The Superiority of the Melchizedekian Order
This last month, the news outlets came out with a report that 14 million adults between the ages of 23 to 37 are still living with their parents. While there may me many reasons for this, it is a sign that more and more that the younger generation is taking longer to go out on their own than with previous generations. Childhood and adolescence are being advanced further and further which seems to be having more detrimental effects on our society. Now, if you are still living at home, I am not pointing you out this morning, but indeed I use this as an illustration for this first generation of Jewish believers that are receiving this Epistle of Hebrews. They were comfortable and used to the Old system, they were being called to something that the old system always pointed to, and yet were tempted to not go on and embrace this truth.
As we continue our study in Hebrews the readers of this epistle certainly had a similar experience once again faced with the familiar old smell of the Levitical Priesthood from which stemmed the law, but is now replaced by this mysterious new Melchizedekian order. Hebrews, written to new Christians who had Jewish background were still learning these things as they wrestled with who they were in relation to the Old Covenant now that the New Covenant had been instituted by Christ. It was an identity crisis. In addition, there were Gentiles who were becoming followers of Jesus and getting saved, living righteously and filled with God’s Spirit! Nothing had ever been seen like this! So, now, what of the Old Covenant? What of the Law of Moses? Is it abolished? Is it gone? Should we no longer do what the Law says? You can see the questions that would have arisen in the Hebrew mind. This is the very reason this Epistle is written! While it served God’s purposes in the Old Covenant with Israel, the whole thesis of Hebrews is pointing to the supremacy of the ONE who is better than all we have seen thus far in the Biblical narrative. In fact, Christ is the point of all these matters, that He is the High Priest that has been spoken of. (8:1) He is the Old Covenant fulfilled! If you are walking through Hebrews and thinking, “wow I never saw this before!” Welcome to the New Testament! In the midst of the familiar Levitical System comes Christ on the scene after a different priestly order. As Hebrews 1:2 told us, “but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son., whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world.” He was always there but now He is revealed! This no doubt brought anger to unbelieving Jews and confusion to new Jewish believers.
We looked last week that Christ is the fulfillment of Psalm 110 and has become a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. The author now wants us to understand that God’s final purpose and focus to deal with His people’s sin could not and was not fulfilled in and through the Levitical law. There remains an explanation for the need for a new priesthood. The Author of Hebrews begins making a point that the Levitical Priesthood fell short and he brings up this argument in the form of a question for us here in verse 11. “Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron?” Great question isn’t it? The Bible always asks the right questions that we might get the right answer! Psalm 110 is where the author gets this question, and its this question that is answered by the rest of our passage this morning. He is framing a question around this prophetic passage of scripture that has dynamic implications! So, why is there a need for another priest from a different order? Because we see plainly, that “perfection” or “completeness” was not attained through the Levitical priesthood. What does this perfection mean but that access to God was prohibited in the Levitical system, but with a New Priesthood access is granted! So, the point being, that there has to be another way. Perfection was needed, man had sinned against a Holy Eternal God, and now God is revealing the solution namely that He has revealed Himself in His Son. So, why is this new Priest of the Melchizedekian Order better? Well the author explains it here in verse 12-19 notice starting in verse 12, “for” and it is repeated in verse 13, 14, 17, 18 and 19. These are the arguments that the author of Hebrews will give for why a priest according to the order of Melchizedek is needed and in fact shows its superiority over the Levitical Priesthood. In 4 points:
1. Transformation of the law (11-12)
2. Tribal Descent (13-14)
3. The Power of an Indestructible Life (15-17)
4. Threshold of a Better Hope (18-19)
- Transformation of the law (11-12) Look at our first point verse 12: “For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well.”
The Law of Moses given by God also established the Aaronic priesthood. The problem is that it did not usher in perfection nor did it accomplish what His people really needed, that is, to be justified before God. It would be illegal according to the Levitical law for Christ to serve as a priest, but He could serve in a different order as we looked at last week, His Identity (vs.1-2) His Ancestry (vs. 3) and His Authority (vs. 4-10) were all different than that of a Levitical Priest. There is a transformation of the priesthood but also the law. This would drive Jews mad to hear this! But, this is exactly the argument that the writer of Hebrews wants to make. Christ fulfilled what the Levitical Priesthood pointed to! Now this new Priest King Jesus would usher in access to God Himself that need no other mediator but Him! As we saw earlier in Hebrews, He is better than Moses! Moses served as a mediator but this servant that brought the Old Covenant is replaced by the Son who ushers in the New. But, it was not just a transformation or change of the law that necessitated this new priesthood, but also Tribal Descent. Which leads us to the authors second point.
2. Tribal Descent (13)
Look at verse 13 and 14: “For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.”
Jesus was in the line of Judah not Levi and while prophecy dictates the fulfillment of Christ being the Lion of the tribe of Judah, nothing is ever said of a priest coming out of Judah. Consider these prophecies. “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” Genesis 49:10
Micah 5:2 – “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”
Even in the Genealogy of Matthew 1 it is established that Christ would come from this tribe.
Of course, the wider context of the New Testament, let alone Hebrews before us displays Christ as our Prophet, Priest and King. So the focus returns that this is no ordinary priest. The point is set, that there is a change in the law and the priesthood. So again it has been established that the Christ would come out of a different tribe, let alone another priestly order, that of Melchizedek. So, while there is no tribal descent from Levi, we can see how the Levitical system did foreshadow his death. But the accomplishments of that death could not be realized if indeed we had a dead priest. So, notice there is not a connection genealogically from Melchizedek to Christ. What then is the arrival of another priest according to? An indestructible Life! This is our third point.
3. The Power of an Indestructible Life (15-17)
Look at verse 15 and 16. “This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, 16 who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him,“You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.””
