HOW GREAT THIS MAN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-26-59 7:30 p.m.
Will you turn with me to Hebrews chapter 7? The title of the sermon is How Great This Man. Hebrews 7. We shall read the first four verses, and the text is the first part of verse 4: "Now consider how great this man." Do you have it? Hebrews 7:1-4 – let us read it together:
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 by interpretation "king of righteousness," and after that also king of Salem, which is "king of peace,"
Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God, abideth a priest continually.
Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.
And the text again: "Now consider how great this man" [Hebrews 7:4]. The dimly revealed figure of Melchizedek is in every partinfinitely sublime. There is but one historical reference to him in the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis [Genesis 14:17-20]. Then a thousand years later, he is referred to, in the power of the Holy Spirit, by David who says: "The Lord Jehovah hath sworn in an oath and will not change, ‘Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek’" [Psalm 110:4]. Just for a moment does he appear, then he’s gone. A thousand years still later, the author of this epistle to the church of the Hebrews uses him as a type, a symbol, of the greater Son of God [Hebrews 7:1-4].
"But consider how great this man" Melchizedek [Hebrews 7:4]. He was great in the combination of his offices. He was a priest and a king [Hebrews 7:1]: first, being by interpretation "king of righteousness," Melchizedek, and after that,king of Salem which is melek shalom, "king of peace" [Hebrews 7:2] – a priest of God and a king in the presence of the Most High.
History has confirmed that it is always better for the political and the spiritual offices to be separated. And in the history of the Israelitish nation, that separation between king and priest was vigorously and rigorously observed.
In the twenty-sixth chapter of the Second Chronicles is told the story of the sovereign king Uzziah who stepped across the sacred barrier, seized the censer of the priest, and entered into the Holy Place [2 Chronicles 26:16-19]. And when he did so, the curse of leprosy rose on his brow; and they pointed to the king and said, "Behold, he is a leper" [2 Chronicles 26:20-21].
That was rigorously obeyed – the separation between the offices of king and priest.But in Melchizedek, those two offices are sacredly, by God’s appointment, combined because he is a picture of Jesus Christ who has the regal scepter in His hand and the sacerdotal censer [Hebrews 7:17]. He is a King: born a king [Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11], reigns in heaven [Matthew 28:18-20], and someday shall reign in the earth [Revelation 20:1-6].He is a King [Luke 23:3]. He is a Priest [Hebrews 4:15]: our great Mediator [1 Timothy 2:5] and Intercessor in glory [Romans 8:34] – Jesus, the greater Melchizedek [Hebrews 6:20, 7:17].
"Consider how great this man" [Hebrews 7:4]. He was great in the power of his benedictions. Abraham was greatly blessed, but when Abraham met Melchizedek, instinctively, the great patriarch knelt downbefore the king of Salem. "And without all contradiction, the less is blessed of the better. He that had received the promises blessed him that possessed them" [Hebrews 7:7, 6]. This man Melchizedek blessed Abraham, and Abraham was blessed of God [Genesis 14:18-24].
And the author here says that when Abraham knelt before Melchizedek, Abraham represented – as the federal head of the Hebrew people – all of God’s chosen and elect race [Hebrews 7:9-10]. And when Abraham bowed in the presence of Melchizedek, Judah bowed, Levi bowed, Aaron bowed, all the priesthood bowed, and all the family of the children of God. He was great in the power of his benedictions, and it is thus of the greater Melchizedek. It is with joy and with gladness that the child of God bows the knee and names the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.
"Consider how great this man" [Hebrews 7:4]. He was great in the uniqueness of his offices. "Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God abideth a priest continually" [Hebrews 7:3].
This man, Melchizedek, received the functions of his office from no predecessor. He shared them with no contemporary, and he bequeathed them to no successor. He abode unique, separate, apart and alone: without father, without mother, without descent [Hebrews 7:3]. Agenealogētos: he had no genealogy here in the Bible. He suddenly appears, unique and alone, the great king and high priest of God [Genesis 14:18].
In that unique ministry alone, without rival, without contemporary, without fear, without equal, he is made like unto the Son of God whose great high priesthood is unique and alone and unrivaled by the oath and the promise of God: "Inasmuch as not without an oath He was made priest" [Hebrews 7:20]. For those priests were made without an oath but this Man with an oath by Him that said: "The Lord hath sworn and will not change, ‘Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek’" [Hebrews 7:21]. That is, the priesthood of Christ is final and conclusive and unchangeable and abides forever. Heaven and earth may pass away [Matthew 24:35], but the ministry and the office of the high priesthood of Jesus Christ as our Mediator and as our Intercessor will never change [Hebrews 7:21].
