Notes on Hebrews
In chapter 7 the writer returns to the subject of Melchisedec which he abruptly breaks off in chapter 5:10 to insert a parenthesis that goes to the end of chapter 6.
In order to follow the argument of the writer, it is necessary to appreciate the Jewish methods of Biblical interpretation. There were four of these methods: first, there was what the Jew called “Peshat.” This represents the literal or factual meaning. Second, there was “Remaz” which was the suggested meaning. Third, there was “Derush” which was the meaning arrived at after long and careful investigation. Finally, there was “Sod” which was the allegorical or inner meaning. It is this last method of interpretation that the writer, under the guidance of the Spirit of God, develops in our chapter.
It is important also to realize that Jewish expositors considered the silences of Scripture as important and crucial in interpretation as the utterances. This will be seen as the truth of the chapter is unfolded before us.
There are only three references in Scripture to Melchisedec: the personal (Gen. 14); the prophetic (Ps. 110) and the practical (Heb.); or, Melchisedec in history, in song and in argument.
Melchisedec in History
It is indeed incredible that out of two obscure passages in the Old Testament about an obscure individual, the writer should develop a beautiful picture of the Lord Jesus Christ as our Great High Priest.
What is the difference between the priesthood headed by Aaron and that headed by Melchisedec? Aaron’s priesthood could be summed up by the word “blood;” and that of Melchisedec by the word “Blessing.” The first finds its fulfilment in the resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus to the Father’s right hand. This aspect of Christ’s priesthood will extend into the Millennium when Christ will sit as a priest upon His throne.
An examination of the historical Melchisedec will reveal that he was great in three ways: He was great as to his person. Here the silences of Scripture play an important part. He was without geneology; there is no record of his birth or death. According to the record he was without beginning of days or end of life. The omission of this record is deliberate on the part of the Spirit of God. Melchisedec was designed by God to be a perfect type of the Son of God, Who in reality had no beginning of days or end of life. As the Eternal Son He could have no geneology. As Melchisedec stood alone in his right as “priest of the most High God,” similarly the credentials for the priesthood of Christ came not from man but were resident in the Lord Himself. Christ was not of the tribe of Levi but of Judah and of this tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood (v. 14). It is to be noted that the qualifications for the Aaronic priesthood were based upon geneology and age. The priests must be of the tribe of Levi and serve only between the ages of thirty and fifty. Melchisedec has no record of geneology or age. Both these assumptions are based on the silences of Scripture. They bring out the perfections and Eternity of the Son of God.
He was great as to His position: He is called “King of righteousness and King of peace.” In chapter 3:1 our Lord as the antitype of Moses and Aaron is “the Apostle and High Priest of our profession.” Here in chapter 7 our Lord is seen as the antitype of David and Solomon, King of righteousness and King of peace. The path to peace is always by the path of righteousness. It is the righteousness of God that deals with sin in the Epistle to the Romans and peace is the fruit; “Therefore being justified (or made righteous) by faith we have peace with God.” The very nature of the Kingdom of God is “righteousness, joy and peace (Rom. 14:17). Man has tried the avenue of escape, or of evasion and of compromise in his fruitless search for peace. The only way of peace is from the cross and the empty tomb (Rom. 4:25, 5:1).
He was great as to His performance: He blessed Abraham and received tithes from him. Melchisedec intervened at a critical time in Abraham’s life. Abraham was returning from the victory of the kings. The king of Sodom met him with a reward, but Melchisedec strengthened Abraham to resist that temptation. As a result, Abraham, in the language of God’s priest, refused the riches of Sodom. How like our Great High Priest! He succours them that are tempted and opens the path of escape. He strengthens to overcome and maintain the path of faith for His glory. As Abraham gave tithes, it was a token of his debt to Melchisedec as the priest of the Most High God. What a debt of love we owe our Lord Jesus! The token of our love to Him will be seen in the surrender of our all to Him. No blessing is ever showered upon us but what it demands a response of love and surrender from us.
