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In this essay will be brought out the excellency of the priesthood of Christ as compared first with that of Aaron and second with that of Melchisedec. It will be made clear also that the priesthood of Melchisedec was a more excellent type of the priesthood of Christ than the priesthood of Aaron. As the performance of this task consists in attending to the argument of the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews concerning the above mentioned priesthoods, it is to this argument that we again turn. Briefly stated, it is this:

Jesus was made an high priest after the order of Melchisedec and thus, such is the implication of this statement of the writer, not after the order of Aaron (chapter 6:20b). The sacred writer goes on to give the reason. The priesthood of Melchisedec as compared with that of Aaron was “the better” (chapter 7:7). In what respect? In the following (vss. 1-3, of chapter 7): “(For) this Melchisedec. . . . (being) without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the son of God; abideth priest continually.” The meaning plainly is that Melchisedec is without father. . . . and has neither beginning of days or end of life and thus abideth priest continually.

The writer goes on to provide his readers with still other evidence that Melchisedec, as compared with Aaron, was the better, “Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenths of the spoils. 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: 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; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him” (vss. 4-9).

The substance of this reasoning is that Melchisedec was the better as compared with Aaron in that Aaron (Abraham) was blessed by Melchisedec and in that the latter received from the former tithes.

The unexpressed conclusion at which the writer arrives is that whereas the priesthood of Melehesedec was “the better” perfection could not possibly be by the Levitical priesthood. According to the sacred writer, the further proof of this is the very fact that another priest rose after the order of Melchisedec and not called after the order of Aaron. In the words of the writer, “If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood (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.” And this is what took place actually, the sacred writer means to tell his readers. Another priest actually did rise after the order of Melchisedec. Thus the priesthood of Aaron was changed,—changed because perfection was not by it. It was transferred from Aaron to him who rose after the order of Melchisedec. And “the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law” (vs. 12).

In this verse the apostle declares what he intended by “the law” in the foregoing, which “the people received under the Levitical priesthood”. It was the whole “law of commandments contained in ordinances” or the whole law of Moses in so far as it was the rule of worship and obedience unto the church. That law it was that followed the fate of the priesthood. And herein lies the moment of the controversy which the apostle has with his readers, the Jews. The question was whether the law of Moses was to be the rule in the church while it was to continue in the world. In the preaching of the gospel, that which most provoked the Jews is that there was inferred thereby a taking away of the typical, Mosaic institutions. This it was that enraged them. Even those who were converted to the faith of the gospel continued obstinate in the persuasion that the law of Moses was yet to continue in force. The writer wants to show them that they do wrong. This is the matter he enters upon in the 12th verse. That which he hitherto has insisted on in this chapter, is the excellency of the priesthood of Melchisedec and thus of Christ, above that of Aaron and thus of the law. In pursuing his argument, he proves that the priesthood of Aaron was to be abolished, because, after its institution, there was a promise of the introduction of another, wherewith it was inconsistent. And herein he proves that the law itself was to be abolished, on account of the strict connection between the law and the priesthood and their mutual dependence on one another.

The writer now shows that the change of the priesthood necessarily resulted also in the change of the law, that, in other words, the rising of another priest, Jesus, after the order of Melchisedec, spelled the abrogation of the law, of the Mosaic institutions. “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 Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.”

The writer hereupon conclusively proves that there actually did arise a priest after the order of Melchisedec. His proof is God’s own declaration by the mouth of the prophet (David), “Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec (Ps. 110:4). In the words of the writer, “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 carnal commandment, but after the (power of an endless life. For he testifieth, “Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.” Thus the commandment was annulled indeed “for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof.” “For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope; by the which we draw nigh unto God.

The writer concludes his argument was concentrating on the excellency of Christ in contrast to Aaron. “And in as much as not without an oath he (Christ) was made priest. For those priests (of the family of Aaron) 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 more was Jesus made a surety of a better covenant. 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. Wherefore he is able to also save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Such is the argument.

Let us now turn first to the priesthood of Aaron, second to that of Melchisedec, and third to that of Christ. Doing this, it will appear that the priesthood of Melchisedec was superior to that of Aaron and that therefore Melchisedec was a more excellent type of Christ than was Aaron.

The Priesthood of Aaron.

Aaron was priest but not king. In Israel the priest did not rule and the king was not allowed to give attendance at the altar.

Aaron, the priest in Israel, was with father and mother, with descent, having both beginning of days and end of life. This means that the names of his father and mother and the names of the persons that formed the genealogical line to which he belonged, and the day of his birth and the day of his death were described and entered upon record. The reason was that the priesthood of Aaron depended upon descent. Only the sons of Aaron might give attendance at the altar.

Further, the Levitical priest was made priest after the law of a carnal commandment, and thus not after the power of an endless life. What is meant is that the priesthood of Levi was of a kind imposed upon those who bore it by law. Whether the priest was spiritually qualified, whether he loved God and His service, the truth symbolized by this service, was not inquired into. Being a son of Aaron, he was compelled to be priest, and to acquiesce in his induction into office. His will was not consulted. He was not priest by choice. In truth, he was made priest “after the law of a carnal commandment.” Many of these priests were godless men, hating and desecrating the service. “For the law maketh men high priest which have infirmity.”

