July 19th, 1959 @ 10:50 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-19-59 10:50 a.m.
You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled This Melchizedek. In our preaching through the Bible—and we have been preaching through the Bible now over fourteen years—in our preaching through the Word of God, we have come to the seventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews. And it begins Hebrews 7:1:
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 remainder of the chapter is about Melchizedek. I would suppose that there is no subject in Scripture that has had more investigators, nor a subject in Scripture that has had more conclusions drawn than these many expositors and scholars who have probed into this mysterious character called Melchizedek.
He is mentioned, but three times in the Bible. The first time he appears as a historical person. The second time, he is mentioned as a type of prophecy. And the third time, he is mentioned here as a doctrinal disposition.
The first time that he is mentioned is in the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis, the eighteenth through the twentieth verses:
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the Most High God.
And he blessed Abram, and said, Blessed be Abram of the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth:
And blessed be the Most High God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And Abram gave him tithes of all.
That is the whole appearance: nothing more, nothing else, nothing besides—just that! The second time he is mentioned is in Psalm 110 and the fourth verse: “The Lord (Jehovah) hath sworn, and will not change, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” [Psalm 110:4]. Melchizedek had disappeared from history for more than a thousand years. Then the Holy Spirit opened the eyes of David, the covenant king, and revealed to him that his greater Son should be a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek; and this by the Lord God Jehovah, who hath sworn it in an oath [Psalm 110:4].
Then he disappears again for another thousand years. And the next time he appears is in this passage in the Book of Hebrews. He is named in Hebrews 5:10: called of God “an High Priest after the order of Melchizedek.” He is named again in the last verse of the sixth chapter: “…Even Jesus, made a High Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” [Hebrews 6:20]. Then the entire seventh chapter [Hebrews 7:1-28] is about this unusual king: “For this Melchizedek… without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually—for ever” [Hebrews 7:1-3].
Now the purpose of the author of this letter to the Hebrews is to discuss a subject that is treated nowhere else in the Bible; namely, the high priesthood of Jesus our Lord. He is writing to a little group of Jewish Christians who worship in the temple in Jerusalem. He is seeking to dissuade them from seeking salvation in the Aaronic priesthood [Hebrews 7:11-21], and he is seeking to persuade them to accept Jesus the Lord as their great and only High Priest [Hebrews 7:21-28]. That was a difficult thing for those Jewish Christians to do. They had been taught all of their lives that their national glory lay in the beautiful services of the temple. They had known no other thing than to look upon the Aaronic institution of priesthood as a divine order and decree—which it was. And they had been taught all of their lives to look upon the sacrificial services in the temple as being ordered of God, and acceptable unto the Lord.
For this man, therefore, to write to them and to say that the old Aaronic institution—the temple services, the priesthood, all that they had seen and worshipped all of their lives—was passing away like an old garment; God was wrapping it up and placing it aside, and He was instituting a new order, a new promise, a new covenant, a new priesthood. And that priesthood was the unchanging mediation of the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who has an enduring and continuing ministry after the order of Melchizedek [Hebrews 7:17-28].
Now this author would say that he is not stepping down in pleading with those Christians to accept the priesthood of Jesus and to turn aside from the priesthood of Aaron. For the whole book of this epistle describes the glory of our Lord and our new High Priest:
…the brightness of God’s glory, the express image of His person, upholding all things by the word of His power… Himself purged our sins, and has sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
Made better than the angels…
[Hebrews 1:3, 4]
Greater than Moses; greater than Abraham—the patriarchs; the veritable, actual, real, Son of God Himself—God in the flesh; our new High Priest, made after the order of Melchizedek [Hebrews 7:11, 17, 21].
Now that is the substance of the appeal of the author of this epistle: but in seeking the priesthood of Melchizedek—who is this Melchizedek? He is not an angel as so many affirm. For the Scriptures say that the priesthood is taken from among men. Hebrews 5:1: “Every high priest is taken from among men and is ordained for men in things pertaining to God.” He is not an angel. This same author also said in Hebrews 2:5: “For unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world that is to come, whereof we speak.” If Melchizedek had been an angel, in human form, it would have been foolish and beside the point to write of him that he had neither father, nor mother, nor descent [Hebrews 7:3]. He is not an angel. For an angel is never presented as a priest. Never!
