Faith of Melchizedek: Why is he Critically Important?

Faith of Melchizedek

Let’s take a closer look at Melchizedek and his succession to see why it was important.

 

1. His name is actually his title, meaning my Lord is righteous
2. The man, Melchizedek, who met Abraham was part of an order or succession of men, beginning with Adam and continuing until Christ
3. Melchizedek was the priest of the God Most High
4. The man who held that title in Abraham’s day was the ninth man to hold the position and he was one of Noah’s sons, Shem
5. His appearance in Genesis was orchestrated by the Spirit so that Melchizedek would present a compelling picture of Christ
6. Moses never revealed that Melchizedek was Shem. Instead, he left the man’s genealogy a secret, never revealing his origins or his death
7. Furthermore, Shem had become the king of a Jebusite city called Salem, which was eventually to become Jerusalem

faithDiscerning the succession of Melchizedek is laid out in three points in Hebrews.
First, Hebrews explains the significance of God having established two different priestly orders.

Hebrews: Chapter 7:11-17 (NKJV)

11 Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? 12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. 13 For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar. 14  For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. 15 And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest 16 who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. 17 For He testifies:

  “YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER
   ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK.”

We read that the Levitical priesthood was not perfect and therefore incapable to address man’s problem of sin. The Levitical priesthood was the priesthood established in the Law of Moses and given to Israel to regulate sacrifice in the tabernacle. If this priesthood were sufficient, God would have left well enough alone. But another order of priests was established, the order of Melchizedek which came first starting with Adam and the Levitical order came later. And with the Levitical priesthood came also the Law given to Israel.  And that’s to be expected, because with a change in priesthood comes a change in Law also. God never would have established another priesthood. So perhaps we might conclude that the Levitical order was an improved version of priesthood with the Law.  And if the Levitical order was capable of making men perfect, then it should have been the last word in priests. When the Messiah arrived, we would expect Him to come in the line of Aaronic priests. Thus, meeting the requirements to be the High Priest men desire under the Law.

Secondly, Hebrews points out that the Messiah could never meet the test to serve as a Levitical priest, therefore, something had to change. In verse 12, the Hebrews writer says that the only way to change the rules for who can serve as priest is if God Himself changes the Law that regulates His people. Back in chapter 5 of Hebrews we are told a priest must be appointed by God from among those he represents –

Hebrews: Chapter 5:1 (NKJV)

1 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. 

A high priest must be appointed by God in order to be acceptable to God. God isn’t going to accept as His representative any man except the one He designates. And God designates priests according to a Law or set of requirements that stipulates who can be a priest. According to the Law of Moses, only men in the tribe of Levi and in the family of Aaron could be priests. According to the blessing pronounced by Jacob on his sons, the Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah. And if the Messiah must come through Judah, then that would mean the Messiah couldn’t qualify as a priest under the Law. In verses 13-14 Hebrews says that Jesus (i.e., “He”) belonged to the wrong tribe, one that can never officiate at the altar under the Law. And if the Messiah can’t be a priest, then He can’t be our intercessor nor can He carry the people’s sins before the Lord.

Thirdly, the final point in this passage is that the Messiah had to come in the order of Melchizedek rather than the Levitical order, showing the superiority of the Melchizedek priesthood. In verse 15 the writer says it is more evident if another priest arises in the likeness (or manner) of Melchizedek. The superiority of Melchizedek is clearly evidenced by the fact that the Messiah was designated to a different order. If the Levitical order were the superior order, then the Messiah would not have needed His qualification under an earlier order as Melchizedek. However, while Jesus couldn’t meet the requirements for the Levitical order, He was the only One who could meet the requirements in the order of Melchizedek. In verses 15-16, Hebrews says the priests of Melchizedek had to be qualified by more than a physical requirement. Levitical priests were qualified merely by having the right family line. In contrast, to enter the Melchizedek order first required that a person inherit the seed promise. In other words, they had to be born at the right time and to the right family according to God’s choice. This is the ultimate evidence of God’s approval, since He alone determines the day and family of each person’s birth. Furthermore, the Father promised that the Messiah would hold the order forever. In verse 17, the author quotes from Psalms 110 to prove his argument. David wrote that the Messiah would be a priest in the order of Melchizedek forever. The only way to hold the order of Melchizedek forever is by never-dying.  As each man holding the title of Melchizedek died, a new man inherited the office. But the Father set the requirement for the Messiah by an oath, declaring that He would serve as a priest in the order of Melchizedek forever. So by Jesus’ indestructible life, He proved Himself to qualify for the position according to the Father’s requirements.

So now Hebrews summarizes why it’s important that Jesus came as a priest of a different order.

Hebrews: Chapter 7:18-22 (NKJV)

18 For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, 19 for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. 20 And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath 21 (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him:
“The Lord has sworn
And will not relent,
‘You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek’”),

22  
by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant.

Hebrews uses a “on the one hand – on the other hand” comparison between the Aaronic priesthood and the priesthood of Jesus. On the one hand, he says, the Law (which established the priesthood of Aaron) had to be set aside after a time for in its design and purpose it was meant to be only temporary. Man’s sin necessitated an intercessor and the Law was incapable or useless, even through the main purpose of priests. And since the Law could not make sinful men perfect it therefore could not provide the hope we come nearer to God. The Law could never accomplish this nor was it meant to. Under the Law of Israel, sin was always present and would be a barrier that would not allow man to draw near to God. The only thing the Law did is cover sin temporarily allowing fellowship with God at a distance (barrier). Paul says in Galatians the Law was temporary as a way to preserve Israel until the coming of the Messiah (seed).

