The Most High Priest

18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) 19 And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. 21 And the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.”

-Genesis 14:18-21

The Epistle to the Hebrews is a letter written to Jewish Christians who were withdrawing from Christianity and returning to Judaism for fear of persecution. The writer used this letter to exhort them to endure so that they could receive the promise of salvation (Heb. 10:26-39). One of the main topics developed in the letter is that of the association of Melchizedek to Christ in order to show the Christians of that time the superiority of the new covenant to the old. The benefit of this new covenant is that now we have in heaven an everlasting High Priest through whom we have access to God for our salvation.

According to Genesis 14:18-21, Melchizedek was the king of Salem and a priest of God Most High. The Hebrew writer translates his name as “king of righteousness” (Heb. 1-3), and his kingdom Salem is said to be the city of Jerusalem; thus, he is also identified as king of peace (See Josephus, Antiquities I, X, 1; Heb. 7:2; cf. Psalm 76:2). Melchizedek blessed Abraham after the latter had returned from defeating the kings and rescuing his kinsman Lot. Abraham in return gave the priest a tenth of the spoils that he had gained in the battle (Gen. 14:20; Heb. 7:2). The blessing of Melchizedek upon Abraham and the offering he received from him illustrate the authority of the king over Abraham. Such authority is explained in Hebrews 7 in order to highlight the superiority of Melchizedek’s priesthood to the Levitical priesthood that would be instituted under the Law of Moses (vv. 4:10 NKJV):

Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils. And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham; but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better. Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, 10 for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.

The patriarch Abraham was highly esteemed by Jews and Jewish Christians. However, what the Hebrew writer shows here is that, despite his importance, Melchizedek is superior to him and the Levitical priests. According to the Mosaic Law, the people were commanded to give tithes to the priests, who were descendants of Abraham, but notice that Abraham himself gave a tithe to Melchizedek. For that reason, the statement is made in verse 7: “Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better.” As we consider these facts concerning Melchizedek, we can clearly see the relationship between his kingship and priesthood and the kingship and priesthood of Jesus Christ.

The kingship and priesthood of Jesus is prophesied in Zechariah 6:12-13:

12 Then speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, saying: “Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, And He shall build the temple of the Lord; 13 Yes, He shall build the temple of the Lord. He shall bear the glory, And shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”’

This passage shows that, like Melchizedek, Jesus would be a king. He would build the temple of the Lord and sit and rule on his throne. Before Jesus was crucified, he promised to build his church (Matt. 16:18), also known as the house of God (Heb. 3:3-6) or the temple of the Lord (1 Cor. 3:16-17; Eph. 2:21). He referred to the church as his kingdom (Matt. 16:19), which would come with power on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem (Acts 2, cf. Mark 9:1). Jesus’ kingship is evident throughout the Scriptures (John 18:36-37; Acts 2:29-33; Col. 1:13):

36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

29 “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne,[a] 31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.

13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,

Also evident are the characteristics of his government, which are typified in the features of Melchizedek – a kingship of righteous and peace. Jesus came to establish a spiritual government of peace, justice, and righteousness. He is referred to as the Prince and Lord of Peace (Isa. 9:6-7; 2 Thess. 3:15), and he preached peace to those far and near (Eph. 2:17). He became righteousness and is the example of righteousness; therefore, we look only to him in order to attain righteousness and to live blameless lives (1 Cor. 1:30; Gal. 2:21; 1 Pet. 21:24).

Zechariah prophesied that Jesus would also be a priest and would mediate peacefully with the Father. The Hebrew writer discusses the priesthood of Christ in chapter 5, explaining that Jesus became our High Priest by being appointed by God. He did not exalt himself, but rather God called him to be a priest just as he did with Aaron. God begot Christ and raised him from the dead so that he would never see corruption (Acts 13:33-37), thus making him an eternal priest and the author of eternal salvation (Heb. 5:9). The association of the priesthood of Melchizedek with that of Christ is developed in detail in Hebrews 5 and 7.

