 )

 

The Law marvelously served to enhance one’s awareness of sin.  Paul tells us in Rom 7:7, 8 that the Law’s command not to covet made him aware that all he did was covet.  The Law helped him see how spiritually dead he was (cf. 2 Cor 3:7ff.).  The Law also programmed God’s people regarding the necessity of an atonement, as seen in the repeated demand of a blood sacrifice.  Sin necessitated the shedding of blood.  Sin. . . blood, sin. . . blood, sin. . . blood–this developed a conditioned reflex regarding the need for atonement.  Indeed, the whole system provided a type of Christ, so that John the Baptist would cry out as Jesus passed by, “Look, the Lamb of God!” (Jn 1:34).  The Law was, in effect, a teacher, as Paul explained in Gal 3:24–“the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith.”  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 195)

 

Even though God had given the Mosaic Law, it was characterized by a certain weakness and uselessness.  Its chief weakness was that it could make nothing perfect.  Note that the author does not say that the Law served no useful purpose.  Both the law and the priesthood it supported preceded and paved the way for something better.  They cast shadows ahead to and pointed out details about the better high priest coming.  But that was the extent of their purpose.  They could not make men right with God through animal sacrifices or change men’s hearts to make them want to walk the way of God’s commandments.  Such results could come only from the work of the high priest in the order of Melchizedek.  (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 75)

 

The old system could reveal sin.  It could even cover sin, in a certain way and to a certain temporary degree.  But it could never remove sin, and so itself had to be removed.  It brought nothing to conclusion.  It gave no security.  It gave no peace.  A man never had a clear conscience.  But the priesthood of Jesus Christ made all of what Israel looked forward to a reality.  It brought access to God.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 192)

 

David testified to the inadequacy of animal sacrifices when he confessed his sin to God: “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings” (Ps 51:16).  The command was external and pertained to the duties performed by the priests; it was unable, however, to lead the believer into the presence of God.

What the law could not do, for it made nothing perfect (Rom 8:3), Jesus did by his perfect sacrifice on the cross:  he opened the way to God.  In the capacity of high priest Jesus, by entering the Most Holy Place, reconciled God and man.  Therefore the believer has full communion with God.  (Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary: Thessalonians, Pastorals & Hebrews, 198)

 

For the Jew there was an air of finality about the law; it was God’s definitive word to men.  Also, there was for the Jew the presumption that the Aaronic priesthood was superior to that of Melchizedek, for the law came later than Melchizedek and could be thought to be God’s way of replacing all previous priesthoods.  But the author points out that the priesthood of Melchizedek was spoken of in Ps 110, well after the giving of the law.  That God spoke through David about the Melchizedekian priesthood, while the Aaronic priesthood was a going concern, shows that the priests of the line of Aaron could not accomplish what a priesthood aimed at.  And because the priesthood and the law went together, that meant a change in the law as well.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 66)

 

The first covenant was typical and shadowy.  It was but a school lesson for children.  Just as we give to our boys models of churches or models of ships, so was the ceremonial law a model of good things to come, but it did not contain the things themselves.  Christ is no surety of a mere model or pattern of things in the heavens, but of a covenant that deals with the heavenly things themselves, with real blessings, with true boons from God.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 190)

 

The law is a principle of life only to the man who fulfills the righteousness it prescribes (Rom 10:5); but to the law-breaker it becomes an instrument of death (Rom 7:10-12; 2 Cor 3:7ff.), and the human predicament is precisely that of the law-breaker.  Hence, the addition of the explanatory comment that the law made nothing perfect.  It must be understood, then, that the law is ineffective only in relation to sinful man, and that the deficiency is located in sinful man rather than in the law; for in itself, as Paul insists, the law is holy and spiritual (Rom 7:12, 14): it is, after all, God’s law.  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 265)

 

