Monthly Archives: May 2015

KING OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

“You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek,” Psalm 110:4

Hebrews chapter seven can be difficult to understand. This chapter presents Jesus as a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. Were you aware that Hebrews is the only book in the Bible where Jesus is called a High Priest, Hebrews 3:1, 7:26 and 8:1? Check it out and you will see that this is true. Who was Melchizedek? We know he was a king and priest but was he a man? Was he an angel? Some believe he was manifestation of Christ in the Old Testament? For certain, he was a type of Christ.

We first meet this great king and priest during the days of Abraham. Read Genesis 14:14-17. In the entire Old Testament he is only mentioned twice. He is mentioned in Genesis and in Psalm 110:4, a psalm of David, (cited above). In the New Testament Melchizedek is mentioned in Hebrews 5:6, 5:10, 6:20, 7:1, 7:10-11, 7:15, 7:17. Those citations in chapters 5 and 6 quote Psalm 110:4. For such an important Old Testament King and priest, we are not given very much information. The teaching found in Hebrews chapter seven must be studied very carefully because it can easily be misunderstood. If you have studied this passage in the past you will likely acknowledge that it is difficult to comprehend. I confess that I have often been confused by this important passage of scripture.

Over the years I have bounced back and forth in my efforts to understand it’s meaning. In recent weeks I read an explanation of Hebrews chapter seven from a commentary on Hebrews written by Arthur W. Pink. It has helped me immensely. I think he is right on target when he defines Melchizekek as a human being just like other High Priests in history.

SOME BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Before going any further into our study of chapter seven it is important to consider the writer’s purpose in writing the book of Hebrews. The book of Hebrews was written to warn Jewish Christians against forsaking Christianity and going back to the Law of Moses. The book presents the superiority of Jesus and the New Covenant by presenting the following truths:

  1. Jesus is superior to the angels, Chapters 1-2.
  2. Jesus is greater than Moses, Chapter 3:1-6.
  3. Jesus delivers a greater (promised land) than the one delivered by Joshua, 3:7-4:13.
  4. Jesus is a greater priest than Aaron, 5:1-6:20
  5. Jesus’ High Priesthood is after the order of Melchizekek, 7:1-28.
  6. Jesus offers a better covenant than the one given to Moses, 8:1-13.
  7. Jesus’ kingdom offers better ordinances than Moses Law, 9:1-10.
  8. Jesus offers true redemption through His perfect sacrifice (His blood), 9:11-10:18.
  9. Do not forsake the new covenant – endure – Don’t shrink back to destruction. 10:19-39.
  10. Examples of faith from ancient worthies, 11:1-40.
  11. Do not grow weary because of earthly trials, 12:1-17.
  12. Jesus established a better kingdom, 12:18-28.
  13. Some requirements for those in Jesus’s kingdom, 13:1-24.

This outline is my own and it clearly shows that the Hebrew writer was encouraging Jewish Christians so they would not go back to Judaism. When the book was written the Christians were suffering persecution from both Jewish leaders and from Rome. It appears they were considering a return to their former religion with the expectation they would have more peace and comfort. The book of Hebrews shows that the Way that Jesus brought to us is far superior to the one delivered to Moses. The Old Covenant has been removed and we live under the New Covenant that brought us salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ our Lord.

The emphasis of Hebrews is: Do not go back to your former religion – Stay the course! It is only through the one who is better than angels, better than Moses, better than Aaron and Joshua who can save us from our sins. Only the great High Priest after the order of Melchizedek (Jesus) was able to offer the greatest sacrifice for sin. The old ways are over and the new covenant has come. When times are difficult, stay the course. Going back to your former way of life is not the answer. Jesus is the answer! That is the thrust of the book of Hebrews.

THE KINGLY PRIEST

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.” Hebrews 7:1-3.

The word “Melchizedek” is not a name but a title. It means “King of righteousness”. During Abraham’s day he was King of Salem, meaning “peace”. This city is none other than Jerusalem. The term “Jeru” means city. Thus, through the passing of time, Salem came to be known as Jerusalem.

The greatness of Melchizedek is seen when Abraham, “the friend of God” and the one through whom Christ was to come, gave a tenth part of everything to this King. Thus this man, the king of peace, who was not descended from Abraham, was greater than the patriarch Abraham, Hebrew 7:7-10.

So far so good, Right? However, the meaning of verse three gives great difficulty to those of us who attempt to explain what it means. Arthur Pink (mentioned above) gives great insight when he explains this verse. Basically, the difficulty comes when one misunderstands just what the writer is talking about in verse three. Here it is again, He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever,” Hebrews 7:3. According to Pink, this verse is not talking about the person of Melchizedek but it is speaking of his office as high priest. This helpful observation helps us understand the verse more clearly. It is the priesthood of Melchizedek is eternal not his person.