Nor is he the Holy Spirit in human form as some avow. For the Holy Spirit is never used as a type of Christ. Nor is the Holy Spirit ever presented as a priest. And the same thing is true of the Holy Spirit. It would be without point to say that the Holy Spirit was without father, without mother, and without descent.
Nor is Melchizedek a pre-theophanic appearance of Jesus Himself. He is not the Son of God, pre-incarnate. He is not a theophany. He is not an appearance of the Son of God before His incarnation. So many think so. It seems to me that most men who interpret the Word of God think that this Melchizedek is Jehovah Jesus, appearing back there in the Old Testament before His incarnation.
I do not think so because the author here plainly says, in Hebrews 7:3, in my text: “He was made like unto the Son of God.” If he was made like unto the Son of God, then he is not the Son of God. I think it is a contradiction to say that Melchizedek is like unto the Son of God; then say, He is the Son of God. I think you are contradicting yourself. The two are not the same. If he is like the Son of God, then he is not the Son of God. So this Melchizedek is a type of the Son of God.
Now another thing about him: this Melchizedek was a priest [Genesis 14:18] and a priest has to be a man: not the appearance of a man, not an unreal man. He has to be a man. If Jesus is to be our priest, Jesus must be a man. He may be man incarnate. He may be God’s man. He may be the God-man, Christ, but He has to be a man. This Melchizedek is a priest [Genesis 14:18]. Therefore, he was a man. And he was not the appearance of a man. He is a man. And he is a type of the Son of God: made like unto the Son of God [Hebrews 7:3].
This man Melchizedek was a historical person. He was the priest of the Most High God, before whom Abraham himself bowed, and worshipped, and gave him a tenth of all that he possessed [Genesis 14:20, Hebrews 7:1-4].
And when it says here in the seventh [chapter] of Hebrews that he was “without father, without mother, without descent” [Hebrews 7:3], the author means that in the genealogy of Melchizedek there was no father named; there is no mother named; there are no descendants named. Melchizedek appears suddenly without introduction. He is just the priest of the Most High God [Hebrews 7:1]; and there’s no genealogy; neither to him, nor from him. But he abides a priest [Hebrews 7:3], unique, separate, peculiar, the only.
And it is so used in the Psalm: “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” [Psalm 110:4]. That is, the priesthood was not received by genealogy, inherited from a father or a mother; but it was bestowed by God, who swore in an oath and will not change: “Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” [Psalm 110:4].
So this Melchizedek was a priest of the Most High God [Hebrews 7:1]. He was a man. He was introduced in the Scriptures one time without introduction, without conclusion [Genesis 14:17-20]. And he stands there in that one image, a priest forever.
And the psalmist takes that under the inspiration of God and makes Melchizedek a type of the priesthood of Jesus. He received it not by inheritance, nor by human appointment, but by the oath, immutable and unchanging, of God: “Thou art a priest forever” [Psalm 110:4]—unique, alone, separate, apart, abiding forever continually.
Now “This Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God… to whom Abraham gave a tenth part of all that he had;” first being by interpretation, king of righteousness, and after that, also king of Salem [Hebrews 7:1-2]. He is doubly a king, this Melchizedek. “And melek tsedeq, melek shalom brought forth bread and wine:” That is the way you would read it in the Book of the Hebrews. Just in Hebrew, in the original language, in Genesis 14: “And melek sedeq, melek salem brought forth bread and wine” [Genesis 14:18]. The Hebrew word for king is melek. The Hebrew word for righteousness is tsedeq. The Hebrew word for peace is shalom. So he is introduced suddenly as doubly a king. “Melchizedek, melek shalom, the king of righteousness, the king of peace, brought forth bread and wine” [Genesis 14:18].
So our Lord is according to the name of this unusual person. He is first King of righteousness, and after that King of peace, King of righteousness; all that is righteous is under the scepter of Jesus, the Son of God.
