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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:A Priest Forever in the Order of Melchizedek
Text:Hebrews 7:1-8:2 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Intercession
 
Preached:2016
Added:2022-10-25
Updated:2022-10-25
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

O For a Thousand Tongues 
The Lord unto His Christ Has Said
How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds
In Christ Alone

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


04/17/2016
“A Priest Forever in the Order of Melchizedek”
Hebrews 7:1-8:2
 
Melchizedek is one of the most mysterious people in the pages of Scripture. There are only four verses in the Old Testament relating to Melchizedek, three are in Genesis 14:18-20, and one verse is in Psalm 110:4. But in the New Testament there is no mention of Melchizedek until we come to the letter to the Hebrews. And then, in Hebrews, Melchizedek becomes a focal point.
 
Over the centuries many people have been perplexed by the identity of Melchizedek. Origin, and a few other ancient scholars, believe that he was an angel. But that certainly does not harmonize with what we are told in Hebrews 7:1 which describes him as “king of Salem and priest of God Most High.”
 
Ambrose, who was another early church theologian, believed that Melchizedek was a Christophany, that is, a vision of Christ in human form before the birth of Jesus. But if that were the case, certainly the author of Hebrews would have stated that. Instead, in verse 3 he specifically states that Melchizedek was like the Son of God, not that he was the Son of God.
 
Martin Luther, who was so perceptive on many things, erred in his conception of Melchizedek's identity. He followed the line of reasoning from ancient Jewish scholars who believed that Melchizedek was a descendent of Shem, one of Noah's sons.
 
But that, too, is an error. We can take verse 1 at face value when it describes Melchizedek this way: “This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him.”
 
From that verse we know that Melchizedek was both a king and a priest, and we know that he lived at the same time as Abraham. There is nothing really unusual about his identity. But what is unusual is that there is no genealogy given for Melchizedek. Consider all the genealogies in the Old Testament. There is the genealogy from Adam to Noah in Genesis 5. Genesis 10 records the table of nations with an account of the descendants of Shem, Ham and Japheth, who were Noah's sons. And in Genesis 11 we have the genealogy of those from Shem to Abram. And that is just a few of the many genealogies in Scripture.
 
Genealogies are important, especially as they lead to the birth of Jesus as the eternal Christ who took on human flesh. The genealogies show that Jesus is from the tribe of Judah and is a true descendent of David. The genealogy in Matthew 1 goes back to Abraham. The genealogy in Luke 3 goes back further, all the way to Adam. By recording genealogies, the Bible shows us the true humanity of Jesus Christ. And his lineage points to his perfection as the second Adam who rendered perfect obedience to his Father in contrast to the disobedience of the first Adam.
 
So although the genealogies have many hard names for us to pronounce, they do have an important purpose in the Bible. We see that – not only in regard to the birth of Jesus – but also in the selection of high priests who were descendants of Aaron. The only ones who could be high priests in the Old Testament era were the Levites. They were from the tribe of Levi who descended from Aaron. Every high priest in the Old Testament had to prove that he was from the tribe of Levi. The genealogies were crucial for the Levites to prove that they belonged in the service of the Lord in the Tabernacle and Temple.
 
However, by omitting the genealogy of Melchizedek, we see that there is a priesthood that is greater than the priesthood of the Old Testament Levites. As the Holy Spirit inspired Moses to write the first five books of the Bible, he purposely omitted the genealogy of Melchizedek. Melchizedek undoubtedly had a genealogy. He had a mother and father and grandmother and grandfather. He undoubtedly had descendants after him as well. But they are purposely not recorded in Scripture so that already in the book of Genesis we get a hint, we get a foreshadow, we get a “type” that points us to the eternal Christ.
 
Jesus has a human genealogy recorded in Matthew 1 and Luke 3, but as the eternal Christ he is infinite with no beginning and no end for “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). Many commentators point out that because the genealogy of Melchizedek is not recorded for us, the author of Hebrews makes an argument from silence. His argument from silence is that there is another priesthood beside that of the Levites of the Old Testament. It is the eternal priesthood, in the order of Melchizedek; it is the perfect high priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
 
King and Priest
 
As king of Salem and as a priest of God, Melchizedek was truly great. He was a believer in God. He was a godly man in an intensely corrupt world. Abraham recognized that. Abraham recognized that Melchizedek's greatness went far beyond being king of Salem. His greatness was in his relationship to the same God whom Abraham served, the one true God revealed in Scripture.
 
Because of his greatness, Abraham presented him with a tithe. Verse 2 tells us that Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. Verse 4 adds, “Just think how great he was: even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder!” In verses 5 to 10, the author of Hebrews observes that as Abraham gave this tithe to Melchizedek, he in effect caused Levi, who collected the tithes (for that was one of the responsibilities of the Old Testament priests) to pay the tithe because as verse 10 says, “…When Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.”
 
