For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;
Melchisedec a Type.
I. What is meant by King? what by Priest? what is the idea of Kingship and of Priesthood? (1) The idea of Kingship was to some extent announced in the creation of Adam. A King is a man in the image of God, who represents upon earth God Himself, and unto whom, direct from God, without the intervention of any other, there is given power and dominion, that he may will according to the mind, according to the goodness and wisdom of God. (2) By priesthood is meant communion with God—that which brings unto man the love of God—that which brings unto God the worship and service of man. It need scarcely be added that Kingship and Priesthood cannot exist without Prophetship; for how can there be rule in the name of God, or how can there be a mediation of the love of God to man, and of our worship and obedience to God, unless there be in the first place a manifestation of God Himself, a revelation of His character? Christ is Prophet, Priest, and King.
II. Melchisedec, greater than Abraham, is also greater than the Levitical priesthood, and is thus a type of Christ, who is above Aaron, and whose priesthood is perfect.
III. Melchisedec appears in the inspired history as a priest solely by Divine appointment and right. His priestly dignity is personal; his position is directly God-given; his priesthood is inherent. Look now at the fulfilment. Jesus is the everlasting Father. The very Scriptures which describe Him as a Child born, as a Son given, which dwell on His humanity, declare to us His eternal divinity. He has no beginning of days, no end of life. His is now a continuous, not a successional priesthood; not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an eternal, an indissoluble life.
A. Saphir, Lectures on Hebrews, vol. i., p. 363.
References: Hebrews 7:1-19.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 356. Hebrews 7:1-28.—R. W. Dale, The Jewish Temple and the Christian Church, p. 136.
Hebrews 7:2The King of Peace.
I. All words are relative, and there is sometimes a deep and solemn lesson in their relativeness. The very naming the name of peace presupposes that there has been war, and what a tremendous fact lies in that simple inference! Man is at war with his Creator. It is over all this widespread field of war that the King of Salem has in His infinite grace stretched His sceptre, making the very ground of the battle the base and throne of the empire of His peace. The position of contending parties required an arbiter. He added the human nature to the Divine, that in His twofold being, laying his hand upon both, He might act the Day's-man's part, and unite man to God.
II. But His work ceased not here. He rose from His cross to the heavens, and as the sunken sun by the heat which it leaves covers the earth with dews, so did the Saviour, hidden from us for a little while, shed and distil on our world, from within the veil, the gentle influences of His peace-giving spirit. The secret warfare goes on indeed in the heart of every Christian, but then here is his comfort—the issue is secure. It is not as with the earthly warrior. There are no uncertainties here: his crest may stoop, but it cannot be conquered; the battle may often flag during the day, but he must win in the evening. There are many things which the world can give you: it can give you amusement; it can give you excitement; it can give you pleasure; but it can never give you peace of mind—no, not for an hour. Peace—all Salem is Christ's exclusively; by legacy from His cross, by deed of gift from His throne, He has made it over to us—"Peace I leave with you"; the more peace you take the better subject you are of that kingdom which is called Salem. Every fear is rebellion against its King. Nothing honours Christ like the peace of His people—peace is Salem's loyalty.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 2nd series, p. 15.
Righteousness first, then Peace.
I. First, we find in this order a hieroglyphic of Christ's reconciling work.
II. I see in this order a summary of Christ's operations with the individual soul. There is no inward harmony, no peace of heart and quietness of nature, except on condition of being good and righteous men.
III. I see in this order the programme of Christ's operations in the world.
IV. I see in this order the prophecy of the end. The true Salem, the city of peace, is not here. For us and for the world the assurance stands firm—the King who Himself is righteousness is the King whose city is peace.
A. Maclaren, The Unchanging Christ, p. 214.
References: Hebrews 7:2.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx., No. 1768; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 283. Hebrews 7:4.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi., No. 1835; Homilist, 2nd series, vol. i., p. 80; Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 232.
Hebrews 7:15-16The Power of an Endless Life.