In his providence God instituted the Levitical priesthood.  The priests offered animal sacrifices so the people might obtain remission of sin.  These sacrifices by themselves could not cleanse the consciences of the believers (Heb 9:14) and were inadequate to atone for sin; they pointed to Christ.  After Jesus as the Lamb of God brought the supreme sacrifice that “takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29), the need for animal sacrifices offered by the priests was eliminated.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 197-8)

 

When the writer to the Hebrews says that the people became a people of the law on the basis of the Levitical priesthood, he means that without the Levitical sacrifices to atone for breaches of it, the law would have been completely impossible.  But, in fact, the system of Levitical sacrifices had proved ineffective to restore the lost fellowship between God and man.  So then a new priesthood was necessary, the priesthood after the order of Melchizedek.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 78)

 

The Levitical system was not simply earlier in time; it also prepared the way for the coming of Christ.  But it had to give way because it was weak and unprofitable.  It could not give men strength to meet all the needs of life.  It could not bring men salvation.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 69)

 

II-  Because Jesus is from the order of Melchizedek He is superior to the Levitical priesthood and can guarantee a better covenant with God because He can change hearts, He lives forever, was confirmed on oath by God, and is holy, blameless, pure, and perfect.  (Heb 7:15-19, 22-28; see also: Jer 31:31-34; Ezek 11:19; 36:26; Rom 8:3-4; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 9:11-28; 10:5-18; 1 Pt 1:19)

 

Jesus’ priesthood was based on the life that was in Him, not His physical descent from anyone.  His was a life that could not be overcome by either sin or death.  What’s more, He had the power to transmit this life to those who believed in Him.  Thus, He could do what no Jewish priest could ever do–give a life to people that neither sin nor death could overcome.  And since His life is not limited by time, His priesthood continues forever.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 153)

 

When Christ our High Priest offered sacrifice he did this once for all.  This all-important affirmation not only attests the eternal completeness and efficacy of this “one sacrifice for sins forever” (10:12) but also confirms the negation and abolition of every other sacrificial system.  The advent of what is final and eternal leaves no further place for what is temporary and inadequate.  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 278)

 

He stresses the fact that the institution of the priesthood after the order of Melchizedek was confirmed by the oath of God while the ordinary priesthood was not.  The reference is to Ps 110:4: “The Lord hath sworn, and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.’” the very idea of God taking an oath is startling.  Long ago Philo saw this.  He pointed out that the only reason for taking an oath is because a man’s bare word may be disbelieved; and the oath is to guarantee that his word is true.  God never needs to do that because it is impossible that his word should ever be disbelieved.  If, therefore, God ever confirms a statement by an oath, that statement must be of extraordinary importance.  So then it is possible that the ordinary priesthood can pass away; but the priesthood of Jesus Christ can never pass away; because God has sworn an oath that it will last forever.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 80)

 

The great boast of the Jews was that they were the descendants of Abraham, the friend of God and the recipient of the promise (cf. Jn 8:33, 39; Mt 3:9; Phil 3:4f.).  But here is someone in their own Scriptures who is manifestly Abraham’s superior. . . . “If Melchizedek, who was a sign and shadow, is preferred to Abraham and to all the Levitical priests, how much more Christ, who is the truth and the substance!…If a type of Christ is greater than he who has the promises, how much more so is Christ himself!”  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 251)

 

The Melchizedek priesthood of Christ is shown to be superior to the Levitical priesthood in four ways:  (1) it is forever, unbroken by genealogical beginning or end, 7:1-3 (on this analogy cf. Ladd, 579f.; the author certainly knew Jesus had human parents; cf. 7:14); (2) Levi (in Abraham’s loins offered sacrifice to Melchizedek, the lesser to the greater, 7:4-10; (3) the promise (Ps 110:4) of another order to supersede the Levitical makes clear its imperfection, 7:11-14; and (4) the Melchizedek priesthood was attained, not by “the law of a fleshly commandment” (7:16, lit. tr.), but by the power of an endless life, 7:15-19.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, 964)

 

