Door of Faith – Lesson Five

Order of the Melchizedek Priesthood

Introduction

The aim of this lesson is to understand how the order of the Melchizedek Priesthood was God’s mechanism for offering covenants to sinful man.  God’s covenants contained His “requirements, commands, decrees and laws.”  Gen. 26:5.  They also contained promises and grace.  God did not create us to simply shower us with grace.  See II Tim. 1:9.  Grace through faith was added by God to develop a peaceful condition between Himself and people of faith, so that His purpose in creation could be attained (Rom. 5:1-3).

The historical context for this lesson will be the same as Lesson Four.  The setting is God’s story from Adam to Moses.  Satan is the “bad guy” in this narrative.  He held the power of spiritual death because mankind could not choose good in every life encounter because they were still trying to learn to distinguish between good and evil.  The devil still holds power over mature people today who are not “in Christ.”  Another source for the devil’s power develops from within these people.  It happens because of their fear of physical death.  This is not because the devil is allowed to kill people.  God has this power; however, mankind’s fear of not possessing the power to satisfy their individual innate need for security gives Satan a powerful tool to cause people to sometimes behave like fearful animals.  This often happens when their security is threatened.  Insecure people strike out in fear and then they strike again in anger when they are rebuffed by those they struck.

The protagonist, God Almighty, is good.  It is as Jesus said, “There is only One who is good.”  Matt. 19:17.  Good has been translated from the Greek word agathos in this scripture.  It means God does what is beneficial to achieve His purpose for mankind.  This is a part of the plot in this story from Adam to Moses.  Since He is the Creator, He is the only One in the scene from Adam to Moses who knew what was beneficial for mankind to develop as His children.

Lesson

God chose to give us very few details in His story from Adam to Abraham.  However, blending what He did give us with information from the New Testament, we understand the Melchizedek Priesthood was functioning when Abraham lived on earth.  We cannot say more or less than the Hebrew writer wrote:

This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High.  He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything.  First his name means ‘king of righteousness;’ then also, ‘king of Salem’ means ‘king of peace.’  Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.  Heb. 7:1-3

We can understand this “order,” even though we have very few details about the actual function.  We know about the order of the Melchizedek Priesthood because Jesus Christ was appointed High Priest by God on the same order.  There are several similarities, but the quality of the priesthoods are by no means the same.  The critical difference may be understood in the fact that God did not bring about the resolution of His plot to have children in His kingdom during the Melchizedek Priesthood.  God changed to the Levitical Priesthood with a different category of law because of the Israelite’s lack of faith (Ex. 14:10-12; 15:22-26; 17:1, 2; 20:18-21; Heb. 7:11, 12).  The resolution of God’s story will happen at the end of the Priesthood of Jesus Christ.  This will be the topic of another study.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet without sin.          Heb. 4:14, 15

Although we are not told Melchizedek was God’s high priest, he was a priest of the Most High God and he passed on a blessing from God to Abraham (Gen. 14:19).  Melchizedek had not offered his own body as the sin offering for his priesthood as Jesus has been sacrificed, but He did live in a human body.  He received tithes from Abraham; we may assume to “cover his cost of living.”  We are not told Melchizedek appeared in the presence of God, “to help those who are being tempted,” as Jesus is now doing for Christians (Heb. 2:18).  The Hebrew writer emphasized how both Melchizedek and Jesus Christ became priest “on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.”  Heb. 7:16.  “Indestructible” has been translated from the Greek word akatalutes (meaning indissoluble, permanent).  Order, as in the “the order of Melchizedek,” has been translated from taxis (meaning regular arrangement, fixed succession, official dignity).  In context, the point was about the permanency of Jesus’ Priesthood over the Levitical Priesthood.  This may also suggest a similar permanency of the Melchizedek Priesthood.  It may have been the “order” from Adam to Moses, or perhaps, a period of time after the flood until Moses.  The main point is that there was a priesthood order and the priest’s term in service was not affected by physical death.

