30/10/16 Hebrews 7:1-13 “A priesthood after the order of Melchizedek”
A number of passages in Hebrews appear to clearly teach that it must be possible to lose one’s salvation (just the once, of course), despite so many people apparently teaching that one just cannot lose one’s salvation; that is, they have what is commonly described as “eternal security”. Of course, if the Bible were to consistently contradict the possibility of losing one’s salvation, then that same consistency would demand that the passages in Hebrews be interpreted accordingly. However, while the Bible consistently teaches that God will never forsake us, nor will He permit anyone or anything to remove us from His hand, not one passage teaches that we lose our free-will in this matter once we are saved, even though we must, in opposition to such as the calvinists, maintain our full right to free will in obtaining our salvation.
And I fail to understand how we can actually not have free will to maintain our salvation when we have total responsibility via our free will to choose our salvation. That is, if grabbing hold of a life-line is not a work toward our salvation, then, likewise, continuing to hold on (“hold fast”) is not a work either.
Thus, while Hebrews teachings concerning not holding onto our salvation could be “hypothetical”, it could also be a reality that must be avoided, a reality that the writer is warning his listeners to note lest they neglect such great salvation and not escape the consequences. And unless the Bible actually states that you cannot lose your salvation (and it doesn’t!), then it is poor scriptural analysis to assume such to be a pre-established fact! So, I will continue to look at Hebrews with no preconceived ideas that must be firstly agreed with in order to make a “correct” interpretation.
Hebrews 7:1 – For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;
We’ve already covered much of the background of Melchizedek in Hebrews 5:5-11. Melchizedek was, as noted here, king of Salem (generally accepted to be Jerusalem) and also of the priesthood of God, a higher order of priesthood as we shall see from the rest of this passage today.
Genesis 14:16-20 – 16 And he (Abraham) brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people. 17 And the king of Sodom went out to meet him (Abraham) after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that [were] with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which [is] the king’s dale. 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he [was] the priest of the most high God. 19 And he (Melchizedek) blessed him (Abraham), and said, Blessed [be] Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: 20 And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he (Abraham) gave him (Melchizedek) tithes of all.
Note that Melchizedek blessed Abraham who was to be the ancestor of Levi from whom the Aaronic priesthood would come. The significance of this fact is brought out further down.
Psalm 110:4 – The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou [art] a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
Therefore, this was a priestly order that pre-existed Abraham and the Abrahamic covenant, and the Aaronic priesthood that was to descend from Abraham.
Hebrews 7:2 – To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;
The offering by Abraham of a tithe establishes the credentials of Melchizedek to be a priest of the most high God, superior in office to even Abraham.
Righteousness and peace are dependent upon each other.
Psalm 85:10 – Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed [each other].
Peace is a consequence of righteousness, and righteousness is a requirement for peace.
Isaiah 32:17 – And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance (peace) for ever.
Abraham (still Abram at this stage) gave ten percent of the spoils of war to Melchizedek; this is a picture of our service to Christ’s priesthood today.
Righteousness and peace are characteristics of Christ’s kingdom. They are in fact attributes of Christ/God Himself.
Isaiah 9:6 – For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Jeremiah 33:16 – In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this [is the name] wherewith she shall be called, The Lord our righteousness.
1 Corinthians 1:30 – But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
Ephesians 2:14 – For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition [between us];
Note that Adoni–zedek (Lord of righteousness) king of Jerusalem is mentioned in Joshua 10:3. This is not Melchi-zedek, however.
Some teach that Melchizedek was actually Shem; others teach that he was a Christophany (that is, Christ was appearing in His priestly role to Abraham). However, there is no reason to assume other than that Melchizedek was what the Bible says he was – that he was a type of Christ’s priestly service that was better than the Aaronic priesthood. Many “types” exist in the Bible – for instance, Joshua as a type of Christ.
Barnes, though, suggests that even naming Melchizedek as a type of Christ is going too far: “A simple resemblance has been discovered between Christ and a certain character in the old Testament. This is all the apostle means to affirm!” However, I personally believe that at least a type of Christ has been established in Melchizedek.
Hebrew 7:3 – Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.
without descent – agenealogetos (one whose descent there is no record of; without genealogy) That is, no pedigree. It doesn’t mean Melchizedek had no father or mother but that there was no record of such, that history records him as one without beginning nor end. What is recorded historically concerning Melchizedek is only to be found in Genesis 14:18-20. As Ellicott says, “In these respects “made like (as a divinely ordained type) unto the Son of God,” he bears perpetually the character of priest.”
