David B Curtis - Berean Bible Church

Pastor David B. Curtis

The Order of Melchizedek

Hebrews 7:1-3

Delivered 03/18/2001

Chapter 7 is devoted to demonstrating the role of Christ as a priest after the order of Melchizedek. The writer shows that Christ is superior to the Levitical priesthood established in the Old Testament, demonstrating that the only priesthood existing today is Christ, in the order of Melchizedek. Verses 1-3 outline the history of Melchizedek, while verses 4-10 illustrate His superiority to Levi.

Now, there are men who function as priests today, and there are even some who take the role of high priest upon themselves. However, when one reads the Bible, it is clear that the only priesthood that exists today, with the approval of God, is the Melchizedekian priesthood, and the only high priest who functions today, with the approval of God, is Jesus Christ, Himself.

In 2:17, the writer announced that the Lord Jesus Christ is a merciful and faithful High Priest, while in 3:1, he calls us to consider our High Priest. In 4:14-16, we are encouraged to come to our High Priest in time of need to receive mercy and grace. Then in 5:1-10, we are shown how Jesus Christ meets all the qualification of a priest.

1. He is called out from among men:

Hebrews 5:1 (NKJV) For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.

2. He can sympathize with the suffering of those he represents:

Hebrews 5:2 (NKJV) He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness.

3. He is divinely called and appointed to his office:

Hebrews 5:5-6 (NKJV) So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: "You are My Son, Today I have begotten You." 6 As He also says in another place: "You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek";

But notice that Christ is called a priest of a different order, not after Aaron but Melchizedek:

Hebrews 5:6 (NKJV) As He also says in another place: "You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek";
Hebrews 5:10 (NKJV) called by God as High Priest "according to the order of Melchizedek,"

Just as you think he would dive into an explanation of Melchizedek he says:

Hebrews 5:11 (NKJV) of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.

He is saying that the teaching on Melchizedek is difficult for the spiritually immature. So, from 5:11 thru 6:20 he gives them a warning how spiritual laziness can lead to apostasy and judgement. Then at the end of 6:20 he mentions Melchizedek again. 5:10 thru 6:20 bracket the third warning passage. Then in 7:1, he resumes the theme of Jesus Christ being a priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 7:1 (NKJV) For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him,

This verse begins the longest single expository passage in the Epistle. This indicates its importance. Its theme is the core of Hebrews. Remember, I said that the theme verse of Hebrews is:

Hebrews 10:23 (NKJV) Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

The real resource of the readership in the midst of their pressures is the High Priesthood of Christ:

Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV) Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

The readers must be made to realize the greatness of that priesthood; its superiority to the Levitical institutions; the perfect access they have to God through it on the basis of the death of Christ.

Hebrews 7:1-3 (NKJV) For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2 to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated "king of righteousness," and then also king of Salem, meaning "king of peace," 3 without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.

The emphasis of verses 1-3 is that Melchizedek is an eternal priest. The writer intends the first phrase in verse 1, "for this Melchizedek", to be connected to the end of verse 3, "remains a priest continually." Only an eternal priest can offer salvation, and this is the reason that Christ can offer salvation. He is a priest after the order of Melchizedek, which is an eternal priesthood.

Here we are introduced to Melchizedek and we learn about an event recorded in Genesis 14. According to the narrative, Chedorlaomer and Elamite king with three allied rulers, raided Transjordan and defeated the city-states of the circuit of Jordan. Sodom and her neighbors carried off a large number of captives, including Lot, Abram's nephew. When the news of this came to Abram at Mamre, near Hebron, he armed his own servants, enlisted the aid of his neighbors, and set off in pursuit of the invaders. He overtook them near Damascus, launched a surprise attack on them, put them to flight, and recovered the captives and the plunder. On his way home he was met by the grateful King of Sodom, who proposed that Abram should return the captives to him but retain the material plunder as his proper spoils of war.

Genesis 14:17-24 (NKJV) And the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley), after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him. 18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. 19 And he blessed him and said: "Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand." And he gave him a tithe of all. 21 Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, "Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself." 22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, 23 "that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, 'I have made Abram rich'; 24 "except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion."

After this event Melchizedek fades into obscurity and that's all we ever hear about him. About one thousand years later David mentions him in:

Psalms 110:4 (NKJV) The LORD has sworn And will not relent, "You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek."

