todd braye

New Covenant Meditation 3: A New Priest For A New Covenant

Hebrews 6:19-7:21

“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

 

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him,  and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace.  He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever. See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils! And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these also are descended from Abraham. But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives.  One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham,  for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.

 

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?  For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar.  For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.

 

This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, 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.”

 

For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness . And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him:

 

“The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind,
‘You are a priest forever.’ ”

 

The Scriptures describe both the Person and Work of Christ in a number of ways.

He is the Son of God, the Alpha and Omega, Lord of lords, King of kings, Founder of our salvation, the Agent of creation, and Redeemer of His people. And as Redeemer, Christ is a priest. He’s a great high priest, the representative of His people before, that is, in the presence of, God.

As his argument unfolds, the writer of Hebrews contrasts the old covenant, Levitical priesthood with that of Christ’s. He shows how Christ’s priesthood is superior to the old. He tells us that, unlike the old line of priests, Christ’s priesthood is Melchizedekian. Jesus has ‘become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek’ (6:20).

How this is, or why this is, Hebrews tells us.

Without dwelling on the details, we see that Melchizedek resembles Christ. The very name of Melchizedek speaks of Christ. His name means king of righteousness and king of Salem, which is king of peace. Our Lord is the King of righteousness. Which is to say Christ is the true King of righteousness. What, or rather Who, Melchizedek prefigured, Who he foreshadowed, Christ is. Righteousness isn’t merely the foundation of His throne. Righteousness defines what Christ is. Christ is righteous. He is the fullest expression, the true form of righteousness itself. He is the fullness of deity in bodily form. He is truly, and definitively, and finally the King of righteousness.

The same goes for peace. Christ is called the Prince of Peace. He has, by the offering of Himself, reconciled many sinners to God. He removed the hostility, the enmity, between God and His people, His elect. O that men know of this enmity! God is not indifferent toward sinners. God is far from neutral in His disposition toward them. Nor is His basic, fundamental thought toward them loving. The Scriptures are clear. There is great hostility between God and men. Great offense has occurred. Men are guilty. But O this great Reconciler! This King of Peace! Christ is our peace. He has removed the hostility between God and His believing elect. And so, as Paul writes, ‘having been justified by faith,’ by faith alone in Christ alone, ‘we have peace with God.’

But this peace isn’t vertical only, between God and men.

It’s also horizontal, between men and men; between Jews and Gentiles to be precise. By and because of the cross, Jesus formed one new body of God, the church. No longer are the Jews God’s people simply because they are Jews. Now, that’s a provocative thing to say. But it’s needful to say. There’s only one people of God, not two. In the apostle’s words, there’s one man not two. Paul to the Ephesians chapter 2 verse 14: “For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinance, that he might create in himself one new man in the place of the two, so making peace., and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” And so the church, which is this one new man, is composed of all men, that is Jews and Gentiles, men from every tribe, tongue, and nation. We should not be surprised therefore, to see a man of Arab descent, Jewish descent, and Germanic descent love and worship and live for Christ together. He is, after all, the King of Peace.

Furthermore, Melchizedek resembles Christ in that his priesthood was perpetual, without interruption.

Melchizedek was a priest forever, says Hebrews. He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life. We aren’t to understand this to mean a miraculous birth. Like all men without exception, Melchizedek had a mother. Nor are we to suppose he never saw the grave. The point here, from Hebrews’ perspective, is that since Genesis 14, the chapter in which we find Melchizedek, says nothing of his birth or death, they didn’t happen. We aren’t told anything about his parents or grandparents. So, they didn’t exist. So, from the vantage point of Hebrews, he had no beginning or end of days. Melchizedek’s priesthood is thus forever, or without interruption. Continuous. This is not like the Levitical, old covenant priests. Death interrupted their priesthoods. Death prevented them from continuing in office. And so Christ’s priesthood, a priesthood Melchizedek’s resembled (or foreshadowed as type), “is not like” the old covenant priesthood, the priesthood God gave their fathers when He brought them up out of Egypt! His priesthood is truly forever and actually continuous, eternal. God confirms this with an oath, a promise. Psalm 110:4, the verse Hebrews quotes and applies to Christ: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.’”