The idea of a priesthood appears to have entered largely, if not universally, into the economy of the human race at all times. Before Christ came, men were under the priesthood of the law; since His advent, He Himself has become their priest. There is, of course, a wide and characteristic difference between these priesthoods; a difference as wide as that between the finite and the infinite: the mortal and the immortal: the temporal and the eternal. About the first there is the inexorable hardness of the cold, dead statue; in the second there are warmth, heart, life, and freedom. This difference is in exact accordance, not merely with the nature of the two priesthoods, but with their purposes. The one, being natural, took cognisance only of the outward, and adapted itself accordingly, so that it became "the law of a carnal commandment." The other repudiates this law, and takes cognisance of the inner life, and touching the motive-spring of spiritual aspirations, adapts itself to immortal requirements, and so becomes made "the power," or force, or impulse "of an endless life." The one supervises the carnal, the other the spiritual. The one guides the body, the other presides over the soul.
I. The emphatic word of the text is not "endless," but "power"—"the power of an endless life." The human soul does not float about in a serene equipoise of eternal mediocrity, but it grows and gathers strength with the ages. This growth must not be overlooked because it is latent and unseen. The soul is a nucleus or germ or kernel of an illimitable possibility.
But the implication of the text would seem to point to some monstrous perversion of the power of the endless life, to some mad, insensate, infatuated, wasting away of its power. Yes, it does take cognisance of some such fact, for it was the existence of this wreck which made a need-be for the intervention of the Great High Priest to whom the text refers. One of the most emphatic lessons which the Redeemer ever taught when on earth was propounded categorically, was put in the form of a question, and the question was this: "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" The very fact of Christ putting such a question implies a recognition on His part of the tendency in man to underrate his soul, and to make mistakes in his computation of his value. And the selfsame cause which leads us to underrate our soul leads us to set aside redemption as a scheme or as a theory too prodigious for belief. We think these little souls are not worth so much, and we will not believe the scheme of salvation, because we will not rightly value the immortality to be saved. We must never look upon heaven as a condition of stationary mediocrity, and we must think ourselves into the conception of an eternal growth, a perpetual expansion: not merely everlasting existence, but everlasting enlargement. And having mastered this colossal idea, we must gauge our need by our capacity, and we must gauge Christ's work by both; not by our present capacity, but by our capacity after the lapse of ages, when they shall be grown with the eternity.
A. Mursell, Penny Pulpit, New Series, No. 150.
Hebrews 7:15-28I. The Apostle announces a great principle in the words, "The law made nothing perfect." There was not a single point in which the law reached the end, for the end of the law is Christ. The imperfection of the law appears in these three points especially—(1) The forgiveness of sin; (2) Access unto God was not perfected under the old dispensation; (3) They had not received the Holy Ghost as an indwelling spirit. The law made nothing perfect. For perfection is true, substantial, and eternal communion with God through a perfect mediation, and this perfect mediation we have obtained in the Lord Jesus Christ.
II. Look at the contrast between the priests of the Levitical dispensation and this priest according to the order of Melchisedek. They were many: He is only one. Their priesthood was successional—the son followed the father: Christ has a priesthood which cannot be transferred, seeing that His life is indissoluble. They were sinful, but He is holy, pure, and spotless. They offered sacrifices in the earthly tabernacle: He presents Himself with His blood in the true sanctuary, which is high above all heavens, which is eternal. Christ, in virtue of His priesthood, can save completely (in a perfect, exhaustive, all-comprehensive manner) all who through Him come to God, because He ever liveth to intercede for them.
III. This peace or communion with God must combine three things: (1) The mediation must go low enough. A ladder is of no use unless it comes down exactly to the point where I am. (2) It must go high enough: it must bring me into the presence of God. (3) It must go deep into our very hearts. As we are brought unto God, so must God be brought unto us, for the Christ that lives for us must also live in us.
A. Saphir, Lectures on Hebrews, vol. i., p. 397.
Hebrews 7:16The Power of Christ's endless life.
I. The first thought is the power which this endless life has of communicating itself. The very idea of such a life brings with it an inspiration and hope. Even if it were said that the idea is only the offspring of the soul of man, is it not a ground of hope that his soul has the power of forming such ideas? To conceive of eternity is so far to be partakers of eternity. We share what we see. But the power of Christ's endless life does more than communicate the hope of it to others, it gives the possession. When the original well of life was tainted and poisoned by sin, He came to open up a new and pure fountain. He secures for us a pardon consistent with righteousness, without which it could have brought no real life. He begins a new life in the soul, which has hard and manifold struggles with the fierce reluctances of the old nature. He encourages, strengthens, renews it, and at last makes it victorious.