Who exactly is Melchizedek? He has become the subject of speculation; much of it extravagant. There are many views on who Melchizedek is, let's look at a few of them.

Some say he was an ANGEL:

In scroll fragments discovered in cave 11 at Qumran, Melchizedek is presented as the eschatological deliverer of the faithful Jewish remnant who have not defiled themselves by serving Belial. He is so exalted that his supremacy matches that ascribed to the archangel Michael elsewhere in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Hence, the necessity, if the assumption is correct, that the recipients of this epistle were being attracted by the doctrines similar to those of the Dead Sea Sect for our author to lead them to a correct understanding of Melchizedek and his importance.

The view that he was an angel fits well with verses 3 and 8.

Hebrews 7:3 (NKJV) without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.
Hebrews 7:8 (NKJV) Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives.

However, 5:1, refutes this because High Priests must be taken from among men and angels are not men. There is a lot of support for this view, but I doubt that it is correct.

Some say that Melchizedek is the Holy Spirit:

Some maintained that Melchizedek, who blessed so great a personage as Abram, must have been divine rather than human and was, in fact, a manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the guise of man. This teaching was particularly associated with certain Gnostic heretics. Theodotus taught that Melchizedek was "the greatest power" that is; divine and, in fact, greater than Christ. A similar belief was characteristic of the sect known as the Melchizedekians. How about that, Melchizedek had his own sect!

Some say that Melchizedek was Shem:

Shem was Noah's oldest son of whom Abraham was a direct decedent. The Jews made this popular because they didn't like this passage making someone superior to Abram. Martin Luther accepted this view.

This view is doubtful since Genesis 11 gives us Shem's genealogy. And if this was Shem, why would Scripture hide his identity by calling him Melchizedek? Whoever this person was, he was highly honored.

Some said the Melchizedek was Christ:

This view teaches that Melchizedek was a theophany of the Second Person of the Trinity. A theophany is a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ. But 7:3 says he was "...made like the Son of God....". It does not say that he "was" the Son of God. There is a difference between being "like" something and actually being that thing. The words "made like" are from the Greek word aphomoioo, which means: "assimilate closely, facsimile." The teen culture uses the word "like" a lot today. A boy called my home asking for one of my daughters, and when I asked him who he was, he said, "I'm like a kid from school." What does that mean? Is he not really a kid from school, but he's like one? A dog is not like a dog, it is a dog. And if Melchizedek is "like" Christ, then he is not Christ.

Some have said that Melchizedek was a child of a prostitute because the Scriptures say he is without mother. That makes no sense to me, the child of a prostitute has a mother; they may not know who their father is, but they have a mother.

So, who is Melchizedek? He is a man, whose Old Testament history is treated topologically. This is the most common view among modern commentators. Melchizedek is presented as a historical figure, a normal human being who God uses as a type. There's much in Scripture that comes under the category of typeology. Typeology is that part of theology which studies the Old Testament pictures of the person and work of Christ. A "type" is something or someone that prefigures the person to come. There are many types of Christ in the Old Testament. For example: the Brazen serpent in:

Numbers 21:9 (NKJV) So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

Jesus confirmed Himself in John 3 as the fulfillment of that picture when he said:

John 3:14-15 (NKJV) "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 "that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

This was a promise that those who look to Christ in faith will be healed from sin.

In the Old Testament sacrificial system, lambs were constantly being slain to point to the One John the Baptizer identified as "the Lamb of God." These Old Testament pictures are called "types" of which Christ is the anti-type or the fulfillment of that type. In Hebrews 7, Melchizedek is a type of Christ. These types are always a frail illustration at best. They are pictures meant to give us insight from an illustrative point of view.

The authors basic thrust is to prove the superiority of the Melchizedekian priesthood to the Levitical. It is important to remember that the Dead Sea Sect was quite defiantly awaiting the restoration of the genuine Levitical priesthood. It is apparent, therefore, that in this major respect, contemporary Jewish expectation was incompatible with the teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which proclaims the abolition of the temporary and imperfect Levitical order and the establishment in its place of the unique and eternal order of Melchizedek.

Melchizedek's priesthood supersedes Aaron's in every way. And if Melchizedek is a type of Christ, then Christ is a better priest than Aaron. Verses 1- 3 of chapter 7 teach us several things about the Melchizedekian priesthood.

