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Here observe, 1. The person spoken of described by his name, Melchizedek to be Shem the Son of Noah; but this cannot be, because of his genealogy is exactly set down by Moses. Others take him to be one of the posterity of Japhet, the father of the Gentiles: In the midst of these sinners, above others, was Melchizedek raised up as an illustrious type of Christ, the promised Messiah. See here, how God can raise up instruments for his service, and unto his glory, whence where, and how he pleaseth.
And learn hence, that this signal prefiguration of Christ, in the nations of the world, at the same time when Abraham received the promises for himself and his posterity, gave a pledge and assurance of the certain future call of the Gentiles unto an interest in him and participation of him.
Observe, 2. Melchizedek is here described by his office; he was king of Salem, and a priest of the Most High God; yea, the first that was so by special institution and separated to the office by God's approbation? None went before him, and none succeeded him in his office.
Here note, That the first personal instituted type of Christ, was Melchizedek, as priest; for in his kingly office he was not so directly typical of Christ. There were moral types of Christ's person before Melchizedek, as Adam, Abel, and Noah, which represented him in sundry things: But the first person, who was solemnly designed to represent Christ by what he was and did, was Melchizedek the priest; teaching us, that the foundation of all that the Lord Jesus Christ had to do in and for the church, was laid in his priestly office, whereby he made atonement, and reconciliation for sin: Melchizedek king of Salem, and priest of the Most High God.
Observe, 3. He met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings. This meeting of Melchizedek and Abraham, after Abraham had gotten the victory over all his adversaries, was a type and representation of the glorious meeting of Christ and his church, at the last day; then he will bring out of his stores in heaven for their eternal refreshment, as Melchizedek brought forth bread and wine to refresh Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings.
2. He blessed him, And Melchizedek said, Blessed be Abraham of the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth. Genesis 14:19 Sacerdotal blessings were authoritative, and that by specal institution. In this blessing of Abraham by Melchizedek, all believers are virtually blessed by Jesus Christ: Melchizedek represented all his believing posterity, in what he then received.
3. Another sacerdotal act, or exercise of priestly power ascribed to Melchizedek, is, that he received of Abraham tithes of all; the one paid them in a way duty, the other received them in a way of office.
Note here, The aniquity of tithes, and how very ancient they were paid in Abraham's time, long before the ceremonial law, and therefore cannot be said to be Jewich and Levitical. The patriarchs before the law, the Jews under the law, and the Christians in times of the gospel, have all paid this proportion: From whence some have concluded, that as the seventh part of our time, so the tenth part of our goods and estates were given to God from the beginning, as Lord of all our time, and proprietor of our estate.
Whatsoever we receive signally from God, in a way of mercy, we ought to return a portion of it to him in a way of duty. It is a certain sign that a man has not engaged God in getting an estate, when he will not intitle him to any portion of it when it is gotten.
Observe, 4. The apostle proceeds unto other instances in the description of Melchizedek, wherein he was made like unto the Son of God, Hebrews 7:3. Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life: which expressions must not be understood absolutely, but tropically, not of Melchizedek as a man, but as a priest; for as a man, he had certainly both father and mother, though not recorded in Scripture; he was assuredly born, and did no less certainly die than other men; but neither his beginning of days nor end of life, are registered and rehearsed, that he might be the fitter type of Christ, concerning whom it is said, Who can declare his generation?
But though Melchizedek, as a man, had father and mother, yet as a priest he had no predecessor nor successor; no predecessor from whom he might by birth receive his sacerdotal power; no successor who derived his priesthood from him: Now herein also was Melchizedek, and illustrious type of Christ, who derived his priesthood from no mortal predecessor from whom he might by birth receive his sacerdotal power; no successor who derived his priesthood, together with his kingdom, to God the Father, who gave him both.