II. Think (1) of the power Christ has in His endless life of conveying knowledge and experience. Death is the one great barrier between man and growth. (2) Note the sense of unity in Christ's plan, which we may derive from the power of His endless life. God has been pleased that the greatest enterprise the world contains should not be passed from hand to hand; it is not to flicker to and fro amid the gusts of grave-vaults, but to be in the power of an endless life. There are two things secured for the unity of Christians by Christ's unending life. The first is a oneness of heart and sympathy. The other unity is that of action. (3) Think how the power of Christ's endless life may fill us with the spirit of patience. (4) The power of Christ's endless life opens the prospect of abiding joy. The power of His endless life is still engaged in works like those which occupied Him on earth, but in grander measure and in wider fields; and what He offers to all who will accept it is a joy, not like His, but a joy the very same. It is the joy of knowledge, of purity, of holy, happy service in doing God's will, in self-sacrifice, itself continued in self-forgetfulness, for without this the joy of heaven would be less than the joy of earth.
J. Ker, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 34.
Hebrews 7:16I. That Christ's life was and is "an endless life" needs no demonstration. He died—but death is no cessation of life. At the very moment He was dying—in the article of death—His own mind was willing it, His own act was doing it, His own priesthood was presenting it; and the very moment He was dead He had converse with one who died with Him; and He went at once and "preached to the spirits in prison"; and it was His own hand and His own power that raised Himself out of His grave after three days. And we know how careful God has been to identify that one risen, crucified life on through the forty days,—ascending before the same eyes that had been familiar with Him all along,—seen by at least three, the very same Son of Man in His glory, and then distinctly heard saying in heaven, "I am He that liveth and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore. Amen." So true is the prophecy, "Of the increase of His government and priesthood there shall be no end."
II. Now all the while that Christ was upon the earth He must have carried with Him the consciousness that everything He said and did was the beginning of its own eternity. Each thing had in it the germ of its own immortality. It was to go on and expand for ever and for ever. There is a deep, mystic sense in which the life that Christ lived in this world—its birth, its infancy, its development, its temptations, its solitude, its conflicts, its sufferings, its miracles, its joys, its holiness, its love, its dying, its rising, its soaring: all is enacted over and over again in the soul and in the experience of every individual that lives in time, nay, beyond time into eternity.
III. But the efficacy of the power of Christ's endless life does not stop here. It is the marvel of His grace that whatever is united to Christ, by that union shares His power; and hence, it is not only His prerogative—it is yours and mine—"the power of an endless life." We are all learning a little of Divine truth. It is but the simplest elements we know; and we know them very poorly. But what we know is the beginning of knowledge. I shall hold it, I shall build upon it in another state; and every new lesson I get is another step of the ladder by which I go ascending in knowledge for ever and ever. We try, in our little way, to do something for God. What is it? Of itself nothing. But it is the actual commencement of those very exercises in the service of God which will occupy and fill our perfected condition for ever.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 4th series, p. 205.
References: Hebrews 7:16.—Homilist, 3rd series, vol. ii., p. 199; S. A. Tipple, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxv., p. 382. Hebrews 7:17.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xii., p. 11; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. vi., p. 333. Hebrews 7:19.—E. White, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 312. Hebrews 7:20-22.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii., No. 1597. Hebrews 7:23-25.—Ibid., vol. xxxii., No. 1915; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 357. Hebrews 7:23-28.—Ibid., p. 358.
Hebrews 7:24-25The intercession of Christ the strength of our prayers.
Christ intercedes for us chiefly in two ways.
I. First, by the exhibition of Himself in His Divine manhood, pierced for us, raised, and glorified. His five blessed and holy wounds are each one a mighty intercession on our behalf. The glorious tokens of His cross and passion, exhibited before the throne of God, plead for us perpetually. His very presence in heaven is in itself an intercession for us. His sacrifice on the cross, though perfected by suffering of death only once in time, is in its power eternal. Therefore it stands a Divine fact, ever present and prevailing, the foundation and life of the redeemed world, before the throne of God.