Under the Law of Moses the Levite priests (and High Priests) had to be of the lineage of Aaron. Otherwise they could not serve. Thus from Aaron onward it was necessary to establish one’s father or mother or genealogy in order to serve. Without such proof they could not serve as priests. Read Ezra 2:62 to see some of the difficulties among the priests who returned to Jerusalem after the 70 years of Babylonian captivity. Those who could not prove their pedigree were excluded from serving.

However, when God placed Melchizedek as a High Priest He did so without any consideration of his genealogy. Hebrews 7:3 points out the difference between the Levitical priesthood and that of the King of Salem. The priesthood of Melchizedek was not dependent upon his lineage. In that sense his office was without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life. No one preceded him as High Priest and no one followed him after he was gone. This made his priesthood perpetual. Consequently, he is a type of the Son of God who continues as a priest forever. The office Melchizekek is what continues forever in the book of Hebrews not his physical life.

Some people interpret verse three to mean that Melchizedek was an angel. It is evident that the King of righteousness was not an angel. Read my blog from last week on angels and you will learn that angels were created beings. Those who interpret Hebrews 7:3 to teach Melchizedek was an angel use the lack of genealogy as a proof text that he was not a man. However, since angels were created this argument fails completely. Yes, there was a time when there were no angels. God created them sometime before He created the earth.

There are others who believe that Melchizedek was some sort of Divine being. Perhaps he was even Christ Himself. Hebrews 7:3 states Melchizedek resembled “the Son of God he continues a priest forever.” Note the text says, “resembling” and not that he “was” the Son of God. It is more likely that the phrase merely means he is a type of Christ. While we all want to know the meaning suggested by this verse, it is irreverent to speculate on areas where the Bible is silent, Deuteronomy 29:29.

Since Melchizedek was not an angel or some other Divine being, who was he? Do we have biblical evidence that Melchizedek was a man? Yes we do. Reading Hebrews 5:1 completely destroys all arguments that Melchizedek was not a human being like the rest of us. “For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.” Read the text again! It says, every high priest chosen among men is appointed to act to behalf of men in relation to God”. Melchizekek was a High Priest. He was chosen among men. Therefore he was a man, a human being. “See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils”, Hebrews 7:4. Based on the verses cited our conclusion it is evident that Melchizedek was a man. The Bible verses mentioned confirm this reasonable conclusion.

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THE HEAVENLY HOST

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares,” Hebrews 13:2

Throughout the ages, even among religious people, there has been controversy over the existence of angels. Some say “Yes” and others say “No”. Even in the days of the apostles this difference of opinion was a real issue. When Paul was arrested in Jerusalem he brought up the existence of angels in his argument to the Jewish leaders. The Sadducees did not believe in angels while the Pharisees did. This issue caused a heated debate among them and they lost sight of their purpose in bringing the Apostle to trial.

The fact is, angels do exist. Jesus declared this truth in Matthew 22:30 when the Lord informed the Jews that dead people do not marry but “become like angels in heaven”. For me, that settles the issue. Angels DO exist. There is no biblical evidence that people who die become angels. Jesus said the dead become like angels – not they become angels. The Bible is full of angelic appearances in both the Old and New Testaments. Lets look at Scripture to see evidence that angels do exist, to learn their origin and to discover some of the work they do.

BIBLICAL EVIDENCE THAT ANGELS EXIST

Below are some examples of the appearance of angels found in the New Testament.

  1. An angel appeared to Mary, the mother of Jesus, announcing the birth of Christ, Luke 1:21-36.
  2. An angel appeared to Joseph to inform him of the origin of Mary’s pregnancy, Matthew 1:20.
  3. Angelic beings appeared to some shepherds when Jesus was born, Luke 2:8-14.
  4. The apostle Peter was delivered from a prison cell by an angel, Acts 12:7-11.
  5. Jesus once said that He could call more than 12 myriads of angels to deliver him from being arrested by the Jews, Matthew 26:53. According to Holman’s Illustrated Dictionary a myriad in the time of Christ consisted of six thousand, exclusive of horsemen, who were in number a tenth of the foot-men.” That would be more than 72,000 angels by His side. The important part of the passage is that Jesus acknowledged the existence of angels.
  6. On the day Jesus rose from the dead, an angel stood at the tomb to announce the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, Matthew 28:1-6. Luke 24:4 informs us of the appearance of two angels on resurrection morning.
  7. The second coming of Jesus will be announced by an archangel and the sound of a trumpet, 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

There are many more appearances of angels in the New Testament in addition to those listed here. We have not looked at any of the angelic appearances from the Old Testament. You might want to research some of them in your Bible concordance. Angels were actively delivering God’s message to men in both the Old and New Testaments. Beyond any doubt, the Bible presents the truth that angels exist. Where did they come from?