Observe, 5. What is here asserted concerning Melchizedek; namely, that he abideth a priest for ever; that is, things are so related concerning him in Scripture, as that there is no mention of the ending of the priesthood of his order. We read of no resignation of his office, or of the succesion of any person to him therein; and thus he remaineth a priest for ever. This was that which our apostle did principally design to confirm from hence, namely, that there was in the Scripture, before the institution of the Aaronical priesthood, a representation of an eternal, unchangeable priesthood, to be introduced into the church; which demonstrated to be that of Jesus Christ, of which Melchizedek's priesthood was a type.
These words are the apostle's application of what was before discoursed; by comparing Melchizedek's excellency with Abraham's; he shews Christ's excellency above Melchizedek's, and he calls upon them to consider this, consider how grat this man was. It will be fruitless, and to no advantage, to propose and declare the most important truths of the gospel, if those unto whom they are proposed do not diligently inquire into them, and duly ponder and consider of them. The Hebrews are here called upon to consider: But what? And whom? Why, who Melchizedek was, and how great a man he was?
Note here, That the greatness of Melchizedek did not respect either the endowments of his person, of the largeness of his dominion, or his riches and wealth, in which sense some are said to be great in Scripture: but he is pronounced great with respect to his office, and in regard of his nearness to God on that account, as also in his representing our Lord Jesus Christ.
Observe farther, The proof here given of the greatness of Melchizedek, in that no meaner person than Abraham, than Abraham the Patriarch, did give the tenth part of the spoils unto him.
Here remark, That notwithstanding the highest advantages and privileges which Abraham was possessed of, which rendered him almost adored by his posterity, yet when the meanest duty was presented to him, he readily complied with it. The highest privileges neither can nor ought to exempt any person from the performance of the meanest duty. Duty is our highest honour, and chiefest advantage; but privileges, promotions, dignities, and exaltations, may become snares, and end in the ruin of men's souls. When a person is dignified and advanced in the church, if thereby he thinks himself exempted from the ordinary service of the ministry, he is guilty of horrid pride and in gratitude: But if he farther indulges himself in a course of idleness, sloth, sensuality, and worldliness, these are crimes unpardonable, and want a name to express them.
Still the apostle goes on to give Melchizedek the preference above Abraham, and from thence to infer, that Christ, whom Melchizedek typified, was much mor excellent than Abraham, and all the Levitical priests which sprang from him.
The argument lies thus: "The law allowed Aaron and the other priests to take tithes of their brethren that sprung from Abraham; but Melchizedek received tithes of Abraham, who was none of his people, yea, and blessed Abraham also, which is a demonstration that he was greater than Abraham; and consequently it is evident, that Christ is greater than the Jewich priests; to bless authoritatively is an act of superiority; Now Melchizedek blessed Abraham, he is therfore greater than Abraham: because he that blessed is greater than he whom he blesseth.
Behold here the excellency of the office of God's ministers, namely, to bless the people in God's name: They bless authoritatively, they bless declaratively, they bless optatively. God help them to take heed, lest, by their miscarriages, they prove a snare and a curse unto them whom they ought to bless.
Our apostle still carrieth on the same argument, proving Melchizedek's priesthood to surpass and excel the Aaronical and Levitical priesthood in the immortality of it: As the less is blessed of the greater, so is that which is immortal greater and better than what is mortal: But such is Melchizedek, and his order of priesthood, though the priests be superior to the people, and take tithes of them, yet they do die as well as the people: But we read not a word of Melchizedek's death, he is a priest for ever; that is, he did typically prefigure Christ, who doth properly and indeed live for ever. Melchizedek ever lives secundam historiam, Christ secundam veritatem.
Learn hence, That the life of the church depends upon the everlasting life of Jesus Christ: He liveth for ever, when ministers die or have their mouths stopped. This great High Priest lives, upon whom the life and preservation, the continuance and salvation of the church does depend: Here men die that receive tithes.
Note, From their mortality, that in the outward administration of God's worship, he is pleased to make use of the ministry of frail, mortal and dying men. Zechariah 1:5.
The prophets, do they live for ever?
Hereby it does evidently appear, that it is the power of God, and nothing else, which gives efficacy and success to all gospel-administrations, 2 Corinthians 4:7.