"Consider how great this man" [Hebrews 7:4]. If Melchizedek is so great, and so majestic, and so sublime, how much more the prototype, the anti-type, the archetype: "for he was made like unto the Son of God" [Hebrews 7:3].
Behold here, how great a depth. For when Paul sought to enter into the mystery of the person of the Son of God, he said, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the knowledge and the wisdom of God! His judgments are past finding out and His ways are unsearchable!" [Romans 11:33]
How many times does Paul, in seeking to describe the sublimity and the majesty of the Son of God, say that His knowledge and His love passeth all knowledge and understanding? [Ephesians 3:8] We are in the same case as the scholar who says, "I have learned, and I have learned, and I still am a learner." We’re in the same case as the angels who, on either side of the mercy seat, look full upon the altar of God [Exodus 25:17-22].
So with us: in our posture we look and we look and we look, looking unto Jesus, and after we have studied and probed and compared and ferreted and found out, there is still that much more to study and to know and to ferret and to find out. We are like the greatest preachers in all the earth. After they have done their utmost and their best, they still fall far short of the unsearchable mystery of the glory of the Son of God. It is like holding a candle to the sun for a man to seek to describe the purity and the excellence and the work of Jesus, our Lord.
"Consider how great this Man" [Hebrews 7:4]. You have in your Bible, in italics, the word "was." That means the translators have placed it in the Book. "Consider how great this Man" – how great He is, how great He was, how great He used to be, how great He shall be – the Ancient of Days [Daniel 7:22], He who liveth forever.
"How great this Man" [Hebrews 7:4]: great in His person, Jesus, the Son of God. The God-Man Christ Jesus – not a divine man, not a human God. He is neither one nor the other, but He is the God-Man: perfectly man and infinitely God. The two natures are invisibly combined in Him, yet both are distinct. He was a man growing, gathering strength [Luke 2:40, 52], suffering, dying [1 Peter 2:21-24], in all points tried as we are [Hebrews 4:15] – a man. But in no part of His life was He any less divine, was He any less deity itself [John 20:28; Titus 2:13]. He combined in one person and in one nature both God and man [Philippians 2:5-8; Colossians 2:19], an inscrutable mystery into which no one could ever enter, yet fully revealed in the Word of God.
"Consider how great this Man" [Hebrews 7:4]. He was great in His birth. All of us have been conceived in sin and shapen in iniquity [Psalm 51:5], but Jesus the Son of God was immaculately conceived: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name ‘Immanuel, God is with us’" [Matthew 1:23]:
The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the highest shall overshadow thee;
Wherefore, also, that Holy Thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."
And the Lord said: "And let all of the angels worship Him" [Hebrews 1:6]. The hosts of heaven stood on tiptoe waiting for that marvelous incarnation. And the wise men came from afar [Matthew 2:1-9], forgot the fatigues of their weary journey to lay at His feet their treasures of gold and frankincense and myrrh [Matthew 2:10-12]. The humble shepherds came and adored before His manger [Luke 2:8-18]. Simeon, Anna could not depart until first they had seen the Son of God [Luke 2:25-38]. All heaven and all earth was moved at the incarnation of the Prince of Glory.
"Consider how great this Man" [Hebrews 7:4]. He was great in His character [Luke 22:42], in the motive and purpose of His life [John 5:30, 6:38]. He was gentle and kind, never little and mean [Matthew 12:15-21]. In His condescension, He was majestic, and in His unselfishness, He was a breath of heaven itself [Philippians 2:3-8]. There was always a naturalness and an artlessness about Jesus. It is inconceivable to think of our Lord as playing a part, His life altogether open and transparent.
If the authors of the gospels had written until they filled the earth with the library of books describing Him, they would never have recorded a single unworthy deed. His life was pure like the driven snow [1 Peter 1:19], holy like the light of God [John 14:9; Hebrews 1:3], altogether worthy [Revelation 5:9, 12]. When you compare Alexander the Great [356-323 BCE], dying in a drunken brawl at thirty-three, or how poor a sight does Napoleon [1769-1821] make compared to the Son of God, or any other of the great who have stormed across the pages of the history of the world, He is unique and alone.
