By Dean E. Boelt
“The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” (Ps. 110:4).
The Apostle Paul would use Melchizedek in his development of the Priesthood of Christ, and its implications. That he was a type of the Priesthood of the Lord Jesus is made clear by both David in Psalm 110:4 and Paul's use in Hebrews 5:10 and chapter 7 of that text, along with the historical account of Melchizedek in Genesis 14:18-20.
The Eternity of Christ. The eternity of our Lord's nature and Priesthood, as distinguished from the temporality of the Aaronic priests, was the first point established from the type. That was literarily typified in Melchizedek by the way he appeared and disappeared in the Genesis record. When Paul declares that the ancient king/priest had "neither beginning of days nor end of life" (Heb. 7:3), he is not to be understood as asserting the literal eternality of Melchizedek, as some suppose. He is simply referring to the situation as it appears in the historical account.
In this circumstance occurs a striking example of how God ordered the writing of Scripture to serve His predetermined objective. He wanted to foreshadow the endless life and Priesthood of His beloved Son; so He chose that way of doing it. He had Melchizedek appear on the scene and disappear there from with nothing told of his beginning or end. For other instances of Paul's like use of scriptural language, see First Corinthians 9:7-14; Galatians 3:7-9 and 4:21-31.
His Priesthood's Superiority. The superiority of Christ's Priesthood over that of Aaron was also demonstrated by appeal to the Melchizedek incident of Genesis. In that Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek is depicted the inferiority of Levi's house to Christ, "since he [Levi] was yet in the loins of his father Abraham" at the time of the payment (vv. 9-10). In that Melchizedek, who prefigured Christ, received the tithes from Abraham demonstrated Christ's superiority to the Levitical order of priests (vv. 6-7).
Following the pattern of Paul's logic, we may also say that it demonstrated that, contrary to much Restoration teaching, Christ now, in heaven, receives tithes from His people, as is categorically declared in verse 8.
The eternal nature of our Lord's Priesthood was further portrayed by the way in which He obtained it, the Apostle points out (vv. 15-19). While the Levitical priests were constituted such "according to a legal requirement concerning bodily descent," Christ was made a Priest "by the power of an indestructible life" (v. 16, rsv)."For He testifieth, Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" (v. 17). Jesus' superior Priesthood is also evidenced by His being constituted a Priest "with an oath" by God—recorded in Psalm 110:4. Contrariwise, the Levitical priests were made such "without an oath" (v. 21).
The Law's Temporality. Another application of his type by Paul was the witness of the referenced episode to the necessity of "the law" being changed (vv. 11-19). The law's ineffectiveness was shown, it is declared, by the rise of "another Priest" not "after the order of Aaron" (v. 11). And the change of priesthood, Christ being of the tribe of Judah, not Levi, mandated that change of dispensations (v. 12).
Good reasoning, Paul, we must say! We commend the procedure to all who have the Spirit of wisdom and understanding in kingdom matters. The removal of the law, and its replacement by the new covenant in Christ's blood, is additionally witnessed by the oath which constituted Him a Priest, Paul points out, the oath having been "since the law" (v. 28). Another piece of suberb reasoning and application of Scripture.
The Demonstration of Reasoning. The fact that the Apostle could deduce so much of vital effect to the kingdom from the scant three verses of Genesis 14 and the single one from Psalm 110 is an inspired demonstration of the value and utility of reasoning upon Divine revelation. His example is a challenge to those today who possess the Divine Spirit to make similar use of Him, as they are able. It is a grossly-mistaken idea that Christ and the Apostles spelled out in the New Testament all the implications and applications of kingdom matters.
Paul's example of reasoning upon Scripture is also a resounding rebuke to some in our time. We refer to those theologs who heavily frown upon such practice, preferring ostrichlike to continue in the mist and darkness of human tradition, without inquiry into the things of God.
The Greatness of Melchizedek. Paul's call in verse 4, Hebrews 7, is for us to consider the greatness of Melchizedek.. His greatness is attested by the fact that "even the Patriarch Abraham," who "had the promises" (v. 6), and was "the friend of God" (Jas. 2:23), paid tithes to him, and was blessed by Melchizedek. "It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior" (v. 7, rsv).
The Surpassing Greatness of Christ. "If Melchizedek be thus shown to be great, how much greater, indeed, is the Lord Jesus, whom he typified!” So the Apostle's summons clearly is to consider the surpassing greatness of Christ and His Priesthood over Aaron and his ministry, as he had before issued the summons (chapter 3:1-6).
Melchizedek, as was the case with the Levitical priests, when he had served his own generation, like David also (Acts 13:36), died (v. 23). But not so with Christ. "Because He continueth ever," He "hath an unchanging Priesthood" (v. 24). "Consequently, He is able to save for all time those who draw near to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them" (v. 25, rsv).In other words, our Lord's Priesthood, because of His endless life, extends to all generations. In typology, the antitype, or substance, is always greater and more meaningful than the type, or shadow.
"We would say to all today, Consider how great Jesus, our Savior and High Priest, is.” "What think ye of Christ?" (Mt. 22:41-42). "That is the eternally-decisive question, the answer to which will fix every person's destiny. Proper consideration of our Lord will result in full submission to Him. And that will save the soul and preserve it unto glorification with Christ in the world to come.”.
The Father's acknowledgment and evaluation of Jesus should serve as our example. "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," He declared (Mt. 3:17; 17:5). We are fully convinced of His Sonship, and gladly confess it, and cleave to Him as our life and hope of eternal salvation. Truly, He is "the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (Jn. 1:14). And we are certainly "well pleased" with Him, and anticipate with "joy unspeakable and full of glory" being forever with and serving Him both now and in the world to come (I Pet. 1:8-9).