April 2014 • Volume XIV, Issue 24
Christ’s Melchizedekian Priesthood (3)
Some people reckon that Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18-20) was
Shem, a son of Noah. This view is popular among the Jews.
However, Shem was not without genealogy (Heb. 7:3; cf. Gen.
10-11). Others think that Melchizedek was an angel or the
Holy Spirit or Christ Himself. However, contrary to some
fundamentalists, since Melchizedek was “made like unto the
Son of God,” he was not Christ personally (Heb. 7:3). As a
priest “after the order of Melchisedec,” the Lord Jesus is
not Melchizedek literally (11).
In his commentary on Hebrews 7:3, John Calvin states that
these “delirious notions” are unworthy of refutation: “There
seems therefore to be no probability in the conjecture of
those who say that Melchisedec was Shem the son of Noah ...
It seems not to be worth one’s while to refute the delirious
notions of those who dream that Christ himself, or the Holy
Spirit, or an angel, appeared at that time.” A. W. Pink,
likewise, dismisses all such speculations as “irreverence” (An
Exposition of Hebrews, p. 360).
The man Melchizedek was a type of Jesus Christ as priest.
Melchizedek was a “priest of the most high God” (Gen. 14:18;
Heb. 7:1). This is the first use in the Bible of both the
word “priest” and the divine title “the most high God” (Gen.
14:18). The true God is “high,” even “the most high.” This
refers to His absolute transcendence, setting Him far above,
and over against, all idols. All men and angels must worship
As priest of “the most high God,” Melchizedek offered
sacrifices to the Almighty and prayed to Him for the people
whom he served. Jesus Christ is our great sacrifice and
intercessor before the Triune God.
Melchizedek the priest blessed Abraham (Gen. 14:19; Heb.
7:1). This was official priestly work (cf. Num. 6:22-27). As
God’s representative and priest, Melchizedek’s blessing was
sacerdotal, authoritative and prophetic (cf. Gen. 12:2-3).
Just as Abraham needed and received God’s blessing through
Melchizedek, so too we are blessed through Jesus Christ, our
priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (Ps. 110:4),
and by the Holy Spirit.
Melchizedek received tithes from Abraham (Gen. 14:20; Heb.
7:2). This was part of his official priestly work and he
later offered the animals that were tithed as sacrifices.
This underscores the greatness of Melchizedek: “Now consider
how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham
gave the tenth of the spoils” (4). In Abraham, all the
tithes and offerings of his children in the Old Testament
days, including those of the tribe of Levi, were paid to
Melchizedek, since they were all in their father Abraham’s
loins (9-10). Offerings are part of our worship services
today because they are part of our worship of Jesus Christ,
our Melchizedekian priest, who died for our sins.
After telling us that Melchizedek blessed, and received
tithes from, Abraham (Heb. 7:1-2), Hebrews 7:3 picks up on
the fact that Genesis 14 does not mention Melchizedek’s
parentage or descendants, or his death. Unlike the Levitical
priests, whose genealogies are scrupulously recorded (e.g.,
I Chron. 6; Ezra 7:1-5), since proof of Aaronic pedigree was
necessary (2:61-63), and whose deaths meant the end of their
priestly labours, Melchizedek was (in terms of the Bible’s
silence regarding these things) “Without father, without
mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days,
nor end of life” (Heb. 7:3). In this too, Melchizedek is
typical, for Christ’s priesthood is unending or everlasting,
because He has and needs no successors since His is “the
power of an endless life” (16).
The contrast here between the Aaronic priests and Christ,
who is a Melchizedekian priest “for ever” (Ps. 110:4), is
stated in Hebrews 7:23-24: “And they truly were many
priests, because they were not suffered to continue by
reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever,
hath an unchangeable priesthood.”
Perhaps most striking of all, Melchizedek is the only child
of God in all the Old Testament who was both a priest and a
king (Gen. 14:18; Heb. 7:1-2). No king in Israel was allowed
to be a priest. When King Uzziah, in his pride, tried to
offer incense on the golden offer in the temple’s holy
place, the Most High struck him with leprosy until the day
of his death (II Chron. 26:16-21). Likewise, no priest in
Israel could be a king. But Jesus Christ, as a priest
forever after the order of Melchizedek, is both a priest and
a king, unlike those of the Aaronic priesthood!
The Holy Spirit also teaches that Melchizedek is typical of
Christ even in his name and place of labour (Gen. 14:18;
Heb. 7:1-2). Melchizedek consists of two Hebrew words which
mean “king” and “righteousness,” and Jesus Christ is our
infinitely righteous king, ruling over His church and the
ungodly with perfect justice (2). As typified by
Melchizedek, the King of Salem, which word means “peace,”
our Lord is the king of peace, having obtained peace by the
blood of His cross and granting it to us by His Spirit (2).
Let us trust our only priest and king for righteousness and
peace! Rev. Stewart
For more on Melchizedek and the Lord Jesus,
listen to “Christ’s Priestly Office” (Belgic
Confession Class, vol. X: Articles 20-21a), 6
Christian doctrine classes on 6 CDs in an attractive box
set: (1) God Hath Manifested His Justice and Mercy in
Christ, (2) Christ’s Threefold Office, (3) Introducing
Christ’s Melchizedekian Priesthood, (4) Christ’s
Melchizedekian Priesthood, (5) Christ’s Melchizedekian
Priesthood and Time, and (6) Christ’s Priesthood Outside
Hebrews. Cost £8 (inc. P&P, plus 1 class handout).