The point he is making is that the priesthood in the order of Melchizedek is far superior to the Old Testament priesthood. The Hebrews to whom the author of this letter was originally writing were faithful to the Old Testament teaching. In this letter the Holy Spirit brings up many of the Old Testament rituals and sacrifices. He does so to point us beyond the Old Testament signs to the New Testament reality of Jesus Christ. In this case, the author of Hebrews is teaching his Old Testament readers to look beyond the Levitical priesthood and the law given to Moses. Instead, he points them to the high priesthood and kingship of Jesus Christ who fulfilled every aspect – every jot and tittle, every iota – of the Old Testament law given to Moses.
 
And that is the main purpose for Melchizedek's identity. He serves as a “type” or foreshadow of Christ. If his genealogy was recorded, then he would no longer be a suitable foreshadow of the eternal Christ who is the alpha and omega, true eternal God, one with the Father and Holy Spirit, with no beginning and no end.
 
Two ways of many that Melchizedek serves as a type, or foreshadow of Christ, are in his role as king of Salem and priest of God Most High. In those roles he points us to Christ. Jesus Christ is the true King of Righteousness and Prince of Peace. Verse 2 points out that Melchizedek's name means “king of righteousness” and also “king of peace” but those designations are fulfilled, not in Melchizedek, but in Christ.
 
That was also foretold by Isaiah in that familiar passage we often reflect on in the Christmas season, Isaiah 9:6-7:
 
 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
 
Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
__
 
In the 21st century it may be hard for us to understand why the author of Hebrews would go to such great lengths to teach about the priesthood of Jesus Christ. But to the first century Hebrews it was a radical idea that someone who wasn't from the tribe of Levi would serve as the ultimate high priest. The Levites had been appointed by God to serve in the tabernacle and temple. They offered the sacrifices and performed the duties outlined by Moses in the Torah. It was a radical idea to the Jewish people of the first century that the priesthood of the Levites, spanning the centuries, would come to an end and a new priesthood, by one priest, the eternal Christ, would take the place of Levites.
 
This concept was a challenge to the Hebrews living in the first century because not only did it teach that the great high priest, Christ, was not from the tribe of Levi. It also taught that because there was a change in the priesthood, there was also a change in the law. As verse 12 puts it: “For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law.”
 
The reason the law had to be changed is that the law, as given to Moses at Mount Sinai, cannot make any of us right with God. The law shows us our sin, and as such it points us to Christ who alone can save us. But our perceived obedience to the law will never save us. Because of our sin, we can never measure up to the law of God. Only Christ could and did.
 
The Old Testament priests were sinners themselves. They had to offer a sacrifice for their own sins before offering a sacrifice for the people. But Christ, although tempted in all ways as we are, never sinned. He alone is the pure and spotless Lamb of God. As verse 27 and 28 point out: “Unlike other high priests he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.  For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak, but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son who has been made perfect forever.”
 
Another way in which Christ is far superior to the Old Testament high priests is that while their succession to office was based on their ancestry, the high priestly office of Christ was put into effect by an oath. Usually, it is people who swear an oath. It is necessary because by nature we are untruthful. An oath is invoked to verify the truth. But it is impossible for God to lie. As Numbers 23:19 teaches, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”
 
Why then would God, who cannot lie, invoke an oath as he declares his eternal Son to be our perfect and permanent great high priest? Hebrews 6:17 to 20 explain: “Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”
 
And that truth is hammered home in this chapter; verse 20 to 22:
 
 … Others became priests without any oath, but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him:
 
“The Lord has sworn
    and will not change his mind:
‘You are a priest forever.’”
 
     Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.
 
A Better Covenant and a Better Hope
 
The author of Hebrews stresses the need for a new and better covenant repeatedly, as he describes the weakness of the former covenant at Mount Sinai. For instance, Hebrews 10:1-4 describes how “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”
 
But Christ is the perfect priest. Because he is sinless, he needed to offer only one sacrifice, the sacrifice for sins of his people. And the sacrifice he offered was not an animal, but his own life as the spotless Lamb of God, sacrificed at Calvary. 
 
As we see that Jesus is the guarantee of a better covenant, we also see that there wasn't anything wrong with the first covenant. The problem was not with God's covenant and his laws based upon obedience. The problem was with the people. Neither the people nor the priests could keep the demands of the old covenant. They, like us, could not keep God's laws with the perfection he requires. Only Christ could, and he did!
 
To get his point across, the author of Hebrews describes how the basis for the priesthood of Christ is not in his ancestry; it is not in an identity with the Levites. The basis – the grounds – for his priesthood is his indestructible life as the eternal Son of God which is confirmed with his Father’s oath.
 
