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Lowell Brueckner

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Greater than Abraham


  (An expository study of the book of Hebrews)

 Chapter 7

1. For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him,

2. to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,”

3.  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.


The person Melchizedek

 We have now left the milk of the basic principles of the doctrines of Christ and are deeply into teaching that is solid food. We have learned of the oath of God towards Abraham and his spiritual descendants. We have studied biblical hope that is anchored within the veil and draws us into the Holy of Holies. Now we come to the teaching concerning Melchizedek, and the writer has already referred three times to him in 5:6 and 10, and in 6:20, quoting each time from Psalms 110:4. In 5:11, he states, “Of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.” This is going to be very solid food.

I think, in this chapter, more than in any other portion in the Bible, the Holy Spirit establishes Scripture, not only as the greatest authority, but as the only authority for Christian doctrine. Under the anointing and inspiration of the Spirit of God, the writer develops a wide range of New Testament truth, regarding the order of Melchizedek, from a total of four Old Testament verses… Genesis 14:18-20 and Psalm 110:4. Taught by the Holy Spirit, he builds upon this foundation, not only upon what these verses say, but what they do not say. We will attempt to delve into a most intriguing study, a beautiful example of a revelation, in which the Spirit opens the eyes of the heart to give spiritual understanding!  

 Every word has significance. He first introduces the name of the person that he is presenting, Melchizedek, and then follows with the titles of his offices, as king and priest. He gives his encounter with Abraham, inserting it into the historical record from the book of Genesis. Abraham had just returned from rescuing his nephew, Lot, and his family from four kings, who had taken them captive. Immediately after Abraham accepts the bread and wine of Melchizedek, he refuses the reward of the king of Sodom. The type is most suggestive and means: Let all those who partake of the bread and the wine, which is the body and the blood of Christ, refuse the world’s offers. I remind you that this is no legend; it is an authentic story, written by the Holy Spirit with the lives of real people. Now the Author points the writer to the details that He placed in the account centuries before (1).


 Melchizedek is a unique name in the Bible and it caught our Hebrew writer’s attention. He knew that it meant king of righteousness. In chapter one, verse 8, he quotes from Psalms 45:6, a messianic Psalm, in which Christ is referenced as God: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.Immediately, he sees in Melchizedek a type of Christ, the King of righteousness.

 The city of Salem in the book of Genesis became Jerusalem later. Sometime after Melchizedek, it was inhabited by the Jebusites and called Jebus. One of the first conquests of King David was to retake the city, understanding, by revelation, its importance in the purposes of God. Isaiah called Jerusalem the Valley of Vision (Is.22:1,5), because in it, prophets, including David and himself, received light concerning the future. Salem means peace, therefore Melchizedek’s title meant, king of peace, another type of Christ, because from Jerusalem, one day Jesus will reign in a kingdom of peace. In Jesus Christ, God offers to mankind reconciliation and peace with Him, and yet maintains His perfect righteousness. At the cross: “Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed” (Ps.85:10).  

 Melchizedek was the king of Salem and he was priest of the Most High God, manifesting in his person, the Priest/King, who was to come. Zechariah 6:13 prophesied of the Messiah, “He shall build the temple of the Lord. He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on His throne; so He shall be a priest on His throne.”  He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords; He is Jesus, the Savior of the world and the anointed Christ (2).

 It was extremely important for Levitical priests to have genealogy. When the children of Israel went down to Babylon, there was no public honor in being a priest. Some did not preserve their genealogical records, but returning to Israel after the captivity, prestige was again given to the priesthood, so they looked in vain for their records. In the time of David, one of the priests married a daughter of Barzillai, a great man, who was kind to David during his exile, driven from the throne by Absalom. That priest preferred that his sons be registered among Barzillai’s descendants and therefore they lost the priesthood. The account in Ezra states: “These sought their listing among those who were registered by genealogy, but they were not found; therefore they were excluded from the priesthood as defiled” (Ezra 2:62). The great patriarchs of various nations have their genealogies listed in the book of beginnings, Genesis. Melchizedek appears and disappears, and the Scripture is silent, not providing any record of his ancestry or descendants, without a birth or a death certificate. 

With only three verses, the Holy Spirit introduces this man to Scripture as a type of the Son of God.  Notice the word like or in some versions resembling in verse 3… made like the Son of God. There is no room for confusion or an opinion that he is a Christophany, an actual appearance of Christ in the Old Testament. However, the writer bases his doctrine, as all doctrine should be based, strictly on the record of Scripture. In the high Messianic Psalm 110, David, great prophet that he was, supernaturally sees the order of Melchizedek and Christ, sworn by the Father into the order in eternity.

4. Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils.

5. And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham;

6. but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises.

7. Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better.

8. Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives.


Melchizedek and Abraham

 The Jew boasted in being the seed of Abraham, the great patriarch of the Hebrew race. He was a powerful cattleman and a warrior that had to be reckoned with. Much more to be considered was his spiritual power as a man, who walked faithfully with God. He was to be the father of many nations through faith. Perhaps the greatest accolade towards Abraham and Israel came from God Himself in Isaiah 41:8: “You, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the descendants of Abraham My friend.”

 It is the writer of Hebrews, who sees the greatness in this man, Melchizedek, who has no genealogy. It is fitting and consistent with the sphere of his divine revelation that he should do so.  His own identity remains a mystery to us and the church, and he is the one, who gives the authorship of the Scriptures solely to the Holy Spirit. He sees irrefutable evidence that Melchizedek is greater than Abraham, which could arguably place him as the greatest man during the entire Old Testament period. He wants his readers, which would include you and me, to consider his greatness and, at the same time, learn the ways of God, who exalts the lowly and humbles the high and mighty.

 The first proof of Melchizedek’s greatness is that he received tithes from Abraham (4). It is a well-established fact in the Pentateuch, the old order, that the sons of Levi were the only ones who qualified for priesthood.  They were sustained by the tithes of all of the tribes that stemmed from the other eleven brothers who, in turn, all descended from Abraham, and this was due to the importance of their office (5). They were totally dedicated to God’s service: “Speak thus to the Levites, and say to them: When you take from the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them as your inheritance…” (Num.18:26).

 Here is one, totally outside the Hebraic line, to whom Abraham gave tithes. Then, we have the second proof of greatness, which is Melchizedek’s blessing upon Abraham (6). The patriarch was in covenant with God, who gave to him and his descendants, the most significant future promises, of which we have learned in the Old Testament. Yet here comes an additional blessing from this priest of Salem and, we learn an irrefutable fact: The less is blessed by the better (7). This is the evidence placed before us of the superiority of Melchizedek, but we still have more to learn about his order of priesthood. Having received tithes from Abraham, he is a type of one superior to any mortal man. This priest stands in the place of an undying, eternal High Priest (8).

9. Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak,

10. for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.

11. Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron?

12. For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.

13. For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar.


Melchizedek and the Levitical priesthood

 We are about to learn a spiritual principle, which cannot be found outside the Bible, but plays an extremely important role in its revelation of God’s ways and thoughts. Levi, says the apostolic writer, paid tithes from the loins of his father (9). Because Levi was still unborn, but would become a descendant of Abraham, actually a great-grandson, he was in the patriarch and is credited with paying tithes through him.

 Does that fact strike us as strange? It is not the only time it occurs in inspired script, in fact it plays a part in some of the most significant principles in the history of the human race. Paul writes, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Co.15:22). It is exactly the same principle! We were in the loins of Adam, when he sinned, and therefore, we sinned through Adam and took the same penalty applied to him. We have no source of genes, outside those received through the first couple on this planet, and therefore everything that applies to those two ancestors, has to apply to us.

 In the case that you might judge this as being unfair, it is one that we must accept, to have any hope of salvation. Please note the counterpart principle: “In Christ all shall be made alive.Is that also unfair? Paul explains the doctrine in Romans, chapter 6. In verse 8, he states, “If we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.” He repeats the very same words to Timothy (2 Ti.2:11). By faith, the death of Christ becomes ours, and likewise His resurrection! He dies no more and we also will live eternally in Him. In Galatians 2:20, the apostle applies the principle to himself personally: “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live…” These verses make perfect sense, when we understand godly thoughts and ways.  

 Having established that essential doctrinal truth, we see Levi paying tithes in Abraham and acknowledging the superiority of the priest/king, along with his order. Levi, in his privileged role, receiving tithes because of his priestly duties, pays tithes to a higher order (10), The Levitical priesthood was not designed to be permanent, and, in fact, was imperfect.

 Perfection, as it is used in verse 11, is that, which God considers to be true. Perfect equals true. We will study a true sanctuary and tabernacle in the next chapter. In John 15:1, Jesus said, “I am the true vine.” All other grapevines that ever existed and exist today are not true vines in the biblical sense of the word. The Father is only perpetually involved with perfection. The Old Testament tabernacle and the temples that followed were not perfect, therefore not permanent. David prophesied in the Spirit of the order of Melchizedek, and not of one to fill the order of Aaron. The writer reasons that the prophecy was necessary, because God didn’t intend for the Aaronic priesthood to be permanent. It was a shadow of things to come.