The Old and the New Covenants (2)
A reader asks, “What are the implications of
Jeremiah 31:34 for the church today? Concerning
the new covenant it says, ‘And they shall teach
no more every man his neighbour, and every man
his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for they
shall all know me, from the least of them unto
the greatest of them, saith the Lord; for I will
forgive their iniquity, and I will remember
their sin no more.’ Does it teach, as I have
heard, that under the new covenant the church is
to be a purer institution than it was under the
old covenant, made up only of those who ‘know
the Lord,’ i.e., truly born again believers?”
In the last News, I set forth some of the
blessings of the new covenant (mentioned in
Jeremiah 31:34), developing the truths of the
knowledge of God through the forgiveness of sins
in the light of our three-fold office as
prophets, priests and kings in Christ.
Other parts of Scripture give yet one more
blessing of the new covenant. Hebrews 10:16
speaks of the fact that a part of the new
covenant is “I will put my laws into their
hearts, and in their minds will I write them.”
Hebrews 8:10 says the same thing. The
significant part of this verse is that this is a
blessing of the new covenant which has come to
take away the old covenant (7-8, 13). This new
covenant stands in contrast with the old
covenant that God made with Israel when He took
them out of the land of Egypt (9). That covenant
is described in Exodus 19:5: “Now therefore, if
ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my
covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure
unto me above all people: for all the earth is
That covenant had as its main theme: “Keep My
commandments and live; but accursed thou shalt
be if thou dost not keep all the words of the
law.” Covenant blessings rested upon those who
kept God’s law.
But Israel could not keep God’s law and so they
perished ultimately in captivity. The covenant
depended upon Israel’s obedience. This was the
We must not interpret this to mean that God had
first hoped that Israel would keep the law and
thus be, by their obedience, His covenant
people, but that He abandoned that idea when He
learned that Israel would and could never do
this. That is emphatically not the point. The
point was that God had to drive home to His
people this great truth: Only those who kept the
law, that is, who were as holy as God is, could
be His covenant people. There was no room in
God’s covenant for sinners. But no man can keep
that law. No man! What then? Would the covenant
never be realized? Yes, it would, but only when
someone else would keep the covenant for them.
And that was our Lord Jesus Christ!
Christ does keep the law for all His people. He
kept it especially on the cross. He kept it
while the wrath of God drove Him into the bottom
of hell. He kept it when He was a forsaken
derelict abandoned by His Father. He kept it
when all He knew was the fury of God’s wrath
against sin. He kept it when the horror of God’s
wrath was so great that He momentarily did not
know why He had to endure such awful suffering
(Matt. 27:46). Even when He dared not call God
His Father, He kept the law.
He bore the wrath of God for all His people. He
stood in our place and suffered what was rightly
due to us. But in hell’s blackest moment, when
He was overwhelmed with God’s fury, He still
said, “I love Thee, O My God. I love Thee with
all My heart and mind and soul and strength. I
cannot bear the horror of being abandoned by
Thee. It is so dark here. But whether I know the
reason why Thou hast forsaken Me or not, I still
love Thee and will always love Thee!” This is
And so our Lord not only suffered beyond all
knowing—for us, poor sinners—but He also
fulfilled the law for us. He kept what we could
not keep. He did what we could never do. He
loved the Lord His God, when we were enemies of
God. And, wonder of wonders, He did this for us!
This is the new covenant!
And so, now, in the days of the new covenant,
when Christ finished His work and poured out His
Spirit on His church, He gives to His people, by
faith in Him, the spiritual ability to keep the
law. He writes the law on our hearts. The Holy
Spirit engraves with irresistible power, on our
hearts, the perfect law so that we keep it and
are made worthy to be God’s covenant people.
In the old covenant, we had to do everything.
But the old covenant, of itself, was useless
because we could not keep God’s law and be a
holy people. “For if that first covenant had
been faultless, then should no place have been
sought for the second” (Heb. 8:7). But God found
fault with them with whom He established His
covenant and with the covenant of the law
because it could not save sinners; and so,
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I
will make a new covenant with the house of
Israel and with the house of Judah: Not
according to the [old] covenant that I made with
their fathers in the day when I took them by the
hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt;
because they continued not in my covenant, and I
regarded them not, saith the Lord” (8-9).
And so, a new covenant was made, for “he hath
made the first old. Now that which decayeth and
waxeth old is ready to vanish away” (13). We
live in these better days, the days of the new
covenant, for the old covenant has passed away!
In the new covenant, we do not have to do
anything—either to enter that covenant or to
remain in it. We cannot do anything and we need
not do anything. Bold and crass is the man who
thinks that he must and can fulfil conditions to
be a part of God’s covenant. How thankful we
must be and are when we realize that Christ has
done it all. By grace we are saved, through
faith, and that not of ourselves; it is all the
gift of God (Eph. 2:8-9).
Does that mean that we never do anything at all?
No, of course not. Part of that covenant is that
the law, which we can never keep, is written
upon our hearts by the Spirit of Pentecost.
Since the law is written upon our hearts, we do
keep it. We must! We can! And we do! But it is
not of us; it is the work of the Spirit who
works in us to will to keep those commandments
and to keep them (Phil. 2:13). And if we sin,
our sins are remembered no more and our
iniquities are pardoned. Prof. Hanko
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