"How great this Man" [Hebrews 7:4]. Wherever you view Him,in any part of His life, He is always sublime: in the trial in the wilderness [Matthew 4:1-2] victorious over Satan and temptation [Luke 4:1-13], asking Him questions in the crowd to destroy Him [Mark 12:13-34], He is always wise and godly.
In the agony in the Garden,
Ever one more yielded than He?
Dying on the cross, did a tree
Ever hold against its breast
When Jesus is least, He is greatest. In the darkness, He shines the brightest. In death, He destroys death [Hebrews 2:14]. In the sepulcher He burst the bonds of the grave.
"Consider how great this Man" [Hebrews 7:4]. He is great in His atoning death. All of the prophets and the sages and the seers of the generations and the millenniums pointed unto Him. "Abraham rejoiced to see His day, and he saw it and was glad" [from John 8:56]. All of the rituals of the people of God were types of the bleeding sacrifice of Jesus our Lord:every lamb that was offered, every bullock that was slain [Hebrews 8:4-5]. Every part and piece of the tabernacle and the ritual service were pictures of the great Son of God [Hebrews 9:1-14]: the censer that pictured the pouring up of the prayers of God’s people in His name [Leviticus 16:12-13; Revelation 8:3]; the veil in the Temple and in the tabernaclerent through which we could see into the Holy of Holies – the sanctuary of God – a picture of our entrance into heaven through the rending, the tearing, the crucifixion of His flesh [Exodus 26:31-37; Chronicles 3:14; Matthew 27:51; Hebrews 6:19-20, 10:19-20]. All of it, ancient type and ritual and ceremony, pictures of the infinite Son of God. And that sacrifice is all-sufficient and all-meritorious and all-efficacious for the washing away of the sins of the world [1 John 2:2].
Adam was the federal head of the race, and in him we all died [1 Corinthians 15:21-22]. We have inherited from him a propensity and affinity for evil and guilt that curses and damns and destroys us all. But there is another Man, a representative Man, a greater Man.
"How great this Man" [Hebrews 7:4]. "And the Lord laid upon Him the iniquity of us all" [Isaiah 53:6], and the Lord exacted of Him the penalty that otherwise would have meant to us an eternal damnation in hell [John 5:24; Colossians 2:13-14]. And He paid with His life and with the travail of His soul all of the injustice, and iniquity, and wrong, and sin of the whole human race [Isaiah 53:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21].
So did God look upon His Sonand was pleased in His atoning sacrifice [Isaiah 53:10]. That thousands of years before the sacrifice was made, on the bare promise that Jesus would die for the sins of the world, God saved and forgave all of the saints who were ever saved in the Old Testament [Isaiah 53:1-12; John 8:56]. That He would come, that He should die: "As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One many are made righteous" [Romans 5:19].
God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing unto them their sins, and has committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
God hath made Him to be sin for us, Him who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.
[2 Corinthians 5:19, 21]
"Consider how great this Man" [Hebrews 7:4]. Consider how great He is in the power of His enduring life. And I cannot speak for I am blinded by the sun. What eloquence could a man summon? What poetry could he quote? What song could he sing? What word could he say? What sentence could he frame to describe the everlasting, the resurrected, the immortal life of Jesus, the Son of God? "He is not here; He is risen, as he said" [Matthew 28:6]. "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" [1 Corinthians 15:22]. "Christ, the firstfruits of them that have slept, and afterward, we at His coming" [from 1 Corinthians 15:20, 23].
This I say unto you, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
But, I show you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed –
we shall all be changed –
For the trump shall sound, and the dead in Christ shall rise first . . .
Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written:"Death is swallowed up in victory."
[from1 Corinthians 15:50-54]
All the gifts of the resurrection – of the triumph of Jesus over death and the grave – what shall I speak in describing His ascension into glory when He was raised from the dead and returned back to the heaven from whence He came? [Acts 1:9] "He hath led captivity captive and hath given gifts unto men" [Ephesians 4:8] – the outpouring of the Holy Spirit from His gracious hands [Acts 1:8; Ephesians 4:4-7]. The power of regeneration, of illumination, of sanctification, here given to us in the church in the name of the Son of God: "Leading captivity captive, giving gifts unto men" [Ephesians 4:8].
"Consider how great this Man" [Hebrews 7:4]. And what shall I say of His enduring ministry in glory? "Seated at the right hand of the Majesty on High, upholding all things by the word of His power" [from Hebrews 1:3]. By His sentence, we live or we die [Revelation 20:11-15]. According to His judgment and elective purpose, our lives are lived in His sight [Psalm 139:1-12].