Notice that the Scriptures say that Melchizedek was without father or mother. He had no genealogy and no beginning of days or end of life (Heb. 7:3). These statements refer to the fact that there was no record of the life of Melchizedek. As James Burton Coffman explains in his commentary on this epistle, it is obvious that he did have parents and that he died at some point, but what we see is that he appears in the Scriptures without any explanation of his background. The absence of his lineage is significant in that it highlights the fact that he does not come from the tribe that would later receive the priesthood, and that he remains a priest continually (vv. 3,6). This points to Jesus in that he did not come from the tribe of Levi, but rather from Judah (vv. 11-16). The Levitical priesthood was instituted according to a law in which nothing was said concerning Judah, but Jesus received the priesthood by the power of an indestructible life. God swore an oath that he would be a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek (v. 17,21; cf. Ps. 110:4).

Jesus becoming a priest in this way has some important implications. First, there had to be a change in the law because God changed the priesthood by an oath (v. 12). According to Ephesians 2:14-16, when Christ was crucified, the law of commandments expressed in ordinances was abolished. God nailed the record of debt, that is, the handwriting of requirements, to the cross (Col. 2:13-14). The ministry of death was brought to an end (2 Cor. 3:7-8). The eradication of the Mosaic Law in Christ’s death allowed for the creation of a new man whose sins were forgiven, and that new man – the one body made up of Jews and Gentiles – was reconciled to God (Eph. 2:15-16; Col. 2:13).

Second, God’s oath made Christ’s priesthood everlasting. The Levitical priests had to be replaced every time one died, but since Christ’s life is indestructible, his priesthood is unchangeable (Heb. 7:24). Third, Christ’s priesthood brings salvation because he lives forever to make intercession for us (v. 25). Lastly, his priesthood is better than that of the Levites. Whereas the Levitical priests were men who sinned and had to offer sacrifices daily for their own sins, Christ has no need of this because he is holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens (vv. 26-28).

The priesthood of Christ gives us the confidence to approach the throne of grace in order to receive mercy and find grace when we are in need (Heb. 4:16). Therefore, according to Hebrews 10, we should respond by drawing near to God with a sincere heart and resilient faith (v. 22). We must not waver in the confession of our hope (v. 23). We also should motivate each other to love and to carry out good works (v. 24). Lastly, we should never neglect to meet together and always encourage one another (vv. 25).

In Christianity, there is no more separation between God and man. Therefore, there is no need for anyone to intercede for us – no clergymen, no priests, etc. That is because, through Christ, God has made us a royal priesthood. Each individual is his own priest and is able to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God by the Most High Priest, Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 2:5). However, in order for your sacrifices to be acceptable, you must be covered by the blood of Christ. Notice in Hebrews 10:22 that your heart must be sprinkled clean and your body washed with pure water. The confidence that you have to enter the holy place is by the blood of Jesus that was shed on the cross (Heb. 10:19). The blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin (Heb. 9:12; 10:4), which is why Christ had to die. His blood is what washes our sins away (Matt. 26:26-28). In order to come in contact with his blood, it must be through water baptism (Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:11-13) because the blood is in the water (Jn. 19:34; cf. 1 Jn. 5:6-8). You must have faith in Christ and in the power of his blood in order for God to operate and wash your sins away (Heb. 11:6). It is by the working of God that you are cleansed in order to reap the benefits of the priesthood of Christ (Col. 2:11-13; Titus 3:5).

God’s Tough Love

Hebrews 12:3-12 is a great reminder of God’s love for us as His people; however, the love shown here is different from what we normally imagine. God is loving and compassionate, and He will protect us from all our problems and forgive us of all our shortcomings. No matter how many times Israel rebelled against God, He forgave and protected them, and He does the same for us today. This passage, however, shows us God’s tough love. We must understand that, although He protects us in our struggles and forgives us of our sins when we repent, He must and will chasten and rebuke us so that we may grow in righteousness just as a father does to his child in order to set him on the right path. These verses jump out at me because they help me understand the hardship that I’m experiencing in my life right now. I’ve been constantly questioning God as to why I must go through this, and why it’s taking so long. I believe God is answering me through His Word in these verses, showing me that I need tough love in order to grow stronger and become a better Christian.