 The priesthood of Aaron was intrinsically entwined with the Mosaic ceremonial law, proving that the ceremonial law was also imperfect (12). The law strictly stated that no one could become priest outside the tribe of Levi. However, the One, who would fulfill David’s prophecy, was not of the tribe of Levi. No one from the tribe suggested here, ever walked into the temple, tended the lampstand, the table of showbread, or burned incense on the altar. He certainly never went into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for the people (13).

14. For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.

15. And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest

16. who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life.

17. For He testifies: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

18. For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness,

19. for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.


The fleshly commandment and a better hope

 The writer explains his point clearly in verse 14; the prophecy pointed to our Lord, who came from the tribe of Judah and nothing in the Scripture said anything about Judah being a source for priesthood. He did not fit into that order, because God had something else in mind. The unfailing evidence of Scripture pointed to a new Priest in a new priesthood (15).

 Jesus came, not as a representative of Levitical bloodlines, or to attend material furniture in a temple constructed with cedar wood or stones, and decorated with gold, silver, cherubim, pomegranates and palm trees. Paul accused the Galatians of adhering to the flesh, by trying to fulfill the works of the law: “Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” (Gal.3:3). Catch the incomparable contrast with the fleshly commandment… the power of an endless life! Those are shouting words. Hallelujah! No earthly riches or wonders can ever adequately exemplify the matchless glory of the One who came and brought perfection with Him (16). The writer never tires of citing David’s prophecy. We have seen it four times now and he’s not done yet (17). We will ponder it again in this chapter. 

 Law cannot blend with grace. Paul said, “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman” (Gal.4:30). Then he said, “If you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing (5:2). And finally, “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (5:4). The former commandment is annulled; it is weak and unprofitable (18).

 Paul also showed that the law came 430 years after the promise to Abraham. Law was not the first declaration to fall from God’s lips; it was promise. Law is not the ultimate purpose of God; it will be annulled. God works with perfection and the law made nothing perfect, the writer states. God works with hope! Hope is in the nature of God: “The God of hope…that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Ro.15:13). I heard someone suggest that only love will abide forever, but not faith and hope. Not true… hope is bound to the nature of God. You would have to take God out of heaven in order to dislodge hope. The Holy Spirit has already spoken to us of a hope that is anchored in the Holy of Holies and now he announces the bringing in of a better hope. Here is the purpose of God since the creation of the world. He offers eternal-love intimacy with him that we might have communion. He has designed a way, in which we can draw near to Him (19).

 20. And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath

21. (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him: “The Lord has sworn and will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek’”).

22. by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant.

23. Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing.

24. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood.


The oath and endless perfection concerning priesthood

 The Father initiated His Priest into the order of Melchizedek with an oath (20). We will enumerate what we have learned so far about its superiority:

1)      Melchizedek is king and priest before the Most High God.

2)    Melchizedek blessed the patriarch Abra-ham, outranking him in greatness.

3)  Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, showing his higher position before God.

4)      Melchizedek is like the Son of God in that he has no scriptural genealogy, no record of father or mother, no birth or death certificate.

5)      Levi, who is lesser than Abraham, but the human recipient of tithes, paid tithes through Abraham to Melchizedek.

6)      The order of Melchizedek existed before the Levitical priesthood and continued after it, unendingly, signifying perfection.

7)      The law concerning the Melchizedek order was different, ignoring the priesthood, which descended from Levi. Christ entered the priesthood, not by tribal right, but by the law of an endless life.

8)      And now we learn, He entered the order by the oath of the Father (20)… the Lord has sworn and will not relent. We are no longer talking about Melchizedek, but the fulfillment of all that he represented in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 The inspired writer returns again to the mighty prophecy, propounding again its majestic authority and eternal significance (21). Not the pen of a notary, not by the order of the highest court of a world empire, but by authority… that is, the unfailing word, followed by a confirming oath… of the omnipotent, unfailing Lord of the universe, Jesus of Nazareth becomes the guarantor of an infinitely better covenant (Surety or guarantor means one who guarantees that the terms of an agreement will be carried out). Jesus Christ, as the God/Man, assures that the terms of the New Testament will be fulfilled for us for eternity. He sealed the covenant with His blood as the Priest of the order of Melchizedek (22).