Both Jesus and Melchizedek held the portfolio of king and priest (Gen. 14:18; Heb. 1:8).  Our interest in this lesson is how they served God and mankind as priests.  From a study of the Hebrew epistle we understand priests serve God for maintaining His relationship with His people.  Priests also serve God’s people in His purposes for creating them (Heb. 2:16-18; 6:20; 8:6).  God offered mankind covenants via both priesthoods.  The covenant through Christ’s Priesthood is specific for the consummation of God’s purpose for creating mankind.  The present covenant was made in Jesus’ blood He shed on the cross (Matt. 26:28; Heb. 8:10-12).  Many covenants were offered during the Melchizedek Priesthood to a limited number of people for the establishment of the Israelite nation.  See Gen. 12:1-3; 15:4-6, 18; 17:2-22; 22:15-18; 35:9-15; 46:3, 4.  The Israelite nation, be it physical or spiritual Israel, will have significance in our Bible study in both the Old and New Testaments (Rom. 11:26).

A covenant includes promises and laws for the good of those who accept and keep them.  The laws accompanying the covenants in both priesthoods belong in the category of law that does not impute sin (Gen. 26:5; Rom. 5:13; Rom. 8:1, 2; I Cor. 6:10; 10:23).  Laws that do not convict people of their sins belong in the category of the laws of nature.  This category of law describes the phenomenon of life and the growth thereof.  For instance, the laws of nature about our bodies are understood by the physicians we engage to correct our health problems.  The laws of the spirit of the life describe how our “selves” have been created to develop and be happy.  They are understood by God, the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 5:3-10; John 1:3, 4; Rom. 8:1, 2).

Neither the law of nature nor the law of life convicts people of sin; that is, missing the mark – one definition of sin.  If we fail to direct the behavior of our faith in laws of nature and laws of life, the result is death.  A farmer’s plants will not produce the grain he desires, but he will not be imprisoned for breaking the law of nature.  From Adam to Moses, sin was in the world but there was no law like the Law of Moses.  Spiritual death still reigned over people who did not obey God; keep His requirements; commands; decrees and laws (Gen. 26:5).  Still no one was convicted of their sins from Adam to Moses.  The law of life was the law in the Melchizedek Priesthood.  The Priesthood of Jesus Christ was on the same order; therefore, the laws in both priesthoods belonged in the same category of law.  They describe life.  They do not convict.  When there was a change of priesthood there was a change of law.  The law changed when God replaced the Melchizedek Priesthood with the Levitical Priesthood (Heb. 7:11, 12).

Most people did not abide by the laws describing the life of God’s people from Adam to Moses.  Although, they were not convicted as law breakers; death reigned in their “boxes of life.”  They were excluded from life with God.  This is called death where sin reigns: Sin reigns over the spiritually dead and the attributes of the “death level” of life reigns over peoples’ lives in the world realm (Rom. 5:21).  In other words, people who break the laws describing how their “selves” are designed to conform to the image of Jesus are not convicted and sentenced to death by the law of life; however, their spirits are still ruled by death.  Death, after the fact of meaning separation from God, is a low quality of existence without God.  This was the situation from Adam to Moses.  Obviously, according to the daily news media, it is the same situation today in Satan’s kingdom in the world realm (Eph. 2:1-3).  By the grace of God in the new covenant, Christians have “passed over from death to life.” John 5:24.  We believe Jesus is life; therefore, the light for our lives.  In Him and His teaching we find the law of life in the new covenant.  Upon deciding to put our faith in Jesus’ life we became sons of God by our new birth (John 1:12, 13).

The law of the Levitical Priesthood did convict the Israelites of their sins; therefore, they were instructed to bring sin offerings to the priest (Lev. 4:1 – 6:7).  In fact, the imputation of the Israelite’s sins was one specific purpose of the Law of Moses.  This category of law is not the way God, or parents, rear children (Rom. 7:4, 5).  The Levitical Priesthood functioned like guardians and trustees over God’s people from Moses to Christ (Gal. 4:1-7).

Cain and Abel were told how to approach God by making a specific offering.  Their offering, as well as offerings made by other people from Adam to Moses, were not referred to as sin offerings.  “Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.”  Gen. 4:2.  Cain and Abel, like Adam, worked “by the sweat of their brows” to attain satisfaction for the innate needs of their physical security.  We have not been privileged to know why Abel’s sacrifice was accepted and Cain’s was rejected by God, but what we do know is this:

By faith Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain did.  By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offering.  And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.  Heb. 11:4

What does Abel tell us today?  We can assume God offered Abel and Cain a covenant that provided a favorable relationship between Him and them.  Covenants include promises and conditions, or laws, for keeping the covenant.  The brothers were required to understand and believe the content of the covenant.  Once they believed, God gave them the “right of choice.”  Abel chose to have faith in the content of the covenant.  His faith was revealed in his behavior.  This is how we witness grace in God’s story.

