Hebrews 7:1-3 gives some fascinating ideas about the priesthood of Melchizedek as follows: “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, 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,” 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.” We know, because the author of Hebrews spends more than a chapter talking about it, that Jesus Christ is the high priest in the order of Melchizedek, and that this is a very big deal. The question, though, is whether or who else currently serves as a priest in the order of Melchizedek. As is the case frequently with mysteries in the Bible, this is a contentious issue.
And it is contentious for at least two reasons. This past Sabbath, I spent some time with some friends talking after midnight up in Tacoma, and among the many interesting biblical subjects that came up within our discussion was the matter of women not being considered as priests in the Hebrew scriptures. And it is surely true that women did not officiate at the temple during the priesthood of Aaron. There seemed to be an assumption, though, that the priesthood of Aaron was relevant to what happens in Christianity, and that is an assumption I think is too often unexamined. It should be noted, for example, that in Ephesians 4:11-16, there is a notable and obvious office that is missing among the New Testament church: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” We should note that while some have been given to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, there is no one listed as having been made a priest.
Nor does this appear to be an accidental omission. After all, Paul said the following in Romans 12:1 concerning our reasonable service to God: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” It was the job of the priests of Aaron to offer up sacrifices to God that were holy and acceptable to God during the operation of the tabernacle and temple system. We know that they did not always do their job faithfully but that the office was theirs to fulfill, until it is mentioned in Hebrews 7 that a new order of priesthood, or rather, a very old one, has superseded it. Even within Judaism the Levites and cohenim (priests) have a negligent place, to say nothing of Christianity, where some religious traditions have priests chosen, like those of Jeroboam, from the families of others, while others consider all believers to be their own priests before God. But what does the Bible say? How does the Bible define the priesthood of Melchizedek and what sets it apart from the priesthood of Aaron?
We find the answer, not surprisingly, in Hebrews 7:23-28, which tells us about the priesthood of Melchizedek: “Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 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. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 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. 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.” By this standard, Jesus Christ is the only one qualified at present to be a priest in the order of Melchizedek. Certainly no human minister can qualify under this standard–for where we can we find people who will not be prevented by death from continuing in their priesthood, who are holy and harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, who do not need Christ’s sacrifice to cover their own sins before they can offer up sacrifices for other people, who have no weaknesses and who are higher than the heavens? Such people do not exist here on earth. Only Jesus Christ, Yeshua ben Yahweh, the anointed one, our Lord and Savior, however you want to call him, meets the standard at present to be a part of the priesthood of Melchizedek.
It is said that we are a kingdom of priests and a holy nation–per 1 Peter 2:9-10. And so we are. The same was true of ancient Israel in Exodus 19:5-6, and they never fulfilled the role of kings and priests because they never set a godly example of obedience before the world. Yet it remains true as well that we expect to receive our territory to rule upon the return of Jesus Christ, when we who are believers here and now will have entered into eternal life and will therefore be qualified to serve as priests in the order of Melchizedek along our savior and high priest. But that time has not come yet, and so for the present, there have been no human beings qualified to serve as part of the priesthood of Melchizedek, which means that arguments about the relevance of the Aaronic priesthood to believers today have limited relevance, at least for the present.