The term chastening can be expressed as discipline, training, instruction, or correction (Strong’s Concordance; Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). This is the sense in which it is used in the passage. Verse 11 uses the word train, but the verb from which it is translated has a sense of physical exercise. Thus, we can understand from this that chastening is a long process that one endures. The word rebuke means to expose or to show to be guilty (Strong’s Concordance). For example, we know, according to Romans 7:7, that the law exposed fault and guilt, for which Paul was grateful because, without it, he would not have known what sin was:

“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet’” (Romans 7:7).

As we study this passage of Scripture, we must keep in mind that chastening and rebuke is a process of discipline and correction that allows us to recognize our mistakes in life and helps us to endure the hard times in order to grow stronger.

Hebrews is a letter written to who are believed to be the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. These Christians are going through a time of struggle, in which they are being persecuted, but the Hebrew writer is reminding them that they should “not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens” (verses 5-6). This theme is very common throughout the Scriptures (Job 5:17; Proverbs 3:11-12; Psalms 94:12; Revelations 3:19):

“Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty” (Job 5:7).

“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11-12).

“Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord, And teach out of Your law…” (Psalms 94:12)

“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent” (Revelations 3:19).

In the first clause of verse 7, they are being reminded that they are children of God and are being treated as such. Notice in the Old Testament that the Israelites are told the same. In Deuteronomy 8, Moses tells them to remember all that God had done for them during the forty years they were in the wilderness, which was a result of their rebellion. The Lord humbled them because of their transgressions and tested them. He allowed them to hunger and then fed them with manna. Their clothes didn’t wear out, and their feet didn’t swell (8:2-4). The Lord carried them through this struggle so they could experience His love and mercy, and know that they could bear none of it on their own.

We should readily accept the chastening of the Lord because it shows that we truly are His children (verses 7-8), and He wants the best for us just like a human father does for his son (verses 7, 9-10). Many of us, as parents, can take a lesson from this when dealing with our children. We cannot just let our children live life without correcting and training them if we say that we truly love them. Correction and training does no harm, but rather produces many fruits, which is why we all must experience it (Proverbs 13:24, 19:18, 23:13; Ephesians 6:4; Hebrews 12:8):

“He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Proverbs 13:24).

“Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die” (Proverbs 23:13).

“But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons” (Hebrews 12:8).

Sometimes God will allow Satan to have his way with us in order to humble us. Job suffered extremely at the hands of Satan, but he did not lose hope because he knew the Lord would deliver him from his suffering. We, as His children, must have the faith that Job had and know that we are not the only ones who war against the devil (1 Peter 5:9):

8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 shows us how God humbled Paul by giving him a thorn in his flesh and allowing Satan to strike him so he wouldn’t be boastful. Although Paul pleaded with God to remove this burden, He refused, but at the same time, gave him His grace so that he could be strong in his weakness.

“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

The one thing that should encourage us in our troublesome times is what we know about the ultimate result of that struggle – righteousness and holiness. Notice that when an athlete trains in his sport, the process is painful and tiresome, but at the end of the training, he is stronger and able to perform at a high level. Our spiritual training is just the same; it is not easy. It is rather painful at times, as we read in verse 11, “[N]ow no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful…” However, we should be joyful because the end result is righteousness and holiness (verses 10 -11; 2 Timothy 4:8, 3:16):

“For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10).

“…nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

“Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness…” (2 Timothy 3:16).

And what is so beautiful about this is that it’s more than just righteousness; it’s the peaceable fruit of righteousness. Therefore, to those that have the opportunity to read this, I encourage them in their walk because I know it’s not easy. I pray that you would bear God’s tough love just a little bit longer because there is certainly a beautiful prize at the end.