Contribution: Isekhua Evborokhai
In today’s study, Paul kicks off chapter 7 starting to explain a theme he introduced earlier in chapter 2:17 “Jesus as our High Priest.” Although the Jewish Christians would have been very interested in Jesus as their High Priest, there was a significant intellectual objection to the idea; because Jesus did not come from the priestly tribe (Levi) or the priestly family (Aaron’s). These intellectual objections were getting in the way preventing them from continuing on to maturity in Jesus. So Paul throws a character that the Jews would have been acquainted with into the works in the person of Melchizedek.
I. WHO IS THIS MELCHIZEDEK? (VERSES 1-3)
“1 This Melchizedek was king of the city of Salem and also a priest of God Most High. When Abraham was returning home after winning a great battle against the kings, Melchizedek met him and blessed him. 2 Then Abraham took a tenth of all he had captured in battle and gave it to Melchizedek. The name Melchizedek means “king of justice,” and king of Salem means “king of peace.” 3 There is no record of his father or mother or any of his ancestors—no beginning or end to his life. He remains a priest forever, resembling the Son of God.” (NLT)
In other words, Melchizedek is a “type” of Christ. Not the other way round. We can sum up these points under four headings that show how Melchizedek is a type of Jesus Christ:
1. Melchizedek is a type of Christ in the dignity of his person.
Everything we know about Melchizedek comes from Genesis 14:18-20, Psalm 110:4, and Hebrews 7. The first text is historical, the second is prophetic, and the third is theological. Melchizedek was the king of Salem (probably Jerusalem [Ps. 76:2]) and priest of the Most High. The first thing to note is that Melchizedek was both a king and a priest in the same person (7:1), which was not allowed in Israel. Like Melchizedek, Jesus is both king and priest in one person. The author makes the point that Melchizedek “was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace.” Jesus is called “Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). When He comes again to reign, “in righteousness” He will wage war against the wicked (Rev. 19:11). Also see (Isa. 11:4-5) and (Isa. 9:7).
Jesus is also the king of peace (Eph. 2:14-18). He brings peace between sinners and God, and peace among all that live under His lordship. (Rom. 5:1) & (Rom. 3:26).
2. Melchizedek is a type of Christ in the derivation and duration of his priesthood.
Being a priest in Israel was totally dependent on your family lineage. All priests came from the tribe of Levi; and no other tribe could apply. If you could not establish your family heritage, you were excluded from the priesthood (Neh. 7:61-64). But Jesus was a descendant of the tribe of Judah; technically, He wouldn’t qualify. But Melchizedek was “without father, without mother, without genealogy” (Heb. 7:3). Yet he was “priest of the Most High God” (7:1). Is it not interesting that the book of Genesis; a book that book emphasizes genealogies and the number of years that the patriarchs lived did not have a record of Melchizedek’s ancestry? His family lineage is never mentioned, nor does Genesis say anything about the length of his life or his death. This silence however speaks volumes! And the author implies that the Holy Spirit deliberately omitted these facts from a book that emphasizes such, in order to make Melchizedek an appropriate type of Jesus Christ. That’s why he says that Melchizedek was “made like the Son of God” (7:3), rather than “Jesus was made like Melchizedek.” It is not that Melchizedek never died, but rather in what Genesis omits, that he “remains a priest perpetually (7:8).”
3. Melchizedek is a type of Christ in the dimension of his priesthood.
Melchizedek was greater than both Abraham and Levi, since he received tithes from both of these great men (Genesis 14:20). It implies that he was greater than them, which in effect implies that Jesus is greater still. As our High Priest, He is worthy not just of a tithe, but of all that we are and have, because He bought us with His blood. No gifts that we give can compare with His matchless worth!