1. Melchizedek Priesthood Is Universal Not National.

Hebrews 7:1 (NKJV) For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him,

Aaron's priests were priests of Jehovah - a covenant name of God. God took the name of Jehovah toward the earthly nation of Israel. But here the author uses El Elyon - "Most High God" - which is a universal name for God. It includes both Jew and Gentile, being a far broader name than Jehovah.

So, whereas Aaron's priesthood related just to Israel, Melchizedek related to all men. So, when it says, "...Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek" (6:20), do you see the significance? Jesus is not just the Messiah of Israel, but of the world. His priesthood extended beyond all national and dispensational distinctions.

This universal priesthood is a very important issue to understand. It is continually illustrated in the New Testament, but many people miss it.

John 1:29 (NKJV) The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

The word "world" here means: "Jew and Gentile, all nationalities and races." This is also its meaning in:

John 3:16 (NKJV) "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Many have taken the word "world" to mean: "every single person", but that is not its meaning. It means that God loves people from all races and nationalities. It is easy to prove that "world" does not mean that God loves everyone in the world by looking at:

Romans 9:13 (NKJV) As it is written, "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated."

Now if God hated Esau, then "world" must not mean everybody.

So, we see that Jesus Christ's priesthood is not just limited to Israel, his priesthood is universal, it is for Jews and Greeks.

2. Jesus Christ's Priesthood Is A Royal Priesthood.

Hebrews 7:1-2 (NKJV) For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2 to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated "king of righteousness," and then also king of Salem, meaning "king of peace,"

Four times in two verses we are told that this man was a king. This was something totally foreign to the Aaronic and Levitical priests in Israel. The two offices of king and priest were never held in combination by a priest in Israel.

Speaking of Messiah, Zechariah said:

Zechariah 6:13 (NKJV) Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD. He shall bear the glory, And shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, And the counsel of peace shall be between them both."'

Zechariah prophesied that the Messiah was to be a priest who ruled upon a throne.

Melchizedek is presented as the type of the Messianic priest-king, the marks of whose kingdom are righteousness and peace.

Hebrews 7:2 (NKJV) to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated "king of righteousness," and then also king of Salem, meaning "king of peace,"

Melchizedek comes from two Hebrew words, "Melek which means: "king" and tsedeq which means: "righteousness." We could translate Melchizedek as "my king is righteous." He uses Melchizedek's name and title as a means of pointing to two well known features of the Messianic ministry - righteousness and peace.

Righteousness and peace are so obviously features of the work of Christ that their mention alone carries his point. The LXX version of Isaiah 6:9 uses both righteousness and peace in its rendering.

The writer of Hebrews says, "then also king of Salem." The city that is represented by "Salem" is Jerusalem. David, 1000 years after Abraham, refers to Jerusalem by this title here in:

Psalms 76:2 (NKJV) In Salem also is His tabernacle, And His dwelling place in Zion.

Salem and Zion (Jerusalem) are clearly synonymous. It is clear that Melchizedek, the king of righteousness and peace, who ruled over Jerusalem before it became the city of God, prefigured the One who ultimately will (from the writers perspective) rule over Jerusalem, who is righteousness and is peace - Jesus Christ.

By the way, this is always the biblical order - righteousness and peace. You can't have peace without righteousness. And this goes for the practical aspects as well as the positional. The only way to have peace with God is through righteousness. And we become righteous through faith in Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV) For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

So the Melchizedekian priesthood is a universal, royal and:

3. Christ's Melchizedek Priesthood Is a Personal Priesthood.

It is based upon the dignity of the person.

Hebrews 7:3 (NKJV) without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.

What does this verse mean? Our author is basing his typology not on what scripture says about Melchizedek but on what scripture does not say concerning him. He is not saying that Melchizedek is a biological anomaly as though he really didn't have a father or mother.

This is not to be taken literally. He wasn't a freak, he wasn't hatched. The scriptural silence makes him a type of Christ. The silence of scripture is intentional. The book of Genesis emphasizes genealogy. Of all the worshipers of God in the Old Testament, Melchizedek is the only one whose ancestors and decedents are not mentioned. There is no record of his birth or death or the end of his priesthood.