A man can obey the precepts of Mohammed religiously, devotionally, worshipfully. I’ve seen them by the uncounted hundreds of thousands, bow toward Mecca, worshipping Allah and the great prophet Mohammed. But one can worship Mohammed and Mohammed’s god religiously, obey meticulously and yet be guilty of grievous, moral wrong. Those men over there are allowed four wives, according to the prophet Mohammed and the religion of the Koran. And they can find a special reward in heaven by taking the sword to propagate their faith. To slaughter a Christian would be a way of gaining unusual reward from Allah in their harem-kind of a conception of heaven.
So it is in every religion that I know of. You can obey its precepts meticulously and yet fall into grievous error. Not so the kingdom of the Son of God. When a man obeys and follows the great King, Christ Jesus, he is, of all men in this world, dedicated to holiness, and to purity, and to godliness, and to righteousness. He is the King of Righteousness, and after that also, King of Peace [Hebrews 7:2]. “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall rest upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” [Isaiah 9:6]. Romans 5:1: “We who have been justified by faith, we have peace with God…”
Now the author of the Book of Hebrews lays a special stress, first being by interpretation, “king of righteousness, Melchizedek”; and after that, “king of peace, Melek-shalom” [Hebrews 7:2]. That is according to the pattern of the great God, our Lord Himself. Our Master, Christ Jesus, is made after the pattern of God, the form of God [Philippians 2:6]. And God in heaven is first the God, the “King of Righteousness”; and after that, “the King of Peace” [Hebrews 7:2], and of mercy, and of salvation but always, first, “the King of righteousness.” God never deviates from that character and from that order: First the “King of Righteousness,” then “the King of Peace.”
In the story of the garden of Eden [Genesis 3:1-24], the Lord God visits the pair that He made. And they stand trembling in their nakedness before Him [Genesis 3:7-9]. And God stands as a Judge, as the King, and the Lord of righteousness. And the Lord God, as the King of Righteousness, pronounces sentence upon the woman [Genesis 3:16], and upon the serpent [Genesis 3:14-15], and upon the man [Genesis 3:17]; and curses the ground for their sakes [Genesis 3:18-19]. He is first “the King of Righteousness,” then “the Lord is King of mercy, and of salvation, and of forgiveness, and of peace.”
Then the Lord promises a Deliverer, a Savior, who shall crush the serpent’s head [Genesis 3:15]. And the Lord sacrifices an innocent life in the garden of Eden and clothes the nakedness, and hides the shame, of the man and his wife [Genesis 3:21]. And the Lord set, at the gate of the garden of Eden, on the eastward side, the cherubim with the shekinah glory of God [Genesis 3:22-24]. And the cherubim are always symbols of grace and of mercy.
So the Lord appears at the beginning of the dispensation of our humanity and of this world. First, as the God of righteousness—cursing sin, bringing judgment upon wrong—and then, after that, the God of mercy, and forgiveness, and salvation, and peace [Hebrews 13:20].
So the story continues through all of the Word of God. In the antediluvian day, the Lord comes in righteousness and preaches, and calls for repentance, and threatens judgment. And when the race does not repent, then the Lord comes down in judgment and in righteousness, and the whole family of Adam is destroyed [Genesis 7:17-23]. He is first the King of Righteousness, and after that the King of promise, and mercy, and salvation, and peace [Hebrews 7:2].
Then He sets His rainbow in the sky [Genesis 19:13]. And He accepts the offerings of Noah and Noah’s family [Genesis 8:30]. And the Lord looks upon Noah’s family with acceptance and in mercy, and in love, and in grace [Jonah 6:8]. First the King of Righteousness, washing away the iniquity of all humanity in the flood that destroyed the world [2 Peter 3:6] and then, King of Peace, putting the rainbow of the covenant promise in His sky that we may see and have hope [Genesis 9:13-19]; first, the King of Righteousness, then the King of Peace [Hebrews 7:2].