The Aaronic priesthood could only be taken on by men whose genealogy could be fully traced back to Aaron. Anyone who had any doubt at all about their ancestry was ineligible for the priesthood. For someone like Melchizedek to have no genealogy at all was to oppose all their careful rules of lineage of the priesthood. Put simply, you had to be born into the priesthood; there was no other way!
Ellicott says, “It is not necessary to adduce proof of the care with which inquiry was made into the parentage of the Jewish priests (Nehemiah 7:64): in their marriages they were subject to strict restraints (Leviticus 21:13-14); their statement of pedigree (in which was given the name not of father only, but also of every mother) must be complete, ascending to Aaron, and containing no doubtful link. He who is a priest “like Melchizedek” holds a priesthood that rests on no such rights or claims. The words that follow are of similar character. No commencement and no close of priestly position or function are recorded in the sacred history. As the Scripture is silent as to his reception of the office, so also as to any transmission of it to another. In these respects “made like (as a divinely ordained type) unto the Son of God,” he bears perpetually the character of priest.”
In the same way, Christ’s priesthood stands alone, separated from any Aaronic genealogy. Therefore, Melchizedek has become a type of the eternal priesthood of Christ, who, as God, has no beginning and no end, and abides in the heavenlies as our High Priest forever. See Hebrews 4:14 and particularly Hebrews 7:25-29 which is where this passage is heading at the moment. This verse is establishing Melchizedek as a type of Christ’s better (perfect) priesthood. It was thus seen as a continual (perpetual) priesthood because it was not inherited from another by Christ, neither would it ever be handed on to the next in line! This priesthood stands alone!
Hebrews 7:4 – Now consider how great this man [was], unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.
The Jews considered Abraham to be the epitome of their ancestry, the one who represented their claim as the people of God. If they were descended from Abraham, then what more needed to be said concerning their standing with God?!
Galatians 3:7-9; 14; 29 – 7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. 8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, [saying], In thee shall all nations be blessed. 9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.
14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
29 And if ye [be] Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Paul claimed his birthright through Abraham:
Romans 11:1 – I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, [of] the tribe of Benjamin.
Thus Abraham was considered to be the greatest of all God’s people, or, at the very least, up there with Moses and King David. Yet if Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizedek, then Melchizedek had to be even greater than Abraham! The Hebrew recipients of this epistle would have understood clearly what this was saying: that there was one to whom even Abraham would submit, other than God.
spoils – top of the heap; the first fruits; best of the spoils or crops; the Greeks customarily selected from the topmost part of the heaps and offered this to the gods
Hebrews 7:5 – And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham:
The tithe was actually to be paid to the Levites, some of whom were of the Aaronic priesthood. Israel was to pay a tithe to the Levites and those Levites who were of the Aaronic priesthood were to be given tithes from that offering from Israel.
Deuteronomy 14:27-29 – 27 And the Levite that [is] within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee. 28 At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay [it] up within thy gates: 29 And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which [are] within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.
This priestly tithe was generally considered to be a tenth, that part of the tithe to the Levites that was given for the work of God. It was their ministry wages. The word “tithe” can mean “to exact or receive a tenth from anyone”
Numbers 18:26 – Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the Lord, [even] a tenth [part] of the tithe.
Nehemiah 10:38 – And the priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes: and the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes unto the house of our God, to the chambers, into the treasure house.
out of the loins of Abraham – Even though the ones who receive the tithes have the same ancestry as those who pay them (that is, from Abraham), those who are of the Aaronic (Levitical) priesthood are still to receive more honour by means of their office than those who are not of that priesthood.
Hebrews 7:6 – But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises.
That is, Melchizedek, who did not descend from Abraham, nevertheless received tithes (implying submission) from Abraham, and he who didn’t have the promises of God by covenant (that is, Melchizedek) blessed him who did have such promises (that is, Abraham).
Pulpit commentary says, As much as to say, "Let it not be said that the tithing of Abraham by Melchizedek implies no higher priestly prerogative than the tithing of Abraham's descendants by the sons of Aaron; for there is this difference: They, in virtue only of a special ordinance of the Law, not of original right, were allowed to tithe their brethren, though descended from the same great ancestor; he, though not of them or of the race at all, in virtue of his own inherent dignity, tithes the whole race as represented in its patriarch."
Hebrews 7:7 – And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better.
That is, it can be argued without any opposition that only one who is better spiritually can bless another who must by logical conclusion be spiritually “less”.
less – in age (younger); in rank; in excellence, worse.
better – a comparative term: more useful; more advantageous; more excellent
Hebrews 7:8 – And here men that die receive tithes; but there he [receiveth them], of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.
