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Some Account of Melchizedec. Christ blessedly spoken of, under His High Priestly Character, and the Excellency of his Person and Office.
(1) For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; (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; (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. (4) Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. (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: (6) But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. (7) And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better. (8) And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. (9) And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, paid tithes in Abraham. (10) For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchizedek met him.
The Holy Ghost, by the Apostle, had more than once mentioned this extraordinary person Melchizedec; but now he enters into a more particular account of him in this Chapter. He hath given us several very leading characters in relation to his office, by way of illustrating the glorious Person, of whom he was a type, which are truly interesting, And, although the Lord hath been pleased to leave some obscurity in the subject who Melchizedec was, yet, there is enough to call forth the warmest praises of the Church to God the Holy Ghost, for an information which tends to raise our views of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the most exalted and blessed manner.
The Lord opens the Chapter with his name, Melchizedec, which is a compound word from Melek, King, and Tzedek, Justice; and, as the blessed Spirit himself hath rendered it, King of righteousness. If the Reader hath my Poor Man's Concordance by him, which was lately published in Penny Numbers, he will find a particular account of this name, Melchizedec.
The Lord the Spirit next proceeds to state the scriptural history, which He had before given of Melchizedec, as in Genesis 14:18 &c, in which we behold him in his High Priestly office. See Genesis 14:0 and Commentary. And having thus introduced him to the Church, both by name and office, and described him as King of righteousness, and King of peace; the Lord adds one feature more concerning the wonders of his Person, which had not been before mentioned, and which raiseth the greatness of his character, beyond any being merely human, for he saith, 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. And God the Holy Ghost bids the Church consider how great this man was.
It hath pleased the Lord to throw a veil over the person of this most extraordinary man, which must forever preclude an absolute decision concerning him, while the Church is in her present time state. But, as a type of Jesus, what is here said is abundant to give the most satisfying conviction, how infinitely great the Lord Jesus must be, to whom a man, without father or mother, or beginning of days, or end of life, only ministered, but as a shadow. I will beg the Reader's consideration of the subject in this point of view, as of all others the most profitable.
Amidst all the obscurity we meet in this account of Melchizedec, if he be considered as a type of Christ, nothing could have been so happily chosen for that representation. He is declared to be greater than Abraham, with whom the promises of the Covenant were deposited. He is said to be greater than Aaron: for he was not only priest of the most High God, before Aaron was born, but before the Church of Israel was formed. And as typical of Christ, Melchizedec is set forth as no other type, in all the word of God is done, I mean for the eternity of Christ's nature; for this could never have been shadowed by any expressions like those which conceal Melchizedec's origin, in having neither father, nor mother, beginning of days or end of life. I wish the Reader to pay a more than ordinary attention to this great point.
Upon a subject of such vast moment, I desire never to speak decidedly; but rather propose, what I have to offer, in a way of question, to the Reader's own judgment. And hence I would ask, on the supposition, God the Holy Ghost really intended, that Melchizedec should be a type of the Lord Jesus Christ; how could he represent the eternity of Christ, in any form of words than in the very words he hath chosen? Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, or end of life. In all the types of Christ, which have relation to his offices, there is no obscurity whatever. The Brazen Serpent, the Rock, the Manna, the Passover: the morning and evening Lamb: the day of atonement all these are types and shadows, which have their accomplishment in Christ's offices: and these, when explained by divine teaching, open very clear, and decided demonstrations, to the several parts of Christ's Offices, unto which they ministered. But here, where God the Holy Ghost, would set forth to the Church, the eternity of Christ's Person; there was no being, either man, or angel, which could in any way, or form whatever, prefigure Christ's eternal nature; and therefore Melchizedec, shall typify the greatness and superiority of his priesthood, beyond every other; but of his Person, the eternity of his Being shall be shewn by a total silence, from whence he sprung; and declaring him to have been without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life. I beg once more the Reader to study the subject a little closely. I do not (as I said before) wish to speak decidedly. But on the presumption, God the Holy Ghost did intend, to bring forward this man Melchizedec as a type of Jesus; let anyone say, how could the Lord more fully imply by figure, the eternity of the Son of God, acting as our High Priest? In all the records of men we meet in scripture history, it is the invariable custom, to introduce persons, who are more eminently distinguished than others, with their genealogy, from father to son: and sometimes, this is carried on through a long pedigree. But here, where the greatest man among the Patriarchs which ever lived; greater than Abraham, greater than Aaron, and the Priest of the most high God is introduced, we are told that he is without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life. And wherefore this obscurity? Is it not (I ask the question) because, in this very instance, this greater than Abraham, and all the Patriarchs, was hereby to typify His Person, in the eternity of his nature, concerning whom the Prophet, in after ages demanded; And who shall declare his generation? Isaiah 53:8 .