What was true typically of Melchizedek is true in reality of our Lord Jesus Christ. He was made like the Son of God, not the son of man. What is true of Melchizedek from a literary point of view in verse 3 is true in fact of our Lord Jesus Christ. You don't read of an end of Melchizedek's priesthood. This is really true of the anti-type the Lord Jesus Christ. His priesthood never ends, really!

Let me sum it up - what he is saying is that Melchizedek is a type or foreshadowing of Jesus Christ on the basis of what scripture does not say about Him. So far as the biblical record is concerned, Melchizedek typifies the eternal Son of God in that he has no parentage, no pedigree, no birth, no death, but abides a priest forever. And thus what is true of Melchizedek, only insofar as the biblical record is concerned, is true of Jesus Christ in fact, in reality. What is true of Melchizedek in a literary point of view as a type is realistically true of our Lord Jesus Christ as the anti-type.

Why these particular omissions in verse 3? These were all absolutely essential requirements of the Aaronic priesthood. It was of immeasurable importance that an Aaronic priest be able to demonstrate that his mother and father were Israelites and of the tribe of Levi and of the family of Aaron. That was essential.

Numbers 16:39-40 (NKJV) So Eleazar the priest took the bronze censers, which those who were burned up had presented, and they were hammered out as a covering on the altar, 40 to be a memorial to the children of Israel that no outsider, who is not a descendant of Aaron, should come near to offer incense before the LORD, that he might not become like Korah and his companions, just as the LORD had said to him through Moses.

The text in Hebrews 7:3 says Melchizedek was "without descent"; this is the Greek word agenealogetos, and means: "without genealogy." This word is coined by the author, it is found nowhere else in either biblical or classical Greek ligature. The Aaronic priest had to prove his genealogy.

So, the Melchizedek priesthood was universal, royal, personal and:

4. Continual - "...remains a priest continually" - the Aaronic priest not only served a limited people, they served for a limited time.

Numbers 8:22-25 (NKJV) After that the Levites went in to do their work in the tabernacle of meeting before Aaron and his sons; as the LORD commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so they did to them. 23 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 24 "This is what pertains to the Levites: From twenty-five years old and above one may enter to perform service in the work of the tabernacle of meeting; 25 "and at the age of fifty years they must cease performing this work, and shall work no more.

The Aaronic priests began at age 25, and they served the temple until age 50. Melchizedek remains a priest continually as far as the record is concerned, but Jesus Christ abides continually in reality.

Jesus Christ is superior to the Aaronic priests of old. His office and ordination is based not on his pedigree but on the dignity of his person.

Hebrews 7:16 (NKJV) who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life.

He is a priest based upon the worth of his eternal being.

One commentator speaking on the text of Hebrews 7 said, "This is not a practical text. It won't help you to be a better husband or wife or help you as a Christian. His purpose it theological." He is right in that this text is theological, but I believe that all theology is practical.

Why study Theology? Why do we need to get so deep and so technical? It is my conviction that every believer ought to be a theologian in some sense. The word "theology" comes from two Greek words, theos, which means: "God", and logos which means: "word, discourse or doctrine." So, theology may be defined in the narrow sense as the doctrine of God. It is the science of God and His works. So, as we study theology, we are learning about God. If you are ever going to know God in an intimate way, you must know theology. And if you are ever going to live for God, you must know Him. If we are going to know God, we must know theology. Theology is to motivate us to proper living. Men live and act according to what they believe.

Let's look at the Genesis text again, and see if we can make some practical applications.

Genesis 14:16-20 (NKJV) So he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people. 17 And the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley), after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him. 18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. 19 And he blessed him and said: "Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand." And he gave him a tithe of all.

It is interesting to note that here we see Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel, come face to face with a man who prefigures his ultimate descendent who will be the priest and king over Israel and all other nations in the future.

Melchizedek blessed Abram, refreshing and strengthening him with bread and wine. In the same way Jesus, our High Priest, strengthens and refreshes those who come to his throne of grace for help:

Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV) Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

We see here a beautiful picture of our High Priest strengthening his people in their time of need. Believers, when we need strength and encouragement, our great High Priest is always there to help, to provide the grace we need. I'm talking about reality. I'm not talking about theory, about a religion, or about ritual that you go through. I'm talking to you about a man in heaven. The God-man who cares about you. Look to him for all your needs, he will provide everything you need to live the Christian life.

How real is your great High Priest to you? How much time do you spend at his throne of grace?

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