God, in His wisdom, quickly found a way to fellowship mankind after driving Adam and Eve from His presence.  God knows mature people in all “boxes of life” can have faith.  Faith does not require technical education, wealth or a great amount of intelligence.  Based on Abel’s behavior, motivated by his belief in God’s covenant, God counted Abel as a righteous person.  God is holy; therefore, His behavior is righteous.  The “post Garden of Eden man” was not holy; therefore, he did not behave in a righteous manner.  Consequently, there could be no peace between God and mankind.  God graced mankind with the doctrine of justification by faith (Rom. 4:1-8).  God passed over the sins of the “people of faith” in Hebrews,  Chapter Eleven, based on justification by faith.  Jesus Christ was sacrificed for their sins on the cross at a later date than when they lived on earth (Rom. 3:21-26; Heb. 9:15; 11:39, 40).

The quality of the faith spoken of in the doctrine of “justification by faith” is not merely faith that comes by hearing God’s word.  It is faith after it has been tested and proven genuine (Jas. 1:2-4; 2:22, 23; I Pet. 1:6, 7).  Faith must come from hearing God’s word (Rom. 10:17).  However, only proven faith is useful in God’s program to count faithful Christians as righteous as Jesus is righteous (I John 3:5-7).  Abel, Noah and Abraham all responded to God’s covenants by committing their behavior to the actions God requested.  Abel brought “fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.” Gen. 4:4.  Noah built an ark and “did everything just as God commanded him.”  Gen. 6:14, 22.  Abraham “reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.”  Gen. 22:10.  James explained it clearly for us in Jas. 2:20-26.  We will do a more detailed study of the doctrine of justification by faith in a later lesson.  In this lesson we need to understand this doctrine was working to maintain fellowship between God and man from Adam to Moses.  It was not the program.  It was offered to mankind so God’s pre-creation program could go forward for His “children of promise.”

God’s good decisions have long range beneficial consequences.  God did what was good for His purpose to have Christians as His children today by drowning every human being but Noah and his family (Gen. 6:1-8; I Pet. 3:18-22).  God sees the big picture.

The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.  The Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain.  So the Lord said, I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth.  Gen. 6:6, 7

Unbelievers may ask, “Does a good God drown innocent children?”  The broader picture is that all the children who were drowned belonged to God’s kingdom; therefore, whereas their future was hopeless in the “box of life” in which they lived on earth; they were freed to go to heaven to be with God (Matt. 18:3, 4).  Concerning the death of their parents, God knew they were sealed up in Satan’s “box of evil” with no hope of escape.  We cannot know as God knows (Deut. 29:29).

The main plot in this story is about how God recovered people from Satan’s control.  Even today, all people “in Adam” who have matured in mind, heart and conscience have become sinners.  They have become separated from God, just as they were in the days of Noah; consequently, the plot in God’s story at that time was to get sinners back in His fellowship.  His aim was to give them an opportunity to attain their individual potential – a son of God.

God’s marriage covenant is the key to a healthy, happy family (Mal. 2:15).  This covenant was being violated before Noah was told to build an ark.  The crisis God moved to correct in Noah’s time may have developed because the people broke God’s marriage covenant.  “When men began to increase on earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.”  Gen. 6:1.  The “daughters of men” probably referred to people who were not living by faith in God’s covenants.  The “sons of God” may have been children of parents who had lived by faith in God.  Whatever the situation, marriage played a part in God’s decision to eliminate all of the world population but eight people.

