The Priesthood // Part 1
For the next three weeks or so, we’re going through a study of the priesthood. This study will cover the evolution of the priesthood – from its beginning in Israel to its transfer to Jesus, to a look at the priesthood of the believer. Many don’t understand the priesthood at all so let’s begin by answering the question: why was there a need for a priesthood?
In the beginning days of humanity, there was no sin in the world nor a sin nature in humanity. God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden (Gen. 3:8) with no need for an intermediary to make supplication on their behalf. After their sin and rebellion against God, things changed. Sin separated man from God and humanity lost its innocence and became guilty. The first indirect reference for atonement for sin is found in Genesis 3:21: “Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.”
The Hebrew word for atonement is: kaphar which means “to cover”. God covered the nakedness of Adam and Eve but didn’t do it with leaves as Adam and Eve did. He slaughtered an animal and covered our first father and mother with the skins. So, we see the first incidence of the shedding of blood to cover man. Before Adam’s death, people began to call upon the name of the Lord, which included the practice of sacrifice before any direction from God regarding atonement for sin was ever notated. Job, who many scholars believe lived before Moses offered sacrifices for his children. One reason that a priesthood was needed was to offer sacrifice for sin.
For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. /// Hebrews 5:1
The first mention of a priest in the Bible is found in Genesis 14:18:
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God most High. And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tithe of all.
This event occurred after Abram’s defeat of the five kings who took Lot, Abram’s nephew captive. Who is Melchizedek? Who made him priest of God? Why did Abram give him a tithe?
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.
Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils. And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham; but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better. Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.
/// HEBREWS 7:1-10 NKJV
While Melchizedek’s identity has been debated, there are some things we can know about him from scripture.
He was both a priest and a king.
He was immortal.
He position and calling was recognized by Abraham as worthy of honor.
Many scholars believe that Melchizedek was a “theophany”: a manifestation of God that is tangible to the human senses. In its most restrictive sense, it is a visible appearance of God in the Old Testament period often, but not always, in human form. According to what scripture tells us, this is a preincarnate appearance of Christ. Why would Christ appear to Abraham at this time? This appearance of Jesus set the stage for His later appearance. He revealed Himself to Abraham, the father of Israel and the faithful so they would recognize Him later. Christ also appeared before the law of Moses was given to reveal that a relationship with Him was not based upon adherence to a law but recognition of His grandeur and submission to His goodness.
Thus as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Therefore know that only those who are of faith are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. /// Galatians 3:6-9 NKJV
We don’t see another priest until the days of Moses. Next time we are together on Wednesday, we’ll pick up there.
- Genesis 3:8, 21
- Hebrews 5:1
- Genesis 14:18
- Hebrews 7:1-10 (NKJV)
- Galatians 3:6-9 (NKJV)
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