These references to Melchisedec in history are to prove that he was designed of God to be a perfect type of Christ (Vs.1-3); that his priesthood was greater than Aaron’s (v.4), and that Christ as Priest is the blesser of His people (Vs. 6-7).
Melchisedec in Song
The first verse in Psalms 110 is quoted four times in Hebrews to prove that Christ went back to Heaven from earth: as Saviour (1:3); Priest (8:1), Victor (10:12), and our Example (12:2).
The fourth verse is quoted five times to prove that the Lord Jesus was called of God (5:6), that His Priesthood is eternal (7:17), that He was made a Priest by an oath (7:21), that He is the Author of eternal salvation (5:9-10), to prove the firm security of our refuge (6:20).
Melchisedec in Argument
In the light of all this the writer points out three aspects of the greatness of the priesthood of Christ: It is great because of its perpetuity (v. 16). It is endless because He is deathless. It is changeless and therefore He is able to save us the whole way home, our entire Christian lives (24-25). It is flawless and therefore nothing can mar its purpose (vs. 26-28).
The consecration of the Old Testament priests was physical; they were bathed, clothed, anointed and sanctified. These physical acts indicated the temporary nature of that priesthood. Not so with our Lord’s priesthood. There were no physical acts, it was spiritual in its nature and eternal in its duration.
It was great because of its promises: The writer points to three ways in which the priesthood of Christ is confirmed to us: first, it is confirmed by an oath (vs. 20-21). When God confirms by an oath it is to show the unalterable purposes of His grace and provision.
Second, it is confirmed by a surety (v.22). The word used for surety is “Enguos.” It is used for one who guarantees another’s overdraft at a bank or for one who goes bail for a prisoner. Hence the word has the thought of one who has the means and ability to guarantee the performance of what he has undertaken. It is a word only used here in the New Testament. Such an one is the Lord Jesus. He has undertaken to see us through our pilgrim journey to the Father’s house.
Third, it is confirmed by its inherent unchangeability (v.24). The word unchangeable is “Aparabatos” and means unalterable or inviolable.
It is really a legal term used to describe the verdict handed down by a judge. It was used by a medical writer to describe the absolute scientific principles on which the very universe is built and holds together.
The word continueth is Paramenein and has two significant thoughts: to remain in office and to remain in the capacity of a servant. When used of the Lord Jesus it means simply that He will remain in office as a priest to serve His people in all their needs down here.
It is great because of the provision: It provides a person, the God-man Christ Jesus, who is divinely suited to meet all our need (v.26). Consider this description of His beauty and greatness: in character He was holy, in conduct He was harmless, in contacts He was undefiled, in communion He was separate from sinners, and in exaltation He was made higher than the heavens. The real difference between Christ as Man and all other men is in the fact that He was manhood at its highest, man without sin.
The Old Testament priest of the Aaronic order was a man tainted by sin, offering repetitiously the same sacrifices for himself and for sinful Israel. The Lord Jesus was the sinless Son of God; He offered Himself without spot, once and for all, as a sacrifice for the sins of others. Now in resurrection glory He is the Son perfected forevermore. How was He perfected? As to His character He was holy, harmless, and undefiled, yet tempted in all points like as we, sin apart. As to His position He is made higher than the heavens and therefore alive forevermore. As to His sacrifice it needs no repetition (v.27). On the foundation of His “once and for all” atonement, He is hailed by God as priest after the order of Melchisedec. In this capacity He serves His people in all their weaknesses and leads them home by the very path that He Himself has trodden before them.
In summary, the Aaronic priesthood was made by the law. When it ended so did the priesthood. The Priesthood of Christ is established by an oath and is therefore permanent in duration. It finds its basis in “the once and forever” sacrifice of Christ that needs no repetition. The Aaronic priesthood was a group of servants subject to dismissal and death. Christ as the Son of God has established His priesthood in the power of an endless life. His resurrection and ascension were the seal of God’s approval on His work that settled the question of sin forever.
He is consecrated forevermore. He is a faithful and merciful High Priest. By the abiding efficacy of the one sacrifice He can be faithful to God and merciful to us. Faithful to the demands of God’s holiness and merciful in relation to our weaknesses.