God identified Himself to Moses as God Almighty.  The Hebrew word is El Shadday; pronounced Ale Shad-dah’ ee.  He also revealed His name, “Jehovah.”  It means “self-existent” or “eternal.”  Ex. 6:3.  God, our Creator, is Almighty and He has an eternal plan for mankind.  He had the power to eliminate Satan before he deceived Eve; however, had He done so, there would have been no story.  Satan is the antagonist in God’s story in the Bible.  God would not have had children in His eternal kingdom because children must have choice.  God will put Satan away, but not yet.  He will do it when Jesus returns to bring “many sons to glory.” See Heb. 2:10; Rev. 20:10.  God could have forced people to obey His commandments.  Jesus said, “If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”  Matt. 19:17.  Why did God not eliminate Satan or force people to obey His commands?  God’s purpose is to have all people for His children.  This is the point we must always keep in mind as we study God’s word.  God’s children and earthly parent’s children are developed from the inside out.  God and parents must develop their children the way God created them to develop.  Children require choice; otherwise, they cannot be characterized as children.

The main plot in the story from Genesis to Revelation was for Jesus to deliver “sons of God” to His Father’s eternal kingdom (Luke 6:35, 36).  Satan and his gang will remain the antagonists until God makes them Jesus’ footstool (I Pet. 5:8; Heb. 1:13).  The devil will offer evil choices for the satisfaction of peoples’ innate needs.  God offers covenants.  His covenants will include grace and the laws for keeping the covenants.  God’s people have faith in His covenants because we trust them to give us satisfaction for our innate needs.  This is the manner in which God offers hope for the satisfaction of our innate needs of “glory, honor and peace.”  Rom. 2:10.  Human beings have the choice of accepting or rejecting His covenants.  Every parent knows children must have choices, if, indeed, we will rear children for ourselves.  Children cannot be properly reared by the law of the State or by the law of the Levitical Priesthood.

Although, we have been given very few details about God’s story from Adam to Abraham, we have been introduced to several topics in Genesis.  We can learn how these teachings were used by God from Adam to Moses by our study of the rest of God’s story.  Some of these doctrines are as follows.

Covenants:  God has always honored mankind by offering us covenants.  What is the new covenant?  It is impossible to have fellowship with God if we have not accepted His present covenant for us (Heb. 8:10-12).  Accepting God’s new covenant is the main point of repentance in the processes of being born again.  Christians decided to turn from covenant breaking to covenant keeping before our baptism for the remission of the sin.

Laws:  There are two categories of law.  Most people in the world understand how the law of the State is used by the courts to convict law breakers.  Likewise, people understand the law of nature describes the phenomenon of growth of plants and how the universe functions.  What most people have not accepted is the law of life Jesus Christ taught and lived to enlighten mankind about our “selves.”  The law of life belongs in the category of the law of nature.  The eighth lesson in this series will help us understand the purpose and temporary need for the Levitical Priesthood and the Law of Moses.

God’s people:  People have identified themselves with many different names in their attempt to identify with God.  In the broadest sense, there are only two ways to identify ourselves.  We are God’s people or we are not God’s people.  We are covenant keepers or we are covenant breakers.  We have life like God or we are dead in sin.

Promises:  Promises are found in God’s covenants.  They become a focal point for our faith.  Faith must have a focal point.  The focal point of our faith becomes “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” right now in our “box of life.”  See Heb. 11:1, KJV.  Promises were made to Abraham in Gen. 12:1-3 that relate to God’s people even today.  God’s people are identified as children of Abraham from Gen. 12:1-2 to the present.  See Gal. 3:26-29.  God’s promises to Abraham will be the core of thought in the next lesson.

Offerings:  This is one way God’s people worship God.  He desires the best of the first fruits.  We will be introduced to a variety of offerings in our study of the Levitical Priesthood.  One will be a sin offering.  We did not find a recording about sin offerings being made from Adam to Moses.  There was no law attached to the Melchizedek Priesthood for imputing sin (Rom. 5:12-14).

Priesthoods:  There are only two orders of priesthoods offered by God.  One was the topic of this lesson.  Jesus Christ’s Priesthood is on the order of the Melchizedek Priesthood (Heb. 5:10).  The other “order” was a temporary order identified as the Levitical Priesthood (Heb. 7:11).

The sequential step of faith set forth in this lesson is to understand and accept the law of life and the doctrine of justification by faith.  People with proven faith in God’s covenants are justified sinners.  Based on this grace, we have peace with God and the substance of what we have faith.

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