The Order of Melchizedek

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on October 19, 2001 under Ask the Pastor | Be the First to Comment

Dear Pastor Greg,

The Bible tells us that Jesus was a priest after the Order of Melchizedek rather than the imperfect Levitical priesthood from the lineage of Aaron. What is it that God wants me to understand by this, here and now, in my life?

Dear Friend:

I believe that the Bible’s teaching about Melchizedek is extremely important for us as Christians to understand. But before we get into its practical impact on us, let’s think very briefly about this man Melchizedek himself. He’s found in three key passages: the Bible introduces him to us in Genesis 14, connects him to Jesus in Psalm 110, and explains that connection in Hebrews 7. I think that when you see what the Bible says about him in these three passages, you’ll appreciate why God wants you to know about him.

According to Genesis 14:18-20, Melchizedek was the king of the land of Salem; but he was also a priest of “God Most High”. The importance of this king/priest is highlighted to us long before Israel became a nation, in that he blessed Abram (that is, Abraham, from whom Israel came) following an important military victory. As a result, Abraham gave him a tenth of the spoils of his victory. “Now beyond all contradiction,” as the writer of Hebrews tells us, “the lesser is blessed by the better” (Heb. 7:7). He also points out that the Levites, who received the tithes of the people in the old priesthood, themselves paid tithes to Melchizedek through Abraham (vv. 4-10). This marked Melchizedek out as one who is greater than the Levite priesthood that would eventually come from Abraham’s body. So; the first point to remember about Melchizedek is that his priesthood was established early on as a greater priesthood than that which was yet to come through Abraham’s offspring, Levi.

A second thing to remember about him is that, unlike the temporary Levitical priesthood that came from Abraham, the priesthood of Melchizedek is to be understood as eternal. In Psalm 110, God gives us this prophecy about the Messiah through King David; “The LORD has sworn, and will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek’” (Ps. 110:4). Here, the Messiah (Jesus) is called “a priest forever”; signifying that His priestly office is an eternal one. The writer of Hebrews elaborates on this, saying that Melchizedek was a king/priest “without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually” (Heb. 7:3). This isn’t saying that Melchizedek himself lived forever; but is simply saying that his priesthood isn’t bound to a specific genealogy, exercised for only a limited period in a lifetime (as was the priesthood of the Levites). Jesus is like Melchizedek in that He is a priest “not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life” (v. 16). “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (v. 25).

One of the key themes of the Book of Hebrews is that the people of God must now trust Jesus as the Priest of a new and better covenant with God – one that replaces and fulfills the old covenant that was administered through the Levitical priesthood. The writer of Hebrews had to establish that the priestly order of the Levites was temporary in nature; and that Jesus is of a priestly order that holds supremacy over the old one. To do this, he established that Jesus is our priest “in the order of Melchizedek”. Therefore, by God’s own oath (Psalm 110:4), “Jesus has become a surety [or guarantee] of a better covenant” (Heb. 7:22).

* * * * * * * * * *

And here’s what all this has to do with us: We in the Protestant/Evangelical tradition sometimes mistakenly believe that we no longer need a priesthood; but this isn’t true at all! We’re fallen sinners; and have always needed a priesthood – and always will. What we’ve always needed however is a priesthood unlike the old one – not a limited, human, fallible priesthood of men who themselves needed to be cleansed of their own sins before they could do us any good; but one that is superior to that old priesthood. And the practical importance of understanding Jesus as a priest in the order of Melchizedek is that He forever fulfills our need for this new priesthood. His is an unchangeable, eternal priesthood performed by One who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. The writer of Hebrews says, “Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man” (8:1-2).

So in answer to your question: God wants us to understand Jesus as our High Priest in the order of Melchizedek; because once we do, we will cease from trying to earn God’s favor through a system of works that couldn’t save us, and will rest confidently in the full sufficiency of Jesus’ finished work for us forever. Nothing could ever make us more sufficient before God than to have such an all-sufficient High Priest as Jesus – a High Priest of the superior order of Melchizedek. And praise God: by faith, we do!

Pastor Greg

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