The story never varies. As the Lord takes His promised children out of the land of Egypt and darkness; when they sin, He is the King of righteousness, of judgment, of wrath and of punishment [Deuteronomy 28:15-68]. When they sin, the serpent bites them [Numbers 21:5-6]. When they sin, fire goes forth to consume them [Leviticus 9:24]. The very earth opens its mouth to swallow them [Numbers 16:32, 26:10]. God sits upon a blazing Sinai in thunder, and lightning; and these are His laws [Exodus 19:16]. And the man that shall break them must die [Ezekiel 18:4, 20]. First, the God of Righteousness, then He is the Lord of mercy and of Peace. And for Moses’ sake who prays He forgives the people and washes their sins away [Exodus 32:9-14].
When they are in the land of Palestine, across the river, in Canaan’s land, when they did wrong, the Midianites suppressed them [Judges 6:1-6] and the Philistines conquered them [Judges 10:7]. And the people were grievously oppressed. And then, when they cried unto the Lord, He was then King of Peace. He was entreated of them—grace, and mercy, and forgiveness [Judges 10:10-17]; first, King of Righteousness, and after that, King of Peace.
Thus it is with our Lord coming down to our present day. He is first of all, King of Righteousness. Iniquity cannot stand in His presence. The Lord is a blazing fire of judgment. The character of God never changes—always holy, always righteous—visiting upon iniquity its just and ultimate punishment. As high as the great mountains are high; as deep as the deep abyss; as eternal as the being of God is God’s unchanging character [Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8].
God must deal with sin. God’s judgment must fall upon sin. He is first, King of Righteousness. Righteousness must hold the scepter before peace can enter the court.
And this, says the author of the Hebrews, is a type of our Lord. He is first “king of righteousness.” His kingdom was and is a righteous kingdom. Not by the laws of Caesar did He establish it. Not at the instigation of Satan—before whom He was invited to bow down and receive the glory of all of the kingdoms of the world [Matthew 4:8-10]—was it established.
The kingdom of the Lord God our Savior is a righteous kingdom. And His laws are pure and holy. And His disciples, His subjects, are not after a carnal commandment—His kingdom is spiritual, and holy, and righteous. Because He refused to establish an earthly, political, carnal kingdom, He was crucified [1 Corinthains 2:8]. The zealots of the Jewish faith would have fought like tigers if Jesus had agreed to establish, in this earth, a political kingdom to overthrow the Roman yoke [John 6:15].
But His kingdom is first of righteousness. And he kept God’s righteous law to the jot and to the tittle. What many had dishonored and trampled upon, God’s law, He faithfully kept [Hebrews 4:15].
And because He was faithful in honoring the Divine Majesty, He was taken and nailed to the cross [Luke 22:42]. Our substitute—God placed upon Him the iniquity of us all [Isaiah 53:6]—this perfect Man, this holy Lord; who honored God’s law to the last word [Hebrews 4:15]. And God dealt with our sin in Him [1 Corinthians 15:2-4]. And the righteous judgment of God, that should have fallen upon us, fell upon Him; all of the wrath, all of the punishment, all of the damnation that accrues to us; because of our errors, and our mistakes, and our simple proclivities, and our affinities and desires—all of the iniquity of our life [Isaiah 53:6].
First, King of Righteousness: God judges it, and the wrath of God falls upon it. And it fell upon our great substitute, the King of Righteousness. And after that, He becomes the King of Peace. To us who look in trust to Him [Hebrews 12:2], He is our righteousness, and our peace, and our wisdom, and our holiness, our mercy and forgiveness—all of… found in Him for God could not forgive us until first sin had been dealt with. God dealt with our sin in the cross of Christ. “Who in His own body bore our sins upon the tree” [1 Peter 2:24]. “For God hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” [2 Corinthians 5:21]. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God” [Romans 5:1].
All of the judgments due me fell upon Him: the wrath, the anger, the condemnation, the damnation, the fire and fury of an eternal torment [Revelation 20:10]—all of it fell upon Him [Romans 15:3]. First, “King of Righteousness; God dealing with sin [2 Corinthians 5:21]; and now, in Him, we have peace with God [Romans 5:1]. When the Lord looks at me, at us, who have trusted in Jesus, He doesn’t look upon us now in wrath or in judgment, or in damnation, or in threatening. All of God’s laws have been marvelously honored [Matthew 5:17-18]; and the King of Righteousness has been appeased [1 John 2:2]. The penalty for our sins has been sustained [Romans 6:23]. And now, the Lord looks upon us in mercy [Titus 3:5] and in forgiveness [Ephesians 1:7], in grace [Ephesians 2:8] and in peace [1 Corinthians 1:3].