Aaron further was Made priest without an oath.

Then, he was not suffered to continue by reason of death.

Finally, perfection was not by the Levitical priesthood. It could not possibly be, as the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctified to the purifying of the flesh only.

As to Melchisedec, the following is recorded of him. He was priest of the most high God. He was priest. In this assertion, two things are included. First that he was truly and really a man, and not an angel, or the appearance of the Son if God, predictive of His incarnation. For “every priest is taken from among men”, Heb. 5:1, of the same common nature with other men. So was Melchisedec a man, called out from among men, or he was not a priest. Second, that he had a call to his office; for he must fall under that other rule of the writer, “No man taketh this honour unto himself unless he is called of God,” Heb. 5 :4. Two things are certain of him negatively. First that he came not to his office by succession unto any that went before him, as did the Levitical priests after Aaron. He was not of any certain order, wherein were a series of priests succeeding one another. Second, he was not called or set apart to his office by solemn consecrations, for Christ had none of these.

He was priest “unto the most high God”. This is the first time that this title is given to God in the Scriptures. The majesty, power, and authority of God are intended. The most high God is the glorious God with whom is terrible majesty.

He met Abraham and blessed him. The benediction is fully expressed at Gen. 15:19, 20. “And he blessed him and said, Blessed be Abraham of the most high God, who hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand.”

The second exercise of priestly power ascribed to Melchisedec, is that he received tithes of all, “To whom also Abraham gave the tenth of all.” The expression “of all” is limited to the spoils which Abraham took from the enemy.

Besides being priest, Melchisedec was also king. The apostle argues from both the name and the title of this person, “First being by interpretation, King of righteousness, and after that also king of Salem, which is King of peace.” The apostle first has respect to his proper name,—which is Melchisedec, and second to his title,—which is King of Salem. This is by interpretation, king of peace. This name and this title signify that he was a righteous and peaceable king, one that ruled righteously and lived peaceably. Further, he, Melchisedec, did not derive his right to be priest from his father or mother. It means that he was not made priest after the law of a carnal commandment but that he was made priest after the power of an endless life and by an oath, that is, by the right and power of the life of regeneration implanted in his bosom. His priesthood thus rooted in redeeming grace is thus the “priesthood of all believers.” Thus, Melchisedec the priest-king was the new creature, God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus. This creature, spiritual man, is without beginning of days and end of life. This man abideth a priest continually. Said Christ, “He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”

Being the kind of priest he was, Melchisedec continued had an unchangeable priesthood.

Comparing the priesthood of Aaron with that of Melchisedec, it is (plain that the latter was a fuller and more perfect type of the priesthood of Christ.

But Christ had a genealogy. He was with father and mother. His descent was recorded. The “role of his pedigree” is declared by two evangelists, the one tracing it to Abraham, the other to Adam. For it was necessary to bring out the truth of his human nature and the faithfulness of God in fulfilling His promise. Further Christ as to His human nature had both beginning of days and end of life, and both are recorded. However it is not of Christ absolutely that the writer treats but with respect to his office of priesthood. And herein all the things said of Melchisedec apply to Him. It was a new truth to the Hebrews that the Lord Christ was the only high priest of the church, so that all other priesthoods must cease. To them it was, contrary to the law; and thus because

Christ was not of the line of priests, neither as to the father or mother or genealogy. But in this type of his, the sacred writer shows that all this was so to be. Christ had neither father nor mother from whom He might derive the right to his office; and this excluded him from any interest in the Levitical priesthood. He had no genealogy on the priestly line. He was not made priest after the law of a carnal commandment but He was made priest after the power of an endless life and by an oath. As the incarnate Word, He is the eternal and creative source of the life of His human nature. As to this nature He is the eternal recipient of grace, life,—a life by the power of which He is priest—the priest who in love and as laden with the sins of His people, sanctified Himself to God, through His obedience unto the death of the cross. Being the kind of priest that He is—priest by the power of an endless life—He abideth priest forever. The Levitical priesthood was one of succession, transferred from father to son; necessarily so, as those priests were not suffered to continue on account of death. But Christ, in that He continued forever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore he is able to save “to the uttermost that come unto God by Him. We needed, says the apostle, just such a priest, one who is priest by the power of an endless life, that is, one who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.

But if Christ was priest, He was also king. In him the priesthood and the kingship are united. He is king-priest. For He is seated at the right hand of God and is clothed with all power in heaven and on earth. He is the highest king in heaven and on earth. King of kings is He and Lord of lords. And He is the only high priest in God’s house. Because He is priest, one who in love wills to consecrate all to God, He may be king to rule over all God’s works. And all His people partake of His anointing, through which they, too, became a kingly priesthood. In the sanctuary of their hearts they consecrate themselves and all things unto God. Christ is the King of righteousness. He founded His kingdom and merited it in the way of right through His offering Himself up unto God as the Lamb without spot or blemish. He is thus also the author, cause, and dispenser of righteousness. He is the righteousness, sanctification, wisdom and redemption of His people. And thus He is also the king of peace. He made peace in His blood, peace with God and peace among His brethren.