(i) There is fear.  So long as a man is terrified of God he can never be at home with him.  Jesus came to show men the infinite tender love of the God whose name is Father–and the awful fear is gone.  We know now that God wants us to come home, not to punishment but to the welcome of his open arms.  (ii) There is sin.  Jesus on his Cross made the perfect sacrifice which atones for sin.  Fear is gone; sin is conquered; the way to God is open to men.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 79)

 

If the Levitical priesthood had been sufficient, the author asks, why was there still need for another priest to come, as prophesied in the psalm?  This priest came as a fulfillment of what had been pictured in the OT, offering perfection that could not be attained through the Levitical priesthood.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 99)

 

Psa 110:4.–“And will not repent.  The meaning of this phrase is, that the priesthood of Christ is not like that of Aaron, which was after a time to expire, and is now actually with all the ceremonial law abolished, but a priesthood never to be altered or changed.  –Daniel Featley  (Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Vol. 1, 201)

 

Worship Point: Worship Jesus — not some priest, pope, bishop, superintendent or pastor.   Jesus alone can save. (Mt 23:9; Jn 14:6; Acts 4:12)

 

Gospel Application: Jesus is the only one who can change your heart so you can become perfect and have a heart relationship with a perfect God.  The Law and its priesthood could never do that.  (Mt 5:17; Rom 1:17; 3:21-22; 8:3-5; 10:4; Gal 3:24; Phil 3:8-9; Heb 2:17-18; 7:11, 18-19, 27-28)

 

Melchizedek, though king of righteousness and of peace, could not make men righteous or give them peace.  His priesthood was a better type of Christ’s than was the Levitical, but it was still a type.  Only the Divine Priest could give righteousness and peace.  “Therefore having been justified [counted righteous] by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1).  That is the necessary order:  righteousness and then peace.  Christ gives us peace by giving us righteousness.  “The work of righteousness will be peace, and the service of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever” (Isa 32:17).  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 176-7)

 

Few things were as stable as the OT law.  Kings came and went; high priests died and made way for new high priests.  But the law never changed.  The OT law is not God’s final word, however; it was, in fact, preparatory.  Christ himself became the final word.  The law was not changed, but rather was fulfilled, rendering the ceremonial parts of the law (such as the system for animal sacrifice) out of date.  The ceremonial laws have been superseded by Christ himself, who was the final and sufficient sacrifice.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 100)

 

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul gives the essence of the mature, spiritually fulfilled Christian life.  “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:17-19).  This is Christianity–“the fullness of God.”

That is the basic goal of the gospel.  Judaism brought a man into the presence of God, but not in the purest and fullest sense.  The veil was always there.  Only in the New Covenant is complete entrance possible.  Only by the blood of Jesus Christ, only by His priestly intercession at the right hand of God, based on His perfect sacrifice on Calvary, was access to God opened.  These are the great recurring themes in Hebrews.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 184)

 

God told the Israelites to sacrifice animals as substitutes; he gave his Son as the substitute.  God forbade the people of Israel the practice of offering human beings to idols (Lv 18:21; 20:2-5; 2 Kgs 17:17, 19; Ezek 20:31); he himself offered his only Son (Jn 3:16).  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 208)

 

There is no approach unto God except through the intercession of Christ.  Does not this teach the grand principle of the evil of sin, and teach it in the plainest manner?  The distance that sin puts between the sinner and God, and the necessity of mediation in order that a just God may commune with the imperfect–are not these fully taught by the institution of the perpetual intercession of the Son of God?  This is as much a declaration of the righteousness of God as was the substitutionary death on Calvary.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 195)

 

“Guarantee” translates a word found only here in the NT (engyos) and it brings before us an unusual idea.  The old covenant was established, as Bruce (in loc.) points out, with a mediator (Gal 3:19) but with no one to guarantee that the people would fulfill their undertaking.  But Jesus stands as a continuing guarantor and that in two directions.  He guarantees to men that God will fulfill his covenant of forgiveness, and he guarantees to God that those who are in him are acceptable.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 70)

 

