March 2014 • Volume XIV, Issue 23
Christ’s Melchizedekian Priesthood (2)
Many things are asserted of Melchizedek in the
subordinate clauses of Hebrews 7:1-3. But this is the
main statement of that long sentence: “For this
Melchisedec ... made like unto the Son of God; abideth a
priest continually” (1, 3). To put it simply,
Melchizedek is a type of Jesus Christ in that God “made
[him] like unto the Son of God.” Melchizedek is a type
of Jesus Christ not with regard to His divine and human
natures, nor His prophetic office (Moses is the great
type of Christ as prophet, according to Deuteronomy
18:15-19). Melchizedek is a type of Christ in His
priestly office, for he was “made like unto the Son of
God; [and] abideth a priest continually.”
This turns the argument of the Jews against Christ’s
priesthood on its head. First, Christ has the office of
priest according to the Torah or the five books of Moses
(Gen. 14:18-20) and the Psalms (Ps. 110:4), so His
priesthood is in accordance with Old Testament prophecy
and typology. Second, Christ’s priesthood is more
ancient than the Aaronitic priesthood, for the latter
came about 400 years later. Third, Christ’s priesthood
is a much better priesthood in so many ways, as Hebrews
7 makes clear.
We are not impressed with the fidelity of the Jewish
priesthood (cf. Mal. 2:8-9). Just think of the biblical
record of their sins! Aaron made the golden calf (Ex.
32). His two oldest sons, Nadab and Abihu, offered
strange fire and were consumed by the Lord (Lev. 10).
Eli failed to discipline his two sons effectively (I
Sam. 2-3). These two priests, Hophni and Phinehas,
fornicated at the tabernacle, oppressed the people and
stole from God’s offerings (I Sam. 2-3). Time and time
again, the priests were idolatrous, especially in the
days of King Ahaz and King Manasseh, and opposed God’s
true prophets. Finally, Caiaphas, the high priest, with
the chief priests, condemned Jesus Christ and saw to it
that He was crucified. Then they persecuted the
The Jews did not faithfully adhere to their priesthood.
Instead, they often joined in with the sins of the
priests and loved “to have it so” (Jer. 5:31). From
Jeroboam onwards, the ten northern tribes rejected the
Aaronitic priesthood (I Kings 12:26-33). Even Judah did
not always pay tithes to the priests and Levites (Neh.
13:10-11; Mal. 3:7-9). During the wilderness wanderings,
the Israelites frequently complained against Moses and
Aaron, their first high priest. On one notorious
occasion, they claimed that the sons of Levi took “too
much upon” themselves (Num. 16:7). Numbers 16-17 records
how God put down their wicked rebellion against the
house of Aaron.
When the Messiah came, Israel crucified Him, claiming
instead that they were faithful to the priests in the
line of Aaron according to Jehovah’s law! Thus they
rejected Christ’s superior Melchizedekian priesthood and
the only sacrifice for sin! Rev. Stewart
The Old and the New Covenants (1)
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
No, the text in Jeremiah 31:34 does not teach that the
New Testament church is a purer church than the church
of the old dispensation. One need only read Hebrews 11
and one cannot help but marvel at the strength of the
faith of Old Testament saints, whose faith so often
By the way, the entire passage in Jeremiah 31:31-34 is
quoted in Hebrews 8:8-12 and partly in Hebrews 10:16-17.
Somewhat similar language is also found in Ezekiel
The text teaches a profound truth concerning God’s
gracious covenant with His people. We must remember that
the passing away of the old covenant and the
establishment of the new covenant took place with the
work of our Lord Jesus Christ when He suffered and died
and rose again from the dead. The climax of His work was
the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost. And, if I may
insert a parenthetical point here, Pentecost was not the
first New Testament revival. It had nothing to do with
revivals. Nor was it the second blessing, as
Pentecostals claim. It was far more wonderful than that.
It was the gift of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of the
ascended Lord to the church!
In a certain sense of the word, the Old Testament saints
did not possess the Spirit. I know that my statement
evokes a gasp from many, but it is nevertheless true.
Consider, for example, what Jesus Himself said in John
7:39. On the great day of the feast, Jesus cried out in
the temple, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me,
and drink” (37). John explains what Jesus meant in verse
39: “But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that
believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was
not yet; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.”
You have probably noticed that in my quotation of John
7:39, I omitted the word “given.” But this is necessary.
In our AV, the word is in italics, which means that it
does not appear in the original, but was added by the
translators. The translators often did this, for Greek
and English are two quite different languages. And most
of the time, the English additions are helpful. But here
the word “given” ought not to appear in the text, so the
clause should read: “For the Holy Ghost was not yet.” In
other words, He did not exist.
It is striking that John should say this under
infallible inspiration, and we certainly know from all
Scripture that the Holy Ghost is eternal, along with the
Father and the Son. Furthermore, we know that the Holy
Spirit was present in the Old Testament, for David
prayed, “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me” (Ps. 51:11).