In verse 15 to 17 he writes: “And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. For it is declared:You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.’”
 
And he points out in verse 18 and 19 that because of Christ, we have a better hope. Our hope isn’t based on the actions of a sinful priest from the tribe of Levi. Our hope is in Christ, and our hope in him is described in the previous chapter “as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” In the instability of a fallen and corrupt world, we who have saving faith in Christ have an anchor for our soul. We can echo the words of David who declares in Psalm 16:8, “I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”
 
The perfection of Christ as our great high priest is woven throughout Scripture and marked with an exclamation mark throughout the letter to the Hebrews. Consider the perfections of Christ as presented in verse 26: “Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.”
 
In that verse we have a five-fold description of Jesus. He is holy in every way. His holiness as true God in human flesh is in stark contrast to our unholiness, and the unholiness of the Old Testament priests. We have no holiness of our own; our holiness is imputed to us by saving faith in Christ. Then, by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, we grow in holiness, but it is from the Lord’s work within, not by our own doing that we are holy.
 
Christ is also blameless (innocent – ESV) and pure (unstained – ESV). We, like the Old Testament priests, could be blamed, rightfully so, for in an incredibly long list of sins and shortcomings. But not Jesus. At his trial, they could find no basis for a charge against him. Even the false testimony brought in a sham trial could not lay any blame on Jesus. He is pure and spotless, unstained, without any trace or taint of sin. It was only by twisting the rightful identity of Jesus as the Son of God that a false charge of blasphemy was leveled against him.
 
Verse 26 also describes Jesus as being “set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.”  His glory is so great that when the Apostle John saw a vision of his glory he fell as a dead man before him (Rev. 1:17). Yet Christ, “set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens” is a friend of sinners. He came to this earth to save his people from their sin. He understands our predicament of being sinners in a fallen world. He experienced temptations in their strongest and most cruel forms as he was tempted not only by the Pharisees who hated and loathed him, but by Satan himself who repeatedly made every effort to dethrone him.
 
He is, in other words, the only Savior and the perfect Savior, the high priest who meets our every need (v. 26), the One who is the surety and the guarantee of a better covenant (v. 22), who gives us a better hope (19), the eternal Son of God who “became a priest with an oath when God said to him:
 
 “The Lord has sworn
      and will not change his mind:
 ‘You are a priest forever.’” (v. 21)
 
Hebrews chapter 7 was inspired by the Holy Spirit so that the portrayal of Christ as our perfect and eternal high priest is ingrained in our hearts and minds. That is why Hebrews 8 begins with this emphasis: “The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.”
 
Do you – by God’s grace and Holy Spirit’s power – have full assurance that Christ is your great high priest? That Jesus sacrificed himself for your sins and that now he intercedes at the right hand of God the Father on your behalf? Do you know Christ Jesus as your Savior from sin and the Lord of your life?
 
That is the requirement verse 26 gives to us, in both a wonderful promise and a serious commitment: “Therefore he is able to save completely – that is the wonderful promise – those who come to God through him – that is the serious commitment – because he always lives to intercede for them” – which points to the total sufficiency of Jesus Christ to save us from our sin.
 
If you and I have come to God, through saving faith in Christ alone, then may we – out of deep and sincere gratitude for our salvation – enter into the week before us with joyous hearts, seeking to live obedient, sanctified lives in adoration for our Savior, for Jesus Christ, our great high priest in the order of Melchizedek! Amen.
 
 
Sermon outline:
 
And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. For it is declared: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” – Hebrews 7:15-17
 
“A Priest Forever in the Order of Melchizedek”
Hebrews 7:1-8:2
 
I.  Melchizedek was king of Salem and a priest of God (1a) who lived in Abraham’s day (1b, 2;
     Genesis 14:17-20):
     1) He is unique in that that there is no record of his genealogy (3)
 
 
 
     2) His greatness is reflected by the tithe Abraham gave him (2, 4-10)
 
 
 
     3) He serves as a “type” or foreshadow of Christ (17, 21; Psalm 110:4)
 
 
 
II. Jesus Christ is the true King of Righteousness and Prince of Peace (2; Isaiah 9:6-7) of which
     Melchizedek was only a foreshadow:
     1) The basis for the priesthood of Christ is His indestructible life as the eternal Son of God
          (15-17), His Father’s oath (20-21), and His blameless life (26, 27)
 
 
 
     2)  Christ ushered in a change of priesthood (12a), a change of law (12b), a better hope (18),
           and a better covenant (22)
 
 
 
     3) Because His priesthood is permanent, our salvation, through saving faith in Him alone, is
          complete and eternal (23-25)
 
 
 
 
 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Ted Gray

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