Spiritual Challenge: You are by nature an enemy of God.  But when Jesus and the Holy Spirit comes into your heart; you are transformed so you love God and actually become a child of God and co-heir with Christ. (Jn 1:12-13; Rom 8:17; 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 3:29; 4:1-7; Eph 3:6; Tit 3:7; Heb 6:17; 1 Pt 3:7)

 

When Jesus speaks the truth, He certainly says what is true, but He also brings the revelation of God.  As revelation, the truth is to be known (Jn 8:32; 1 Jn 2:21).  But this is more than formal knowledge of factual or theoretical truth.  It is knowledge of Jesus Himself as the truth.  He brings the truth in Himself (Jn 14:6), and to know Him is to know the One who is full of grace and truth (1:14).  This knowledge is by faith and thus by the Holy Spirit.  Hence John closely links the Holy Spirit and truth.  The Spirit is the Spirit of truth, and He guides into all truth (15:26; 16:13).  His anointing is true (1 Jn 2:27), and His witness is true, for, like Jesus, the Spirit is truth (5:6).  To worship in the Spirit is thus to worship in truth (Jn 4:23f.).  This means supremely not worshiping in spirituality or with pure ideas, but worshiping in conformity with the reality of God revealed in Jesus by the spirit.  Yet one should not forget that truth in this revelatory sense also implies right doctrine (1 Jn 2:21) and right conduct (3 Jn 3).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Vol. Two, 926-7)

 

The old covenant which God made with Israel had proved a failure.  At its establishment they were most ready to promise, All that the Lord hath said will we do and be obedient.  But how soon was the covenant forgotten and the promise broken.  They had undertaken what they could not perform; the vow and the purpose availed nothing without the strength.  In course of time God promised to establish a new covenant, and in it to provide for what had been wanting, for the power to obey, and so to keep the covenant.  It would be a covenant of life–giving that new life into the heart, out of which obedience would naturally spring.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 248)

 

The qualifications for the Levitical priesthood were patently external.  A priestly candidate had to be: 1) legitimate, 2) a Levite (meaning that his mother had to be an Israelite and his father a priest before him), and 3) having no physical defects.  There were 142 physical blemishes listed that could disqualify him, some of which are recorded in Lv 21:16-23.  His ordination ceremony was painstakingly external regarding how he was to be bathed, clothed, anointed with oil, and marked with blood.  After his ordination he had to observe specified washings, anointings, and hair-cutting.  The focus was external throughout.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 198)

 

So What?: The hope that can transcend any heartache, trial, suffering, pain, or loss can only be found when Christ (who is ANOTHER after the order of Melchizedek) is your priest.   Never, never, never, never, never, look to anyone or anything to draw you near to God.  Only ANOTHER priest after the order of Melchizedek can do that.  (Bk of Gal; Col 2:16-17; Bk of Heb – esp. Heb 7:19, 22-25; 1 Pt 1:3-9)

 

 

 

A-  The Levitical, Aaronic, regional, priesthood of the Law featured a sinful, temporary, man who could never draw people to God but merely foreshadow the ONE Who could.  (Lv 16:11; Jn 5:39-40; Lk 24:27, 44; Heb 7:19; 8:5)

 

Progression may be seen in the relationship between Jesus and the Levitical priests.  God has not started over–he has brought perfection, in the sense of arriving at a desired goal, to that which was anticipated but unachievable in the Levitical priesthood.  The role of the old covenant priestly regulations was a good role–that of facilitating worship during the time prior to Messiah (9:8, 23) and of foreshadowing Messiah’s own priestly work.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 271)

 

. . . there is no benefit to be found in the ancient ceremonies, except as they refer to Christ; for in this way they so made the Jews acquainted with God’s grace, that they in a manner kept them in expectation of it.  Let us then remember that the Law is useless, when separated from Christ.  (John Calvin, Commentaries: Hebrews, 171-2)

 

B-  The Messianic, Melchizedekian, universal, priesthood of Jesus features a perfect, holy, pure, permanent, eternal, God/man Who is ANOTHER priest and is able to draw people to God/Himself. (Ps 110; Mt 27:50-51; Heb 4:15-16; Rv 19:11-16)