I pass by making any observations, on the several things spoken of concerning the inferiority, implied in the Levitical priesthood. For if the eternity of Christ, as here shadowed forth, be admitted, all beside follow of course. Levi, receiving tythes, who paid tythes in Abraham, is a beautiful thought, to represent the oneness of Christ, and his people. For all the seed of Christ, are in Christ virtually, and truly so, before they are brought to the knowledge of Christ, as Abraham did to Melchizedec. It is a blessed point to have always in view, that by the ancient and eternal settlements among the Persons of the Godhead; Christ and his seed, were from everlasting One. That, holy portion of human nature, which was to form one with the divine nature of the Son of God, and thereby constitute one Person, Christ, contained in it, the millions of the persons of Christ's seed, which were to arise out of it, to form Christ's mystical body, to all eternity. Hence it is said, that both He that sanctifieth, and they that are sanctified are all of one, Hebrews 2:11 . So that the seed of Christ, before they are brought to lay hold of Christ, are; (as Levi was, in the loins of Abraham,) one with Christ, from all eternity. Jesus could not have been the Head of his body the Church, as Head, one moment before the body, as the body: neither the everlasting Father before he had children; neither Husband before the Church was his Wife. So very blessed is the consideration of the eternity of Christ's Person; and his character, and relation, as the Head of his body the Church; the fulness of him, which filleth all in all, Ephesians 1:23 .
(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 Melchizedek, and not be called after the order of Aaron? (12) For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. (13) For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. (14) For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. (15) And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchizedek there ariseth another priest, (16) Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. (17) For he testifieth, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. (18) For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. (19) For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. (20) And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: (21) (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord swore and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek:) (22) By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. (23) And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: (24) But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.
So much having been said of Melchizedec, and his ministry, at typical of Christ, by way of shewing the infinite greatness of Christ's Person; and the infinite superiority of Christ's office of Priesthood to all other; the Chapter now takes up the subject, in shewing, the imperfection of the law, and the Priesthood, under that dispensation, to answer the purpose of salvation; and which become, as it was designed, to enhance the dignity of Christ, and to shew the vast importance of his office of Priesthood. Perfection was never intended by the Levitical Priesthood, It was designed, but as a shadow of good things to come. The very nature of its service, carried with it the fullest conviction, that it never could, as pertaining to the conscience, make the comers thereunto perfect. The daily use of it manifested its weakness. And void of an eye to some substance, which it was supposed to prefigure, there could be no one affinity whatever, between the sin of a man, and the blood of a beast. Hence the Apostle saith; the law made nothing perfect. The Sinner, the Levite, the Priest, and the whole service, could none of them derive sanctity, nor communicate sanctity by it. But the whole, being simply an outward sign, or symbol, of some more important act, shadowed forth its own imperfection; the more fully to introduce the substance, to which it referred. And thus, as a preliminary to the Gospel of Christ, became very useful in its way; for while it made nothing perfect, the bringing in of a better hope did, by the which we draw nigh unto God.
And not only the law, but the priests of the law, manifested their insufficiency. No oath either introduced them at the first, or afterwards confirmed them, in their office. But Jesus's consecration had both. Moreover, the multitude of the daily Priests; and the necessity of their succession, by reason of death, carried together with both, the imperfection of their order. Whereas Christ, in the eternity of his nature; and the perpetual, and unchanging quality of his office; demonstrated the truth of his having been called to it by Him, who sware, and could not repent, when he said to him, Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedec, Psalms 110:4 .
