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7. Melchizedek the Priest

1For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of God Most High, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2to whom also Abraham divided a tenth part of all (being first, by interpretation, King of righteousness, and then also King of Salem, which is King of peace; 3without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God), abideth a priest continually. 4Now consider how great this man was, unto whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth out of the chief spoils. 5And they indeed of the sons of Levi that receive the priest's office have commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though these have come out of the loins of Abraham: 6but he whose genealogy is not counted from them hath taken tithes of Abraham, and hath blessed him that hath the promises. 7But without any dispute the less is blessed of the better. 8And here men that die receive tithes; but there one, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. 9And, so to say, through Abraham even Levi, who receiveth tithes, hath paid tithes; 10for he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchizedek met him. 11Now if there was perfection through the Levitical priesthood (for under it hath the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should arise after the order of Melchizedek, and not be reckoned after the order of Aaron? 12For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. 13For he of whom these things are said belongeth to another tribe, from which no man hath given attendance at the altar. 14For it is evident that our Lord hath sprung out of Judah; as to which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priests. 15And what we say is yet more abundantly evident, if after the likeness of Melchizedek there ariseth another priest, 16who hath been made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life: 17for it is witnessed of him,

Thou art a priest for ever

After the order of Melchizedek.

18For there is a disannulling of a foregoing commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness 19(for the law made nothing perfect), and a bringing in thereupon of a better hope, through which we draw nigh unto God. 20And inasmuch as it is not without the taking of an oath 21(for they indeed have been made priests without an oath; but he with an oath by him that saith of him,

The Lord sware and will not repent himself,

Thou art a priest for ever);

22by so much also hath Jesus become the surety of a better covenant. 23And they indeed have been made priests many in number, because that by death they are hindered from continuing: 24but he, because he abideth for ever, hath his priesthood unchangeable. 25Wherefore also he is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. 26For such a high priest became us, holy, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; 27who needeth not daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people: for this he did once for all, when he offered up himself. 28For the law appointeth men high priests, having infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was after the law, appointeth a Son, perfected for evermore.

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26. For such an high priest, etc. He reasons from what is necessarily connected with the subject. These conditions, or qualifications, as they commonly say, are of necessity required in a priest — that he should be just, harmless, and pure from every spot. This honor belongs to Christ alone. Then what was required for the real discharge of the office was wanting in the priests of the law. It hence follows, that there was no perfection in the Levitical priesthood; nor was it indeed in itself legitimate, unless it was subservient to that of Christ; and, doubtless, the external ornaments of the high priest indicated this defect; for why were those costly and splendid vestments used with which God commanded Aaron to be adorned while performing holy rites, except that they were symbols of a holiness and excellency far exceeding all human virtues? Now, these types were introduced, because the reality did not exist. It then appears that Christ alone is the fully qualified priest.

Separate from sinners, etc. This clause includes all the rest. For there was some holiness, and harmlessness, and purity in Aaron, but only a small measure; for he and his sons were defiled with many spots; but Christ, exempt from the common lot of men, is alone free from every sin; hence in him alone is found real holiness and innocency. For he is not said to be separate from us, because he repels us from his society, but because he has this excellency above us all, that he is free from every uncleanness. 125125     Christ as a priest was “holy” with regard to God; “harmless,” or innocent, or guileless, according to Chrysostom, with respect to men; “undefiled” as to himself, morally so, as the priests under the law were so ceremonially; “separate,” or separated “from sinners” removed from their society to another place, and “exalted higher than the heavens.” There is an allusion to the Levitical high priest, especially in the three last words, and a contrast in the two last; the Levitical high priest continued among sinners, Christ is removed from them; the former entered into the holy of holies, the latter has entered into a place higher that the heavens, even the heavens of heavens. How immeasurable is the superiority of our high priest! — Ed.

And we hence conclude, that all prayers, which are not supported by Christ’s intercession, are rejected.

It may, however, be asked as to angels, whether they are separate from sinners? And if so, what prevents them from discharging the offices of the priesthood, and from being our mediators with God? To this there is an easy reply: — No one is a lawful priest, except he is appointed by God’s command; and God has nowhere conferred this honor on angels. It would then be a sacrilegious usurpation, were they, without being called, to intrude into the office; besides, it is necessary, as we shall presently see at the beginning of the next chapter, that the Mediator between God and men should himself be a man. At the same time the last thing mentioned here by the Apostle is abundantly sufficient as an answer to the question; for no one can unite us to God but he who reaches to God; and this is not the privilege of angels, for they are not said to have been made higher than the heavens. It then belongs to Christ alone to conciliate God to us, as he has ascended above all the heavens. Now, these words mean the same as though Christ were said to have been placed above all orders of creatures, so that he stands eminent above all angels.




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