4. Melchizedek is a type of Christ in the dispensing of his priesthood.
Even though Abraham was God’s chosen man and God promised to bless the nations through him, Melchizedek “blessed the one who had the promises. But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater” (7:6-7). Scripture uses the term “blessing” in different ways. In one sense, we bless God (Ps. 103:1), which does not imply that we are greater than He! We bless others by praying for them or rendering kind words or service (Luke 6:28; 1 Pet. 3:9), which is mutual. But here the sense is that of the priestly (Num. 6:22-27) or fatherly (Gen. 27:27; 48:15) blessing, which was not mutual. The one imparting the blessing is conveying God’s blessing through His authority onto the one being blessed. Since Melchizedek pronounced God’s blessing on Abraham, he is greater than him.
Another aspect Paul chose not to reference that is equally important in the dispensing of their priesthood is reference to the communion. The Bible in Genesis 14:18 says Melchizedek brought out bread and wine when he met Abraham. Although in the original story, it would be interpreted that Melchizedek was bringing refreshment to Abraham and his weary men after a battle, this is clearly a type of Christ giving bread and wine to His disciples!
II. FOUR PROOFS OF HIS GREATNESS (VERSES 4-10)
Paul, in these few verses displays one of his major characteristics. His knowledge and technicality in proving the greatness of Melchizedek over the great Abraham and consequently Jesus’ greatness. The Passion Translation clearly lists out
“4 Now let me show you proof of how great this Melchizedek is:
(a) – Even though Abraham was the most honoured and favoured patriarch of all God’s chosen ones, he gave a tithe of the spoils of battle to Melchizedek. 5 It would be understandable if Melchizedek had been a Jewish priest, for later on God’s people were required by law to support their priests financially, because the priests were their relatives and Abraham’s descendants. 6 But Melchizedek was not Abraham’s Jewish relative, and yet Abraham still paid him a tithe.
(b) – Melchizedek imparted a blessing on mighty Abraham, who had received the promises of God. 7 And no one could deny the fact that the one who has the power to impart a blessing is superior to the one who receives it.
(c) – 8 Although the Jewish priests received tithes, they all died—they were mortal. But Melchizedek lives on!
(d) – 9 It could even be said that Levi, the ancestor of every Jewish priest who received tithes, actually paid tithes to Melchizedek through Abraham. 10 For although Levi was yet unborn, the seed from which Levi came was present in Abraham when he paid his tithe to Melchizedek.
III. THE NEED FOR A NEW PRIESTHOOD (VERSES 11-14)
The Jews had a high regard and reverence for the Levitical priesthood. And once again, Paul makes the Jews realize that even though God had setup this priesthood, it was by no means the ultimate solution for mankind that is where there was a need for a new priesthood.
“So if the priesthood of Levi, on which the law was based, could have achieved the perfection God intended, why did God need to establish a different priesthood, with a priest in the order of Melchizedek instead of the order of Levi and Aaron? 12 And if the priesthood is changed, the law must also be changed to permit it. 13 For the priest we are talking about belongs to a different tribe, whose members have never served at the altar as priests. 14 What I mean is, our Lord came from the tribe of Judah, and Moses never mentioned priests coming from that tribe.”
The simple fact that God describes a priest … according to the order of Melchizedek shows there is something lacking in the priesthood according to the order of Aaron. Conclusively, the Levitical priesthood never made anything perfect; but Jesus’ priesthood has.
So How Does This Apply to the Hebrews Then and Us Today?
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 Abraham, how much more so is Christ Himself! If Melchizedek could bless Abraham, how much more is the Son of God ready and able to bless those who draw near to God through Him! If we want God’s blessings, we should seek them in Christ, because “as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes” (2 Cor. 1:20).
What you believe about Jesus Christ makes a huge difference! The Hebrews were in danger of falling away from the faith because they did not grasp how great Melchizedek is and therefore they did not grasp how much greater the One whom Melchizedek prefigured is. The most important question in the world is Jesus’ question to the Twelve, “Who do you say that I am?” That question has an objectively true answer. Our eternal destiny hinges on our response to that question. If we correctly say from our hearts by faith, “Jesus Christ is the Son of God who gave Himself on the cross as the only sacrifice for our sins,” we have eternal life! If we diminish Jesus to a lesser role, such as, “He is a great moral example or teacher,” then we do not have the High Priest that we need when we stand before God for judgment.
Parts of this study was culled from: