Since the fall of Adam, the only way for fallen men to come before God was through a sacrifice which involved shedding of blood because the life of the flesh is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22). The 3 core themes in the Old Testament of the sacrifice offering of a unblemished animal at the altar of the temple conducted by the High Priest are fulfilled through Jesus Christ in the New Testament. However, the problem in the Old Testament was the process had to be repeated because none of the priests were perfect in doing the atoning work which expires. But Hebrews says that Jesus Christ became the perfect offering and is the greater and more perfect temple. And He is also the great High Priest. He is the perfect version of all 3 things (John 2:19-21; Hebrews 4:14; 9:11; 10:14). Jesus Christ is the only perfect atoning sacrifice and High Priest, apart from Him, we cannot have that atonement.
Jesus is the great High Priest. Great in Greek is mega. When applying to a person it means he’s great, the highest and pre-eminent, meaning Jesus is the High Priest from before creation and before even Aaron. Hebrews refers to Jesus coming in the order of Melchizedek, a special order that is different from the order of Aaron. What’s this order of Melchizedek? Hebrews starts by explaining why Jesus qualifies as the High Priest.
1. Jesus Christ is the only High Priest who possesses the true qualifications of the High Priesthood
Jesus meets all the qualifications of a High Priest as outlined in Hebrews 5:1-10. As a representative of the people of God, the High Priest is the one who makes atonement. There are 2 qualifications the High Priest needs to meet:
1) The High Priest must be taken from among men (Hebrew 5:1)
Jesus is God and will not qualify if He remains in spirit. That’s why he came down in the form of man and took upon himself all the weaknesses that we have, but there was 1 difference – He was without sin. Jesus humbled Himself and became obedient even to death on the cross (Philippians 2:6-8). He is the word who became flesh. He is God who in obedience to the Father became man and that is why He qualifies (Hebrews 5:2-3). Jesus meets the first qualification of having to be chosen from among men to become the perfect High Priest.
2) The High Priest must be appointed by God
Hebrews 5:4 says that no one takes the honour of becoming the High Priest himself but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was. Aaron and his descendants became honourable High Priests because they received God’s calling. Jesus was also appointed by God as a “priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:5-6). The difference between Aaron’s order of High Priesthood is its temporal nature, lasting within their lifetimes, while Jesus is the High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
2. As the High Priest, Jesus learned obedience and was made perfect
Hebrews 5:8-9 refers to Jesus as a son, a person in the Trinity. Although He was God, Jesus learned obedience and was made perfect. It does not mean He was not obedient or imperfect before. It means Jesus perfected His redemptive work, of Him being the High Priest through His obedience. Through obedience in suffering Jesus received perfection (Hebrews 5:8).
The ongoing theme in the book of Hebrews is to “pay closer attention to what you have heard”. Likewise, for the word of God to become mine, we need to obey. Obedience makes us understand, allows us to learn the word and put into action what we have learned. It is about applying the Sunday word to our lives from Monday to Saturday.
3. Concerning Melchizedek
1) Melchizedek is mentioned in only three places in the Bible
Genesis 14 records Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek; Psalm 110 records King David’s prophecy that the Messiah will come in the order of Melchizedek and Hebrews 5-7.
2) Why is Melchizedek important?
Melchizedek is the word given to the mature in faith. The Holy Spirit guides us to all truth and its understanding (John 16:12-13), but if we are not at that spiritual level, we will not be able to understand anyway. So let us pray for maturity of faith so that whenever Melchizedek is taught, we will understand.
Verses 12-14 reveal the difference between those who have mature faith and can eat solid food vs those with infant faith who can only take milk. Hebrews 6:1-2 describes the elementary principles as, repentance from dead works, faith toward God, instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. But these are everything we need to know about faith. What then is the higher level? Maturity is to graduate from laying the foundation again. When we finish primary school, do we go back to do it again? No, we continue on to the secondary level to build upon what we had learned in primary school. But Hebrews writes, that many Christians never advance but keep going back to the same teachings again and again, becoming a never-ending cycle.
Solid food is the word of righteousness (Hebrews 5:13-14), which is the word of Melchizedek. Just as we cannot give a baby a hard candy or a piece of steak, he will choke and become seriously ill, likewise, the same applies to spiritual infants who receive the mature word of righteousness. Those who are accustomed to the word of righteousness are those whose spiritual senses are trained to discern good and evil according to God’s standards, and who are thus able to filter out evil, reject and discard it. We cannot do that unless we are trained. And training is usually difficult, that is why it is called suffering. But let the sufferings that we go through become training that will perfect us. Whether the sufferings are caused by our own sin or not, let us go through it with prayer. Suffering allows us to come closer to God and teaches us the ability to discern and filter out good and evil within us. It is not about others’ right or wrong but our right and wrong towards God so that we can repent, reject what is evil and only keep the good.
What is the significance of discerning good and evil? God knows good and evil, yet has the ability to divide and swallow up evil with good. But ever since Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, mankind does not have the ability to discern between the two. Instead, good was swallowed up by evil and what remained was evil. That is why Hebrews says that the word of Melchizedek has to be learned through obedience. Obedience to the Word allows good to swallow up evil.
May this take place in all members of Zion Church and our families. Let us pray that God will give us that maturity that we will be able to digest the solid food, that we will be able to learn the word not just hear the word and that through obedience that our spiritual senses would be trained. Hebrews 5:9 says that Jesus learned obedience and that obedience brought him suffering, but even through that he obeyed and he was made perfect so that he may give eternal salvation to those who not only believe but to those who obey. May we become people who will receive eternal salvation. How? We believe, hear and obey. May we live our lives to obey the word of God and before we know it I believe that we will be mature enough to understand and digest the word of Melchizedek.