We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
By Levi here we are to understand the Levites, or the Levitical priesthood; they being in Abraham's loins are said to pay tithes in Abraham to Melchizedek, which the apostle produces as an evidence, that Melchizedek is superior to the Levites, and greater than they: and consequently, that Christ, whom Melchizedek did typify, must needs be more excellent than they also.
The argument runs thus: "They who receive tithes of others, are certainly superior to them of whom they do receive them; but Melchizedek received tithes of Abraham, and of Levi in Abraham's loins; therefore he is superior to them, and of a more excellent order than they:" Which is the great truth he had been so industriously proving.
In perfection, that is, a perfect expiation and remission of sin, could have been made by the sacrifice which the legal priests offered, there should then have been no need that God should institute a priest of another and more excellent order, namely, his own Son, to be a priest after Melchizedek's order, and not after the order of Aaron.
Where note, That perfection is denied in the Levitical pristhood, and ascribed to the priesthood of Christ. To perfect sinful man, is to free him from the guilt of sin, and from the direful and dismal consequences of sin, and to make him righteous and holy, capable of communion with God, both here and here after. Now this the Levitical pristhood could not do. "But Jesus Christ has by one offering perfected for ever them that are sanctified," Hebrews 10:14.
Thus the apostle infers the necessity of changing the pristhood: And next he tells us, Ver.. That the Change of the Levitical priesthood necessarily draweth along with it a change of the Levitical law, and the legal dispensation of the covenant of grace; for the Levitical priesthood and the Levitical law do both stand and fall together: The priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. By the changing of the priesthood, understand the abolition of it; by the change of the law, understand the abrogation of it; by the word necessity, understand that the change was not casual and contingent, but absolutely needful, in regard of the imperfection and inability of the Levitical priesthood to effect any such thing.
Learn hence, That the promulgation of the gospel, and the instution of Christianity, did abrogate the Levitical law, and make it of no farce. This might be the reason why God did not only be the Death and Sacrifice of Christ, the great High Priest, abolish the Levitical Priesthood, but also destroyed the Temple itself, where he had put his name, and never suffered it to be rebuilt; denoting thereby the utter abolition of the Levitical Presthood, and the total abrogation of the ceremonial law.
In the foregoing verses, our apostle had asserted the change of the Priesthood, and there with the changing of the law. In these verses he proves it by the translation of the Priesthood, and therewith the changing of the law. In these verses he proves it by the translation of the Priesthood to another tribe; namely, from Levi to Judah. The Levitical Priesthood was confined to one certain tribe, that of Levi, and to one certain family, that of Aaron:
Whence it follows, that the tribe being changed, and God having instituted a Priest of another tribe, the Priesthood must be changed also. Now it being evident, that Christ sprang not of the Tribe of Levi, but out of Judah, the apostle from the changing of the tribe, strongly infers the change of the Priesthood.
Note here, 1. How it was a fruit of the manifold wisdom of God, and a very great mercy and favour to give the law, but a far greater to take it away.
2. If under the law, the whole worship of God did so depend on the Priesthood, that that failing, the whole worship was to cease, as being no more acceptable to God, how much more will all worship under the New Testament be rejected by him, if there be not a due regard therein to our Lord Jesus Christ, as the great and only High Priest of his church.
That the Aaronical priesthood was to be changed, and consequently the whole law of ordinances that depended thereupon, and that the time was now come wherein this change was to be made, is the grand truth which our apostle here designs the confirmation of; it being indeed that truth, where into our faith of the acceptance of evangelical worship is resolved.
And accordingly he give a farther proof of the change of the priesthood from the different manner of the priest's consecration. Thus the Levitical priest was set apart to his office by a number of carnal rites and outward ceremonies, which the law prescribed to be used at the consecration of Aaron and his sons, who were purified with water, anointed with oil, sprinkled with blood, clothed with priestly vestments, initiated with sacrifices, administered in an earthly tabernacle and temple.