II. But, further, we are told in Holy Scripture that He intercedes, that is, that He prays for us. This is a vast mystery of inscrutable depth. As God, He hears our prayers; as our Intercessor, He prays in our behalf. While He humbled Himself "in the days of His flesh," He prayed as a part of the work He had to do; it was for the accomplishing of the redemption of the world; for the blotting out of the sin of mankind. This prayer of humiliation passed away with the sharpness of the cross, to which it was related, of which it was the shadow. The prayers which He offered, being yet on earth, were a part of His obedience and suffering to take away the sin of the world. All this, therefore, is excluded from His intercession now in heaven. When He entered into the holy place He left all these tokens of infirmity outside the veil. What then remains? There remains yet both His intercession as the High Priest, and as Head of the Church, for the body still on earth. And in this there is nothing of humiliation, but all is honour and power; it does not cast a shade upon the glory of His Godhead, unless it be humiliation for the Word to be incarnate at the right hand of God. There is here (1) a great warning for the sinful. Christ's intercession is day and night prevailing over the kingdom of the wicked one. (2) Great comfort £0 all faithful Christians. We should (a) make the intercession of our Lord the measure of our prayers. (b) Make His intercession the law of our life. We ought to be what He prays we may become.
H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. iii., p. 255.
References: Hebrews 7:24, Hebrews 7:25.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 269. Hebrews 7:24-28.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 372.
Hebrews 7:25Salvation to the uttermost.
I. Christ Jesus is able to save to the uttermost: for there is no degree of guilt from which He cannot save. It would be a hard question to decide which is the worst form of human guilt. But we owe it to the power and grace of Immanuel to repeat that broader than human transgression is the Divine atonement.
II. But not only can Jesus save to the uttermost extent of depravity,—He can save to the uttermost hour of existence. Both truths may be abused, and both will be abused, by the children of wrath, by those who because of abounding grace continue in sin. But still we must state them, and up to the last moment of life Jesus is able to save.
III. Jesus saves to the uttermost, because He saves down to the lowest limits of intelligence.
IV. Jesus can save in the utmost pressure of temptation. He saves to the uttermost, for He ever intercedes; and but for the intercession faith would often fail. No sheep can be snatched from the bishop of souls; and interceding for the poor panic-stricken one who has ceased to pray for himself, the Saviour brings him back rejoicing—saved to the uttermost.
V. And Jesus saves to the uttermost because, when human power can proceed no further, He completes the salvation. "Lord Jesus, into Thy hands I commend my spirit," has been the oft-repeated prayer of the dying Christian in clearer and more conscious hours. And "Father, I will that this one whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am" had been the Mediator's prayer for him not only before he came to die, but before he was born. Is not this the Saviour whom we need? the mighty Advocate of whom alone it is said, "Him the Father heareth always," whose intercession has all the force of a fiat, and whose treasury contains all the fulness of God.
J. Hamilton, Works, vol. vi., p. 242.
Christ our only Priest.
I. Gross profanement and abandonment of our Christian privileges and duties has flowed directly from the superstitious error of making a broad and perpetual distinction between one part of Christ's Church and another; of making Christian ministers priests, and putting them between God and the people, as if they were to be in some sort mediators between God and their brethren, so that He could not be approached but through their ministry. The profaneness has followed from the superstition according to a well-known fact in our moral nature, that if the notion be spread, that out of a given number of men some are required to be holier than the rest, you do not, by so doing, raise the standard of holiness for the few, but you lower it for the many.
II. And, therefore, there is no truth more important, and more deeply practical, than that of Christ being our only Priest; that without any other mediator or intercessor or interpreter of God's will, or dispenser of the seals of His love to us, we each of us, of whatever age, sex, or condition, are brought directly into the presence of God through the eternal priesthood of His Son Jesus: that God has no commands for any of His servants which are not addressed to us also; has no revelation of His will, no promise of blessings, in which every one of Christ's redeemed has not an equal share. We all, being many, are one body, and Christ is our Head; we all, through no aid of any one particular person of our body, draw near through the blood of Christ to God. Where two or three are gathered together in Christ's name there is all the fulness of a Christian church, for there, by His own promise, is Christ Himself in the midst of them.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iii., p. 86.
References: Hebrews 7:25.—H. J. Wilmot Buxton, The Children's Bread, p. 79; Todd, Lectures to Children, p. 54; J. Sherman, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 70; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ii., No. 84; W. Cunningham, Sermons, p. 224; J. Aldis, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 161; H. W. Beecher, Ibid., vol. xxix., p. 210; Homiletic Magazine, vol. vii., p. 23; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 9; Ibid., vol. x., p. 78. Hebrews 7:26.—Ibid., p. 147; W. Pulsford, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 329.
To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;
Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.
Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth 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.
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?
For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
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.
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 a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.
For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof.
For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.
And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest:
(For those priests 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 for ever after the order of Melchisedec:)
By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.
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 also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;
Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.
For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.