(The AV does not capitalize “Holy Spirit” in this verse,
although it should have.) Further, the Holy Spirit was
given to those who were anointed as prophets, priests
What then does John mean in John 7:39?
The answer is that John is referring to the Holy Spirit
as the Spirit of the exalted Christ, for John
himself adds that there was as yet no Holy Spirit,
because “Jesus was not yet glorified.” This truth is the
reason why Peter tells us in his great Pentecostal
sermon, “Therefore being by the right hand of God
exalted, and having received of the Father the promise
of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now
see and hear” (Acts 2:33).
What a difference the presence of the Spirit made in the
church! Peter himself, along with the other disciples,
did not understand Christ’s work. They asked at the time
of His ascension, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore
again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). But
immediately after the Spirit was poured out on the 120
members of the church, Peter could preach a sermon in
which he showed that he understood all the work of
Christ. He understood the cross, the resurrection and
the ascension. He even understood the passages in the
Old Testament that spoke of Christ and His work. It was
all quite amazing and it was due to nothing but the
presence of the Spirit in the church. This points us to
the difference between the old and the new covenants.
The difference between the old and the new covenants is
the very great difference made in the church by the
outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost.
The first and most important difference was that, while
in the old dispensation the offices of prophet, priest
and king were limited to special men whom God designated
by the pouring on of oil, in the new dispensation all
the people of God are anointed. Oil was a symbol of the
Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was given to Saul, David,
Nathan, Isaiah, Malachi, Jehoiada, Aaron, Elijah, etc.
These men were designated as prophets, priests or kings.
The prophets brought the Word of God to Israel; the
priests made sacrifices for the people; the kings ruled
over the nation.
The people of God who did not hold an office could not
perform the work of the office. They could not know the
will of God, but had to go to a prophet (I Sam. 9:6-10;
II Sam. 7:1-17; II Kings 22:12-20). The people could not
obtain forgiveness of sins by themselves, but had to go
to a priest, leading a cow or a sheep. The people could
not rule themselves—as the period of the judges
proved—but had to have a king, and the moral state of
the nation was determined largely by the moral condition
of the king.
But in the new dispensation when the Spirit is poured
out, He is not poured out on specially chosen men, but
on all believers. By His powerful presence, He brings
Christ to us, who is our only prophet, priest and king.
He, by His Spirit, makes all believers prophets, priests
and kings. We need not go to a prophet anymore, for we
all know the Lord. We have the Scriptures and we can
know God by the Spirit through them. The Roman Catholic
Church denied this truth: they refused to let the people
have the Word of God. They reserved the right to
interpret the Scriptures to the clergy. It was Luther
who restored the office of believers to the saints, in
We have the Spirit of Christ and we are now all, by
God’s grace, priests. We can come to God through Jesus
Christ our mediator and intercessor. We need not come
with a cow in tow for Christ made the perfect sacrifice
that opened the way into the holy of holies (Heb. 9:24).
We need not a Roman Catholic priest to whom we must make
confession. We have our great high priest in heaven, and
we are all priests in Him. We are all priests who bring
the sacrifice of praise, obedience and thanksgiving
(Rom. 12:1-2; I Pet. 2:9).
We need no king to rule over us—other than Christ
Himself, whose slaves we are. We rule over our lives
through the power of the Spirit and we do so by the Word
of God which is our guide. And, by the way, this truth
is the basis for Christian liberty.
The Heidelberg Catechism puts it beautifully when
it claims that we bear the name of Christ when we are
called Christians. “But why art thou called a Christian?
Because I am a member of Christ by faith, and thus am
partaker of His anointing; that so I may confess His
name, and present myself a living sacrifice of
thankfulness to Him; and also that with a free and good
conscience I may fight against sin and Satan in this
life, and afterwards reign with Him eternally over all
creatures” (Q. & A. 32).
But there is more. The text also says, “I will forgive
their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more”
(Jer. 31:34). This too is a blessing of the new
covenant. The meaning is not that the Old Testament
people of God did not know the forgiveness of sins, for
the Psalms testify to the opposite (e.g., Ps. 32). But
Christ had not come as yet to make the sacrifice for
sin, and so their knowledge of the forgiveness of their
sin was less complete and less clear than after Christ’s
sacrifice was made.
Hebrews 10:1-18 teaches this very plainly. (We keep
going back to Hebrews for it is the great book of the
Bible that tells us how much better the new covenant is
than the old.) The author tells us that sacrifices had
to be made continually because the people continued to
have conscience of sins. But Christ’s sacrifice is
perfect and there is no more conscience of sin because
our exalted Lord gives us the Spirit and assures us that
the debt of our transgressions has been paid at the
cross so that our consciences are purged in the blood of
Christ. That too is part of the new covenant.
We will return to this great subject in the next issue
of the News. Prof. Hanko
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