But says our apostle, the evangelical or gospel High Priest, Christ Jesus, was not constituted thus, or made a priest with such carnal rites and outward ceremonies, but with the power of an endless life: That is, he was consecrated a Priest by the power of the Holy Ghost, having an immortal life suitable to his priesthood, an authority to give eternal life to as many as depend upon the benefit of his sacrifice and satisfaction; He was made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, (with corporeal ceremony and carnal duration) , but after the spiritual power of an endless life.
Learn hence, That all the outward ceremony which seemed to be wanting unto Christ, in his entrance into his priestly office, was on the account of a greater glory. Aaron was made a priest with great outward solemnity, Christ with none at all; yet all Aaron's ceremonial glory which accompanied those invisible acts of divine authority, wisdom, and grace, which communicated Christ's office unto him.
Now the apostle comes to declare, that the Levitical priesthood being abolished, and the ceremonial law abrogated, the whole state of the church, and of the solemn worship of God therein, must necessarily be changed also. This he foresaw would be a mighty surprisal to the generality of the Hebrews, to hear that they must quit all their concern and special interest in the law of Moses; and therefore he assigns a double reason for the abrogation and disannulling of that law; namely, the weakness and unprofitableness thereof, ver.. There is a disannulling of the commandment, for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. Not that the law was weak in itself, or unprofitable to the end for which God made it; namely, to lead them to Christ; but weak and unprofitable for justification and salvation. They expected expiation of sin, sanctification, and holiness by it, without any regard to Christ and his sacrifice, by whom alone it could be obtained. Those things the law could not effect in its best estate; how vain was it then for the Jews to expect them when it was abolished?
Observe next, How the apostle proves the law to be weak and unprofitable; namely, because it made nothing perfect. The law, that is, the whole system of Mosaical ordinances, the legal covenant, made nothing perfect; that is, no person, how strictly soever he observed, could be justified and saved by it: It could not of itself cleanse from sin, reconcile us to God, justify our persons, sanctify our natures, and procure salvation for us.
Observe, lastly, Though the ceremonial law made nothing perfect, yet the gospel law, called here a better hope, because the promises of it are a good ground of hope, has efficacy, power, and virtue, to do all those things for us, and by it we have freedom of access to God. The law made nothing perfect, yet the gospel law, called here a better hope, because the promises of it are good ground of hope, has efficacy, power, and virtue, to do all those things for us, and by it we have freedom of access to God. The law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope, whereby we draw nigh to God.
Learn hence, 1. That the law could not justify or sanctify any person, nor make him perfect, by reconciling him to God, and procuring salvation for him.
Learn, 2. That believers of old, who lived under the law, did not live upon the law, but upon the hope of Christ, or Christ hoped for; could justification and salvation have been had any other way, or by any other means, Christ's coming had been needless, and his death in vain.
Learn, 3. That the introduction of a better hope by the gospel, after a sufficient discovery made of the weakness and insufficiency of the law, did make all things perfect, or bring the church to that state of consummation, which was designed unto it.
Learn, 4. That when all mankind were at an inconceivable distance from God, it was infinite condescension and grace to appoint his own Son, who was the blessed hope of the saints under the Old Testament, to be the only way and mean of our approaching unto him. When the law nothing perfect, the bringing in of a better hope did, by which we draw nigh unto God.
Our apostle has not yet done with his several arguments to prove the transcendent excellency of Christ's priesthood above that of Aaron's: His argument in the verses now before us lies thus: he that is made an unchangeable priest by the oath of God, is a better, greater, and more excellent priest, than any made so without it. But whereas the Levitical priests were made without an oath, by the law changeable at the will of the lawgiver; Jesus Christ was made a Priest by the unchangeable oath of God. The Lord swore and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever.
Learn hence, That nothing was wanting on the part of God, that might either give eminency and glory, or stability and efficacy to the priesthood of Christ: This was both due to the glory of his person, and also needful to encourage and secure the faith of the church.
Learn, 2. That Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, being initiated into his office by the oath of God, his priesthood is liable to no alteration, succession, or substitution; but the church may continually draw nigh to God, in full assurance of his meritorious satisfaction and prevailing intercession, and receive from thence a solid foundation of peace and consolation; By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.