 

 

Draw nigh to God!  Nothing but this can satisfy God and His love.  He longs to have His children come to dwell in that love, and to delight in His presence.  He sent His Son to bring us to Him.  This is what constitutes full salvation.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 244)

 

Man was created for the presence of God.  The nearness of God was to be his native atmosphere.  It is this God is willing to vouchsafe to each of us; it is this the heavenly priesthood makes possible; it is this God would have us seek.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 245)

 

Draw nigh to God!  Nothing less than this is what the redemption of Christ has won and set upon for us.  This was the weakness of the law, that it made no provision for God’s people entering into His sanctuary, His immediate presence.  The way into the Holiest has been opened by Jesus.  We may boldly enter in and appear before God.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 245)

 

The Levitical priests, therefore, were priests of Jehovah.  The Israelites were Jehovah’s people and the Levites were Jehovah’s priests.  The Levitical priests could minister only to Israel and only for Jehovah.

Melchizedek, however, was priest of the Most High God (‘ĒlElyôn, a more universal name for God).  It represents God as possessor of heaven and earth, God above all national or dispensational distinctions.  The Most High God is over both Jew and Gentile, and is first mentioned in Scripture in relation to Melchizedek (Gn 14:18).

The significance is this:  Jesus is not just the Messiah of Israel, but of the world.  His priesthood is universal, just as Melchizedek’s.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 175)

 

The more we consider and adore our blessed King-Priest, our Melchizedek, the stronger will our confidence become that from His throne in heaven He will, in divine power, Himself apply to us all the blessed fruits of His atonement, and make a life in God’s presence and nearness our daily experience.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 238)

 

Herein should lie our great comfort: we should fall back upon this truth whenever our burden presses too sorely upon our shoulders.  Jesus lives:  my great Redeemer lives for me:  lives in all fullness of power and glory, and devotes that life, with all that pertains to it, to the preservation of my soul from every ill.  Can I not rest in this?  With such a keeper, why should I be afraid?  Must I not be safe when One so vigilant and so vigorous devotes His life to my protection?  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 198)

 

Though the origin of the Latin word pontifex is shrouded by the mists of ancient history, many believe it comes from two Latin words, pons (bridge) and facere (to make).  This notion may have been related to rites of sacrifices and offerings made upon a bridge.  Others interpret the root of pontifex as referring to the priestly function of making a bridge between gods and the people.  Though the Roman Catholic Church has pasted the label Pontifex Maximus, or “supreme bridge-maker,” on the Pope, this title properly belongs to Christ and Christ alone.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews, 119)

 

Life never works from without, always from within.  Our High Priest by His life-power enters our life, and renews it, and lifts it up; His heavenly life becomes our actual life, and the presence of God surrounds and shines on us as the sunlight shines on our bodies.  He is able so to shed abroad the love of God in our hearts that His presence is our joy all the day.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 245)

 

No truth of Scripture is more definite than that God chose the Jews as His special people, His very unique and cherished people.  But Scripture is equally clear that Israel continually misunderstood and presumed upon her unique relation to God.  They, for example, recognized Him as absolute Creator of heaven and earth and as sovereign over His world.  But they had a very difficult time understanding Him as Redeemer and lord, He was theirs alone.  (Jonah’s reluctance to preach to Gentiles illustrates this.)  They could hardly conceive of another divine covenant and another divine priesthood, especially one that was royal and superior to their own.  Yet they are told that the covenant in Christ, though called new, not only has superseded theirs but, in type, actually preceded theirs.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 176)

 