With this oath we see yet a further contrast between the Levitical, old covenant priesthood and that of Christ’s.

The old priesthood came by divine command. But there was no oath attached to it. “Those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him: ‘The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever’ “ (6:20-21). Christ is a different priest not in degree. It isn’t that He is a greater priest ONLY. He is that. He is FAR greater than the Levites. But Christ is different in kind. His priesthood, by its very nature, is different. His priesthood, unlike the Levitical priesthood, is the fulfillment of a promise. Christ is the priest of the new age, the new creation, even these last days. He is the new priest for a new covenant.

Melchizedek also resembles Christ in matters of physical descent.

That is to say, both priests did not descend from the tribe of Levi. Let me show this to you. Hebrews 7 beginning with the fourth verse: “See how great this man was [i.e. Mel.] to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils! And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to takes tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these also are descended from Abraham. But this man [i.e. Mel.] who does not have his descent from them [i.e. from the Levites]…” Melchizedek wasn’t a Levite. But neither was Christ. Beginning with verse 12: “For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken [i.e. Christ] belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.” Mel. resembles Christ as priest in that both weren’t Levites.

Bodily descent didn’t determine their priesthood.

The significance of that is profound. The significance of that is flesh did not determine their priesthoods. Indeed, both Melchizedek and Christ did not become priests “on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent” as verse 16 tells us. This is absolutely astonishing. The foundation for both priesthoods, for Melchizedek’s and Christ’s wasn’t some old covenant law- Not that which was temporary, weak and useless, as the writer of Hebrews himself puts it. Christ’s priesthood was, by contrast, by striking contrast, by that which is eternal, powerful, effectual, useful, and indestructible, even His own life! His life CANNOT be brought to an end!

There’s one more thing for this morning. I want us to see together how Hebrews shows Christ is not just greater than the Levites, but also Melchizedek. In chapter 7 verse 7, it is said that the inferior is blessed by the superior. That is axiomatic. It needs no proving. The greater blesses the lesser. Melchizedek blessed Abraham, the inferior, received tithes from him, and in doing so, provided material for Hebrews to say Melchizedek is greater than Levi. Listen carefully (7:4)-

“4 See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils! 5 And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these also are descended from Abraham. 6 But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. 7 It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. 8 In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. 9 One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, 10 for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.”

What Hebrews labors to tell us is that since Abraham, the lesser, paid a tenth to Melchizedek, and Levi was Abraham’s descendent, ipso facto Levi paid a tenth also and is also ipso facto inferior to Melchizedek. And since Melchizedek only resembles Christ, Christ far outweighs the entire bunch! Christ is far greater than Melchizedek who is greater than the Levites.

What does this all mean?

Let me simply begin to answer today and we’ll resume next time. First, this means first and foremost that we have yet another reason to praise Him. Christ is a GREAT priest over the household of God. In the course of redemptive history, He’s now THE Priest. He’s not merely greater than the old priests. He’s of a new sort. The nature of his priesthood, just like the covenant He put into force, is altogether different than the old priesthood.

Second, “We have this” Christ “as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain” that is, into heaven itself where Jesus has gone on our behalf.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://christmycovenant.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/todd-braye.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Todd Braye (B. Mus., M.Div) is the pastor of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Blacke, Alberta, Canada. After graduating from the Canadian Theological Seminary, he served a Baptist church in eastern Ontario for six years before coming home to Alberta. He has been SGBC’s pastor since October 1, 2005.[/author_info] [/author]
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About Todd Braye

Todd Braye (B. Mus., M.Div) After graduating from the Canadian Theological Seminary, Todd served a church in eastern Ontario for six years before returning to Alberta to serve as the pastor of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Blackie. Presently, he labors for Action International Ministries for "Pastoral Leadership Development."