The men that die and receive tithes are clearly the Aaronic priesthood, who are born, they live, and they die, like all mortal men. This passage is all about the different order of priesthood (Melchizedek), where the priest isn’t recorded as being born, or even dying, even though obviously Melchizedek had to have been born and later on had to have died again. But as a type of Christ’s better priesthood, Melchizedek is seen only as living, a picture of the ongoing eternal living of Christ and His eternal priesthood. Clearly the emphasis here is to do with the ongoing priesthood that exists as long as the priest is alive, and if he is never seen as dying, then he must be seen as living forever. In the case of Melchizedek (the type), this is only apparent, yet not true, while in the case of Christ (the real, not the type), it is not merely apparent but true as well. Again it can be seen that this epistle is following a logical trail that now leads us to Hebrews 7:25 – Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
Hebrews 7:9-10 – 9 And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham. 10 For he was yet in the loins of his father (male ancestor), when Melchisedec met him.
That is, Levi (who received tithes from Israel) was a descendant of Abraham, and therefore effectively was implicated in the payment of tithes by Abraham to Melchizedek.
This then leads to the conclusion that if Melchizedek were greater than Abraham, then he was also greater than Levi who was descended from Abraham. By logical deduction, we can then put in place of Levi any other descendant of Abraham, thus proving the Melchizedek was actually greater than any of the descendants of Abraham.
The only exception to this would be Jesus who was not only descended from Abraham, but also directly from His Father God (having no human father), thus logically of a higher birth than being only of Abraham. Having no human father in some sense excludes Christ somewhat from this human lineage in a system where ancestry was more to do with the father than with the mother – just note all the genealogy lists in various parts of the Bible.
And if the priest (Melchizedek) is greater than all Abraham’s descendants, then his priesthood demands tithes (and therefore submission) from all Abraham’s descendants. Levi is mentioned in particular because he and his descendants were recipients of the tithes of Israel, especially the Aaronic priesthood which descended from Levi. This would also include all the Hebrew readers/listeners to this epistle.
Hebrews 7:11 – If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need [was there] that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?
If perfection (from sin and man’s sinful condition) could have been achieved through the Levitical priesthood (and the law it taught to Israel), then what would have been the point of another better priesthood if the best it could do would be to equal what the Levitical priesthood could achieve, if that were perfection. For you cannot be better than perfect!
But the law cannot save man, only condemn him. The sacrifices could never save, but only look forward to a better, perfect sacrifice, that of Jesus Christ. Man needed a better priesthood after the order of Melchizedek in order to be truly saved.
Hebrews 10:4 – For [it is] not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
Hebrews 7:12 – For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
The original Levitical priesthood was set up upon the law; that is, it was to administer the law to Israel, including the penalties incurred for infringements. But it’s now under new management. The old system (the old covenant) was not perfect, and could never be. But now a new administration (the new covenant) has been put in place, becoming effective with the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ. The Aaronic priesthood was merely a caretaker administration that was put in place while awaiting the arrival of the proper, perfect administration under Jesus Christ, eternally a priest (eternally, not caretaker!) after the order of Melchizedek.
And if you change the administration of the law, you need the law itself to be changed, yet not destroyed, but instead fulfilled!
Matthew 5:17-18 – 17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil (pleroo). 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
This is the last dispensation (“last days”), when the new priesthood has been established, in order that creation may be metamorphosed (like a caterpillar into a butterfly) from this its initial stages of existence to become the glorious creation it was always planned that it should be.
Hebrews 1:2a – Hath in these last (eschatos) days spoken unto us by [his] Son
Since creation came under the new priesthood, there have been birth pains that will culminate in the “birth” of new heavens and a new earth, filled with righteousness. (Melchizedek = king of righteousness).
Matthew 24:7-8 – 7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. 8 All these [are] the beginning of sorrows (birth pangs).
Romans 8:22-23 – 22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain (the pains of childbirth) together until now. 23 And not only [they], but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, [to wit], the redemption of our body.
And what is the glorious result of that new, perfect and eternal priesthood after the order of Melchizedek?
2 Peter 3:10; 13 – 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
Hebrews 7:13 – For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar.
To be a priest in the Old Testament you had to be born of the line of Aaron of the line of Levi. But no longer is the priesthood of the line of Levi. It belongs to another tribe, Judah, which never had anyone permitted to minister at God’s altar. Note King Uzziah (of Judah) who went into the temple to offer incense to God (2 Chronicles 26:16-21) and was struck with leprosy until he died. Note, too, that Jesus is also called the Lion of Judah in Revelation 5:5 – And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.
To the Hebrews, with their knowledge and understanding of the law, this all should have made sense, leading toward Hebrews 8:1 – Now of the things which we have spoken [this is] the sum (the chief or main point): We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;
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