I must not trespass. But what a multitude of sweet thoughts arise out of this one view of Jesus and the perfection of his Priest-hood, as contrasted to the imperfection of the law, and the poverty, and helplessness of the Levitical priesthood? And again, how is the whole heightened in the recollection, that the very appointment of all before Christ was only shadowy representations; but his the substance, to which they all ministered? And still more as all were but mere shadows, and Christ the one only matter of the whole, his very Priesthood must be engaged to render the whole effectual. Christ had never been made an High Priest, nor introduced with such a world of solemnity, and importance into it, but with the fullest assurance, that all the purposes of his high administration, must be accomplished. So infinitely precious, and so everlastingly made sure, are the ends, for which Christ was made an High Priest; and that not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.
(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. (26) For such a high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; (27) Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. (28) For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated forevermore.
The opening of this paragraph, in what is said of Christ's ability to save; and which carries with it also his disposition to save, which is the very nature of his office, and for which he was made High Priest, is, without exception, one of the sweetest and most persuasive of all possible arguments, to come to the pardon-office of Jesus Christ: The Almightiness of his Person; the efficacy of his sacrifice; the unceasing, and everlasting nature of his office, as High Priest: and the consciousness of his ever living, to see the whole rendered effectual, in the offering he once made, for his people on the cross; what a strength of argument the whole brings with it, to lead the Lord's people to his throne? And when it is said, that this salvation of the Lord Jesus, is to the uttermost; what is the uttermost? Take in the greatest extent the imagination can conceive, to the utmost horizon of thought, yet this ceaseth to be the uttermost, if there be aught beyond it? And what a lift up this is to all the discouragements of temptation; all heart-straitenings in prayer; all coldness, deadness, wanderings, fears, unbelief, and the like. For it is not, what the uttermost of our imagination makes it, but what that lattermost in God's view is. Not what we conceive of divine mercy; but what that divine mercy can, and will shew, in displaying the riches of grace?
And if the first verse in this paragraph is so full of sweetness and persuasion, in the contemplation of Christ's office to encourage poor sensible sinners to come to God by Christ, how exceedingly the argument is heightened, when to this is added, as the next verse speaks, Christ's personal glory and greatness. For such an High Priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens. Was there ever any form of words like these, brought together into one view to set up and exalt, the glory of the Lord Jesus, and to establish all the divine qualities of his essential, and mediatorial perfections? Surely the man must be hoodwinked, and blind, to all the possibilities of blindness, who can read this account of the Son of God in our nature, and yet pause a moment, from concluding the Almightiness of his character. So perfectly holy, in the underived nature of that holiness as to be holiness itself, in the abstract. So harmless, that no guile was found in his mouth. So undefiled that no taint of evil could affect him: being in himself altogether pure. And so separate from sinners, that though taking the nature of those he came to redeem, he had none of their defilement; underived from the Adam corrupt stock, but formed holy, and pure, by miraculous impregnation, without the intervention of an human father; And made higher than the heavens: that is higher than all the Angels, having, by inheritance, obtained a more excellent name than they. And here I beg the Reader to pause, and mark, the striking distinction in the Mediator-character from that of Angels. The elect Angels are indeed sinless. But they are in themselves capable of sinning. And that they are preserved from sinning is because they are elect. For as Angels which were not elect have fallen! so their nature is thereby proved capable of falling. Hence we read, that God puts no trust in his servants; and his Angels he charged with folly, Job 4:18 . by which is meant, a capability of sinning. So that the personal glory of Christ, as Christ, is infinitely beyond all creation; yea, Christ is the source, and cause, of the Angels being kept from sin; as elect Angels in him. He himself is made higher than the heavens. Reader! do not overlook, or ever lose sight of Christ, in this most blessed view of his personal holiness and glory.
