We begin chapter seven by seeing the superiority of our priesthood from the standpoint of royalty. There are three references to Melchizedek in the Bible. The historical reference is found in Genesis 14, the prophetical reference in Psalm 110, and the doctrinal reference in Hebrews 7. Our passage in Hebrews 7 deals with the doctrinal implications of the life of Melchizedek.
“For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace.”
Melchizedek is an actual historical character, not a theophany of Christ. Salem is the ancient city of Jerusalem. Salem means “peace.” Melchizedek was a king-priest. He is called a “priest of the most high God”, which indicates he was a believer. He was appointed by God. He was a Gentile. And his name means “righteousness.”
The writer of Hebrews is going to show these believers in Jerusalem how Christ’s priesthood is superior to the Levitical priesthood by showing them that Abraham recognized the uniqueness of Melchizedek’s priesthood, which was greater. Since the priesthood of Christ follows the same pattern as Melchizedek’s priesthood, Christ’s priesthood is also superior.
Abraham was returning from a great battle and victory when he was met by Melchizedek, a king-priest. His position was very unique and given to him by God. To illustrate a person trying to become a king-priest by force, we have the Old Testament story of Uzziah the king of Israel attempting to assume the authority of a priest without an appointment from God, and was struck down with leprosy. (II Chronicles 26:16-21) Abraham paid a tenth part of the spoils because Melchizedek was a priest to God. Abraham recognized Melchizedek’s power and authority and demonstrated it by giving him a part of the spoils of war. Melchizedek met Abraham to bless him and strengthen him, not to demand tribute from him (though he accepted the tribute as a priest.) (Genesis 14:19-23)
“Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, He abides a priest perpetually.”
There is no paternal genealogy recorded for Melchizedek. The royal priesthood does not depend upon physical birth. This is in contrast to the Levitical priesthood which was dependent upon recorded genealogy, being able to place one’s line and one’s descent from Aaron and Levi. Therefore, without father means without recorded father, not recorded in a genealogy. The implication seems to be that he became a king by military victory not by parental descent. Without mother means independent of maternal descent. This implies that Melchizedek’s mother was not a queen. Therefore he did not become a king by inheriting it from his mother. He is without recorded pedigree, without genealogical papers, without any genealogy to prove royalty through his mother’s side.
Without descent means without any genealogical papers. Melchizedek had a mother and father but they are not recorded in royalty tables of genealogy — without genealogical record is the meaning of the Greek word. The historical record is silent regarding the time of his birth. His kingship or his priesthood did not depend upon the possession of a birth certificate, nor do we have a death certificate so that we could see the perpetuation of his royal line. So literally we have, “having neither birth certificate nor death certificate.”
Made like the Son of God means Melchizedek will always be a pattern of Jesus Christ. He is not Jesus Christ; he is a pattern of Jesus Christ (made like). By obscuring his parents, his genealogy, his birth, and his death, the royal priesthood cannot be related to any human factor related to physical birth. This was royalty based on spiritual factors alone and not on physical birth (God gave him the power to become king and appointed him as a priest). This Greek verb made like is never used for exact likenesses or for anything except resemblance. The Son of God is used to describe the deity of Christ in Hypostatic Union.
He abides is a reference to Jesus Christ Who abides perpetually as a priest, not Melchizedek. Abides could better be translated “remains.” Jesus Christ produces the action of the verb not Melchizedek. This is a dogmatic statement that Melchizedek does not function as a priest forever, but Jesus Christ does. He functions as our High Priest for all eternity.
“Now observe how great this man was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest spoils.”
This is a key verse in these passages because it shows the superiority of the Royal Priesthood of the believer in the Church Age. Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek king of Salem. Melchizedek was superior to him in temporal power, and in spiritual attainment. The name Melchizedek means king of righteousness, having to do with his spiritual superiority, and the title king of peace has to do with temporal superiority. The tithe was given from the best spoils, the top of the pile (choicest) in recognition of Melchizedek’s spiritual and temporal superiority. By tithing Abraham recognized the spiritual benefits of being ministered to by Melchizedek.
This was a significant act on the part of Abraham recognizing the superiority of Melchizedek king of Salem, priest of the Most High God (El Elyon). This was Abraham’s positive response to the one who ministered to him in spiritual things — the bread, the wine, the blessing of Genesis 14. Abraham had positive volition; he listened to the teaching of doctrine represented by the bread and wine. The bread and wine were more than a meal to Abraham and Melchizedek. Partaking of bread and wine were a common Old Testament practice when making a covenant between two parties. The bread and wine were a way of showing two things: 1) a covenant made between Abraham and Melchizedek based on their mutual belief in Jehovah (Jesus Christ) and a military alliance 2) a teaching aid used to represent the coming Messiah Who would pay for the sins of the entire world. Remember that a priest (Melchizedek) was a teacher of doctrine. Abraham received the bread and wine entering into a covenant with Melchizedek (probably militarily) based on their mutual faith in Jehovah (an event resembling Communion of the Church Age) and as a sign of acceptance of the teaching of Melchizedek.
“And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest’s office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people that is, from their brethren, although these are descended from Abraham.”
