Forever King And Priest
Key Verse 7:3
“Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.”
The discussion about Jesus’ high priestly ministry began in 5:1-10. But the author paused a third time in his letter to give them yet another warning. The concluding words of 5:10 about a High priest in the order of Melchizedek are repeated again in 6:20 such that now we can go back to his earlier discussion regarding Jesus’ high priestly ministry. This whole chapter presents Jesus as an eternal priest— which is the point— not temporary priest at all, but an eternal priest as the man Melchizedek which the author is talking about in this chapter.
Look at verses 1-2a: “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, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything.” In this section, the author gives us the facts about the first time we encounter Melchizedek in the Bible, the story of which we can find in Genesis 14. Now look at verses 2b-3. “And Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means ‘king of righteousness’; then also, ‘king of Salem’ means ‘king of peace.’ Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.” In this section he tells us who Melchizedek was as a person. And in verses 4-10 he tells us about how great Melchizedek was as a person. But in all this, the author wants to reveal to us the person and greatness of our Lord Jesus, who is far greater than Melchizedek.
So here’s what he says about the person of Melchizedek in verses 1-2a. First, he was the king of Salem and he interprets that later to mean that he was the king of peace. Apparently Melchizedek was a man of peace and he led his kingdom in peace. In Genesis 14, we don’t see him engaging in the war that took place among the kings of the region. Perhaps he did more than keeping peace in his own kingdom. Perhaps he often interceded and brokered peace among the kingdoms of his time. Second, Melchizedek was a priest of God most high. That’s very interesting. God had a priest for himself even amidst the rampant godlessness of the day. He’s the first priest on earth that’s mentioned in the Bible. He must have interceded for people and prayed for them at a time when the world was as evil and wicked as it is today. Third, we’re told that he also met Abraham the day Abraham returned home from defeating the warring kings. He met him to remind him that it was God who gave him the victory that day and to share bread and wine with him in fellowship. Fourth, we’re told that Melchizedek blessed Abraham. Abraham was the heir of God’s Messianic promise, and God’s chosen instrument to establish a godly people on earth who follow and obey the Lord. But as great as Abraham was, Melchizedek was the one who blessed him. Fifth, Abraham gave him a tenth of the spoils of war. It was common in those days to give a tithe to a god or to his representative. This means that Abraham recognized him as God’s priest and representative and gave him a tithe in humble submission. (Verse 7 makes a point that the lesser person gives tithe to the greater and receives his blessing) These are the things that the author tells us regarding Melchizedek himself. Then he tells us in verse 3 that Melchizedek resembles the Son of God. Notice that the Son of God doesn’t resemble him but that he resembles the Son of God. The full honor and glory goes to the Son of God of whom Melchizedek is likened to.
Melchizedek, therefore, represents Christ in every way, as a type of Christ. And this man was greater than the greatest man in God’s history, Abraham. Yet he was in every way inferior to Christ. Therefore Christ, the author tells us, is by far superior even to Melchizedek and therefore to the entire race of Abraham, including Aaron the first and greatest of Israel’s high priests, and David the greatest of Israel’s kings. So in mentioning the story about Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek, everything pertinent to Melchizedek reflects even greater on Christ. So in wanting us to look at Melchizedek, the apostle wants us to look at Christ who is represented through Melchizedek, as long as we understand that Christ is by far greater than Melchizedek. If the Jews at the time understood this, they wouldn’t have rejected Christ nor stumbled at him. On the other hand, if the Jewish Christians to whom the author writes understood this, they wouldn’t have fluctuated back and forth between their religious system and full devotion to Christ. We are not in their situation ourselves, so how can this help us in our spiritual journey? It helps us to know Christ on a profoundly deeper level, and in knowing him to also fix our eyes on him without stumbling on whatever draws us away from him in this world.
The first thing we learn about Melchizedek is that he was both king and priest. He was a divinely appointed king and priest. He was anointed by the Lord of heaven for these offices. And so was Christ Jesus! He too was divinely appointed for these offices by the Father in heaven. Jesus as well is both king and priest. And his kingly throne is a throne of grace. When we intimately know this king as the king peace, we also know that he can give us peace. And when we intimately know him as priest, we also know that he can give us righteousness. And in knowing him, we can experience both righteousness and peace as we yield ourselves to him.
