A comparison between the priesthood of Melchizedec and that of Christ. (1-3) The excellence of Christ's priesthood above the Levitical priesthood is shown. (4-10) This is applied to Christ. (11-25) The faith and hope of the church encouraged from this. (26-28)
Verses 1-3 Melchizedec met Abraham when returning from the rescue of Lot. His name, "King of Righteousness," doubtless suitable to his character, marked him as a type of the Messiah and his kingdom. The name of his city signified "Peace;" and as king of peace he typified Christ, the Prince of Peace, the great Reconciler of God and man. Nothing is recorded as to the beginning or end of his life; thus he typically resembled the Son of God, whose existence is from everlasting to everlasting, who had no one that was before him, and will have no one come after him, in his priesthood. Every part of Scripture honours the great King of Righteousness and Peace, our glorious High Priest and Saviour; and the more we examine it, the more we shall be convinced, that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
Verses 4-10 That High Priest who should afterward appear, of whom Melchizedec was a type, must be much superior to the Levitical priests. Observe Abraham's great dignity and happiness; that he had the promises. That man is rich and happy indeed, who has the promises, both of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. This honour have all those who receive the Lord Jesus. Let us go forth in our spiritual conflicts, trusting in his word and strength, ascribing our victories to his grace, and desiring to be met and blessed by him in all our ways.
Verses 11-25 The priesthood and law by which perfection could not come, are done away; a Priest is risen, and a dispensation now set up, by which true believers may be made perfect. That there is such a change is plain. The law which made the Levitical priesthood, showed that the priests were frail, dying creatures, not able to save their own lives, much less could they save the souls of those who came to them. But the High Priest of our profession holds his office by the power of endless life in himself; not only to keep himself alive, but to give spiritual and eternal life to all who rely upon his sacrifice and intercession. The better covenant, of which Jesus was the Surety, is not here contrasted with the covenant of works, by which every transgressor is shut up under the curse. It is distinguished from the Sinai covenant with Israel, and the legal dispensation under which the church so long remained. The better covenant brought the church and every believer into clearer light, more perfect liberty, and more abundant privileges. In the order of Aaron there was a multitude of priests, of high priests one after another; but in the priesthood of Christ there is only one and the same. This is the believer's safety and happiness, that this everlasting High Priest is able to save to the uttermost, in all times, in all cases. Surely then it becomes us to desire a spirituality and holiness, as much beyond those of the Old Testament believers, as our advantages exceed theirs.
Verses 26-28 Observe the description of the personal holiness of Christ. He is free from all habits or principles of sin, not having the least disposition to it in his nature. No sin dwells in him, not the least sinful inclination, though such dwells in the best of Christians. He is harmless, free from all actual transgression; he did no violence, nor was there any deceit in his mouth. He is undefiled. It is hard to keep ourselves pure, so as not to partake the guilt of other men's sins. But none need be dismayed who come to God in the name of his beloved Son. Let them be assured that he will deliver them in the time of trial and suffering, in the time of prosperity, in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment.
The apostle having made mention of Melchizedek in the latter part of the preceding chapter, proceeds in this to give some account of him, and of the excellency of his priesthood, and to show that Christ is a priest of his order, and is superior to Aaron and his sons. He first declares what Melchizedek was, that he was both king and priest; he names the place he was king of, and tells whose priest he was, even the priest of the most high God; and goes on to observe what he did, that he met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, that he blessed him, and took tithes of him, Heb 7:1,2 and then interprets his name, and royal title, the one signifying king of righteousness, the other king of peace; that for anything that can be learned from the Scriptures, it is not known who was his father or his mother; what his lineage and descent; when he was born, or when he died; and that he is like to the Son of God, and continues a priest, Heb 7:2,3 upon which the apostle calls upon the Hebrews to consider the greatness of his person; and as it appears from that single instance of his receiving tithes from the patriarch Abraham, Heb 7:4 by which it is evident, that he is greater than the Levites; and which is demonstrated in the following particulars: the Levites received tithes of their brethren that came out of Abraham's loins, as they did, but Melchizedek, whose descent was not from them, received tithes from Abraham himself, and besides blessed him; and it is a clear case, that the lesser is blessed of the greater, Heb 7:5-7 the Levites were mortal men that received tithes, but a testimony is bore to Melchizedek, that he lives, Heb 6:8 yea, Levi himself paid tithes to Melchizedek, since he was in the loins of his father Abraham when Melchizedek met him, and took tithes of him; and therefore must be greater than Levi, Heb 7:9,10. And next the apostle proves the imperfection of the Levitical priesthood from this consideration, that there is another priest risen up, not of the order of Aaron, but of the order of Melchizedek, of which there would have been no need, if the Levitical priesthood had been perfect; nor would it have been changed, as it is, and which has also made a change of the law, by which it is established, necessary, Heb 7:11,12 that the priest that is risen up is not of the order of Aaron, is clear, because he is of another tribe, even of the tribe of Judah, to which the priesthood did not belong, Heb 7:13,14, and that he is of the order of Melchizedek, and so not according to the ceremonial law, but after the power of an endless life, is manifest from the testimony of the sacred Scripture, Heb 7:15-17 which lies in Ps 110:4 and that the ceremonial law, on which the Levitical priesthood stood, is changed and abrogated, is strongly asserted, and the reasons of it given, because it was weak and unprofitable, and made nothing perfect; and this was disannulled by Christ, the better hope brought in, who has made something perfect, and through whom we have access to God, Heb 7:18,19. Moreover, the superior excellency of Christ's priesthood to the Levitical one is shown in several particulars; the priests of Aaron's order were made without an oath; Christ was made with one, as is evident from the above cited testimony, Heb 7:20-22 they were many, he but one; they were mortal, and did not continue, he continues ever, having an unchangeable priesthood, Heb 7:23,24 wherefore, as they were not suffered to continue by reason of death, their priesthood was ineffectual; they could not take away sin, and save sinners; but Christ is able to save to the uttermost all that draw nigh to God by him, as a priest, and that because he ever lives to complete his office by intercession, Heb 7:25 wherefore such an high priest as he is, must become men, and be suitable to them, especially since he is pure and holy, and in such an exalted state, Heb 7:26 and this is another difference between him and the priests under the law; they were men that had infirmity, and were guilty of sins themselves, and so had need to offer for their own sins, and then for the sins of others; but Christ, the Son of God, who was consecrated a priest for evermore, by the word of the oath, had no sin of his own to offer sacrifice for, only the sins of his people, which he did once, when he offered himself, Heb 7:27,28.