Now we have the contrast to the Levitical priesthood. The Levitical priests were not appointed by God. The office was passed down from their father who was a priest. Most of the priests of Israel were corrupt and there was no guarantee that they were even believers. And they were all descendants of Abraham. So by association through Abraham they too “paid tithes” to Melchizedek before they were even born. Therefore, Christ’s priesthood is superior to any priesthood. (Psalms 110:4)
“But one whose genealogy is not traced from them collected a tenth from Abraham, and blessed the one who had the promises. But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater.”
Here we have even greater proof that Melchizedek was not a theophany of Christ. Melchizedek did not have his genealogy traced from Israel. Therefore, there was no relationship between Melchizedek and the Levitical priesthood; the Levitical priesthood was always subordinate to the Melchizedek type. Once Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek the Levitical priesthood would always be subordinate to Melchizedek’s royal priesthood and by pattern to ours. This was the first time that Abraham had ever been benefited by another country, and the ruler of that country (Melchizedek) who was beneficial to him spiritually. Abraham finally joined something because of the spiritual benefit and because here was the first time he had ever seen a country which actually had divine establishment.
This meeting between Abraham and Melchizedek is extremely important, not only in the immediate life of Abraham but as far as the eternal repercussions are concerned. The phrase “received tithes” means to collect tithes. Melchizedek collected taxes from Abraham — the one whose genealogy is not traced. In verse 3, his father was not on any genealogical table of royalty, his mother was not on any genealogical table of royalty. Melchizedek’s birth certificate has nothing to do with royalty, nor his death certificate. He is not related to royalty by physical birth, he is royalty by conquest. He conquered Salem and held it, and made a great state out of it, one in which Abraham became a part.
Melchizedek was a temporal and spiritual ruler and Abraham listened to his teaching [positive volition] and joined the country of Melchizedek so that Melchizedek’s authority over Abraham was two-fold. The first was the temporal authority of the King of Salem and Abraham became a “citizen of Salem” by paying taxes (tithes). And second, Melchizedek became his spiritual leader as well. So Abraham recognized both the temporal and the spiritual authority of Melchizedek.
Believers in the Church Age, including those in Jerusalem at the time of this writing, are in union with Christ and therefore we are superior to Melchizedek. As a King, the perfect King, the impeccable King, the son of David, and the sovereign God of the universe, He is a King in His deity and in His humanity. This is why He has the title, King of kings and Lord of lords. The moment you believe you are entered into union with the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore you are a part of the royal family, not by physical birth, not by inheritance, not by genealogy, not by any human ability, but strictly on the basis of a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, when God the Holy Spirit enters us into union with Christ we enter not only into the palace, but we enter into our priesthood at the same time. We are a royal household, a kingdom of priests, says 1 Peter 2:9.
It is important to understand that Melchizedek is superior to Abraham. But Christ is superior to Melchizedek. Christ is not Melchizedek, He is infinitely superior. And when Christ is raised above Melchizedek so is the body of Christ raised above Melchizedek. So we are talking about things to which we are totally superior because of our union with Christ. And if we are totally superior then we only have a very simple responsibility in this life and that is to move to the status of superiority which is spiritual maturity — superiority without self-righteousness. This is something these believers in Jerusalem should have understood and were being reminded of by the writer.
Blessed the one means more than saying, “Bless you brother!” The dramatic perfect tense in Greek means he began to teach him. Remember that communication of doctrine is spiritual blessing. He didn’t say “Bless you,” he taught him doctrine. Notice that he taught doctrine to someone who possessed promises and had a great heritage: “the one who had the promises.” Abraham possessed promises, already had a great deal of blessing from God, had the beginning of the covenants of Israel, and he received even more blessing from Melchizedek. You can never have enough doctrine. Even though Abraham kept on having the promises, and even though he was promised many wonderful things, and even though he will be a key person in history, Abraham like everyone else needed one thing: Bible doctrine. Every blessing in life has to be related to doctrine as soul capacity. The more doctrine Abraham had, the more capacity for blessing he had.
The lesser is used for Abraham in comparison to the greater used for Melchizedek. This also sets up a principle of authority. The teacher, Melchizedek blessed Abraham by teaching him Bible doctrine. Melchizedek was superior to Abraham militarily and spiritually and was therefore qualified to teach him.
The superiority of the Royal Priesthood is established over the Levitical priesthood. When the Levitical priesthood is compared to the Royal Priesthood the Levitical priesthood is shown to be inferior. The Royal Priesthood belongs to the Royal Family of Christ while the Levitical priesthood belongs to Israel. The Royal Priesthood of the Church Age is also the bride of Christ while the Levitical priesthood is represented as friends of the groom. The Royal Priesthood is superior to the Levitical priesthood on two counts from this historical meeting of Melchizedek and Abraham. First, Melchizedek blessed Abraham by teaching him doctrine, which shows a greater degree of spiritual maturity. Second, Abraham paid taxes (tithes) to Melchizedek as a sign of citizenship in the kingdom of Salem. So there is both temporal and spiritual superiority represented in the person of Melchizedek.