Remember from last week we looked at the fact that Melchizedek had no genealogy with no beginning or end ( vs. 3). The reason that this mysterious character resembles the Son of God. If you do not have a beginning or end you are indestructible. An indestructible life here does not mean that Melchizedek didn’t die, but rather it means that we have no record of his birth or of His death. But what about Jesus? How is he indestructible, did He not die? Yes! But, He rose again! The resurrection proves that death could not hold Christ and therefore His resurrection from the dead ushered in Christ as our Great High Priest. So while His descent was not from Levi let alone Melchizedek, His authenticity in the order of Melchizedek comes from His indestructible life. But it doesn’t stop there, it continues!
Look at verse 17. “For it is witnessed of him, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”
Because Christ is risen, His priesthood is continual! This is again Psalm 110:4 and is quoted 6 times in the last two chapters! Do you think he may be trying to make a point? Ps. 110:4 prophesied that wondrous truth that the high priesthood of Christ would continue forever! It is timeless just as we see in the order of Melchizedek. This Melchizedek that resembles of the Son of God pointed to One who would serve forever. Notice it is not just future tense but also past tense in the fact that Melchizedek served without beginning. Whatever Priest would usher in perfection had to be eternal. Our Lord is just that Priest! Great news! Why is it good news? Well, a better hope is ushered in than that of another priesthood that fell far short. The authors last point here is:
4. The Threshold of a Better Hope (18-19)
Look at verse 18-19, “18 For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.”
What does the inspired author mean by “former commandment”? The commandment of the Law of Moses concerning the Levitical priesthood. The proof here laid out is that the priesthood and Levitical system was weak and useless. For no one could be made perfect by the law. In fact the law revealed their insufficiency, and ours! No one could ever go into the Holy place but a Priest, let alone the Holy of Holies where the presence of God resided. Can God really fit behind that veil? Of course not, as Solomon realized when building the Temple, He said in 2 Chronicles 2:6, “But who is able to build him a house, since heaven, even highest heaven, cannot contain him?”
God cannot be contained and Man has never been able to justify Himself before God! And so where is the hope in the old system? According to that system, we cannot be cleansed, cannot have lasting clear consciences, or a lasting hope. It surely didn’t draw them near to God but rather made them afraid of Him!
The point being that there is not a vacuum left in the wake of the former commandment being set aside. Just the opposite, better hope is introduced. What is this Hope? It is a person! The Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. While he should be approached in fear and reverence, He makes a way in which we draw near to God because of His resurrection securing a better way! He is the way, the truth and the life! Do you see the symbolism of a temple veil being torn away? Do you see this great truth that this Great High Priest is ushering us into God’s very presence? We can draw near! Amen? We have access to God Most High, we need not any other mediator, Pope, Priest or Pastor! We have Him, the Son of God! We are no longer separated! Paul says it well in Romans 8:38,39, “ For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,
39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
It ought to be a great comfort to us that Jesus Christ is our faithful High Priest. While you may not be tempted to go back to the law like these Hebrews were, I think a few questions toward application would be helpful to us as we seek to act on the truths we have learned this morning.
- Have you drawn near to Him?
Are you aware that The Lord Jesus Christ came to deliver you from sin? There may be someone here this morning that understands these truths intellectually but has never trusted that Christ indeed died for them. In their place, that they indeed are the guilty party. If you have never come to God like that you are not saved! How awful it is the some people spend their lives under the preaching of the Gospel and still go to hell. May that not be you!
Are you trying to be good in your own strength? Do you feel that you are always on a the treadmill of life and you can never seem to feel at peace with God? Do you feel that you would be ashamed before God if you were to stand before Him this instant? Let me encourage you this morning, there is no other way to get right and stay right except through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ this faithful High Priest. We all have sin to put to death, what is yours that you are still making excuses for and coddling? God hates the smell of human sweat and toil. Your work will not make you right with God, but His Sons’ work will. Trust Him today and His work for you on the cross. Repent and believe the Gospel that you may be saved from the wrath to come. This new hope can be yours this morning.
Romans 5:1-5 “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
2. Perhaps you are discouraged about your work and the only thing that separates you from your work stresses is the weekend. Come to your High Priest.
3. Perhaps you are in a legal battle and you find that justice seems to be wanting this side of heaven. Be encouraged, Christ will make that right. Trust Him to make it right regardless of what happens.
4. You that are single, are you trusting this faithful High priest with your time and energies? He is able to meet you at your point of need. Give him your desires, hopes, loneliness, whatever it may be. You that are married, trust that God has a plan for your marriage and family. Trust Him. You mothers that work so hard raising, training and teaching your children: You High Priest is waiting. Call to Him in your time of need that He might give you hope in your exhaustion and rest in your soul.
5. Church, this High Priest has accomplished work that has not been heard of in all the world. We are responsible to get this news of Christ to the nations. Why not you? Are you planning to stay and hoping others will go? Or should you be planning to go but willing to stay? How will they hear unless someone tells them. You young people think well of your life in God’s hands. He can take your life and use it for the furtherance of His gospel. You are not promised tomorrow but if He should allow you to live a lifetime, how will you use it to make much of His name. I say this because it is rare to find people who are willing to go who are wrapped up in other things. I challenge you who are retired, do not fall into the trap and fraud of American concept of retirement. How empty. Use your golden years to impart wisdom to those younger around you. You know why there are senior discounts? So that you might save on your way to the mission field!
6. Finally, Christ’s resurrection and ascension give you the hope of the reality that your High Priest is indeed on the throne awaiting when He will be sent by the Father to return. We have glorious hope, but not just in this life, but the life to come. What madness our lives would be if we had only hope in this life. Be encouraged your redemption draws near. Do not set your heart on this life only, when eternity lies just ahead.
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