Observe here, 1. The title given to the gospel-covenant, it is here called a better testament: Better not for substance, but for clearness; for substance, the old covenant dispensation and the new are the same: but the latter is made more clear, more free, more full, more surely ratified, by the death of Christ, and accompanied with a more mighty operation of the Spirit of God.
Observe, 2. The title here given to Christ, he is the surety of a better testament. Our surety, because our sacrifice. The Socinians own Christ to be the surety of the covenant in respect of his holy life, and exemplary death, sealing it as a testimony by his blood, but deny him to be a surety in respect of his satisfaction, merit, and intercession. But alas! as our sinful condition requires a mediator of redemption so our changeable condition requires a mediator of intercession; and, blessed be God, he has appointed one for both, even his own and only Son, who is the surety of a better testament.
Learn thence, that the Lord Jesus was not only made a surety on God's part to us, to assure us, that the promise of the covenant on his part, should be performed, but was also a surety on our part, to furnish us with that grace and assistance which shall enable us to do, answer, and perform all that is required on our part, that we may enjoy the benefit of the covenant, first, to satisfy for sin, by offering himself a propitiatory sacrifice: and next to furnish forth sufficincy of grace to enable for the fulfilling the conditions of the gospel-covenant. Thus was Jesus the surety of this better covenant.
Now our apostle is come to his last argument, by which he proves the excellency of Christ's priesthood above that of Aaron. The Levitical priests, he says, were many and mortal: their mortality was the cause of their multitude: they were cut off by death, and suceeded one another; but Christ is one and the same to his church, yesterday, today and for ever; he had no partner, has no successor, but executes an everlasting unchangeable priesthood in his own person.
Note here, 1. That the multiplication of priests, particularly of high priests under the legal dispensation, was a manifest evidence of the imperfection of it; from Aaron the first High Priest, unto Phineas the last, who was destroyed with the temple, are reckoned fourscore and three high priests, who succeeded one another: of these, thirteen are said to live under the tabernacle, eighteen under the first temple built by Solomon, and all the rest under the second temple: The ground of which multiplication of priests was this, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death.
Learn, 1. That the priesthood of Christ, as unchangeably exercised in his own person, is perpetual; and its perpetuity is a principal part of the glory of that office. He continueth for ever, having and unchangeable priesthood.
Question But did not Christ, our great High Priest, die as well as Aaron and other high priests?
Answer Yes, he died as a priest, they died from being priests; he died as a priest, because he was also to be a sacrifice.
The apostle doth not say, that he did not die, but that he always abideth: he abode a priest even in the state of death, and after his resurrection he became immortal, never to die more; he ever liveth, he dieth no more, death has no more dominion over him. See how he describes himself, I am he that liveth, and was dead: and behold I am alive for evermore; and have the keys of hell and death. Revelation 1:18
These words are a comfortable inference and conclusion, which our apostle draws from his presiding discourse concerning the eternity and unchangeableness of Christ's priesthood; seeing he lives for ever, he is therefore able to save to the uttermost, and that for ever.
Observe here, 1. The complete power and ability of Jesus Christ to save sinners asserted; He is able to save, and that to the uttermost: that is, completely and everlastingly.
Learn hence, That what ever difficulties lie in the way of salvation and whatever oppostiions do arise against it, either with respect to the guilt of sin, or the power and dominion of it, the Lord Jesus Christ is able, by virtue of his sacerdotal office, and in the exercise of it, to carry on the work through them all unto eternal perfection: Such is the dignity of his person, such is the sufficiency of his satisfaction, that he expiates the guilt of sin universally and perpetually.
Observe, 2. The character and description given of the persons whom Jesus Christ thus perfectly and eternally saves, Such as come unto God by him; those, all those, and only those, whom God will save, are such as come unto him for salvation by and through our Lord Jesus Christ as mediator. Oh how injurous then are they to their own souls, who sit down desponding, either under the guilt, or under the power of their sins, and conclude them either so great that they cannot be pardoned, or so strong that they can never be vanquished or overcome!