Christ is both king and priest and we must accept him as King and Priest. But one cannot receive the full blessings of Christ’s priesthood, without fully acknowledging that Christ is first king. So first you must accept his kingship over all things, including your heart and life (and not many do), before you can enjoy his priesthood which provides salvation and all the blessings therein for us. Many people want the blessings of his priesthood without recognizing his kingship, even though they know and claim that he is King and priest. Many want forgiveness— which is the blessing of his priesthood— but will not submit to his Sovereign Reign in their lives as their King. They do as they please thinking that they have his forgiveness. But that is not the way it is! People want to receive the blessings of God, but they do not want to submit themselves to his Word and discipline and guidance. But it’s foolish to expect his priestly blessing without bowing to him as king! He is King and Priest not just priest— the Bible makes this perfectly clear. So, what is his kingship like? Jesus is the king of righteousness and he is also the king of peace. It means he alone can provide righteousness and peace. And we need these two things in our lives if we are to fulfill our purpose in this life, for that is what God wants from his people, to bear the fruit of peace and righteousness. Of all the Scripture that reveals that righteousness and peace always go together (Psalms 72:7; 85:9-10; James 3:17-18; Hebrews 12:10-11), one Scripture really says it all: Isaiah 32:17 reads: “The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.” And only Jesus can provide this for us.
People want peace for their soul. But no one can have peace until you acknowledge him as the king of righteousness first, submitting yourself to his righteousness and renouncing your own righteousness, and bending yourself to his will in repentance and in faith. When one does so, submitting to his righteousness, Jesus clothes them with his own righteousness and makes them righteous before the Lord. Only then peace comes to one’s heart because peace is now accomplished with God the Father who will not grant peace except to the righteous. And that’s the only peace we really need in order to experience real peace in our hearts. It is our restored relationship with the Lord that gives us real peace. And if and when we do not have peace, it is time to examine the heart and to see how we have failed this king of righteousness. What are we holding back from him? Otherwise we are very poor models for a Christian in this world if we talk about peace but have none ourselves! In self examining our hearts, we must ask the question: why don’t we have any peace, or why have we lost our peace in the first place? Usually because we are harboring some things in our hearts that still needs to be given over to his righteousness— renouncing sins we hold on to— giving up idols that pollute our hearts and make us like hypocrites to the world. You and I cannot project the peace of God on others before you and I embrace his peace fully. And you and I cannot embrace his peace fully without submitting to his righteous decree as the King of Righteousness, every moment of every day. That’s why we need to live humbly before him. You must make him the king! And you must make him the king of righteousness in every way in your heart, before you can fully appreciate the peace he gives and project that peace which he alone gives as our great high priest. Jesus is King of righteousness and he is King of peace. We must really humble ourselves, examine our hearts, and submit to him fully.
Look at verse 3. “Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.” This verse describing Melchizedek is a little enigmatic and has been a source of controversy in interpretation. He was not a super human being nor an angel nor was he in any way divine— as is clearly stated in Hebrews 5:1. Even the Lord Jesus was not considered to be a high priest until he himself was incarnated and became a Man. But the best way to understand this verse is in the context of the writer’s own words. If these descriptions of Melchizedek were a description of the man himself, it may raise some issues about its meaning. But the author is referring to Melchizedek as a priest, and in that context of this particular priest we have no genealogy as is the case with the Levitical priesthood which depended on heritage and ancestry. In the same way Christ too is a Priest without heritage, having no beginning of days nor end of life, for Christ Jesus our Lord is eternal!
In other words, Christ’s priesthood was not inherited. It was like that of Melchizedek, unique and unrivalled. The Levitical priesthood was inherited and therefore it was limited. Allegorically speaking what was true of Melchizedek was literally true of Jesus who had no beginning of days nor end of life. He was utterly and truly unique. There’s none like him before or since. His function derived from no one and shared by no one, and passed down to no one. God appointed him from eternity by God’s sovereign design. He was not only a priest but also a Lamb from the foundation of the world. Like Melchizedek therefore, he remains a priest forever.
The fact that Jesus remains a priest forever is very significant to us. It rebukes those who claim that after one is born again, he is totally cleansed and purified from sin and therefore has no need to be vigilant or watch out for sin; who say it’s not necessary to live a life of confession and repentance. There were many such heretics in Biblical times as there still are today, claiming the same thing. It is sad to see how vilified the word sin has become, and how little is talked about it in churches, or no mention of it at all. How sad that those who claim to believe in the Lord, freely talk about his forgiveness but refuse to talk about the price he paid to deliver us from sin. So many people are offended when counseled to repent of their sin. They say that Jesus has died to set us free, so we no longer need to come down on sin, but we need only rejoice in his victory. But the words like: “priest forever” (21) and, “permanent priesthood” (24) and, “Always lives to intercede” (25) and, “made perfect forever” (28)— all these testify to us otherwise, that the Lord our high priest is forever our high priest who intercede for us forever, that is, day by day, and moment by moment so that every sin may be avoided and renounced and confessed and repented of and forgiven until the day we are lifted up to the heavens where he will give us a sinless body. Until then as the Lord told us: “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet.” (John 13:10) Until then, therefore, we must be vigilant, and cautious for sin, and keep our hearts in humble confession, repentance and the grace of forgiveness.