Galatians: Chapter 3:19 (NKJV)

19 What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.

Again by God’s perfection, the Levitical priesthood created by the Law was only temporary and was only meant to last until the promised seed came. Of course, that seed was Jesus Christ as Paul tells us. And when Christ arrived He would take His position as the priest Melchizedek. And as we read in Hebrews Chapter 7 verse 12, with that change in priesthood came a change in Law as well therefore the Law of Moses would have met its purpose up to the arrival of the Messiah.
To sum this up…
  • The Order of Melchizedek is the priesthood associated with the Seed Promise given to Adam and Woman and carried down to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob 
    • This is the priesthood that leads us to righteousness because it is the priesthood of Messiah 
    • It was established not on the basis of works of Law but by the word (or oath or promise) of God 
    • By this priesthood, men are made righteous, because it depends on the righteousness of our Lord, and not on our own
  • That’s why the priesthood is called the order of Melchizedek, which means my Lord is righteous 
  • It is a priesthood that exists forever, since our High Priest never dies and never will be replaced 
  • In all these things, the order of Melchizedek is superior to the Levitical order 
    • The Levitical order comes by way of a covenant of Law, not a promise of God 
    • Therefore, like Law itself, it cannot make men perfect and only serves to cover over the sins of men 
    • It is weak and useless in that regard
And so now the writer finishes by applying the meaning of these things to the way we worship and follow Christ as believers
Hebrews: Chapter 7:23-28 (NKJV)

23 Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. 24 But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.

In the time that Hebrews was written a seemingly interesting question arose. Where do we go for intercession even though a new priesthood came with the arrival of Jesus. There were still two priesthood working it seems among the Jewish communities. There were the Levitical priests who still followed the law and continued to operate in the tabernacle and with the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ as our High Priest in Heaven we were able to turn to. In comparison, one was still practiced because of the flesh and involved ritual and Law. But the other, the superior intercessor was by faith and depended on worshiping in the Spirit and based on truth. Some Jewish believers still saw the Levitical priests as their intercessors. They were returning to the temple and following the teaching of the Law. Even if the knew Jesus was their Lord. While they still seek forgiveness through the priests it is evident their actions were in opposition with the faith in Christ as their intercessor. We too need to be careful, for we can fall prey to this kind of false thinking. We can seek intercession from someone or something other than Christ even though we have come to know Him (Christ) truly. Therefore, if a Christian remains spiritually immature and untaught, they can be deceived and misled into thinking and doing the wrong things.

In truth today, some Christians believe that they must go into a booth and confess their sins before a man who calls himself a priest. This is wrong thinking and using a priest as your intercessor instead of Christ is not what the Word teaches us. However, some Christians are fooled into thinking it’s a necessity. If we know Christ to be our Savior, we seek forgiveness from Him alone and we need no other. And Hebrews points out the pointless nature of the Levitical priests, calling them “former” priests. Why should we take our sins before any man who are dying themselves due to sin? Why sit in a booth and confess our sins to a man who is just as sinful as we are? And someone who dies at the end, why should we trust them when it means they are no closer to perfection than we are? The answer to those questions is we shouldn’t. What we have and what we need is someone who has already obtained what we seek. We want someone who did escape the penalty of death. We want a priest who had no sin of His own knowing He can stand before the Father and represent us perfectly. We want a priest who never dies, so He can see our salvation through until the end. What we want is Jesus. He is our High Priest and in Hebrews verse 25 it says that Jesus lives forever and can make intercession for us forever. He holds his priesthood forever, since He will never pass it on to another person because He never dies.

In Hebrews verse 26 it says it was befitting for us to have a High Priest Who was holy Himself, harmless, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted. Jesus is the kind of High Priest we always needed and God had always planned to give us. We can have our trust in Jesus because He never (nor had to) offered up a sacrifice for Himself like the Levitical priests. That is because He had no sin of His own. Ultimately offering Himself instead for the sins of all the people. For the Law appointed men as high priests who were weak. But God’s oath which came after the Law, appointed the Son as the perfect High Priest forever. The greater priesthood was revealed at the coming of the Messiah and that is the high priesthood we look to for our intercessions.

We also need to acknowledge that we form a priesthood of our own. While Christ is certainly our High Priest, every believer is part of a priesthood.

First Peter: Chapter 2:9-10 (NKJV)

9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

We are a priesthood in the sense that we serve as ministers for God on behalf of the world. We represent God before the people of the world. We teach them about His commandments and when their prayers are not heard, we pray on their behalf. When they are seeking a reconciliation with God, we show them the way with love and without judgment. We never stand in the place of Christ nor do we ever say a person must go through us to reach the Lord. But we are an army of servants with faith in our High Priest may use to ministry to the world. We are now the people of God and we proclaim the excellencies of Him Who called us out of darkness. Ask yourself this question. Are you serving as the priest we are called to be in service to our High Priest?

 

“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”

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