We are under the cross, under the blood, under the mercy, under the shadow of His wings. God looks upon us in forgiveness for His Son’s sake [Ephesians 4:32]. The King of righteousness, and He died to honor the law [Matthew 5:17-18]; the King of Peace, salvation [John 3:16] and grace [Ephesians 2:8] now offered me in Jesus.
I want to close with a little incident that I read one time: how God looks upon us. The British soldiers were dressed in their scarlet uniforms. And they were parading on the street below. And in a window, in one of the buildings, high above the street, there was a man and his little boy. And as the soldiers passed by, in their scarlet uniforms, the little boy said to his father, “Oh, Daddy, look at those soldiers, in their uniforms, snow white.”
And the father was astonished and said, “Son, the uniforms are not white. They are scarlet red.”
“No!” said the little boy, “no, no, they are white as snow. Pure white!”
And the father was astonished. Then he happened to notice, around the window out of which they were looking, there was a border of red crimson glass. And when the father looked through the red glass, at the red scarlet soldiers, they looked to be white like the driven snow. Red through a red glass is pure white.
“Come now,” saith the Lord, “and let us reason together: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow: though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” [Isaiah 1:18]. “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” [Exodus 12:13]. He is the Lord, our righteousness; first, King of Righteousness, and after that, King of grace of and peace and of salvation; this Melchizedek, the type of our glorious Lord [Hebrews 7:15-17.
If you have listened to this sermon on the radio or on the television, would God if you haven’t turned in faith to Jesus, bowing now to receive Him as the Lord and hope of your life. And in this great throng in the auditorium this morning, somebody you, to give your heart to Christ [Romans 10:8-13] or to put your life in the fellowship of the church [Hebrews 10:24-25], would you come and stand by me? Is there a family you this morning, a couple, one somebody, a youth, a child, a man, a woman; as the Spirit of the Lord shall make the appeal, shall beckon to you, shall knock at the door of your heart, would you come? “Today, I’ll give my heart in trust to him.” Or “Today, we’re putting our lives in the fellowship of this church.” On the first note of the first stanza, in the balcony round, coming down the stairway, and to me; or on this lower floor, a family you or one, “Pastor, I give you my hand. I give my heart in trust to Jesus” [Romans 10:8-13]. Would you make it now? While we stand and while we sing.
Few scriptural subjects have had greater number of investigators or more
conclusions drawn than Melchisedec
He appears in Scripture three times – as an historical person, as a type of
prophecy, and as a doctrinal disposition(Genesis
14:18-20, Psalm 110:4, Hebrews 4:6, 10-11, 6:20, 7:1-28)
of the epistle
dissuade these Jewish Christians from seeking salvation in the Aaronic
To persuade them to accept Jesus as their great and only High Priest(Hebrews 1:1, 3-4)
II. Who was Melchisedec?
an angel(Hebrews 2:5, 5:1)
Not the Holy Spirit in human form
a pre-theophanic appearance of Jesus (Hebrews
designated a king(Genesis 14:18-20)
1. By name – “king of
2. By place – “King of
Salem”, “king of peace”
E. So our Lord is
according to the name of this unusual person
that is righteous is under the scepter of Jesus
Christ is our peace with God(Isaiah 9:6, Romans
places emphasis on order – first righteousness, then peace
1. According to pattern
of our Lord Himself
a. Story of the fall (Genesis 3)
b. Story of the flood(Genesis 6)
c. The history of God’s
government with His chosen people
d. God’s dealings with
all men, all times and eternity
III. Type of Christ
A. He is first a king
of righteousness – God dealing with sin
B. Then king of peace(1 Peter 2:24, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 5:1)
little boy at the red glass window, seeing the “white” soldiers(Isaiah 1:18, Exodus 12:13)