The length some people take in order to justify their unholy desires and their twisted motives is appalling in the church, dating back to the day the apostle wrote his letter until now. It’s a blatant abuse of grace! And that’s why some say that we ought to stop talking so much about sin and repentance and talk more about love and forgiveness. So many carefree and careless Christians follow this kind of false teaching mainly because it appeals to the sinful nature, promotes unholy freedoms, and they need not worry about their Conscience. On the other hand there are those who follow this false teaching out of genuine ignorance, even though they have no excuse to be ignorant of the truth, other than the fact that they leave their interpretations of the word of God to those who exploit them for their own selfish gains. Woe to them who do that. And woe to those who do not study the Bible with a righteous hunger and thirst so that they might know Christ better, deeper, and take hold of the truth, and take root in it, and in turn teach others the way of righteousness so that they might live and not die in their sins. Here’s an example about unjustifiable ignorance. How many know the difference between Sin and Sins— a critical element of truth which can easily resolve the heresy we’ve just mentioned! I praise you Lord for bringing us to a place of Bible study and enlightenment that we might learn deeply of you and learn how to live and behave accordingly under your priesthood, and glorify your name as our high priest forever.
I think another issue of grave importance to remember is that the Lord is there before the heavenly altar, alive and working his priesthood functions perfectly. He needs no assistance in performing his duties nor does he need the arrogance of men who would take his place. What am I saying? I’m saying that all of us who are born again by the spirit of God and brought into his family are also priests. And yes we are all called to perform our priestly duties. How? In the sense that we offer praise and thanks and sacrifices of selfless love before the throne oh God. But we must remember that the communion, the “Lord’s supper” whom Jesus commanded us to keep is a symbolic ceremony to remember his sacrifice of body and blood for us and to unite us in love. The Lord sacrificed his body and blood once, and it was once for all! To intimate that the bread and wine are the body and blood of the Lord himself at the ceremony is to crucify him again and again. That’s not only error but blasphemy. Moreover, the priest or minister performing the ceremony should ever remember that the Lord himself is ever still alive and working, and therefore there’s no need to assume his place at the altar at all. We eat and drink the Lord’s supper together to remember our high priest who died and who now lives forever as our glorified and perfect high priest. And those who know this shouldn’t be fooled by religious garments that inspire awe.
Read verses 4-10. Verse 4 says: “Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder!” The greatness of Melchizedek is reflective of the greatness of our Lord Jesus. On his way back home from defeating the greatest military force in the region and having rescued his nephew lot from captivity, Abraham weary and troubled from all that had taken place, was met by this mysterious Melchizedek, the king and priest of Salem whose rule had been marked by peace and righteousness. The great Abraham the patriarch of the godly race and our ancestors of faith was met up by this Melchizedek who bore with him bread and wine, the sacred symbol of fellowship with God. And Melchizedek comforted Abraham in his weariness and troubles and offered him rest and blessing from God. And Abraham in turn gave him a tenth of everything as an offering of submission to the Lord God Maker of heavens and earth. The author tells us to just think of the greatness of this Melchizedek because usually the one lesser in greatness receives a blessing and gives a tithe to the one who is greater. The Levites who were still in Abraham’s loins, and who would later receive tithes from their brothers, gave a tithe to this Melchizedek. Melchizedek transcended race and blood ties and blessed a stranger Abraham and received from him an offering. That’s his true greatness, a symbol of the Lord Jesus who transcended all cultural and racial boundaries and extended his blessing of bread and wine to all who would believe— Jews and Gentiles alike. If Melchizedek was great, how great is the Lord Jesus who offered his body and blood for the redemption of all people! That is indeed true greatness. The Lord stooping down to extend blessings on us who are undeserving. We need to really keep the meaning of true greatness in perspective.
To the Jews nothing was more important, more dignified more precious than the priesthood, for they gloried in their tradition, customs, ancestral religious heritage. Nothing in this world was more desired. To think that anything could supersede this was unthinkable. Yet when God spoke of a priest in the order of Melchizedek, he spoke of a priesthood much greater than the Jewish priesthood. And when Jesus came, his priesthood was indeed much much greater than that of the one established through the law. How difficult it must have been for them to put aside the very thing that had been there for eons for a new priesthood. It wasn’t easy at all. And so many stumbled among them. Even Jewish Christians stumbled because they took their eyes off of Jesus in his glory interceding for us before the altar of God, and were spellbound by the temporary glory of the temple and its practices. But we understand them. We see how so many churches in history have held on to all the glory and pomp of the office of priesthood and all the beautiful vestments that come along with it. It’s as if it’s hard for them to leave behind a priesthood system, buildings and fine clothing which are all outdated and defunct and inferior to that of Christ’s. We also see how so many Christians are drawn to the glittering things of this world, the showy impressive things, the things that give them glory rather than give the glory to Christ. We can understand that, but we mustn’t be fooled by what is perishing and obsolete when we have a Christ seated at the right hand of the majesty in heaven interceding for us. We should see only Jesus Christ our high priest at the altar in heaven and dare not infringe on his duties and functions, giving him all the glory and honor he deserves. Blessed be our Christ our high priest, superior to anything this world has ever known.