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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Hebrews 7

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-28

"For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him: to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all: first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem which is, King of peace: without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually." The brief record of Melchisedec found in Genesis 14:1-24 is as a shining light appearing momentarily and vanishing. But only thus is God's purpose served As typical of Christ's present official Priesthood in resurrection, this record is exquisitely beautiful. First, Melchisedec means "King of righteousness," and secondly, "King of Salem" means "King of peace." Being the one perfect upholder of righteousness, Christ is also the one true Source of peace. The two cannot be divorced. And He is the one Mediator between God and men, the High Priest upon the throne of God. As Melchisedec blessed Abraham, bringing forth bread and wine for his refreshment after the stress of his contest with the kings, so the Lord Jesus, in the present day of grace, ministers to His saints the memorials of His wondrous death. for sustenance in an evil world, and for protection against the world's seductions, as instanced in the offer of the king of Sodom to Abraham (Gen 15: 21, 22). Abraham, in response to Melchisedec's grace, rendered him a tenth of all the spoils, not as a legal requirement, but in willing-hearted recognition of his superior position. We cannot fail to see a typical character in this.

Verse 3 does not imply that Melchisedec personally had no parentage, no beginning or end, but that the record has designedly omitted any reference to these things, in order that he might be a striking type of Christ. He is not (as some have imagined) the Lord Himself, "but made like unto the Son of God." Since there is no record of his death, this implies that the Melchisedec priesthood is perpetual. How good to observe that this perpetual priesthood is so shown to have been in God's thoughts long before the introduction of the temporary priesthood of Aaron and his sons in Judaism. But only by means of these many omissions as to Melchisedec's history could this man serve as a type of Christ as Son of God. How intricately beautiful is the Word of God in its wisdom and precision!

"Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils." What profound significance this should have for an Israelite! Abraham, the highest, most honored of all Israel's progenitors, had himself fully acknowledged another as greater than himself!

"And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham." While Abraham had given tithes, yet the Levites, who came out of the loins of Abraham, were commanded to take tithes of their Hebrew brethren. In Abraham they were subordinate to Melchisedec: under law their brethren were subordinate to them. How clearly this shows that law was an inferior thing to the Melchisedec priesthood, and therefore only temporary in character.

'But he whose descent is not counted from them, received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better. And here men that die receive tithes; hut there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes paved tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him." Thus Melchisedec, long prior in time to Levi, received tithes from Levi's great father, and conferred blessing on him, as one himself greater. Lovely picture of the blessing of the Lord Jesus Christ bestowed on the man of faith!

The Levites also received tithes until they died, at which time this dignity ceased. This order of things was continually interrupted by death: how then could the order itself be permanent? But now, the true Receiver of tithes, the true Blesser, is the One of whom it is truly witnessed that He liveth. Melchisedec is a type of this only in the fact that Scripture gives no record of his death. Christ's Priesthood is permanent, because he lives.

Moreover, inasmuch as Levi's progenitor, Abraham, payed tithes to Melchisedec, then we conclude that Levi did so, for he was at that time "yet in the loins of his father." The entire legal system is therefore seen to be inferior to the blessed Person whom Melchisedec typifies, the Lord Jesus Christ.

"If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priest-hood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?" Here the apostle adds another strong and conclusive proof from the Old Testament that a change of the priesthood and of the law was imperative. "For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law." Perfection is a vital subject in Hebrews, and one which the Jew must fully approve. But was it found in the law? Impossible! for if so why did the law bear witness that another priest should rise of an order not known under the law? Law in fact excluded all others from the priesthood except the line of Aaron; but it prophesied of a different order entirely. Moreover, if the priesthood were to change to a completely different order, then the law must change: God's methods of dealing would certainly conform to the character of the priesthood He instituted.

"For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood." Indeed, King Uzziah, of the tribe of Judah, for his daring to enter the temple in a priestly capacity, was immediately smitten of God with leprosy (2 Chronicles 26:16-21). And the Lord Jesus while on earth sought no place whatever in the official priesthood; made no suggestion of assuming the place or duties of a priest in the temple.

Nevertheless, Scripture had established the fact that Israel's Messiah must be of the tribe of Judah; that the Son of David would sit upon David's throne in perpetuity (Isaiah 9:6-7). And more than this, Zechariah 6:12-13 boldly says of this same blessed Person, "He shall be a priest upon His throne."