 We study multiple points, all of them solidly based on Old Testament Scripture. In verse 23, we have yet another. Every priest that took his place in the Levitical order was prevented by death from continuing. We hinted at this point, writing about the priests in the sanctuary cities. The person who fled to the city came under the protection of the resident priest until that priest died. At that point, he was forced to leave, endangering his life, because of the ‘avenger of blood’. His future was not secured, but was threatened by the priest’s mortality.

 Those who trust this Priest, submitting their lives into His care, are not subject to that danger. No one will take His place, His priesthood is unchangeable, because His office is not limited by death, but is infinite and eternal (24).  The Greek word for unchangeable signifies that it is valid and unalterable. That original word was put at the end of legal contracts. These are Christ’s own words: “Because I live, you will live also” (Jn.14:19).

 25. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

26. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens,

27. who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.

28. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.


Salvation to the uttermost

I don’t know how any writer could state it plainer, simpler or surer. The believer, that is, those who come to God through Him, are given the highest assurance throughout eternity. There are no loopholes in His policy; the Holy Spirit has erased all possible flaws and closed all exceptions or exclusions, eliminating every opposing circumstance that can possibly be imagined. The Levitical priesthood was milk for babes; the perfect priesthood is meat for men, who partake directly from the body and blood of the Lord.

 I will say it again: Your assurance rests, not in yourself, but in your Priest. If you have come to God through Him, He lives eternally to intercede for you. How can His intercession fail?  Are you trusting yourself or your Priest? His sacrifice for sin was once for all, but His intercession is continued forever. He does it at the right hand of the Father in a perfect heaven, where nothing can obstruct or interfere. He is able to save to the uttermost, meaning evermore!

 Let’s take it from the highest source, from the lips of the Word of God made flesh: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (Jn.10:28). Hear His prayer to the Father: “Those whom You have given Me I have kept: and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (Jn.17:12). Is he referring only to the original apostles, or other disciples, who followed Him, as He walked on earth? Let’s just drop down a few verses: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word” (Jn.17:20).

 I see in King Saul that God gave the people all that they were looking for in a leader, head and shoulders above the common man. In the case of the eternal High Priest, God gave us everything that was needed (not that which any human being demanded), appointed Him and swore by Him. A volume could be written on verse 26, but I will try to be concise. It says:

  • He was fitting for us… everything that God knew that we needed for salvation.  He perfectly filled that, which the Levitical priesthood lacked.
  • He is holy… uniquely set apart from before the foundation of the world. There is no one to use as a comparison to show any likeness or similarity to Him.
  • He is harmless… meaning that He is blameless. The Jews had to bring in false witnesses, for no true harm could be found in Him. Pilate said, “I find no fault in Him.”
  • He is undefiled… the spotless, unblemished Lamb of God with no cause deserving of death and therefore, the only one suitable to be sacrificed for sinners.
  • He is separate from sinners… He sat and ate with publicans and other sinners, yet light years would not be measurement enough to describe the moral distance between Him and them.
  • He is higher than the heavens… exalted beyond anything that can be named to equal him. The heaven of heavens cannot contain Him. He is the omnipresent Creator of them all. Yet even these words, and certainly my poor description of them, fall infinitely short of doing Him justice.

Because of these characteristics, He alone could go faultlessly to the cross and bare the sins of mankind. For these reasons and many more, He was a fitting High Priest. The Levitical priests needed to go a minimum of twice a day to the altar of sacrifice and each time offer a lamb. Add to this, the innumerable personal sacrifices brought by the people, then the regular weekly, monthly, and the annual feasts, in which millions of animals were slain over the centuries. All of these were only symbolic, for the weight of sins laid on the Lamb of God was far greater than any mathematical formula could fathom. He, once for all, shed His priceless blood as a ransom, entirely covering the penalty for the world’s transgressions and, as Martin Luther said, “One drop of his blood was enough to cover all the sins of this world and ten thousand worlds beside” (27).


The limitations of the Old Testament shadows and laws could not go beyond the humanity of its priests, but perfection has come. As proclaimed in that majestic Psalm 110:4, God spoke and swore by His word that One, worthy of heavenly perfection, would usher into this world a new, and totally different, priesthood. He has come and brought to us eternal life. The greatness of it all goes far, far beyond my power of conception, but there is some satisfaction, at least, in that I can comprehend my smallness before His excellent purposes (28).


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