BIBLICAL EVIDENCE GOD CREATED ANGELS

When God created this world there was joy in heaven, Job 38:4-7. Who did the rejoicing? According to Job 38:7, “All the sons of God shouted for joy”. The NIV says “All the angels of God”. The NRSV says “heavenly beings shouted for joy”. Since creation is being addressed in this verse it seems evident that it was the angelic host who shouted for joy. Therefore, angels were already in existence when God created the world.

“You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you,” Nehemiah 9:6. The heaven of heavens speaks of the place where the heavenly host dwells. The phrase “host”, “host of heaven,” and “heavenly host” refers to, or at least includes, angels.

Colossians 1:15-17 provides more confirmation that angels are created beings. From this passage we learn that by Jesus “all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible”. This passage clearly says things in heaven (Including angels) were created. It appears that angels were created sometime before God created the physical universe in which we live. As we have already seen, the heavenly host rejoiced when God exercised His mighty creative power.

While God created the angels, He also created man who is a “little lower than angels,” Hebrews 2:7. These messengers of God are not eternal in the same sense that God is eternal. That is evident from the fact that there has never been a time when God did not exist. However, there was a time, sometime before the creation of the earth, when angels did not exist.

THE WORK OF ANGELS

Angels are messengers of God. The Hebrew word “angel” means: “messenger”. To be a messenger presents their major assignment. That is, to deliver messages to men. Therefore, it is not surprising to see, that throughout history, angels often came to earth from heaven to deliver messages of importance to key people of God. Angels came to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and a host of Old Testament believers. Angels also appeared to Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, the wise men, Paul, Peter, and other people of the New Testament era.

Angels are “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation,” Hebrews 1:14. I doubt we know all of the areas where angels minister to God’s people today. Jesus informs us that little children have angels in heaven, Matthew 18:10.

Another major work of angels is praising God. Revelation 4:4 clearly says they never cease to say “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty”. In Revelation 19:1-5 the angels say hallelujah to God for punishing the wicked. Angels are real and they have many responsibilities to accomplish before God and man.

While angels often made earthly appearances there is no Biblical evidence that any one of them ever lived on earth for an extended period of time. The Bible is silent on that subject so we dare not make unfounded conclusions on the topic. Many times men realized when an angel appeared to them. On other occasions they did not know that an angel was in their presence, Hebrews 13:2. Here is what we know for sure:

  1. God created the angels.
  2. Therefore, angels do exist.
  3. Angels have work to do in heaven and on earth.
  4. Men do not always know when an angel appears before them, Hebrews 13:2.

PSALM 103:20-22

“Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word,

obeying the voice of his word! Bless the Lord, all his hosts,

his ministers, who do his will! Bless the Lord, all his works,

in all places of his dominion.

Bless the Lord, O my soul!”  

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IS CHRIST YOUR LIFE

COLOSSIANS – LESSON SEVEN

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:1–4 (ESV)

Of all the statements found in the book of Colossians this is my favorite. Every time I read these verses my heart is touched with the awesomeness of Jesus Christ. I also stand in awe of the progression of spiritual life one can achieve when he has been raised with Christ. The words of the song, “This world is not my home” well expresses the expectation of those who are faithful children of God.

“This world is not my home, I’m just a passing thru.

My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue;

The angels beckon me from heaven’ open door,

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”

The assurance expressed by Paul in Colossians 3:1-4 begins by reminding us that we have been raised with Christ. He is not speaking of the great resurrection day when Christ returns and the dead bodies will be raised from the dead, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. He is speaking of the resurrection of our sinful soul, an action that occurs when we are baptized (immersed) into Christ. “Having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.” Colossians 2:12 (ESV). You might want to read Romans 6:1-7 to better understand the type of resurrection being discussed by Paul in our passage, Colossians 3:1-4.

Here are some thoughts prompted by Colossians chapter three that cause my spirit to soar:

