Melchizedek! Who was he? There is more curiosity and speculation about him than three Bible verses might warrant. You would think he would just be another Bible character with a difficult name that few of us paid any attention to.
Genesis 14:18-20 tells us that Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God, that he met Abraham with bread and wine and blessed Abraham and God, and that Abraham gave him a tithe of the spoils from a recent battle. That’s it.
Why the interest? Maybe because he is the first priest named in the Bible. Maybe because he was a priest of God bringing bread and wine thousands of years before the Lord’s Supper. Maybe because it is the first mention of giving a tenth/tithe. Maybe because “Salem” is believed to be the first mention of Jerusalem.
But there is something else. Listen to Psalm 110:4: “Jehovah has sworn, and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.'” The order of Melchizedek! An eternal priesthood! Now that is something to ponder.
The order of Melchizedek? Who was in that order besides Melchizedek? Who is in that order today? Many make the claim, among them: Mormons, Masons, and some Roman Catholics.
Of the few details offered in Psalms, “forever” stands out. Was Melchizedek a normal human being, as he appears in Genesis? Or was he more than human, as “forever” seems to say? Where did he come from? How did he become a priest? Where did he go to? Heb. 7:3 says of him, “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.”
Some believe that Melchizedek was actually the eternal Word of God (Jesus), who took on a human form in Abraham’s time. That may be possible. However, I notice that the text does not say that Melchizedek was the Son of God. It says he was “made like (or resembling) the Son of God.” To me, that is saying that God made Melchizedek a type of Jesus. He was not Jesus but made to look like Jesus. How? Start with genealogy. Genealogies were very important to the Jews. Without a genealogical record, a man could not serve as a priest. As it says in Neh. 7:64: “These sought their register (record) among those who were reckoned by genealogy, but it was not found: therefore were they deemed polluted and put from the priesthood.” For Melchizedek there is no genealogical record, no record of a father or a mother, no record of birth or death.
As interesting as all this may be, the real issue is not the identity of Melchizedek. The real issue is the way Melchizedek was “made like the Son of God.” But how? We all know that Jesus had a mother. In both Matthew and Luke, we have His genealogy. So how were He and Melchizedek alike? Note that it doesn’t say Melchizedek was “made like Jesus.” It says he was “made like the Son of God.” The likeness to Melchizedek is not of Jesus’ physical nature. It is of His true spiritual nature! Jesus, the Word, was “without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life.” Jesus the Word was/is eternal!
A Priest Forever
A most important point in Hebrews is that since Jesus is eternal, His priesthood is eternal. That’s what Psalms 110:4 says: “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” The book of Hebrews refers to this verse at least four times, and the “forever” nature of Christ and His priesthood is expressly stated at least four more times, all within chapters 5 to 7.
This great contrast between the Levitical priesthood and Jesus’ priesthood is stated quite clearly in Heb. 7:23-24: “Many, indeed, have been made priests, because they are hindered from continuing by death. But he, because he lives forever, has his priesthood unchangeable.” Praise God! In the OT, they had high priest after high priest after high priest. They all died and had to be replaced. Jesus died, but He arose from the dead and lives forever. Thus, He is priest forever. He needs no replacement. He cannot be replaced!
Every reference in Hebrews to priesthood under the New Covenant is speaking of Jesus. From Hebrews 2:17 to 10:21, Jesus is called priest about twenty times: “priest,” “high priest,” “merciful and faithful high priest,” “high priest forever,” and “high priest after the order of Melchizedek.”
We know that there was only one High Priest at a time – and today that is Jesus. Jesus is the one and only High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. Notice Heb. 6:20: “where as a forerunner Jesus entered for us [into heaven], having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
Humans Are Excluded
In Insight #260 we considered the priesthood of all believers, making a few brief references to Jesus being our High Priest.
Being just plain priests is a very different story from being High Priest. Although Jesus is often just called a priest in Hebrews, it is clear over and over that He is not just any priest, but rather High Priest. And, although Psalm 110 just says, “priest forever in the order of Melchizedek,” the statements in Hebrews make it clear that this priest is High Priest. For example 6:20 says, “having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” And notice the oft repeated “forever.” This is in the context of “without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life.” This excludes humans.
Hebrews stresses that Jesus was made priest via an oath of God. “Inasmuch as he [Jesus] was not made priest without the taking of an oath (for they [Levitical priests] indeed have been made priests without an oath), but he with an oath by him that says of him, ‘The Lord swore and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek”‘” (Heb. 7:20-21). God will not change His mind. Furthermore, Heb. 5:4-6 adds, “Nobody takes this honor on himself, but he is called by God, just like Aaron was. So also, Christ didn’t glorify himself to be made a high priest, but it was he who said to him, ‘You are my Son. Today I have become your father.’ As he says also in another place, ‘You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.'” God Almighty with an oath appointed His Son as a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. No man dares take this honor upon himself.
Sinless Sacrifice for Sins
Jesus’ priesthood is of an entirely different nature than the priesthood of Christians. In the previous Insight, we considered various Scriptures that speak of the sacrifices Christians offer. But those sacrifices are of a totally different nature than the sacrifice of Jesus. In no sense do we offer sacrifices for sin. That is only Jesus. We are not of His order. We are sinners. We cannot atone for sin. Sinless Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sins.
“Therefore he is also able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, seeing that he lives forever to make intercession for them. For such a high priest was fitting for us: holy, guiltless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who doesn’t need, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices daily, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. For he did this once for all, when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men as high priests who have weakness, but the word of the oath which came after the law appoints a Son forever who has been perfected” (Heb. 7:25-28).
Sinless Jesus is both priest and sacrifice. Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. No man dares take this upon himself. Jesus is unique, one and only, our all in all. Praise God!