It must be a solemn and a sure matter which leads the Eternal to swear, and with him an oath fixes and settles the decree forever; but in this case, as if to make assurance a thousand times sure, it is added, “and will not repent.”  It is done, and done forever and ever; Jesus is sworn in to be the priest of his people, and he must abide so even to the end, because his commission is sealed by the unchanging oath of the immutable Jehovah.  If his priesthood could be revoked, and his authority removed, it would be the end of all hope and life for the people whom he loves; but this sure rock is the basis of our security–the oath of God establishes our glorious Lord both in his priesthood and in his throne.  It is the Lord who has constituted him a priest forever, he has done it by oath, that oath is without repentance, is taking effect now, and will stand throughout all ages: hence our security in him is placed beyond all question.  (Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Vol. 1, 187-8)

 

During the present interval, through which we wait for his glorious appearing and visible millennial kingdom, he is in the place of power, and his dominion is in no jeopardy, or otherwise he would not remain quiescent.  He sits because all is safe, and he sits at Jehovah’s right hand because omnipotence waits to accomplish his will.  Therefore there is no cause for alarm whatever may happen in this lower world; the sight of Jesus enthroned in divine glory is the sure guarantee that all things are moving onward towards ultimate victory.  Those rebels who now stand high in power shall soon be in the place of contempt, they shall be his footstool.  He shall with ease rule them, he shall sit and put his foot on them; not rising to tread them down as when a man puts forth force to subdue powerful does, but retaining the attitude of rest, and still ruling them as abject vassals who have no longer spirit to rebel, but have become thoroughly tamed and subdued.  (Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Vol. 1, 186)

 

The resurrection not only declared Jesus to be the Son (Rom 1:4), but it also marks the inauguration of Christ as our high priest.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 198)

 

Since the idea of a covenant is going to occupy a major place in the rest of the letter, our author is introducing us to it now.  Because God vows that Jesus’ priesthood is changeless and permanent, it follows that the covenant associated with it must be superior to the one associated with the Jewish priesthood.  What was the covenant associated with the Jewish priesthood?  It was the LAW.  Now a covenant is an agreement between two parties so that if one party does his part, the other will do his also.  God had made a covenant with the nation of Israel based on the people’s obedience to the Law.  They would be His people and He would be their God as long as they obeyed His commands (Ex 24:1-8).  In other words, the relationship was based on obedience.  But now through the gospel, God offers a new covenant, between Himself and individuals.  This new covenant is based on His love for us and Jesus’ perfect sacrifice.  Compliance with the Law is no longer the basis of fellowship with God.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 157)

 

There are too many Christians who see in Christ only the fulfillment of what Aaron typified.  Christ’s death and blood are very precious to them; they do seek to rest their faith upon them.  And yet they wonder that they have so little of the peace and joy, of the purity and power which the Savior gives, and which faith in Him ought to bring.  The reason is simple, because Christ is only their Aaron, not their Melchizedek.  They do indeed believe that He is ascended to heaven, and sits upon the throne of God; but they have not seen the direct connection of this with their daily spiritual life.  They do not count upon Jesus working in them in the power of the heavenly life, and imparting it to them.  They do not know their heavenly calling, with the all-sufficient provision for its fulfillment in them secured in the heavenly life of their Priest-King.  And, as a consequence of this, they do not see the need for giving up the world, to have their life and walk in heaven.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 237)

 

A young woman had run up a lot of bills and charged far beyond what she was able to pay.  She was in debt over her head and saw no way to get out.  She was in trouble and the situation looked hopeless.  Then a young man came along and fell deeply in love with her.  After some months he proposed.  She also loved him very much, but felt that she should tell him about her debts before she agreed to marry him.  When told, he said, “Don’t worry.  I’ll pay all your debts.  Just leave them to me.”  Before the wedding he gave her an engagement ring and reassured her many times that he would take care of her debts.  She trusted him implicitly and knew he was a person of his word.  She had every reason to be confident and hopeful.  But she was not yet actually free of her debts and, consequently, could not be at peace about them.  Finally they were married, and he paid her debts.  Not only that, but he told her that he was wealthy beyond her wildest dreams and gave her a joint checking account with himself.  She would never again need to be concerned about debts.  From that time on she was secure in the riches of the one she loved and who loved her.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 192-3)

 JESUS:

of the

PRIESTHOOD

of

MELCHIZEDEK

 

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