  1. Seek the things that are above: 3:1. The word “seek” is the Greek word ζητέω zēteō meaning “demanding, inquire, strive to find”. It looks to me like the Lord expects us to expend a lot of effort looking for heavenly things. When we are new in the faith we are like babies. We naturally seek the spiritual milk of the word so that we may grow up in the Lord, 1 Peter 2:2. My wife and I had 4 children. Two of them were twins. When they were babies they seemed to become hungry at the same time. So, in the middle of the night they would cry out loudly demanding someone feed them. Only milk could supply their needs. That is how it should be for the newly converted Christian. Actually, all of us should continually seek for the milk and the meat of God’s word. We should demand satisfaction for our spiritual hunger just like a newborn babe. Once full we are content. However, before long we are hungry again – and again – and again!
  1. Finding Christ: 3:1-2. When we seek the things that are above we will find the place where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Jesus Christ our Lord must reside in the center of our heart. When we seek the things that are above we will not find just a place but a Savior. No wonder the child of God seeks to find the manifold blessings of God in the heavenly places. We live in this world but worldly things are not what we seek. We seek to find Christ.
  1. Jesus is everything to the Christian: 3:3-4. Consider the following: “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain,” Philippians 2:21. Does that verse describe you? It should!
    1. ESSENCE: The essence is the smallest particle of something. It is the core that makes something what it is. Jesus is the essence of our life. The Christian’s life is so bound up in Christ that we can say, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me,” Galatians 2:20. Jesus Christ becomes our everything!
    2. MODEL: Jesus is the model to the Christian. We seek to imitate the perfect example given by the Lord. He left us an example to follow and we seek to do just that! “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ,” 1 Corinthians 11:1. The word “Imitators” comes from the word, μιμητής mimētēs. We get the word “mimes” or “mimics” from this word. We are not content to profess His name. We want to be just like Jesus in every way.
    3. GOAL: How powerful is it to say, “for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”? Can YOU say that? When someone is your life you devote everything you have towards pleasing and serving that person. No wonder Jesus said, Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:37-39. Think about the demands of this relationship. Strive to achieve such a relationship with Jesus.
    4. REWARD: The person who hides his life in Jesus Christ will also appear with Him in glory! This is the greatest prize of all. This reward only comes to the one who finds the essence, who follows the model that has been given, who sets as his goal to die to self and to hide his life in Christ. The reward is only fully realized when we go to be with the Lord. “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life,” Revelation 2:10.

Here is how Paul felt about giving the effort that was needed to receive the prize: ”But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ . . . 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:7-8; 9-14.

The apostle Paul penned some magnificent thoughts in Colossians 3:1-4. Of course, they were given to him by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Thank you, dear God, for giving us such a clear and powerful passage explaining our need to seek the things that are above. These things will equip us so that we can make Jesus our everything. How about it? Will you join me in the quest to “die” to self and make Christ Himself our life? It will be worth the effort. Those who overcome will “eat of the Tree of Life which is in the paradise of God”, Revelation 2:7.

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THE MYSTERY REVEALED

COLOSSIANS – LESSON SIX

I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”  Colossians 1:25b–29 (ESV)

The apostles of Christ were given the glorious task of revealing of the mystery of God to mankind. Each of the apostles was charged to reveal the hidden message of God to an unbelieving world. The word, “mystery” in the Greek language is μυστήριον (Musterion meaning: a mystery or secret doctrine). Peter, was the first to reveal the mystery to the Gentiles, Acts 15:7, yet his primary duties were among the Jews. Gal 2:7 informs us that Peter was the apostle to the circumcised (Jews) and Paul to the uncircumcised (Gentiles). Thus, while each of the Apostles had the glorious privilege of revealing the mystery of God to the people of the First Century, they seem to have had special areas of responsibility.

Concerning the mystery, we learn that, in times past, the prophets who spoke and the angels who heard wondered when and how the prophetic utterances of the prophets would come to pass, 1 Peter 1:10-12. Until the establishment of the church the gospel message was a mystery both to the angels in heaven and to the humans on earth.

Paul told the brethren in Ephesus, “the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit,” Eph 3:4-5. Because Paul taught them the whole counsel of God they were able to understand the mystery of Christ. In Ephesians the mystery was “that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel,” Eph 3:6. He declared the whole counsel of God to them and they did understand the message.

From Colossians 1:25-29, we learn that Paul’s stewardship was to make the word of God fully known. He did not leave out any teachings that God wanted us to know. Here is what we can learn about the mystery from our passage in Colossians:

  1. The mystery is no longer hidden. It has been revealed, Col 1:25-26.
  2. God included the gentiles in the message of salvation, Col 1:27.
  3. The Gentiles could also have “Christ in them, the hope of glory”, Col 1:27.
  4. The teaching of the gospel message is of value to warn sinners and to equip everyone with all wisdom, Col 1:28.
  5. Understanding the mystery makes one mature in Christ, Col 1:28.
  6. Paul wore himself out in his efforts to declare the powerful message of the Gospel, Col 1:29.

Most of the people alive today need to hear and understand the mystery of God. Many have never heard the message. Others, like the Ethiopian eunuch, do not understand what they read, Acts 8:30-31. It is our job to explain the word of God to them. We, like the Christians of old, need to wear ourselves out in our attempts to teach Christ’s message to those who do not understood the mystery. Below are some important statements from Paul that show us how diligently he taught the message to those who never heard. PAUL SAID:

“How I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house,” Acts 20:20 (ESV).

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed,” 1 Corinthians 15:10–11 (ESV).

“Continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to all creation under heaven, and of which I Paul, became a minister,” Col 1:22b-23.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could truly say, “I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God,” Acts 20:26-27. It is God’s plan to use people who believe to reveal the mystery to other people. It is the only plan God has. Rise up, Oh church, and proclaim the message.

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