"Consider how great this Man" [Hebrews 7:4] before whom all the angels adore and worship forever [Hebrews 1:6], before whom all of the saints who have preceded us bow in adoration and worship, and before whom, someday, "every knee shall bend . . . and every tongue shall confess that He is Christ and Lord, to the glory of God the Father" [Philippians 2:10-11]. When John saw Him in glory, he fell at His feet as one dead [Revelation 1:17].
How shall it be of us? We have but seen the skirts of His garments for the full vision of the glorified Christ is unsearchable and unknowable and unfathomable [Isaiah 6:1-5; Matthew 17:1-9]. Oh the depths, the depths, the depths – oh the depths of the riches of the grace of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord! [Ephesians 2:4-7]
"Consider how great this Man" [Hebrews 7:4]. And He is as full of light as the sun, as full of grace as the presence of God, and His heart is extended toward us: how great, how near, how exalted, how precious, how able and mighty, how humble and dear, our Lord, the King of glory, the God of peace. In the days of His flesh, He was full of forgiveness [Mark 2:5; Luke 23:34] and kindness and benediction: touching the eyes of those who couldn’t see [John 9:1-7], raising from the dead those who had lost their lives [Luke 7:11-15], preaching to the poor the gospel of the hope of heaven [Matthew 11:5].
And He hasn’t changed [Hebrews 13:8]. The eyes that are blind in the soul, there does He bring the light of heaven [Ephesians 1:17-19]. The souls that are lost and dead in sins He brings the promise of immortality and resurrection [John 11:25-26]. And to these who are poor, ruined, lost in despair, without hope, He preaches the glad tidings of the good news that God lives and reigns and loves and saves [Matthew 9:11-13]. And He does so tonight, here now with us, with you. Come. Come. Come.
If you’re in this balcony round and you’venever confessed your faith in Jesus as Lord, would you do it tonight? On this lower floor, a family you or one somebody you, while we sing this song and make appeal, would you give your heart to Jesus tonight, coming into the fellowship of His church? "The whole family, pastor, here we are and here we come." Or just one somebody you, as the Spirit of God shall lead the way and open the door, would you make it tonight?
Is He able to save us? "How great this Man" [Hebrews 7:4]. Is He able to keep us? "How great this Man." Is He able to wash all of our sins away? "How great this Man." Will I see Him someday in heaven? "Consider how great this Man."
Trust your case to Him [1 Peter 5:7]. Come. Come. Come. While our people prayerfully, earnestly, sing the song, it’s for you. It’s for you. It’s for you; come. Come, while we stand and while we sing.
HOW GREAT THIS MAN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Consider how great this man, Melchisedec
A. Only one historical reference to him (Genesis 14:18-20)
1. A thousand years later, David refers to him(Psalm 110:4)
2. Another thousand years later, author of Hebrews uses him as the type and symbol of the greater Son of God
B. Great in the combination of his offices
1. Both king and priest
a. History has confirmed it is better for political and spiritual offices to be separated
b. In Israel, that separation rigorously observed(2 Chronicles 26:16-23)
2. In Melchisedec they are sacredly combined – a picture of Jesus Christ
C. Great in the power of his benedictions(Hebrews 7:6-7)
1. Abraham was greatly blessed, but instinctively knelt before him
2. Abraham representedall of God’s chosen race
D. Great in the uniqueness of his ministry(Hebrews 7:3)
1. Appointment by an oath of God(Hebrews 7:20-22)
II. If Melchisedec so great, how much greater the archetype, the Son of God
A. Here is a great deep(Romans 11:33-36)
1. How great He is, was, used to be, shall be
C. Great in His person – the God-Man Christ Jesus(Hebrews 4:15)
D. Great in His birth(Psalm 51:5, Luke 1:35, Matthew 1:25, Hebrews 1:6)
E. Great in His matchless character
F. Great in His atoning death (John 8:56)
1. All the rituals of the people of God were types of His sacrifice
2. He is the representative Man(Isaiah 53:6, Romans 5:19, 2 Corinthians 5:19, 21)
G. Great in the power of His resurrected life(Matthew 28:6, 1 Corinthians 15:20, 22, 50-54, Ephesians 4:8, Hebrews 1:3, Philippians 2:10-11)