And what follows, in the succeeding verses of the Chapter, have yet a further tendency to illustrate, and confirm the same most precious, soul-reviving truth. Who needeth not daily, as those high priests did, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the peoples'. If men would, or could read their Bibles with an enlightened eye, here they would behold that everlasting line of distinction, drawn between Christ and every other high Priest, as would silence in endless darkness, the daring presumption of those wretched and deluded men, who presume to question the Godhead of Christ. If Christ was so holy, harmless, and undefiled, that he needed no offering, no sacrifice, no mediation for himself; can anything more fully express the divinity of his nature, than such an account by the Holy Ghost? Surely he would have needed to have made an offering for himself, as well as for others, had he not as God-Man, been all this as here described; for it was this personal holiness of nature; which made all offerings for himself useless, and gave such everlasting merit and efficacy to the offering he once offered for others, Hebrews 10:14 .
One word more. The close of this Chapter is as interesting in proof to this doctrine, as either of the precious verses which went before, and forms a delightful finish to the whole subject. For the law maketh men high priests, which have infirmity. Yes! indeed, for the law is obliged to make such men priests, if the law will have high priests at all. They must offer blood for themselves first, and then for the errors of the people, Hebrews 9:7 . And such high priests had all infirmity, yea sins. And they were many, not one; for they were not able to continue, by reason of death. So then, they were sinners themselves, and they offered for sinners. Alas! what sins of themselves, or of others, could their offerings take away? Now look to Jesus. The word of the oath made Christ the Son an High Priest, and that forever; yea, consecrated forevermore, an eternal, unchangeable, unsinning priesthood, Psalms 110:4 , It is said to have been since the law. Yes! the Levitical priesthood was formed to shadow forth Christ's priesthood. But Christ was a Priest in the day he was begotten, Psalms 2:7 ; Hebrews 5:5-6 . And also, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, Revelation 13:8 . Nevertheless, the public ministry of Christ's priesthood, and sacrifice, was since the law, when by the one offering of himself once offered, he perfected forever them that are sanctified, Hebrews 10:14 . But his Sonship, hath been from everlasting. And this was prior to his Priesthood; and both gave dignity, and efficacy to it. Reader! what a cloud of witnesses have we to the Personal glory, and essential Divinity, of the Son of God! And what then must be the eternal worth, and efficacy of all his Offices?
Everlasting thanks be given to God the Holy Ghost, for this most sweet and precious Chapter. Never, surely, but for the Lord himself explaining to us in this portion of his holy word, what he had before related concerning Melchizedec, in other parts of his revelation; should we have conceived suitable apprehensions on the subject. But now, by his gracious condescension, in saying so much as is here related, of that Priest of the Most High God, do we behold the wonders, of his Person, and Office, and the still greater Personage, to whom all that went before ministered. Hail! thou great, thou Almighty Melchizedec of thy People? Truly, Lord Jesus! thou hast been sworn into thine office by Jehovah's Oath; and well therefrom do I feel confidence to come unto thee, as the Lord's High Priest, and my High Priest forever. Lord! I desire grace, and power, to do what is here commanded the Church, namely, to consider, how great the Melchizedec was, whom Abraham saw; and therefrom to consider, how much greater my Lord Jesus is, to whom even Melchizedec acted but as a type and shadow!
Precious Lord Jesus! thou art a Priest upon thy throne! Thou hast an unchangeable priesthood! And indeed, and in truth, such an High Priest as thou art, my poor soul needed: One that can, and will save to the uttermost, all that come to God by thee; and One who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens. And, very sure I am, that though, in thy personal glory, all this, and more, is thine; yet, amidst all the exaltation of thy state, no change hath taken place in thy nature; Jesus, is Jesus still. The same lovely, and all loving Jesus. Here below, men that have infirmities are made priests; but our Jesus that is above, though touched with the feelings of our infirmities, yet, in himself, he is separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens. He knows our frame by his own, though without sin; and his priesthood is forever. Lord! take up my cause, for sure I am, I shall not then fail; thou art consecrated forevermore!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Hebrews 7". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29