Observe, 3. the reason of this power and ability in Christ to save sinners to the uttermost assigned, and that is, the eternity of his priesthood, the perpetuity and prevalency of his intercession; Seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
Here note, 1. The state and condition of Christ as an High Priest, he ever liveth. He is always living in heaven a threefold life.
1. The eternal life of God in his divine nature; this he liveth in himself.
2. A life of inconceivable glory in his human nature; this is a life which he liveth for himself.
3. A mediatory life in heaven; and this he lives for us.
Note, 2. What he doth as an High Priest in that state and condition: He maketh intercession for us.
Learn, That the Lord Jesus Christ ever liveth to make intercession with his Father in heaven, on the behalf of all penitent believers here on earth. We are not to conceive of Christ as an intercessor with his Father in heaven, in such and humble supplicating manner as when here upon earth, with knees bended down, and eyes lifted up to heaven, this is inconsistent with his glorified state. But it is such a pleading and petitioning with his Father as is in the nature of a claim and demand; and it is such a claim and demand made to his Father, as is accompanied with the presenting the memorials of his death unto him. Christ need not use his mouth to plead with his Father in heaven, the bare showing of his wounded body pleads prevalently and perpetually, and this intercession of Christ is a standing evidence of the continuance of his love and care, his pity and compassion to us. Blessed be God that our great High Priest, who suffered for us, ever liveth in heaven to make intercession for us.
Observe here, 1. Something supposed and necessarily implied, namely, That if we intend to come unto God, we had need of an High Priest to encourage and enable us therunto; Such and High Priest became us; implying, that without and High Priest in general we can do nothing in this matter.
Observe, 2. The care and kindness of God in providing for us, not only and High Priest, but such as High Priest as our condition required, one that has made atonement for us, procured acceptance, given us assistance, preserved us in grace, and will preserve us unto glory; behold the infinite wisdom, love, grace, and goodness of God, in giving such an High Priest, as in the qualifications of his person, the glory of his condition, and the discharge of his office, was every way suited to deliver us from a state of apostasy, sin, and misery, and to bring us to himself through a perfect salvation.
Observe, 3. The double character given of this High Priest in his purity.
1. He is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners. Thus he was in his conception, birth, life, and death, never tainted or stained with the least sin, but both habitually and actually mor pure and holy than a priest on earth, or angel in heaven.
2. In his dignity, He is made higher than the heavens; advanced above all the inhabitants of that glorious place, where he ever liveth, and keeps his residence, remaining a Priest for ever not to sacrifice, but to apply effectually his former sacrifice to all believers.
That is, "As Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, had no sin of his own to expiate, like other high priests, but his business was to offer for our sins; so the oblation and offering he made upon that account, was not bullocks or rams, but himself in sacrifice, and that once, and but once upon the cross, which once offered sacrifice was abundantly sufficient to take away sin; whereas other high priests offered for their own sins, and for the people's sins, and that often which was a token of their insufficiency and imperfection."
Learn hence, That no sacrifice could bring us to God, and save us to perfection, but that wherein the Son of God himself was both priest and offering; such and High Priest became us who offered himself once for all.
Learn, 2. That the perfection of Christ's sacrifice makes the repetition of it needless, and the often repeating of it would argue the imperfection both of priest and sacrifice: He needeth not daily to offer up sacrifice, for this he did once, when he offered up himself.
That is, the Levitical law appointed men to be high priests that laboured under infirmities, were sinners, and subject to mortality; but the promise made to Christ, and confirmed by God's oath long since the law was given, maketh the Son, and none but the Son, (who is perfect, holy, and consecrated to this everlasting office) a priest for evermore.
Learn hence, 1. That there never was any more that two sorts of priests in the church; the one made by the law, the other by the oath of God.
Learn, 2. That the great foundation of our faith, and the main hinge whereon all our consolation depends, is this, that our High Priest is The Son of God, and his everlasting continuance in his office is secured by the oath of God.
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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Hebrews 7". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29