"And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment. but after the power of an endless life. For He testifieth, Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec." The type is the more complete when we consider that Melchisedec was both king and priest. The Aaronic priesthood could never fill the former qualification, for the king could not rise out of Levi; but this lone, striking statement in Psalms 110:4 opens out wonderfully the truth of the necessary change in the order of priesthood.

This new priest must be constituted so, not by the law of a carnal commandment, - that is, a law governing the flesh in its condition subject to decay and death, - "but after the power of an endless life." He must be One Personally superior to death, though indeed He has in voluntary grace passed through it for our sakes, triumphed over it in the power of an endless life, which law could never have, nor give.

"For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God." In one respect therefore the dispensation of law was weak and unprofitable. While it was perfectly just and holy, hard and inflexible, yet it had no strength to introduce righteousness among men. True, it condemned unrighteousness, but was utterly weak as regards providing any remedy: it could expose the terrible loss that man had incurred by sin, but could provide no semblance of profit. It could change nothing: it made nothing perfect, but rather confirmed the hopelessness of the actual condition that existed. Therefore, how infinitely greater is the "better hope" which brings perfection with it. Of course, this perfection is in the living Person of the blessed Son of God, Him whose endless life is the very essence of power and profit, Who in pure grace communicates life and eternal blessing to those once under sin and the sentence of death. And thus indeed "we draw nigh unto God," in contrast to the rigid distance that law had maintained.

But another great contrast in these two orders of priesthood must he noted. "And inasmuch as not without an oath He was made priest: (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by Him that said unto Him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec) by so much was Jesus made a surety of a better covenant." An oath involves what is binding and unalterable; hence no oath was made at all in reference to the induction of priests of Aaron's line; but it has been made in reference to Christ. Such an unchangeable oath then means that He is the surety of a better covenant, a covenant sure and unalterable.

And to this another contrast is added: "And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: but this Man, because He continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood." Law required many priests, that is, High Priests: the new covenant allows but One. This was impossible under law, of course, for death intervened. But how blessed to contemplate this Priest, who "continueth ever," and His priesthood therefore unchangeable. All of these details are perfectly interwoven in marvelous consistency, bearing witness to the minute accuracy of the Old Testament as well as the New.

"Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come 'unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them." We may observe here how vitally the perpetuity of our salvation is bound together with the perpetuity of His Priesthood. This is salvation in its fullest and all-inclusive character, not simply the initial salvation of the soul, nor present salvation from the evils and pitfalls that beset the Christian path; but both of these, beside future salvation out of this world and for eternal glory. Blessed fulness indeed, and dependent utterly upon Him who "ever liveth to make intercession." Does this mean eternally dependent? Indeed so: and we should not want it to be otherwise, for it is dependence upon One eternally dependable.

"For such an High Priest became us, Who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens." Aaron and his sons were not at all suited to meet our actual need. The High Priest fully becoming to us must have infinitely higher characteristics. First, in character He must be holy, having unvarying love of good and hatred of evil. Secondly, in conduct He must be harmless, having no element of disregard for the need or welfare of others. Thirdly, in contact He must be undefiled, not in any measure contaminated by circumstances of corruption. Fourthly, His communion must be "separate from sinners," His path one that drew a clear line of demarcation between Himself and those in a course of sin. All these are seen beautifully in our blessed Lord in His entire path on earth, and of course in no other. But fifthly, He must he "made higher than the heavens." A mere earthly level of priesthood would not do. He must be given a position higher than all others, everything being subordinate to His authority, that He might use all things for the welfare of those for whose blessing He is appointed.

"Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people, for this He did once, when He offered up Himself." One who must sacrifice daily could never actually meet the need of our souls, for the daily repetition only hears witness that the need has not been met. The first part of the verse then speaks strictly of the Aaronic priesthood, under which order the priest must offer both "for his own sins, and then for the people's." The concluding phrase is the blessed contrast seen in the Lord Jesus. His sacrifice is perfectly completed: "this He did once when He offered up Himself." The eternity of His Person gives eternal value to His blessed work. In this the believer has rest. "For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated (or perfected) for evermore." Here is an added testimony as to the weakness of law: it appointed men who have infirmity as high priests. A system in the hands of failing creatures must be a failing system. But "the Son" is again seen in beautiful contrast: in resurrection, having accomplished propitiation, He is perfected forever. Indeed, in life on earth, He has proven Himself without infirmity, and now in resurrection as superior to death, - perfect in every respect as High Priest forever.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Hebrews 7:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/hebrews-7.html. 1897-1910.

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